J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, May 05, 2023

“O may each bliss the lovely pair surround”

Margaret Draper’s Boston News-Letter was published on Thursdays, and thus couldn’t report on the marriage of province secretary Thomas Flucker’s daughter Lucy to bookseller Henry Knox until a week after the event, in the 30 June 1774 issue.

[I rewrote that sentence to be absolutely clear that the date refers to the newspaper, not the wedding. There’s enough confusion already.]

The News-Letter ran one thing that Boston’s other newspapers didn’t have, however. After the same one-line announcement of the marriage it published this poem:
Blest tho’ she is with ev’ry human grace,
The mein engaging, and bewitching face,
Yet still an higher beauty is her care,
Virtue, the charm that most adorns the fair;
This does new graces to her air inspire,
Gives to her lips their bloom, her eyes their fire;
This o’er her cheek with brighter tincture shows
The lily’s whiteness and the blushing rose.
O may each bliss the lovely pair surround.
And each wing’d hour with new delights be crown’d!
Long may they those exalted pleasures prove
That spring from worth, from constancy and love.
There’s no clue about who wrote these lines. Henry Knox himself wasn’t known for writing poetry. Knox biographers say a friend of the couple composed this tribute to the bride, but no one ventures a guess as to which friend.

One possible clue to the poet is that the News-Letter was by then known for supporting the Crown, so Loyalists were more likely to write for the newspaper and read what it published. But that still leaves a lot of possibilities. 

The internet tells me that Whit Stillman borrowed these lines for his movie and novelization Love and Friendship, built off of Jane Austen’s unfinished Lady Susan.

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