Fatherly Advice From George Washington

Fatherly Advice From George Washington

The following relates to a letter written by George Washington to his adopted daughter, Nelly Custis, on the subject of love: When Nelly was about sixteen years of age she attended her first ball, at Georgetown, and wrote a description of it to her foster-father at the seat of government. His response presents the Father of his Country in the attitude of an essayist on the “Art of Love,” and in delightful epistolary undress – an attitude in which he was rarely seen. After alluding to some remarks of hers about her indifference to young men, and her “determination never to give herself a moment’s uneasiness on the account of any of them,” he warned her not to be too sure of her control of the passions. “In the composition of the human frame,” he wrote, “there is a good deal of inflammable matter, which, when the torch is put to it, may burst into a flame.” He continued: “Love is said to be an involuntary passion, and it is therefore contended that it cannot be resisted. This is true in part only, for like all things else, when nourished and supplied plentifully with aliment it is rapid in progress; but let these be withdrawn and it may be stifled in its birth or much stunted in its growth. For example: a woman (the same may be said of the other sex) all beautiful and accomplished, will, while her hand and heart are undisposed of, turn the heads and set the circle in which she moves on fire. Let her marry, and what is the consequence? The madness ceases...