This letter was written to Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818-1885) who married Dr. Francis Henry Gray (1813-1880) on 10 July 1844 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Regina was the daughter of Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober (1789-1847) and Mary Ann Bedford (1795-1828). The letter was written to Regina by her step-mother, Lucy Hall (Bradlee) Shober (1805-18xx), the daughter of Lucy Hall and Josiah Bradlee.
We learn from the letter that the subject of religion was a matter of some tension between Regina and her fiance, and their families. It seems likely that Regina came from a Jewish family and her fiancee did not.
Addressed to Miss H. R. Shober, Care of J. Bradlee & Co., Boston, [Massachusetts]
March 17th, 1844
You ask a great effort from me my dear child when you demand my sympathy and congratulations on your engagement with Dr. Gray. My dear Regina, it is taking from my home, its best comfort, and its brightest light — and very lonely and sad do I feel, when I think that my faith is no longer to be cheered by your affectionate sympathy. My mind recurs to the years in which you have been almost every thing to me when you mothered me in sickness, and supported and comforted me in health, and very bitter, dear Regina, is the thought of giving you up. You are, my child, in the idea that I can spare you better now than two years since. You are as important to me as you ever were as necessary to my happiness. I have not allowed myself to indulge the sadness your absence occasioned, and far less, to damp your happiness by dwelling on it. But it has been dully felt. Within a few weeks, I have freely indulged my desire to see you, and allowed myself, uncestrain___ to anticipate our pleasant walks and readings. And none but yourself can realize how much self denial it costs me to rejoice over one event, so full of sorrow to me.. I mourn over this selfishness, dear Regina, and I wish I could d____ myself wholly of it and think only of your bright prospects. Bye and bye, I trust, it may be so, but that must be, through better strength than my own. Few, dear Regina, can estimate the tie that is to be broken between us, for few have been so situated. Few have been so wholly thrown upon one individual for sympathy and kindness — and by few, if by any, would it have been so faithfully and nobly sustained. It would be hard indeed if I with held my blessing from any thing calculated to promote your happiness. You have it, my child, worthless as it is, and with it my fervent prayers that the blessing of Almighty God may ___ upon you both. Mat the God of Israel strengthen, uphold, and bless you in every path of life. May He enable you to fulfill the duties of a wife, as faithfully and affectionately as you have ever performed those of a daughter, and may He cause the heart you have chosen to respond to it, as warmly, gratefully, and truly as mine will do “to life’s latest end.”
In one sense, dear, I can spare you better than I would have done some years ago — not that Susan or Sarah can take your place. I love them and they are kind and affectionate children, but you have been to me, a child, sister, and friend. There have been many tastes and sympathies between us, of which they know nothing. They are children to me, and much _____ to — but in one sense, I gratefully admit, I am better able to meet it. My dependance on God, my trust in my Saviour, my firm, unwavering belief that nothing happens without Him, and that “He doeth all things well.” — Here, dear Regina, is my strength and weak as I am, I know that He will enable me to go on with cheerful patience, while I can say in sincerity, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” He has supported and held me up, through many years of tears and sorrow, and I know while I put my trust in Him, “He will never leave me, nor forsake me.” I have ever found the promise sure “As thy day, so shall thy strength be,” and having been “brought safely by His hand thus far, I will not now give place to fear.” I have had some very desponding moments, dearest, since Maty’s letter on Tuesday, but thinking on these things makes me cheerful and happy. It lifts me above the world by showing me a brighter, better world beyond, “where the wicked _____ from troubling and the weary are at rest.” These thoughts bring before my mind the only unselfish objection I can feel to your hopes and wishes — the only thing, except the separation it involves, which troubles me. I deeply regret that on a subject of such momentous importance as your religious profession, such essential differences should exist — on such a subject, husband and wife should have but one mind. It is is the most important, and therefore should be, the dearest object of interest. In such cases as yours, the best that can be hoped is that the subject be not mentioned between you, and sad indeed, does it seem to me that writing on all other topics, — this one of the most vital importance to both, involving your everlasting welfare, must be a forbidden one. You will tell me that Dr. G. and yourself can discuss these subjects affectionately and kindly — and I doubt it not — but I am looking beyond the present moment, dear Regina, and I know human nature better than you do. I know the effect of the wear of life better than you do and though you and Dr. G. may not believe it, I know you better than you know yourself — or he can know you. In truth, dear, if you will not think me presumptuous, I would almost say I know even him better than you do, for if he have all the graces and virtues which may adorn human nature and is trusting to his own strength, he is weak and feeble in his very strongest hold. I should regret this difference, let it have been as it might — and I regret it the more that this difference should obtain to what I deem essentials. You know how dearly and _____ I have many professors of these doctrines — you know that my nearest and dearest are among them, and God forbid I should say one word to ___ or _____ them, but you know that I do consider the ____ itself, uns________ and erroneous and I much deeply lament the prospect of your conforming to it, but I have ____ the _____ in the wish to say more on the subject. My prayers will be with you and for you that the “______ of love” may not lead you away from Him who died for you.
I have so long, my dear R., been a sort of mentor to you, and I feel that my office is so soon to pass to another that I have yet one caution more for you. Do not think I am unmerciful in urging to the utmost the privileges I am about to woe. My heart yearns over you, Regina, with a Mother’s tenderness and a sister’s confidence. And I feel as if I must show you the quicksands which you do not suspect are in your path. Do not, dear Regina, make to yourself an earthly idol. God expressly forbids it — all idols are not graven images. You have known those who in like circumstances, bowed down to the same intelli_______, noble gifts which you now love so much. And you know how better have been its fruits. They were made to feel that their idol was of clay, that the heart was bowing before an earthly image, that the affection due to the creator was lavished on the creature. Let it not be with you. Love even your husband in subjection to your God. Render to God the favorite fruits of your affections. Think first what He requires from you, for both your sakes do this. Watch carefully against provoking a jealous God — but He leave you, and show you how little worth are His noblest gifts — without Him. He has only to leave us — and the loftiest and last among us stumble and fall.
We received Lizzie’s letter by Louisa Wales last evening. I was a little disappointed that I had not a line from you. I looked for it. You must be aware that I am as are many parents — I want to know something of your plans. It is nearly five months since you left us, and as father now has a house, we are hoping to hear something definite of next month, as my latest limit. But on some household accounts, I want to be informed as soon as I can be when you are coming. Are we to see Dr. Gray with you? I tell you frankly, I hope not. We naturally want to see him, but even you dear will forgive us if he is not yet quite so much an object of interest to us, as you and Lizzie.
On many accounts, I think you had better be with us a little while our interests must for a time yet be bound together. There are some things to be heard and drawn. I want you to myself a little while, and as I shall soon go to Boston after you come home, I hope the Dr. will not consider me an open enemy in this matter. But after all, I leave it to your own judgement. He will ever and always be welcome for your sake, and bye and bye perhaps for his own, though I don’t know — for I feel as I should love him much upon the principle that I long for my enemies. I think I shall write you a letter of business, bye and bye, but I have no heart for it just now.
May the Lord of life and glory bless you and keep you. Yours, — L. H. S.