George Washington to Elizabeth “Betsey” Parke Custis, 14 Sept. 1794

Washington gave cautionary advice on selecting one’s marriage partner to teenage granddaughter Betsey in the following letter, saying in part “Do not then in your contemplation of the marriage state, look for perfect felicity before you consent to wed. Nor conceive, from the fine tales the Poets & lovers of old have told us, of the transports of mutual love, that heaven has taken its abode on earth: Nor do not deceive yourself in supposing, that the only mean by which these are to be obtained, is to drink deep of the cup, & revel in an ocean of love.” Original manuscript images of Washington’s letter to Custis are courtesy of The Morgan Library, New York, NY.  This letter is part of a series; more information can be found on the “Washington’s Advice on Love and Marriage” page. Please also see related documents below.


Elizabeth Parke Custis. Portrait by James Peale, 1814. Watercolor on ivory miniature. Courtesy The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Annual Report, 1992, 26.

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