(Two posts in one day! I know you are shocked.) Since I wrote Jedi Nights, I have been thinking about ways that adults participate in creative role-playing. So today I am including, for your enjoyment, the closest thing to child’s play that I have accomplished this week. Here is the love letter I wrote from Benedict Arnold to one, Peggy Shippen, of Philadelphia, a rather accomplished young creature. I recently read this award-winning work of nonfiction about the life of Benedict Arnold. This exceedingly passionate letter was a response assignment of sorts. The first sentence is historically LEGIT BENEDICT, straight from his personal letters! Can you find the other original sentence?
September 25, 1778
To the dear darling Miss Shippen:
Twenty times I have taken my pen to write to you, and as often has my trembling hand refused to obey the dictates of my heart, a heart which, though calm and serene amidst the clashing of arms and all the din and horrors of war, trembles with diffidence and the fear of giving offense when it attempts to address you on a subject so important to its happiness.
Can you know the travail with which I grasp this leaden pen, and how I reverently bow and bend under its weighty burden, a weight which rests… nay, asphyxiates me in forced anticipation of your gracious response to my feeble and odious declarations? To what do I compare this weighty pen? It is a leaden cannon, while my instruments of war are feather-light. I brandish those metallic weights so steadily, courageously, and thoughtlessly, and I now toss them lightly aside, overcome from exhaustion by the encumbrance of this considerable quill.
And the gravity of the mission? Of what shall I say it is like? I am quite sure I bored your pretty blonde head, dear Miss Shippen, with grueling lengths of gruesome details of my fortuitous actions at the battle of Saratoga. I, too, bored myself with these tales of intrigue, escape, impeccable timing, considerable skill, American luck, and the soldier’s honor. Yes, I bored us both with these tumultuous tales which are the simplest of child’s play in my treacherous pursuit of a single moment of your elevated thoughts.
How can I carefully elucidate the injury which you inflict upon me? With Saratoga grapeshot in my flesh, I blithely run, but it is your very essence that makes handicapped my once convulsing heart. Forgive my crude visions and see that my honor is at your mercy. We once conversed freely on all civil affairs, and in your extensive and exquisite manner you examined Gate’s dismissive treatment of my valiance at Saratoga to be a humiliating degradation to my strong soul. Your merciful lips render me mute. Can I hope that behind your polite modesty lies declarations truer than these?
Miss Shippen, you must know the delight I share at our frequent meetings and how I treasure every moment pregnant with the thought of you. When I am alone in my carriage, I am struck by the irony of the clattering wheels and my antithetical feelings with which these paradoxical sounds are imbued either when I first arrive or when I depart. The latter brings feelings of unequaled hope. The former? The tolling bells of despair and death.
Together (a word which I only dream I am saying) we casually conversed on the seemingly thoughtless reinstatement of my military seniority, and we spoke of how I now hobble about as the military governor of Philadelphia. How have I come to acquire these “respects,” and how do I disastrously yet continually evade the honor due me? With what magic can I acquire the honor naturally afforded all other men?
If it was not for your tender grace, Miss Shippen, I would have lost hope. Miss Shippen: you are my lifeline. You are my last pursuit. You are, truly, golden humanity, and I am a monster with no honor until your merciful heart renders me worthy of natural affection.
Do you feel no pity in your gentle bosom for the man who would die to make you happy? On you alone my happiness depends, and will you doom me to languish in despair?
I have presumed to write to your Papa, and have requested his sanction to my addresses. He has produced so intellectual and captivating a daughter that I am persuaded of his virtuous intellect, and I am resigned to his decision.
For your civil regard, I wait. I hope beyond all natural hope, and I remain plagued with anticipation until I receive only a single word from the lovely, merciful you.
Your faithful servant,