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A recently discovered letter by Elizabeth Ashbridge expands the very small archive of documents related to this important Quaker minister, gives scholars a better understanding of the circles in which she moved, and offers an occasion for reflection on epistolary writing in the eighteenth century. Written to her fellow Quaker Margaret Bowne, the letter fascinates as a dense record of the overlapping transatlantic, commercial, and ministerial connections Friends maintained during the period. It also illustrates the persistence of Pauline epistolary tropes in the context of an ostensibly “secular” familiar letter, reminding scholars of the pitfalls of thinking of the secular in opposition to the religious. Finally, it underscores the importance of reading documents such as Ashbridge’s letter intertextually, alongside Quaker journals, diaries, and even novels.


Originally published in Early American Literature. 2019. Volume 54. Issue 2. Pages 511-527.