The Coquette

The Coquette

Major Peter Sanford Character Analysis

Nancy Sanford’s husband, Eliza Wharton’s lover, and brief love interest of Miss Laurence. Sanford is a confessed libertine and rake, and he is determined to make Eliza another notch in his womanizing belt. Sanford first meets Eliza when she is vising friends in New Haven, and while he suspects that she is a coquette, Eliza’s friendly disposition suits his intentions just fine. Eliza’s friends despise Sanford, and they believe he is exceedingly dangerous to Eliza’s fragile virtue. Surprisingly, Sanford begins to fall in love with Eliza—as much as he can love any woman—and he is determined to sabotage her relationship with Reverend Boyer, the only man he sees as any real competition. Still, Sanford detests the idea of marriage and doesn’t wish to marry Eliza, he just doesn’t want to see her with another man. After all, Eliza doesn’t have any money, and Sanford has squandered his fortune. He will only consider marrying a woman who can keep him in the lifestyle he is accustomed to. Eliza initially resists Sanford’s advances and he soon goes South, where he marries Nancy, a woman with a sizable fortune. Sanford still carries a torch for Eliza, however, and he and Nancy soon move to Eliza’s hometown. There, he again gains Eliza’s attention and encourages her friendship with his wife, whom he openly treats with contempt. Sanford doesn’t bother to hide his feelings for Eliza, and he continues to pursue her despite being married. When Nancy gives birth to Sanford’s son and the baby dies, Sanford barely bats an eye. He is a despicable and sexist man who condemns Eliza’s coquetry while defending his own rakish behavior, and he even refuses to marry Eliza after he seduces her on the grounds that she is obviously seducible and lacking virtue. Sanford helps Eliza run away to the inn at Danvers after their affair leaves her pregnant, but he never sees her again, and Eliza gives birth to their child alone. Sadly, their baby dies, and Eliza herself dies shortly after. After Eliza’s death, Sanford is ruined in Hartford, and he must sell his house to pay his creditors. He leaves town alone, a broken and dejected man.

Major Peter Sanford Quotes in The Coquette

The The Coquette quotes below are all either spoken by Major Peter Sanford or refer to Major Peter Sanford. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women and Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Coquette published in 2015.
Letter 8 Quotes

I first saw [Miss Eliza Wharton] on a party of pleasure at Mr. Frazier’s where we walked, talked, sung, and danced together. I thought her cousin watched her with a jealous eye; for she is, you must know, a prude; and immaculate, more so than you or I must be the man who claims admission to her society. But I fancy this young lady is a coquette; and if so, I shall avenge my sex, by retaliating the mischiefs, she meditates against us. Not that I have any ill designs; but only to play off her own artillery, by using a little unmeaning gallantry. And let her beware of the consequences.

Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 9 Quotes

My friends were waiting for me in the parlor. They received me sociably, inquired after my health, my last evening’s entertainment, the company, &c. When, after a little pause, Mrs. Richman said, and how do you like Major Sanford, Eliza? Very well indeed, madam: I think him a finished gentleman. Will you, who are a connoisseur, allow him that title? No, my dear: in my opinion, he falls far below it; since he is deficient in one of the great essentials of the character, and that is, virtue. I am surprised, said I: but how has he incurred so severe a censure? By being a professed libertine; by having but too successfully practiced the arts of seduction; by triumphing in the destruction of innocence and the peace of families!

Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 11 Quotes

I believe too, that I have charmed the eye at least, of the amiable Eliza. Indeed, Charles, she is a fine girl. I think it would hurt my conscience to wound her mind or reputation. Were I disposed to marry, I am persuaded she would make an excellent wife; but that you know is no part of my plan, so long as I can keep out of the noose. Whenever I do submit to be shackled, it must be from a necessity of mending my fortune. This girl would be far from doing that. However, I am pleased with her acquaintance, and mean not to abuse her credulity and good nature, if I can help it.

Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 27 Quotes

I am quite a convert to Pope’s assertion, that “Every woman is, at heart, a rake.” How else can we account for the pleasure which they evidently receive from the society, the flattery, the caresses of men of that character? Even the most virtuous of them seem naturally prone to gaiety, to pleasure, and, I had almost said, to dissipation! How else shall we account for the existence of this disposition, in your favorite fair? It cannot be the result of her education. Such a one as she has received, is calculated to give her a very different turn of mind. You must forgive me, my friend, for I am a little vexed, and alarmed on your account.

Page Number: 42-3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 28 Quotes

I have not yet determined to seduce her, though, with all her pretensions to virtue, I do not think it impossible. And if I should, she can blame none but herself, since she knows my character, and has no reason to wonder if I act consistently with it. If she will play with a lion, let her beware of his paw, I say.

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 31 Quotes

I look upon the vicious habits, and abandoned character of Major Sanford, to have more pernicious effects on society, than the perpetrations of the robber and the assassin. These, when detected, are rigidly punished by the laws of the land. If their lives be spared, they are shunned by society, and treated with every mark of disapprobation and contempt. But to the disgrace of humanity and virtue, the assassin of honor; the wretch, who breaks the peace of families, who robs virgin innocence of its charms, who triumphs over the ill placed confidence of the inexperienced, unsuspecting, and too credulous fair, is received, and caressed, not only by his own sex, to which he is a reproach, but even by ours, who have every conceivable reason to despise and avoid him. Influenced by these principles, I am neither ashamed nor afraid openly to avow my sentiments of this man, and my reasons for treating him with the most pointed neglect.

Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 61 Quotes

Slight not the opinion of the world. We are dependent beings; and while the smallest traces of virtuous sensibility remain, we must feel the force of that dependence, in a greater or less degree. No female, whose mind is uncorrupted, can be indifferent to reputation. It is an inestimable jewel, the loss of which can never be repaired. While retained, it affords conscious peace to our own minds, and ensures the esteem and respect of all around us.

Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 66 Quotes

Indeed, I feared some immediate and fatal effect. I therefore seated myself beside her; and assuming an air of kindness, compose yourself, Eliza, said I; I repeat what I told you before, it is the purest friendship, which thus interests me in your concerns. This, under the direction of charity, induces me again to offer you my hand. Yet you have erred against knowledge and reason; against warning and counsel. You have forfeited the favor of your friends; and reluctant will be their forgiveness. I plead guilty, said she, to all your charges. From the general voice I expect no clemency. If I can make my peace with my mother, it is all I seek or wish on this side the grave.

Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 70 Quotes

[Eliza] is exceedingly depressed; and says she neither expects nor wishes to survive her lying in. Insanity, for aught I know, must be my lot, if she should die. But I will not harbor the idea. I hope, one time or other, to have the power to make her amends, even by marriage. My wife may be provoked, I imagine, to sue for a divorce. If she should, she would find no difficulty in obtaining it; and then I would take Eliza in her stead. Though I confess that the idea of being thus connected with a woman whom I have been able to dishonor would be rather hard to surmount. It would hurt even my delicacy, little as you may think me to possess, to have a wife whom I know to be seducible. And, on this account, I cannot be positive that even Eliza would retain my love.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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Letter 73 Quotes

Upon your reflecting and steady mind, my dear Julia, I need not inculcate the lessons which may be drawn from this woe-fraught tale; but for the sake of my sex in general, I wish it engraved upon every heart, that virtue alone, independent of the trappings of wealth, the parade of equipage, and the adulation of gallantry, can secure lasting felicity. From the melancholy story of Eliza Wharton, let the American fair learn to reject with disdain every insinuation derogatory to their true dignity and honor. Let them despise, and for ever banish the man, who can glory in the seduction of innocence and the ruin of reputation. To associate, is to approve; to approve, is to be betrayed!

Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
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Major Peter Sanford Character Timeline in The Coquette

The timeline below shows where the character Major Peter Sanford appears in The Coquette. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter VI. to the same.
Friendship Theme Icon
...writes Lucy and tells her that she has been invited to attend a ball with Major Sanford, a man she does not know but seems “sufficiently respectable.” She immediately accepted his... (full context)
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...retirement.” Eliza does not know why the Richmans appear to disapprove of her date with Sanford, and their scorn gives her “pain,” but she will “apply the chymical powers of friendship... (full context)
Letter VII. to Mr. Selby.
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...went to the General and Mrs. Richman’s for his “accidental” visit with Eliza, he found Major Sanford waiting on Eliza as well. When she entered the room with “a brilliance of... (full context)
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Reverend Boyer asks Mrs. Richman if Major Sanford’s character is “unexceptionable.” Surely, Eliza, “a lady of delicacy,” would not spend time “with... (full context)
Letter VIII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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Major Sanford writes his friend, Charles Deighton, and tells him of his date with Eliza, “a... (full context)
Letter IX. to Miss Lucy Freeman.
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Eliza writes Lucy to tell her of the previous day’s excitement. Yesterday, just as Major Sanford arrived to take Eliza to the ball, Reverend Boyer called for a surprise visit.... (full context)
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Eliza had a lovely time with Sanford at the ball, and he had asked to see her again in the morning. It... (full context)
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“Must I then become an avowed prude at once; and refuse him admission, if [Major Sanford] call, in compliance with the customary forms?” Eliza asked Mrs. Richman. “By no means,”... (full context)
Letter X. to the same.
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
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Eliza again writes Lucy and tells her that Major Sanford was waiting for her in the parlor when she went downstairs after closing her... (full context)
Letter XI. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“Well, Charles,” Sanford writes, “I have been manœuvring to day, a little revengefully.” He had gone to see... (full context)
Letter XIII. to Miss Eliza Wharton.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
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“Methinks I can gather from your letters,” Lucy writes Eliza, “a predilection for this Major Sanford. But he is a rake, my dear friend.” Lucy reminds Eliza that a rake... (full context)
Letter XV. to Miss Eliza Wharton.
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
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...good sense will never abridge any privileges which virtue can claim.” She tells Eliza that Major Sanford has inquired about the sale of local house, and many in town see him... (full context)
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For Major Sanford to be an agreeable addition to their society, his “principles and practice must be... (full context)
Letter XVI. to Miss Lucy Freeman.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...“expect anything more than general subjects from [her].” As they spoke, they were interrupted by Major Sanford, whose presence “agreeably relieved” Eliza. “So sweet a repast, for several hours together,” she... (full context)
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After Sanford left, Boyer asked Eliza “to give him some assurance of [her] constancy,” but she “reminded... (full context)
Letter XVIII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
“This same Eliza, of whom I have told you,” Sanford writes Charles, “has really made more impression on my heart, than I was aware of.”... (full context)
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While Sanford intends to marry Miss Laurence, he much prefers Eliza. “I know not the lady in... (full context)
Letter XIX. to Miss Lucy Freeman.
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Eliza writes Lucy and tells her that Major Sanford approached her as she walked alone in the garden and “went on rhapsodically to... (full context)
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Sanford asked Eliza if they might be friends and if she would allow him to visit... (full context)
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“I hope you have been agreeably entertained,” Mrs. Richman said to Eliza after Sanford left. “I did not choose my company, madam,” Eliza said. “Nor,” said Mrs. Richman, “did... (full context)
Letter XXIII. to the Rev. J. Boyer.
Women and Society Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...but he senses “coquetry” in her airs. When Selby arrived at General Richman’s for dinner, Major Sanford was there as well as a Mr. Laurence and his family. Sanford, it appears... (full context)
Letter XXIV. to the Rev. J. Boyer.
Women and Society Theme Icon
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...around noon to retrieve Eliza’s letter, and was surprised to find her on horseback with Major Sanford. They seemed surprised to see Selby as well, and Sanford refused Eliza’s invitation to... (full context)
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Eliza claimed that her running into Major Sanford was “accidental.” Last night she made plans with Miss Laurence to go riding, and... (full context)
Letter XXVI. to Miss Lucy Freeman.
Women and Society Theme Icon
...am perplexed and embarrassed, my friend,” Eliza writes Lucy, “by the assiduous attentions of this Major Sanford.” Reverend Boyer’s friend, Mr. Selby, had recently come to visit, and Sanford watched all... (full context)
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Eliza agreed to go horseback riding the next day with Miss Laurence, and Major Sanford appeared just a few miles into the trip. He asked to join them, and... (full context)
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Once Miss Laurence was gone, Major Sanford told Eliza that he was struck with “jealousy” by the appearance of Reverend Boyer’s... (full context)
Letter XXVII. to the Rev. Mr. Boyer.
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...pleasure which they evidently receive from the society, the flattery, the caresses of men” like Major Sanford. Mr. Selby attended the assembly last night and became suspicious of Eliza’s relationship with... (full context)
Letter XXVIII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“I go on finely with my amour,” Sanford writes Charles. Sanford knows that Eliza’s friends do not approve of him, and he wonders... (full context)
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“I have not yet determined to seduce [Eliza],” Sanford tells Charles, although he doesn’t believe it would be difficult to do so. If Sanford... (full context)
Letter XXIX. to Miss Eliza Wharton.
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“Let not the magic arts of that worthless Sanford lead you, like an ignis fatuus from the path of rectitude and virtue!” Lucy Freeman... (full context)
Letter XXX. to Miss Lucy Freeman.
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Eliza writes to Lucy and informs her that she has “renounced [Sanford] entirely.” In compliance with her friends wishes, Eliza told Sanford on his last visit that... (full context)
Letter XXXI. to Miss Eliza Wharton.
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Lucy responds, pleased with Eliza’s decision to quit the company of Major Sanford. Lucy considers libertines and rakes more dangerous to society than “the robber and the... (full context)
Letter XXXII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“I am really banished and rejected,” Sanford writes Charles. He is quite heartbroken by Eliza’s termination of their relationship, although he is... (full context)
Letter XXXIV. to Mrs. Richman.
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...in Hartford and tells her how happy she is to be with her family again. Major Sanford has recently moved to town as well, and while he has been exceedingly pleasant... (full context)
Letter XXXVI. to Mrs. Richman.
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...of her own marriage. She meant only to enjoy the party, and even danced with Major Sanford, although Boyer’s presence hampered her enjoyment as he seemed rather jealous. “Lucy Freeman, now... (full context)
Letter XXXVII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“My hopes begin to revive,” Sanford tells Charles. Eliza has proved agreeable to continuing to interact with him in social situations,... (full context)
Letter XXXVIII. to Mrs. M. Wharton.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...blessing which can render life desirable.” They have frequented the theater (where they ran into Major Sanford) and the circus, but such an active social life has proved expensive. “I fear... (full context)
Letter XXXIX. to Mr. T. Selby.
Women and Society Theme Icon
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Boyer made the mistake of mentioning Major Sanford to Eliza—who, incidentally, has purchased a home in New Haven—and she claimed Boyer was... (full context)
Letter XL. to Mr. T. Selby.
Women and Society Theme Icon
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...expectations!” When Boyer arrived at Eliza’s he found her arriving home in the company of Major Sanford, and she quickly resumed “the same indecision, the same loathness” to bring her courtship... (full context)
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...disturbed. Curious, Boyer went to the garden anyway and found Eliza in the company of Major Sanford(full context)
to Miss Eliza Wharton. ENCLOSED IN THE FOREGORING.
Women and Society Theme Icon
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...concerned for her “happiness,” “reputation,” and “temporal and eternal welfare.” He encourages her to “fly Major Sanford,” a man he considers to be “a deceiver.” Quitting Major Sanford is the only... (full context)
Letter XLI. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
Women and Society Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
...tells her that Hartford is “gloomy” after the excitement of Boston, but the addition of Major Sanford has made town more exciting. He has recently returned from Boston as well, and... (full context)
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Eliza met with Major Sanford in the garden to inform him of her choice regarding Reverend Boyer, and when... (full context)
Letter XLII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“The show is over, as we yankees say,” Sanford writes Charles, “and the girl is my own.” Sanford tells Charles that he had gone... (full context)
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Sanford reassured Eliza that her displeasure and “embarrassments” wouldn’t last, and by the time Sanford returned... (full context)
Letter XLIV. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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“I am extremely depressed, my dear Lucy!” Eliza writes. Major Sanford has recently gone southward for several months, and Eliza has “declined any further conversation... (full context)
Letter XLV. to the same.
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Major Sanford has not written Eliza in nearly twelve months. “Has he too forsaken me?” Eliza... (full context)
Letter LI. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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Julia tells Lucy that Major Sanford’s home is “undergoing a complete repair.” He is rumored to return soon, and bring... (full context)
Letter LIII. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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“Gracious Heaven!” Eliza writes to Lucy. “What have I heard?” Eliza tells Lucy that Sanford is married. “Yes, the ungrateful, the deceitful wretch, is married!” Eliza has heard that his... (full context)
Letter LIV. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
Women and Society Theme Icon
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“It is your old friend,” Sanford writes Charles, “metamorphosed into a married man!” It was “dire necessity” that has caused Sanford’s... (full context)
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Still, Sanford can’t help but pine over Eliza. “O, Eliza,” he cries, “accuse me not of infidelity;... (full context)
Letter LV. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Eliza writes to Lucy and tells her she had a visit from Major Sanford. He had sent Eliza a letter requesting a visit once he returned to Hartford,... (full context)
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
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Sanford went on to ask Eliza to be a friend to his wife, Nancy. She is... (full context)
Letter LVI. To Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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Major Sanford has returned,” Julia writes to Lucy, “and amity (but not commerce,) is ratified.” Julia... (full context)
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Julia recently met Sanford and “disliked him exceedingly.” She has “no charity for these reformed rakes.” While on a... (full context)
Letter LVII. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Eliza and Julia recently went to dine at Major and Mrs. Sanford’s, and Eliza writes Lucy to tell her about it. The party was... (full context)
Letter LVIII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“Rejoice with me, my friend,” Sanford writes Charles, “that I have made my peace with the mistress of my heart.” Sanford... (full context)
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Sanford tells Charles that Eliza “is extremely altered,” and that her depressed nature “mortifies [him] exceedingly.”... (full context)
Letter LIX. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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...hopes that Julia will soon return to her. Eliza has been spending more time with Major and Mrs. Sanford lately; he treats Eliza with the “tenderness of a brother,” and Nancy... (full context)
Letter LX. to the same.
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...vain.” Eliza’s depression is worsening again, something Julia noticed after Eliza was “in company with Major Sanford.” He calls on Eliza nearly every day, and Julia recently caught them in close... (full context)
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...her “visible fondness for the society of such a man.” Clearly, “marriage has not changed [Sanford’s] disposition,” she told Eliza. She implored Eliza not to fall victim to his “evil machinations.”... (full context)
Letter LXI. to Miss Eliza Wharton.
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“Julia, you say, approves not Major Sanford’s particular attention to you,” Lucy writes Eliza. “Neither do I.” Lucy begs Eliza to... (full context)
Letter LXIV. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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...She lamented her “gloom” and appeared frail and sick. Mrs. Wharton told Julia that while Major Sanford will visit daily for some time, he also goes long stretches without corresponding at... (full context)
Letter LXV. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“Good news, Charles, good news!” Sanford writes. “I have arrived to the utmost bounds of my wishes; the full possession of... (full context)
Letter LXVI. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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...cries. She confronted Eliza the next day, and she admitted that she had been with Major Sanford. Eliza “is ruined!” Julia writes. She has “sacrificed [her] virtue to an abandoned, despicable,... (full context)
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Despite Julia’s insistence that Eliza stay away from Major Sanford, Eliza claimed that she could not comply with her friend’s wishes. In fact, she... (full context)
Letter LXVII. to the same.
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...the front door and saw Eliza leave, followed by a man. Of course, it was Major Sanford, Julia says. Mrs. Wharton was roused from sleep as well and came out of... (full context)
Letter LXX. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“I have, at last, accomplished the removal of my darling girl,” Sanford writes Charles, “from a place where she thought every eye accused, and every heart condemned... (full context)
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Sanford plans to visit Eliza tomorrow. “From the very soul I pity her,” Sanford claims, “and... (full context)
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Sanford has taken Eliza to a roadside inn in a neighboring state, but before he did,... (full context)
Letter LXXI. to Mrs. Lucy Sumner.
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“I am told that Major Sanford is quite frantic,” Julia writes. His wife, Nancy, has left him, and he lost... (full context)
Letter LXXII. to Mr. Charles Deighton.
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“Oh, Deighton,” Sanford writes, “I am undone!” He tells Charles about Eliza’s death and expresses his deep love... (full context)