Peter Stuyvesant

Town Life,
page 13 of 14

Soon we hear of him shut up eight days in succession in Albany (as he said in his exceedingly plain English) “in a close chamber with fifty sachems, who besides the stink of bear’s grease with which they were plentifully bedaubed, were continually smoking and drinking of rum,” and coming back to town in a “nasty slow little sloop.” No wonder he fell dangerously sick with the gout.

Mrs. Grant, writing of New York society in the middle of the eighteenth century, said:—

“At New York there was always a governor, a few troops, and a kind of little court kept; there was a mixed, and in some degree polished society. To this the accession of many families of French Huguenots rather above the middling rank, contributed not a little.”

This little important circle had some fine balls. On January 22, 1734, one was given at the Fort on the birthday of the Prince of Wales, which lasted till four in the morning. Another was given in honor of the King’s birthday. “The ladies made a splendant appearance. Sometimes as many as a hundred persons were present and took part.”

Occasionally a little flash of gossiping brightness shows us a picture of the everyday life of the times in the capital town. Such a bit of eighteenth-century scandal is the amusing account, from Mrs. Janet Montgomery’s unpublished Memoirs, of Lady Cornbury, wife of the Governor, Lord Corn-bury. She died in New York in 1706, much eulogized, and most ostentatiously mourned for by her husband. Mrs. Montgomery’s account of her is this:—

“The lady of this very just nobleman was equally a character. He had fallen in love with her ear, which was very beautiful. The ear ceased to please and he treated her with neglect. Her pin-money was withheld and she had no resource but begging and stealing. She borrowed gowns and coats and never returned them. As hers was the only carriage in the city, the rolling of the wheels was easily distinguished, and then the cry in the house was ’There comes my lady; hide this, hide that, take that away.’ Whatever she admired in her visit she was sure to send for next day. She had a fancy to have with her eight or ten young ladies, and make them do her sewing work, for who could refuse their daughters to my lady.”


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.