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.”