Fill in the blanks

Eliza Pierce, born in Devon in the 1720s, had a two-year engagement to Thomas Taylor, son of the MP for Ashburton and a serially unsuccessful businessman. They finally married in 1752, after the death of the aunt she had been nursing. She was by no means shy about stating her opinions, as shown by a faintly menacing letter written before their marriage. She quotes Milton’s L’Allegro – “These delights if thou canst give/Mirth with thee I mean to live” – and continues:

I really think I don’t show my Wisdom by this Choice for I believe the Wisest Men for the most part are the most sedate but however that does not prove they are most happy and that I think is the most Material point we have to look after. More wou’d find it then [than] there do if they wou’d but seek for it. It is what I am determined to try for & make no doubt of attaining, if you don’t take care to hinder it, but you had best be cautious, for I may without any Vanity say that by destroying my quiet you will ruin your own. I may Venture also to Affirm that there can be no true happiness in a Married life unless both partake of it. I fancy you are pretty much of the same Opinion, but people often act against their principles.

That’s telling him! Later in the letter she declares with a pout:

As you don’t like the usual Begining of my letters [Sir,] I am determined to leave a Blank which you may fill up with what pleases you best, T’will be altogether as well as if I had done it & as to the conclusion (which you begin to be affraid will never come) I shall use the same method you see I will take care not to be found fault with twice therefore expect to be told no more then that this Letter comes from
Eliza Pierce of Yendacott
in the Country of Devon Spinster
which is good information

Some years later she used a similar conceit with her son, but he had obviously worked out how to handle her. She writes to her husband:

for this twelvemonth past he has always wrote a story of a Cock & a Bull, and never given an answer to any thing I mention’d in my Letter – for this reason the last time I wrote to him, I told him that as he never wou’d give an answer to any thing I wrote, I thought for the future, it would be full as well for me to send him a Blank paper, as he wou’d see by the directions it came from me; and that if he pleas’d he might answer them in the same manner – that after we had carried on this curious correspondence for some time, we would publish a Book under the title, of Letters between a Mother and her Son; in which should not be one wrong expression, one word of bad English, nor one false narration and I added to be sure the World would be in vast admiration at our Genius’es – after this I wrote him a Story of my own invention, applicable to the affair, his answer was as follows – “Dear Mama – I receiv’d your kind Letter last Monday in which was a Story I like exceedingly, I intend to publish it in the Magazine, as I am willing other people should have the pleasure of reading your Epistle as well as myself – When shall we publish these Letters between A Mother & her Son? when we do I hope to get a little Money, for I am sure I want some much” Do you think I cou’d help sending him some? no I am too silly a Mother

Children (and mothers) today aren’t so different…

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