A Note on Love

While researching “This Week in Time” and perusing Deacon Edward Chapin’s diary, I stumbled across this note, about two weeks too late for Valentine’s Day, but far too interesting to resist:

“(A Note) – August 18, 1749

Dr. Watt’s Receipt to Expel Love:

Take 28 (pounds) of other folks’ bought experience and 2 1/2 pounds sweet contentment and 1 pound 12 ounces of due consideration and bruise them together in a mortar of mortification. You spread ’em (them) on a leaf of patience & apply to the soft places of the head, then take a spoonful & 1/2 of Resolution each morning & learning not to keep much bad company by a right use and improvement of these things, it will well cure or wholly carry off that fatal heart killing Disease called Love Sickness.”

My jaw dropped. Every week, I scramble to find at least one diary entry that is not primarily concerned with the weather or natural phenomenon. Granted, the weather back in the mid-1700s is fascinating, especially in comparison to the weather today, and it strongly influenced the lives of farmers and frontiersman, but one can only read so much about snow and blackbirds. On those occasions when Chapin branches out, his descriptions are terse, a la “21 Jeudy [1754] – Was married William to Martha Chapin” and “This evening was drowned in Agawam, John King of Springfield. On Monday last Robbins, the butcher of Boston, Hanged himself (Memento Mori).” Based on these entries, I assumed that Deacon Edward Chapin was unromantic, at least in today’s sense of the word, either due to inclination or situation, or both.

Consequently, the above entry was thrilling. Chapin cared about love? And cared enough to jot down a note in his diary? I immediately checked his biography, as provided by Reverend Asa W. Mellinger at the beginning of the book. Mellinger proved as terse as Chapin, describing the Deacon as “active in town affairs” and supportive of the American Revolution (1976: II). He did not mention a marriage. The genealogy of South Hadley families provided a little more information—Deacon Edward Chapin was born February 16, 1724, married Eunice Colton of Longmeadow on July 6th, 1752, and died Janaury 6, 1800. The two had eight children and, interestingly, had a penchant for classical names, naming a daughter Lucretia and a son Lucius. All of this was fascinating, but not the information I wanted—how did a “farmer and frontiersman” really feel about love in the 1740s and 1750s?

I returned to the diary. Prior to the entry on how to expel love, Chapin writes, “11 Lundy – This day, Brother Aaron and his consort arrived at Chickapee.” Perhaps he includes the Dr. Watt’s receipt because he is jealous of his brother’s marriage and wishes to get married himself. Then again, perhaps that is too melodramatic. Five months later, he states, “I rue the last years. Alas, me thinks I am much inclined to be bitter more & so is the thought.” Could that be a sign of disappointed love affair? Maybe the girl proved unsuitable or unwilling. Two years later, in July 1751, he could still be thinking on it, based on the following: “Mr. John Hitchcock expired, aged 82 or 3, Having lived with His Concert 59 years and about 9 months. O! Strange! And now through Grace as willing to part as ever to be together for the declared (?)”. But is he expressing astonishment over the fact that the marriage lasted so long, or that the two parties lived so long? Sadly, it was probably the former, since three months later, he says the same thing—“O! Strange!!”—about have five people over for breakfast and five over for dinner.

In May 1752, the diary mentions that, “28 Jeudy – I fear that urged the affair — to be accomplished”—which could possibly refer to his marriage. The June 17th trip to Longmeadow would have certainly been in preparation for the upcoming nuptials. Unfortunately, Chapin’s entry on his wedding day is sober:

“6 Lundy [1752] This day I hear of Worthington had a letter last Saturday from Jonathon Dwight of Boston, informing that Brother Aaron died of the Small Pox, May 17, on Ramsforth Island or Randford Island. Having (as before noted) had confirmation of the heavy tidings of my dear Brother’s death, the scheme of accomplishing the wedding is altered…Our Nuptials Celebrated late this evening.

Blessed be my good God for all His goodness Who has not forgot to be Gracious but knows to fill the place which the removal of great mercies has left empty; with greater. May His Dealings be Sanctified.”

Even with my attempts to find references to a hidden love, I cannot help concluding that the empty place refers to the loss of his brother, rather than an earlier love. I thus end this post with a sense of frustration. Any extrapolations from the diary are, at best, tenuously supported, and at worst, a figment of my imagination. In a generation familiar with Facebook, where photos of couples and relationship statuses make personal matters readily available, Deacon Edward Chapin serves a reminder that discovering intimate details in the past is far more complicated.

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