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Love Letter

Abraham Van Wycke’s letter spoke of the love he and Mary shared, contrary to what she said. Photo from The Huntington Town Clerk’s Archives

Huntington was once the setting of a stone-cold rejection.

Abraham Van Wycke, now long buried in his family plot in the cemetery behind the Huntington Town historian’s office, once had his then-beating heart broken when he received a brutal note reminiscent of a Dear John letter in 1819 from a woman named Mary.

Van Wycke, age 21 at the time, was taken with Mary, last name unknown, describing her “electric kisses” and “nectarious lips.” But she wrote him out of her future in one short, blunt letter and he, in response, drafted a letter he never sent back.

Huntington Town Archivist Antonia S. Mattheou discovered the letters — which are now in Huntington Town Hall’s historical archives — years ago, but she was unable to discover any more information about the elusive Mary or her relatives who disapproved of Van Wycke.

“I have for a long time suspected that my mother, from the coldness of her manner toward you, would not be pleased with you as her son-in-law,” Mary wrote. “This suspicion is now confirmed. Your visits at our house have been frequent this winter; they have been remarked by mother and uncle … that they would not sanction any such attachment. This is a good reason and the best I have to offer to justify the resolution which I have seriously and solemnly taken never to look upon you as my future husband.”

Van Wycke found this hard to believe, and said she once told him she would no longer care about what her mother and friends thought, that she would let them “think what they pleased of it.” He used her own words against her, after she described her previous declaration of love for him as an “unthinking confession.”

“Did you not immediately, after your unthinking confession, present me with your hand and an electric kiss from your nectarious lips, as a pledge of your engagement and constancy? Yes, and what did you say? That you [were] satisfied and happy and would have made the confession before, but fearing the displeasure of your mother had acted the reverse of your inclinations, but had decidedly come to the conclusion to make the confession? … Does this prove that the confession was unthinking or inconsiderate?”

Mary listed other reasons she thought Van Wycke was not suitable for marriage, including his health and financial stature.

The tombstone in Huntington where Abraham Van Wycke is buried. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
The tombstone in Huntington where Abraham Van Wycke is buried. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“You are not in a situation to marry and support me in the style of ease and comfort in which I am at present living under the roof,” she said. “You are not in good health, your constitution has been impaired by that most dreadful of all maladies, the consumption, from which I fear you are not entirely recovered.”

Mary pleaded to “be forgotten” or only seen as a friend and accused him of assuming too much of their relationship. She said her utterances of attachment did not equal “a promise to be your wife.”

Van Wycke found flaws in that reasoning, asking when he would have reasonably inferred that she was not interested.

“Sure it was not when you were caressing me with repeated anticipations of future felicity! Which inspired me with enthusiasm,” he said. “Nor was it at those times when you were placing electric kisses on my lips and face which are … never to be wiped away by a female! Was this unthinking? Was it not voluntarily granted? The unthinking confession, how was it?”

Van Wycke talked of conversations in which Mary had supposedly given full acknowledgement of desiring a life with him.

“We were talking of domestic happiness, to which I remarked that I never expected to know domestic happiness, to which you readily replied that it was and had been your wish to make me happy. Was this unthinking or involuntary on your part? Ask your conscience!”

Mary begged Van Wycke not to respond to her letter, as she felt there was no point: “Let me desire you also never to renew the subject of this letter you have before you now, the candid and full expression of my sentiments and feelings which makes it wholly unnecessary to discuss in private conversation,” she said.

Mary signed the letter “With due respect, your well-wisher,” and thus ended the last contact she ever had with Van Wycke.

Although Van Wycke ultimately did not send his response, he had originally intended to ignore her request for silence.

“Willingly would I comply with your requests in not answering your epistle, but my feelings prompt me to this act, and moreover … to present (together with your conscience) a memorial of your conduct to me,” he wrote.

Van Wycke died an unmarried man at age 51, on June 24, 1849. He foreshadowed his fate in his letter when he said, “This disappointment leads me to form a new system for my future life.”