Young physician's businesslike marriage proposal to future wife


Date Written

Sept. 12, 1836

Enoch Long Colby was 39 years old when this was written.
Enoch Long Colby died 12 years, 11 months, 12 days after writing it.
It was written 187 years, 2 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Monday.

Miss Porter, my good friend,

Your kind favour of July 26, was in due time received for which accept my very grateful acknowledgement. I did not intend it should remain so long unanswered, but have more than two weeks had a lame wrist so that I could not write without very great inconvenience. I hope you will therefore extend to me all the indulgence that my delay required.

I was sorry to hear that you had been unwell but hope that you have long since recovered from the indisposition under which you labored however slight it may have been. Think not that I am so conversant with the symptoms and pains of patients that I have no sympathy for the suffering of a friend.

There is much that is disagreeable connected with the practice of medicine. The physician is compelled to spend much of his time by the bed side of the sick and be almost a constant witness of the thousand nameless ills which flesh is heir to! It is always unpleasant to witness the sufferings of a fellow being unless we can relieve them and this the physician has often the satisfaction of being able to do, otherwise his life would be most unenviable.

But to return from this digression, in my brief communication, I mentioned some of the circumstances which I supposed you might very justly consider objections to the commencement of a correspondence prospective of an engagement of a more important and interesting nature but was aware that I enumerated but a tithe of what might occur to you mind. With regard to myself, I made up my mind before I wrote from what I know personally of your character and from the account I have received of my friend Lucett, who has been for a long time acquainted with you and in whose judgement I place a good deal of confidence. You however have not the same advantage for your (that is our mutual) friends have not enjoyed so long an acquaintance with me and hence may place too high an estimate on my character from not having had sufficient opportunity to know my numerous failings.

Your objection founded on the circumstance of our not being able further to extend our personal acquaintance did not escape my mind and I frankly stated the fact that you might duly consider it. You ask if a positive engagement could not be deferred till I visit N. E. In answer to which inquiry I would say that my principal inducement to leave business to make such a visit would be to fulfill any engagement I might have made. Otherwise I should not probably think it advisable to return so soon especially as there would be such uncertainty involved in the event.

I am fully sensible of the unpleasant situation in which this circumstance places you and of the difficulty if not impossibility of your deciding in my favor. Ones own happiness is too dear to be periled by any step taken inconsiderately and I could not therefore ask you to act in this matter unadvisedly.

You say situated as I am I may see the elegance, beauty, wealth, and accomplishments of your sex and that this may have a tendency to obliterate any “passing regard” I may have entertained et. cet. Now I have never placed a very high value on city accomplishments and city refinement as I have known them. The education of females in cities is as far as my experience extends very deficient, calculated rather for display than for usefulness. They are too often taught the more superficial and showy accomplishments to the manifest neglect of the solid and useful.

I have always regretted that further opportunity was not afforded us of cultivating an acquaintance yet am conscious that such regret is now unavailing. You may think from the manner in which I have expressed myself that I am too cool and calculating on a subject of this ____ and that I have presumed on too much as to relates to your feelings–

No, I presume on nothing but your friendship and if you should feel that this is all you can bestow I shall ever entertain towards you no other feelings than those of the kindest regard. As friends then let us correspond till you can make up your mind whether any further advances on my part under existing circumstances would meet your approbation or not and meanwhile any further inquiries which you may wish to make will be frankly and honestly answered.

It is now about a year since I was at Claremont and how short the time now seems and thus I expect will seem my remaining years. How liable are we to forget that time is constantly pursuing his rapid flight till reminded of it by particular events in our lives.

I have not yet fully decided to locate myself permanently at Cincinnati though the probability is that this will be my decision. I feel pretty confident that if I have my health and patience to wait I shall eventually succeed in business. It as been unusually healthy this season so that but few of the physicians have made more than a living but it will not always be so. Far be it from me to desire people to be sick–but when they are sick I should like to contribute my share towards curing them.

Respecting the productions of this country we have been accustomed at the East to hear exaggerated accounts. Many who have been out here on their return to the East are fond of telling great stories of what they have seen. Perhaps this does not proceed so much from a disregard for the truth as from a desire to give themselves an importance in the eyes of their auditors. Unless they could boast of having seen something extraordinary a little out of the common course of things, they would seem to have profited little by their travels–To avoid therefore this charge they think it necessary to present what they have seen under a magnified form and by way of giving interest to throw into their narratives a tincture of the the marvelous. Hence you hear of corn growing fifteen or twenty feet high and grass on the prairies so tall as to conceal a man on horseback and strawberries of an enormous size. Such accounts are always to be received with more or less allowance according to the liveliness of the narrator’s imagination and his regard to truth.

This is truthfully a fruitful country. Its productions are various and abundant and the husbandmen finds a rich reward for all his labors. The strawberry so common in the eastern states is not indigenous to this country but the English strawberry is cultivated and the market is plentifully supplied with them in their season but they are no larger than might grow on the banks of the Connecticut or perhaps the beautiful Sugar even, and certainly I have seen none that tasted half so sweet as those I was want to pick in the days of childhood on the hills of never to be forgotten N. E. Fruit is generally not so good here as at the East not because the soil and climate are not better adapted to it but because the country is comparatively new and people have not yet taken pains to get the best varieties.

There is indeed a good deal of romance connected to this western country —One cannot glide along on the bosom of these majestic rivers or ramble through the woods where so lately roamed the savage in all his native wildness and freedom or cross the trackless prairie without feelings bordering at least on the romantic–Thus much for the country and its productions. As to Cincinnati “the queen city of the west” as it is boastingly termed, I have not yet become so strongly attached to it as those who have longer resided here profess to be though I think it a beautiful place. I have been too much annoyed by the musketos to be fully reconciled to it–They swarm here thicker than did the locusts “in land of Nile”. We do not think of sleeping unless protected by musketo bars and when thus screened it is not unpleasant to listen to their detestable musick at a distance for we experience a feeling of defiance.

I hope Miss P. you will excuse my delay this time and were I not opposed to the principle I should deem it expedient to make apology both for the matter and style of this letter but if I am deficient in this respect I aught to be willing you know it. If I have expressed myself with propriety on the subject most interesting to me I shall be satisfied. Remember particularly to your kind Mother. I am happy to hear my friend Swett is mending so fast–most sincerely hope he will recover. Why does he not write? Thank Madam Dexter for her remembrance of me and in return you give my love to her and say to her I have not forgotten her kindness and politeness to me while in her family–May I ask of you the favor of an answer to this as soon as may be and be assured it shall not be neglected.

Your very Sincere friend,
E. L. Colby
Cincinnati September 12, 1836

P S I have directed to Mr Knowlton as you suggested have written a letter as long as a sermon hope its length will be excused. If you see Mr. Swett my friend remember me affectionately to him and tell him I shall be extremely happy to hear from him by letter as soon as he finds a leisure hour. Truly ELC

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