Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Poetry

Letter to my brother Beekman
who then lived with Mr. Schenk
at New Lebanon - 1786

To my dear brother Beekman I sit down to write
Ten minutes past eight & a very cold night.
Not far from me sits with a baullancy cap on
Our very good couzin, Elizabeth Tappen,
A tighter young seamstress you'd ne'er wish to see
And she (blessings on her) is sewing for me.
New shirts & new cravats this morning cut out
Are tumbled in heaps and lye huddled about.
My wardrobe (a wonder) will soon be enriched
With ruffles new hemmed & wristbands new stitched.
Believe me dear brother tho women may be
Compared to us, of inferiour degree
Yet still they are useful I vow with a fegs [1]
When our shirts are in tatters & jackets in rags.

Now for news my sweet fellow - first learn with a sigh
That matters are carried here gloriously high
Such gadding - such ambling - such jaunting about
To tea with Miss Nancy - to sweet Willy's rout
New parties at coffee - then parties at wine
Next day all the world with the Major must dine

Then bounce all hands to Fishkill must go in a clutter
To guzzle bohea and destroy bread & butter
While you at New Lebanon stand all forlorn
Behind the cold counter from ev'ning to morn
The old tenor merchants push nigher & nigher
Till fairly they shut out poor Baze from the fire.

Out out my dear brother Aunt Amy's just come
With a flask for molasses & a bottle for rum
Run! help the poor creature to light from her jade
You see the dear lady's a power afraid.

Souse into your arms she leaps like an otter
And smears your new coat with her piggin of butter
Next an army of shakers your quarters beleager
With optics distorted & visages meagre
To fill their black runlets with brandy & gin
Two blessed exorcists to drive away sin.

But laugh away sorrow nor mind it a daisy
Since it matters but little my dear brother Bazee
Whether here you are rolling in pastime & pleasure
Or up at New Lebanon taffety measure
If the sweetest of lasses Contentment you find
And the banquet enjoy of an undisturb'd mind
Of friendship & love let who will make a pother
Believe me dear Baze your affectionate brother
Will never forget the fifth son of his mother.

P.S. If it suits your convenience remit if you please
To my good brother Paul an embrace & a squeeze.

View in Manuscript Book

Rev. Timothy Dwight, Travels through New York and New England, 1821

Definition of fegs, chiefly Scottish:
  faith - used interjectionally to express surprise or as a mild invocation

With thanks to Little Ray

Historical Background

Beekman Livingston was born Dec. 11, 1762, in Poughkeepsie and in 1781 he was a proprietor of one of the two stores in that village. It was located on the southeast corner of Market and Cannon Streets and carried an assortment of dry goods, groceries, drugs, hardware, etc. On the night of Oct. 19, 1781, he illuminated the store when word was received of the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown (James Hl. Smith, Hist. Dutc. Co., 1882, p.142). The records of Christ Church, Poughkeepsie show that he lived there in 1784 and 1790, but he was in New Lebanon, N.Y., in 1786, helping in the store of his brother-in-law, Paul Schenck.

There are conflicting accounts as to his family and where he spent his last years. Hiw wife is known to be Catharine Marsh of Poughkeepsie although there is some evidence that he had previously been married to a Miss Kelcey. On leaving Poughkeepsie he went to the Genesee Valley and an extant letter, written by his nephew Dr. Charles P. Livingston, to the latter's father in 1817, gives an account of a trip he took in northern New York. He visited a daughter of Beekman, Mrs. John W. Cady in Johnstown, N.Y., and he relates of having been told that his uncle had removed to a farm 25 miles out of Johnstown. Another family account states that Beekman died in Syracuse but a diligent search by his descendants through a large number of cemeteries and through inquiries at many Surrogates' Courts have yielded no results.

This family [Paul Schenck] lived in Millston, N.J., then in Bushwick, L.I., and later in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. In 1774-78, he was manager of a mill which Leonard Lewis had established on the Val Kill where it enters the Hudson River, and during this period he lived in the Lewis House. The site rapidly increased in importance and became known as "the Upper Landing." In the 1780's he was in New Lebanon, N.Y., and around 1800 he was back in Poughkeepsie where he was a well-known merchant. He was a member of the Committee for Detecting Conspiracies Aug. 9, 1777, along with Andrew Billings, Peter Tappan, and John Schnenck. His name appears on the list of Deputies to the Provincial Congress in 1776, and he was among those who signed the Articles of Association.


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