The Courtship of Joseph and Abigail
Abigail Pomeroy and Joseph Lathrop exchanged letters for years, although their relationship was hindered by a few obstacles, namely that Ms. Pomeroy was betrothed to someone else. They both expressed the desire to be together but it did not seem possible for a time and they tried to refrain from writing. In December 1837 Joseph wrote that “I must stop…this is not to be a love epistle…it is not proper, perhaps, that I write at all” and notes that he may have “indulged in dreams of future happiness.”
In May 1838 Abigail writes to Joseph with great excitement to tell him that Dr. Field has released her from her engagement with him. A few days later Joseph responds telling her that he was “filled with joy” by the news.
Joseph then asks for Mr. Medad Pomeroy’s permission to court his daughter in a June 1838 letter. He states that their friendship has turned “into the tenderest regard for each other’s happiness.” He wishes to clarify that his seeking of Abigail’s affection “is not in opposition in the feelings of” the elder Pomeroy’s.
In late June 1838 Joseph begins his letters with “MY dear Abby” due to their engagement. They married in October 1838 in Warwick, Massachusetts and resided in Northampton for most of their lives. They continued to exchange letters; Abigail addressed hers to “my dear husband.”
A selection of Joseph and Abigail's letters were transcribed and compiled into a book titled The letters of Joseph Stoddard Lathrop and Abigail Alexander Pomeroy, 1837-1838 by Louis Rexford Wilson.
Warwick May 24, 1838.
O Joseph! Joseph! “The die is cast” at length! “Patience and perseverance accomplish all things” …. And I hasten to say that your untiring zeal which inspired me with peculiar and exclusive feelings, together with an entire and delightful confidence in yourself, has obtained the desired end! O joseph! I do most earnestly desire and trust that the result will be as happy for us as our anticipations have led up to hope.
I cannot realize my own situation… much connected with it seems a dream! But now for particulars. On my return from Athol last eve I found a letter from Dr. F. … from which I will just extract one sentence and leave the remainder to show you. It is this; “ you may consider yourself released from your engagement to me.” On this permission hangs our….. I don’t know what to say and have left a blank; not in consequence of dearth, but in this instance, an abundance of ideas in which are mingled feelings of fear and hope.
I promised you I would write directly after being answered by DR. F. which I hope you will regard as an apology, if one is necessary, for my promptness.
C. Slouther’s wedding was on Wed at 2 O’Clock p.m. The party was small although large enough for one room to contain… principally family relatives. Mr. and Mrs. Slouther from Amherst, Dr. Mrs. And Miss. Smead from Greenfield, Miss Barnard from Worcester, Dr. Osgood and Ladey from Templeton etc. Caroline looked beautiful; a great deal more so than ever I saw her. Gen. Barnard looked well, VERY well, and seemed to be as happy and proud of his Bride as possible. As bridesmaid I stood with Mr. Thorp an intimate friend of Caroline, though a stranger to myself,… had you only been in his place then should I have been so happy! I was urged to accompany the bridal party to Greenfield,… I told Caroline I should love to ride with her there, but I could not with Mr. Thorp. By the way, Caroline begs her love to you, and much more that I will save to tell you. She told me all Mr. Smead said of you and your coming here; but it was pleasant for me to hear it, for it was good and true.
O I hope you will enjoy next Tuesday eve. Surely I shall think of you. But I hope too your feelings will not take that tome of sadness which mine always do on similar occasions, and did particularly last Wednesday at the idea of losing her, who for many years had been my dearest friend; my “loss is another’s gain” and I do most sincerely rejoice in their happiness. Gen. B. is a fine man. Mr. and Mrs. Smead accompany them to N. Y.
Did you see Miss Smith married? And did you attend the party given for her? I fancy your intention with regard to it was written on the “Cousin” (very much obliged to you for them indeed) but two or three lines had become indistinct and I could not understand.
We have read “Dr. Humphrey’s Tour” with much interest, but having been almost constantly occupied in a variety of ways have only had time to glance my eye over “Crichton”; but I shall read it very soon…. Is it good? Miss Lyman did not even inquire if I had seen you since las autumn or had heard from you. Very kind not to interrogate, was she not? She urged the favor of a letter or some commission to you. Now I think of it, so quietly did you leave us that neither our man or woman even suspected you passed the night. O I am so thankful there no longer exists a cause for you hastening from us. When shall I see you, Joseph! O the thought that I may see you!
I know not how soon you will desire to, or find it convenient to view the romantic scenery from Prospect Hill, but I know you “have promised to officiate for” Mr. Stoddard next week and for this reason I am the more reconciled to fulfilling an engagement made to my Aunt Billings and Aunt Sarah to accompany the latter to Brattleboro; though I know not how long a visit my Aunt intends to make there; she is not at home today for me to ascertain.
You are ever prompt to gratify my anxiety to hear from you, Joseph, and if you feel so disposed any day after you receive this letter will find me (until next week Friday certainty) directed to the care of Clea Russell Hayes West Brattleboro. How I do want to hear from and see you! O do you know who was twenty- three years old yesterday?
The family sends affection as does Abby.
Did you expect this letter as soon as you will receive it? If you, for any reason, prefer not to come here for a few weeks, pray tell me so and of course I shall think as you do about it. I will send you a paper after we return from Brattleboro.
O does this letter give you any joy? But I cannot doubt one whose patience has endured and whose love has continued for me. I hope you will not regret.
New York June 3rd, 1838.
My dear Sir,
It is now nearly two years since I first became acquainted with a member of your family… your daughter Abby. During that time I have often seen her, and seen, too, much, very much to attach me to her; in short, and I hope I may say it without being thought vain, that the attachment I think has been mutual and prompted by the purest feelings; that our acquaintance has ripened into friendship, and our friendship into the tenderest regard for each other’s happiness… If you can be assured of this, will you once more admit me to your family circle; and while I still further seek to establish myself in your daughter’s affection assure me that it is not in opposition to the feelings either of yourself and that of your wife… and if I am so fortunate as to gain her consent to become the partner of my joys and sorrows “through this dark vale of tears” and can satisfactorily establish my character in your estimation may I hope then, too, to have my happiness for this life made perfect by receiving her with your consent…
I shall return to Northampton the last of this week and shall hope to receive an answer to this there on my return, if consistent… I shall wait with trembling anxiety for your answer for upon that does my happiness depend…
Very respectfully… Joseph Lathrop