This letter was written by Joshua Longley (1787-1851) of Belchertown, Massachusetts. Joshua married Elizabeth Hawks (1790-1862) in 1812 and had several children — their eldest daughter being Sylvia Hawks Longley (1815-1838) whose death occurred on 22 October 1838 and is the subject of this letter.
The letter was written to Harriet Newell (Sage) Hyde (1818-1899), the wife of William Hyde (1806-1880) of Ware, Massachusetts, — some ten miles due east of Belchertown. As far as I can tell, Harriet was unrelated to the Longley family, but extended a kind hand to them when they lost their daughter. It seems certain they were former acquaintances, Harriet being only slightly younger than Sylvia.
Harriet and William Hyde had their first child — William Sage Hyde (1838-1880) just a few months before this letter was written.
Addressed to Mrs. William Hyde, Ware Village, Massachusetts
February 8, 1839
My very dear daughter Harriet,
It is with no ordinary feelings that I seat myself to reply to your kind and sympathetic epistle of the 1st, which was with joy received on the 2d, and address one who has even from your first acquaintance been a warm, true & tried friend of our late and much loved daughter, Sylvia, and one who was I know to her as you say she was to you, “as a dear sister.” The tie that bound you together was particularly strong — even so strong that naught but death could sunder it . And this it was, that Sylvia was bound to us, her parents, * we to her, and it seems sometimes too bitter a thought to be indulged for a moment that we shall see her face no more in the flesh. And for a moment, I am ready to exclaim it is more than I can endure, but the next moment I am quieted by feeling that it is all right. The Lord has done it and surely “He doeth all things well.”
We had looked to Sylvia as one whom in the course of nature we had hoped wold comfort us as we passed along through life — one who would sooth our last moments and perhaps close our dying eyes. But she is gone. Her place is vacated and little did we think at her death that there was any one to whom we could look or on whom we could fix our affections that would in any good degree fill her place. But in the midst of judgment, you remember many.
I say, my dear Harriet, that although we her parents feel wholly unworthy, would to be owned by you as such. Still we shall love dearly to have it so and shall esteem it a privilege indeed to receive & own you as our daughter — our very dear daughter. _____ and welcome you to our bosoms as such with frankness of souls & hearts filled with love to you, which nothing can quench, feeling a perfect confidence that it is the sincere desire of your part that it should be so, and blessed be God that Sylvia had such a friend, such a sister.
Knowing the attachment that existed between yourself & dear husband & her, we felt that you were both dear to us. But since her death, and after your call upon us, we became more strongly attached to each of you. But I must say, since our short visit at your house and your affectionate letter, that attachment has increased a hundred fold, and we feel the loss sustained by the death of our dear & beloved Sylvia is in some measure made up. And may we not enjoy much, very much, while we live, even tho that life may be short, I shall desire as far as it is possible, to feel towards you just as we felt towards Sylvia & love you, just as we loved her. And may God bless us each in this interesting & mutual connection.
I was glad to know that you were gratified in our call the other day. We were highly gratified, I assure you, & have after spoken of that visit, tho short, as one of the most pleasant we ever enjoyed. It was truly a mournful pleasure.
Your epistle, my dear Harriet, was none too lengthy. It was like cold water to a thirsty soul, and although it caused the tears to flow like a river down our cheeks, still it was refreshing. It seemed s much like a letter from Sylvia. Oh, it was good, but never did we have just such feelings before. I rejoice with you that you were permitted once to visit here at her own dear home & Oh, that last look, that last kiss. Could you & could we but see that fair form & receive one kiss more from those ruby lips, it seems that we could say, it is enough. But that pleasure we are denied. “The separation” however, if we are Christians, “will be but short” & I think sometimes I care not how short, “God’s will be done.” Oh how frail we are.
The lines you quote from the book Sylvia gave you in her hand writing are very expressive. Oh that we may all fill up life with duty & usefulness, and be prepared to follow our beloved Sylvia, and meet her as she often expressed a strong desire, to meet all of her dear friends “at the right hand of God.” I hope God will share the life of that dear babe of yours & the life of its dear parents that they may train it up for Him.
We thank you for those line, “We have been friends together” and wonder not that you could not repeat them. We thank you for the invitation to call often. We shall always be happy to do so, and feel that you are our daughter, and treat you as such, and your dear husband also, We shall love him too, very much, even as a son.
We shall have to embrace the first opportunity to call on you with Mr. Bodman & may the desire you express for our little girls be realized. May God hear & answer your prayers for them. Received a line from Mr. Bodman this week. He is well. We shall be extremely glad to see you again with your dear Mr. Hyde at any time, and as often as you can call on us while we remain in this world. May God bless you & yours. Your dear mother sends much love to her daughter & husband. Your very affectionate friend & Father, — Joshua Longley
Do write me ere long.