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'••*



^ THI \



FAMILIAR LETTERS



OF



ANN WILLSON.



<' The sun shall be no more thj light bj day, neither for brightness shall
the moon give light unto thee; but the I-ord shall be unto thee an everlasting
light, and thj God thy glory."

♦' Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself;
for the fx)rd shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning
shall be ended."



PHILADELPHIA:

WM. D. PARRISH & CO., NO. 4 N. FIFTH STREET.

1850.



2.9-/'S'0 3 J



MERRinEW & Thompson, Printers,
7 Carter's Alley.






BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.



Ann Willson was the daughter of John and Rebecca Will-
son, of Rahway, East Jersey. Her childhood was marked by an
ardent and affectionate temperament, and while her timorous
and sensitive nature shrank from the observation of strangers,
in the domestic circle were developed those various traits that
BO conspicuously adorned her more matured character. In the
twenty third year of her age, she had first to drink of the cup
of affliction, by the death of her beloved father, to whom she
was not only attached by nature's tie, but by a strong spiritual
affinity.

About five years after, her maternal support was also remov-
ed. Her feelings on these occasions arc more fully portrayed
in her letters to her friends, than they could be by the language
of another. Iler brother Samuel, four years older than herself,
she and a younger sister, now composed the family. The
latter married in the spring of 1827, and removed to the south-
ern part of Jersey ; and in the 10th mo. following, he to whom
she clung with peculiar tenderness, and who was emphatically
her earthly stay, was called to his eternal home. Under these
repeated bereavements she evidenced a holy resignation, in
which was uttered from the depths of feeling, " Thy will be
done." Soon after the decease of her brother S., she went to
reside with her brother and sister at Port Elizabeth, N. J.
.Her frequent allusions to her home with them, prove the af-
fectionate solicitude with which they were regarded. Not-
withstanding her delicate and slender constitution, she was
here eminently useful, blending the characters of aunt and
mother in the full adoption of the children. And it is princi-
pally that these objects of her care may have a knowledge of



4 BTOGRAPIIICAL SKETCH.

one who watched their infantile years with unremitted anx-
iety, and who appeared to live for them rather than for herself,
that this little volume of "Familiar Letters" has been compiled,
— believing they present a more faithful portrait of her pure
and cultivated mind than could be otherwise drawn. And for
the more full accomplishment of this, though they were often
written in a hurried moment, and not with the most remote
view to publicity, from which her humility would have recoiled,
they are given in their native dress, except an occasional trans-
position of a word or two, and the omission of such parts as
were of interest only to those concerned.

The love of the beautiful and good is so strongly depicted
throughout them, that it scarcely requires a notice here, and
yet it was so interwoven with each word and deed, that it
seems inseparable from thought of her.

The crowning virtue, charity, was her diadem ; if fault was
found with another in her presence, she invariably had some
palliative to offer, thus bearing an uncompromising testimony
against detraction.

Contrary to her usual practice in matters of duty, when her
feelings were arrested on the subject of Free Produce, she
turned from the requisition, unwilling to yield, and for a long
time carefully avoided reading anything upon the subject ; but
one day, on opening the New Testament, her eye rested upon
the 23d verse of the 14th chap, of Romans ; she closed the book
disarmed of all opposition, and continued through the remain-
der of her life, a period of more than twenty years, faithful to
her convictions by abstaining as far as possible from the use of
the products of unrequited labor.

In 1834, after many seasons of secret suffering, she appear-
ed as a minister. To use her own simile, she " was obliged to
expose her simple w^ares for the sake of a livelihood.'' Her
offerings were distinguished for their vitality and originality —
often exemplifying the proverb, that, " A word fitly spoken, is
as apples of gold in pictures of silver.''

She became a member of the meeting for Ministers and
Elders in 1836. During that winter, she accompanied her



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 5

friend, J, J., In a visit to the Particular and Monthly Meet-
ings of Salem Quarter, and to some meetings within the limits
of Burlington and Iladdonfield. She subsequently visited the
families of her own Monthly Meeting, (^Maurice River,) also
those of Woodbury, Piles Grove, Rahway, and Plainficld, and
a number belonging to Kingwood. For this service she was
peculiarly qualified, possessing in an eminent degree, the gift
of quick spiritual discernment. Her religious missions were
not frequent ; the most distant was that to the land of her
nativity, which is touchingly alluded to in one or more of her
letters.

The death of her brother-in-law, I. Townsend, Jr., in the
summer of 1839, opened again the floodgate of affliction. In
this hour of trial she not only sought refuge herself beneath
the wing of Divine Love, but extended a hand to gather the
widow and the fatherless under its shadow.

Her health, which had never been strong, was now evidently
declining, attended with much suffering.

In the spring of 1842, she removed with her sister and
family to Philadelphia. Iler indisposition continuing to in-
crease, she yielded to the wishes of her friends, who hoped a
visit to New York might be useful ; but after a tarriance there
of several months, she returned, without being materially bene-
fitted. Her mind during this period was quiet and peaceful.
She significantly remarked, " that her work basket was empty,
and she seemed to have nothing to do.'^ A few daj's before
her close she observed to a friend, that she "felt as a child
resting upon a paternal bosom.'' Thus ended her excellent
life on the 4th of 12th mo. 1843, in the 46th year of her age.



LETTERS OF ANN WILLSON.



To H. S-



1st month 29tk, 1820.

With friendship's request I would willingly comply,
could the effusions of my heart in any wise interest, but
thou knowest, my dear H., 'tis with me mentally a season
of gloom and dejection, and Anna's mind well accords
with the sadness of nature over which winter has cast her
freezing mantle — even so has sorrow thrown her sable
garb over the gaiety and cheerfulness of my thoughts. Can
then a solitary recluse light up a ray of pleasure in the
peaceful heart of her absent (though well-loved) friend ? but
this may my dull scrawl say — though adversity has way-
laid my path, yet has she not been able to chill the genial
stream of love which full oft flows towards thee.

New things are not for Anna to communicate, for she
has remained in home's vicinity ever since thou left us,
and had it not been for the kindness of some friends who
called a few minutes, I should, T suppose, have remained
ignorant of thy departure. I rejoiced to hear thou hadst
set out on a little jaunt of enjoyment, though I am a loser
thereby.

Notwithstanding the snow has thrown her fleecy car-
pet over earth's surface, and wrapt in white each little
twig, and clouds have veiled the fair face of the spangled



8 FAMILIAR LETTERS OF

sky, yet have I been a nocturnal rambler with Hervey,
and listened with interest to his nightly contemplations.
I think he has a peculiar faculty for drawing an impor-
tantly pious inference from even trifling subjects. Dost
thou not, with me, when reading works of this kind, feel
respect approaching to veneration for their author 1

Father has not been so well for a day or two past ; his
is so variable a complaint that I am oft ready to tremble
lest the next change may be a final one. Thou may'st,
my dear, conclude, I lack magnanimity to bear with
becoming firmness the ills of life ; of this I am sensible,
yet still trust my friends will cherish for me a sympa-
thetic feeling, well knowing 'tis difficult for nature
passively to yield to so trying an allotment, and resign-
edly to say " not my will but thine," Parent of Wisdom,
^'he done." Assuredly believing that charity abideth
among the inmates of thy heart, to her I refer thee for a
palliation of each fault, and am, in affection sincere, thine,
&c. Anna.

To H. S .

1820.
I have for days past, been waiting an opportunity
verbally to thank thee for the plant of feeling,* well
assured it accords with the delicacy of thy own sympathy,
which, though words have seldom expressed, I have
deeply felt — for silence possesses a voice more eloquent
than language. Suffice it to say, I have understood and
acceptably received it — but acknowledgement therefor
has only been mentally uttered; well I knew, did I orally
make known the gratitude which rested on my heart, it

* Sensitive Plant.



ANN WILLSON. ^

would unlock the portals of sorrow, and perhaps so much
unhinge the little strength of mind I am possessor of, as
to unfit me for enjoying thy company and converse
during the remainder of the time we were together ;
therefore I have suppressed the feeling which flowed
secretly and silently towards thee— 'tis very necessary I
should endeavor to overcome nature. In my dear mother's
bosom the wound continues yet too fresh, and 'tis my duty,
as a daughter, as much as in me lies, to soothe and console
her, though well I know to me belongs not the power
effectually to do this, but I trust my cheerfulness will
assist in supporting her drooping spirits, and my fervent
and ardent desire is, that He, in whose hand remains
Gilead's all powerful balm, will remember us, and in his
own appointed time pour forth the oil of consolation and
comfort. Not without agitated emotions, and a tremulous
hand, do I commit these lines to thy perusal 5 cast over
them the mantle of sisterly feeling ; and believe with me
that mutual confidence is one of friendship's first laws,
without which, the tender pledge of reciprocal affection
cannot gather strength. Feeling quite indisposed this
morning, I retired to my chamber as if to repose, but
" sleep swift on his downy pinions flies from woe, and
lights on lids unsullied with a tear," on hearts unladen
with a sigh. My love is to thee and with thee affection-
ately. Farewell. Anna.

To S. A. W .



Rahway, \Othmo. 17th, 1820.
My friend S. has many times during the past week, been
the companion of my mind, but varied engagements have
hitherto prevented my telling thee so; when thine



10 FAMILIAR LETTERS OF

arrived, the rain was pouring upon our dwelling 5 but
Anna, welcomed the storm of the morning that brought
with it tidings of Sally Ann. I regret to hear disease

still lingers in your metropolis ; but, alas I 'tis not in P

alone, that its eifects are knovvn and felt ; for the voice of
grief is also heard in our land ; the messenger undeniable
has again visited earth — the amiable Bertha is with me a
fatherless mourner. I feel for her, and I trust mine is
sympathy sincere, for I have wept over the relics of
departed worth, and felt the full solemnity of sorrow at a
time when my own life was not precious in my sight ;
yet there is a consolation attendant on the exit of the
Christian with which naught below can be compared ;
and in this alone have I really found the "joy of grief.'*
Oh! that the same comfortable evidence may be the
soother of my dear afflicted friend, whom I have not seen
since the consignment of dust to dust; but I greatly
desire to clasp her hand in mine, and alleviate as much as
in me lies the anguish of her heart ; yea, for I can set my
seal to the words of Irving, " there are moments of
mingled sorrow and tenderness, which hallow the
caresses of aifection ;" but why should I dwell upon those
things'? May the clouds of the mental hemisphere, at least
for a season, be dispelled and the sun of pleasure beam
through the shades of the past.

Hast thou seen a little piece entitled the Good Master
and the Faithful Slave ? a noble portrait, I think, of a
generous feeling mind in the former, and attachment
and gratitude in the latter. I would have sent it
thee, but feared I should only burden thee with what
thou hast already perused.

How serious and how frauo;ht with instruction is the



ANN WILL SON.



11



present aspect of nature ! the vegetable world fast de-
caying, is truly emblematical of man's frail declining
state. The bud and the leaf in renovated beauty again
shall shoot forth, but " man's faded glory, what earthly
change shall renew." This day has been so cold that I
have been almost shaking in our jireless store, and fear
from this first introduction of cold weather. Winter will
encroach largely on the premises of his neighbor, Autumn 5
and glad enough have I been, at intervals, to get a seat in
the little back room chimney corner. Thou may, if thou
wilt, fancy me gabbling to my customers, but take care
not to listen to " very good and very cheap.''

From cousin M. I this day expected letters, but come
they have not ; to what cause to impute the omission I
know not ; but believe, from the import of her last to me,
that when the query is made, " are Friends just in the pay-
ment of their debts 1" she will find herself lacking.
Mother and A. desire their love may have a place in this,
I had almost said, worthless scrawl ; but of as little value
as it is, it may be the bearer of mv sincere love to

S. A.

To S. A. W .



Rahway, '^th mo. 18^A, 1821.
Embosomed in that enjoyment which thou well knows
my 'cousin M. can bestow, how can I be otherwise than
one of the children of pleasure 1 Yet, mark it, dear,
" the thorn, though secreted, still lurks near the rose" —
yes, joy and sorrow are mingled in life's illusive path ;
and if thou wilt not deem it intruding on the hours de-
voted to joy and rejoicing, I will speak ; otherwise my
pen must be silent, for with notes of gladness I cannot



12 FA31ILL-\R LETTERS OF

now impress this spotless page. My heart is turned to
sorrow, and thou wilt not ask of me mirth. An aunt
dearly beloved has gone the way of all the earth — yes,
the aged has gone to her long home. Thou wilt per-
haps recollect aunt S. H. After an half hour's illness
she sunk into that sleep which is marked with eternal
quiet and rest. In peace, I trust, her immortal spirit
has left its clay tenement, and now inhabits that land
which the righteous alone inherit. We know there is
no cause of mourning for the departed, as a dear friend
expressed while we were silently sitting at the habita-
tion whose owner knowelh it no longer. "Daughters
of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves
and for your children." Oh ! while thus numbered
with the assembled company to perform the last sad
office, how oft to time gone by the thoughts of Anna
sped. Yes, memory pictured scenes alas too true ! — the
painful season when I resigned, or rather co?isigned, to
earth's low dwelling a form so loved^ so valued. Thou,
my friend, knowest there are times when the chords of
sorrow need but a touch ; yet am I not joyless, even
when mantled in sadness — no, in that hope I desire t o
put my trust which leads the wanderer on her way ;
and surely the young have equal need of trimming the
lamp and being ready to go forth to meet the bride-
groom at w'hatsoever hour his coming be proclaimed.
Ah, yes ! for even Mary's virtues averted not the blow ;
death, irresistless, came and laid her low; a father's
stay, a father's hope, a father's joy, alas ! forever gone.
It reminds me of the gardener and rose tree. She w^as
very amiable, and I believe a truly pious girl, and



ANN WILLSON.



13



doubtless is transplanted to another garden far more
beautiful and fair.*

To this dear girl I felt strongly attached ; but nipped
are the buds of promised happiness — worldly bliss pays
but a rainbow visit, then's away. Yet do I not sorrow
as those who behold not the bright star of Hope, which
rises as a sun to gild and light the mental hemisphere ;
when, but for it, clouds and thick darkness would have
overwhelmed all other feelings, it brightly dawns a day
upon the night of sorrow, and bids affliction's children
yet lift up their heads. But in thus noting my bereave-
ments, ought I not also to number my blessings, which
I am sensible are many — and among them the com-
pany of my dear cousins, M. and A., deserves a place.

I enjoin it upon thee not to let the perusal of this
grief-shaded sheet trespass on thy hours of gladness;
let it not damp one spark of joy which in thy bosom
glows, for full well I know the hour arrives, and now is
near at hand, when thy heart should only wake to
pleasure. Clear be the day, bright the ray, which
marks and witnesses the unity,

I paid, the other night, Glenov/en a dreaming visit,
but behold no Sally Ann was there; 'twas sclitary and
deserted ; no inhabitant could I find, and sadly disap^
pointed I homeward turned, after having plucked a
branch in deep verdure drest from off one of the tall
trees which o'erlook Glenowen's walls, and placed it in
a topmost crevice of the railing before the door, as proof
to thee, my friend, I had been there, and thought when
I arrived at my own village I should write and desire

*Allilding to the recent death of a young friend of hers,
o



14 FAMILIAR LETTERS OF

thee to go look for the green bough 5 but on awakening,
behold 'twas but a sleeping journey.

My dear mother has been quite ill for a week past,
but is so much better to-day as to have left her cham-
ber. I am glad, and know that her returning health
demands the offering of my humble gratitude. Oh,
long may she yet be spared me!

After the wedding ceremonies are over, cannot thou
come and spend vacation with usl Though Anna's
pleasures are simple, yet could thou not partake of
them with feelings of interest 1 — remembering, pleasure,
when too ardently pursued, is like the butterfly, crushed
in the grasp — but from the small and stilly stream en-
joyment flows. Accept love from mother and sister,
also from thy attached, though absent, Ay7<A.

Rakwaij, Sth mo. 13t/i, 1821.

The morning of Mary's departure dawned in clouds;
Anna's heart partook of its shades, but behold, the sun
mounting high dispersed this dark envelopment, and
brightness mantled the sky. Little did I think 'twas
to be emblematical of thy friend ; but ere the day was
lost in that softened light which marks its departure,
(the hour peculiarly dear to my feelings,) thy sheet, my
beloved Sally Ann, was received and accepted with
delight which utterance can scarcely tell thee — for what
greater earthly joy have absent friends to feel, than to
know by mementos of this kind that they still hold a
place in the remembrance of those they love 1

Separation from my beloved M. spread gloom o'er
my mind, and again, and yet again, did I repeat the
wish that our dwelling places were approximate, that
so parting might not shade the pleasure of meeting ;



ANxN WILLSON. 15

and time here might roll on in union sweet and un-
broken. But 'tis necessary, I well know, that little
sorrows and griefs should be permitted, to prevent lis
from wholly centering our afTections on earth, else
would allurements here almost steal us from the con-
templation of that better and happier clime, where the
shadow of good here is perfected into substance. Oh !
could wishes, my dear friend, work out acceptance for
us, our labor would soon be completed, and nought
remain for us but patient waiting the appointed time
to pass from this world into the next ! But "to die the
death of the righteous, we must live the life of the
righteous;" and though this is deeply impressed with
the pen of truth upon the tablet of my heart, yet it is
no easy matter really to put in practice every Christian
obligation and find life by losing it, as regards our own
will. But why, oh why! on sacred themes thus unex-
perimentally dare to lift my voice! Let me be silent,
though not regardless, and look with the eye of hope
toward that hour, when, like dear M. H., I may feel
such an evidence of mental peace as no longer to desire
to be continued an inhabitant of this lower sphere; but,
assured of an entrance into that rest which ends not,
joyfully leave the world.

Thy mind, my dear, must, I think, have been con-
tending with, or rather been balanced, by two very
opposite emotions. The figure of grief on the right,
whose pensive countenance was mournfully shaded
with deep touches of sorrow, contrasting with the light
step and smiling aspect of her who presides at the hy-
menial feast, half covered with blossoms of happiness,
yet lacking the amaranthine gift, wholly to o'erspread



16 FAMILIAR LETTERS OF

the path of those whom she was about to enwreath with
the flowers of this fleeting life. Sorrow and joy, like
the cloud and the rainbow, are oft cotemporary ; the
one threatens, the other is full of promises.

Oh ! ever may there be a rainbow to the tear !

And though its stay is transient here,

It seems like to a little glimpse of Heaven.

Our Quarterly meeting is now near. S. G. has al-
ready come in town, and to-morrow I suppose S. B.,
H. H. and others from Pennsylvania will be here.
Would thou not like to be numbered with us, particu-
larly could we really sit at meat with those who are
true disciples and partake of a morsel of that food
which nourisheth the spirit,

I, like thee, desire our communications may be free
and frequent. Indisposition in our family, together with
much business, has been the cause of my not writing
ere now. Why, oh why ! dost thou give me so little
hope of seeing thee % I have some cypress vines near
the door, the seeds of which M. H. sent me; they look
flourishing, and are just beginning to unfold their purple
blossoms — but they, like her, will soon he gone.

Do write soon to her who is still thy own friend,

Anna.

To S. A. W .



Rahwny, 29ih of 9t/i mo. 1821.
Yes, said my heart, while perusing those sweet poetic
lines, my feelings speak their worth — for days departed
are to me the theme of many a thought, and I can truly,
with the poet, acknowledge



ANN WILL^ON. 17

" There is yot a lonely light
That dawns upon the hour of sadness,
And to me, 'tis oft more welcome than the thrill of gladness."

In seasons like this, I someHmes too am led secretly to
rejoice in the remembrance, that

" There is a bloom that never fades,
A rose no storms can sever,
Beyond earth's variable shades,
The ray that beams forever."

Another summer is gone, and blossomed beauty is fast
departing from us ; welcome autumn " sae pensive in yel-
low and brown, thou tells us 'tis true o' nature's decay,"
but congenial to my heart is the language even of a cold
stormy day. To yon distant wood my eye this morning
turned with the recollection that its still, deep, and ver-
dant foliage must ere long be changed for stripped and
desolated branches — fit theme for meditation serious —
emblem of thee, oh man! thy summer sands will soon be run?
and to life's autumnal vale thou fast art hastening — thy heart
knows and feels this truth, and I'll forbear to moralize.
Such subjects were fitter far for thy pen. And dost thou
see marked on our coming time no little line of bliss,
colored with the hue of union sweet, communion dear?
Hope's beacon yet I'll fondly cherish, and think much joy
is still in store, and with it perhaps is mixed an interview
with thee, thou loved one.

I rejoice in the assurance that inclination would have
led thee to the abode of thy friend, had it been within
the circumference of thy wandering ; as to inducements,
they are not wanting for me to pass some days with thee,
within Glenowen's walls, or where'er my Sally Ana
now lives — but I am so circumstanced as not to allow



18 FAMILIAR LETTERS OF

myself many pleasures of that kind — my time is sacrificed
at the shrine of business, but I trust Anna is with her lot
content, so long as she is in possession of the affection of
her friends.

This morning's sun rose bright and clear ; the drops of
night still glitter in its rays ; tranquillity rests on my
spirit, and peace on my heart ; nature herself is peaceful,
and strongly reminds me of the Christian's decline, when
numbering his latter days and looking with holy hope
towards the exit of his years. A quiet calm covers his
mind ; his feelings, blissful in their repose, are a foretaste


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