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:

  • “I have your happiness at heart…” JSS to Mr. Murray 15 Aug 1785 (Letter 429, Book 3)
  • “Fondly doth my heart love, and reverence thee.” JSS to “my Mother” Jan 1 1786 (Letter 450, Book 3)
  • “Our confidence in you, dear Sir, hath never yet been broken.” JSS to Mr. Murray Jan 31 1786 (Letter 462, Book 3)
  • “The feelings of my heart will still betray me, and I must, indeed I must, look, speak, and write, just precisely the thing I am.” JSS to Mr. Murray Jan 31 1786 (Letter 462, Book 3)
  • “I wish to chat with you through many a sheet- for the observation however trite, is not the less true, that writing to those we love, is a sweet alleviation to the pangs of absence…” Judith Sargent Stevens (JSS) to Winthrop Sargent 18 March 1788 (Letter 606, Letter Book 3)
  • “It is true I am beloved by a Man of sense, and information, and, it is, as true, that he is the Man of my heart, that I esteem, am entirely attached to, and most tenderly love him…” JSS to Mrs. Sargent, July 16 1788 (Letter 637, Book 3)
  • “When the warmest sentiments of the heart are engaged, it is difficult to find words adequate to the sensations they produce.” Judith Sargent Stevens Murray (JSM) to Mr. Murray, Nov 10 1787 (Letter 582, Book 3)
  • “Besides, where can I go, what place can I enter, in which your image will not present itself- I cannot open a book, I cannot see a face- I cannot hear or recollect a sentiment, which are not pregnant with mementos of what I once possessed.” JSM to Mr. Murray, Jan 15 1788 (Letter 589, Book 3)
  • “White was the hour which made you mine, and most unequivocal are the pleasures which I have derived from your friendship.” JSM to Mrs. Sargent, March 21 1788 (Letter 607, Book 3.)
  • “Dear Murray, I am convinced I must be, ever, ever yours.” JSM to Mr. Murray, Aug 1, 1788, (Letter 642, Book 3)
  • “I am free to own, that to know myself the chosen companion of the Man of my heart… answers the highest idea which I have ever formed of human happiness.” JSM to Anna, Nov 7 1788 (Letter 657, Book 3)
  • “Time advanceth not for me,
    ‘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
  • Works Cited:
    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.”


    SBTS Ad poster

    See full information about purchasing ad space for the Sargent by the Sea program book below.

    Purchase ads via PayPal button below, or click here for a hardcopy form to mail in with a check.

    Contact us directly about limited availability of Inside Front Cover ($250) (SOLD) or Inside Back Cover ($250) (SOLD). Outside Back Cover ($350) (SOLD).

    Ad Options
    If a message: use field below.


    Be a super-supporter and join the privateering crew! Receive two complimentary entry tickets and a listing in our program book. (Please message us with how you’d like to be listed; either during the Paypal check-out process, or a note with your check.)

    Options are: Captain ($1000), 1st Mate ($750), 2nd Mate ($500) and Sailor ($250).

    Mail checks made payable to “Sargent House Museum” to 49 Middle Street, Gloucester, MA 01930; OR, purchase with credit card/Paypal via the button below:

    Crew Rank Options


    History of the Restoration

    historyIn 1917, the Sargent House and grounds were acquired by a group of early preservationists and history enthusiasts.

    Within two years the house had been restored under the guidance of restoration architect Joseph Chandler (1864-1945), furnished appropriately, and opened to the public. Today, the Sargent House looks as it might have during Judith Sargent Murray’s lifetime.

    The museum features one of the finest small collections of early American furnishings in the region displayed along side textiles, ceramics, portraits, and treasured heirlooms.

    Visitors learn about the early history of Gloucester, from its beginnings as a farming and lumbering outpost, to its evolution into the county’s premier seaport. Visitors will also see a collection of original works by the great portrait painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) who traces his roots back to Colonial Gloucester.






    A strong membership base is vital to The Sargent House Museum.

    The museum’s membership is its core constituency. From the membership comes our audiences at programs and events held throughout the year. Volunteers who fulfill a range of roles in the organization — from docents to board members — also spring from the membership. In financial terms, membership dollars are an important source of revenue.

    While dues alone will not fund all our activities, they do help us keep the doors of the museum open and assist us in preserving one of the finest small collections of furniture and decorative arts in the region. Please consider becoming a member of The Sargent House Museum today and thank you for your support.

    As a member of The Sargent House Museum you receive the following benefits:

    • Free admission to the museum
    • Free or discounted admission to special programs and events
    • Advance notice of events and programs
    • A subscription to The Dolphin, the museum newsletter
    • Various other benefits determined by category – contact the museum for details

    Annual membership rates

    • $15.00 Student
    • $35.00 Individual
    • $60.00 Family
    • $200.00 Contributing
    • $500.00 Corporate
    • $1000.00 Donor

    To become a member, you may fill out the form below or call us.

    Membership Form

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email Address (required)

    Telephone Number (required)

    Street Address (required)

    City (required)

    Zip or Postal Code (required)

    State (required)


    Please send a gift membership to:

    Gift Recipient's Name

    Their Email Address

    Their Telephone Number

    Their Street Address

    Their City

    Their Zip or Postal Code

    Their State

    Their Country

    Any Comments You Would Like to Include

    Visitor Verification Field (enter code below)







    Coming soon – featured items from the collection!

    The Sargent House Museum parlor

    The Sargent House Museum parlor





    Tour the Museum

    Judith Sargent Murray was born in Gloucester into a prominent seafaring family and through years of dedicated work gained recognition during her lifetime in literary and political

    Photo credit Michael Malyszko

    Photo credit Michael Malyszko

    circles. She was married twice, first to Captain John Stevens who constructed the house, and then to the Reverend John Murray, founder of Universalism in America.

    Judith Sargent Murray is noted as one of this country’s earliest feminist writers, a recognition she secured with the 1790 publication of her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes.” Murray was also one of the first women in America to have her own literary column and the first American to have a play produced on the Boston stage. In addition to writing plays, essays, poems and fiction, Murray was an avid writer of letters. Between 1774 and the early 1800s, she penned over 2,000 letters–and fortunately for us today, kept a copy of each and every one. Taken together the letters form an insightful and provocative account of the life of one of this country’s most amazing women.

    The Sargent House was built as a small yet visually impressive mansion; it continues to delight visitors today.

    The exterior displays classic Georgian symmetry–a porticoed entry flanked by stately windows and contained by heavy pilasters at the building’s corners. The exterior also features a double-hipped roof, a modillioned cornice, and wooden quoins. The interior has long been noted for its remarkable paneling and decorative woodwork.

    Photo credit Michael Malyszko

    Photo credit Michael Malyszko

    Foremost is the central entrance hall with its magnificent stairway supporting an undercut spiral newel post, two types of spiral balusters, and a long arched window at the landing.

    The carved cornice found in the entrance hall is repeated in the parlor. Conceived of as the showcase of the family, the parlor is dominated by an elaborate fireplace with a broken-pedimented mantel and overmantel and a double level of columns. Arched recesses are found on either side of the fireplace and the paneled dado is complimented by original pocket-shutters on the windows overlooking the front yard. This room contains some of the museum’s finest pieces of furniture including a set of six straight chairs made in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and owned for many years the Sargent family.

    This room also once housed the portrait of Judith Sargent done by John Singleton Copley just prior to the Revolutionary War, now on display at the Chicago Institute of Art.

    photo credit Michael Malyszko

    photo credit Michael Malyszko

    The dining room of the house exhibits blue and white French wallpaper given by portraitist John Singer Sargent in the early 1920s.

    A fascinating collection of china, glassware, and silver by John Burt (1691-1745) and Paul Revere (1734 -1818) is displayed in the room along with an early view of Gloucester harbor.

    The handsome paneling continues on the second floor of the Sargent House. The room above the dining room is particularly noteworthy and, in fact, was said to have once been desired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for their own historic rooms.

    Displayed in this room is a collection of early Boston furniture from the Hough family who owned the Sargent House for much of the 19th century. A highboy and a lowboy made prior to the Revolution are exhibited as is a drop-front desk originally owned by Captain Ebenezer Hough who perished at sea in 1784.

    In 2002, The Sargent House Museum completed a major restoration of the roof of its 1782 building. The project was made possible by a generous grant from the Preservation Projects Fund of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and by the support of individuals and businesses who have contributed to the museum’s Restoration Fund in recent years. The work, which included restoration of two chimneys and installation of a new wood shingle roof, was overseen by preservation consultants Finch & Rose of Beverly, Massachusetts, and helps assure preservation of the building for generations to come.  A recently awarded grant from Massachusetts Cultural Council will fund repair of the building’s exterior.

    Work done on the Sargent House gives the museum a very visible means of sharing its preservation philosophy with the public — a philosophy that emphasizes stabilization over reconstruction and restoration over replacement.


    The Sargent House Museum
    49 Middle Street
    Gloucester, MA 01930
    (978) 281-2432

    The Sargent House is open for hourly guided tours Memorial Day to Columbus Day,
    Friday through Sunday, 11:00AM 12:00PM to 4:00PM. Last tour begins at 3:00PM.

    Groups are welcome–please call ahead for special arrangments.

    Programs and events are held throughout the year.

    Admission rates:
    $7.50 adults
    $5.00 senior citizens over 65

    Museum members and children under 12 are admitted free.

    If you’d like further information, please use this form to contact us.

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)


    Your Message

    Visitor Verification Field (enter code below)






    Home Page Article

    The Sargent House Museum

    Photo by Ellen Higgins

    Welcome to The Sargent House Museum. For over 100 years, the Sargent House Museum was the home of sea merchants, patriots and community leaders. A fine example of high-style Georgian domestic architecture, the house was built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), a philosopher, writer and an early advocate of women’s equality.

    Visitors to the Sargent House Museum learn about the early history of Gloucester from its beginnings as a farming and lumbering outpost to its evolution into the country’s premier seaport. Visitors will also see a collection of original works by the great portrait painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) descendant of the Sargent family, who loved the house and its ties to Colonial Gloucester.