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HANCOCK'S DOROTHY Q.
THE Dorothy Q. of our present interest is not the little maiden of Holmes's charming poem –
"Grandmother's mother; her age I guess,
Thirteen summers, or something less;
Girlish bust, but womanly air;
Smooth, square forehead with uprolled hair,
Lips that lover has never kissed;
Taper fingers and slender wrist;
Hanging sleeves of stiff brocade;
So they painted the little maid.
On her hand a parrot green
Sits unmoving and broods serene."
but her niece, the Dorothy Q. whom John Hancock loved, and was visiting at Lexington, when Paul Revere warned him of the redcoats' approach. This Dorothy happened to be staying just then with the Reverend Jonas Clark, under the protection of Madam Lydia Hancock, the governor's aunt. And it was to meet her, his fiancée, that Hancock went, on the eve of the 19th of April, to the house made famous by his visit.
One imaginative writer has sketched for us the notable group gathered that April night about the time-honoured hearthstone in the modest Lexington parsonage: "The last rays of the setting sun have left the dampness of the meadows to gather about the home; and each guest and family occupant has gladly taken seats within the house, while Mrs. Jonas Clark has closed the shutters, added a new forelog, and fanned the embers to a cheerful flame. The young couple whom Madam Hancock has studiously brought together exchange sympathetic glances as they take part in the conversation. The hours wear away, and the candles are snuffed again and again. Then the guests retire, not, to be sure, without apprehensions of approaching trouble, but with little thought that the king's strong arm of military authority is already extended toward their very roof." 1
Early the next morning, as we know, the lovers were forced to part in great haste. And for a time John Hancock and his companion, Samuel Adams, remained in seclusion, that they might not be seized by General Gage, who was bent on their arrest, and intended to have them sent to England for trial.
The first word we are able to find concerning Hancock's whereabouts during the interim between his escape from Lexington, and his arrival at the Continental Congress, appointed to convene at Philadelphia, May 10, 1775, is contained in a long letter to Miss Quincy. This letter, which gives a rather elaborate account of the dangers and triumphs Of the patriot's journey, concludes: "Pray let me hear from you by every Post. God bless you, my dear girl, and believe me most Sincerely, Yours most Affectionately, John Hancock."
A month later, June 10, 1775, we find the charming Dorothy Q., now the guest at Fair-field, Connecticut, of Thaddeus Burr, receiving this letter from her lover:
" MY DEAR DOLLY: – I am almost prevail'd on to think that my letters to my Aunt & you are not read, for I cannot obtain a reply, I have ask'd million questions & not an answer to one, I beg' d you to let me know what things my Aunt wanted & you and many other matters I wanted to know but not one word in answer. I Really Take it extreme unkind, pray, my dear, use not so much Ceremony & Reservedness, why can't you use freedom in writing, be not afraid of me, I want long Letters. I am glad the little things I sent you were agreeable. Why did you not write me of the top of the Umbrella. I am sorry it was spoiled, but I will send you another by my Express which will go in a few days. How did my Aunt like her gown, & let me know if the Stockings suited her; she had better send a pattern shoe & stocking, I warrant I will suit her. . . . I Beg, my dear Dolly, you will write me often and long Letters, I will forgive the past if you will mend in future. Do ask my Aunt to make me up and send me a Watch String, and do you make up another and send me, I wear them out fast. I want some little thing of your doing. Remember me to all my Friends with you, as if named. I am Call'd upon and must obey.
"I have sent you by Doctor Church in a paper Box Directed to you, the following things, for your acceptance, & which I do insist You wear, if you do not I shall think the Donor is the objection:
2 pair white silk } which stockings
4 pair white thread } I think will fit you
1 pair black satin } Shoes, the other,
1 pair Calem Co. } Shall be sent when done.
1 very pretty light hat
1 neat airy summer Cloak
"I wish these may please you, I shall be gratified if they do, pray write me, I will attend to all your Commands.
"Adieu, my dear Girl. and believe me with great Esteem & affection,
"Yours without reserve,
"JOHN HANCOCK." 2
DOROTHY Q. HOUSE, QUINCY, MASS.
It is interesting to know that while Miss Quincy was a guest in Fairfield, Aaron Burr, the nephew of her host, came to the house, and that his magnetic influence soon had an effect upon the beautiful young lady. But watchful Aunt Lydia prevented the charmer from thwarting the Hancock family plans, and on the 28th day of the following August there was a great wedding at Fairfield. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, and Miss Dorothy Quincy were joined in marriage in style befitting the family situations.
The noted couple went at once to Philadelphia, where the patriot lived at intervals during the remainder of the session. Mrs. Hancock seems to have been much of the time in Boston, however, and occasionally, in the course of the next few years, we catch delightful glimpses through her husband's letters of his great affection for her, and for their little one.
Under date of Philadelphia, March 10, 1777, we read: "I shall make out as well as I can, but I assure you, my Dear Soul, I long to have you here, & I know you will be as expeditious as you can in coming. When I part from you again it must be a very extraordinary occasion. I have sent everywhere to get a gold or silver rattle for the child with a coral to send, but cannot get one. I will have one if possible on your coming. I have sent a sash for her & two little papers of pins for you. If you do not want them you can give them away. . . . May every blessing of an Indulgent Providence attend you. I most sincerely wish you a good journey & hope I shall soon have the happiness of seeing you with the utmost affection and Love. My dear Dolly, I am yours forever,
" JOHN HANCOCK"
After two years and a half of enforced absence, the President, of the Continental Congress returned home to that beautiful house on Beacon Street, which was unfortunately destroyed in 1863, to make room for a more modern building. Here the united couple lived very happily with their two children, Lydia and Washington.
Judging by descriptions that have come down to us, and by the World's Fair reproduction of the Hancock House, their mansion must have been a very sumptuous one. It was built of stone, after the manner favoured by Bostonians who could afford it, with massive walls, and a balcony projecting over the entrance door, upon which a large second-story window opened. Braintree stone ornamented the corners and window-places, and the tiled roof was surrounded by a balustrade. From the roof, dormer windows provided a beautiful view of the surrounding country. The grounds were enclosed by a low stone wall, on which was placed a light wooden fence. The house itself was a little distance back from the street, and the approach was by means of a dozen stone steps and a carefully paved walk.
At the right of the entrance was a reception-room of spacious dimensions, provided with furniture of bird's-eye maple, covered with rich damask. Out of this opened the dining-room, sixty feet in length, in which Hancock was wont to entertain. Opposite was a smaller apartment, the usual dining-room of the family. Next adjoining were the china-room and offices, while behind were to be found the coachhouse and barn of the estate.
The family drawing-room, its lofty walls covered with crimson paper, was at the left of the entrance. The upper and lower halls of the house were hung with pictures of game and with hunting scenes. The furniture, wall-papers and draperies throughout the house had been imported from England by Thomas Hancock, and expressed the height of luxury for that day. Passing through the hall, a flight of steps led to a small summer-house in the garden, near Mount Vernon Street, and here the grounds were laid out in ornamental boxbordered beds like those still to be seen in the beautiful Washington home on the Potomac. A highly interesting corner of the garden was that given over to the group of mulberry-trees, which had been imported from England by Thomas Hancock, the uncle of John, he being, with others of his time, immensely interested in the culture of the silkworm.
Of this beautiful home Dorothy Quincy showed herself well fitted to be mistress, and through her native grace and dignity admirably performed her part at the reception of D'Estaing, Lafayette, Washington, Brissot , Lords Stanley and Wortley, and other noted guests.
On October 8, 1793, Hancock died, at the age of fifty-six years. The last recorded letter penned in his letter volume was to Captain James Scott, bis lifelong friend. And it was to this Captain Scott that our Dorothy Q, gave her hand in a second marriage three years later. She outlived her second husband many years, residing at the end of her life on Federal Street in Boston. When turned of seventy she had a lithe, handsome figure, a pair of laughing eyes, and fine yellow ringlets in which scarcely a gray hair could be seen. And although for the second time a widow, she was as sprightly as a girl of sixteen. In her advanced years, Madam Scott received another call from Lafayette, and those who witnessed the hearty interview say that the once youthful chevalier and the unrivalled belle met as if only a summer had passed since their social intercourse during the perils of the Revolution.
2 New England Magazine.
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