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My Dearest Elizabeth,                                                              Hope Park March 30th 1796


For sometime I have waited in the hopes of hearing from you. Now I begin to fear you are either sick or offended at my apparent neglect in not answering the letter I received two months ago, sooner than I did.

If either of these fears are true I shall be very sorry – but I hope you will very soon write to me & inform me the reason you have not wrote, since my last letter.

Since I have wrote last – I have been to two balls – & my sisters wedding. The balls were very agreeable – & I danced a good deal. Dancing you know has always been my delight – & I prefer balls to any other amusement. & After staying two months with my Dear Sister Peter – I left her, & my sweet little niece very well a fortnight ago – and came up with Brother Law in his chariot – Sister Eliza was married the twenty first - & left us on Thursday. She has every chance for happiness – a good hearted affectionate husband – one most sincerely attached to her - & she is the same to him

They are fixed in the City, four miles from Sister Peter. Mama & self expect to go to the City in two, or three weeks – I am now Miss Custis, & as you may suppose not a little proud of the title, & have determined within myself – that I will always be called Eleanor – as Nelly is extremely homely in my opinion. Tomorrow I am seventeen.

Before I left George Town I had the pleasure of seeing, Miss A Stuart – she made many enquires after you. She told me little Snipe was very well. I should like very much to see her. Miss Stuart says she often speaks of me. I was introduced to Mrs. Charles Lowns at the last ball I was at – she made nearly enquiries after you. When have you heard from our Dear E Allen? I have not had a letter from her for three or four months. When do you intend writing to her – if you will informme – I will write, & send the letter to you, to inclose for me. I have never heard of or from our little friend Susan since she came to Virginia. Sister Law desired me to remember her to you whenever I wrote Sister Peter also.

Remember me to your Mama, Papa, Sister & Brother Mifflin. Also Mrs. Smith of Roxbury – I hope she enjoys better health than when I left Philadelphia – love to H McCall – Mrs. Plumsted, & M Ross –

With truth, & sincerity

Your faithfull friend –

Eleanor Parke Custis

P.S This is wrote so bad I fear you will be scarcely able to read it – write to me very soon – a very long letter.


Consider the following questions when using this letter:

  • What information can you find about Eleanor within this letter?
  • Who is Eleanor writing to? What is Eleanor concerned about?
  • What activities does Eleanor partake in?
  • What is going on in the United States and/or the world as Eleanor is writing this letter?

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Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis wrote this letter to her friend, Elizabeth, a day before Eleanor turned 17. Eleanor proudly proclaims to her friend that "I will always be called Eleanor – as Nelly is extremely homely in my opinion."

Eleanor was raised by the Washingtons - her grandparents - after her father Jacky died in Yorktown in 1781. This letter was written in 1796, when Washington was preparing to give up the presidency. It gives wonderful insight to what life was like for a gentry-class teenager in the late 18th century.