Read excerpts from the love letters and poetry of Judith Sargent Murray for inspiration.
Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Judith Sargent Stevens Murray (1751-1820) was a philosopher, writer, and an early advocate of women’s equality. Her first marriage to John Stevens, a Gloucester captain, was a union of respect. Judith often praised Stevens in letters to her family for his honesty and devotion to her. She was a prolific letter writer who took pride in writing even casual missives beautifully, often drafting her messages several times before she sent the final copies. She habitually transcribed her letters into letter books, and these careful records provide historians with more personal details of her life. However, she never recorded the letters sent between herself and her first husband, so we know little about their relationship.
Interestingly, her letters offer profound insight on her second marriage with Reverend John Murray, a founder of the Universalist Church in America. Theirs was a loving, supportive connection which fostered deep intellectual and emotional exchanges. Energized and encouraged by each other, during their twenty-seven-year marriage they completed some of the most ambitious projects of their careers. Judith wrote essays, novels, poems and columns; She became the first American author to have a play produced in Boston; and she gave birth to two children, fulfilling her desire to become a mother. Reverend Murray spread Universalism in the United States, befriending John and Abigail Adams and many other prominent Americans while on speaking tours. With Judith’s help Murray collected, edited and published his sermons, and when he passed Judith finished his autobiography. She would later move with her daughter Julia Marie and son-in-law Adam Bingaman to Natchez, Mississippi. She passed away on their plantation at 69.
Judith Sargent Murray on Love:
‘Tis devoted all to thee;
Circled in my fond embrace,
As thy features I retrace,
Fancying charms before unknown…”
-Judith Sargent Murray,
“Lines Written while Rocking a Cradle.” Nov. 1802
Sargent Murray, Judith. Letters of Loss and Love: Judith Sargent Murray Papers, Letter Book 3. Transcribed by Bonnie Hurd Smith, Hurd Smith Communications, 2009.
–, “Lines Written while Rocking a Cradle.”