Life on the Plantation
Digital History ID 4217
Eliza Lucas was only 16 when she took charge of her father's plantation near Charles Town, South Carolina and successfully managed it. Her father, Lieutenant Colonel George Lucas, a British Army officer, became lieutenant governor of Antigua when war broke out with Spain. In her father's absence, Eliza ran the plantation, tended her ailing mother, taught her younger sister, as well as two black children, to read and write, studied music and art, and wrote letters extensively. This letter was written to her "good friend Mrs. Boddicott."
I have the business of three plantations to transact, which requires much writing and rather more business and fatigue of other sorts than you can imagine. But lest you should imagine it too burdensome to a girl at my early time of life, I think myself happy that I can be useful to so good a father, and by rising very early I find that I can go through much business.
In general then I rise at five o'Clock in the morning, read till seven -- then take a walk in the gardens or fields, see what the Servants are at their respective business, then to breakfast. The first hour after breakfast is spent in music, the next is constantly employed in recollecting something I have learned, least for want of practice it should be quite lost, such as French and short hand. After that, I devote the rest of the time till I dress for dinner, to our little Polly, and two black girls who I teach to read, and if I have my papa's approbation (my mama's I have got) I intend for school mistress's for the rest of the Negroe children. Another scheme you see, but to proceed, the first hour after dinner, as the first after breakfast, at music, the rest of the afternoon in needle work till candle light, and from that time to bed time read or write; 'tis the fashion here to carry our work abroad with us so that having company, without they are great strangers, is no interruption to your affair, but I have particular matters for particular days which is an interruption to mine. Mondays my music Master is here. Tuesday my friend Mrs. Chardon (about 3 miles distant) and I are constantly engaged to each other, she at our house one Tuesday I at hers the next, and this is one of the happiest days I spent at Wappoo. Thursday the whole day except what the necessary affairs of the family take up, is spent in writing, either on the business of the plantations or on letters to my friends. Every other Friday, if no company, we go a visiting, so that I go abroad once a week and no oftener.
Source: The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1972). Edited by Elise Pinckney, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
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