This letter was written by 17 year-old Amanda A. Avery (1828-1916), the daughter of Nathan Avery (1792-1846) and Rebecca Jones Rivers (1793-1847) of Memphis, Tennessee. Amanda married Nathaniel Macon Trezevant (1829-1912), a lawyer.
Amanda wrote the letter to her cousin, Martha Rivers McNeill (1827-1887), the daughter of Malcolm McNeill (1796-1875) and Martha Rivers (1800-1827) of Hemphill, Christian County, Kentucky. Amanda and Martha’s mothers were sisters and the daughters of Capt. Thomas Rivers (1757-1827) and Elizabeth Edmunds Jones (1764-1830) of Virginia.
Martha R. McNeill married Willie Perry Boddie (1822-1870) in 1848. At the time she received this letter from her cousin, Martha was attending the Nashville Female Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Rev. Collins D. Elliott (1810-1899) was the principal of the academy between 1840 and 1866.
Addressed to Miss Martha McNeill, Nashville, Tennessee
Care of Mr. Elliott’s Female Academy
September 23, 1846
My Dear Cousin,
I have been gazing at the stars and listening to distant music until I have become almost romantic; and you knowI am such a matter of fact sort of compound, that it is strange for a feeling of that kind to ever pass over me. But with all my romantic feeling, the mosquitoes would come around and claim their usual kinship. I thought they appeared particularly fond of me. By the by, I expect they are romantic themselves by their being more numerous on a pretty moonlight night. I would brush them off and try not to mind them and had just arrived to the very highest pitch of romance and poetry when mama calls out, “Amanda, give me my night cap..” What a fall! from stars to night caps! Is it not discouraging? I don’t think I shall attempt it again. But it was really laughable to see Estella when I told her I was writing poetry — a thing I never attempted in my life.
Cousin, it is very late and I will finish my letter in the morning.
Well cousin, if romance makes every one feel as it makes me, I do not know what pleasure there can be in it for it or something else has given me the blues most awfully. I think it must be that “Edmund Dabney” passed last night on his way to Texas and did not see him. Brother saw him and said that cousin Edmond wished to come up and see me very much but could not for fear that boat would leave him. Is it not distressing to have been so near and then not to have seen him for I had about a thousand and one questions to ask him.
You asked me in your letter if I had fallen in love with him. No. If with anyone, “Frank” was the favored one. But cousin, I do not think “cupid” as yet has pierced his dart very deeply into my heart. But he played very close around it sometimes.
I am glad to hear there is a revival of religion in Nashville. I do hope and pray that you all may get religion. It would give me inexpressible pleasure to hear that “Mrs. Pernell’s prayers were answered and you had professed. May I hope to hear the good news in your next? I have no doubt but that Mrs. Pernell and Irene were much rejoiced at Mr. Pernell’s profession. There has been a revival here since I came home but I have not attended often on account of the warm weather. Memphis has been more unhealthy than I ever knew it to be — someone dying most everyday. Cousin, it is time we were all preparing for death. I was very much gratified at receiving your letter so soon after getting home and you must forgive me for my long delay in answering it for you know anyone returning home after so long an absence feels very little like writing to their nearest and dearest friends.
I was to see cousin Lizzie today. She is perfectly well and boarding at Mrs. Laurence’s. Mr. Caruthers has bought a very pretty shady cottage-like, little place, but us not going to housekeeping until December. You must give my love to all the girls and tell cousin Bethunia that she must write in your next letter [it] is nothing but her name. And also tell her that cousin Lizzie saw her father yesterday. He was well and is now gone to Hardamon after his mother.
Tell my cousin Margaret Yerger that it pleased me much to receive that little note from her that it raised me in my own estimation to think that I was thought so much of by a stranger cousin — one whom I never saw — for her to write to me and that I would be happy to receive such notes often. Remember me with the warmest affection to her. I tell you, cousin, she is a great gall! I must conclude my letter for brother wishes to put in a postscript. Write immediately on the reception of this and I will remain your ever affectionate cousin, — Amanda A. Avery
What will you say to a postscript from your old Aunt. Your ma was an affectionate dear sister and Martha is her daughter and therefore I love Martha, and is that all Martha’s old aunt has to say? When you visit Memphis, I will say much more to you. Tell Eliza Pernell — bless her pug nose — I well remember when she used to sit up behaving with all her little might at my Pa’s and I was all the time quarreling with her mother for being so strict with poor little sweet ‘Liza. Dear Children, I hope we will all meet in a bright and beautiful world. Where we will have no dry hot weather and horrible dusty streets, but sweet flowers and delightful fruit and as much cool water and ice too if we like as we can swallow. Now this is mighty funny for an old woman’s chat but I think we will have some doings in that glorious country. If I had room, I would tell you what I think about it. Affectionately, — R. J. Avery.
Now haven’t I got a glorious place for a P. S.? Well I barely have room to send you my love with a sincere solicitation for you and those other young ladies who in my humble judgement have got “schoolin” enough to come and spend this winter in Memphis. You & Missy Bethunia & Irene will all be Belles if you will come down this winter and Cousin, thereby I will venture to send my love to Miss Irene.
Your cousin, — Tom