A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 2

To "Lavinia"1
Jany. 1757

I the other day recd. a very Strange Something I cant tell what, from a very Complaisant Lady I can't tell who, but as the Occurence diverted me much, the Discription of it may possibly please you & therefore I make bold to write it. I will neither be very formal nor tedious, but just discribe the many Consultations I had in my Mind abt. this Something & then make some Observations to the Lady that Sent it.

This Something then, came very nicely folded in a Paper & on my first opning it I took it to be one of the large double winged Butterflys. I have lately made some pretensions to be a Philosopher & I concluded some Lady being desireous of my admission into the Royal Society had sent me this as a Recommendation. I began then In high Joy to view it with all Criticism, but upon Opning it to my surprise found it had neither Body nor Legs & of a quite different Texture from wt. I first took it. I then spread it carefully abroad, & upon veiwing it all together, I sagely concluded it could be nothing else but Cupid's Net, here I started back & viewd it at a distance being as much Scared as I was pleased before. I began plainly to see the bewitching Border, wch. was curiously Strew'd with the most enchanting Beautys, fringes Laces & Tassells wch. resemble the highest pleasures, by wch. poor Shortsighted Mortals are tempted to go within the Verge of this fatal Net. I looked Narrowly & within this enticing Border, I saw the Net tied strong with dreadfull Meshes so fine that the least could not creep out & so strong that the most powerfull could not break through. On the other side I saw plainly the strong Wove Border to which all the tackling is fixt wch. is always kept innermost out of Sight the form of the whole being Circular. Well, I was at a great loss4what to do. I at once concieted I heard Sighs, Groans Complaints & frettings & a 1000 dismal things I would not mention & my Consternation was encreased, so likewise was my schemes for a deliverance. I dare not touch it to destroy it no more than if it were a Snake to kill it, for tho I see Nothing but the Net, yet I knew not wt. Power lay Conceal'd. After many Contrivances too many to name I determined to apply to some one who had been taken in the Net to remove it for me, as we employ those to remove the Plage who have had it; but this Project upon 2d. thought I imagin'd the most dangerous, remembring the Story of the Fox who had Tail cut off in the Trap. I fear'd least my Freind instead of removing my Enemy should betray me into it, so I wisely concluded to keep the Matter to myself & remove it as well as I could. Well to work I went conjuring by the crabb'd powers of Mathematicks & the Occult Sciences to depart, but finding that not to avail I curst in the Name of the Law old musty Reports & intricate Distinctions & every thing that is an Enemy to Love but still the Phantom kept its place. Exasperated to the highes, I was determind to show it no mercy, so arming my Self with a long Tipstaff I approach'd in high wrath. Thou most mischeivous Miscreants wt. bold presumtion led you here to disturb the Mansions of the Peaceful, art thou not contented to glut thyself with those that riot in Wantonness & make thy Prey of the Vain the giddy & unwary but thou must lay wait for one who covets not thy deceitfull Joys & who with anxiety dreadest thy Slavery. Thou Wicked Elf the Evil that you designed me be on thy own head, I will immediately punish you for intruding on my Ground where you was not Invited but forbid, as you most Ungratefully torment those that come within yr. Territorys after you have enticed them by the most alluring perswasions. Thus sd. I raised it with the Staff wn. to my Surprise I found it consisted of two similar parts wch. had no Connection. I began to condemn my Rashness & to venture to handle them. My fear soon subsided, my Senses came to me, & from a huge large Net they dwindled down to An Innocent peice of fine Ladys work. 'Tis natural for on one Extreme to follow Another. My Joy then was prodigiosly raised to find a Ladys appendage instead of that wide gaping Monster, for I fear Nothing from the Ladys. With great Rapture then I veiwed it still at a loss wt. to make of them till partly from the Contexture & the fineness of the Work I suspected it to be some Specimen of Childbed Linnen. Enraged at the thought my Suspicion raised me higher than I was before. I threw them down stampt & cursed the Unlucky powers, but then I could not think5why they should be sent me, wn. a Memento of another sort would have Answered much better. This cool'd me, so I examind again, at last deter-mind 'em to be an innocent pair of Ruffles. Well, being settled in this Matter I proceeded to exame the Pacquet & found a letter which had I have read first would undoubtedly have prevented all this Outrage, tho'it would have raised in my Breast a much greater Surprise tho of a different Sort. Thus being delivered from the forementioned apprehensions I shall reply wth. all that calmness wch. belongs to a creature made happy, tho perhaps with all that Inchoherency that results from an Overburthened Mind. I am very much at a loss wt. returns to make for yr. unmerited Respects. Wn. you say you Regard me I feel the weight of the Obligation for yr. Regards are doubtless at yr. own Disposal. But theres one thing I enjoy wch. vastly encreases its worth wch. having bestowed yr. Regards is out of yr. Power to avoid & that is I boast the Regards of a highly accomplishd Lady, not the more so for Respecting me, unless by setting me a bright Example of Virtue to prove wch. is the first & most essential return I can make for your Kindness. But phaps. I now flatter my self as I scared my self before, for on More Narrow Inspection I find you regard me only in expectation of calling me father. What you mean I can't tell. Be that as it will this is certain, that if that never happens yr. Regards will never be fixt; perhaps you sent me those affairs to wear on celebration. It seems too they are Tokens of yr. Regard. I hope you dont mean Emblems ; but here then I scare my self for nothing again; for if you did not regard me for my self you would never do it the more for the Expectation of my being yr. Father. Thus I bless myself I have an Intrest in yr. good Graces but in fact that unlucky Mistake of Cupids Net has so shattered my Judgmt. that I durst not read yr. Letter again least I should Suspect I see something make against me, but being establish'd in a Comfortable Faith I will read Nothing that may have a tendency to disturb me. I shall just Add that on my last Reading I have found out wt. you mean by calling me Father. You mention improving under my Fatherly Instruction wch. must imply my being a Father Confessor. If so My dutifull Daughter I must intreat of you wn. you come to confess do tell me your secret Virtues as well as failings & then our Improvement will be Mutual, & I shall then have no room to doubt but that I am yr. happy as well as respectfull

Dft ; endorsed in RTP's hand: "from & to Lavinia on Ruffles."


RTP and "Lavinia" corresponded until 1760. Her letter, referred to above, has not been found.6 "Lavinia" may have been the pseudonym used by Mary Fletcher (1730–1797), the daughter of William and Margaret (Cushing) Fletcher of Boston. RTP refers specifically to Molly Fletcher in his diary (July 15. 1758) and variously to Mary, Molly, Miss Molly, and Miss Fletcher elsewhere in the diary and correspondence.

Mary Fletcher married Nathaniel Balch on May 26, 1763. Balch, a hatter by trade, became a famous Boston wit. RTP wrote an obituary notice of Balch when he died on Sept. 18, 1808 (Thwing Index).

To James Freeman
RTP Freeman, James
Boston Jany. 24th. 1757 Sr.,

I recd. yrs. per Capt. Jones & the things you sent by him. I am very glad to hear of yr. health & prospect of Business I hope it may do well. I assure you I think of you with much Tenderness, tho' I always write in such an hurry as not to express it. I expect the Time draws on wn. you will become a Natural Father, may it be safe to yr. helpmeet & joyfull to you both. As for affairs here, 'tis impossible to write 'em. Ld. Louden1 is in Town, what's to be done I know not. My Father grows weaker & more childish, Aunt Hunt is as crazy as ever but I believe comfortable, Eunice suffers much affliction in the Body, thanks to good Providence I'm hearty & hum grum, Sister Greenleaf expects next Month. If the Devil don't Sow discord Among the Sons of Men, my Labour will be losting. I meet with difficulty abt. the Note of Coll. Hills,2 he promises fair, but Unluckily before I was aware has confined himself. Write me wt. must be done with it. You say Knox has Ordered payment by his Wife. I han't seen her, because if she would pay me I have not the Note to deliver up; but the Note is endors'd & therefore if you see fit you may sue it. As for Leigh's Note, I am at a Loss wt. to do about it. Some people do best by moderation. I have heard that he is in good Business, & if so, you may mind him of it & urge paymt. but for the present I would do Nothing else. I have enquired again concerning Benja. Allen,3 & find him so poor that it matters no great whether he be honest, tho' they say he is. His pay is 20/ pr. month, & he has a family to support. Since I began to write I have been to Mrs. Knox's, & she says she has had no Orders abt. the Note, nor has she any thing to pay it with if she had. You inform me you have sold some of the things, you did not send the Leather, Nor the Basons as I wrote, by which I conclude they will sell best there. As you have leisure, pray enquire wt. the Case of Draws7 will fetch there. I think of Nothing else at present, pray write me all that occurs to yr. mind. Pray send money. Yrs.,


LbC ; addressed: "To Mr. James Freeman Halifax by Capt. Jenkins."


John Campbell, 4th earl of Loudoun (1705–1782), the major-general who commanded all forces in British North America from Jan. 1756 until his recall in Dec. 1757 (DNB).


Capt. John Hill (d. 1777) was a Boston distiller and merchant (Thwing Index). See James Freeman to RTP, Halifax, Oct. 12, 1756.


Not identified.