Eliza Wharton (North American Folk Tale)

Under the name of Eliza Wharton for a brief time lived a woman whose name was said to be Elizabeth Whitman. Little is known of her, and it is thought that she had gone among strangers to conceal disgrace. She died without telling her story. In 1788 she arrived at the Bell Tavern, Danvers, in company with a man, who, after seeing her properly bestowed, drove away and never returned. A graceful, beautiful, well-bred woman, with face overcast by a tender melancholy, she kept indoors with her books, her sewing, and a guitar, avoiding the gossip of the idle. She said that her husband was absent on a journey, and a letter addressed to “Mrs. Eliza Wharton” was to be seen on her table when she received callers. Once a stranger paused at her door and read the name thereon. As he passed on the woman groaned, “I am undone!” One good woman, seeing her need of care and defiant of village prattling, took her to her home, and there, after giving birth to a dead child, she passed away. Among her effects were letters full of pathetic appeal, and some verses, closing thus:

“O thou for whose dear sake I bear

A doom so dreadful, so severe,

May happy fates thy footsteps guide

And o”er thy peaceful home preside.

Nor let Eliza”s early tomb

Infect thee with its baleful gloom.”

A stone was raised above her grave, by whom it is not known, and this inscription was engraved thereon: “This humble stone, in memory of Elizabeth Whitman, is inscribed by her weeping friends, to whom she endeared herself by uncommon tenderness and affection. Endowed with superior genius and acquirements, she was still more endeared by humility and benevolence. Let candor throw a veil over her frailties, for great was her charity for others. She sustained the last painful scene far from every friend, and exhibited an example of calm resignation. Her departure was on the 25th of July, 1788, in the thirty-seventh year of her age, and the tears of strangers watered her grave.”

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