Elizabeth Coltman, Selections from

Familiar Letters (1811)

Familiar Letters consists of twenty-two letters and five poems by Coltman aimed at young readers on a variety of topics designed to inculcate moral virtue and character traits capable of leading her read- ers to spiritual success in life. Coltman wanted to impart an awareness, even among adolescents, of the importance of connecting “temporal things with things eternal; a momentary existence with everlasting duration” (p. 5). Her didacticism dominates any sense of mere “delight” in favor of an overtly utilitarian purpose, advising her readers in Letter II that these “letters will not wear that air of amusement which is so generally sought for in books: but you will do well to remember, that ‘nothing can be long entertaining, but what is, in some measure, beneficial!’ and if you would secure real enjoyment, improvement must be your aim” (p. 11). Selections from the letters below are not all complete but they contain enough to reveal much about Coltman's style and subject matter.

For biographical information on Elizabeth Coltman, click here; for a selection of her letters, click here; for a selection of her poetry, click here; for her published travel narrative, click here; for her published prose tract, click here.