This volume gathers nearly half of some 300 letters written by
Mary Telfair of Savannah to her best friend, Mary Few of New York.
Telfair was born in 1790 to a wealthy, prominent, slaveholding
Savannah family. Few, born in 1790 into equally affluent
circumstances, moved with her family from Savannah to New York in
1799. Self-exiled because of their strong antislavery views, the
Fews never returned to Georgia, yet they remained close to the
The close friendship between Telfair and Few ended only with
their deaths in the 1870s. Regular travelers, they met on many
occasions. Chiefly, however, they kept in touch through frequent
correspondence (Few's letters to Telfair remain undiscovered, and
may not have not survived). Wherever Telfair happened to be--in
Savannah, the northern states, or Europe--she wrote to her friend
at least two or three times a month.
Telfair's letters offer unique insights into the daily life of
her family and the changes wrought by the deaths of so many of its
members. The letters also reveal the shared interests and
imperatives at the base of her various relationships with elite
women, but especially with Mary Few, whom Telfair memorably
described as her "Siamese Twin." The two women, neither of whom
ever wed, nonetheless discussed the rights and obligations of
marriage as well as their own state of "single blessedness." They
also conversed about shared intellectual interests--literature,
lecture topics, women's education--as well as the foibles of common
acquaintances. Here is a fascinating, unfamiliar world as revealed
in what editor Betty Wood calls "one of the most remarkable
literary exchanges between women of high social rank in the early
national and antebellum United States."
Subjects: History, Sociology
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