December 1967 | Volume 19, Issue 1
We are not sure exactly what it is that married women tell their little sisters about marriage nowadays, but it is certainly not very much like the letter we publish here. It was written in a spidery hand from a home on the newly settled upper Mississippi to a young bride, Mrs. Oliver Ormerod, back in Liverpool, England, and the advice it gives says more than any long treatise about the apologetic, indeed timorous, position of women only a century and a half ago. Mrs. Ormerod was the greatgrandmother of our editor. She is shown in an old miniature about the time she married her Anglican minister, and before she reared a large family of sons.
Prestons Retreat, Carrollton
February 6th, 1838
God bless you My dear little Sister, and may you ever be as happy as when you wrote the letter I have just received. It is a cold day in February & sitting by the fire writing to Mary & thinking of you all, the box was brought in containing your wedding cake & letter. My heart beats with love & my eyes are filled with tears of joy as I thank you for your kind remembrance. Oh, dearest, ever be watchful to guard your good husband’s heart—I am sure I should love him because he knows how to prize you & it was affectionate in him to write even a few lines—but now that you are married, do not always expect the lover. Be more than ever anxious to please, study his interest, make it yours. If any little domestic care troubles you, such as indifferent servants &tc let it not ruffle your temper. Is it not better to endure this than wear him by not being amiable?
We undergo soon after marriage a trying change in our constitutions. We feel cross because we feel badly & scarcely know what ails us—not one gentleman in ten can make allowances for our peevish fits. Now dear if you ever feel them, conquer it, & be only what you seemed to be when first you won his love. Be more cautious of wounding the feelings of a husband than you were ever anxious to please the lover. If you are fond of any amusement he does not approve & cannot share, give it up—you will find your reward in so doing. You are to keep him happy & cheerful & to make sacrifices if necessary without murmuring. You may see faults in him that in your fondness you never dreamed of. Be as blind to them as you can. If by gentleness & love you cannot alter them, then conform yourself to your circumstances, for reproaches never will do good. Better feel the secret pain than let him fear you love him less than when you thought him faultless. Should you be blessed with children consider well what a responsible being you are.
I wish we had known whilst in New York that your husband had friends there. What a gratification it would have been to me to tell them how dear a little wife he had won. … I have taken it for granted that your husband is an Episcopalian. I have not yet seen Mr. Grimshaw to ask him. I look forward to your crossing the Atlantic some of these days. When once at New York it is nothing to go to Pitsburg [sic], & the floating hotels on the great Mississippi will bring you most speedily & pleasantly to our home. What rejoicing we should have! Frank, our son not yet seven, would amuse you much—he is a great rhymer & fond of punning. Robert Layton sixteen months old is a great beauty.
You have a Parson, Mary a soldier, & I a lawyer. Thank Ned for his few lines. My kindest love to Mother, Father and to your husband—as well as to all my brothers & sisters.
I shall ride down to see Mrs. Grimshaw as [soon] as the roads are good enough. I like her very much—there is a nameless something about her that always reminds me of Mary. Now, dear, accept the sincere wishes of your sister for your health & happiness.