I Wear a Face Foreign to the Feelings of My Heart

in about Warren

Author: Mercy Scollay

Date: April 26, 1776

[Boston, to Dr. Elijah Dix]

“My Good Friend

I have this moment heard that Mr Williams sets of[f] for Worcester on Monday, and tho’ I have nothing of consequence to communicate I cant help beginning a whole sheet of paper in hopes my firtile brain will supply me with stock sufficient to fill it – –  My pens seems at present my only amusement, and I feel a satisfaction that, tho’ many miles distant from you and My Dear Mrs Dix, I can often converse with you in this manner; impart to you the hidden griefs of my heart, and receive from you the soothing consolation that undesembled Friendship affords and that has so often been administered, by you both, to me in my distress – – happy should I think myself were I and my dear little creatures [orphaned children Elizabeth, Joseph IV, Richard and Mary Warren, then residing with grandmother Mary Stevens Warren in Roxbury] again in my peacefull cottage – under your benevolent care – but those days must now appear as tho’ they had never been, and I wear a face foreign to the feelings of my heart – Alas! My Friend I am no Hypocrite, and the starting tear every moment betrays my sensibility especially when any conversation is introduc’d relative to my past sufferings – I try to avoid company but if absent any length of time I’m summond to attend and the anxious looks of my Parents reproaches me for giving them one moments disquiet – – the sympathetic tenderness that exhibits itself in the looks and behavior of all my Friends and acquaintance gives me exquisite pain, because I cant give them the pleasure they have a right to expect by a different conduct; – however I will endeavour to rouse up all the stoicism that I can, and strive for that fortitude I once flattered myself I possessed – – If I saw my Prospect of suitable provision being made for my dear little charge[e] it would animate me I think – but in short the Father [Dr. Joseph Warren] can no longer be serviceable, and all his former exertions in the cause of his country seems obliterated from the minds of those who I tho’t would be foremost, to pay a grateful tribute to his memory, which they could not, more effectually than to promote any scheme for the benefit of his beloved offspring – – There was a plan laid and all the writing relative to it executed for an inoculating Hospital to be erected, wherein our friend, Doctor Bullfinch and some other Physician was to be concerned: it was to have been submitted, to the inspection of the General court and would have been a public benefit; – since I came to the Town Dr Bulfinch waited on me and after congratulating me on my return, told me he had thrown a petition into the court, respecting the above scheme; that he wanted to push the matter now as he designed to benefit the children by letting them draw their Fathers part; and tho’ his trouble would (by the loss of an assistant) be increased, yet he did not regard that, if he could serve the little ones; therefore beg’d my influence (as he tho’t it would have some weight) with those who had been benefited by the councils and assistance of our Friend; – I promised in the most emphatical manner, that I would exert all the influence I was mistress of in their behalf; highly pleased that there was a prospect of a genteel provision for them – but how was my sanguine hopes disappointed by a repulse; – the motion was rejected because it might alarm the country People by keeping a house of Infection, where they might Poke their noses, and catch the small Pox – thus, for fear of giving uneasiness to a few Ignorant people the dear little ones are deprived of what would be of much service to them, as well as beneficial to the Publick – – Is it not fine encouragement for future Patriots and Hero’s, to sacrifice fortunes and life for the good of their Country, when their helpless Children are thus rewarded? – Oh! My Friend what dependence is there upon the empty professions of Friends, without substantial proofs of their regard and a chearfull readiness to doo every thing to promote their welfare – however I have this consolation left me, which is a great one: I can Present them to that Gracious Being, who ever hears the supplicating cries of innocence in distress, and has promised to be “the father of the Fatherless, in his holy habitation” – He can receive them when all outward means seems to fail and raise them Friends by the most unforeseen events – to his unerring Wisdom I commit their helpless state and by the Divine direction how I may be usefull to them – I have wrote to the old Lady [Mercy’s nickname for Mrs. Mary Stevens Warren, Joseph’s mother] acquainting them her with my arrival in Town, and offering my service to doo any thing for the children – I impatiently long to see the dear little ones and have papa’s and mama’s [Mercy’s parents John and Mercy Greenleaf Scollay] promose that I shall; but they think I ought to wait till the young Philosopher [probably Joseph’s youngest brother  John, then a Continental Army physician apparently still in the Boston area]has been to see me which he has not yet done – I long to hear how you all doo, and often Imagin myself by your fireside surrounded by the happy little circle that used to meet there – I hope your kind partner and her little ones are well: – tell her I dare not say how much I would give to see her, least she should think I was romancing; however assure her there is nothing that I would not give for that pleasure – I have not been able to procure many things which I intended, and which I know your wife wanted, but in short everything is dearer here than with you – Should have sent a quire of paper, that you or Mr Duncan left here but Mr Williams could not bring it – There is no news stiring at present; The Tories, many of them, still reign tryumphant without any molestation and I seem to think will remain so – – Remember me in the kindest to your Father and Brother Duncans Family to Miss Cheever’s Aunt Green, and every body that I know – – May the best of Heaven’s blessings be showered on you and yours Pray’s your Affectionat Friend

M Scollay

This Family join me in affectionat love to you and Mrs Dix – Mama says she longs to see her

Uncle Greenleaf bids me tell you that you shall have a barrel of the oyl you mentioned for  [      ] pr gall – and Papa says he can let you have some rum if you want it – – Tell Mrs Duncan there is not a piece of Linnin to be got in the Town of Boston, else I should have Procured it at any price – – I should be glad of my little Portmanteau Trunk, and the one that I left in your lodging chamber, as soon as you can conveniently send them – – Excuse the trouble I give you my Friend – but will endeavor to repay you by all the good offices in my power – – I shall expect to hear from you when Mr. Williams returns, and hope this will meet you in the enjoyment of that Happiness which is not the lot of your Friend

M Scollay

I have an incessant pain in my stomach that wastes my flesh, and sinks my almost exhausted spirits mama mourns over me and says if I don’t get better I shall kill her, for she cant part with me yet – so I believe you must tell me what to take that will ease my stomach and mamas mind – –  I have taken neither of your prescriptions, except the turlington – – Don’t you scold at me nor don’t show this paragraph to your wife least it should make her uneasy – one more Adieu”

Source: Mercy Scollay Papers 1775-1824, Cambridge Historical Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Commentary: Just returned to her parents’ household in Boston following a year away as a refugee residing in Worcester, Mercy grapples with her feelings of loss for her deceased fiancée Joseph Warren, the failure of a pre-war business venture for a smallpox inoculation hospital with Dr. Bullfinch to materialize, concern for the welfare of Warren’s orphans, and very likely what we would label today as clinical depression. Mercy’s letters to Dr. and Mrs. Dix from 1775 and 1775 are unusually candid among surviving women’s writings from this period. They portend an abiding lifelong friendship which came to include Dix children and their families.

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