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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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Letter from Thomas Burke to Sidney Jones
Burke, Thomas, ca. 1747-1783
Volume 19, Pages 917-921

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HON. THOS. BURKE TO MRS. JONES.

Dear Madam:

I have undertaken to write to you but so full is my Bosom when I put pen to paper that I know not where to begin. The Ideas of those pleasing Hours when it used to be my greatest Happiness to listen to your engaging conversation and to admire your Numberless Excellencies crowd Tumultuously into my Memory and I am Transported with the Remembrance. I see you. I hear you, and every Smile every word fills me with a pleasing Extasy. Indeed I had almost given up all hope of hearing anything Concerning you or any person I had left in Ireland, for to repeated Letters I have never yet received a Syllable of Answer and I consequently Concluded the very Memory of me was lost. I therefore Resolved never more to write or Enquire until fortune should enable me to make my personal appearance at home. But an Accident made a discovery which was almost romantic. I had engaged lodgings in the House of one Mrs. Rathell during the Time of Public Business at our Capital and discovering by her Accent She was a Native or Ireland, I ventured to ask her the place of her birth, and upon her Answering Dublin, I become a little more Curious and asked her Maiden Name to which she answering Pleasants, I asked her if she had any knowledge of a gentlemen of that name who lived on Sumner Hill, and She immediately informed me She was his Niece. I concluded by this Time that from the Intimacy between your Family and Mr. Pleasants’ She must have some Knowledge of you and your Family, I made Enquiry for Many, but most particularly for the Amiable Miss Sidney Shaw whose name I no sooner mentioned than my fair respondent recollected me and mentioned her having seen me often at your House in Fauns’ Street. My Joy, I assure you my very lovely Cozen, was inexpressible. I promised myself unbounded pleasure in learning every Circumstance Concerning those whose happiness I had as much Solicitude for as my own, and Indeed the very hope of speaking of those persons with one who knew them gave me no small Satisfaction. She Soon Satisfield me of your Welfare which was indeed what I was most anxious to know. She informs me Madam, that you are married to one Mr. Jones, a gentleman of Honor, Taste and understanding,

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that you have an offspring but of what Sex I have forgot, and that you are extremely happy; give me leave my dear Madam to congratulate you and to assure you that no person living can take greater pleasure in your being happy than I. I have learned too, that your mamma is well and that your friend also married, (the Charming Miss Fortescue) is in the person of lady Newballe mother of several fine children.

I hope Madam, that it will never be the lot of any person whom you wish well to be torn from all that is dear to him and removed at a Great Distance and for a Great Length of time from his native Country, the Society of those who had exercised his heart in the most tender and delightful feelings, and the contemplation of Objects that had first awaken his Sense to pleasure; but Such alone can have a lively Image of the Melancholy Enmity to which my first years of Exile (for I will so call it) were abandoned, and which even now very frequently Interrupts my Felicity. I have however labored very hard to Supply by Industry the Defects of Fortune and many were the Difficulties I had to surmount. I thought however they would yield to an assiduous perseverance and I have not been mistaken, for I have now so far succeeded that tho’ I came into this Country unknown to any Mortal in it, and without any Advantages of Circumstances, yet I have now acquired so many Friends and such Universal Esteem that I flatter myself my road to a Competent fortune is opened and I have nothing to do but to proceed. I hope therefore, in some Few Years to give you a more Satisfactory account of my progress. Now I can only tell you that I have for several Years practiced Physic in which I had by Severe application and Methodical Study made a proficiency equall if not superior to most gentlemen in these Climes. My Success however, was very great, and my Opinion even by the most Experienced was relied on, and even now in desperate cases I am consulted, and my former patients will when in any danger have recourse to me. I found however that in this Country it was not a Field in which the most plentiful harvest might be reaped. I therefore determined to study law which promised much more profit and Yet much less Anxiety. This undertaking you will say must seem very arduous to persons whose life had been Spent in Studies of a very different Nature, but I had in my earliest Years acquired

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an Art of Methodizing my Thoughts and Reasonings and this made every Species of study easy to me and I concluded that assiduity could overcome this as well as every other difficulty. The event answered my Expectations, in a few Months I was licensed by the Examiners upon the first Trial, and with very great applause. I am now in practice and have the best prospects and Connections in this part of the Country. I have therefore laid down Medicine against the united Entreaties of my former Patients, but by the advice of all my most Judicious Friends, who persuade me that a few years will place me at the Head of my Profession. I own to you Madam, that tho’ I should be content to lead a harmless life in an easy and secure retreat, yet while I am upon the Stage of Life I should be ambitious to Excell in some of its most eminent Characters. I have not, my very amiable Cozen, the least fear lest you should attribute any part of my relation to Vanity. I well know that you have too penetrating a Judgment not to perceive that Industry sets no value on its Fantastic Shadows, and also that without Industry it had been impossible for me, under the disadvantages which I had even in my Infancy laboured, to have ever emerged from humble obscurity. I very well, my dearest Cozen, remember the Clearness of your understanding and Quick Sagacity of your Judgment as well as the mild and elegant sprightliness of your Fancy and the Benevolent Tenderness of your Heart; by the first I know you discovered that I could feel with a delicacy which was rather too fine for my Circumstances, and that I did not want either Heart or head for better purposes, and in the last I am Sure my Situation caused all the most benign Emotions of Pity. But you were too generous and Sensible to let me See the appearance of your Concern, on the Contrary you ever put on a Complacent Gayety which soon dissipated my every Care. I see my dearest Cozen, what past within your Breast. I admired you beyond expression. Your generous tenderness endeared you to my soul and no time or distance can abate the Ardor of my wishes for your Happiness. I can never forget that at your Father’s House (at the remembrance of whom I shall ever drop a tear of grateful Sorrow) when I was persecuted with the relentless rancour by much nearer relations, I was always sure to find the most kind complacence and humanity, and I this moment feel my Soul bending with a reverence
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approaching to adoration to that best of Women your revered, honored mother. Indeed madam, I took no rash or inconsiderate Steps. I knew well my time was precious, could not be satisfied to pass the most valuable part of it in Dull Drudgery for a very vengerous(?) man. I well knew I could employ it some better pur poses if even I should offend Some near relations on whom I had neither reason nor Inclination to depend, and in Short I wished to change a situation in which my Soul was every moment pursued with the most tormenting Anguish. I have forgot not one Circumstance of those times but my resentment, and that is a Guest my Bosom could never long entertain, but methinks I could wish to shew some of my former persecutors that I could behave with much more generosity upon any Occasion. I have not the least apprehension of your mistaking anything I write. I know you will not call the frankness and Ingenuity wherewith I express myself either in the former instance by the appellation of Vanity, or in the Latter by that of Ingratitude; I know you will believe me when I assure you I have the most grateful remembrance of the Favors I received from the Hands of my relations, but that when I perceived a reluctance in their Bounty I was very unwilling to give more occasion for it. Yet if an Opportunity should ever offer for my repaying the Obligations I own I am too proud not to snatch it with eagerness. I am also certain that you will perceive that tho’ I am ambitious of making, if any, a Considerable Figure yet I wish more to deserve it than to have it.

The pleasure I find in this imaginary conversation with you has betray’d me into a very long Letter, but I expect everything from my idea of your goodness, and even forgiving you this trouble my ever dear Cozen, shall I breath a wish that the day may come when I may see your Happiness! When in my Native Country I may again enjoy that conversation which, while I was under the excruciating Circumstances, could pour a day of pleasure over my Soul! If ever madam, that day should come I will meet it with more real Joy than ever did a Roman the day of the repeal to his Banishment, and I must own to you I look forward to such a period as does the Pilgrim to his promised Heaven and believe that a certainty of the Contrary would be as afflicting to me as would a sentence of damnation be to the Pilgrim. My endeavours however shall not be

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wanting and if you ever see me I believe you may expect to see me Investedwith the long Robe and on such times as to be able to Speake with men of any Rank or Figure. Let me now madam say a word or two of the Lady who has promised to

(Incomplete.)