Document, 1779 December 12-1781 March 14


Document, 1779 December 12-1781 March 14
Library Location
Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University
Jay, Sarah Livingston (Author)
Jay, Peter (Addressee)
Livingston, Catharine (Addressee)
Livingston, Susan (Addressee)
Livingston, Susannah French (Addressee)
Livingston, William, 1723-1790 (Addressee)
Digital Project
Papers of John Jay
1779 December 12 - 1781 March 14
Physical Description
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783; Jay, John, 1745-1829
Volume of manuscript copies of nine letters from Mrs. Jay to members of her family, 12 December 1779- 14 March 1781, prepared by her older sister, Catharine Livingston. The unnumbered pages preceding the letters' texts contain a leaf to which Sarah Jay pinned a folded piece of paper containing my little Susan's hair -- August 4th, 1780," a memento of the Jays' eldest daughter who died in Madrid. This leaf faces the title page on which has been printed the legend "Letters from Mrs. Jay" An "Index of Letters" follows. Page numbering begins with the opening of the first letter, to Susannah French Livingston, 12 December 1779. While the pages in the volume are numbered 1-201, pages 172-175 and 200-201 are blank. The letters are copied in the hand of Catharine Livingston and other family members. The nine letters are: (1) To Susannah French Livingston, 12, 14, 15, and 26 December 1779; Describes the damage to the ship on the 7th and 8th of November, praises her husband, and tells of the decision to land at Martinique. Describes the birthday celebration on board ship for Monsieur Gerard and Peter [Munro]'s ducking when the ship crossed the equator. Gives impression of Martinique. Personal news (2) To Peter Jay, 9 January 1780; Their difficult voyage and landing in Martinique. Visit from William Bingham. Viscount Damas reviews his regiment in the Jay's honor. For "brother Peter" (John Jay's blind older brother), describes the sugar cane mills of the island in great detail. Reports that Peter Jay Munro is "quite a favorite among the Officers of the frigate." (3) To Catharine Livingston, 4 March 1780. Writing from Cadiz, Mrs. Jay reports on their voyage from Martinique. Chased by an English frigate just off Cadiz. Sarah has caught a cold. Irish brigade in the city very attentive to the Jays. Distance does not diminish her affection for America and Americans. Fashions in Spain similar to those in America last winter. Prices exorbitant. Sends a kiss to Peter Augustus Jay (4) To Susannah French Livingston, 13 May 1780. Arrival in Madrid. Is pleased with city, but her ignorance of the language makes it difficult for her to make acquaintances. Chief amusement is riding. John Jay is at Aranjuez, where the court now resides. Describes beautiful road from Madrid to Aranjuez; watered by canals. Drought in Spain has hurt farming. King more fond of his country palaces than Madrid, which is "inconvenient and expensive to the foreign ambassadors and Ministers." Describes their rented house with its fountain in courtyard. Apologies for not having sent items her mother and sisters ordered. Europeans regard American highly. Sends recipe for scurvy remedy. Asks about Peter Augustus Jay and wonders if he still resembles his father; (5) To Susannah French Livingston, 28 August 1780. A touching letter informing her mother of the conditions surrounding the death of her new born baby girl. John Jay is absent at the Court, and she is quite lonely. He has been a source of strength during their adversity. A messenger has arrived from John Jay with dispatches from America, and she is delighted to receive news of friends. Congratulations and best wishes on sister Judy's marriage. As it took place in the same month as Sarah's, she hopes that Judy's marriage will be as happy as hers. (6) To Susan Livingston, 28 August 1780. Comments on the closeness of death before the safe arrival at Martinique. The passage to Cadiz was pleasant, but Mrs. Jay was indisposed due to rough weather and another reason "I leave you to conjecture." From Cadiz the Jay party journeyed to Port St. Mary in a barge belonging to Mr. Galvez, Commandant of the Bay and brother to the Minister for Indian Affairs. The barge was ornamented with a canopy and cushions of crimson damask beautifully fringed, and the trip was very pleasant. They stayed the night with the Count and Countess O'Reilly and regretted leaving Port St. Mary the next day. The awkwardness and filth of everything in Spain is beyond description. The carriages and drivers were like nothing they had ever seen before. The Jays brought with them everything they would need for the journey, but they had to purchase in Spain the most essential item--a broom to sweep out the bugs and filth. They slept on a Catalonian bed-from-a-trunk. Next door slept mules with their bells. Description of the view approaching Cordova at sunset. In Cordova they met several Irish gentlemen who had retired there from the seaports, and Mr. Moyland went with them to the Cathedral. Description of this church which was once a Moorish mosque. They continued on their journey the next day because "Mr. Jay's maxim is to prefer business to pleasure." Description of graves along the roadside, aridity of southern Spain.(7) To Catharine Livingston, 1 December 1780. Praises Kitty for her faithfulness in writing and criticizes the silence of family and friends. Hopes that the "bets" between Kitty and the Chevalier are "considerable" since Kitty is certainly entitled to the "stakes." Sends her compliments to the Chevalier, Mr. Marbois, and the Chancellor and Mrs. Livingston on the birth of their daughter. Was concerned about the forced family move until letters from Mr. Morris and Mr. Gerry mentioned the safety of the family. Is sorrowful at hearing of the death of Mrs. Caldwell. "But you'll think I'm relapsing in my usual moralizing strain..." Is pleased with the plan enclosed in Kitty's letter which the ladies have adopted for the relief of soldiers. Does not think that Jack will be happy in the service of "Neptune."(8) To Catharine Livingston, 14 May 1780. . Undated fragment of her letter (document 7349) [14 May 1780] Ending "If my dear Sister could imagine how happy ..." Pleased to receive Kitty's letter, the first she has had from America. Reflects news in the letter: Mrs. Paca's death, Walter Livingston's illness, Mr. Hewes' death. Describes Madrid. No public amusements, not even bullfighting, because King has ordered a fast to bring an end to drought. Is indolent from heat. "I think persons who set out from hence on their journey to the other world in the summer might well be excused scorching in purgatory." Court at Aranjuez. Has seen Don Juan Miralles's son. Sends regards to John Penn. In postscript (not present in document 7352), lists articles she has sent, remarking that merchandise here is "slight, tawdry, and high priced." (9) To William Livingston, 14 March 1781. . Fragmentary contemporary copy ending with the phrase "I hope his [Peter Augustus Jay's] Aunt Susan will teach him to write." For full text, see document 7349. Regrets that letter she wrote him in January 1780 was apparently lost. Apologizes and explains at length for not having written later. Sorrow at death of daughter Susan. Condolences to Uncle and Aunt Livingston on their sons' death. Enjoys happiness and perfect health now. Season of year lovely in Madrid. King 's improvements to city and adjacent country by walks, fountains, roads, trees. King has four country seats which he visits in turn and prefers to Madrid because of fondness for hunting. Aranjuez his favorite. Sarah will visit there in May but cannot afford a long trip. Describes items on exhibition in king's armory.