In Fragrant Memory
Eleanor Anne Porden
Their Descendants Past and Present
Are Affectionately Dedicated.
Their Grandson’s Wife
(Edith Mary Gell)
The brief romance of Eleanor Anne Porden and Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer, holds so much of pathos and interest, and throws so vivid a light on bygone customs and ideals, that it forms a refreshing contrast to the vortex in which the lives of the present day are passed. Yet they lived through a stirring period. Sir John was born three years before the French Revolution and was destined for the Church. But as a boy of eleven he tramped the ten miles from his home at Spilsby to the sea, and from that moment his fate was decided. Nothing less than a naval career would content him. His father, who had disposed of his mortgaged family estates to go into business, was too wise to oppose him. So he sent him to Lisbon in a merchantman, expecting that the inevitable hardships would bring him back cured of what was to be regarded as a mere lad’s fancy.
His anticipations were disappointed. The glamour of the sea was in the boy’s blood, and the French War awakened all those patriotic qualities so characteristic of young England at the time.
John became a midshipman on board the Polyphemus, which led the line at the Battle of Copenhagen. On his way back from Canton (after he had been marooned for fifty days on an exploring expedition) the China Fleet, in which he was acting as signal-midshipman, beat off Admiral Lenois’ squadron, and, to crown all, he acted in a similar capacity on board the Bellerophon at the Battle of Trafalgar, being credited with a gallantry which even the hero of that signal victory could not have surpassed. In subsequent years he saw service in many parts of the world. He was at the Siege of Flushing, and in campaigns off the coasts of Portugal and Brazil.
He captured a gunboat in the ill-advised attack on New Orleans, and for his gallantry on this occasion was made a First Lieutenant on the Forth, which carried the Duchess of Angoulême back to France on the restoration of the Bourbons.
It was therefore under the shadow of the French Revolution with its nameless horrors, and in the long-drawn-out tragedy of the Napoleonic Wars that John Franklin and Eleanor Porden grew to maturity. The debacle of Waterloo occurred just before Eleanor was of age. They shared, as is evident from Mr. Porden’s Journals, in the recurring anxiety for the health of George III, and when the Regent came to the throne Eleanor and her father, as will be seen, were amongst the crowd who witnessed the arrival of his unfortunate consort at the House of Lords for the Trial, and her subsequent attempt to make her way into the Abbey at the Coronation. Mr. Porden was brought into personal contact with the Regent, being a well-known architect, and, having pleased the Duke of Westminster by designing the restored Eaton Hall, was commissioned by George IV to build the Rotunda at Brighton. He was also responsible for the necessary structures for spectators in Westminster Abbey at the Coronation of the Regent, and the delicate designs on which he worked are as fresh in colouring as though they had been made yesterday.
These therefore were some of the material circumstances which moulded the characters of these two, whose actual married life lasted exactly eighteen months. They went their way, she “to the bourne from which no traveller returns,” he on his gallant adventure in connection with the North-West Passage in which success was only achieved over twenty years later.
As we read the letters which passed between them, both before and after their brief marriage we realize that seldom can two such absolutely diverse personalities have decided to brave the sea of matrimony together.
Their home entourage presented contrasts. John, one of a family of eleven, came of an old Lincolnshire family. His eldest brother, afterwards Sir William Franklin, became a well-known judge in Madras; another, James, was a Major in the Indian Army; his numerous sisters married the neighbouring gentlemen farmers, one of them becoming the mother of the future Lady Tennyson. In those days Lincolnshire was very remote from London, and when the sole unmarried sister, Betsy, required medical advice she could only reach the Metropolis by going by water to Hull! and thence taking “the steam-packet” to London—a journey of some days.
The Franklins were a very much attached family, but their interests were largely confined to Lincolnshire, and they had necessarily but little touch with the wider world. In fact, John was never at ease in Society; he hated being lionized and to the end preserved a holy horror of London, whose air he maintained always made him ill!
His sterling qualities left, on the side of thoroughness, nothing to be desired, but he had been brought up in the narrowest sect of Puritanism, and his somewhat gloomy attitude towards religion, which was to Eleanor one of the most beautiful things in life, was the cause of much heart-burning as they grew more intimate. Indeed, at one time this divergence of view all but wrecked their marriage, as will be seen by the letters.
However, apparently, as years went on, his brief contact with the bright personality of his first wife and greater experience of life humanized his outlook, for there is a good example of justice, tempered with mercy, in a judgment given by him soon after he became Governor of Tasmania ten years after Eleanor’s death.
The colony was at that time a penal settlement, convicts being sent there for comparatively trivial offences. They were often allotted as servants to the settlers and lived a comparatively free life. One rule, however, was adamant; no marriage among them was legal, except with the express consent of the Governor, “Love,” however, “laughs at locksmiths,” and a young couple contrived to elude the regulations. The man was brought up before Sir John, who delivered judgment with his customary terseness.
“The marriage is legal.” Then came the sting—“The husband to have three dozen!”
One realizes with regret how Eleanor, could she have shared it, would have adorned the position, and how her keen sense of humour would have revelled in the irony attending another convict arrival whose fame as a first-rate cook had preceded her. The whole colony was competing for the right to engage her, totally oblivious of the fact that the reason for her transportation was that she had poisoned the whole of her previous employer’s family!
Meanwhile Eleanor was a Londoner from the crown of her head to the sole of her foot, at a time when London stood for all that was most choice in the intellectual, literary, artistic and scientific world. Practically an only daughter—for her much older sister married young—she was the darling of her father’s heart. He early realized the exceptional gifts, both literary and social, of his little girl and set himself with rare insight to cultivate them in every direction. No missish education should be the lot of his pearl. True, she has a companion-governess for the more prosaic subjects, but from the age of nine he took her to the Lectures of the Royal Society and she became a regular attendant from that time until her death.
She developed the keenest interest in all the scientific discoveries of the day, and was inspired at the age of sixteen to write an erudite poem on this subject which fills a slim volume called The Veils, Its publication a few years later earned her the signal honour of having her work crowned by the Institut de France—surely a unique distinction for a woman and an Englishwoman at that—in the days of war between the two nations on land and sea, culminating in the staggering defeat of Waterloo.
An invalid mother, paralysed for fourteen years, made Eleanor mistress of the house from the age of fourteen. First in a fine old Georgian mansion in Devonshire Street and then in Berners Street, the young girl gathered round her a delightful coterie of cultured friends—literary, scientific, artistic—who formed a society dubbed “The Attic Chest,” which met periodically to discuss the problems of the day and to criticize each other’s literary productions. Mr. Porden brought in some of the leading artistic lights. The Flaxmans were habitués, and the young hostess was the life and soul of the salon, which (her religious duties having been duly performed in the morning) met regularly on Sunday afternoons. What more natural than that the gallant young Lieutenant John Franklin, on his return from the French Wars, in which he had shown signal bravery, should have been introduced to these gatherings by mutual friends, and should from the first have fallen a victim to the charms of his hostess?
It was for her no trivial conquest. As has been said, this Naval hero hated London, hated Society, felt himself at a loss in the quips and repartees, the literary give-and-take of the joyous crowd surrounding the little poetess, with her dainty figure, her bright eyes, her dimpled arms, and her gay, optimistic view of life. Many of the circle were in love with her, but none might win her favour. The invalid mother and ageing father had the first claim, and so long as they needed her she turned a deaf ear to all aspirants, this new lion among them. The lion himself was in a wretched quandary. To begin with, these happy festive gatherings, innocent and mentally improving as they were, appeared to him a gross violation of the Sabbatarian principles in which he had been reared. He drew a curious distinction (as will appear from the letters) between relations and friends. The former it was legitimate to entertain, but not the latter. There is a justly indignant letter from his lady-love, after they were formally engaged, on this point.
Then, too, Franklin, like all men worth the name, was devoted to his profession, which he realized was of so dangerous a nature that he scrupled to bind any woman to him. Apparently, in those leisurely days courtship proceeded slowly. You took time to consider the momentous step of marriage. One of Eleanor’s habitués, Mr. Elliott, had been engaged for nine years. Even Carlyle and Jane Welsh dawdled over their courtship, contemplated a brotherly and sisterly relation; and the lady, at any rate, seemed quite contented with the situation. It is true she relaxed long before their engagement to the extent of beginning her letters to her Thomas “My dear Friend,” while Eleanor until the day of her marriage seldom advanced beyond the formal “My dear Sir.”
It was decorum, not coldness; for from the moment of their nuptials, her chilliest beginning is “My dearest Love,” varied by “You very naughty boy,” “Mon très cher bon-homme,” and suchlike fanciful appellations.
One quality was equally conspicuous in both the prospective lovers. They were the most loyal of friends. Indeed, Eleanor was prepared to pass the limits of legitimate forbearance, as will appear, while John’s relation to the gallant band of those who faced the Arctic perils with him, such as Sir John Richardson, Back and others, was rather that of brotherhood than of superior and subordinate.
And so, while her future husband hazarded life itself in the cruel cold of the uncharted North in peril of every sort, from being clasped in the fell embrace of icebergs to actual starvation, we can picture Eleanor tripping about the squares and streets of Bloomsbury, ordering her household with so wise a sway that she earned the lifelong devotion of some of them (“Sarah’s” matrimonial affairs came only next to her own); bravely facing a suspected burglary; disturbed at one of the Attic sessions, as she thought, by rioters, only to find the delinquent was the drunken visitor to one of her maids; attending her scientific meetings, but entering with equal zest into the balls and parties where she was always an honoured guest, the life and soul of the gathering; entertaining her Father’s artistic friends and making long Continental tours with him to visit cathedrals, churches, historic buildings of which most delicate pen sketches adorn her Journals; such was the life of the writer of the letters whose dainty grace forms a human document worth preserving as a picture of the times.
The following Valentine written by Eleanor in 1815 may well conclude the Foreword. It is most gracefully phrased and shows an easy familiarity with the Italian tongue. We should like to know to whom it was addressed. Was it perchance an early tribute to her future husband? There is no record of the date of their first meeting, but on February 14th, 1815, he was away at the French Wars and, whether as friend or lover, Eleanor’s gentle heart would be torn by anxiety on his behalf.
O caro obietto di mio amore,
O come compiango tua lunga assenza!
Il Tempo non scema mio vivo ardore
Mi cura la piaga che fizza in silenza.
In lagrime cerco, la notte, il giomo,
Il dolce momento di tuo ritomo.
Com’ la rosa che here nei raggi del sole
Di suo Splendore primate declina
E bagna il seno di triste gocciole
Languisce da noi la fidel Valentina.
Ritorni! e rende la pace al cuore
O toste succumba al segreto dolore.
Eleanor Anne Porden
Eleanor Anne Porden, afterwards Mrs. Franklin.
William Porden, her father, a well-known architect.
Mrs. Kay, her sister.
Mr. Kay, her brother-in-law, Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich.
Children of the Above.
John Franklin, Arctic explorer; knighted 1829; afterwards Governor of Tasmania.
Brothers, sisters, and brothers-in-law of Sir John Franklin.
Mr. and Mrs. Booth
Mr. and Mrs. Wright
Mr. and Mrs. Cracroft
Sir Willingham Franklin (Indian Judge)
Major James Franklin (Indian Army) (married Miss Burnside).
Miss Appleton, Eleanor’s governess, afterwards proprietress of a ladies’ school.
Mr. Elliott, Secretary to Lord Palmerston
Dr. Richardson, later Sir John
Sir George Back
Sir John Barrow
The following letters are written to Mr. Elliott, Secretary to Lord Palmerston, a vigorous member of the Attic Chest and the hero of a nine years’ romance—which was not yet concluded at the time of Eleanor’s marriage. In its place will be found the letter in which she rallies him as a laggard swain and claims from him the Epithalamium which it was mutually agreed should be supplied by the other to whichever married first.
The letter of February 15th gives an indication of her devotion to her invalid mother. She had hoped for a few days’ holiday; but her sister, Mrs. Kay, declines to take her place. In fact, Mrs. Kay stands out as a far from agreeable character. She has no sense of filial duty; she is always imagining slights. If her husband, when transacting business with Eleanor, remains to dinner, the wife is mortally affronted, considering that by some means she should have been informed so that she might have joined the party. She worries her sister with suspicions as regards John’s attitude towards her. Perhaps he was too honest to conceal his feelings, for he writes of her to his own sister, who was brought into contact with her at the time of Eleanor’s death: “Mrs. Kay is undoubtedly a fidgetty person, with a hurrying, hustling manner ... a formal, perhaps overbearing manner”; and doubtless he resented her refusal to share with her delicate sister in any degree the care of their invalid mother.
Two of the letters give a graphic account of Waterloo a year after the great battle. The Pordens appear to have had no apprehensions as regards the attitude of the French, and it is significant of the relations between the two countries that Eleanor’s book The. Veils should have been crowned by the Institut de France in the early months of Waterloo year.
Eleanor records in her Journal that when visiting the battlefield she was offered a skull and some bones as mementoes, but decided that they were too gruesome to accept.
15th Feb., 1815
I write a few lines lest you should think me negligent, but these Attic notes are almost the first thing except making a set of nightcaps I have done since you last heard from me, for my head has been nearly as bad as yours and my eyes worse. I hope to hear that you are quite recovered and I trust I shall be well enough to enjoy a dance on Friday. I was forced to go to bed instead of going to one last night!
I have contrived to avoid your 15th, so you must not fail me on Wednesday, and I shall have no objection to your telling me so on Sunday. By the bye, I shall not go to Winchester. Mama is too uncertain to be left with servants; and as my sister took care to tell me before I asked her at all that she would not undertake the charge of her I must give up my journey. I did not mean to have left Mama to her entirely, but if she will not partly undertake the care of her I cannot ask any one else to do so—n’importe! I hope to make good use of my time, and that you will hear of it. By the bye, I do like what I have done of the Battery, and it is not often I am so well pleased with what I do. I have about fifty irons in the fire and fear forty-nine of them will burn. You shall hear from me again soon if I am not much interrupted for I am always anxious to get on with all that is on hand.
I have nearly got thro’ the Recluse and hope for the Lord of the Isles and the Pilgrims of the Sun to-night as well as another proof—so you will say I have plenty to do—the second dinner bell has rung, so farewell—believe me yours sincerely,
E. A. Porden
I like the Sonneteers No. 1 very much. N.B. I have a plan for an Essayist—a thing often attempted in the Chest but never moulding because those that begun, begun without an object. I have I think two good subjects for the two first numbers—will you aid me?
(I do not expect Papa will go to Winchester till after Wednesday.)
Founded on a MS. in an old folio in the Library of one of the Monasteries abattu dans la Révolution.
Go call a coach, a hackney coach,
I’ll sit on Jehu’s rostrum mounted,
While all who feel its use, approach.
To hear the Jarvey’s rise recounted.
Parisian Beaux! Parisian Belles!
Not for your country make the claim,
My breast with patriot ardour swells,
I vindicate a Briton’s fame.
In days of old (for days of old
Claim all we have of good or great)
There lived a Scottish Saint, I’m told
The same that now I celebrate.
Fiacre long had vowed to make
A pilgrimage to Notre Dame;
So for humiliation’s sake,
Barefoot to Paris’ walls he came.
The streets were built no matter how,
So crooked, they were quite a riddle,
Without a footpath, and as now
A dirty gutter in the middle.
While houses large and dark and high
And certain nuisances unpretty,
Might strike the Saint’s observant eye,
As borrowed from his native city.1
But coats of mud, however deep
Turn not to down the rugged stones.
Fiacre’s pains forbade his sleep
Till some kind angel heard his moans.
For Saints have still an angel near
To act as traiteur or as taylor;
To pay his bills for board or wear,
And save him from th’ expectant jailor.
Sudden Fiacre sees approach
A vehicle of form uncouth.
Crazy and clumsy was the coach
And lean the ragged nags in sooth.
With crosses and obeisance plenty
He mounts his seat and cracks his thong
Of Britain’s whips not one in twenty
So well could clear the gaping throng.
Now duly every eve and mom
He seeks with joy the sacred dome,
Yet, for his charity, heavenborn
Begun, but did not end, at home—
Whene’er the saintly coachman found
Some pilgrim’s feet in piteous fashion,
He, mindful of his recent wound
Gave him a lift in pure compassion.
But St. Fiacre soon perceived
He nor his nags could feed on air;
So whomso’er his coach relieved
He boldly asked him for his fare.
Parisian Jarveys as in duty
His custom and his name retain,
They ease the aching feet of beauty
They save her purpled robes from stain.
Lean are their steeds that never sleep
Their coaches clumsy to this day,
And still the Scotchman’s rule to keep
They help not those who will not pay!
16th Feb., 1815
I have finished the Excursion and left it in much better humour than I was at the beginning, though I am still at a loss to comprehend many parts of it and the meaning and object of the whole; and could like very well to turn out nearly half of it, in defiance of Mr. Robinson and all Mr. Wordsworth’s most ardent admirers. I wish you would read it, and read Roderick and Charlemagne. I like to get a book a little before my friends, but it must be only a little, or I lose all the pleasure of talking about it while fresh in my mind. I promised you both the clouds scheme they follow, and you shall give me your judgment on them. I thought Wordsworth’s had been shewn to you on the evening when you and Miss Flaxman wore the subject threadbare with your wit!
Methinks if ye would know
How visitations of calamity
Affect the pious wise, ’tis shewn thee there!
Look yonder at that cloud which thro’ the sky
Sailing alone, doth cross in her career
The rolling moon! I watch’d it as it came
And deem’d the deep opaque would blot her beams
But melting like a wreath of snow, it hangs
In folds of waving silver round, and clothes
The orb with richer beauty than her own
Then passing leaves her in her light serene.
— From “Roderick” (Southey).
These transports with staid looks of pure good will
And with soft smile his consort would reprove.
She far behind him in the vale of years
Yet keeping her first mildness, was advanced
Far nearer in the habit of her soul
To that still haven whither all are bound.
Him might we liken to the setting sun
As I have seen it on some gusty day
Struggling and bold, and shining from the West
With an inconstant and unmellowed light.
She was a soft attendant-cloud that hung
As if with wish to veil the restless orb
From which it did itself imbibe a ray
Of pleasing lustre.
— From “The Excursion” (Wordsworth).
Much of the beauty of Southey’s passage I think lies in the context and the purpose to which Florinda wishes to apply her remark, as she is gazing at the moon and sees the object really pass before her. Certainly there are many passages of high poetry in the Excursion and many pathetic domestic stories very pleasingly told, but why they are thus grouped together one does not well perceive. They would be beautiful as Episodes, but the poem wants some connecting subject and they are generally “emeralds set in lead.”
Thank you for Estrella: but my good Sir, I pray you what need of apologies about not having made a more elegant transcript, and so forth, it was surely as good as necessary, and I think the poem altogether looks very respectable, and though I can see fifty holes to pick in it, which I dare to say you have seen too, I flatter myself they are not quite large enough to be discovered by the ear. As to the binding of the Lunatics, that was only a fancy of mine, and for the transcribing it in that form, it was literally because I thought it might be read in parts and that otherwise my elegant characters would scarcely be legible.
I heard a lecture from Mr. Babbage on Astronomy this morning and like him very much. He gave the History of its progress from the Chaldeans and Egyptians down to Copernicus, and his subject as you will see, fell in whimsically with the subject of the first part of the Essay I laid aside to attend him. So far I like him better than any Astronomical Lecturer I have heard. To be sure Pond was much superior in his early courses to those he afterwards delivered. Did I tell you Campbell begins on the first of March? I will take care of a card for you, and shall hope to meet you at the Lecture. The whim for writing to you has seized me, so behold the Essay must sleep unfinished, but you will probably receive it with this, and perhaps a fresh charge from the battery.
Eleanor Anne Porden
Mont St. Jean, Waterloo,
18th Oct., 1816
You will perhaps be surprised at this letter and its date, but I think a few lines from this place will gratify you, even though they should be finished at Bruxelles or London. We left Bruxelles at nine this morning, and soon plunged into the forest of Soignies, so dense and dark that sunshine seems never to reach the straight damp road that runs through it, and day-light scarcely to penetrate its recesses, where the water stands everywhere on the surface and the trees, tall and straight, without branches or underwood, rise like the pillars of Staffa, and are planted so thickly that looking into the depths of the forest, day-light does not appear between their stems. Association and novelty made this scene interesting for some time, but twelve miles without any variety, any opening glades or gleams of light somewhat chilled us, and we were glad when sunshine and Waterloo opened upon us together.
Waterloo is a more considerable village than I expected and contains between three and four hundred houses, but we soon plunged again into the forest, which left us only at this place. We alighted, and have made the whole circuit of the field with Pierre Brassin, a guide whose name I think is honourably mentioned by Walter Scott, and who deserves his fame both for his intelligence and enthusiasm on the subject—La Coste of La Belle Alliance has been more celebrated, but I have heard it doubted whether he really was with Buonaparte all the time as he asserts, and whether he does not sometimes draw upon his invention. Do not expect me to give you a long and laboured description of the field, you know it from maps, you know it from Panoramas, and the latter have been so faithful that when I reached the spot, I rather looked round for the men and horses that seemed to have vanished since I had seen it last, than to receive any new impression from the field itself. I think however it will give me some new hints for Waterloo, which I am ashamed to say is still in statu quo, but when I return I am determined that no new pursuit however fascinating, shall run away with me till I have made another attempt at it though indeed I feel it, as I always did, and always told you, beyond my grasp.
As we pursued our way over the field I was surprised to find the traces of conflict so nearly obliterated. One rich harvest has already been gathered, and in some places the fields were again ploughed, and even the young corn springing. We have seen La Haye Sainte, and the inscription to the officers who fell there. We have stolen a bit of wood from the tree of Wellington, and obtained some buttons, a cannon ball, and part of a shell, as memorials. We have seen Planchenout where Picton fell; Frichemont where the Prussians came in; the little copse where the Prince of Orange was so happily wounded, the farm of La Belle Alliance where Wellington and Blucher met, and which our guide said was la plus belle alliance qui avoit jamais été—the spot whence Buonaparte took his flight; little heights of Mont Plaisir, whence his cannon thundered, and those of Hougomont, whence they were so ably answered—the burnt and battered Chateau itself, where little remains but the Chapel—in short we have seen all, and not without emotion, but still with wonder at the silence, solitude and serenity which now reign over the scene of such a recent, such a mighty conflict.
It has left a deep impression in the hearts of the Belgians, who seem to look upon the English as their friends. They hate the Dutch and would have preferred our rule. In France we are feared but not loved. It would be impossible.
I had forgotten to say that we saw on the plains of Waterloo the little Hillock called Les Cailloux which we were told is the highest land in all Belgium. Rightly it is named, for it looks little better than a pebble. Alas! well are they called the low countries. In this land of Pancakes (or, if you would choose a more watery and therefore a more correct comparison, of flounders) every molehill swells into a mountain, and the postilions and horses would pant at the very mention of a hill. On our way to Bruxelles we have been creeping sometime up one which could not have an angle of above six degrees and when I begged the driver to hasten a little, he answered, ”Oh Madame, la Montagne!” La Montagne! thought I, I wish I could see it. When Thomson was told of some one who was writing an Epic poem, “He write an Epic!” said he, “he has never seen a mountain.” Alas! then I say again, for all our party may have in hand. Alas! for all the natives may ever attempt—crasso in aere natus, their eggs of fancy will all be addled, and they will never have occasion to “pluck the feathers from the wings of their imagination, and stick them in the tail of their judgment.”
I know not whether you may have met with the last idea. I found it in a paper at Bruxelles the day before the above was written. It was given as the address of a judge to a young lawyer, who had just finished a speech loaded with only a triple portion of metaphor.
11th Nov., 1816
I considered a letter from Waterloo as rather a debt to you, after all the trouble you have taken about my foolish poem, and had some pleasure in the idea of paying it, but now that it is written and brought home I begin to fear you may scarcely think it worth reading—especially as our adventures have been already detailed to you, but you shall have it if you think worth while.
On our return from the field of battle we went to M. Van Kamper Noten, if I remember his name rightly, to see what is shewn at Bruxelles as the real carriage of Buonaparte, at least as the one in which his hat and sword were found. The latter circumstance appears to me not improbable, but while the people of Bruxelles assert the carriage shewn by Bullock to have belonged only to his Secretary, I am very much inclined to believe this the Secretary’s carriage, as it has abundant conveniences for papers, but for nothing else, is unpainted and unlined, and one of the clumsiest things you ever saw.
I am not going to weary you with any account of the rest of our tour, but only to say that delightful as it has been we are not at all sorry to get back, again. We were surprised at the beauty of the country the moment we crossed the Channel.
In this respect I had been disappointed both in France and the Netherlands, but laid much blame on the badness of the season, till I saw the hills and valleys and woods of the Dover road, and felt their superiority. Nor need Canterbury or Rochester blush at a comparison with the Cathedrals of the Continent, and for the Docks at Chatham, where have we seen anything to match them?
With London too I am in better humour than I expected. If she have less of magnificence in particular scenes, the eye is always pleased with her finished neatness and regularity. Her Churches too, really look very well and the Lord Mayor’s show which I went to see for the purpose of comparison puts both Paris and Bruxelles out of countenance. Of cleanliness, convenience and comfort I will say nothing. We knew all that before.
I must not talk anything about the Chest yet, and Mama’s health is now again, I am sorry to say, so very indifferent that I have great doubts of its opening this season, at least for some time, but that is no reason why you should not be prepared for it, and your continental adventures, as well as ours, will supply ample materials.
Your sincere and obliged friend,
Eleanor Anne Porden
1st March, 1817
I am half afraid—nay that is an old beginning—and in sooth I am quite afraid that Mr. Elliott has so much lost his relish for the Attic Chest that he will consider the present an unwelcome intrusion, yet the hope of plaguing and puzzling our members tempts me so strongly that I cannot resist the wish to request that you will copy for me the accompanying scrap, so as to make it look like the production of the second Scriberus.
My Muse has been as idle as you would make us believe yours, till glancing at a certain advertisement this morning the idea of a Scriberian Epistle popped irresistibly into my head, which circumstance you must accept as an apology for plaguing you. I could wish it for next Tuesday that I may not appear more idle than I am, but if this be inconvenient to you, or you think it will have better effect in the next number, do as you please.
When I said I had been idle I did not strictly say true—I have indeed been Attically idle, but I have set to work in good earnest on Richard2— am actually in the middle of the second book and greatly interested in my subject. Alas! I fear no one else will ever be interested in the work.
I know you wish to be rid of your troublesome correspondent, but old habits are strong upon me and I could gossip on to the end of my paper, yet I will heroically stop short in my second page and be content with subscribing myself,
Your sincere and ever obliged friend,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Oh my poor resolutions! Yet read the last number of the British Critic, which was sent here about half an hour after the above was written, and own I have some temptation to break them. You know the story of Apelles and his picture of Mars. He hesitated while a critic condemned, but effaced it when an ignorant man admired extravagantly. I felt much in the same way at the stream of unqualified praise poured on me in the Gentleman’s Mag. and could have welcomed abuse rather than a sort of commendation more likely to throw ridicule than credit on the work. The present review is more judicious, and I cannot help being gratified with it, but it is still so partial that I fear it is rather the work of some friend than the unbiassed opinion of a fair critic. I should like to know how it came to be sent to me.
Nay! nay! I’ll tax my brains no more;
What signifies the where or how?
Although I never rhymed before
I may be grown a rhymer now?
For oft I’ve heard it said, that they
Whose waking hands ne’er touch’d the lyre
Have felt their slumb’ring fancy stray
And glow with all a poet’s fire.
Coleridge in sleep wrote Kubla Khan
And Mrs. Sotheby, but Pooh!
That tale was since my voy’ge began,
I’m telling what I never knew!
If thus I write my book, Good lack!
Shall I not prate of wondrous things?
What monsters will beset my track!
What one-eyed hordes! What steeds with wings!
Eleanor Anne Porden
Eleanor’s poetic, literary, scientific and social interests made her by no means oblivious of the practical side of life, as the following letter to the Sun, contributed in 1817, shows:
The unpleasant taste and smell, the clamminess, and other disagreeable qualities of the Bread made from the bad Flour of last year are well known, and have been the subject of universal complaint; but I fear the remedy is not so well known as the importance of the subject must lead every one to wish. I therefore trust you will excuse the liberty I take in troubling you with this letter.
Some time ago, a Lady applied to me respecting the best chemical means for improving the bad Bread made from last year’s Flour; and I gave her, in consequence, a concise summary of two articles in The Philosophical Magazine, written by Mr. Edmund Davy, Sir Humphry Davy’s cousin, and Professor of Chemistry at Cork, recommending the use of Magnesia. I this morning received a letter from my friend, in which she sends me the thanks of all her neighbourhood for improving their Bread: they had before tried Soda, and various other recipes, with little effect; it continued clammy and unpalatable. I considered the source whence I derived my information as so much within the reach of every one interested in the subject, that I should hardly have thought it worth communicating to you, but from the above letter.
Lest therefore, the Magazine should not be in the hands of some of your Readers, I will state, as concisely as I can, the results. The Wheat of last year had almost all begun to germinate, even before it was cut; the consequence is the conversion of the farinaceous matter into sugar, which not only checks the fermentation of the Bread, and renders it heavy and clammy, but turns acid during the baking. Mr. Davy recommends, that the Flour shall be first thoroughly dried by a slow heat (before the fire, for instance, in preference to an oven), and shall then be mixed with thirty grains per pound of common Magnesia (the calcined will not answer the same end). The Bread will then be more elastic, whiter, deprived of its acid, its unpleasant taste and smell, and (which the Baker will not like the less) the Loaves will be larger and heavier from the same quantity of Flour: from twenty to forty grains of common Magnesia may be used to the pound of Flour, according to its quality, but thirty is the average estimate. As a proof that most of the bad qualities of the Bread made from last year’s Flour arises from its containing Sugar, 100 grains of soft sugar may be mixed with half a pound of good old Flour, and the Bread will then be very nearly as bad as that made from the bad Flour of last year.
E. A. P.
On May 23rd, 1819, Lieutenant Franklin embarked from Gravesend for the voyage of discovery in which he well-nigh lost his life on more than one occasion.
His objects were varied. He was to determine the longitude and latitude of the North American coast, to explore the Coppermine River, to make geographical surveys, and, above all, scientific observations especially of the Aurora Borealis. These last were the special charge of his friend Dr. Richardson.
From the outset, the stars in their courses fought against him. Even before he reached his Arctic starting point he collided with an iceberg and all but suffered shipwreck. His boat was too small to take an adequate amount of stores, and a substantial portion had to be left behind to be forwarded the next season. On one occasion he slipped from a rock into the icy river, the thermometer being at 25°, and was only rescued after a considerable time, having been swept down by the stream.
Arrived at Fort Cumberland, Franklin characteristically left some of his companions there while he himself pressed on in sledges to make arrangements for a general advance in the spring. The cold was so intense that the mercury froze in the thermometers, and the feet of the travellers suffered so greatly, that when they reached Carlton House even Franklin had to rest for some days that his feet might heal. Then it transpired that there was sickness among the Indians who were required as guides; the Canadian voyageurs were unwilling to help through fear of the Esquimaux; Akaitcho, the leading chief, had to be propitiated; the pemmican on which they had relied turned out to be mouldy; and an unexpected famine made it impossible to secure even the modest provision on which Franklin had confidently counted.
They encountered an unexpected foe in a cloud of mosquitoes which, after a thunderstorm, swept down on them in myriads. The interview with Akaitcho passed off favourably, though at one time it was in doubt, because the chief had confidently expected that they would bring with them a Medicine Man who could raise the dead!
Food shortage led to threats of revolt, which was happily averted by the arrival in camp of two moose slain by the hunters. Akaitcho’s tribe settled upon them and ate up their precious provisions; the cold was so intense that the trees froze to their centres and shivered the axes with which the woodmen sought to hew them down.
In order to divert the minds of the Indians from the food shortage, Franklin instituted sledge racing, only to be driven over by a fat Indian woman, spraining his knee and being badly bruised. At length, despite all his precautions and far-sighted arrangements, supplies failed completely, and the party exploring with Franklin was reduced to actual starvation. On one occasion he fainted after fasting three days. They lived on partridge when they could get it, and tripe-de-roche—a lichen from the rocks. At times even this last unpalatable food failed and they were reduced to scraps of old leather from discarded shoes and deer-skins which they discovered buried in the snow. Worse was to come. The party headed by Dr. Richardson numbered a traitor who shot two of his comrades. The Canadian voyageurs destroyed their only remaining canoe to save themselves the trouble of carrying it. Fishing became impossible as they had jettisoned the nets. One after the other of the little band became exhausted and died. Nothing but Franklin’s undaunted courage pulled the remnant through.
The tale of those awful months and the heroic conduct of those who survived are written in the moving pages of Franklin’s journal. They had not succeeded in their objective, though they had prepared the way for success in the future. And when the survivors arrived in England in the autumn of 1822 they were amazed to find themselves acclaimed as heroes. The leaders were promoted; John was now a captain and everywhere invitations were showered upon him—invitations which, far from appreciating, he sought to evade by every means in his power.
And what of Eleanor during this time of absence? How did they stand to one another? Were they secretly engaged, or how came it that her sense of decorum permitted her to take the only opportunities there were of writing to him during his voyage?
The explanation is given in letters. When Franklin left, the paralysed mother was still alive and in any case Eleanor was determined not to desert her ageing father. Yet when the last meeting before he sailed came, they both of them became aware of their real feelings, and Eleanor, looking back afterwards, reproaches herself for having allowed John to fall in love with her, realizing that, under the circumstances, their union was impossible. How much she was in his thoughts is proved by the fact that he named a group of islands in the Arctic Sea “Porden” after her father and herself.
The diaries of Mr. Porden and his daughter give graphic accounts of events of the day and of foreign travels. His comments on men and things are often pungent, and he knows how to defend himself against pushing people and uninvited guests. He relates his method of disposing of an intrusive barrister named Hinckley who lived alone in Gray’s Inn.
“Hinckley was impudent and an ignorant pretender to literature and poetry: by what means he became acquainted with my Family I do not remember, but it is probable that we met at the Royal Institution, of which he was the foreign Secretary. He was familiarized in my house, when he became too familiar with fire and candles and other matters in which an interference is not usually permitted till after an intimate acquaintance of seven years. He at length grew so impertinent that I was obliged to restrain him at dinner time, and especially at such seasons when people dine in family parties he could not be kept away. One New Year’s Day when engaged with my family and a few particular friends, he came, and could not be got from the passage till I opened the dining-room door and called loudly to the servant ‘I am not at home.’ This gentle and decisive hint had the desired effect then and ever after!”
Hinckley’s fate needs the pen of a Dickens to do it justice. For six months he had not been seen. At last his chambers in Gray’s Inn were entered and the door of his bedroom forced, when a dreadful spectacle was revealed—a room, deep in dust and in the bed what remained of its unfortunate occupant.
Tickets of admission to the Dulwich Gallery having been supplied to Porden for Lord Grosvenor, the Marquis of Stafford and Lord Belgrave, Porden took them to Lord Grosvenor and suggested that his friend Corner was desirous to arrange his family papers, but “to such an arrangement his Lordship did seem to be averse, but he observed that it was a dangerous thing to trust family papers into the hands of strangers as by that means flaws have been discovered in titles to Estates and much legal dispute occasioned!” Evidently the re-building of Eaton, for which Porden was the architect, was not all plain sailing. Apparently the household was not satisfied with the accommodation provided, for Porden writes in October 1820:
“I was vexed to receive a reproof from Lord Grosvenor founded on an ill-founded report of one of his servants, and cannot but regret his Lordship’s propensity to listen to the advice and observations of menials on matters that ought to be trusted to his confidential agents. It would perhaps be as easy to reconcile the interests of a whole nation of separate communities as the Housekeeper and Butler and Cook and Laundrymaid of a nobleman’s family with regard to their wants in the building appropriated to their use.”
Lord Belgrave earns his disapproval for his failure to acknowledge the compliment paid him by Eleanor in a congratulatory ode. The indignant father writes: “Such neglect would have caused me to wish that she had never paid his Lordship the compliment, if the Reputation she acquired from all quarters for that complimentary effusion had not amply rewarded her for this exertion of her talents.”
Porden has no high opinion of the manners of his patrons. He sums up: “It was a perfect specimen of the cold indifference peculiar to the Family.”
The question which agitated the whole country during the autumn of 1820 was the position of the unfortunate lady who in Porden’s journal is always described as “the Queen.” Lord Grosvenor and his son apparently took different sides. Writing of Lord Grosvenor, Porden says:
“His Lordship clearly showed that his opinion was unfavourable to Her Majesty, though he had determined not to vote against her. He justified himself on the principle of recrimination and in certain passages of the Holy Scripture, but to me appeared to be influenced by Party feeling. I expressed my wonder that Mr. Whitebread and Sir Gerard Noel should head the mob that presented the Mary-le-bone address to the Queen and that of the married ladies.
“I was most shocked at Mr. Whitebread, for I considered Sir G. Noel as a wild, eccentric man. His lordship observed that Mr. Whitebread was the Member for Middlesex and had many friends in Mary-le-bone, from which it may fairly be inferred that his Lordship thought Mr. W. might be influenced by other motives besides respect for the Queen. In what various lights is the same object viewed by different men, and how difficult it is to know by what motives the actions of Public men are directed! How seldom are they pure and unbiased!”
Porden expresses his opinion of Lord Brougham in no measured terms. On September 7th he writes, after dining with Sir Robert Gifford (the Attorney-General):
“Heber came in fresh from the House of Lords and told me of the insolence of Brougham and the firmness of the Chancellor, which I was pleased to hear, because I found Gifford was not partial to him, and I felt that his Lordship as prime Director of the House of Lords had not in the course of the Trial conducted himself with so much decision as to preserve the dignity of the House as the highest Tribunal of the Country. There wants a reformation in this matter.
“Carlisle insulted the Chief Justices of the Court of King’s Bench with seeming impunity and Mr. Brougham bullied the House of Lords. The respectability of both has been lessened, and when the People lose their respect for the dispensers of the Law they soon learn to contemn the Laws themselves. Brougham’s behaviour to the Lords would not be suffered, would not have been dared on common occasions, and in private life would have ended in a duel and his exclusion from Society, and if the King and his Ministers felt the atrocity of that behaviour which was evidently occasioned by a desire to inflame the People against the Government, he has effectually debarred himself from preferment in the line of his Profession. But another Ministry may want other supporters and his coarseness and violence may be more useful to them than candour and good sense and the most consummate legal knowledge. A few years will perhaps see him on the Wool-sack, where he will forget his present conduct and it may be forgotten by others. I lose every day some of my respect for the Profession of the Law.”
After all, one hundred years have seen little change in public opinion. Porden’s prognostications as regards the House of Lords have proved only too well founded, and some of his other dicta have been justified by the ultimate event. We can imagine how all these questions were debated with his favourite daughter, and how eagerly she elicited from him all the information he had secured in his intercourse with public men.
The Journal reverts once more to the all-absorbing Trial.
“The failure of a Witness that was expected to bear testimony against her Majesty, is much talked of. He cannot be found. He was a man given to her by Captain Pechell and was the Commander of Her Majesty’s Yatch [sic] in which Office he was witness to facts that would have set the question at rest. Rumour says that he has received £2,000 to keep out of the way, but if this be true, I cannot see how it can be known; and the persons guilty of purchasing his absence not be amenable to punishment. The mere rumour of this justifies withholding a list of witnesses to the Queen. If ministers had yielded to the demand I believe not one of those who bore testimony against her would have seen England.
“With an unlimited command of money [Whence was this derived?—Author] the assassin’s dagger would have quieted those that interest could not influence.”
However, it appears from subsequent entries that this was not borne out, for a month later in commenting upon what he terms “the eternal trial,” he writes:
“Majocci and a servant of Sir William Gell (Chamberlain to the Queen) had been confronted and flatly contradicted each other. Conversation is busy with the characters of Lord Guildford and Lady Lindsey, Sir William Gell and Dr. Holland.” Evidently neither side had a monopoly of questionable expedients, but the country had its own opinion. “Mr. Kay (his son-in-law) who arrived from Hastings last night, tells me that every person in the Country appears determined to hear and believe nothing against the Queen and that a Revolution is talked of as inevitable. It is the same in London.”
There was another side to the picture. Some of the cultured people with whom Porden dined professed to be disgusted with the appearance of the Queen when she faced the House of Lords. These people retailed with gusto the most unlikely stories to her discredit, the least offensive of which was that she was habitually inebriated. On the other hand, assuming the same attitude on the part of Madame de Solages, on whom he was calling, Porden found himself well-nigh annihilated by the indignation of that lady, who averred that the trial was all a conspiracy and the witnesses all perjured. He concludes his account with the words: “The storm increased and I made my escape abruptly. It is astonishing that people will call out night when the sun shines!”
On August 3rd, 1820, Porden writes:
“This day the Queen began her defence. The day was fine and gave the Radicals an opportunity of displaying their finery in their processions to Brandenburgh House. There was one by land and one by water. Those who saw the latter speak of it as a grand and gay sight. That by land was equally so and seemed to employ all the carriages and horses of London and the neighbourhood.
“The procession from Islington along the New Road, one hundred and eleven carriages were counted, and when united with the stream from Charing Cross and other auxiliary rills could not be less than between three and four hundred coaches, chariots, landaus and barouches, mostly drawn by four horses. The persons in them appeared, with some exceptions, proud of their borrowed finery and of a character not accustomed to ride in carriages.
“I saw one waggon which contained about twenty holiday females. The whole was conducted in silent Parade, the crowds that were drawn together by curiosity did not testify any interest in what was passing either by clamorous exultation or disapprobation. As these processions have been very numerous during the last week, it cannot be doubted that many of these Queenites go in several different parties, so that the real number of tag, rag and bobtail is much less than their daily assemblages would lead us to suppose.
“As horses and carriages are found by the Managers, many persons go for curiosity only. The expenses must be very great, and from what funds it is supplied remains a mystery.
“Many of the carriages appear to be those of gentlemen, and I was told that a Ducal carriage led the way. Many of the drivers and attendants appeared in liveries, but those I am told may be hired as well as the carriages, of the stable-keepers who supply the gentry with carriages, horses and servants by the month or year.
“The Defence I fancy will chiefly consist of Recrimination. General Thornton called on me on Sunday and I soon discovered that he was a Queenite, and defended her Majesty on the score of ill-treatment when she first came over and was under the care of Lady Jersey. To this I could not but assent, but as I may have written before, this will not justify the conduct of the Queen. The Honour of her sex and her dignified rank should have preserved her from public and atrocious profligacy, and had she displayed but the semblance of Virtue, she could never have been degraded in the eyes of the Nation.
“No woman can be degraded if she does not degrade herself. However tyrannical or brutal her husband may be, she will be respected if she respects herself. The General, I believe, is rather influenced by the Spirit of Opposition than the merits of the case.
“The sapient Alderman of whom everything is said to render him contemptible, is honoured with numerous names in allusion to his real name of Wood—as ‘Dogwood’ from his trotting like a spaniel at the heels of Her Majesty. ‘Old-Timber’ and his son ‘Green-Timber’ appear the best of them, but the ‘Queen’s Elm’ may presume to rival ‘Old-Timber.’”
Then follow most unsavoury comments on the Queen’s corpulence and general personal appearance. Evidently Porden regarded it as a point of honour to champion the patron for whom he was building the Rotunda at Brighton, and sees everything connected with the Queen’s cause through jaundiced spectacles.
When the trial was resumed on October 5th he went with Eleanor to see the Lords go to the House, but especially the Duke of Wellington. He writes:
“The Lords arrived in a straggling manner and it was near half past ten before they all arrived. The Duke of Wellington was very late and is generally one of the last. He was dressed in a plain blue greatcoat and attended by a Guard of Horse, a sight unpleasing to one like me that considered him the Saviour of Europe. The insolence of the populace and, worse than insolence, their outrageous attack upon him on a former morning had made this be thought necessary, but it would have been more consonant to his character and my feelings if he had declined the guard and braved the populace, the Soldiers on duty being near enough and sufficient to protect him from a similar attack. Was he like Coriolanus afraid of being slain with sticks and stones ‘in puny battle’?—the Popularity of the Queen and the Unpopularity of the Duke.”
Porden is ever more surprised at the “infatuation of the lower and middle classes” with regard to the Queen. But these views were not confined to the democracy, for he reports that old Lord Sheffield, exempt as he was from attending the House by age (he was over 80), “suffers nothing to prevent him from his duty”—Lady Sheffield having been a member of the Queen’s Court—and Lord Chichester held his opinion. As for Sir William Gell and Keppel Craven, the staunch supporters of the Queen all through (Sir William rose from a bed of sickness when he could hardly stand from an excruciating attack of the gout to testify in her favour and confute the witnesses suborned against her)—Porden records with astonishment, “They appeared to triumph in the progress of the Trial!” and of another supporter he writes:
“Major Harbin paid a visit to the Queen and when he was presented to her Majesty he kneeled to kiss her hand and immediately burst into tears. He was asked by his friends how her Majesty appeared? Was she well? Was she good-looking? He answered, ‘I know not. I never saw her face. I was too much affected to look up!’”
Again, calling on Mrs. Crutchley of Grosvenor Street, he “was surprised to find her defending the cause of the Queen and disbelieving the charges of misconduct.” But this is speedily accounted for: “She is a very old woman and spoke in a cool and temperate manner and seemed to doubt while she defended.”
His indignation was raised to fever heat when, attending a dinner party to architects and surveyors with his daughter, he strove to lead the conversation to the subject in which they were all interested, viz. architecture and especially to the eutasis, or swell of a column. His efforts were completely frustrated. Even in so cultured a company the sole topic of interest was the Queen, and for the rest of the evening the guests regaled one another with unsavoury stories, most of them mere hearsay, involving Sir Sidney Smith and others; some of them turning on the fact that the Queen was an adept at forged handwriting, and, it was insinuated, had used her gift to fabricate documents attributed to Baron d’Ompteda!
So the battle raged, a squalid contest over a squalid subject. Was she guilty? Was she innocent? That her wrongs were legion is undubitable, but then, alas! as her staunch supporters found to their cost, so were her indiscretions. And when the verdict of acquittal was pronounced many a heart among those who had wrestled so manfully for her honour must have secretly acquiesced in the ironical epigram summing up the situation:
Most gracious Queen! We thee implore
To go away and sin no more!
Or if this effort be too great
To go away at any rate.
It was not only with the Queen in esse that Eleanor and her father were concerned in this year of grace 1820; through Miss Appleton, Eleanor’s former governess, their thoughts were turned to the baby Princess Victoria, one day to occupy the British Throne for over sixty years of prosperity and expansion.
Miss Appleton, her late schoolmistress, was one of the friends to whom Eleanor’s loyal nature remained constant through difficulties which would have certainly alienated any one of a less generous spirit. She was evidently a woman of very uncertain temper. On one occasion when they took her abroad she was not on speaking terms for several days; and after the death of Porden, when Eleanor went to stay with her for a short time before her marriage, Miss Appleton insisted on the faithful Sarah being turned out of the house, despite the fact that Eleanor was very delicate at the time, and dependent on the ministrations of her devoted henchwoman. Franklin’s indignation knows no bounds, but his charitable bride puts the whole perverseness of her hostess down to a liver attack, is determined it shall not break their long friendship, and actually invites the delinquent to act as bridesmaid at her wedding! Surely a very unwonted role for a preceptress.
The light thrown on the education of girls at the time is illuminating. In 1820 Miss Appleton had a school for young ladies in Upper Portland Place, apparently run on lines highly disapproved by Mr. Porden. The Principal was occupied solely with house management, leaving the teaching to a young girl, usually unsalaried, supplemented by masters from outside. As soon as the girl had learnt to teach, she naturally took another post where she could earn her living. Thus there was no continuity, as every few months a fresh beginning was made. He contrasts the method very unfavourably with that which prevailed in boys’ schools, and, as it seems to have been general, it certainly accounts for the inanity and vapidity of feminine ideals under the Regency and reign of George IV so graphically depicted by Jane Austen and other writers of the period.
Porden’s Journal notes, September 10th, 1820:
“Miss Appleton at dinner. She has lately published a Book on the Early Education of children which she has dedicated to the Duchess of Kent; and having received a visit from Gen. — on the part of the Duchess about a fortnight ago, has been in high expectation of being summoned to attend Her Royal Highness, and perhaps her flattering fancy may have given her an establishment in Her Royal Highness’s Household. She has now received a letter from Captain Conway commanding her attendance on Wednesday. What will be the result?
“September 13th, 1820. The result is now known. On Wednesday the 11th Miss Appleton paid this (sic) to her Royal Patroness at Hampton Court.
“She took a coach for the day; gave her name to the Porter at the Palace, who gruffly told her that he had orders to admit her at that hour on the Friday before. He attended her to a servant who introduced her to another and he to a third and a fourth till she was seated in a magnificent drawing room. Soon after, a superior domestic entered and said a few words and passed on, and then the English nurse and the Child, which appeared a healthy, fat thing. After a few words they passed on and a tall Lady not young, much dressed, entered and said ‘Her Royal Highness will see Miss Appleton very soon.’ She sat down at the table on which was the novel ‘Rob Roy’ and some papers which she turned over without any apparent meaning, and in a few moments said Her Royal Highness wished to see Miss Appleton in her Dressing-room.
“Miss Appleton had bought a handsome wax doll for the little Princess, which she said she had left in the coach. Would she be permitted to make such a present? And was it likely to be acceptable? The Lady said with apparent pleasure that it would be very agreeable to Her Royal Highness. She then led the way through more apartments to Her Royal Highness’s dressing room, a large and handsome chamber where besides the Duchess were the little Princess seated on a piece of Tapestry, the English nurse attending her and other attendants standing round rather in scenic order.
“She was most graciously received and had perhaps half an hour’s rather familiar conversation. The doll was mentioned, sent for, received with apparent pleasure, and given to the child on the carpet, who appeared delighted with it, but began to pull its head, dress and clothing, as made Miss Appleton apprehensive that its drapery which she had taken so much pains with would be destroyed before her face. ‘If it last two days (she thought) it will keep me so long in memory, but when it is pulled to pieces I shall be no more thought of.’ There was a pin on the floor which the child was going to take up, when the Duchess exclaimed, ‘A pin, again!’ looking at the nurse, who rudely replied there were so many persons came into the room that she could not help it; she could not have her eyes everywhere!
“In a short time the Duchess arose, which Miss Appleton took for a hint to depart and rose also. The Duchess graciously approached and pressed her hand, which Miss Appleton returned rather more firmly than might be thought proper, and then requested she might kiss the hand of the Princess, who was immediately lifted up to her and received her homage with an air of hauteur as if she had been exercised in such ceremonies. On Miss Appleton saying that one day perhaps the little Princess would fill the Throne of England the Duchess smiled and appeared pleased. Miss Appleton retired backward, curtseying thrice before she reached the door, and thus ended this long expected visit. Will it produce any fruit? Or will this honour, which has been somewhat expensive to my friend, be all her reward? Time will tell.
“Miss Appleton is a tall, genteel figure nearly six feet high. She was well dressed in white. The Duchess, Princess and all the other persons were in black. When she entered, the Princess was struck with the contrast and shewed surprise rather than pleasure. The conversation was in French.”
Evidently the little Victoria was credited with a degree of discrimination which would have entitled her to be regarded as an infant prodigy, for at that time she was not two years old!
But public affairs had to give way at times to private interests. Apparently the morality of households was at a very low ebb, for one of Eleanor’s maids, Eliza—incompetent, but “a good girl”—was discovered on the eve of leaving her situation to be married, to have furnished her linen cupboard out of her mistress’s store, as well as taking brushes and Eleanor’s work-box. The bridegroom had been equally diligent in contributing to the pool, and had provided a quantity of china (he being in the employment of the renowned Mr. Mortlake) to the setting up of the home. Eliza’s boxes were searched, and cups and saucers, not to speak of ornamental scent bottles, were found. But this was not all. A savings bank book was discovered with a deposit of £70, the last entry six months previously being a sum of £20. The wretched girl then confessed that her betrothed had carried on these thefts systematically for a series of years, selling quantities of his master’s goods and handing over the proceeds to his future wife for safe custody. A search was made at Mr. Mortlake’s house and, to Porden’s disgust, a number of articles were found with his name upon them. So far he had shielded the girl to the best of his ability, but when he and Eleanor realized the full extent of her treachery, it was felt the Law must take its course, and Eliza Wilmot was removed to Clerkenwell Bridewell. Mr. Porden has some pungent criticisms of the criminal law and condition of the prisons, which he avers turn out the delinquents worse sinners than when they went in. The affair is greatly taken to heart by both father and daughter. Eleanor had intended to present her with a valuable shawl as a wedding present that very day. A sleepless night follows. They refused to prosecute and finally gave the erring Eliza a note to Mrs. Fry, who, it is to be hoped, reformed her.
Similar cases seem to have been very prevalent at the time, as several other incidents of the kind are quoted.
Eleanor entered with the greatest zest into social life of all sorts. Dinners and dances are frequent. A ball at the D’Israelis’ is specially enjoyed. They entertain frequently at their own house and Porden comments indignantly on the effrontery of a young French émigré, d’Helma, who forces himself into a company of thirty to forty well-dressed and intellectual people, fresh from a long coach drive, without having removed the stains of travel or changed his costume! The father of the delinquent is a great admirer of Eleanor’s poems and wishes to translate some of them into French. Father and daughter dined with him on one of their journeys through France, when the viands supplied, including a magnificent turkey, “would have sufficed for a ball supper of one hundred!”
On one occasion a conjuror is sent to the house by a friend, Dr. Hutton. Eleanor and the maids are summoned to witness the performance, and at the close a fee of a guinea is suggested. Porden grudgingly gives 2s., and thinks that an overpayment!
An evening’s amusement in those days was somewhat strenuous. Eleanor is taken to the play by her father and the programme consists of: I. The Comedy of Errors; II. A ballet; III. A Day after Marriage. The indecorum of the French dancers in the ballet is severely criticized by Mr. Porden, who avers that it was manifestly distasteful to the audience.
Dining with Sir Robert Gifford, the Attorney-General, it transpires that he makes a practice of destroying all correspondence, however interesting. He has recently committed to the flames the whole of the letters in his possession from Sir Walter Scott and proposes to do the same with those of Lord Byron, who had been one of his intimates for a long series of years. Porden protests in vain against such vandalism. His host considers that the preservation of correspondence is dangerous and may lead to unpleasant complications.
Before the Coronation, Porden and his daughter are invited by Mr. Watts to go over the House of Lords, the House of Commons and Westminster Hall, which was all fitted up for the August ceremony. It appears that until a short time before, the Upper House had been treated as a convenient passage room for all the various offices in the building, to which it formed a useful short cut! Porden had been present at some of the sessions during the Queen’s trial, and is very caustic as to the oratory of the peers, which for the most part he regards as beneath contempt. He considers none of them have a chance against the Commoner, Mr. Brougham, whose views he abhors. He suggests that all prospective peers should attend an academy or school of elocution. “No man that is likely to be a Peer of the Realm or aspires to an Official Situation in the State should appear in the House of Lords or Commons without being well instructed in the art of speaking.”
In a previous entry his strictures had fallen upon the clergy for the same reason. “The heartless apathy with which some of the Clergy read the Prayers, and the short, dull and drawling discourses which they call Sermons, is one reason perhaps for the prevalence of Methodism on the one hand and of irreligion on the other. Their manner does not awaken the Spirit of Devotion in their hearers or impress any truth or moral principle on their hearts and understandings.”
Porden speaks with pleasure of the large congregations attending the chapels as a proof that, given acceptable ministrations, Services were valued. Eleanor and he were regular churchgoers. But his attitude towards the things of the soul is distinctly quaint. “Religion is the amusement, the pleasure of a great part of the Community, and the exercise of its duties a recreative employment.”
The House of Commons did not apparently impress the visitors. “Its green benches and furniture has a gloomy effect, and not respectable.”
Dining with friends at Hampton Court the Pordens are shocked at the condition of the valuable tapestries. Their interests evidently cover a wide range, for at one moment we find them discussing with enthusiasm the difference in style between the Greek and Roman foot measure, the conclusion come to being that the Greek was slightly larger and the Roman slightly smaller than the English. At another the eutasis or swell of the pillars of the Parthenon. Sir Humphry Davy’s qualifications for the Presidency of the Royal Society are discussed, and the general sentiment seems to be that “he has not personal consequence nor fortune sufficient to fill the office.” Lord Spencer would be ideal if he will take it. They agree the general qualifications are as follows: “He must be a gentleman; a man of general knowledge and of some personal importance.” It is better he should not be an expert, as that would bias him in favour of the particular science of which he has special knowledge!
Louis XVIII’s visit to the Regent is described and the latter’s dismay at discovering in his tour of the State Apartments at Carlton House when the distinguished guest’s arrival was imminent, that the portrait dominating the audience chamber was that of Philippe-Egalité; the Regent ordered it away, saying it was the portrait of one of the greatest villains that ever existed and must be an offensive sight to His Majesty.
When the Royal guest was gone it was restored to its position with the remark that, though it was the portrait of a villain, it was also Sir Joshua Reynolds’ best piece of work. But on George IV’s accession to the Throne he ordered it to be destroyed.
Porden was evidently not free from professional jealousy, for he brands a fellow architect, counted eminent by others, as “a man who would make a good designer of shawls and aprons.” Miss Vardell, Eleanor’s “ingenious and valuable friend,” was often at the house, and Miss Kramer, fired by her hostess’ example, is described as a budding poetess, her qualifications being that “she is fond of astronomy, has written a few stories, trifling, but not contemptible. She has lately taken to rhyming, and though she has little ear to metre and not much notion of a rhyme, she seems to think she is something of a poet. The Naïveté of her surprise when she was made to apprehend that ‘Time’ and ‘Vine’ were not rhymes was truly laughable.”
Meanwhile, these many distractions had not interfered with Eleanor’s muse. Her second ambitious poem, Richard, Cœur de Lion, had been completed and published in two large volumes. It is clear that, as with other authors, the spirit of the pen had to be wooed. The following poem shows that the throes of literary production were hers in liberal measure, though the favourable reception of “Dickey,” as she playfully called it, must have been balm to the heart of its creator.
Heigho! Alack! And Well-a-day!
Was ever wight like me distrest?
What shall I write? What can I say?
Will this or that way read the best?
“Oh I that my foe a Book had written,”
So spoke the wisest of mankind.
Alas! his curse my head has smitten
And write I must—though ill-inclined.
I’ve faced the battle o’er and o’er
From steel or fire I did not shrink;
Not ocean in his wildest roar
Could fright me—like that drop of ink.
A field of snow’s but one blank page.
Bears, Icebergs, Buffaloes together
I’d rather all their might engage
Than touch that one poor Goose’s feather!
I’m in the tread mill—all the day
No rest is mine—and in my dreams
Gaunt imps of darkness round me play
With ghastly papers, piled in reams.
And there—oh there such lines are traced,
Like flints in chalk, uncounted strata
And last, one long dire list, prefaced
With that tremendous word “Errata.”
Bright Phœbus! now thy help bestow
Though far from thine my course has laid,
Where faint and wan thy summer glow
Where winter frowns in endless shade.
Give me thy smile for once—but how
Thou wayward power! ’tis worse and worse!
I ask thee but for prose, and now
My thoughts are jangling into verse.
My mind unwonted numbers haunt!
I’m clean bewitch’d! I’m in a flurry!
Avaunt! ye crew of rhymes! avaunt!
Why, what will Barrow say? or Murray?
Oh, God of Scribblers, guide my course,
Assist me (though the phrase be evil)
So turn my offspring out of doors,
And give it fairly—to the Devil.3
The death of the invalid mother set a term to the long-drawn-out period of Eleanor’s devoted nursing. One realizes with amazement that all the activities outlined above, together with her salon and literary work, were carried on simultaneously with close attendance on a sick and often fractious woman unaided by the sister who should surely have borne a share of the burden.
As it was, Eleanor, always a delicate child, was sadly exhausted by her protracted exertions, and doubtless this was one of the reasons why in September 1821 father and daughter started on a French tour, including many of the most famous cathedrals. On the return passage they were in peril of their lives. They embarked at noon on a Thursday in the midst of a gale, all but fouled another vessel in mid-Channel which afterwards was wrecked on the Goodwins, and, finally, after being buffeted about for thirteen hours, enduring all the horrors of an overcrowded boat, the cabinfloor being strewn with sea-sick passengers, they could not make Dover Harbour, so put into Deal, the passage having taken more than three times as long as usual.
Evidently father and daughter enjoyed every moment of their trip on land. They both of them revelled in the scenery, and above all in the glorious cathedrals, where they spent long, happy days, studying each delicate detail minutely and sating their artist souls with the beauty of noble arch and carven capital. They had many French friends with whom they lunched or supped as they passed, and Eleanor’s Journal is full of the humours of travel which her lively pen loves to chronicle.
At Rouen they went to the Hôtel de France, and she gives a graphic description of the pandemonium proceeding after dinner in the inn-yard.
“An English lady was bargaining out of window with a Voiturier for a carriage next day. The Inn-keeper’s wife was cataloguing aloud the sparse remains of the evening meal. The personnel—waiters, postilions, maids—were all talking at once, forming most ludicrous cross-readings. One intoned a Mass, the other a love-song. Horses neighed, cocks crowed. There was mélange so ridiculous, so French, it would have formed an admirable scene in one of Matthews ‘At Homes’.”
“Eh bien, donc, demain à huit heures!”
“Un morceau de rôti.”
“Madame, il est au port.”
“Et les chevaux?”
“Pardi! Ils sont tous mangés.”
“Ave Maria! Gratia plena!”
“Du thé! et du sucre!”
“Louis! Louis Bénoit!”
“Où est le cafetier?”
“Et l’autre malle?”
“A la cuisine!”
“Whick-whack—whick-whack,” as the Berline drove out of the yard.
They had many friends in Rouen, some of them in restricted circumstances and, as usual, Eleanor’s sympathy was elicited in large measure, but she writes of Mr. Douce: “I cannot have much private respect for Mr. Douce (a collector of antiquities), who denies his wife, aged and infirm as she is, a glass of wine, telling her that he cannot afford it! though he drinks it every day himself, and who while he visits every place of public amusement, never seems to think of taking her to one.”
Naturally, to Eleanor the glorious cathedral at Rouen was the chief attraction. She spent long hours within its portals, not only studying the architecture but also saturating herself with the spirit of the past.
The following lines inspired by its atmosphere show how large-hearted were her beliefs and how profound her spiritual insight.
3 Sept., 1821
God of my Fathers! Sole, eternal Lord,
Though haply here with other rites adored.
Though alien hearts and alien tongues revere,
God of my Fathers! Let me praise Thee here!
God of my Fathers! While one speech combined
The kindred realms in one Communion joined:
Here let our different Faiths at least agree
They rais’d this Temple—rais’d it up to Thee.
She, kneeling at my side, whose form and face
And speech and geste proclaim her Norman Race,
Dreams not perchance, from some forgotten line
Of ancient splendour sprang her sires and mine.
Souls of the dead! Methinks where once ye came
In the proud zenith of your martial fame
To render thanks where once the Requiem gave
Your earthly relics to the silent grave,
Ye linger yet,—and with a gracious smile
Receive the Daughter of your kindred Isle.
While ’mid a foreign crowd, alone no more, I hold
Communion with the Great of yore.
God of our Fathers! While the slow parade
Of Cross and Taper fills the long Arcade,
While banners wave and incense breathes around
And the high organ swells its loudest sound,
Though haply Thou who mad’st those strains, divine
To other ears, deny’st that sense to mine—
My humbler prayers, though silent yet sincere,
With theirs shall rise to Thine eternal Ear.
The many-tinctured pane, the vaulted aisle,
The solemn concord of the sacred pile,
Shall be my music, they shall waft above
And tune my soul to rev’rence and to Love.
Thou know’st my secret sin!—O Lord forgive
Those thousand stains, and teach me how to live;
To Thee my earthly fortune I resign
Grant but that only good,—the Life Divine!
Grant that the promise which my sponsors gave
Confirmed and hallowed by the cleansing wave.
May be fulfilled! Through Christ with Sin to strive;
In Him to perish; and in Him revive.
And for my Parents, all who held me dear,
All whom my soul has loved and reverenced here—
Make them Thine own—and let the gaping tomb
But part on earth, to join in bliss to come!
And oh! for these a favouring ear incline;
Be theirs that grace their Faith denies to mine,
Be ours those stronger ties of Christian Love.
Strangers on earth—but joined in bliss above!
Eleanor Anne Porden
The following letters cover the years 1821-1822. Mr. Porden, after the death of his wife, had begun to fail, and just one month before Franklin’s return had passed away. As will be seen by Mrs. Sikes’ letter to Eleanor, he had grown to feel that he had acted selfishly in discouraging any thought of her marriage. She was now a woman of 26. There were numerous aspirants for her hand. Indeed, they swarmed round her as soon as a decent interval had elapsed after her father’s death. There seem to have been ten besides the man who ultimately carried off the prize. Her old friend Mr. Elliott (Secretary to Lord Palmerston) was regarded by her circle as running Captain Franklin very close. They were unaware, though Eleanor was not, that his affections had been long engaged elsewhere, and that their relation was purely one of friendship.
Evidently towards the end of November 1822 Franklin made his formal proposal. His shyness and difficulty of expression did not do him justice and Eleanor’s heart misgave her. Feted and courted as she had been, she began to fear that their dispositions and ideals were too far apart ever to effect the perfect union of her dreams.
Berners Street, 23rd May, 1821
As paper is happily not quite so scarce in this island as it was with you when you last addrest Mr. Moore, I am not disposed to be content with the scanty limits which my father may leave me and have therefore seized a fresh sheet for myself, not however binding myself entirely to fill the same. Mr. Moore has been threatening for the last three months, to stay at home for a fortnight, and moreover to sit up till four o’clock every morning, that he may write you a full, true, and particular account of all that has occurred in England since your departure. Now, were it not for the fear that these pompous promises may evaporate in a short and hurried epistle, and the certainty that he could not survive so unnatural a confinement, I would, in pity to you, forbear to add to such a mass of intelligence: but as I think it highly probable that you will have abundant time to read all that your friends can find time to write, and since, like Gunpowder plot and May day, your letters come but once a year, I will even venture to add my mite of news to the heap, not without some feeling of pride at the thought that my letter may perchance be received and read in some region whose new-baptized name has not yet travelled to our English ears.
I have just finished Capt. Parry’s account of the last expedition, an expedition which leaves little doubt of the success of yours, and that you may possibly ere this have reached Cape Franklin itself, or at least have disinterred some of the bottles buried for your information in various places. I do not find the work quite so interesting as I expected, partly from the publication having been delayed till the most material information has, as it were, filtered into conversation, and partly from the number of soundings and bearings which though highly valuable to navigators, have little amusement for a miscellaneous reader; nevertheless I like it on the whole, and it proves him to have been admirably fitted for such a command. You scolded me formerly for laughing at Capt. Ross—I will not laugh at him now, for I can even find it in my heart to pity him, notwithstanding that he must have known the falsehood of what he asserted; but I have heard that pity is akin to contempt, and hope to be forgiven if on this occasion I acknowledge the relationship.
We went to Deptford to see the Fury and the Hecla previous to their departure last month. It was one of the very few hot days that we have had this season, and the admirable preparations for the preservation of heat on board formed a striking contrast with our own feelings at the time. I cannot say that I entirely like the route now proposed for the Expedition and wish much that Wellington Channel had been explored instead; I only hope that their success may prove me wrong. I think it a little hard upon poor Capt. Lyon, to send him directly from the deserts of Africa to the Arctic Seas, but as his book and Capt. Parry’s read consecutively have impressed me more than ever with the strong resemblance existing in many points, particularly the absence of vegetation and the extraordinary effects of reflection, between the hottest and the coldest regions of the earth, I will hope that the same frame may be calculated to withstand both, or at least that he may have laid in, while on one voyage, a sufficient quantity of heat for his use during the other. I presume that such works as would be of use or interest to you have been sent out, and therefore I will not enter into any detail of Mr. Barlow’s discovery that there is a plane in which the proximity of any mass of iron ceases to affect the direction of the needle; the plane of no variation being at right angles with the dip—or of the fact that the conducting wires of the voltaic battery are possessed of magnetic virtue during the contact, but lose it the moment that is broken, this power of becoming magnetic by voltaic electricity being possessed by all the metals, though in various proportions; one of the most curious circumstances connected with this fact seems to be the triumph of electricity over magnetic repulsion as, if the circuit be formed by two wires instead of one, they both acquire magnetism, the two North poles being at one end of the battery and the two South at the other, but I do not find that it is yet ascertained whether the North or South Pole be in contact with the positive end of the battery. I seem to feel that we are on the eve of some important discoveries in magnetism and am in hope that we may owe much new light to you.
I have not yet offered my portion of thanks for your interesting letter, which reached us at Ramsgate in August. I have some suspicion that an animal now exhibiting here under the name of the Bonfire, and which was caught on the Appalachian mountains, is the same with your Buffalo. The fore part of the animal is exceedingly large and powerful and his strength is said to be very great. He was very young when taken, after a chase of seven days, and has not yet attained his growth. He appears tolerably docile, but must be a formidable foe. The hair is very long.
I suspect that you will be disappointed in your calculation of returning October next, but we shall be happy to welcome both yourself and quarto, unembellished though it be—and in the meantime commend you to the care of Providence, wishing you as much success and as little inconvenience as possible. I rather think that you stole our last winter’s snow, for we had scarcely enough to swear by; the winter before was short, but had two or three days in the beginning of January far more severe than any in 1814, I understand that the cold was so intense as to be fatal to many persons in the North of England, who were not prepared for it.
My sister and family are well, and would I am sure desire to be remembered to you,
Believe me, dear Sir,
Eleanor Anne Porden
I have closed my letter most uncivilly, without once mentioning Dr. Thomson, and I ought not to have done so, for he seldom failed to speak of you. He and Mrs. Thomson were here at a little dance about a fortnight since, and seemed to be both very well. I wish that you too could have joined our quadrilles. But perhaps the Doctor has written to you, and you know much more about him than I do.
May 23rd, 1822
My father’s arm is just at present so much benumbed by rheumatism that I am afraid you will this year be obliged to accept me as your principal correspondent in our family. Indeed I fear you have ere now reproached us with forgetfulness, but the fact is that having never before had to watch the sailing of a fleet, we last season contrived to be just too late, and had our little packet returned to us, with the mortifying intelligence that it could not be dispatched for twelve months. In the meantime your friends have been anxiously looking for news from you, and having received none last autumn, are either amusing or alarming themselves with various speculations. Mr. Barrow is ready to lay a wager that you and Captain Parry have met; Dr. Thomson complains that you have been due these six months, and Dr. Hutton is in great terror for your safety. I content myself with hoping that next October will bring you to answer all questions satisfactorily.
I shall leave all disquisitions on politics to the gentlemen; since the Coronation and the Queen’s death there has been little of much interest; and besides, you will have public news from public sources. But if the moral world be tolerably peaceful, the elements are in sad confusion. I should think that the mean temperature of last year was pretty nearly what it ought to be, but the seasons were all mixed together, and not well mixed neither, we had neither Spring nor Autumn, Winter nor Summer. Only two nights treated us with the agreeable novelty of a frost, and the consequence was that a friend of ours saw the armies of two rival confectioners fighting for the thin cake of ice on a pond behind his house. As for snow, I think you had best bring a little home in a bottle, to show as a curiosity to those who may have forgotten its colour.
Of flood and storm however, we have had more than enough. The gentle zephyrus has become one of the most boisterous of the winds of heaven; and we can only conjecture that he has been exasperated by your invasion of his native region, and comes to wreak his vengeance on our devoted isle. For more than three months we had a continual succession of storms, such as I never remember. Trees were torn up, and houses blown down, and from the coasts the accounts were dreadful. Three Indiamen were lost in sight of land. So much for wind: but water was worse. At Christmas the Thames was inundating Westminster and Vauxhall, forcing numbers of inhabitants to take refuge in the upper rooms of their houses, till they could be carried away in boats. At Staines it is said that the water was rushing in torrents through every house, and parts of Windsor were in similar condition. On the Bath road the coaches were stopped and the mailbags ferried over, while many who were going to spend their Christmas holidays in London or the country, mutually returned with the declaration that they had no intention of making a sea voyage. To complete my catalogue of marvels, in less than three months after, a strong south wind so drove back the waters of the Thames that aided by a neap tide the channel was left nearly dry, and it was crost on foot between London and Blackfriars bridges, almost in the spot where an ox had been roasted whole on the ice just 8 years before. Many curiosities were picked up, which it is supposed had been thrown overboard to escape the Custom House. At Rochester a poor man recovered a boat which he had lost five years before, and which he found under one of the arches of the bridge, half full of stones, shewing that it had been sunk in malice. He had till then believed it stolen. I understand that the tide afterwards flowed with unusual force for 3 days, and it has been thought that the extraordinary shape of the river must have been connected with some volcanic phenomenon. By way of conclusion, this day week we were shivering over a fire, and now the thermometer is at 81° in shade.
Were you in England I am sure you would congratulate me, for I yesterday sent to the Press the last sheet of my poem of Cœur de Lion, which I was engaged on when you were in England, but do not remember whether you were in my confidence or not. Next Monday will complete my labours by its publication in 2 Vols. 8vo, but I can assure you that this recent experience of the delights of printing has by no means increased my predilection for it. Your time is to come.
I send you a little ode on the Coronation. Not because I have the vanity to think it worth sending across the Atlantic, but because certain Northern Expeditions are alluded to, and though you will as usual laugh at me for being so sanguine, yet in a clime where there is not such an overflow of new publications as in England, it may perhaps amuse you for a moment.
Our movements this summer are uncertain, and whether we shall migrate to more southern regions, or only to the shores of our own isle remains for time to settle. Last year we made a trip to Normandy, and had on the whole, a pleasant journey, but I believe a very unpleasant passage from Calais to Deal (Dover it should have been) laid the foundation of much subsequent illness during the winter. You may smile at the perils of crossing the Channel, but we might have sailed to India with less of danger than we encountered, and less of suffering. My sister and Mr. Kay have also been invalids. They do not yet know I am writing, but I venture to anticipate their wish of being kindly remembered to you. Whatever may be our wanderings I trust that we shall be able to welcome you on your return and in the meantime remain,
Eleanor Anne Porden
P.S.—In talking over my letter with Papa we find that I have made some important omissions.
First. Mr. Bullock has been exhibiting for some months a family of Laplanders, and a herd of reindeer, fed on Lapland moss, from Bagshot Heath. They have been unlucky in their visit, for like the Greenlander who wintered at Copenhagen, they could find no reasonable degree of cold. When I went to see them in February, the heat was almost suffocating.
2nd. The Panorama of Spitzbergen has been converted into the Bay of Naples—and your portrait, which you were so proud of, is swallowed up in Mount Vesuvius.
3rd. The Newspapers inform us, that last winter while the thermometer was some degrees above freezing point at St. Petersburg, persons were driving traineaux at Madrid and many were frozen to death in the streets of Lisbon. As the world is thus certainly turned upside down, I hope you have enjoyed a tropical climate.
The last letter, which we saw from you, you said was written on your last sheet of paper. Is that the reason we have since had no intelligence—or have you been beyond the reach of conveyance?
The following letters throw light on Eleanor’s life during the months preceding her father’s death and Franklin’s return.
12th July, 1822
This morning I opened a drawer—what a romantic beginning! and there I found, a ghost! at least never did revenant of any description give stronger shock to a startled conscience than mine received from the apparition of Edwy and Athelgiva. It ought to have been returned long ago. I did not remember it was in my possession; and yet so many delightful phantoms of other years has it conjured up that I feel the strongest temptation in the world to be dishonest. I am not sure whether I have now more pain or pleasure in alighting on anything that reminds me of Attic Days. I know that it rests with me to revive them, and I confidently hope and expect at some time to do so, but many of its brightest stars are for ever extinguished here, and should I draw a new constellation round me, may I dare again to be as gay and careless as I was then, to say and act as much nonsense, and among other things, to write as much stuff to you? In the latter article I feel marvellously inclined to transgress at this moment, and, since I have been hard at work for many months at Cœur de Lion, to allow myself the luxury of sending you a long letter. Don’t tell me it is no luxury to you to read it, or—but my wand is broken, and since I am Editress no more I have neither the right to command or menace.
Single misfortunes never come alone, neither did my ghost. I opened another drawer, in another room, and filled with articles of a very different nature, but go where I would you were predestined to haunt me, and started up again in the form of the commencement of an Heroic Epistle which should have introduced the Voltaic Battery to your critical animadversions. Good or bad, I copy you the few lines from the pencil, which is so smoked and dusty as to be almost illegible—but I doubt whether this would have been an instance to prove the position that obscurity is one source of the sublime. Here they are:—
My task is ended. Say will Volta’s pile
Win from thy Critic eye one favouring smile?
Yet while I say how much that smile I prize
Give not th’ applause thy cooler mind denies,
Let not thy friendly blade forget its powers,
Nor, like Harmodius, hide the point in flowers.
I early woo’d the Nine—my infant days
Were fed with flattery, surfeited on praise,
Yet still I turn’d to those who dared to blend
The kind reprover with the partial friend,
I learn’d the action with the words to suit
And read no plaudit when the eye was mute
Perhaps you have had a sufficient dose of my poetry of late, and will not thank me for thus adding to “the needless stream.” Nevertheless I would fain beg of your friendship a frank and candid critique on Cœur de Lion. It is difficult to get at truth, and though perhaps there are many on whose judgment I might place nearly equal reliance there is none on whose sincerity I can so much depend. That you will be a little partial, I have pleasure in believing, but I also believe that if you take the trouble to give me your opinion at all, you will give it me without disguise. I would not have this same request of mine infringe on one hour of gaiety or enjoyment, it is in no haste; but the Autumn has many a wet afternoon and many a foggy evening in store, and will perhaps bring one which you cannot employ more agreeably than in writing to an old friend. I might say in renewing a correspondence which I flatter myself was equally pleasing and improving to both. By the bye, I cannot remember those days without remembering also our coadjutor in Positive House. I have seen a shoal of her letters, filled with all the delight and the vanity of a bride of 16. The beauty of the country, and of her dresses! the attentions of her husband, and the excellent manner in which she presided at their first dinner party! Oh! dear—human nature is an inconsistent thing, and perhaps while I indulge a laugh at Mrs. Niven’s expense, you may be smiling at the idea that my turn my come hereafter. Perhaps so! and let my friends laugh when it does, if they can laugh only—there is a graver side of the picture in Miss Vardell’s marriage to which I hope never to furnish a counterpart, but her mother bears her loss with astonishing cheerfulness, nay, I think her spirits are higher than ever. Apropos, is your Romance never to have an end? I think it must have exceeded in length not only Sir Charles Grandison and Clarissa but even the superlative Clelias and Cassandras of renowned memory—now entombed in their own folios.
If you do write a critique on Dicky, as I will maintain my right to call him, in spite of your impertinence on the subject, pray let me have it privately—Papa is so very apt to think that all which his little girl writes must be superlative, that if written with the frankness I expect from you, I should wish to have it to myself.
I know not what we shall do this summer. He seems distressingly bent on another excursion to France and between you and I, no one but myself can know how unfit he is for such a journey. I shall go with a heavy heart if he persists in it. What are you about to do? Mr. Johnson talked of France; if we do go, I am anxious to know of all my friends who meditate a similar tour, that I may at least speculate on the possibility of crossing their course and not feel myself utterly alone with an invalid in a strange land. But you do not like melancholy themes, and I beg your pardon for trespassing on you with this, but in truth it lies very near my heart at present.
Eleanor Anne Porden
12th July, 1822
You have of course recognized some parts of Cœur de Lion, but I believe you knew that they were originally intended for their present situation. You cannot think how completely I was beset by the devils, or what a relief it is to me body and soul, to be fairly rid of them. The appellation which we bestow on the little imps is scarcely a misnomer, at least in as much as regards their power of tormenting. Next winter I hope to see much more of my friends and to feel at leisure to enjoy their society.
Aug. 5th, 1822
I write to you at present instead of answering Mary Anne, but she shall have my next letter. Our time hitherto has been principally taken up with lodging hunting in the course of which Colman’s lines were frequently brought to my mind.
Some are good and let dearly, while some, ’tis well known
Are so dear and so bad, they are best let alone.
The latter description of apartments abounds most in Brighton, for the greater part are merely dog kennels—Houses I suppose are somewhat better arranged and provided, but a House would not have suited us at present, so after tiring ourselves to death we have been forced to content ourselves with Ship Street, where we might be comfortable enough if the locality were more agreeable. That however will not matter much, as Papa has settled to go on Saturday, and we are at least near the sea and convenient for embarkation. We should scarcely have thought it worth while to plague ourselves with Housekeeping for so short a time, but the New Inn would absolutely have starved us with its short commons, and is moreover the most imposing place we ever were in. The Old Ship, where we went last year, though a crazy house and full of rats (as Papa complains) is much more moderate and liberal in its treatment. We kept our eye on Rock Gardens, but in the only place to let there they had the modesty to ask five guineas a week for a drawing room and two bedrooms— Sarah must have slept in the room with me. The cheapest apartments I have seen in Brighton were do. do., i.e. one drawing room and two bed-rooms on the Steyne—commanding Sea, Steyne, Pavilion and Downs—six guineas a week but they were superb both in space and furniture, and the situation enchanting. But I have given you more than enough of a subject which is a grievance at best.
Your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Aug. 23rd, during the eclipse of the moon, 1822
My dear Miss Porden,
I shall to-morrow have an opportunity of sending a letter to Miss Cotton by the twopenny post and gladly avail myself of it to reply to yours, the contents of which have interested me deeply and occupied my thoughts ever since I received it. I am charmed by your confidence which I will repay with equal candour on my part. My heart palpitated at the commencement of your detail, from the apprehension that a disclosure so formally announced must produce something painful. When I was assured of the contrary and considered all the circumstances, I felt more pleased than surprised at the change in Mr. Porden’s sentiments. It appeared likely that his increasing infirmities and the late alarming attacks on his constitution would awaken reflection and check that little selfishness which made him find more gratification in the society and tender care of a beloved daughter than in the contemplation of her future welfare. I can furnish excuses for him which few parents could plead in a similar case. To part with the darling companion whose richly stored mind returned him tenfold for his early cultivation of it; whose taste and judgement he could look up to, and be guided by in various instances, was a trial which required no common share of resolution and self-denial.
Notwithstanding the alteration in his sentiments, I doubt, should the event present itself to his imagination as approaching, whether his firmness would stand its ground, and unless his life be protracted beyond what his declining state seems, I fear, to indicate, I could almost wish he might be spared the trial. I express myself thus on the supposition that you would not reside with him; my objections to an arrangement of this kind do not proceed from merely an opinion of my own, maintained because it is such, but from observation and, I may add, experience. I would have young married people left to themselves. Even where cordial esteem and affection subsist, difference of opinion must occasionally arise, which begins, and would end in simple, perhaps amusing argument; when the third person, whether parent, relation, or friend, interferes and too often turns it into sharp debate. Various causes of dislike to this plan strike me with peculiar force in your case from a dread of the evils you anticipate being too surely realized. Do not, however, think I wish to discourage you from entering into a state to which you would do honour; it is true it involves many duties, many cares, but it likewise leads to all the endearing ties of nature, and I shall rejoice when I see my much-loved Miss Porden united to a worthy man capable of appreciating her merits and whose study would be to promote her happiness. Your situation has often excited my sympathy and been the subject of my solitary musings; if of a long continuance your health and spirits will eventually be injured. An inmate might certainly be of some comfort to you at home, but the want of a protector abroad would necessarily still exist. Had I a small independence how happy should I be to live with you as a friend, and strive to perform every little office of affection, but my unfortunate marriage doomed me to dependence. I have a trifling annuity but it has ever been insufficient for my demands. I have by my own exertions supported myself and my child from her infancy, in preference to being dependent on my relations, a state of humiliation which I could not brook. Eliza, when in health, is now capable of providing for herself, and does in great measure, but she is not yet an economist and while it is, I really believe, the wish of her heart to add to my income she is sometimes the means of lessening it. We have both entered into a confidential confession. I am not avaricious, I am sure we could settle this point so that it should be no obstacle to my compliance with your wishes, therefore I will only add that if you engage to teach me to be useful I will come to you whenever you desire it, but let me know three months before any quarter day, or rather before the 9th of the first month in the quarter, that I may give proper notice to Mr. Streatfeild@, whose polite and friendly behaviour ever since I have been under his roof would be ill-repaid by leaving him suddenly.
I feel the strongest indignation against the base character you mention. Is it possible such ingratitude can exist on earth? I had heard of his loss from Mr. S. but nothing more.
I am so extremely sleepy I can scarcely hold my pen or know what I write. I hope you are at this moment enjoying pleasant dreams, but in what part of the world I know not.
Write to me soon, dear Miss Porden, and believe me ever your affectionate,
Hudson’s Bay Ship Prince of Wales,
Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 2nd, 1822
My dear Miss Porden,
You can imagine the gratification I feel at approaching a country where the general post offers a certain means of communicating with our friends, after a long absence in parts where the channel of correspondence is always precarious and often entirely interrupted. I am now writing at the distance of 600 miles from the Orkney Isles that I may be prepared for the first conveyance which may occur after our arrival at Stromness, to offer my most sincere thanks for your very interesting letters of May 1821 and 22, which reached me (together with those from Mr. Porden, and your excellent ode on the Coronation) at York Factory in August. I regretted extremely your being unacquainted with the time of the sailing of the annual ship and that this circumstance had deprived me of the pleasure of receiving the first letters at my winter quarters in the Great Slave Lake, which I should have done had they reached this country in due season, because I could have answered them by the packet which conveyed my official dispatches respecting our proceedings along the sea-coast, and should in that case have written about the incidents connected with our situation at that time, which probably would have been more interesting than my present communication.
I presume the dispatches to which I have alluded have reached England at least a month since, and that the points of information which the Great Men chose to communicate to the public previous to our arrival have already appeared in the newspapers, and through that means you are in possession of the principal topics relating to our voyage. As I am at present entirely ignorant of the parts they have published, if any, and you know the injunction of silence we receive until the pleasure of these Great Men as to the means of opening the communication has been expressed, you will see the necessity of my abstaining at this time from giving you the intelligence regarding our voyage I should wish, but believe me, I shall be very happy to give any information you may desire after I consider myself freed from restraint, and I anticipate much pleasure in chatting over our adventures with yourself and Mr. Porden in Berners Street. I can only now say that I have named some islands in the Arctic Sea “Porden” as a tribute of my regard for your family.
I was much amused by your account of the total change in weather which has been experienced during the last two winters in England and the almost ludicrous effects resulting from the mildness of temperature. The last winter was also milder than usual at the place of our residence but a greater quantity of snow fell; the season however set in early with boisterous winds and severe weather and it was not until the middle of January the change to mildness took place.
Many thanks for your mention of Barlow’s discoveries in magnetism, and the fact respecting the conducting wire of the voltaic battery possessing magnetic virtue during the contact, but losing it the moment it is broken. I had seen notices of Barlow’s discoveries in the Philosophical and Blackwood’s Magazines, these however were short, but I had not heard of the observations connected with the other facts which you particularly consider the triumph of electricity over magnetic repulsion. I remember the interest you took in every subject connected with magnetism and therefore have no doubt you have attentively examined every discussion on these points that has recently appeared, so that I hope to gain much information from you on these interesting topics. Our long absence from England and the almost total want of information we have suffered has necessarily thrown us far behind respecting the progress which has been made in this and every other branch of science, and I am sorry to say, except yourself and Mr. Porden, our friends have not contributed the intelligence on these matters which we expected. I have to make over the charge of negligence against some of mine as they did not write to me at all and would you suppose? Mr. Moore is included in the silent lot. I must however deal leniently with others, being conscious how often I have merited a similar punishment, but with respect to my fading on this head during my late voyage I hope to make my peace with all my friends by a satisfactory explanation when I have the happiness of meeting them.
I can most truly congratulate you on having completed your arduous task of Cœur de Lion, whilst I offer my best hope and sincere wish that its pages may add to the well-earned poetic fame you have acquired. By this time I suppose the opinion of those formidable men, the reviewers and critics, has been expressed, and I trust you have had every reason to be satisfied with their decision on its merits. I either collected from Mr. Porden or had some other cause for suspecting that you were occupied about a poem at the time of our departure from England, but do not remember whether the hint was communicated by yourself—probably not, for if that had been the case should I not have heard the subject named? But I had conceived it related to the Northern part of the Globe, and was connected with the various expeditions which have gone into that quarter. Will you now smile and say vanity must have prompted this idea or permit me to urge that it originated in my knowledge of your taking a lively interest in the success of every pursuit directed towards these regions?
“My time, as you say is to come” and, believe me, I do not look with much complacency on having to execute so disagreeable a task as preparing for publication. But I recollect having expressed to you my sensations on this point before the voyage commenced and therefore need not repeat them.
If your summer excursion should have directed your steps to the Continent, I suspect we shall arrive before your return, as I do not think you would be inclined to relinquish the fine climate and numerous Lions of France at such an early season as the commencement of October unless threatened by similar terrors in the Navigation of the Channel to those you experienced last year. Should you however be in London, I shall be glad to have assurance of the fact by receiving a note addressed to me at the Admiralty and sent to the care of R. Riley Esq., at whose office I shall call immediately on my arrival in London and you may rely I shall pay an early visit in Berners Street. I intend writing to Mr. Porden, and shall therefore only request you to present my kind remembrance to your sister and Mr. Kay.
Believe me, my dear Miss Porden,
Your obliged friend,
Oct. 19th, 1822
The news of your arrival in England has preceded your letters, which arrived only half an hour ago, and I write instantly, lest you should perchance come to the door in ignorance of the changes which have taken place here. I shall be happy to see you at your earliest leisure, but alas! I am the only one that remains to welcome you. My poor father was laid in his grave just one month ago. We have been on the Continent, and I had to bring him back from Paris in a state of utter helplessness both of mind and body, not able to feed himself, scarcely to speak. My most earnest prayer had been that he might reach home alive, and it was granted, but he died just three days after, and before my sister, who was at Cheltenham, could come up to see him.
I am sorry to send you no gayer news, but I beg you to believe that I was sincerely glad to receive your letters; the accounts in the last two days papers were enough to frighten all your friends. The last information we had had till then was that conveyed in the letter to Mr. Moore which I mentioned in mine, so that we had been in ignorance of your fate, except from some vague reports, for more than two years. Had we entertained the most remote idea of Mr. Moore’s remissness you should have had much larger packets from us. If you had been merely cruizing within reach of the Daily papers, I should scarcely have volunteered my correspondence for I have always had so much necessary writing as seldom to court an increase of it, but at such a distance, and under such circumstances I hold any neglect of our friends to be unpardonable.
Thank you for fixing our names upon the globe. I shall feel proud to see them figure in the map which will be prefixed to your work. Proud, less perhaps for my own sake than that of those who are no more. I have much to be grateful for, and firmly do I believe that all which is, is for the best, but among other things for which I could have wished my father’s life prolonged for a few weeks, there are none which would have given him more pleasure than seeing you again.
I could almost quarrel with you for being so punctilious as to wait for answers to your letters when you had an opportunity of writing, and knew that all your friends must be anxious. If truth must be told, I accuse Mr. Moore for the failure of our first dispatches.
My sister and Mr. Kay are at this moment out of town, or I am certain they would desire their best remembrances to you.
In the hope that you will find your brother and all your friends well,
I remain, dear Sir,
Ever yours sincerely,
Eleanor Anne Porden
My dear Miss Porden,
I was much grieved at the melancholy intelligence which your note conveyed, and beg to condole most sincerely with you on the mournful event.
I purpose doing myself the pleasure of calling on you to-morrow, in the meantime allow me to thank you for the kind interest you have expressed respecting the expedition.
Believe me in great haste,
Yours most sincerely,
Nov. 16th, 1822
I send you Cœur de Lion, according to promise, and cannot but feel much gratified by your desire to read it at a time when you are so deeply and I should say, so much more interestingly occupied. At the same time I must beg that you will not deem it a point of necessary civility to peruse my two volumes. I have learned from experience that it is sometimes inconvenient to be acquainted with an Author, and I have also been taught not to feel affronted if my friends should be the last to read any work of mine. You will perhaps understand this last remark better six months hence, but I shall indeed be glad if my Richard have power to amuse any of the pauses of your own literary labours. To them, as to all your undertakings, I cordially wish success, but must be permitted to doubt whether the severe application you propose will be good, either for your head-ache, or your book.
My compliments to Doctor and Mrs. Richardson.
Eleanor Anne Porden
5th Dec., 1822
You seemed to express a wish to hear from me while at Hastings. I felt it would be rather more decorous that you should write first, but I could not summon resolution to give you the address though I left a message for you with my sister on the subject.
A little more reflexion on what passed yesterday has decided me however not to leave town without addressing a few words to you. Our meeting I could see was painful to you—it was exquisitely so to me. I believe we were both under the influence of strong feelings so jealously suppressed that I think it probable they might give to my manner the same unnatural coldness which they certainly did to yours. I looked several times in your countenance for a gleam which might encourage me to return to our former style of pleasant and familiar conversation, but in vain. I even fancied you parted from me with something like displeasure. I beseech you when I come back let us if possible get into a more natural and cheerful vein, or what is to become of our “better acquaintance”?
It has since struck me from some things you said that you seemed to fancy I had some distrust of you in some way or other. What should have given rise to this I know not. It is utterly without foundation. Did I not, as I think, properly estimate the worth of your character, did I not believe that your feelings are likely to be as lasting as they are sincere, I should perhaps not feel so strong an hesitation lest I should utter one single syllable that I was not certain I should be prepared sacredly and solemnly to confirm. All I can say is, that there is no one else in all my acquaintance, who, if I am any judge of my own feelings, could have spoken to me on the subject you have done, without meeting an instant and positive denial.4 But I am not prepared to say more—I sometimes fear you have a little mistaken my character—or that you may find it changed—I can feel I am not quite the same in feelings or dispositions that I was four years ago.
I had much more to say but am writing almost before daylight and without a moment to spare. My address will be at Mr. R. Kay’s, 10 Wellington Square, Hastings—and I leave it now in your choice to write to me at once if you like it—to get my address or send through my sister if you prefer it and to mention or not to mention this letter.
Farewell and success to your work in the meantime.
Ever yours sincerely,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Dec. 5th, Midnight, 1822
My dear Miss Porden,
I thank you most sincerely for the relief your letter has given to my anxious mind, by the kind and candid explanation it contains of your sentiments respecting me. I am truly gratified by it and be assured it will be my earnest endeavour when I have the happiness of seeing you again to avoid showing the appearance of anxiety and uncertainty which threw a shade over our last interview.
I deeply regret that any appearance of coldness on my part should have checked the familiar conversation which I had so much desired—but I trust you will attribute the shade on my countenance to the painful apprehension I entertained as to the probability of your ultimate determination.
I could not have imagined that any distrust of me occupied your mind, after the kind expressions you used—nor should I have fancied that my manner at parting from you conveyed any displeasure had you not supposed it, particularly as I felt and expressed myself perfectly satisfied with the reasons you had assigned for the delay in giving an answer to my proposal.
A few moments’ reflection after my return home convinced me of the indecorum of my having requested you to write to me first from Hastings and I determined on enquiring for your address of Mrs. Kay, that I might commence, and therefore I feel grateful for your having afforded me the opportunity of corresponding—and for the confidence you have reposed in me by leaving to my choice the channel of conveyance. I prefer the more direct means, and therefore shall send this by post.
I cannot, my dear friend, imagine that I have mistaken your character, certainly, I do not perceive any change in either your disposition or sentiments since I had the happiness of being first known to you.
The same excellent judgment, amiable disposition and peculiar affability of manner which first [? won] my admiration appear to me to mark as decisively as ever your character.
As the period of your return is yet distant I hope you will do me the happiness of writing as often as you may choose, and you may rely on my punctuality in answering your letter. If you would do me the favour to convey what you have more to say, which your hurry at the last time you wrote prevented you from communicating to me, I shall be sincerely obliged.
Many thanks for your good wishes respecting my book. It is a sad plague to me, and keeps my mind more on the work than it perhaps would be under other circumstances. I propose calling upon Mrs. Kay on Sunday.
Believe me, my dear Miss Porden,
Yours most affectionately,
60 Frith Street.
Dec. 8th, 1822
I write rather lest my silence should occasion you uneasiness, than because I have either anything of importance to communicate, or leisure to say it in. What I had intended to add to my former letter must wait at present, perhaps under any circumstances it would be better deferred, as it is not material, and certainly I can enter into no subject that requires thinking just now;—for nothing can be more inimical to any occupation which it is not desirable should be publicly known than the being on a visit where one’s kind friends will not allow one five minutes in the whole day to oneself. When my epistle is completed, I shall perhaps be sorely puzzled to get it to the Post, for of course I cannot send it by a servant with your name on it, without exciting remarks.
I believe that if you write again I must in this instance request you to send through my sister, as we move from this house to-morrow, and I do not know where the address will be. The situation we are now in, proved, as my sister had anticipated, much too exposed for Miss Kay’s health. Indeed mild as the weather has been in every other part of this place, I know not that I ever suffered so much from cold in the severest winter, as in the drawing room here, over the best fire we could make. I have informed my sister of my note, and that I had heard from you. You have probably however told her as much before me.
Great as your horror of new faces may be, I wish you knew the ladies I am with. They have been little wont to inspire horror though and I am sure are both deserving your esteem. One for the saintlike sweetness and serenity with which she has supported many years of acute suffering and confinement, and the other, for the beautiful manner in which she devotes herself to her sister and brother. I am not apt to fall into extacies, or conceive violent friendships, but there are some on whom I never look without a strong feeling of reverential regard, which while I admire makes me desire to imitate, and the Miss Kays are among them. We have always met but rarely, and of late years perhaps only once in many months, but the general fund of esteem and goodwill I believe remains undiminished between us.
You will say I am not answering your letter, though indeed I do not think there is much to answer in it. I should perhaps not have thought so much of the evident change in your looks and manner on Wednesday if my sister had not also noticed it and asked me what could be the matter. I cannot help smiling at your talking of the “distance” of my return. I do not mean to be quite three years and a half away, and indeed it would be nothing wonderful if you had not found your way to Berners Street in as long a period as I may possibly be absent from it. But so it is with human nature. When our friends are within reach we frequently think little of them and be [original word torn away] fancy we want them extremely when we know they are a little farther removed. I assure you I have many reasons for wishing not to be long absent from London at this moment, and should probably have declined this invitation, agreeable as it would have been at another time, had it not been for the feeling that some relief, some little change of scene was absolutely necessary for me just now. But idleness is not very natural to me and I know I shall soon be tired of it, and return home to find my usual employments and usual solitude a luxury. This place however is well worth seeing, and were the season more favourable would furnish materials for many an interesting sketch, though as my Barberries would shew you I am no great artist. My principal practise has been in scraps of Gothic Architecture for my father on our Continental rambles.
You will see I have the female failing of writing a long letter; it is one I have been encouraged in from infancy and that I believe I shall carry with me to my grave. You must not quarrel with it however. Farewell and believe in the good wishes of your ever sincere and obliged friend,
Eleanor Anne Porden
60 Frith Street,
Dec. 16th, 1822
My dear Friend,
Your sister had the kindness to offer my excuses to you for not writing by the last packet that was sent you, which I hope you received favourably, but I shall beg to speak for myself in that which Mrs. Kay has informed me, will be dispatched from Gower Street this evening. I was not surprised at your having suffered so much from cold in the boisterous weather that prevailed during the first days of your residence on the coast, for we were often reminded even in the dense atmosphere of Frith Street that our fires wanted renewing. I sincerely hope the keen air of Hastings will not increase your cough but on the contrary renovate your strength and afford all the relief you could have anticipated. I am sure you are most agreeably situated having the society of your amiable friends, whom I should indeed be delighted to know, and believe me I could venture upon being introduced to them, without any fear of experiencing the horror you mention. I suspect my dear friend you have a little mistaken my sentiments with respect to mixing in society. Be assured no one enjoys a select circle of friends more than myself—or that class of society from whence instruction and information may be received. But my objection lies against the heterogeneous assemblages where forms and parade abound, and the sincerity of their feelings towards each other should be judged by any other test than their professions. At this time I feel the more averse to entering into such parties because from the circumstances which have recently occurred every one feels himself at liberty to pay some unnecessary compliment to me. You will perhaps say this feeling betrays some vanity and I admit the justness of the remark as a general observation, but I can assure you it arises in the present instance from an apprehension that such attention may prompt me to assume individual merit for results which are entirely to be ascribed to the superintending blessing of a Divine Providence.
I have never seen Hastings but should have expected that its scenery offered many interesting subjects for the pencil, and I shall be glad to find that some of them attract your attention, although you have disclaimed the talent of an artist on the score of your Barberries.
I presume the day of your return is not yet fixed. I will not however speak of its being distant lest I should again excite your smile or induce you to give me another gentle lecture. I shall only say it will give me great happiness to see you again in Berners Street, whenever your inclination may lead you thither; in the meantime I shall hope to have the happiness of hearing from you, if it be convenient for you to write.
Believe me, my dear Miss Porden,
Ever yours most affectionately,
I am happy to say my book feels less irksome, though I yet have a wearying task before me. How often do I wish that I possessed your talent, very different then would be my labour.
Undated, possibly later in Dec.
My dear Friend,
I had written the accompanying note previous to the arrival of your servant which would have been sent in a few minutes had he not called.
You may congratulate me on the snow, for I find my room much more light and cheerful than in the gloomy fogs which usually prevail in this agreeable city.
I shall also be happy to exhibit with your niece in Hyde Park if she chooses—on the conditions that she walks between the hours of two and four when there may be a chance of our having plenty of spectators.
I regret that I shall be occupied all to-day, and also in the evening, as I must attend to my amanuensis, but on Friday may I hope to see you at home? If you do not say anything to the contrary I shall conclude the answer is affirmative.
Believe me yours most affectionately,
18 Dec., 1822
My dear Sir,
I hope you have by this time received a fine saucy message of mine which I sent you through my sister, and that you have been duly angry in consequence. I had half a mind to have threatened you with endeavouring to pick up a second-hand copy of “the complete letter writer” for your especial use—but to speak seriously, I am aware that you have so much compelled writing on hand that when you have done your daily task you are glad to fling the pens in the fire, and seek amusement in any other form. Nevertheless I must confess you have a little disappointed me, for I am apt to think that persons frequently arrive at a more intimate knowledge of each other’s feelings and sentiments from unrestrained epistolary intercourse, than even from the interchange of an equal number of visits. But perhaps you have not this feeling.
To me the use of my pen was coeval with the power to hold it, else perhaps I might not have written such a strange cramped and unlady-like hand. My father wrote many a long, and now most precious letter to me before I was five years old, and none of our family have ever been three days from home without the communication of all that occurred on either side. I have often been laughingly told that we are admirable friends to the Revenue, and I dare to say that you are laughing now at the world of nothings which the Mail must often have carried to and fro in our service.
I thank you for your enquiries respecting my cough. It has been rather troublesome since I was here, and indeed I did not expect it to be otherwise. I believe it is partly constitutional, and would have been mine under any circumstances, but it has been much augmented by over-reading aloud, which it was difficult to avoid when two invalids were almost entirely dependant on me for amusement, and by more than twelve years of nursing and anxiety, of which I believe no one that has not lived with a paralytic person can have an idea—for one’s fears or one’s cares can never know a moment’s respite. The highest medical authorities have continually told me, that it is nervous, and of no consequence to my general health; indeed that I know by experience, but, I am sorry to find that it is a greater annoyance to others than to myself, and that whenever I am, as now, on a visit to those who are not accustomed to the sound of it, it excites an attention which is sure to increase it. It has lately caused me some serious thoughts, and some in connexion with you, for I cannot bear the idea that it should ever become to another a source of the same uneasiness which it caused to my poor father.5 You have unsettled all my plans, and put my head in the most amiable confusion; otherwise it was my intention to have planted myself in the Spring either at Brighton or on the top of any good high hill with a keen bracing air, to have turned all care resolutely out of doors, and to have tried whether I could not by a few months of amusement and relaxation have recovered the “vulgar health and strength” with which I was once reproached. I ought however to own that I have in a great degree regained it, and I believe I have at bottom still a treble stock of both, to what most women can boast, and I would fain not, by lack of a little present attention condemn myself to ailing for perhaps a greater number of years than I have yet seen and so be an annoyance to all who are kind enough to care for me. But it was little my intention to have entered into this dissertation about myself and I am almost sorry it is written. Pray excuse it.
Indeed I did not misunderstand you about society—but I wanted good naturedly to plague you a little, and think besides that you have been a little bit out of humour on the subject since you came home. I am vain enough to fancy that my recent publication6 places me, certainly with a far less claim upon public attention or interest, yet in a situation somewhat resembling your own—and it would be my wish to profit by the circumstance so far as to select from those with whom it may bring me in contact, such friends as I should desire to retain for the rest of my life. There are many distinguished characters which I have long desired to meet, and I trust from a very different feeling than mere curiosity. After all, I believe that in reality we entirely agree upon the subject.
I return to London on Saturday, and if the weather be fine shall endeavour to get to my sister’s in the evening, where I hope to hear good news of you. I am sorry to find you are not likely to be there on Christmas day, as I had almost relied on meeting you. In the meantime, as I said before, Good speed to your labours! and pray get in better temper with your book and yourself. You write well enough if you would but fancy so, and would write ten times better if you did but like it. You want nothing but what you don’t like—practice.
And now to conclude, I think I ought to beseech you not to box my ears for my impertinence, which I almost confess I deserve, but to believe me,
Sincerely and faithfully yours,
Eleanor Anne Porden
I would not have answered your letter so soon but that it happens to be convenient! Besides I’ll set you a good example!!!
Dec. 28th, 1822
My dear Sir,
I do not remember accurately whether you said you were likely to call on me to-day, and lest I should in that case miss the pleasure of seeing you, I thought it right to let you know that I am obliged to be out till near four o’clock on some business for my sister, who is confined to her bed.
I hope this fine cold weather suits both you and the book. I used always to find a hard frost propitious to my writing, and certainly it ought to be peculiarly congenial to the subject of your narrative.
Believe me ever,
Very sincerely yours,
Eleanor Anne Porden
The year 1823 found John and Eleanor pledged to one another, but for some time they kept their engagement ostensibly secret, probably because Eleanor felt that it would be indecorous to announce it so soon after her father’s death. Apparently the Franklin family were only apprised of the happy event in May; but obviously the bride’s numerous circle were better informed, for they had long been speculating as to when the engagement would be made public.
The letters which passed between them form a striking contrast. Franklin’s are those of “the inexpressive man whose life expressed so much.” He is fully aware of his own deficiencies. He writes, “My power in that art you know to be very limited.” Eleanor’s, on the contrary, are full of delicate sprightliness. She is wise enough to feel that in the four years’ absence behind them they may well have developed in opposite directions, and that, before they are irrevocably united, they must seek every opportunity of learning each other’s characters afresh, so as to make sure of ultimate happiness.
Owing to John’s frequent absences with his numerous family in Lincolnshire, correspondence was the only means of achieving this. Indeed, on things about which she felt keenly, Eleanor preferred to write rather than to speak. She had been grievously shaken by her father’s death, was in very delicate health, and any nervous strain was too much for her sensitive nature.
John, on the other hand, was less inarticulate in speech than on paper, though that is not saying much. His letters are very few in comparison with hers; the latter being frequently the result of some supposed misunderstanding when he visited her. She was determined that he should know her as she really was, and her candour is very attractive.
But after they had been engaged three months, a gulf opened which threatened to wreck their harmony. Eleanor had made it clear from the first that nothing could be allowed to interfere with her literary career. She feels sure it is possible to carry it on consistently with the claims of married life, of which, by the by, she has a very high ideal. John had acquiesced and appeared to be as proud of her gifts as her parents had been. Then in March there was a sudden change. He expressed abhorrence for seeing the name of any one connected with himself in print, and the interview left Eleanor prostrate in body and spirit alike; her ideals for the future shattered; and the grief for her father’s death cruelly reopened. Her world seemed to have crumbled. For, as she truly points out, she would never stand in the way of his profession, but what will be left to her when she is in poignant anxiety over his Arctic ventures, if she may not solace herself with the gift which she regards as a sacred trust? Indeed, so strongly does she feel on the subject that she tells him frankly in her pathetic letter of March 29th that if she must choose between her art and marriage, she will, out of loyalty to her father, choose the former.
One asks oneself what influence had been at work to cause so radical a change in John’s attitude? One can only put it down to the circle in which he lived, to whom literature was practically a closed book. It is possible also that Lady Lucy Barry, whose narrow religious opinions carried great weight with Franklin, may have had something to do with it.
Be it as it may, the sturdy sailor could not face the thought of losing Eleanor. She pointed out that she had never been guilty of anything “unbecoming the modest reserve of an English maiden,” and that she would be only too willing to bring to his aid her “facility in composition” when he brought out his next book, and so the storm was laid; but there was another lurking on the horizon, this time on the Sabbatarian question. John’s strictness on this point emerges when he regards himself as breaking his invariable rule by writing to his betrothed on Sunday! There was more to come, but the details must be reserved for a later section.
Meanwhile, John’s account of his heroic efforts in the Arctic is at length completed and published in book form. Eleanor’s unstinting delight in it is indicative of her unfailing generosity of spirit.
The question of their married home had now become urgent. The superfluous contents of Berners Street were to be sold, the house itself being let, and John evidently thinks that the selection of a home properly falls to Eleanor’s share. It was partly humility, but he completely fails to realize how great would be the strain of house-hunting to his fragile bride, overwhelmed as she was already with the fatigue of vacating Berners Street, with all the inevitable sorting, selecting and packing involved. The process also was fraught with pathos, for every drawer she opened brought back poignantly the memory of her beloved father, who had so recently passed away. This will appear more fully in the next section.
The letters of May shew that so far neither bride nor bridegroom know anything accurate about the other’s family. When Franklin reveals the extent of his brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews and nieces, Eleanor is somewhat alarmed at the numbers for whom she is bidden to find space in her heart. She is, however, reassured by his conviction that “they are all mild and amiable and I am sure, affectionate,” but, remembering the brilliant circle she had gathered round her, the elite of the artistic and literary world, it is small wonder that she should have had qualms as regards the narrow provincial society which so forcibly appealed to her future husband. He, good, simple man, was an enthusiast for everything connected with Lincolnshire and quite incapable of realizing what the necessarily restricted and somewhat borné outlook of its denizens would mean to his exceptionally gifted wife.
Eleanor, as always, set herself to work to bridge the gulf and seems to have succeeded, though they never got over her larger views on matters of religion.
The following phrenological character of Franklin is justified in the main, though Nos. 5 and 14 of his supposed characteristics are open to question.
Phrenological Character by Spurrheim
Jan. 5th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I thought you did not seem particularly to relish my proposal of exchanging the copies of Cœur de Lion. If you have any peculiar predilection for the two odd volumes now in Frith Street, pray retain them, as I do not want them at present, but if not, allow me to replace them by those which I send with this, and to add to them the accompanying copy of “The Veils.” You may laugh as much as you will, at so large a volume having sprung from so trifling an incident as the loss of Miss Denman’s veil, but I seriously fear that you and Dr. Richardson will have many a more formidable laugh at much of the scientific part. The whole note about the Rock Salt of Cheshire, in particular is an egregious blunder which arose from the transcription of a wrong part of some extracts.
I was determined to refer Mr. Brown’s criticism to Dr. Johnson’s judgement and am now ready to enter the lists with him. “Dapple,—marked with various colours; variegated. To Dapple, to streak,—to vary.” As for mottled it is not in the dictionary, and the nearest approach to it is in that ominous word “motley.” So do not tell me again that “you don’t know what dappled means.”
Good luck to your “writing.”
Eleanor Anne Porden
The above as you will perceive by the date has been written some days. An accident delayed my sending it, and when I saw you on Wednesday, I forgot it, as I generally do half the things I have meant to say to you. I am almost ashamed to send you “The Veils” but as it was written at 16 and published before I was 20, I hope you will read it with some indulgence, and pray do not read it till you have finished Cœur de Lion, whensoever that may happen to be.
I wished to add a few words about your evening visits. I feel no objection to them and it is really the only time when we get a little quiet chat together, but I wish you could give me a hint when you are likely to come. It need not be imperative on you as an engagement, but I should be sorry you found me out, or that you should, just now, stumble upon some two or three kind friends who are so good as to take their tea with me occasionally and whom I might as well ask one evening as another. I hope you will meet them hereafter, but at present it would not be so well, and there is one very worthy old lady in particular who has a great desire to see you, from our frequent mention of you in your absence, but whose affections I could unluckily trust much farther than her prudence. Pray excuse this, a proper woman’s postscript, and again farewell. By the bye, why were you so desirous that I should tumble yesterday? I begin to suspect you are of a very malicious disposition, and take especial pleasure in the misfortunes of your fellow creatures!!! I am glad you were disappointed however. Shall I see you to-morrow? I shall be at my sister’s in the evening if you have a mind to redeem your character with her.
Jan. 15th, 1823
My dear Sir,
It seems to be my luck to send you notes about nothing, but as Wednesday is a day on which you have often honoured me with a call, I thought it right to let you know that Mr. Bedford will be here on business at four o’clock. I shall however be at home the whole of the day, if you should chance to have a spare half hour either earlier, or in the evening. Pray am I to condole with or congratulate you on the snow? and the prospect of your having soon to exhibit with my niece in Hyde Park? In haste.
E. A. Porden
Berners Street, London,
Most faithless Saxon,
After sitting whole days with my arms folded, my legs crossed and my feet on the fender, devising excuses for your absence; after building castles in the air; and discovering them to be but frost work; drawing your portrait in the fire, and demolishing it with the poker; or cutting it out in paper, and blowing it away with my sighs, I arrive but at one conclusion—that I am utterly forsaken. Think not that I expect to melt you, for had you not been already hardened by three polar winters, you must be now like my tears, and like every thing else in this great town, completely frozen. No—every spark of hope is extinguished in my bosom, therefore, as willows are out of season—and my garters withal rather the worse for wear—as the Serpentine is frozen over and even the Thames at Waterloo Bridge nearly inaccessible from icebergs—as daggers and poison are too melodramatic; and opening a vein too surgical and unsentimental; and as razors and pistols are somewhat masculine resources and moreover commonplace; I beg to know your pleasure as to the disposal of myself.
Nota Bene: I would bury myself in the snow, but fear to be turned into spermaceti before you would hear of my fate. What think you of swallowing fire? It has but one prototype and would be a comfortable death this weather!
St. Valentine’s Day.
Yes! Yes! thou art gone to the climes of the East;
Thou hast welcomed the Sun as he springs from the Sea;
And thou car’st not though Sorrow lie cold in my breast
Though the night of the Grave may be closing on me,
Yet, though bright are his beams in those changeable skies,
Where he dawns but to set, and descends but to rise,
Though on wonders I dream not, his lustre may shine
He warms not one bosom more constant than mine.
And what if the Daughters of Albion be Fair
With their soft eyes of azure and tresses of Gold?
To the Flowers of their meadows their charms I compare
They bloom in the sunshine, but shrink from the cold;
But I through the snow and the Forest would guide thee
On the ice covered Lake I would gambol beside thee
With the thongs of the Reindeer thy buskins would weave
And dress thy light meal as thou slumber’st at Eve.
Nay Frown not! Thou know’st that such moments have been,
Though cruel as false, thou could’st calmly depart;
Thy Comrade too truly has pictured the scene,
And my Form—but thine own, it is drawn on my heart!
Nor think in thy Green Isle some Fair one to woo,
For in tempest and snow shall my vengeance pursue,
My bidding at noonday shall darken the air,
And the rage of my climate shall Follow thee there.
But return!—I have gathered thee dainties most rare,
The wild birds that soar, and the fish from the sea;
The Moose and the Reindeer, the Fox and the Bear,
In a snow mantled grotto I guard them for thee.
How happy our long day of Summer shall prove
And our long night of Winter, when brighten’d by Love,
When the Moon and the Stars are abroad in the sky
And the brisk Northern Meteors are dancing on high!
Return! and the tempest shall pause in his wrath;
I will breathe out my spells on the land and the sea.
Return! and the Ice shall be swept from thy path,
Nor the winds nor the waves dare be rebels to thee.
Spread thy canvas once more, keep the Pole Star before thee
’Tis Constancy’s type and thy Beacon of Glory,
By the Lake, by the Mountain, the Forest, the River,
In the wilds of the North, I am thine, and for ever.
Feb. 14th, 1823.
Fulmer Grove, Bucks,
March 21st, 1823
My dear Sir,
The dating my paper reminds me that it is four years to-day since you bade farewell to my father and myself on your departure for America and also that I wrote to you this day twelvemonth, having made a great exertion to send off the last sheet of Cœur de Lion to the printer, that I might be at liberty so to do. Do not smile at these reminiscences; I very often dare not acknowledge how accurately I remember dates, and with all my caution, my memory is constantly leading me into as many scrapes as the want of it does others. But I could not help thinking how much had happened to us both in that said four years, and how little I at least could then have thought of our ever being situated as we now are with respect to each other. You once asked me if I had never suspected your attachment before you sailed. I said “No,” and I felt the next moment that I had answered untruly, but I was too much agitated at that moment to attempt an explanation. I did not suspect you till you were within a few days of embarkation, and I then blamed myself severely for my own carelessness and for not having withdrawn from your society, which I might easily have done. I flattered myself however that your feelings would not survive half your voyage to Hudson’s Bay. I believe you carried a large share of my heart with you, for you were certainly more in my head than I could very well account for, but I should have been amazingly affronted if any one had told me so, and if you had spoken to me then, I should certainly have given you the same answer that any one else would have met—namely that I considered myself bound to my parents and was determined not to think on the subject at all.
I know I have borne a strange character for inaccessibility, and I used to be asked whether I expected any one to drop from the clouds on purpose for me, but—what a blessing it is that we do not know the future! I was anxious for you in your absence, and never slept without imploring your safety, but how much more so should I have been had I thought how dear you were to become to me! And yet I am sure I am as little liable to be haunted by needless fears as any one. I always consider the protection of Providence as equally necessary to our safety and our existence in situations that appear the most remote from danger as in the earthquake or the storm, and I believe it is from the habitual sense both of this protection and its necessity that I never feel terror. I do not think it is from any unfeminine sternness of spirit, for a harsh world or an unkind look will sink me to the ground, even more than it ought to do, since it depresses me long after those who have given it have forgotten perhaps even its cause.
I have gone into a long explanation which is perhaps of no use or interest now, but the consciousness of the least falsehood or want of frankness, however unintentional, always haunts me like a spectre.
Is it possible I should have two letters of yours to answer at once? You are determined to turn the tables on me however. Your last which is just come must wait at present, and I then will endeavour to reply to it, but I have no power of thought or reflexion here, and indeed can hardly steal either leisure or quiet of mind to write this letter. Mrs. John Kay is a very beautiful, very good, and a very clever woman. Few either can talk better, and an hour or two of her society would be delightful; but we are now sole companions and she talks so much that she almost talks me to death, and as I am a bit of an invalid, of course she thinks it necessary to take double care of me. I reckon this place one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The air is very good, the house comfortable, nay luxurious, and within a very small compass there is all the variety of hill and dale, of heath, garden, grove and orchard. The air is loaded with perfume, and we seem in the very centre of a choir of nightingales who sing
From night till morn, from morn till dewy eve.
When the weather is fine we have an open carriage to ride in and a close one when it is uncertain, and I think all the rides are pretty. Nevertheless I long continually for an hour of your society or my own to enjoy them in. I believe Mrs. John Kay thinks me a very stupid companion, for volubility always drives me to silence, but I feel particularly [original letter torn here] after the complete ease of Mrs. Oviatt’s house. I have stayed with both before, and always felt the difference. Mrs. Oviatt breakfasts alone and never joins her guests till she has finished her domestic arrangements, unless some plan for the day has been previously concerted. You are therefore generally your own master till about twelve o’clock, when she is ready to share in any employment or any amusement, without however expecting that you are to be tyed to her or she to you for the whole of the day, if either party wishes to separate, or has business. I am therefore always at home there, always employed and always comfortable.
Your last letter but one gave me particular pleasure. I could not but feel some anxiety respecting the manner in which your friends might receive your communication, and though at present they can only know me by your report, I am gratified by the knowledge that they are kindly disposed towards me. I believe you already think my heart pretty capacious, but it had needs be so, if I must find a nook for each. The tale of my relatives is soon told. My Uncle you have seen and know almost as much as you will do, for the deafness which has marred his way in the world and made him dependent on my father almost precludes conversation. He has five daughters, one of them lately a widow. You have seen one or two. He has also one son, an Architect, and who has great talent, which makes it a double source of regret that his temper and conduct are such as to render it a punishment to have any dealings with him. I am sorry that the only inheritor of our family name will as I fear do it little credit. My father as you know made his own way in the world, and what other connections he has are all in humble spheres, but highly respectable in themselves. They are not very nearly related and I know little of them, for I never was but two days in Hull and few of them have visited London. I have also one dear friend, Miss Brown, whose name you have heard and whom I always feel as a cousin though she has no claim to the title. Her father’s first wife was my mother’s sister, but she is not her daughter. We were both my sister’s bridesmaids and mutually promised that one of us would fulfil that place for whichever first required it. I little thought it would be my turn for she was then a woman and I a child—she now writes me word she cannot leave her mother and I believe what she says of its being a great disappointment to her. She lives in York and I have elected Miss Appleton in her stead—with which interesting information I must conclude, having as I often do filled my paper with what I did not care to write and left much unsaid that I really wished, but my head was in a complete whirl when I sat down.
Eleanor Anne Porden
Remember me to Dr. and Mrs. Richardson.
March 29th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I have long anxiously wished for the moment when returning strength might in some degree restore to me the use of my pen, that I might be able to address this letter to you, as it is my hope that it may save us both much agitating conversation. Our rambling chat on Friday last strayed two or three times to subjects which I knew must be felt by both in a manner that ill accorded with the light tone in which we were handling them, but I was determined that they should not be touched upon in a more serious manner until I had found the opportunity of submitting my thoughts and feelings to your calm, and I will hope, your candid consideration.
When I requested my sister to mention to you that I expected the full indulgence of my literary pursuits, both as to writing or publication, I certainly considered that I was asking no favour, claiming no concession. I merely named it to her as she was leaving the room because I am always anxious to prevent the possibility of any misunderstanding, and an expression which dropped from you the day before I went to Mortlake, had afterwards returned upon my mind with a doubt of its import. My tastes and habits had been fully known to you from the first moment of our acquaintance, and I could not have supposed, if you in any way objected to them, that you, as a man of sense and reflexion, could for a moment have allowed yourself to think of me,—I may say I could not have supposed that any man, to whom they were in the slightest degree disagreeable, would ever have thought of addressing me. But independent of this I had considered the matter as fully understood between us. When you first named your profession to me, as a possible reason of objection on my part, I answered that I had in return your indulgence to claim for my literary pursuits and I begged you then to consider well whether their pursuit in any way were likely to be unpleasant to you. Your reply at that moment was anything but discouraging. But I have frequently spoken on the subject since; when I have talked to you of the work to which I consider myself pledged respecting my father,7 and of my “Alfred,” the projected companion of “Cœur de Lion.” You have surely not forgotten the interest which you then apparently took in the subject, the enquiries which you made of me respecting the sources whence I meant to derive my information as to those remote times, and our digression on the Scandinavian Mythology, and the use of Machinery in general?
From all this I should undoubtedly have concluded, that if on your return from a Polar, or any other Expedition, I had presented to you one or both of these works, fresh from the Printer and the Binder I should have brought you an acceptable offering. Imagine then,—(but I believe you will not imagine,) the pain which your answer gave me. That you had an objection almost amounting to horror to anything like publication in any one connected with you, that it was possible your feelings might alter but you could pledge yourself to nothing! I have seldom received so severe a shock. I once said to you that I believed the possession of poetic talents seldom contributed to the happiness of a female. That I spoke truth the necessity of my writing this letter is sufficient evidence; but it was the pleasure of Heaven to bestow those talents on me, and it was my father’s pride to cultivate them to the utmost of his power. I should therefore be guilty of a double dereliction of duty in abandoning their exercise. They were indeed the pride and the pleasure of both my parents and, permitted by their kindness to indulge the native bent of my disposition, for their sake it became my duty and my delight to endeavour that my efforts should not be unworthy of the encouragement shown to them. I have seldom read a new poem to them without seeing the tear of affectionate joy in the eyes of both. Indeed, as one of my friends lately observed to me, my poor father’s soul seemed wrapped up in my Literary fame. It was his constant study to procure me whatever books he thought might be useful to me or the acquaintance of any one of distinguished talent from whose conversation I might derive either pleasure or improvement. In short to give to my talents all the publicity possible.—I beg to add, consistently with the modest reserve of an English maiden, which I must also beg you to believe he would have guarded as jealously as you could do that of a sister or a wife. Few men perhaps were ever more cautiously particular.
That he far overrated me I well knew; and what I have written above has been set down in the spirit of regret and not of vanity. Vain I may be, upon many points, but I think I should never be so of my poetic powers. I consider them rather as a dangerous gift, for the neglect or the abuse of which I shall be equally and severely accountable; but this is wandering from my subject. What I meant to say was, that since my poor father’s death, almost every day has given me fresh proof of his fond partiality, for I have scarcely opened a drawer that has not borne witness to the care with which he had treasured every scrap that spoke in commendation of his little favourite. That all this was gone for ever I well knew. I never expected again to meet with any one so anxiously alive to all my feelings and wishes, or so much interested in my darling pursuits. Nor indeed could I desire it. I have hitherto always had the pleasing consciousness, that dear as they were, I had never allowed them to usurp the place of duties, or to become more than the amusement which they ought to be. But it is possible that they might by degrees have absorbed me too much and that is a danger which I would endeavour to guard myself from as carefully as from that of their abandonment. But thus brought up, thus indulged, thus spoiled if you will, judge what must have been my surprise and grief to find that the pursuits which have lent wings to many an hour of happiness, and supported me through many a day of affliction; which had been so watchfully cherished by those I best loved; were looked upon, even with horror by the person with whom I expected to pass the rest of my life! Just at the moment too when my regret for my parents was beginning to soften, when I was beginning to think that the future might again have something to interest me, and my feelings again find a home. They came upon me with double force.
That your prejudices, for so I must be permitted to call them, are of recent origin I cannot doubt, the tone and character of the letters written to myself and father on your homeward voyage are sufficient evidence that they did not then exist, nay, I will not for an instant allow myself to suppose that you would have acted so unwisely towards yourself as to select for your companion the only woman, perhaps in your whole acquaintance, whose tastes and habits were obnoxious to your dislike; or so unfairly by me, as not at once to have intimated your hope and request that I would alter them. But why, when you felt such objections rising in your mind, or when they may have been suggested to you by those with whom you conversed, why did you not come and frankly state them to me at once that they might immediately be either yielded to or confuted? To speak openly, I consider them merely the effect of a morbid state of feeling, arising from the manner in which your mind has been harassed and overwrought by application to your work, and as such, I conjure you, for your own sake as well as mine, to dismiss them as speedily as possible.
I am confirmed in my conjecture by perceiving that every thing which bears the least affinity to Literature now seems almost equally exposed to your anathemas. My poor Attic Chest—Alas! it has always been one of my day dreams that at some future period it should be revived—but you would not even have condescended to attend one of its meetings. What sort of reception can I then expect you will hereafter give to my friends, many of whom belonged to its circle, and of whom few are untainted by this same odious vice of Literature. Not, I fear, the same frank and cordial welcome which I should always consider due from me to any esteemed friend of yours! But such certainly was not the language which you held some few months ago. You then wished me to think that my studies would not only be encouraged but shared. I did not believe one half you said for I fancied I knew you better than you at that moment knew yourself, but at any rate I may well ask “Which is the counterfeit, and which the true man?”
Should we be united, one of the first speeches I shall hear on all sides will be “But I hope your Muse does not mean to be idle.” Would you have me say that with my own will I would never abandon her, but you had restrained our intercourse? You may reply that such an answer would not be necessary to all. It might not, but I am so much the Child of Truth that my very efforts at concealment would betray me. Or should it happen while you were abroad that Mr. Whittaker, in calling on me to superintend a fresh Edition of Cœur de Lion, should say that he thought it then a favourable opportunity for the publication of the volume of poems which I long ago told him were ready whenever he might think it a favourable time for their appearance—would you have me tell him that my husband had no longer left me the liberty of publishing them?—Surely you could not wish me so degraded!
One word too on the subject of your Expedition. Whatever your objections may be, and I pretend not to guess them, you must feel that nothing which I might publish could possibly give you one tenth part of the uneasiness which that Expedition must necessarily cost me, but I know that you ought to undertake it, and therefore you should find me the last person in the world that would endeavour to detain you. It is indeed my most earnest hope that you would never suffer a consideration for me to influence your mind for a moment on any such occasion; but why should you wish to deprive me of the only employment that could really interest me in your absence?
Happily the choice is not left to me, and I cannot if I would, allow my own heart to deceive me. My father’s wishes repeatedly intimated, make the publication of some of his papers not merely an act of filial regard, but of imperative duty, and if the price be the happiness of all my future life I must perform it. And even with regard to the farther cultivation of the tastes he encouraged, could I consent to relinquish them, I should never know a moment’s ease. His offended spirit would seem to be for ever at my side, reproaching me as an alien for thus abandoning what it had cost him so many years of toil and anxiety to procure me the means of indulging. I might not speak, but you would soon scarcely recognize your dull and joyless companion.
And on what plea should you ask me to renounce them, or to descend from the place which I hold in society? You will surely allow that it has been honourably gained. Among my friends are many of whose very names I am proud, and I can boldly say that I possess their respect as much as either their esteem or regard. You say that all desire of literary fame is vanity, simply because your own ambition lies in another channel; but if when your Book is fairly before the public you do not take somewhat of a parent’s interest in its fate I shall not think the better of you for your apathy. That fame in the way of your profession is not indifferent to you I will venture to pronounce. For instance, were you in command of a well appointed fleet, you would certainly wish to encounter the enemy, to obtain a signal victory, and to place your own name with those of Nelson and Duncan and Howe and Rodney, etc. etc. etc. Yet your own duty would be as conscientiously performed if the first ball that was fired carried your head with it; and your country’s interests as much promoted if your success achieved the Victory, nay, both objects would be as effectively attained. If, while you were idly gazing on a spotless sea, some brother officer, the commander of a rival fleet, should obtain the success I have supposed yours, I know you would have the generosity to rejoice in his good fortune, but if you did not envy it, you are not worth a pin.
When you return from the Pole you will have another book to write, and you will expect my assistance. Believe me that never was any labour more zealously and cheerfully undertaken for another than that would be for you; but surely you would not selfishly take advantage of my facility in composition for your ease, and restrain me in its exercise for my own relaxation?
I am sorry to perceive that I have inflicted a long letter upon you, but I am yet unequal to writing five minutes together, and by losing the connection I run into length. The essence of our argument after all lies in a nutshell. For some months past I have endeavoured that you should see my character, good or bad, as unreservedly as possible. If you have liked what I really am, if a sincere attachment to yourself, and an earnest wish to render towards you the attention and the duty of an affectionate wife, be sufficient to make you happy, I am willing to be yours. But you must not expect me to change my nature. I am seven and twenty, an age after which woman alters little, and I, who have been almost uncontrolled mistress of a family for half that period, am even older than my years. If on the contrary you find that your imagination has sketched a false portrait of me, that your feelings are changed, or, no matter what the cause, that you have taken a rash and inconsiderate step, do not hesitate to tell me so.
One thing I had forgotten, if you feel such disgust at the idea of a woman’s appearing in any way before the public, would even my promise to write no more be sufficient to satisfy your feelings?—The Rubicon was past when “The Veils” were published, and “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” The works already printed must attach to me for ever, and should I never either write or print another line you would equally have married “Miss Porden, the Authoress.” Nor would the altered name be less apparent on a fresh Edition of Cœur de Lion than on the title page of a new work.
Much of what I have written I believe has been already said to you, but the memory of a delegate is always doubtful, and a single word unwittingly altered may change the tone of a whole sentence. One wrong impression you seem to have received, and I therefore beg to assure you that though much of this letter may have been suggested by very painful feelings, not one syllable has been penned in aught of unkindness, or with any but the most anxious wish that it may smooth the only difficulty which I believe exists between us. That any should have arisen I deeply deplore, and that it should have arisen from this cause is a source of double pain to me. You are now fully in possession of my feelings on the subject, and I submit them, as I said in the commencement, to your calm consideration. To have every doubt removed, and every arrangement made as far as present circumstances permit, cannot be more your wish than it is that of
Yours most affectionately and faithfully,
Eleanor Anne Porden
I had written to the last paragraph when you came in last night and on reading over what I have said I find that our conversation then would have saved me half my week’s hard labour, but I am really unequal to any attempt at copying or shortening it.
May 1, 1823
My dear Sir,
I cannot help it if you laugh at me for sending you a little bottle of raspberry vinegar, but you seemed to like it, and I am very certain that if it does you no good it will do you no harm. Sarah brought word back from my sister that the Literary Gazette etc. had been returned to Dr. Richardson instead of coming to me. If you can lay your hands on them, pray let me have a peep at them. I am very much pleased with the Review in the Album, it so exactly gives my own thoughts and feelings on reading the work, though I suspect I should never have been able to say half as much to you. Your book was exactly what I expected from my knowledge of you; but had anything been wanting to confirm my esteem and admiration of the writer, it would have done so. It is therefore with no ordinary feelings of pride and pleasure that I find the same sentiments expressed by what I may term the public voices of my country. By the bye there are some expressions in that article which I think I recognize as Harness’s own.
The weather is so fine that I regret your journey is delayed, though it will give me the pleasure of seeing you again. Can you come to me to-morrow evening? If you can, name your hour and Sarah shall have a cup of tea smoking to receive you. I almost invariably forget when I see you what I have wished to speak to you about; I ought otherwise to have told you yesterday what I had settled with Mr. Kay to do respecting Berners Street, and I must beg you before you go, to let me know distinctly what are your wishes and intention, that I may regulate my own movements accordingly. Your journey having been delayed, my operations will probably commence before your return. On Saturday evening you are engaged and so am I, but if you come in a morning, let me request it may be before half past three, as Miss Griffin8 seems to have undertaken the charge of driving me out in such good earnest that, except to-day, I am not certain of myself any afternoon, beyond that hour. She was kindness itself during our ride yesterday and I really feel so well and so strong that I believe I want nothing but a week’s mild weather, which would enable me to face the air with impunity, to make me quite myself again. I had need get well quickly, for I have much to do, and not a minute to lose, as you will allow when you have heard my plan. My note is in danger of growing into a letter if I do not stop short, so farewell.
Ever yours affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Porden
The chimney sweeps have been in high glee in this neighbourhood all the morning.
Upper Portland Place.
Upper Portland Place,
May 3rd, 1823
My dear Sir,
I have not received any message from Conduit Street and therefore expect that Mrs. Thomson will call for me between two and three to-morrow. I should think it more likely to be later than earlier so that if you like to call soon after Church and are not afraid of risquing an encounter with the latter end of my dinner, I am pretty certain of not being flown—at the same time if I may not hope the pleasure of seeing you both days, I should prefer your coming on Monday morning as I am more sure of being quiet. I am now always down before eleven, and hope next week to make it ten. Indeed I trust very soon to get into my usual habits, as I evidently gain strength every day in this fine air and fine weather. This morning I took a very tolerable length of walk in the Crescent. I never before had an idea of the effect of temperature. I am grumbling at the heat, which you know I never like, but nevertheless I am doing, and doing without fear, what I could not and durst not have thought of a week ago. The weakness in my chest and some other unpleasant feelings seem almost gone today, and I have even caught myself running upstairs two or three times.
I hope your cough is better and that you will give all that remains of it to the winds on the highroad between here and Cambridge.
I will endeavour to do what I can respecting the House9 in your absence, but must beg you not to rely too much upon me. If you will be holiday making, so shall I! and when I return to town I rather think that both my thoughts and steps will all be turned to Berners Street. Besides I shall be sadly at a loss for a companion in my walks, even when able to take them. House-hunting is an awkward [original letter torn] for an errant damsel to undertake alone. However I will do what I can and in the meantime remain,
Very affectionately yours,
Eleanor Anne Porden
6 Upper Portland Place,
Friday, May 9th, 1823
Most Magnanimous Harry the Fourth,
(For since you have in some sort identified yourself with the “Princely Bolingbroke,” I dare not address you by any title less distinguished.)
I am really much at a loss what to say to your Highness having neither news to tell, nor novelty to describe, but as you have laid your commands on me not to wait for your letter, I, as a dutiful subject, am bound to obey. Here then I am, in the same room you are wont to see me, sitting on the same sofa, facing the same unlike likeness of my friend Pomona, and writing, if not with the same pen, yet at the same desk, and on the same quire of paper. How then shall I find a little variety to entertain you with in your Country Retreat? Had I been your journey, I would have filled you half a dozen sheets with pleasure, but as it is, I must e’en be content with hoping that you have had an agreeable trip and that you have found all you love as well and as happy to see you as you could wish. That the smiles of the sun have made Cambridge delightful, and, (as one’s native air is always endowed with magic virtue) that you may derive incalculable benefit from the frogs and fens of Lincolnshire, though I never heard that county was famous for anything but handsome stone spires and indifferent mutton. To some of the former you may present my compliments, and say that I hold them in affectionate remembrance though it be eleven years since I saw their glittering vanes.
I have been walking out and riding out. Have been to see my sister, and been to Kensington with Dr. & Mrs. Thomson. By the bye she says that a certain gay widow, who wanted to take better care of your health at their dinner than you were inclined to permit, has since made so many and such particular enquiries after you, and launched forth so much in your praise, that she must certainly have lost her heart altogether. I do not know that I have any business to send you this intelligence, but beg you will at least applaud my generosity, and give me notice when I am to look out for a murmuring brook and a weeping willow. Unluckily I cannot sing, so I shall make but a bad Ophelia, but then I can carve verses upon every tree at the risque of being taken up for destroying the bark, under the statute of Edward the 3rd for cutting and maiming young trees. In which case a hempen cord may probably be substituted for a garter, or a voyage to Botany Bay for the Lover’s Leap.
Perhaps you may surmise, from the tone of my letter, that I am not the worse since you left me. I suppose it is very indecorous to be merry when you are away, but I cannot resist returning health and the opening Spring, and when I see the Lilacs bursting into bloom, with the tulips and narcissuses, (which I hang over as fondly as their namesake over his own shadow) I quite forget that I ever had care or illness to trouble me. The last I saw of Nature was in her winter garb of frost and snow, so that the change now comes on me with all the fascination of an Arctic Summer, of which you know more than I do.
I wish I could give as satisfactory an account of Gower Street. My sister is certainly better, and is gone to-day for change of air to Mill Hill till Monday, when I am to succeed her for a few days. Mr. Kay however is not well, and appears in a great danger of a return of the severe illness he had last Spring. I fervently hope that this may be averted, for his health is particularly important to his family at this moment. Your little favourite Eliza, is also a source of uneasiness to us. She has either suddenly become deaf, or is seized with a stupidity the more remarkable from her former liveliness of intellect. She certainly knew no one for many days during her illness, but that we did not regard, but the same obtuseness of sense seems to shew itself again now, and I understand that the few minutes which she passed with me after you were gone on Sunday were the only ones in which she has for some time past shewn anything like her former vivacity or memory. I hope there is no danger of hydrocephalous. I have often when thinking of her been reminded of Parnell’s Hermit, for I felt that we were all growing too fond of the child. I was at least, she was so like my mother.
I have absolutely managed to look at two houses in this neighbourhood, but they would not do. The only thing which at present offers is the Corner House over the way, for which only £800 per annum is demanded! and which would suit your ideas of size to a hair. It has 11 attics, so you may imagine the rest. Miss Appleton and I have had thoughts of taking it for a convent, but as we cannot agree which is to be Lady Abbess, or who the visiting Friar, I fear we are likely to remain a little longer among the pomps and vanities of this wicked world.
I would ask to be remembered to Dr. and Mrs. Richardson, but suppose they will not know of my letter, and as your friends are probably ignorant of my existence, I need send no message to them, but I hope they are all well and especially your father whom I feel strongly disposed to like. I know not whether it be from having always been much with those older than myself but I have an instinctive love of Age, when it is what Age ought to be. By the bye, if you ask me to find room in my heart for such a number of new relations as you appear to have to present me to, you ought to give me some account of them, and that will furnish matter for your letters, when you can find none other. I am sure I have shewn you a good example, for here is a full sheet about nothing. I am not quite certain whether letters about nothing are not sometimes the pleasantest, but you may be of a different opinion, in which case my next shall wait till I have something to tell. I shall watch the post on Monday morning for a full history of your proceedings and in the meantime remain,
Your ever affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Saturday, May 15th, 1823
Many thanks my dear Wanderer, for your very kind and pleasant letter, which though it did arrive a day later than it had been expected, was not the less eagerly welcomed. I should have answered it yesterday, but was out the whole of the morning, and indeed till past 8 o’clock, having finished my peregrinations by dining and drinking tea in Gower Street.10 I am glad to find your time has been so pleasantly spent and that the weather appears sufficiently settled to afford you a continuation of enjoyment. I wish indeed I could be with you, but as I never will cry for the moon, I am determined to make the best of the Society I have, and the ruralities of the neighbourhood of London; and if you country folk choose to sneer, and say that mine are but “Cockney Pastorals” at best, I will boldly tell you that Cockneys find more charms in one green tree, aye in one branch of it, than others do in a whole grove, and that I can trot merrily along the gravel walks of our garden here, repeating my favourite lines from Dryden’s Palaemon and Arcite.
For thee, sweet Month! the groves green liveries wear,
If not the first, the fairest of the year.
For thee the Groves lead on the dancing hours
And Nature’s ready pencil paints the flowers,
When thy short reign is past, the feverish sun
The sultry tropic fears, and moves more slowly on.
So may thy tender blossoms fear no blight,
Nor goats with venom’d tooth thy tendrils bite
As thou shalt guide my wandering feet to find
The fragrant greens I seek, my brows to bind.
I doubt whether all your Lincolnshire willows make you half so poetical! But I am not contented with London trees and London grass either, though both are as green as yours. I had a ride of twenty miles on Tuesday, and made Mary Anne11 laugh at my transport on seeing a brood of goslings. Mrs. Oviatt declares she will have one of the very clutch for dinner on the 14th of July, my birthday. Papa and Mama always made a sort of jubilee of the day, and I being a goose myself always barbarously insisted on devouring one of my relations, so she who has often eaten it with us, is determined, like Queen Elizabeth, to make an annual dish of it. I am going back to her and the said goslings in about an hour’s time, but return on Saturday to proceed forthwith to Fulmer, and there I shall stay till Monday week, when my bustle begins. You see therefore that I am about to follow your injunctions, and run away from this dirty smoky disagreeable town, which I nevertheless love better than any place in the world; but the Laplanders, you know, love their own Country and you love Lincolnshire. I beg however that you will at once dismiss all care and anxiety about my health. I am not yet quite strong enough to draw a sledge, or lift a sledge hammer, but I have proved strong enough to knock up Miss Appleton, who went shopping with me on Saturday and keeps her bed since. Puny, miserable thing, as you think me, I could knock up her at any time. But I have made a wonderful progress in the last ten days.
I am very glad you are better for your journey, and the “quiet life” you have led since you went, dining out every day and riding and driving here and there from sunrise till sunset. The truth is, you are better for more air and exercise, and for having more in external objects to engage your mind. You have been thinking a great deal too much all the winter, and I often saw its effects when I said nothing, and do not believe you were aware of it. Every one tells me I think too much too. What a pity we cannot have just so much of our brains extracted as we should be the better for losing! By the bye they say a Jackass has more brains than almost any animal. I wonder whether we think to as little purpose as he does, and I have often wondered whether he may not be a great deal wiser than we choose to allow.
My dear Sir, I know nothing of Cambridge. I, like you [original torn] was not more than 8 or 9 years old when I visited its Academic Groves, and if I derived any inspiration, or love of literary lore, therefrom, I have forgotten it. My most feeling recollection is of some plum cake which Mr. Holden of Sidney College would bestow upon me. I never was a great Baby about sweet cake, whatever I may be in many things. It was too sweet and too rich for my liking and I remember feeling my good breeding put to the test by the necessity of eating as a treat that which almost made me sick. I do remember King’s College Chapel though, and long to see its gorgeous roof again.
My sister is better, and so is Eliza, who drew off my rings and played with them yesterday, just as she used to do with her mother’s but which she has not done for some time. Indeed she seemed more awake altogether than she has been lately. I wish I could speak as satisfactorily of Mr. Kay. I cannot look at him without feeling some alarm, and what is worst of all, he is getting alarmed about himself. One of the most unpleasant symptoms of his illness last year was a sort of interruption of the circulation which lasted for some time, and shook him greatly. It seems to come on most frequently in the night, and he has had two or three attacks lately. I believe quiet and country air and to think less, are more needful for him than either you or I, but he cannot make holiday yet, unless the necessity be absolute, and then the feeling that his business is neglected would prevent his benefitting as he might. I must not forget that I am charged severally by every branch of the family with kind regards to you. Mary Anne hopes she may send her love next year, but fears it would not be decorous at present, so you may take or refuse it as you like. You have had Eliza’s over and over again before now if it ever reached you. But adieu or I shall be too late for the Stage. I have written in as great haste as you did, and will write again on Saturday, if I find a letter from you, not else! I will be saucy and so you have fair warning. Ce n’est que le premier pas qui coute, and you’ll soon be as fond of it as I am. I see you shake your head as you read, but I do not care. I had more to say but matters must be subservient to space and time.
Ever your faithful and attached,
May 16th, 1823
My dearest Friend,
I had just sealed my last letter when your very interesting “magnanimous” communication arrived and as the mail was expected to pass very soon I could not re-open mine to inform you that yours had reached me. I was truly rejoiced to find such evident symptoms of returning health and spirits as your letter displayed, and I can now have no doubt but your improvement will be progressive, providing you have learnt the necessity of carefully nursing yourself and do not presume too much on your present strength. My own health is quite restored, and in spite of the Fen Breezes which have blown ever since we have been here, I have parted with every symptom of cough or cold. I presume you have taken your notions of Lincolnshire from popular report, and that of no recent date. I forgive you however as you profess not to have heard of anything which bears a more recent date than the Restoration. My friends Dr. and Mrs. R.12 had entertained the same opinion of our poor county, before they visited it, but now their tone is entirely changed, and I think yours will follow the same course, when I have the happiness of shewing you the Lions. We have some things in this vicinity of sufficient antiquity as to be even worthy of your attention.
You are mistaken my dear friend in supposing the members of my family are ignorant of Miss Porden’s existence, they have known you for some time from your literary productions, and have been made acquainted within these few days of our intimacy. I can assure you that no communication could have given them more sincere pleasure and I am certain they would have individually desired me to give you an assurance of that fact did they know I was writing to you. I should certainly ask you to find room in your heart for each of my relations or at least to keep a corner vacant for them, and I should trust after you are known to them they would for their own sakes be cheerfully admitted to fill up the space. That you may know how large a portion to keep unoccupied I will give you some account of them. My Father as I have already told you is very old, supporting the infirmities of blindness and deafness with a truly Christian calmness and resignation. His family now consists of seven persons. My two brothers who are in India, and four daughters. My eldest sister is unmarried, having been for the greater part of her life an invalid, and she is now only in a state of convalescence, after a severe illness. She will, I hope be quite restored to health by the time we can visit Lincolnshire, and I am sure no person will more gladly and cheerfully welcome you as my wife.
My other sisters are married and have each some charming little girls and boys who are playfellows and who will be delighted to receive a new aunt into their society. Of the occupations which my brothers-in-law follow, Mr. Booth and Mr. Cracroft each farms a large portion of land. Mr. Wright is a Clergyman. I have also two other brothers-in-law but my sisters are dead, the one Mr. Selwood is a solicitor and lives near here, the other lives in London. The former has three daughters, and the other three sons.
This is the state of my family. You will find them all mild and amiable and I am sure affectionate. Nothing will afford them more gratification than to welcome you among them. I should now be glad to hear of your relatives—if you do not find any other subject to occupy your next letter. You are however never at a loss. I am glad you have ventured upon looking at two houses. I shall hope to hear soon of your having determined upon one. I am now going down to Mrs. Booth’s, who resides on the sea coast, and out of the way of the direct post road, but I will send up in the course of the week. Pray write when you receive this. I am sorry to hear the account of their sickness in Gower Street. Surely the finer weather will bring them round. Remember my kindest regards to them.
I am sorry for the kind widow of whom you speak. She would be too careful of me by half. I durst not venture upon being exposed to her unceasing attentions.
Your ever affectionate friend,
Address to Bolingbroke.
Friday, May 16th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I threatened yesterday to be very saucy, and fully purposed it, but as I cannot tell whether I have cause or not, I will presume that there is a letter for me in Portland Place, and write accordingly. Mr. Oviatt did not get down to us this evening till seven o’clock, so thoroughly tired, that we were glad to send him to bed as soon as he had eaten, and I could not find it in my heart to bear him ill will for having omitted to enquire in Portland Place if there was anything for me. My plans have undergone a little change since yesterday. I shall spend the day here, and get to London about eight in the evening. At ten next morning I start with Mr. & Mrs. John Kay for Fulmer, for he cannot go down till Sunday and so she prefers driving down to the afternoon service, to going to Church first, and having her ride after! He will probably return to London on Monday morning earlier than I could write, and as Fulmer is seven miles from any post town, it might be Wednesday before I could send a letter. Now having said I would write on Saturday, I have an old-fashioned habit of never breaking a promise, and besides, I flatter myself you might be a little uneasy at my silence, though in sober truth I often think you do not really care one straw whether you hear from me or no; and so I wish you joy of this long explanation about nothing.
We have inspected the Goslings and marked our victim. I have promised Mrs. Oviatt that if I am in this part of the world on the 14th July, I will help to eat him, and that you shall be a partaker too. You will not like her at first, but she is a woman of no common ability, and you will find her more sincere in her conduct than her high flown expression would lead a stranger to expect. It happened to be in my father’s power to serve her husband materially some years ago. They have never forgotten it, and seem to think that I have inherited a claim to all the attention and gratitude which was due to him. You laughed at their union as preposterous,13 but when you see more of them, you will own that their attachment makes it respectable, and his ill health unhappily more than equalizes their years. I have put the business of house hunting into his hands, and he has promised in the course of next week to inform me of every thing now vacant in two or three districts which we have agreed on as desirable. To speak honestly, I have a strong confidence in Mr. Kay’s good will and a high opinion of his judgement, but, as to doing anything, he has not time, and it would be in vain to rely upon him. Mr. Oviatt I know will execute what he undertakes, and do it with equal zeal.
My recollections of this place are almost too infantine to be clear or vivid, but they came over me in our walk to-day in the same confused half dreamy manner in which Harry Bertram partly recognizes his paternal domains of Ellangowan. I was but five years old when my father gave up his summer abode here, but I was pleased to find that I still knew the old cottage when we came to it, and the hedge where I had gathered a pottle of blackberries, besides other particulars equally important and interesting. I once got up and went into the fields with Papa very early, on purpose to see the sunrise, but he was sulky, and would not rise that morning, at least the clouds would not let us see him, and Mama laughed at us heartily, when we gaped at breakfast. My sister’s remembrances as we rode home the other evening, were much more numerous and circumstantial, such as the place where her horse ran away with her, and that where she had thrown herself off, etc. etc. etc. Are you not now enjoying many a similar retrospect?
I do love to live in the Past and have had much more true enjoyment in many a scene when recalled long after, than I had felt at the time, nay, I have often found that those hours which have been most delightful as they fled have not always been those which were dwelt upon with most pleasure, while some that even inflicted a pang at the time, have left as it were a fragrance in the wound. But I suppose I am growing old, for I feel that my musings are growing graver than they were wont to be. The Past I think is gaining too much upon me. I ought now to be looking to the future, I ought perhaps to be [original torn] it in brighter colours than it can ever [original torn] but you must forgive me if I own that I often feel as if my life [original torn] who have been called from me. I do not suppose [original torn] in low spirited, and believe me that this feeling springs from no want of regard for you, but I have often felt that I did not behave towards you as I ought, and thought you felt it too. I am not apt to form sudden attachments, or to shew any warm expression of regard, but I believe that my feelings are deep and lasting, and though I could not shed a tear for my parents when they died, they are not the less remembered. Do not think however that I would selfishly recall them; to each, death was a mercy and a blessing, and I know that both died in full satisfaction with me, and in the full belief that I had endeavoured to discharge my duty towards them to my best ability. I know too that we shall meet again.
I believe that my father had but one anxiety in death, and that was at leaving me unprotected. He had often urged me on the subject of marriage and when I told him I had always steadily discouraged any advances of the kind, from a determination never to leave him, he made me promise not to do so in future, if I felt that I could like any one who addressed me. He was very urgent with me last summer in favour of two or three, any of whom he would have been glad to see me prefer, but I know not whether it were from some vague consciousness of your regard or from what cause, but I was determined to wait your return. If there be anything for which I could have wished his life prolonged, it would have been that he might have seen it. He had a high opinion of you, and I sincerely think that he would have rejoiced in the prospect of our union. But I again repeat, you must forgive me if you often find me dwelling on the past more than you may think flattering to yourself. Neither of my parents deserved to be soon forgotten, and as I never left them, and they required from my earliest years the most constant and anxious care, I often feel as if the occupation of my life were gone, and it was left without an object. It seems so strange to have only myself to think about and care for, I really don’t think myself worth pleasing.
May I not venture to beg you will tell your father that I am anxious for his good opinion and hope one day to deserve it. Do not scold me for all the long rigmarole I have written. It is well I am at the end of my paper for I am sure Mrs. Oviatt thinks me very pretty company.
Ever yours affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Porden
May 17th, 1823
My dearest Friend,
Being out of the direct line of post communication I do not wait for your answer to my last letter. We are now visiting at Ingoldmells on the sea coast which is only remarkable for extreme flatness of country; it and the neighbouring parishes are in fact portions of ground which at some former period have been left by the sea. The land however is of the best kind for feeding cattle and in consequence several of the farmers on the higher grounds rent a part of it for that purpose.
Your friends the Churches are equally fine even in this desolate spot, indeed the one in the adjoining parish is almost superior to any of the others in this country. There is not a tree to be seen for miles and if the land was more broken I could almost fancy myself transplanted into the barren grounds of North America. The prospect before us some times rivals the recollections of those scenes in my mind, but on every occasion the uppermost wishes of my heart are that the line of our march had been as level as this and that we could have enjoyed the hospitality of a human friend and comfortable house as we are now doing.
I anticipate the pleasure of receiving a letter from you to-morrow, and until that arrives, I scarcely know what subjects to write upon. You will perhaps think and mentally say, why surely he could not have been at a loss for topics in writing to her to whom his affections are pledged. Were I gifted as you are with the powers of ready composition I should join in this conclusion but my powers in that art you know to be very limited, and therefore I am sure you will excuse me.
I am now indeed acting somewhat contrary to my usual practice by writing a letter on a Sunday, as I conceive that to be an unnecessary work (unless under particular circumstances) and therefore one that ought to be deferred to some other opportunity. Do not imagine from the mention of this circumstance that I am too pharasaical, or if you are inclined to do so let me beg you to certainly reflect upon the Fourth Commandment. I have already acquainted you with my ideas respecting the observance of the Sabbath, on this point however I fear we in some degree differ, though probably not essentially. It would afford me the greatest gratification to learn your sentiments on the conversations that have passed between us relative to these important points. I can assure you that I am a warm advocate and admirer of our most excellent Church Establishment and all its institutions. I have long since felt the highest pleasure and consolation in following its doctrines [original torn] nearly as I have been able, and to continue to do so is not less the duty of one who has received such manifold instances of divine Providence, than it is my own inclination. You will, I am sure prove a kind assistant in this part of my duty.
I conclude you have paid your visit into the country, and I trust have derived every possible benefit from change of air. To my mind nature is now clothed in her most exhilarating dress and the season better calculated to restore the convalescent than any other, and I am sanguine of your being restored to health in a short time if you only remove from the smoke and bustle of London. When do you go to the Lady who has a short husband and whose name I can never remember? Her house is nearer town than your friend Mrs. Kay’s and the state of the air there being less keen will fit you for returning to London. I shall hope to hear that you have fixed upon a house before my return to London; if not I fear you will be too much occupied in disposing of Berners Street to go about with me and some blunder will ensue. You will perhaps favour me by saying in what quarters you have been looking out. My sister and Dr. Richardson are gone out; should they know of my writing they would both desire their kind regards. Continue to address to Bolingbroke and pray write soon.
Kind remembrances in Gower Street.
May 23rd, 1823
My dear Sir,
I have stolen away from my kind hostess to write to sister, and so I will steal a few moments to scribble to you. My last letter I am sorry to find will be a long time on its journey, for though we drove over to Gerrard’s Cross to put that and some others into the Post, I believe it will only leave London to-day, when it might have been in your hands. I cannot understand how I get your letters, as I do when in town, the day after they are written, while mine seem to be at least three days in reaching you. I suppose the Posts are cross, there as well as here.
I am amused with the contrast of your two last epistles. In the first the Lincolnshire Willows, Mops as they are! are promoted into Poplars, the Country a terrestrial Paradise, and Dr. & Mrs. Richardson in an extasy. In the next you are reminded of the barren grounds of North America, and have neither stock nor stone to vary the prospect. The resemblance indeed by your own account seems particularly striking, since the one is mountainous and the other a dead flat, the one barren in the extreme, and the other particularly fruitful, the one, as you know too well, almost without any inhabitant, human, animal or vegetable, and the other abounding in friends and hospitality, to say nothing of the likeness between green pasture and deep snow. Did you never read Captain Fluellen’s comparison of Macedon and Monmouth? To my mind the only point of resemblance seems to be, not that both begin with an M, but that there are no trees in either, which might also remind Dr. Richardson of Scotland, that is if Dr. Johnson’s account be true. I should dread a box on the ears from you both for my pertness if I were within ten miles of you, but to speak soberly, I think your arms are not quite long enough to reach me here.
I return to town on Monday, when I shall both have more business and more leisure. Here I am most laboriously idle, being in the open air walking and riding almost the whole day, but I suppose it has been of service to me, for I think I am now as strong as any Englishwoman needs to be, unless indeed you insist on my climbing the topmost Peak of Snowdon which I believe is acknowledged to be more difficult than even the Cone of Etna. As you seem to be so afraid of the fair widow’s over-watchfulness, pray do not imitate her. I have had enough of nursing to last me some years at least and am glad to feel I need it no longer. I promise you however not to be imprudent.
I do believe you think the London air poison. I can only say it has always agreed with me, though I do not mean to deny the superiority of the country, in spring especially, but take it for all in all, I never was so well elsewhere. My bustle in Berners Street14 begins on Wednesday, and if I do not knock myself up with that I shall think myself stout enough for a walking match. You need not put yourself in a fidget respecting it, for it will be over long before you are likely to be back, and in the meantime I have done all I can to meet your wishes about the House. When I have finished what arrangements depend on me, I think I shall leave the sale to manage itself, as I can be of no use, and go back to Mrs. Oviatt’s till I hear you are on your road. As she is within ten miles of London, I can be backwards and forwards whenever business calls me.
Yesterday we drove to Windsor, but the weather was so showery that I got but an imperfect view of the Castle, which I think the only Palace we have worthy of a King of England. We did not go up to it, therefore I am writing from the impressions of formal visits. I do love Gothic Architecture. Indeed Margaret Kay and I agreed at Hastings on the Castle Cliff that to be on a high hill, among the ruins of feudal times was perfect happiness, especially if there were a fine expanse of ocean beneath. I suppose you will laugh at us both, but in a Palace, I like that it should speak to me of the vicissitudes and the duration of the monarchy; that it should read me the history of my country and of the forefathers of the Kings that tenant it, and in a Church I like to feel that it was built by Christian hands and for Christian worship. I hate the Emblems of Pagan sacrifice in a Christian Temple; nay, I hate the affectation of Grecian Architecture where it must be spoiled to make it suit the climate and the purpose. Roman is not quite so bad, though we know that we have few relics of the Julian Conquest, and none that have been converted to sacred purposes. On the Continent, in Italy and France at least, there is a difference; for one scarcely meets with a Cathedral which does not bear witness that it borrowed its form from the Roman Courts of Justice which I believe were the first Christian Churches. But I do not mean to write you an Architectural Lecture and feel I shall get over head and ears if I go one step farther. You are laughing in your sleeve, and thinking my letter not worth the postage it will gather on its head before it reaches you, but I must write to-day or not till Tuesday. Pray make me civil to all who will accept either compliments, regards or remembrances, and believe me at all times,
Your sincere and affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Why can’t you call me by my name?—half my correspondents address me as you do, and from you it seems out of place. With my friends I am always Eleanor. Gower Street is better and thank you for your enquiries, which I have duly transmitted.
May 26th, 1823
My dear Eleanor,
As it is your pleasure to be addressed by this title, I obey. Last Saturday on my arriving here I received your letter of May 21st and yesterday that of May 23rd; besides these I have been gratified by the receipt of two others, written the last few days but as I was then at Ingoldmells and out of the channel of post communication excepting once a week, I could not answer them. This letter then ought to be a formidable one as it should contain the answer to four of yours, each of which afforded me the most sincere pleasure, as indeed does everything which issues from your mind. Even the lecture as to the inconsistency in my description of the parts of my native County was agreeable as coming from your pen. Have I not contrived to repeat “as” as often as can be?
I can fully enter into your feelings respecting the memory of your parents, and can picture the pleasure you derive in frequently contemplating on their virtues. Their affectionate kindness to you deserves to be dearly cherished, and you must no longer suppose that I have considered your dwelling on the past scenes of your life as any token of want of regard for myself.
I was much amused by your reminiscences respecting May 21st and with the desire you had of writing on that very day to me in Hudson’s Bay. This day has also been imprinted on my memory from the recollection of its being that on which I parted with your lamented Father and yourself previous to the commencement of my voyage. My mind was then almost made up to the determination of pointing out my attachment to you as we walked towards Mrs. Kay’s, but I considered it unfair to bind the affections of any Lady at the commencement of a voyage which promised so much danger as ours did. You may remember I did obscurely hint at my regard as we went along, but finding you did not then remark it, I changed the conversation.
Often, my dear friend, have you occupied my anxious thoughts and mind during the progress of our voyage and particularly I may add in the season of distress. My prayers for your happiness were then more fervently offered up to the throne of Grace. I cannot however say that I had then determined on proposing our union even if my life should be spared. My petitions were prompted by a sincere regard for your present and eternal welfare independent of any view which might now cause them. Many thanks for your addresses to the throne of Grace on our behalf, during our absence; they I doubt not united with those of many others from our friends assisted in drawing down the divine protection and support which was so wonderfully bestowed upon us. There is no text of Scripture which I feel a greater happiness in remembering than this that “The fervent effectual prayer of the righteous availeth much,” availeth, not only in procuring blessings for themselves but for those towards whom the bounty of Heaven is implored. You must pardon my frequent introduction of religious subjects in my letters. I feel most solicitous that we should of all other things entirely agree on this important point.
This is the day you purposed returning to London. You are by this time seated probably on your wonted sofa in Portland Place, planning your proceedings for the next week. I sincerely wish you well over your hustle, but at your command I am resolved not to fidget myself any more respecting your strength and capability of bearing fatigue. If I understood you right, you do not intend going at all into Berners Street but to remain at Portland Place or as your last letter says to go to Mrs. Oviatt, to whom by the bye I beg my kind remembrance and thanks for the invitation on 14th July. A letter I received yesterday will change my movements a little, having to go from Nottingham to Matlock to see one of my nieces. Being there I may as well take the opportunity of viewing what is to be seen. We propose going to Horncastle on Saturday next and on the Wednesday following to Newark, where my friends Dr. & Mrs. R. part—they for Scotland, I for Nottingham. The day of separation from such a friend with whom I have lived for four years will be a sore one for me, but these are circumstances we must be prepared to meet. They make frequent enquiries after you, and though you may not suppose it, take a lively interest in you. I shall write again soon. If you write me address until Thursday night to Bolingbroke, after Thursday at Horncastle.
Believe me ever truly and affectionately,
In the following correspondence another divergence of view develops, this time on the question of Sunday observance. As indicated in the Foreword, John cannot reconcile himself to Eleanor’s liberal views as regards the sacred day. Though it is not specifically mentioned, her Salon is evidently aimed at. Once more he fails to sum up the position. He admits that the society of relations and intimate friends may legitimately be enjoyed without infringing the Fourth Commandment, but entirely fails to see that Eleanor’s habitués were intimate friends, because they are not so to him. This question of her friendships perturbs Eleanor’s loyal soul. She does not feel that her future husband makes any real effort to know those who mean so much to her. He is so absorbed in his own family that one must allow he failed to show her the consideration their relation required.
It never seems to have occurred to him that, during the poignant break-up of her old home, she was desperately lonely and needed the support of his presence, as her letters show. Again and again her plans are upset and postponed to those of his own family, who apparently did not realize that Eleanor now had the first claim. Her unselfishness was exploited and a nature less generous would have resented it. She is constantly in doubt as to where letters will find him, and when she playfully remonstrates he is apt to make ponderous replies.
Doubtless this radiant spirit, all fire and light, was a complete enigma to the more prosaic nature of the man, who was undoubtedly devotedly attached to her, as she to him. The epistolary etiquette for betrothed couples in those days is quaint: not till they had been engaged for many months does he venture at her request to call her “Eleanor.” She still customarily preserves the formal “My dear Sir,” but occasionally her feelings burst the bonds of convention, as in one of the following letters written in French, which begins “Mon très cher Capitaine.”
The “Mr. Moore” of the letter of June 2nd was a partner in a very prosperous business concern, a bachelor, living alone, for whom Porden fears the same fate as Hinckley. He is a vain little man and Eleanor finds it difficult to forget his failure as a correspondent when Franklin was in the Arctic.
Yet the explorer had forgivingly named a Bay after him, to Mr. Moore’s intense gratification. One of his peculiarities was that, despite his wealth, he cooked his own breakfast and made a practice of dining out, so that it was popularly reported he did not spend one shilling a day on his food.
The fate of the Royal Institution—Eleanor’s Alma Mater—is discussed. She is a staunch champion for this the older Institution, and considers that the new one—the London—which is rapidly displacing it, is greatly inferior on architectural grounds.
May 28th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I am glad to find you are not quite weary of my letters and shall be still more so if I may venture to believe that you begin to find pleasure in writing to me. Is it possible though that you take my Lectures seriously? If so you mistake them altogether. Cannot you take a joke? and do you not understand me yet? The likeness of the part of Lincolnshire you were in and the barren grounds of America struck me in your description before you compared them—but the discrepancies rose to view in the next moment, and so I was determined to play with you a little. You know I dearly love to turn any one’s meaning inside out!
I have been busily employed the last three days. On Monday I was up an hour and a half before Mr. & Mrs. John Kay; packed all my things and took a walk in the plantation before breakfast. After that I came to town and was still so little fatigued as to dine in Gower Street. Yesterday I was in a bustle all the morning, receiving back poor Berners Street, and finished the evening with a ball at the D’Israeli’s. I see you shake your head, Sir! but I had Dr. Thomson’s full permission to go, and I am not a pin the worse for it. I certainly was anxious to be there for I have lost sight of most of my friends for nearly a twelve month, and they all have shewn me so much real kindness and sympathy that I do not like to appear ungrateful.
I should have invited some of them at Christmas. Indeed it was a favourite day-dream of mine to see them once again in Berners Street, but you were then too much occupied with your book and withal too anxious not to be seen, for me to hope the honour of your presence, and of course I could not with propriety receive any company of which you did not form a part. As you got more at leisure I got ill—and so I believe it is the first time I ever had to go to a party without either some one with me or a servant of my own to protect me, and I had an uncomfortable sense of desolation when I set out, which but for the reasons aforesaid would have determined me to stay at home. But it would not be in human nature to be otherwise than gratified at the reception I met with. Half a dozen hands were held out to me as I entered the room, so that I knew not which to take first. I must surely be really strong, for neither the bustle of numbers, nor the lights, nor the music affected me, though it be many months since I have shared in a similar scene, and I tripped about from one kind friend to another as gaily as I was wont to do in days of yore. A quondam admirer of mine made many enquiries concerning you. I could not help being amused on reflexion. It was about the first social conversation he and I had had for some years, and had I been previously told he would have asked such and such questions, I could not have believed I should feel them other than impertinent. As it was, I was much pleased with the evident friendliness of feeling which prompted them—the more so perhaps as I am conscious I once cut his acquaintance with rather less civility than was due to him. He has no cause of quarrel with me now however, for in simple sincerity, he has done much better. His wife is one of the loveliest women I every knew. I should be inclined to say I never saw one
Where Nature’s legend so distinctly tells
In this fair shrine a fairer spirit dwells.
I liked her as a girl and think I like her still better as a matron.
By the bye, you had best come back and look after me for fear I should be run away with. I heard myself bestowed on two fresh gentlemen the other day, making, with yourself, eleven since Xmas!!! As my friends seem to have no other employment than considering how I am to be provided for, I trust they will not stop at such an ill-omened number!
I am now as you say, on my wonted sofa, and heartily tired with a hard morning’s work in Berners Street and with talking for a long time to Uncle, who I think is deafer than ever. Tomorrow the Books are to be moved, but I have had great difficulty in getting a room for them. I feel fresh reason to wish that one remove would have sufficed.
If you expect a perfect conformity in our religious opinions you expect what education and habit have alike forbidden in our case, and what I consider fundamentally impossible. It has been well remarked that while it is the triumph of man’s ingenuity to produce a number of objects exactly alike, the Omnipotence of the Creator is shewn in the infinite diversity of his Works. As no two bodies are cast in precisely the same mould, so do I believe that no two minds were ever altogether similar, and that no two persons ever thought exactly the same on any subject, even as Science tells us that no two spectators see the same Rainbow. This must be particularly the case in matters of religious belief, but as I trust you are neither Catholic nor Methodist I presume you are not bound to consider me as eternally condemned if it should turn out that we differ on some point of faith equally above the comprehension of either. For if we are both sincere disciples of our English Church it can be only on such that we differ, and such difference, should it exist, can only call on us to begin at home with something of that spirit of toleration which we profess towards all the world. But I warn you that you will not find me over ready to discuss such subjects. I always remember
That fools rush in where Angels fear to tread,
and consider such discussions not only as the bane of Society, in leading to the endless multiplication of sects, but as almost inconsistent with a Christian’s humility.
I should be inclined to say that my religion like my character, was of a gayer nature than yours. I believe I love my Creator almost too well to fear Him, and I consider that to receive all His dispensations with cheerfulness is the only return we can make for innumerable blessings. I can truly say that I never yet met an apparent misfortune which I had not afterwards some reason to be thankful for, and it is my constant endeavour that no circumstances shall depress me. Nine-tenths of the world’s misery is its own making. I certainly do not quarrel with you for not writing letters on a Sunday, though I should not scruple to do it in case of urgency, but I never was accustomed to lay aside any book on account of that day, and as for such as you would perhaps put into my hands, I believe I never read one of them in my life. My father would have taken them from me, and bade me read my Bible. For the same reason he never admitted a comment on the Scriptures in his House. I think that having witnessed in his youth much of the evils of Sectarianism led him to carry his system too far, for I know I often felt in want of Historical notes, and am afraid you will frequently be shocked at my ignorance. But on the whole I think him right.
The simpler our Religion is, the better. To love our God and obey his commands with cheerfulness is almost the only precept we require in our duty toward Heaven, and to do in all as we would be done by, assuredly comprizes all that can be taught of our duties to our fellow creatures. I hate books that call themselves Evidences of Christianity—to me it needs no Evidence but the Scriptures, and such writers to my mind only serve to raise a doubt which I have frequently been obliged to resort to them to dispel, and as for books of Moral Instruction, they are generally mere dilutions of the Sacred Text. I own I consider my time more profitably employed in drawing my own deductions from a work of History. Still less do I agree with you in any idea of seclusion on a Sunday, though believe me I would have it no day of dissipation. I could be by myself from Monday morning till Saturday night, and never feel I was alone—but if I see no friendly face on a Sunday I could almost fancy myself an outcast of heaven. The more earnestly I have joined in the worship of my God, the more do I desire to shew my sense of His goodness by letting my heart expand in love and kindness towards His creatures, and to me the Sunday is perhaps particularly dear from its bringing those who have been my best loved companions and who filled that place in my heart which I had neither brother nor sister of my own age to occupy. Pardon me if I say that I almost consider the wish of seclusion on that day as partaking of the same aberration of religious zeal which drove many of the early Christians to the deserts of Syria and Egypt. Did you pick it up in North America? But mark me well, I am not confounding it with the Spirit of Catholic Monachism, which to my view is perfectly distinct.
I can imagine your feelings in parting with Dr. R.15 Pray give them my farewell, though I trust we shall often meet again.
Believe me, ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
June 1st, 1823
I am so far from being weary of your letters my dear Eleanor that I can assure you I look with an anxious solicitude for the arrival of each day’s post in the hope that the packet may contain another of your interesting communications. I also find great pleasure in writing to you, a circumstance of which you seem to be doubtful, and not without reason perhaps, judging only from the replies which are made to your letters. My silence however must be generally attributed to the want of immediate communication, as there is a loss of a day if the answer is not dispatched almost directly afterwards—which I have not been able to do—having for the most part received your letters when I am at table with strangers who have been invited to meet me.
I have had quite a round of visiting—without feeling the least inconvenience; on the contrary I am now in perfect health having entirely parted with my cough and the pains in my head which I occasionally had from keeping the unseasonable hours of London parties. Do not now expect a lecture on imprudence for your having attended the Ball at the D’Israeli’s. I was indeed very glad to find you were sufficiently strong to encounter the meeting of your friends on such a pleasant occasion. I can easily conceive the number of their congratulations on your reappearance in their society and fancy your gratification on tripping about from one friend to the other, and learning the history of each since your separation from them. The assurance of your having borne the fatigue of this assembly, super-added to the bustle which Berners Street must occasion, is a pleasing and unequivocal testimony of your re-establishment in health—a blessing which I sincerely trust will long be granted to you. I confess with you it would have been most desirable that one remove of the articles you retain from Berners Street should have been sufficient, but neither yourself or I were in a proper state of mind for house-hunting at the time it would have been necessary to have procured one, that is, when you first determined on letting Berners Street. I am too fully sensible of my own ignorance respecting the rent and equipment of a house to trust my own arrangements even now, and shall hope to find that your better judgement has been exercised on these points, and that you have at last heard of some house that will suit our purpose.
I do not, my dear friend, expect a perfect conformity in our religious opinions (however desirable it would have been to me) but I should hope and trust that we do not differ on any point of faith, being as we profess both sincere admirers of the excellent Liturgy and instructions of the Church of England. These contain every article of my faith and in an humble obedience to its doctrines I rest my hope of Salvation. I am far from venturing to condemn any individual who differs from me in matters of religious faith, on the contrary I feel a high respect for every one whom I see following the dictates of his religion in meekness and humility. And in the partner whom I have selected to share the remaining days of my life I should wish and hope to find an union of sentiment with respect to the practical part of our duties. We certainly differ at present on these points but I hope a more full expression of each other’s opinions will produce an accordance of sentiment.
Believe me, my dear Eleanor, my religious impressions do not, as you seem to hint, tend to make me gloomy or less [original letter torn] than other people, on the contrary I subscribe with heart and mind to that excellent line of Dr. Watts:
Religion never was intended to make our pleasures less.
Still less I think ought those who partake of its blessings to be otherwise than cheerful; and though I would not as you may imagine seclude myself on a Sunday (The society of my family and dearest friends would be particularly agreeable) I must confess I should wish to dispense with the formal visits of less intimate acquaintances. The turn of conversation which is usually taken by morning visitors proves often unfavourable to that course of thought and reflexion which I feel to be more congenial to my mind after having attended the worship of my God and Saviour. The same effect would be produced by my reading any light or trifling book on that day and I certainly should consider myself highly culpable were I to pass the Sunday in perusing either novels, plays or any other work which would lead me to forget that I was commanded to keep “The Sabbath day holy.”
Though I agree with you that Christianity needs no evidences but the Scriptures I do not go the length of hating books on those subjects. I should be ungrateful indeed if I did, having received much instruction and benefit from their perusal, and having been led by them to search the Scriptures with more earnestness than I should probably have done. I think also more favourably than you do of many of the books of Moral Instruction. They have assisted me in many cases when probably without their aid my weak judgement might have erred.
I have been led again on the subject of the preceding sheets by the favour of your sentiments in your last. I may not have expressed myself very intelligently now, but I am sure you will put the kindest construction on what I have written and we may perhaps defer the further mention of these points until we meet. If you write on Monday night have the goodness to address me at Horncastle, but after that time until the following Saturday at Mrs. Burnside, Castle Gate, Nottingham. Pray give my kindest regards in Gower Street.
Believe me ever your sincere and affectionate,
June 2nd, 1823
Do you know this sweet hand?
My dear Sir,
I am writing to you once again from the old House though were your eye sufficiently telescopic to catch a glimpse of what is going on here, I doubt whether you would be able to recognize either it or me. Both are at this moment alike dusty and untidy, and though I have washed my hands as often to-day as under ordinary circumstances would suffice for a week, I hope that the hue of my fingers will not communicate itself to my paper. I chance to be without a penknife en poche, a marvel by the bye, and so am forced to make the best of what has been every body’s hack for these three days, and as to the ink, the heat of the sun had dried it up, and I was compelled to liquefy it with port wine, so that I know not what colour it may assume ere it reaches you! My letter is certainly therefore written under the influence of the grape, and my head, inside and out, in as great confusion as it is said frequently to cause, or as the room around me. I hope therefore you will not expect a very clear and connected account of what I have been doing since Thursday.
I have indeed worked hard, and know not any period of my life at which I could have done so much with less fatigue. I have found time notwithstanding to go to a party at the Griffins on Friday; to drink tea with Mrs. Thomson on Saturday; and to dine in Gower Street yesterday. I believe the truth is that I never can get through much business unless I have plenty of society at the same time to put it all out of my head. Your friend Mr. Moore is as blooming as ever and I find he had had a second bust made from his sweet countenance, besides an engraving of his Bay.16 Did you know all this? I believe as you said the little man is not without his share of vanity, any more than you or I, or our neighbours.
Mr. Oviatt’s house-hunting has hitherto been as successless as mine, but I hope this week will produce something. I shall at least be more at leisure in a day or two and will then do my best. I have had five applications for this to-day, the bill having only been put up on Saturday, so that I am in hopes it will not hang on hand as you were pleased to forebode. You have no idea of the number of holes and corners I have had to poke into, or from how many odd things I have had to dislodge the venerable dust of many a year. Many articles of kitchen furniture had certainly been untouched since they came from our country residence 13 winters since. You would laugh at the room where all my heterogeneous wealth is stowed. An inventory of the contents would be amusing to read, but no slight task to make.
I know not that I have anything to tell you worth writing of. Mr. Moore asked when he and I should take a summer excursion to look at his Bay, and I answered whenever I went to visit my father’s islands. What would you say to find him and I set out on such a pilgrimage?
I do believe my head is empty, or else like a puff-ball, it has got nothing but dust in it. Where my brains are I know not, but certainly not at my fingers ends just now, and if I could be sure of more time to-morrow I would not send you such a stupid scrawl as this, but I expect Mr. Squibb will then be making the catalogue, and I must dance after him; then I shall have my Cousin to help me in some jobs of my own, and must attend to her. My future movements, about which you seem to be solicitous, are yet very dimly shaded out. The sale is fixed for tomorrow week, when I must certainly be in town, and I propose employing what time I can be spared from this place in the interim, in enquiring after houses, and in other matters not less necessary, though of less apparent importance. The sale will probably not occupy more than one day or two at most. By the time it is over you will most likely be able to say when you are likely to return, previous to which I mean if I can to get a day or two with Mrs. Oviatt; but my business here once completed, I have no longer any thing to bind me and can alter my plans as I find convenient.
I rejoice that you give such good accounts of your self. You were evidently much out of health during the winter, but I only wondered you were not worse. I watched you with much anxiety at one period, and I certainly did think, that could I have been with you, I might in some degree have lightened much that was so irksome to you, but there were some circumstances which tyed my hands even more than you can imagine. I trust that now we are both renovated, and may look forward to much both of health and comfort together. I think at least that I hardly can have a repetition of much that injured mine, and that since they have survived them, they are almost proof for the future. The Bellman is going his last round, which is well for you; for I am sure more of such stuff as this is not worth your having. Adieu therefore, but remember me kindly to Dr. & Mrs. R.17 I almost envy your excursion to Matlock. My father and I planned being there this summer. Gower Street desires to be remembered.
Ever your affectionate,
E. A. Porden
June 4th, 1823
I am glad we did not put in force our intention of leaving this place to-day, as the delay enabled me to receive and answer your letter earlier than I could have done had it followed me to Nottingham. I can fancy your bustle, and do often pity you but were I present my assistance would be very ineffectual, as I am the most disqualified person imaginable for all such occupations as now engage your attention. Nothing would sooner fatigue me. I therefore feel the more surprised that you support the confusion with so little inconvenience. Your going to parties occasionally must be an agreeable relief and I hope you will continue to enjoy them as often as you can.
You know that Horncastle and its vicinity were fields of much contest in the days of Cromwell. One of his hardest fought battles took place between Bolingbroke and this place at Winceby, but as no political results followed from it, the details of the occurrence have been omitted in the page of History. Many of the spoils and relics of that day have recently been dug up and are preserved by some of the amateur collectors of this town. Within two miles of Horncastle the Champion’s estate is situated and five miles beyond that is Tattershal Castle,18 built by one of the first Lords Cromwell. It is of brick and perhaps one of the best edifices of that material in England. A few miles further on, there still stands a solitary tower in the midst of a vast heath, which was sacked by the same person and supposed to have been used as a keep or watchtower, or as a place from whence the proprietor could over look the sportsmen in their hunting excursions on the surrounding country. We journey onwards to Lincoln to-morrow, and shall probably pass the remaining part of that day in lionizing its antiquities. On the following evening I hope to be at Nottingham where there is a Lady waiting whom I am to accompany to Matlock. Do not be alarmed, the Lady in question is the Mother of my brother’s wife! My stay at Matlock will of course be determined by circumstances. I think of stopping a week at present, though it may possibly be longer, as I should wish, when there, to see all that is to be seen.
I much wish you could be of the party, probably our visit there may take place at another and no distant period, if you should wish it. I propose returning to this place from Matlock, to make some arrangements about getting my eldest and only unmarried sister to London who has been for the last year a very great invalid. I am extremely desirous she should have the benefit of better medical advice than can be procured here and I also hope change of air may be of service. One of my nieces requires some medical advice likewise. Neither of them can at present bear the fatigue of travelling up in a chaise but I think they might be got by water conveyance to Hull, and from thence in the steam vessel to London. Having these views I cannot exactly say when I may arrive in London, though I wish if possible to be with you by the 20th of this month. If however I should be delayed a few days longer, knowing the cause, you will not I hope feel very anxious; in the meantime let us keep up as continued a correspondence as we can. My letters, I am aware, are very sorry compositions but I expect to amend under your excellent tuition and from your example. Pray therefore let me have the benefit of the latter as often as you can.
My family are constant in their enquiries after you and nothing would delight them more than to have the opportunity of expressing their sincere good wishes to you. I do not tell them when I am about to write or I am sure they would request me now to say many kind things for them. I delivered your messages to the Doctor and he to Mrs. R. who both beg to offer their kind regards. Nay more, they have desired me to say they would be delighted to see you in Scotland this season. This is said aside to me, for the prospect of our union though known to my friends, is not generally spoken of yet. I bear their quizzing however tolerably well and generally contrive by laughing at them, to turn the subject. I am very glad to hear they are improving in Gower Street. Has Mr. K. yet entered into his official duties at Greenwich? Pray remember me kindly to them all.
Mr. Moore never will cease to be facetious until he ceases to breathe. I knew of his bust and of the engraving of Moore Bay. Have you yet seen my Phiz in the Exhibition?19 Do you consider the likeness good?
Believe me my dear Eleanor,
Wednesday, June 4th, 1823
Having taken out my brains and washed them, as the Cook does by a Calf’s head, and laid them in the sun to dry, and finally put them in their place again, I trust that Captain Franklin will find their effusions somewhat cleaner and sweeter than the last. If he was not ashamed to receive that same interesting communication, I was to send it, and had the Postman allowed me a minute for reflexion I believe it would have gone into the fire instead of his bag. I am confined here on a wet evening, in desperate want both of books and society, so that I am fain to write letters by way of occupation, and since you are so kind as to feel pleasure in reading mine I will not apologize for bestowing some of my tediousness on you. You will however readily believe that I had rather chat the same hour away with your living self; there is plenty of room on the sofa, and I am just tired enough to wish for such a quiet social friend to whom I might talk of every thing that rose in my mind, without ceremony or reserve.
For these last two or three days I have been wrestling manfully with my affection for coeval chairs and tables, and am at last heroic enough to resign them to their fate. You have no taste for inconveniences or I would that you had dined with me one of these last three days. Every article of crockery that was sound has been packed up for removal and I have left out nothing for use but what is not in a condition to be used, being either cracked, or having a piece bit out. We have a magnificent variety of china, blue, brown, red, and white, gold-edged and broken-edged; something like Falstaff’s regiment, agreeing in no one thing but their unfitness for service. The provision, however, I would venture to promise would be better than the china, and the welcome than either, so that I should not fear your making a good meal.
I believe I have been exerting myself rather too much, for I was not very well yesterday and have been obliged to lay by a little to-day. On the whole, I have more reason to wonder at my strength than complain of my weakness, and as my fatigues are almost at a close I think you may congratulate me on getting through them so well. To-morrow Mr. Millington gives his lecture on Electro-Magnetism. I feared I had missed it during my illness, but since by good luck it is yet to come I shall make a point of being there, and of taking all the notes I can for you, so that you see I shall be providing materials not only for my next letter, but for yours, since I shall hope to be indulged with your remarks upon the new discoveries.
I fear I must at the same time, or at least very shortly, prepare myself to take leave of the Royal Institution. Dr. Moget tells me that it is about to die a natural death, being completely worn out with old age. Its constitution you know, has been crazy for some years, and only patched up from time to time, but I own I shall be sincerely sorry for its dissolution, and having attended it constantly since I was nine years old, am doubly sorry to have been compelled to desert it almost entirely in its last moments. It is certainly within its walls that I have imbibed a great part of the knowledge I possess, and above all that habit of blending science with literature, which I think I may say first led to our acquaintance, and I shall feel the loss of my Alma Mater, though perhaps I could not have expected to have been henceforward so diligent a scholar, I should however have very much liked to attend the lectures there for one season with you and am even vain enough to think that so doing might have been profitable to both. I am at least sensible that I lost much when my father was compelled to give them up from not having any one with whom to talk them over on my return.
My sister, I am happy to say, is better than she was, but she must not expect any thing like health just at present. I am still more rejoiced to be able to say that Eliza is herself again. Miss Moget is gone and it now appears that she had been the cause of the change which I mentioned to you in our little darling, having taught her all sorts of horrible hymns (if I may so misuse the word) and filled her head with the most gloomy ideas, till the poor little creature was absolutely frightened out of her wits. What dreadful fanaticism which could not leave, even to so tender an age, the enjoyment of its native innocence and gaiety! Since her new preceptress, Miss Burroughs, was with her she appears again to see what she is looking at, and hear what is said to her; before, she seemed as if all at once deprived of the use of her senses, or more properly as if every faculty was stupefied, like one under the influence of opium, and my sister says I never saw her while at the worst.
I am sure that both sister and Mr. Kay would beg to be kindly remembered to you if they knew of my letter, but to own the truth I am a bad hand at either giving or taking such messages, and frequently forget them where I ought not. I am glad to hear you have been so gay and enjoyed yourself so much, but I will not have poor London blamed as the source of every evil. I am as staunch to it as you to your own Lincolnshire. After all it [matters?—original letter torn] not where our early affections and associations have been [experienced?—original letter torn] but that will always be the home of our feelings and the dearest as we grow older. Some persons seem to be fond of new friends, and I own I am always glad to add to the number any whose society promises pleasure or improvement, but certainly my regard grows stronger for keeping, and in most cases I could measure its degree by the years I have known this or that person. May our attachment thus improve by time, my dearest and best, though not yet my oldest friend! I believe I am writing truisms all this while, and you are smiling at me, but I do not care how broad the smile is, if you do not yawn.
I think you have a little misunderstood my former letter, or have carried my expressions at least somewhat beyond my meaning, but we will if you please wait until we can talk. Indeed I trust we shall not now have very long to wait, but it will require an effort for me to speak upon the subject and I should not wonder if you find me tongue-tyed. Of one thing I feel assured, that with an earnest wish to perform our duty towards our God and towards each other, and as I believe and trust, a strong mutual regard to rest upon, there never can be much between us to interfere with the comfort of either. If in many things you should find me a sad spoiled child, will you be very harsh with me? I think not, and I do even venture to think that as you know me better I shall win more and more of your confidence. At present I feel that I have it not, at least not to the degree in which I possessed that of my parents. But I have not yet earned it. All I can assure you is, that it shall be my unremitting endeavour to deserve it and I can only pray that when my last hour does come I may feel as ready to meet it as when I lately believed it might, and that I may close my eyes in the sweet assurance that you have been as well contented with my conduct as a wife, and perhaps a mother as those who are gone were with my attentions as a daughter. There are some recollections connected with the latest moments of both so precious that I think nothing would compensate for the loss of them. Pardon me, I am on the old subject again, but do not think me out of spirits when I indulge in this train of thought. I am far from it, and could write thus to none but you.
Always affectionately yours,
Eleanor Anne Porden
My sheet is so full that I think you ought to pay double postage for it. What does your conscience say? Is it not cheating the Revenue to cram a letter so?
Castle Gate, Nottingham,
June 7th, 1823
My dear Eleanor,
I have to thank you for another of your interesting communications which I found on the table when I arrived yesterday. I was surprised to find it dated as was the preceding from Berners Street, having understood it to have been your intention to remain at your lodgings in Portland Place. I conclude however that you have found it less troublesome to remain there all the night than to go back to Miss Appleton’s after a hard day’s fatigue. Nothing would have been more gratifying to me, than to have dined with you tête-à-tête in Berners Street, even on either of the three days in which you mention, that you were surrounded by such a heterogeneous mixture of variegated china. We could have conversed as cheerfully in such a situation as in the most completely furnished room. I will not venture to say however, whether the appearance of bustle and the symptoms of removal would not a little have unsettled me. I get remarkably attached to places and situations, and always feel regret at leaving them though I may be convinced of their possessing less interest than those to which I am about to change. This feeling, as well as my aversion to packing up, arises I fear more from a spirit of indolence than from any other impression.
I cannot but join in your regret at the prospect of the Royal Institution being closed—as I had cherished the hope of gaining much instruction this year within its walls, and deriving more benefit by talking over the different subjects with you afterwards. I certainly must endeavour to attend a course or two of Lectures at some place as soon as I can, and I confess that Edinburgh appears to me the most desirable place, now that the first school in London is about to close. Is not the London Institution “rising into note”? If I mistake not, some of the most eminent professors now lecture there. Many thanks for your kind intention of taking notes at Mr. Millington’s next lecture. I shall receive them with much gratification, but you must not expect me as yet to venture upon correspondence with you, on so intricate a subject as Electro-Magnetism. I must read much more on this interesting topic before I dare even converse much respecting it with one who has so ably argued the materiality of Light, Heat, etc.
Have you ever been at Nottingham? If not, I should say you have yet to see a town, which presents in some points of view the most picturesque scene of almost any place I know. The Town is very large and populous, containing it is said forty-thousand inhabitants, many of the public buildings and private houses are good but they are all built of brick, with the exception of the jail.
I yesterday parted with my invaluable friend Dr. Richardson; he and Mrs. R. went from Lincoln to Doncaster. We were both tolerably cheerful under the separation, flattering ourselves that we should meet again at no distant period. He and his wife are particularly anxious that we should go down to Edinburgh and pass the summer and also that we should remain the whole of next Autumn. I have already had some persons to call on me and have had notice of others coming presently. In order to be prepared for their reception, I must conclude my letter. Pray let me hear from you speedily and give me an account how you have got over the fatigues and anxiety of your sale. Will there be any wine to dispose of? Would it not be desirable for me to purchase what we should require if it be good?
I am glad to hear so good an account in Gower Street; do not forget to mention my respects.
9 juin, 1823
Mon très cher Capitaine,
Je viens de finir une lettre française, et comme j’ai pris la peine de me mettre à penser dans cette langue là, je ne peux pas resister à l’envie que j’éprouve, de vous en écrire aussi quelques mots. Seriez vous tres faché contre moi, mon ami? J’espère que non; surtout comme je vous laisse la liberté, de me repliquer dans aucune langue que vous voudrez.
J’ai fini mes affaires à Berners Street, pour le moment. A vous dire la verité, j’ai fait un peu trop. Hier, et l’avant hier je me trouvai bien malade, et j’avois peur de recommencer l’Invalide mais un seul jour de repos m’a tant retabli, que je pouvais travailler encore, si c’etoit necessaire.
Eh bien, Monsieur, vous êtes l’une des personnes les moins utiles du monde? Une belle confession! Si vous eutes été aupres de moi, je vous aurois fait travailler pour tout cela. Je n’aime pas les Chats qui n’attrapent point de Souris—pour vous traduire un proverbe Anglais. Ce n’est que la paresse, et la paresse est la racine du mal. Encore un proverbe! La vente sera demain, et je me rejouirai quand c’est finie. Je ne peux pas vous nier que quand je revenoits chez moi Samedi Soir, et que je voyois les petits billets affichés à chaque meuble, comme pour me dire que je ne les reverrai jamais, une foule de souvenirs sembloit s’attacher à chaque objet, et j’éprouvois quelques moments peu agréables. Sarah me dit que ce n’est que cela qui m’a fait du mal, et qu’elle a peine de s’empêcher de pleurer elle même. Je n’ai pas poussé 1’affaire si loin, mais les larmes ne sont pas ma forte. Grace au ciel, j’aurais dit; mais je crois que bien de fois je souffre plus que ceux qui peuvent se soulager ainsi.
La malheureuse maison nous échappe toujours. Monsieur Oviatt n’a pu rien trouver, et je n’ai pas encore eu un moment pour chercher moi-même. Si vous êtes empressé de fixer notre demeure, j’ai de fortes raisons pour l’être aussi. Entre nous, il y a des causes qui ne valent pas la peine de les écrire, mais qui m’empecheront de rester long-temps ici, et l’alternatif de m’établir en Gower Street ne me plait pas du tout. J’aime beaucoup ma Sœur, mais il y a un manque de tranquillité auprès d’elle, que dans ce moment je ne peux supporter. Je vous dirai à l’oreille qu’une soirée avec elle et sa famille me fatiguent plus qu’une grande réunion. Il n’y a pas un que je ne cherie pas, mais après quelque tems je me trouve toujours si fatigué que je ne sais pas comment faire.
Votre lettre est venue m’interrompre. Mille graces pour elle, ainsi que ses predecesseurs. Je m’amuse de votre idée d’un diner tête-à-tête avec moi. Vous vous trompez délicieusement! La société auroit été autant variée que la porcelaine. Je crois qu’il n’y avoit pas un seul jour qui ne m’apportoit pas à diner quelque personne inattendue. Une fois j’avois une telle compagnie que c’etoit vraiment ridicule. C’est si agréable d’avoir un moitié de couteau à chacun! Pour le vin dont vous parlez il n’y en a pas beaucoup, et je vous defends de vous tourmenter le cerveau sur son égard. Je l’ai gardé, ainsi que toutes choses qui pouvoient etre utiles à nous. Si vous pourriez regarder ma chambre repositaine j’attendrois un éclat de rire. Elle contient tant de choses, et de choses qui ne pouvoient jamais attendre de se rencontrer de si près. J’ai quelque espoir que l’Institution Royal ne se fermera pas cette annee.
My letter was interrupted yesterday and to day my French fit is past so I will go on in plain English. The Managers are proposing a variety of new regulations, and above all, I understand they are at last going to look into the abuses of the Household Establishment. I have been preaching on the subject to some of them for these two years past, and am in hopes that I may have been of some use in turning their attention to that quarter. What I complained of was that the work was not done, whereas it now appears that it was paid for exorbitantly. I rather think this department will be put on an entirely new footing, and there is a talk of various other alterations as to Annual and other Subscriptions some of which I am certain will not answer at all. I am very doubtful whether more can be done than to patch up a crazy existence for a year or two.
The fact is, the fashion is over. The Ladies have deserted it (except some few such fixtures as myself) and the gentlemen have flown either after them, or to the Alfred. Brande’s Morning Course too has been highly prejudicial. With that, which is for his own profit, he of course takes pains, and can easily make it more valuable to men of Science than the afternoon lectures, about which he gives himself no more trouble than is necessary not to lose reputation. One third of the morning subscription he indeed pays to the Institution for the use of the Room and Apparatus, but Mr. Millington says that from the extravagant manner in which the experiments were conducted this never covered the expense. With regard to the London Institution. It has been also in a bad way two or three times; two years ago the Managers were going to shut it up, and when Millington offered to lecture gratis his offer was declined because they could not afford to light the room! The tide of scientific enquiry has suddenly set Eastward, and the Theatre is now overflowing. The professors are many of them the same as at the Royal Institution, and the rest I believe their equals in reputation. So far it would suit you as well as the Royal Institution but if you wished me to attend with you, it is plain I could not on account of the distance, and indeed after being accustomed to Albemarle Street I should not soon reconcile myself to the difference.
The Theatre is splendid in comparison, but it has none of the comfort or the quiet. The entering at the top and having to descend to your seats at different intervals, together with the steepness of the steps, makes a continual creaking of boots which interrupts the lecture, besides which I do not think it is so well constructed for hearing. It is moreover excessively ill ventilated, and I could hardly sit out the only lecture I ever attended there. The audience also are too close on the lecturer. I have often heard the professors complain that they could not exhibit one half the apparatus they wished for want of room, and in Electrical experiments of any magnitude it must be dangerous. My father used to say the whole building was evidently the work of a young architect. There is a good deal of talent shewn, and of architectural beauty in parts, but the designer’s head was evidently too full of Greek and Roman Edifices, and wanted experience to adapt his classic fancies to the uses for which they were destined. The Library however is at once handsome and convenient; but in another part, there is a magnificent approach to a door (I rather think it corresponds with the entrance to that) but when you attempt to open it, behold! it is but pretence.
The Surrey I very much preferred, but it is lately broken up. I never see the London without being reminded of many of the French buildings, more parade than convenience. Indeed the Theatre is very like the Chamber of Deputies at Paris. You may perhaps smile at my saying so much of the defects of the building, and think that my remarks smell of the shop, but the want of personal comfort must diminish one’s power of attention in spite of oneself. You however may feel it differently, and even think it more commodious than the other. As to Edinburgh, I see you have a strong hankering after that Athens of the North. I will not speak of what I do not know, but from what I have heard I much suspect Dr. R. to sketch rather a flattering portrait of its Society and its public schools. I am glad that you and he bore your separation so well, though I should suppose it to be the most trying you ever encountered. You have been together so long and in such situations that he must be more than a brother to you. Adieu.
E. A. Porden
I have a kind message from Gower Street, if I had left room for it. I feel this is a stupid letter, but I cannot help it. I never before wrote to you with my head so little in what I was doing. To-morrow I shall not be able to write as I shall be at Greenwich all day, but on Thursday I hope my thoughts will again be a little more collected, and if I have still no orders shall direct again to Nottingham. I have an odd feeling as if something unpleasant were about to happen to one of us, but I dare to [original letter torn] the worry I have been in about the sale which occasioned [original letter torn] perhaps the consciousness that it is proceeding at this [original letter torn].
June 9th, 1823
My dear Sir,
As far as future events can be foreseen, this is the last letter which I shall ever date from Berners Street. The Auctioneer’s men are at this moment in the House, lotting the furniture, and I, not intending to dispose of myself as part of it, must decamp forthwith, under penalty of coming under the hammer, which I think would be even a worse fate than being sold with a halter round my neck, if you should at some time or other, think it well so to bring me to market. Poor little I! I am afraid no one would bid much for me from mere exterior, and as to the inside, perhaps it is not better. I have another reason for writing to-day which is, that although you beg to hear from me frequently you take care not to inform me where I am to address after this, but you shall not escape so, for if your next epistle be not more communicative, I shall direct to the Post Office, Matlock. I have followed your advice, as to relieving my bustle and anxiety by enjoying as much society as I can (more than you did, though, when I gave it). I went to two parties yesterday evening, and had much pleasure in both. I am sorry to say that I am still somewhat of a barometer. Thursday was a wet, chilly, disagreeable day, and in consequence I rose with a bad cold in my head, and felt so unwell on my return from the lecture, as to go to bed very early, for a burnt child dreads the fire, and I thought it best to nurse at once. Yesterday morning the same weather continued and I determined to send excuses to both places, but at noon the clouds blew away, and all my ailments with them, so that I reversed my intention, and have suffered no inconvenience from so doing. I had the honour of seeing Mr. Moore again at Mr. Guillemard’s, but he was too closely devoted to a Miss Huggins, a damsel of about 50, and deeply marked with small-pox, to waste much attention on me. If you think my description not very attractive, you may ascribe it to jealousy if you will! Mr. Guillemard told me that Dr. Pearson, whom I suppose you know, would persist in taking him for you a day or two since and was not to be convinced that though he had been much at Constantinople, he had never visited the Arctic Circle in his life. The mistake, personally, was not very flattering to you, but that I should think you have magnanimity to forgive, and he seemed to be highly entertained at it.
Mr. Millington cheated me as to the lecture last Thursday and I scolded him for bringing me out such a wet day. It was nothing but the old matter about the affection of the compass by the iron in the ship, and the direction of the Ship’s head; with Barlow’s discovery of the plane of no variation existing in every mass of iron and every magnetic body, all which I wrote you word about if I remember right, while you were in America, and at any rate you know it better than I do by this time. He finished with some remarks on local and diurnal variation, from the latter of which he inferred that magnetic phenomena are to be considered as an effect of the light and heat of the sun acting upon the Globe.
The next lecture (on Thursday next) will probably be occupied by M. Savart’s experiments on the effect of heat in rendering bodies magnetic which are not so at other times, but Mr. Millington fears that he shall not be able to get the apparatus for illustrating the connection of Magnetism and electricity so as to include it in that Lecture, in which case the subject must be deferred till the Thursday after, when Mr. Barrow has promised to lend his apparatus if the other be not completed. I was therefore in hopes that you might have been in town so as to have been present at this part, which I really think you ought to have heard. However your last letter says that will not be, and so you must be contented with the best account that I can give; but any notes taken must be very different from hearing the lecture and seeing the experiment at the same time; besides which Millington renders everything so clear that one is in full possession of what he treats of ever after.
I know little of Lincolnshire, and the events you speak of are almost of too recent date to be within my scope of information. Your mention of the Solitary Tower reminds me of a fact stated by those who have investigated the Primitive Antiquities of our island. You know the Barrows, or sepulchral mounds which are generally considered as the Tombs of British Chieftains and marking the fields of their battles. But it is stated that there are likewise other similar mounds, not sepulchral, scattered over the greatest part of England, in every direction, and invariably so situated that one is exactly in the horizon of the next so that a fire or other signal made upon any one of these would be observed and answered immediately by its correspondents, and intelligence thus conveyed in a very short time all over the island. One of these mounds is in Kensington Gardens, and the chain may be traced through a great many counties, in which though some of them have been broken up, their former existence is known. In those parts however where stone is abundant, and Lincolnshire is particularly named among them, the place of the mound is supplied by a small solitary mound or square tower likewise so placed that each may communicate by signal with the other. These are all supposed to be ancient British or Phenician stations, and I want to ask if you have any knowledge of the subject, or can give me any information. You will say I am quite in my element, having got back before the Roman Conquest!
I am sorry you have so many invalids in your family. You will begin to think Ladies have nothing to do but to be ill. Much of sickness is indeed our inheritance, but I am apt to think we enjoy our hours of health the more for it. I sincerely hope the journey will have all the good effect you anticipate. Mr. Kay got his formal appointment to Greenwich yesterday. I get a little quizzing now and then, as well as you, but on the whole our affairs as you call them seem to be so generally known that I escape with a grave enquiry after you. At first my own feelings would have led me to wish that all had been secret and unsuspected, but situated as I am, I now feel it a relief that the circumstance is known, especially as I cannot but be conscious that some of those I meet had views similar to your own. Miss Griffin20 told me the other day that as she was going out of town for the summer on Monday she supposed she must take an everlasting farewell of Miss Porden. I laughed; but as it was in the carriage, I could not embrace her or make a scene which I should have liked. Farewell—I should not wonder if the pen I now use wrote a part of Cœur de Lion, for my pens last almost for ever and this which I found somewhere about the house is a perfect stump.
Ever yours affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Porden
I have had to fetch my ink by penfulls from the men who have got our only ink-pot!
6 Upper Portland Place,
June 13th, 1823
My dear Sir,
Were it not that this may be the only opportunity I have for writing before I leave town this afternoon, I would defer my letter till after the post comes in, as I hope for one from you. Indeed I was disappointed not hearing from you yesterday, and should have written had I known where I was to address, but you are so erratic, and your movements apparently so uncertain that I know not how to calculate on you, and doubt much whether my Anglo-Gallican epistle directed to Matlock will ever have the honour of kissing your hands. I have taken a large sheet of paper because I have more to say than will fill it, though I fear my time will fall short before I come to the end either of matter or space.
With regard to Berners Street, the sale I understand went off tolerably well, but I have not yet received any account of particulars. All which I thought likely to be useful to us, or to save our buying its inferiors at a higher price, I either kept back or bought in. Among these was the wine about which you kindly enquired. There was but very little. I believe the whole may amount to near half a pipe of port with two or three odds and ends of claret, Beaune and spirits. As to white wine, it consists by chance of only a few bottles for I of course got none in after my father’s death, and we happened to be just out. I never had any idea of selling it, and I must say the proposal of your being the purchaser somewhat startled me! I certainly know nothing of these things as matters of business, but everything in the house being with one or two exceptions absolutely mine. I can feel nothing but a community of interest between us and therefore, as I before apprized you, I have retained all that I thought might be of use to either. Should we find some articles that we do not hereafter want, it will surely be easy to dispose of them at as much advantage as by public sale.
I fear that on your return you will reproach me with having rather neglected your wishes as to house-hunting, but indeed I have done all which was allowed by the pressure of matter which could not be deferred, and I believe my wisest plan was that which I have followed. I expect that by the time you arrive, I shall have done nearly all which properly belongs to me for the settlement of affairs with my father’s executors, and when that is finished, my time will be at your disposal, to employ as may best advance our mutual prospects. Mr. Oviatt has been prevented by a severe illness from doing all he wished or intended, but I trust that during the week I am with them at Mill Hill, he may be able to hear of something. I shall return to town on Thursday morning next, for Mr. Millington’s lecture. That of yesterday was highly interesting, and I have taken copious notes for you, which I meant to have written out in this letter but find I shall not be able.
I had a delightful day at Greenwich21 on Wednesday. The House does not seem to me a bad one, though planned as if the architect had thrown the different rooms he wanted into a box and shaken them till they fell into such space as would allow him to shut down the lid, in such cases commonly called a roof. Do not say I am very severe. I have been accustomed to hear such things critically canvassed from my cradle, and cannot look at a building without something like a professional feeling, though I have no longer any one to whom I am bound to give a report of all I see, in that way. Papa used sometimes to say I was a better architect than himself, which was nonsense for I know nothing whatever of the subject constructively (to use one of Spurrheim’s affectations), but I believe I surprised him now and then by a clearer and more technical account than he expected and I hope you will not be annoyed if I cannot get out of old habits of descriptions. The approach and all about it you know, and I hope you will agree that it is pleasant, at least in the summer. I do sincerely hope my sister will be comfortable there, and in truth I cannot see why she should not, but she sometimes allows a degree of fretfulness to overcast a thousand really estimable qualities, and to exalt mole-hills into mountains. I speak the more of her, because I know you had some cause not to feel altogether pleased with her, but I am confident you will like her better some years hence22 They have agreed to take so much of Mr. Leeward’s furniture, and so many other articles are provided for by Hospital allowance that I hope she will not have any great fatigue to encounter at present. They have given your name to the spare room, which I say is very impertinent!
Yesterday I went to the lecture and afterwards dined at the Phillips’s, where I met a Revd. Mr. Collingham who in the middle of dinner began talking about you and was so exceedingly full of this subject, that I could not help being amused at having to listen to the detail of all your opinions about Capt. Parry, and a great deal besides that I had heard you say an hundred times. I found at last that he had been one of your Ciceroni at Cambridge, and you seem quite to have won his heart. I happened to say something of your and Dr. Richardson’s present movements, in which he was for setting me right or rather wrong, if Mrs. Phillips had not said she would trust my intelligence, when it came out that I had the honour of your acquaintance, which he did not know before. By the bye Mrs. Phillips thought it necessary to make an apology to me privately for not having invited you when she asked me, and hoped it would not prevent my eating my dinner, but if Mr. Phillips had known where to find you he would have called. I did wonder she said nothing about you, but supposed she had known you were out of town. Miss Turner to whom I made your apology will not allow that you gave the slightest occasion for it.
The post is come in and no letter. It is not longer than the interval between your letters has frequently been, yet I cannot help some degree of uneasiness, and a fancy that you are not altogether comfortable—especially since you know I am at hawk and buzzard about directing to you.
I have absolutely not time for a word more but, however hurried, I am not the less affectionately yours,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Monday, June 16th, 1823
My dear Eleanor,
When I received your letter on Saturday I was just on the point of setting out with the Brother of my deceased friend to pass the Sunday at his house about four miles distant from Nottingham. We return to the town this morning, and I am writing before the party come down to breakfast, that I may be prepared for this day’s post. You seem much disappointed at not receiving a letter from me on the morning of your departure from London and so am I, as I had imagined the one I wrote from Matlock should have reached you on that day. It, however, like the rest of my letters could afford you but little amusement I fear, for as you perceive my forte does not lie in epistolary composition and, contrary to what you have predicted, I do not find my desire to write increases with the practice. I feel all the inclination to impart to you the various impressions which I receive in my different rambles and particularly when in the midst of the enjoyment of them, but directly I am seated with my sheet of paper before me, all powers cease and I become quite stupid. What can be the cause of this change? lam sure the sight of the objects have given great pleasure to me, and when I view them I think, that this gratification will be increased by describing my sensations to my friends, but as I have before said I cannot do it on paper and if my friend is not by my side, he loses all my wise remarks and reflections.
I feel the same inability of expressing my sentiments by writing on other subjects of which it appears to me I have a tolerably clear conception. I frequently think on points respecting which I am most desirous to communicate with you, but I never can bring myself to enter upon them when writing. They seem at these times to escape my memory altogether, often to return as soon as the letter has been put in the post. Formerly I took delight in correspondence with my friends, but now it is quite irksome for me to write at all. I sincerely hope I shall experience some change in my sentiments in this respect, for no man has a greater pleasure than myself in receiving letters from his friends, and it is so selfish to receive the gratification and not attempt at imparting it to others.
The family are now come down to breakfast, and I find my present occupation will be a cause of delay—as the party have walked into the garden until it is finished.
The funeral of my friend takes place on Wednesday morning and I have been particularly requested by the family to attend as a mourner. After this melancholy event is over, I shall have to wait some days, until Mrs. Burnside has recovered from the shock which the interment of her brother is calculated to make, before I can receive her instructions as to the letters she wishes me to write to India. [Her daughter had married James Franklin.]
I am very glad your fatigues and anxieties respecting Berners Street are so nearly at an end. Do not give yourself uneasiness about my being absent. I shall get to town I hope about the 25th of the month. The breakfast is made and is waiting.
Believe me ever yours affectionately,
P.S.—The party are preparing to go to Nottingham. I have not time to write more. My kindest respects in Gower Street. Mr. Collingham of whom you speak was very kind to me at Cambridge.
The letters which follow are the last which passed between John and Eleanor before their marriage on August 6th, 1823. Only after July 11th had she been persuaded to fix the actual date, for as the time drew near, doubts beset her mind. She hesitates before the magnitude of the step to be taken, and points out that it is not merely a question of friendship but of whether their natures are calculated to live happily together in the closest of unions. She has been alarmed by the tenor of Lady Lucy Barry’s letters (sent her by John to read), for she knows that her future husband has a great regard for Lady Lucy’s opinion, and in a very plain-spoken communication to John she implores him not to be persuaded to become a Methodist, and assures him that under no circumstances would she consent to join that denomination. Other home truths follow. His dislike of recognition of his achievements is merely the result of false pride, and, to crown all, he has completely failed to seize the opportunity of making acquaintance with her friends. This to Eleanor’s loyal soul is the culminating point. She believes it is due to his sense of superiority, and begs to assure him that three-fourths of them are as good as himself!
Obviously the great fatigue of the déménagement at Berners Street, the signal discomforts of her stay with Miss Appleton, the trial of John’s frequent absences and, above all, her own delicate health, had completely frayed her nerves. Finally, she states that unless he is able to assuage her doubts on all these points, it will be better, despite the slur it will cast upon her, that their engagement should come to an end.
In the face of this possible catastrophe, John rises to the occasion in the best letter of the series. He assures her he has no intention of turning Methodist, that he is and always has been a loyal member of the Church of England. He makes a very manly profession of faith. With disarming humility he writes, “Your mind, I am aware, is higher and more richly endowed than mine!” He desires nothing better than an intimate knowledge of her friends, and hopes they will excuse his slower wit. And though he cannot take part in quadrilles, he will enjoy seeing her dance them with her friends. Finally, he sweeps aside any idea of a breach and presses her immediately to name the happy day.
Evidently Eleanor was missing terribly her father’s wise counsel at this crisis in her life, as is shown by her letter to Mr. Henry Elliott, her old and valued friend. His reply, with his own estimate of her choice, evidently reassured her and the charming lines “Olivia to Philemon” which she sends to her betrothed prove that her crise de nerfs was over.
The wedding was fixed for a date about three weeks later. By a strange coincidence the only house suitable for their married home proved to be 55 Devonshire Street, where Eleanor was born.
It may be noted with amusement that two of Eleanor’s love-letters within a few weeks of marriage were taken up with elaborate notes on magnetism and electricity. These are not included.
Castle Gate, Nottingham
June 17th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I am truly concerned at the intelligence conveyed in your last letter but I am also well aware that you are in no need of any consolation that I could offer, at the same time that I think I can say from experience there is no one better calculated than yourself to administer it, and I trust you will not quit Mrs. Burnside till she is restored to some degree of cheerfulness. The death of those of maturer age, and who have been endeared to us by years of reciprocal kindness is indeed the greatest loss, yet we are generally in some degree prepared for it by the sight of gradual decay and suffering, which forbids even the wish to recall them, and I must therefore say, I pity her most in the death of your brother’s children.23 I have witnessed the anxiety of those who are left in such charge when the parents are at a distance, particularly Mrs. Phillips, who undertook the education of both her sister’s children, and who I believe, suffered much less in the illness of her own family last year than in that of Mrs. Campbell’s daughter. There is a heavy weight of responsibility incurred in such a case which makes any disaster fall with double force. Pray was the little girl you mention also in delicate health since she is at Matlock? I wish I were with you now. Your gayer hours are mine only in common with the rest of your friends, but your sorrows it is my peculiar privilege to share, and I feel almost defrauded of my right if you are in scenes of affliction without me. Do not scold me for saying so.
Death has been in our house also and has robbed my poor widowed cousin of her infant. Its removal however may rather be considered as a mercy, in freeing her from many years of anxiety with an unprovided child, but the Mother cannot be expected so to view it.
My distresses at Miss Appleton’s have so little of the heroic in their nature, that I cannot descend to put them on paper, and indeed it would require a long detail to make them really intelligible. To cut the matter short, Miss Appleton has had a severe bilious attack, by which I am the sufferer, since she has taken such a violent dislike to Sarah24 as to determine she should no longer be in Portland Place besides two or three freaks against poor little I, which I feel a friend should not have played and which I would not have borne but from a friend. With her however I am determined to have neither coldness nor quarrel, and as a letter which I wrote to her a fortnight after her denunciation which took place when we were both away had no effect in conciliating her, I have no resource but to make the best of it. I have therefore the double grievance of having Sarah in a lodging, which I am uneasy at on her account and of being without her services at a time when I particularly want them, both for much that I wish to get done and because I am not yet quite strong enough to be left to myself, and Miss Appleton’s servants having hitherto done nothing for me, have so little idea of attending to me that I can scarce get my meals. Should I be ill in the night I have no possibility of making any one hear and in the day the bell is rarely answered. I cannot help feeling that as Miss Appleton knew how desirable it was to me not to have another abode to seek, and how short a time I should probably require to remain with her, she might have borne the inconvenience, which after all I believe was imaginary, a few weeks longer. Do not however be uneasy about me. I will take good care of myself, and Mrs. Oviatt will take good care of me till you return, when you will find me in Portland Place. My sister wants me to go to her as soon as I can, and says that she cannot bear the idea of my being married from any house but hers, to the propriety of which I undoubtedly subscribe and in such a moment should naturally cling to her, but I own I am desirous to defer my removal thither till something is more decidedly arranged, though my being there would probably facilitate my earnest wish of seeing you on more intimate terms in that family. I am writing to you with perfect openness and you must not blame me for it.
Mr. Millington’s lecture was so interesting as to renew my regret that you could not hear it.
He stated that the Cause of Magnetic effects had never yet been discovered, but from the consideration of all the phenomena connected with the subject, it appeared probable it was not material, and also that the influence, whatever it was, and in whatever way it acted, did not pervade the substances affected, but was merely superficial. It possessed no weight. It had neither taste nor smell. It differed from Electricity in having no effect whatever on our senses and in being visible only in its agency. It appeared to be a current setting constantly in one direction, and a power of circulation seemed necessary to its permanency. In this manner Horse-shoe Magnets must be made face to face, so as to form a circuit, the North end of one always touching the South of the other, and a conductor is necessary to preserve the strength of compound Magnets. In the same manner, as soon as two bar magnets are brought together, end to end, the whole becomes but one Magnet. The magnetic influence seems capable of permeating all things, and acting through all things, being affected by nothing but distance, and the great difficulty of experiments on this subject arises from the impossibility of insulation, hardened steel appearing to be the only non-conductor known, and even that but an imperfect one. Iron itself is evidently a conductor, though it arrests its passage sufficiently to make its existence visible. But for these two substances we might have remained ignorant of such an influence. It is probable however that the number of [original letter torn] bodies is much greater than has been supposed; even as amber was once thought to be the only electric substance, and bestowed its name upon the science, whereas it is now found that electricity pervades all things. We are not yet prepared to say the same of magnetism, but the circle of its power has lately been much extended among the metals.
When Mr. Stephen Clay of the Charter House made his great electrical discovery of conductors and non-conductors, the conductors shewing no signs of spontaneous electricity were called non-electrics; so has it been with Magnetism. A feather suspended by a flaxen thread becomes permanently attracted by an electric body, but if by a silken thread it is first attracted and then repelled, the flax being a conductor carries off the electricity and returns it to the earth whereas the silk producing insulation the feather itself acquires an electric power. In electricity and magnetism the attraction alike exists only between dissimilar powers, but in one the effect is momentary, in the other permanent. If two bars of soft iron be suspended perpendicularly over each other, the needle is repelled by the lower end of each, and attracted by the upper, but when they touch they form but one magnet. Mr. Millington here shewed some analogy between this experiment which was a new one of his own, and that of electrifying two cylinders end to end, but I cannot recall his reasoning so clearly as I could wish, and therefore will not send what may be wrong. A horse-shoe magnet with a conductor attached to it uniting the poles, seems for the time to have lost its power because the circulation is complete; thus if the two conductors of the electrical machine be connected by a chain, all electrical effects cease. In the like manner the Leyden Jar exhibits no effect till the communication be made, and it matters not whether it be the inside or outside coating of the Jar which is charged. Had we any substance capable of insulating magnetism as Glass does electricity our knowledge of the science would advance rapidly. Hardened steel is the nearest approach to a non-conductor, then the natural loadstone, iron and nickel, as in electricity; the opposite powers are invariably produced at the same time, and also a narrow surface concentrates the power of a conductor, thus a broad bar may be easily removed from a strong compound magnet, but it requires considerable force to separate a wire. Both in magnetism and electricity, points and angles seem to have a particular power of carrying off the influence. The chief— (not having space to finish my lecture the next letter must be a supplement). I hope you will be able to comprehend me, but in the wish to condense I have almost confused myself. Pray write soon to
Yours sincerely and affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Porden
June 19th, 1823
My dear Eleanor,
We yesterday paid the last melancholy office for our departed friend by consigning his remains to the silent tomb and if there could be any alleviation to the grief which that mournful task naturally excited it was to be found in witnessing that our sorrow for his loss was participated in the most sincere manner by a crowded assemblage of people who had voluntarily collected in the Church and its yard as well as in the street to take their last view of him. They were principally of the poorer class, many of whom had shared his benevolence and who most unequivocably testified by their tears and sighs how deeply they honoured their friend. The gentlemen of the town had expressed their desire to attend the funeral in procession, but his affected relations begged to decline this gratifying mark of their regard. They therefore attended only in the Church. I have seldom witnessed scenes of this melancholy nature, but whenever I have my mind has been deeply impressed with an affecting aura which I cannot describe, and indeed it would be needless to you whose habits of reflection and reading must have brought you intimately acquainted with the sensations that must occupy every serious mind on such an occasion. Interesting however as were my reflections during the performance of that most beautiful part of our Liturgy the Burial Service, they were less gratifying to my mind than to find on our return to the house that my dear friend Mrs. Burnside had borne the severe and trying affliction of this day with that truly pious and patient resignation which a Christian only can evince; then indeed did I feel the force of that most cheering portion of the Scripture, “Blessed are they who put their trust in the Lord” and then too I experienced as I have often done before” That it is better to go to the house of Mourning than to the house of feasting.” Your mind is there raised above the uncertain and transitory things of this world, and you enjoy calmness and serenity. How often have I wished since those afflicting scenes have passed over which we encountered at Fort Enterprise25 that I could again enjoy the course of meditation and reflection I entertained during their progress, but I can scarcely hope for a return of those pleasurable sensations. The parties and cares of mixed society and an active life tend to dissipate such emotions. I experienced this with regret during my residence in London. But I will leave this subject.
I beg you will take up your residence in your sister’s house whenever you feel inclined and indeed since the receipt of your explanation respecting Miss A.’s conduct I have supposed you would be more comfortable in removing to Gower Street very soon. You must have much Christian charity and forbearance to remain comfortably where you are. I cannot say that the explanation has increased my respect for your friend and if you are so badly attended in Portland Place I do not know whether I shall not feel that I may be adding to the inconvenience which your residence occasions, by coming to see you as often as I should wish.
I have had two letters from Dr. R. who with Mrs. R. desire their best remembrance to you. He tells me of my having made two lucky escapes. The Magistrates of Dumfries, his native place, expecting me down with him had prepared to give us a public dinner. The same honour was counted on in another place and a third dinner at Edinburgh which he says has been mentioned in the papers. I quite congratulate myself on being absent. I have been so full of self that I have scarcely left room to thank you for your extracts from Millington. They are extremely clear and interesting.
Kind remembrances to Gower Street.
Upper Portland Place,
June 21st, 1823
My dear Sir,
I would fain know honestly whether you found my last “communication” particularly “interesting,” or whether you have really the bad taste to prefer my nonsense to Mr. Millington’s Philosophy. I have taken a good deal of pains for you at any rate, and desire you will be duly grateful. Some parts I feel I have given clumsily enough, being out of the habit of lecture writing at present, but I do not think I have omitted any fact of importance.
Do not regret that you are called again to an active life! We have surely strong warning that we were not sent here to be idle, and the experience of all ages and climates has shewn how few minds there are strong enough to bear too much solitude. I could say a good deal to you on these matters, but I had rather Time said them for me, for he is the best teacher.
I must not have you angry with my friend either. I agree with Fergus’s Ambassador in Waverley, “Woe to him who would lose his friend for the stormy cloud of a spring morning,” and I will not allow the remembrance of many years of reciprocal kindness to be cancelled by the spirit of a moment; arising from illness which I believe had its source in severe anxiety. Poor thing, she received a severe shock yesterday, and I can truly say she should be welcome to use me as she pleased, if any ebullition of expression against me could at all alleviate what I know she must be suffering now, and so do not be angry with her, for my sake.
I am here and here you will find me. My sister I have discovered cannot take me in yet without more inconvenience than it is worth while to put her to, and to Mill Hill I cannot return; a degree of cough and oppression and nervous excitement came on me the moment I got there on Friday week and increased so much that on Monday evening I had one of those fits of faintness which I hoped I had taken leave of many weeks ago, and which lasted at least three hours, to Mrs. Oviatt’s great alarm. Tuesday was a warm day, and I felt rather better, but Wednesday again brought a bleak Northern wind, and after nursing over a fire all the morning that I might be a less troublesome guest when Mr. Oviatt’s brother, who was to dine there, should arrive, I found myself unable to sit at table and was fain to retire to bed. Indeed had I not kept sipping lemonade and eating strawberries all the evening and night, I believe I should have been in a high fever next morning, simply from the affection of my chest, for my health was not in the least deranged in any other way. I managed to scribble a note to Dr. Thomson begging him to call on. me here the next day, but I felt so extremely ill as almost to doubt whether I were capable of making the effort of getting to town to see him. It was made however, and completely proved that I was ill only of a bleak hill and a cold wind, for such was the effect of a warm day and removal to a milder air, that by the time he saw me I had only enough of illness remaining from violent coughing and a sleepless night to prove that I had not sent for him without a cause.
You have proof that I was able to attend the Lecture. I suppose I had caught some little cold, which combined with the effect of the air, but it is plain it does not suit me at present. My constitution is certainly changed, and I do not yet understand my new one, and although as he says, I may probably enjoy better health than ever, I feel what he also warned me, that I must be more careful of weather than was formerly necessary, but enough—and indeed you have unhappily had more than enough of my illnesses for a long time past.
I can find no fault with your letters but your abuse of them. It is cruel to make them the bearers of their own condemnation. If they are stupid, pray leave it to me to find that out, which I have not done yet, and can truly say that though I shall rejoice to see you, I shall regret to lose our correspondence, and am not sure whether we have not often been more at ease in our letters than in our meetings. I had a long French epistle from Rouen yesterday, which quizzed me a little. I had the same subject from Rome two months ago, and could almost fancy the matter must have been advertized along with your work as a sequel to the “Narrative.” Really we ought to be very vain to find our private concerns matters of so much public interest. Are you aware of the volume I now send you? I never know the size of this paper till I attempt to fill it, and I believe were it a folio, I should still write the same small close hand.
Your ever affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
I am glad you are likely to leave Mrs. Burnside better than you at first expected, and hope you are not leaving her too soon. I thought you were to have accompanied your sister to town.
Gower Street desires remems. as did the Oviatts.
July 3rd, 1823
My dear Sir,
I am conscious that most persons would think me very imprudent in addressing this letter to you, but the simple fact is, that my conscience will not be at peace if I do not write it, and as it has never yet troubled me, so am I determined that it never shall. It appears that there unhappily exists some difference in our religious opinions, and though on points which I consider of little moment, I perceive the circumstance has given you uneasiness. You proposed that all farther discussion of the subject should wait till your return to London, and having as you know entered on the subject most unwillingly from the beginning, I should be well content to let it rest till we had more leisure for reflexion and quiet conversation, or even till after our union, when I might consider it a matter almost of absolute certainty that our opinions and habits would become in a great degree assimilated; but the remembrance of one occasion when the want of clearer explanation had nearly led to a serious misunderstanding between us, makes me feel it a duty to write this, lest you should mistake my silence for agreement in your opinions.
So far had I written three days ago. An accident interrupted me, and I have been prevented by accident from resuming my letter, but the papers which you put into my hands yesterday make me feel that it is doubly necessary. I presume the writer26 to be one whose long habits of intimacy with you, and almost maternal character may have authorized her interference on such a subject, but I feel that the fear of wounding any feelings of respect you may entertain towards her, must not prevent the expression of mine. I perceive that she is a strong Methodist and very anxious for your conversion. Except some expressions which you have occasionally let fall, and which I own startled me at the time, this circumstance would have excited no alarm,
but I now conjure you in the name of all which you hold sacred to answer me truly. Has she succeeded? Are you become her disciple; or does your heart revolt like mine at the prostitution of Scripture on unnecessary occasions and do you not even feel that there is one passage which approaches to blasphemy? Do not think I mean to accuse the writer. I have no doubt her intentions are good, and she appears to have more education and common sense than usually fall to the share of religious enthusiasts, and is therefore but the more dangerous. I read many parts of her letters with unqualified pleasure and was many times beginning to hope I had falsely taken up an impression against her, when I was again shocked and startled by the reappearance of all I feared. If you are her convert, and expect me to become so, it is my duty to tell you frankly that you are mistaken. In the name of that God through whom alone I also hope for salvation, I dare to tell you that you would never succeed, and that the greatest act of kindness you can perform towards me in such a case would be to bid me farewell. In other years I might have had the hope of preserving you from that gulf on the brink of which you appear to me to be at this moment, but I feel that my health and spirits are not now equal to the contest, and that I should sink under it before I could hope to accomplish the end, much as I would risk to obtain it.
I am well aware what I have at stake in writing thus to you, almost all which woman holds dear, and even some part of that reputation which is almost necessary to her existence, for our expected union has become unluckily so publicly known, that any interruption of it must expose me, independent of my private feelings, to much of painful and perhaps ungenerous remark. I would fain hope that I have entertained a needless alarm, but whatever be the event, the religious feelings in which you may perhaps think me deficient will sustain me, and at any rate when I thought I clearly perceived what was my duty, I never yet suffered myself to enquire what was my inclination, and I will not begin now. I should in such a case only pray that you might be saved from the danger in which I think you stand, though it would not be by my ministry, and that I might never recur to your memory at any hour when you wished me forgotten.
The subject which was originally intended to occupy this letter appears now almost too trifling to follow what I have said, since perhaps it would principally affect my personal comfort, but it is connected with it, and I am determined that at any rate you shall understand me fully, though indeed I might say that it has been in your power to become so thoroughly acquainted both with my habits and modes of thinking, that it must be your own fault if you have not done so long ago. Our original difference was with regard to the observance of Sunday, respecting which you made an attack upon me which I must say was utterly unexpected after you had had the opportunity of seeing so constantly what was my usual mode of passing that day, and had done so without any remark. I had intended to inform you that with your ideas on that point I do not and cannot agree, for the more I reflect on the subject the more do I differ from you, and it would therefore be hypocrisy to pretend to conform to them. I told you in the beginning that on this head I was half a Catholic. The strictness which you appear to think necessary, I believe is peculiar to a portion of our own island, and upon what foundation it was first adopted I confess I do not see. It appears to me to be contrary to the spirit and intention of the day, which was surely meant to be one of rest and relaxation, of divine worship and innocent recreation, but in no respect one of privation or penance. Such an acceptation of it we are surely not enjoined in the Old Testament and to my ideas we are warned against it in the New. On this point however as on every other, much belongs to individual character; that which would encourage piety in one mind would destroy it in another, and much as we may resemble each other in many ways, yours and mine were certainly not from the same mould.
All I have to say is in fact to repeat what I once said before (on a subject respecting which, by the bye, I hope we are understood and agreed) namely that I have endeavoured to make you really acquainted with myself as far as was in my power; if you are so far satisfied with what you have seen of me as still to desire our union, if in fact you can be satisfied with such affection and duty as I have to offer, I am ready to fix its period, and am determined that I will not permit myself to be again overcome by those feelings which overpowered me when you last questioned me on the subject. But if, on the contrary you think my disposition or habits likely to cause you uneasiness, we had better keep them separate. I am ready to share with you the lot of pleasure or of pain, of prosperity or adversity, as it pleases Heaven to bestow them, and if I know my own disposition at all, I think that you wall find me always ready to sacrifice my own wishes to those of others, but I own that I tremble at the idea of any future contest with you on either of the subjects which have become a source of doubt between us. I again repeat that I hope and believe my alarm to have been in the latter instance unfounded, but it is not the less due to both that I should make the matter certain, and therefore I have written.
In return for your friend’s letters I enclose you one received this day from the daughter of a clergyman who was a friend and fellow sufferer with your namesake Governor Franklin in the time of the American War. She married a Scotch gentleman about a year since, and as you will see, is inclined to exercise her matronly privilege by lecturing me. Her sermon, as she calls it, was certainly not meant for your eye, and perhaps I ought scarcely to communicate some parts of it, but I do so, to shew you that my friends can write as seriously as yours upon occasion, and I must add, in a temper which I much prefer.
I have only to beseech that you will take no notice of this in Gower Street. My sister has my confidence on most subjects, but in any difference which may now or hereafter unhappily arise between us, (though I trust we have not many to fear) I believe it to be no less my duty than it is my wish that it should be confined to ourselves alone.
When you have settled your mind respecting this letter I must send an answer to Mrs. Oviatt about Monday. It is proposed that you and I should go down with Mr. Kay and three elder Children in a glass coach in the morning, so as to have a complete day of ruralizing, and to return in the evening. You know it is a mere cottage that they are in for the summer, so the delight is to consist in fresh air and green trees with the addition of a syllabub, and I won’t promise you not to stick fast in a hedge, or tear my fingers and clothes to pieces in robbing the wild rose of its blossoms. Roses you know have thorns, just as you have your whims. I am much relieved by having got this letter written, or I should not begin playing with you, and so before I get grave again I will sign myself, ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Tuesday, July 8th, 1823.
6 Upper Portland Place,
July 9th, 1823
My dear Sir,
I met you in some agitation this morning from the belief that you came perhaps partly in consequence of my letter of yesterday. Finding however that you did not enter on the subject, I would not ask you as to whether you had received it, lest I should have been pressing you into the premature discussion of a question which you might wish more time to consider. Some things which you said, have however led me to believe that my paquet could not have reached you, though it ought to have been delivered in the regular routine of the Post, either at 9 last night, or 8 this morning; and I therefore write to beg that if it have not come to your hands you will let me know that I may make proper enquiries, but not in any way to hurry you.
I again repeat my hope that my alarm was unfounded, though the tenor of your conversation is sometimes calculated to make one vacillate. The question is not, my dear Sir, whether you and I can mutually esteem each other as friends, but whether we are calculated to live together in the closest domestic union. On this point I feel a degree of timidity by no means generally natural to me, and a distrust, even more of myself than of you. There is yet one moment to hesitate, and only one.27 I cannot but again repeat that by this time you ought to know me. If you are mistaken in my character you must be wilfully so—but if you expect it to alter, you deceive yourself. There are many things I could yield and I expect that new ties and new duties will supply to me the place of many that were formerly dear; but there are again others which I could not part with and among these are the cultivation of my literary pursuits and the society of my friends, those friends whom you have hitherto shunned all opportunity of becoming acquainted with, and whom I may therefore rationally doubt whether you would hereafter be inclined to welcome.
I must further add, that should I find you to be really tainted with that species of fanaticism which characterizes Lady Lucy Barry’s letters, it would be the severest shock I could receive. With such a woman I could not and would not associate. As she has so daringly brought forward the temptation of our Saviour, I could expect nothing but that she would pay me the compliment of personifying me as Satan himself, and do verily believe I am as worthy of one comparison as you of the other. I know not for what purpose you gave me those letters nor how far your own judgement goes with them; but I know that you visit the Lady. For her sake I deeply deplore the aberration of a mind which has evidently been refined and elegant—but for yours—whether I am ever anything to you or not, I conjure you to fly from her acquaintance and from those whose religious feelings resemble hers. It is not a little which will induce me to write in such a tone, but on this subject, the conviction that I am right is as strong as my faith in Christianity. It is one on which I acknowledge that I am in many respects ignorant—my guides have been the Scriptures, and them alone—at least with very little exception. From you I should be happy to receive instruction where I am defective but I warn you, that I will receive it only from the approved works of our best divines, and not from the visions of enthusiasm. That you should be strongly and deeply impressed with a sense of gratitude for deliverance from sufferings and difficulties almost unparallelled is but just and natural; you would not deserve the name of Christian if you were not. Do not however I beseech you turn the Mercies of Heaven into a curse, by letting the present state of your mind induce you to adopt that dark and unsocial view of human nature—that questionable spirit (to use the word in Shakespeare’s sense) to which I feel you are somewhat inclined. You must have had such strong emotions that all now appears tame; but remember that there is no nourishment in pepper. Those around you are your fellow creatures; you must live among them, and highly as I rate you, I will boldly say that in the great scale of human beings, three parts of them are as good as yourself. If they have their faults have not you also yours?—as prominent to them as theirs to you—I have often thought it is well for us that we shall not be judged, as we are inclined to judge each other.
Again why should you affect to shun the praise which is justly your due? It is not from humility, but the vanity of being thought superior to praise. As a Christian you have indeed done no more than your duty, for more than that you cannot do; but as a man you have well performed it, and it is but just that your fellow men should give you credit for having done so, and that you should bring down your proud spirit to endure the expression of their good opinion. You will smile at me for quoting Shakespeare again, but as he certainly probed the human heart more deeply than any uninspired writer, (if indeed such talents be not inspired) I will venture to tell you that you have often reminded me of Coriolanus.
You would rather venture both your limbs for honour
Than one of your ears to hear it.
If you would read that play over it might give you some useful lessons—and so might Peveril of the Peak—One of your correspondents, as you may perceive, quotes Scripture (to my mind most profanely) and the other sends you to Plays and Romances! Not but that I could, give her quotation for quotation, if I thought that my arm had any right to wield the thunder of heaven. But as we are on the subject I will give you a few words more, and boldly declare that I consider Scott’s Novels to have been the great moral antidote to Lord Byron’s poison. It has been well remarked that no one ever wrote naturally, without writing morally, even though morality might never have been his aim, and I do seriously believe that no one ever rose up from the perusal of one of those novels without being benefitted, though amusement alone might have been his object. So also do I believe that no one ever read three pages of Shakespeare without having his feelings purified and exalted. A remark you once made as to another Lady makes me feel it right to tell you, that I have read the one on a Sunday by chance—and the other frequently, nor do I feel that in so doing I infringed one iota of the respect due to that day, but I know that many think differently as well as you, and with the exception of these two Authors I scarcely ever touch either play or novel.
Farewell! I have been led into a length I little meant and wonder at myself for writing as I have done. Remember, I put the choice fairly into your hands, but if you deceive yourself, do not reproach me hereafter. I can lay my hand upon my heart and say that it does not contain a thought which I would wish to hide from my Maker if I could—nay I will say more, there is not one which I would wish to hide from you, could I place it in your hands as naked as it is in His. My prayers and good wishes shall attend you to the last hour of our earthly existence and I hope and trust, that even if we separate here we shall meet in happiness hereafter.
Let me have your answer when you can. Not that I am in anxious suspense on my own account, for I feel that I have done my duty, and am at this moment of uncertainty more really tranquil than when all my prospects seemed clear before me. But I must send an answer to Mrs. Oviatt respecting Monday, and I cannot at this moment talk to Mr. Kay about the House in Devonshire Street,28 without feeling that I am acting a part. Again farewell,
Ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Wednesday, 9 o’clock
My Dear Eleanor,
Having breakfasted at a friend’s I did not get your letter of yesterday until my return from Portland Place, and before I go in to the city, I write to acknowledge its receipt, lest you should consider from my manner when with you that I was inattentive to its contents.
I can assure you my dear friend you mistake in supposing me a Methodist. I can by no means enter into the exclusive ideas and opinions which they entertain on the subjects of Faith or Election, nor do I go the length which my friend Lady Lucy Barry has done in the letters I submitted to your perusal. My intention in showing them to you was not to offer them as the standard of my ideas, but in the hope that they might be introductory towards a calm and full explanation of what were my own views in religion. If I know my own heart I am no enthusiast or bigot on these points but on the contrary am willing to permit every one to cherish their own sentiments. The articles of our Creed contain every portion of my faith and I wish most anxiously that you would permit me candidly and truly to explain my sentiments. I really think you would accede to them if you believe, as I trust and hope you do, in the Almighty Goodness of God and the redeeming mercy of our Saviour.
I should be able to communicate more fully and satisfactorily in conversation than by writing, if you will allow me to do so, and pray tell me by note whether I may come at 3 to-morrow for that purpose.
I admire the sentiments of your friend and am sure they bespeak an amiable and excellent mind. I anticipate great pleasure from another perusal both of her letter and your own when I return from the city.
I certainly shall not even hint in Gower Street at any difference of opinion between us. I sincerely trust an opening of each of our hearts to each other will remove any difference, and that arrangements for our union may speedily take place.
Ever yours affectionately,
July 10th, 1823
Your note has reached me as I was about to seal up mine. To me it is perfectly satisfactory, but as the enclosed has been written I will send it, though it would not now be necessary. Do not fear that the lecturing spirit has got into me—I will plague you with no more of it. But I cannot talk with you on the subject yet. To me it is too awful, and when I attempt it my tongue becomes parched and cleaves to the roof of my mouth. I feel as if my ideas were gone. I can be mistress of myself when I write though at the expense of a burning hand and a headache: but when you begin to question me with your keen eye fixed upon me, I feel that I am still very, very nervous—neither can I enter into Marriage with the light feelings of a girl of eighteen. I believe I have been too much alone of late. I would seriously undertake its. duties and its cares along with its blessings, but I have mused upon that subject also till I have absolutely terrified myself into stupidity.
I feel that much of the enclosed is more strongly written than I could wish after the receipt of your note, but I cannot alter it now and know you will forgive me. You will find me at home to-morrow, but I own I shall be afraid to meet you; and why should that be?
Ever your sincere and affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
July 10th, 1823.
My dear Friend,
I have read your letter with the greatest attention and cannot delay the expression of my sincere esteem of the feelings which actuated you in the painful task of writing it.
I have also great pleasure in admitting that the sentiments it contains, as well as the motives which you urge in support of the only point of difference in our opinions have produced such a material change in my mind on that particular that I have no doubt we shall be able to make some satisfactory arrangements after conversing on the subject at our next interview. I regret that my engagement to dinner will prevent its taking place to-day, but if you think you would be equal to the task to-morrow I would come as soon after one as you may choose. I am engaged for the evening or I should have preferred that time as being most free from interruption.
There are one or two other points of minor importance hinted at in your letter which I do not exactly understand, but these will no doubt be immediately explained at the same time.
I was not aware of having demanded the anathema against literature to which you allude—and I can assure you that in whatever I have said I merely meant to express the consciousness of my own deficiency in that particular. Still less was I sensible of having said anything that would have led you to suppose I could for a moment have desired to have placed any bounds to the enjoyment of your literary circle of friends—or that I should have suppressed your desires respecting the Attic Society or any other Literary Society you might choose to cultivate and encourage. No, my dear friend, from the first moment of my addressing you I considered that it would ever afford me the greatest gratification to promote your wishes to the utmost on these points.
Some friends have just come in to see me. I write therefore in haste. I am unwilling that you should for a moment suffer anxiety unnecessarily and therefore send this imperfect scrawl.
Believe me, ever your affectionate friend,
Sunday, 2 o’clock.
Dr. Thomson sent for the engravings whilst I was at Church; will you have the goodness to send your servant with them to his house with my compliments?
3 Great Marlborough Street,
July 11th, 1823
My dearest Eleanor,
The principal reason for my dining at home yesterday was that I might have devoted the evening in communicating my sentiments to you at some length on the subject contained in your two last notes, but when my sister informed me of your intention to drink tea with her I preferred having the pleasure of your society to writing and consequently put off my letter until this morning. The occupation of writing is generally most irksome to me,29 but as I have perceived you are at present in too delicate and nervous a state to converse cheerfully on those points upon which I should wish to convey my sentiments, I willingly use this means of communication. I beseech you to receive them as an earnest of my sincere affection, and in the same temper of conciliation and true friendship that was evinced by both of us yesterday. Your opinions have been given to me with amiable frankness and candour, and at the impulse of duty. In the same spirit I hope to deliver mine.
An explanation from me is indeed the more necessary as you have unfortunately, though naturally, mistaken my sentiments on the important subject of religion in consequence of the perusal of those letters I put into your hands. Your last letter convinced me that we perfectly agree on the essential points—on placing our only hope of salvation on the infinite goodness of the Omnipotent, through the merits and redeeming love of our Saviour. I had at the first concluded these to be your sentiments from the perusal of your recorded opinions and especially from many parts of “Cœur de Lion.”30 But you will pardon me if I tell you now that I had improperly imagined from one of your letters, sent to me in the country as well as from an expression in that of July 8th and from parts of one or two of our conversations, that you did not admit so distinctly as I could wish the intercession of our Saviour, As this is the ground of my Faith which has been conveyed to me in our most excellent Liturgy—you can well conceive that the bare apprehension of a contrary reliance being entertained by the friend with whom I had the prospect of passing the remaining portion of my life—gave me inconceivable pain. Great therefore was my joy on reading in your letter of yesterday a positive avowal of your “strong faith in Christianity,”
Having my faith grounded as I have said—it would surely be my duty to evidence it by living as far as I could in conformity to the directions contained in the Sacred Scripture, especially those given by our Saviour and his Apostles, and you must allow me to illustrate my sentiments with regard to my action towards others by making quotations from the Bible, though I entirely agree with you in thinking the frequent unnecessary quotations from that Sacred Volume injudicious. The texts I allude to are “What doth the Lord require of thee O man but to do justly, to love Mercy and to walk humbly before thy God?” “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you.” “Commit thy ways unto God.” “Love one another.”
An obedience to these injunctions would surely prevent me from every desire to judge others. As I have before said, if I know my own heart I have not the least disposition to do so, but acting under the influence which our Religion imposes I hold it my indispensable duty, to refrain from associating with either an infidel or an immoral person. Nay more, to abstain even from perusing their works, however high may be the connection or reputation of the writer. I rejoice that in our country the fullest permission is given to every denomination of Christians to exercise their own religion and even go further than you probably would, except in being an humble advocate for “Catholic Emancipation.”
This leads me to the question of Lady L. B.31 and the persons whom I have been accustomed to meet in her circle. They belong perhaps to what is termed the Calvinistic part of our own Church. In their doctrines however I do not and cannot assent. I admire their zeal, their goodness and the philanthropies of their party; but I cannot go the length of thinking others are hopelessly wrong who happen to take a different view of Christianity from ourselves. To her Ladyship herself I owe much and I trust shall ever acknowledge my gratitude. From the books she put in my hands I was certainly induced to read the Scriptures more attentively (in fact daily) and then I received through the blessing of God stronger grounds of hope in His divine mercy and goodness—and additional motives for endeavouring to follow the excellent precepts of Christianity to those I had previously entertained. I also feel a peculiar interest in the endeavours which this kind Lady and her friends with many others who do not even agree in their religious sentiments are making to disseminate the Scriptures among the sailors and soldiers, having witnessed not only the urgent want of such means of instruction but the benefit to be derived from it, and when I bring forward my invaluable friend John Hepburn as an instance in favour of the latter consideration I am sure you will join your assent to mine.
He has often assured me that in his conduct he was influenced by a sense of duty which the Scriptures had taught him. With respect to your having to associate with the Lady or any of those persons to which I have alluded, believe me I should never ask that of you; but I hope you could not wish me to be so ungrateful as to separate myself entirely from her society, or to withhold my assistance from the objects she has in view respecting my profession, as far as they appear well grounded, moderate and perfectly consistent with our Church Establishment.
Now let me state my sentiments with regard to the observance of Sunday, which I hope will not trouble you, though I confess your admission of being “half a Catholic” on this point did [? alarm] me.
I think with you that this day is not to be a season of privation and penance, but, as you say, of rest, relaxation, of divine worship and of innocent recreation. The only difference then between us, if any does exist, consists in the qualifications one gives to relaxation and innocent recreation.
In reference to the first point I conceive we are commanded not only to abstain from our ordinary occupations and pursuits but from every other employment which may tend to remove entirely the devout impressions we have received during our attendance on the divine worship; with this view I should desist from following pursuits that I did on other days, though they might be innocent and unobjectionable except there was a necessity for my acting contrarily. I should not travel or at any rate set out on a journey. Neither should I give a party except to a few branches of my family. In the two latter considerations I am influenced as much by what I conceive to be a duty towards my servants, as my own obligation; They at least should not be deprived of the means of attending the services of religion if they choose, which either travelling or the preparation for a large dinner must necessarily occasion. Masters and Mistresses incur a great responsibility, I think, if they prevent their servants from going to a place of worship, and perhaps if they do not urge them to that duty, and I can hardly think them free from blame, if by following their own ordinary pursuits they teach.their servants lightly to regard that sacred day. David you will remember prayed “That he might give occasion of falling to no one.”
Within the scope of innocent recreations I certainly include the society of your friends and agreeable conversation though I should prefer if the latter did not so generally turn on the amusements and trifling occurrences of the week and above all if it was free from discussion of the foibles or follies of our acquaintances. Your friends I should think are generally too intellectual to fall often into these discourses and this remark might perhaps have been spared. I must add however that much as I shall rejoice in seeing you surrounded by your literary circle—and heartily as I should welcome them as friends of my own, I should be sorry to find this day appointed for even their meeting; for though the topics they would discuss would doubtless be perfectly innocent and agreeable, yet the very pleasure that I should enjoy would have the effect of making me forget the duties of that sacred day.
You justly remark that the feeling on religious subjects depends much on constitution and the course of our education and perhaps truly infer that you and I have not been cast in the same mould. I sincerely hope however that as you say “our opinions and habits will become in a great degree assimilated” if they are not at present, which I trust will be found to be the case after you have read this letter. Your mind, I am aware, is higher endowed than mine, and stronger, and you have perhaps searched deeper into these important points of Christianity than I could attain. I have sought earnestly in the Scripture for the grounds of my faith and hope, and the result of my enquiries, whilst it has given me the greatest conviction of my own unworthiness, has also afforded me the fullest confidence in the divine goodness and mercy, if I follow the means He has appointed for salvation. This hope I need scarcely repeat to you has been my support in the most trying occasions and I fervently pray it may continue to sustain me and you until our eyes are closed on this world.
I entirely agree with your commendation both of Shakespeare and Scott’s works. Who indeed can deny their containing perfect lessons of morality? The former was a masterly portrayer of the human heart and none can read his works without deriving benefit. I should not however select either of these authors for my perusal on the Sunday, because I should prefer at that time to read books that were not only replete with morality but also with Christianity. Do not suppose that I mean to say either of these works are destitute of Christianity but that it forms a less prominent feature in them than in other books I should choose to peruse.
The remark respecting the Lady to which you allude deserves some notice. My observation was excited by her choosing to stay from Church, and employing the interval of service in reading Scott’s Novels. Can you approve of such conduct?
You seem to feel that I have hitherto shunned all opportunity of becoming acquainted with your friends, and even go further and express a doubt that I should not be inclined to welcome them. Pray dismiss these sentiments as unjust towards me, and permit me to ask you what opportunities have I had of getting known to them since our intimacy has been so generally known that it would have been prudent to have introduced me as your friend? or whether you have ever expressed a wish before that I should become acquainted with them? Believe me I shall be most happy to know them as soon as you please, and be assured you will find me ever ready to give them the most cordial welcome under our roof. You are aware that I am reserved towards strangers, but sincerely hope they would not imagine from my manner at the first, that I should ultimately be wanting in friendship towards any whom you recommend to me.
I fear you even think me unsocial if this be the case. Let me beg of you to remove this impression. No person enjoys society more than myself, nor does any one more cheerfully partake of innocent mirth; and though I cannot join in a quadrille, it would give me great pleasure to see you and your friends doing so, or in following any other amusement that might suit your taste. As to conversation the habits of my profession may have unfitted me for entertaining it in the lively manner many do, but this last I hope will soon wear off under your tuition and example.
I am rather in a scribbling humour though it be past midnight. The approach of the bottom of the paper however bids me wish you good night. There is another remark of yours has just struck me. “Remember that there is no nourishment in pepper.” The application of which I cannot admit. The emotions I have had were indeed strong, they afforded me the greatest consolation at the time, and thanks be to God continue to do so.
Ever yours affectionately,
P.S.—I should like to know how far your sentiments coincide with mine on the points in this letter, when it suits you to write, and possibly you would at the same time say whether you have fixed any period for—the happy day.
July 12th, 1823
My dear Sir,
On the other leaf you will find the Valentine of which your ungallant remarks on my insignificance have so often reminded me. I have also copied out for you a few lines which formed part of a scientific burlesque Romance, in which I engaged with Mrs. Niven and Mr. Henry Elliott for the Attic Chest some few years back. They seemed to me so applicable to our conversation the other morning that I could not resist the temptation of sending them, and to own the truth they are rather pets with me. The Magnet, one might think had arisen from our recent discussions, but it was there long before I knew you.
Ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Where any thing abounds, we find
That nobody will have it.
But when there’s little of the kind
Don’t all the people crave it?
If wives are evils, as ‘tis known
And wretchedly contest,
A man of sense will surely own
A little one is best!
The God of Love’s a little wight
But beautiful as thought
Thou too art little, fair as light,
And every thing, in short.
Oh I happy girl! I think thee so,
For mark the poet’s song,
“Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little, long.”
Nay I think not ’tis Vanity flushes my cheek
And beams in my eye when my praises you speak,
Yet surely the bosom no pleasure can prove
Like the accents of praise from the lips that we love.
When flatterers surround me, I need not their strain,
Their honey and fragrance are wasted in vain,
I may smile at their words, but no joy they impart
They ring in the ear, but they reach not the heart.
But from friends of my soul, friends long cherish’d and dear
Whose judgement I prize, and whose words are sincere,
Their praises are like the rich dews of the East,
They fall softly and slow, but sink deep in my breast.
Such, Philemon, are thine, and though fickle I seem
And gay as the mote that sports light in the beam,
Though partial attraction at times may control,
My heart, like the Magnet, still points to its Pole.
With others if oft I seem happy and free,
I shine but with lustre reflected from thee,
Like the Bee, still from blossom to blossom I roam
But collect all their nectar to furnish my home.
E. A. P.
July 12th, 1823
Your letter, My dear Sir, is in every way so gratifying to me that I know not how sufficiently to thank you for it. But what do you mean by a spirit of “conciliation” having been manifested by me? I had so little idea of any feeling of coldness or anger having existed on either side that I confess I do not see the application of the term. If you mean that my tongue was loosed a little the other day, I will own the fact, for I was determined not to deserve your raillery any longer on that score, and with regard to the graver matter under discussion, I believe we may both thank Lady Lucy Barry’s letters for having absolutely frightened me into courage. I own I am shocked at your misapprehension with regard to me, and am at a loss to comprehend it. Surely the assertion of
A heart in every pulse to England true
True to her equal Laws, her. Altar, and her King!
repeated in my letters to you, and backed with the assurance that to me “Christianity needed no evidence but the Scriptures” should have rendered it impossible; and if by any strange chance I have said or written anything which could make you doubt my belief either in the absolute Divinity of Christ, or the necessity of His intercession, why did you not at once put the question directly to me? I think I could not have existed four and twenty hours under such a doubt with regard to you. What you have said however explains some passages in your letters, where you occasionally appeared to me to be fighting a shadow; and also one or two remarks which came in very oddly in conversation.
I have begun this letter to you two or three times over, and got as you may perceive so far on Saturday night. I had much to say to you, and wished to have been able to say it calmly and considerately, but my head is in such a whirl that I feel that cannot be at present, and entreat you to excuse me. You ought to have heard from me earlier, and I prefer sending these few lines to a longer delay. That there is no essential difference between us I am indeed convinced, and indeed your letter makes me feel assured that there will soon be none. I cannot however entirely agree with you respecting Sunday and when I feel more calm I will explain to you my view of the subject in answer to yours. I have some idea that from your profession and habits of life you have not regarded it from the same point of view, and you certainly present it in one which is almost new to me. I think that when I can bring the matter fairly before you, you will partly adopt my opinion, and you have; on the other hand there are some things in which I feel much inclined to make your opinions mine. In the meantime I shall claim a little of indulgence. That you will not ascribe the variations arising from habits, education, or constitution, to levity of feeling on my part, even should we ultimately not coincide on every point, or at least that you will take a little time before you condemn me.
I am sorry to perceive that what I said about my friends has given you pain. I did not mean that it should have done so, but were I to recall to your memory many of your observations, you would not wonder at my having received such an impression. I entreat you to forget it altogether.
I must however repeat, and with still stronger emphasis, that there is no nourishment in pepper. But you have misunderstood me, which indeed I almost expected you would, from my having no room to explain, and I will therefore add a few words. Your feelings in every way had been most highly wrought. The necessity of summoning your strongest mental energies to combat with pain and weakness and despondency had placed you for some time in that state of intellectual existence, which whether it be of pleasure or of pain has always a strange charm about it, I believe because our souls, with an innate sense of their immortality and their future destiny, exult in shaking off, if but for a moment, the dull earthly clog to which they are at present tyed—and when you returned to the sober routine of common life, you missed the excitement to which you had become habituated and seemed to fall, literally like Icarus when his wings were thawed by the Sun. I could not hear you complaining that you had no longer an interest in what surrounded you—in anything you saw or heard, and even in the society of your friends, without recalling a similar period in my own feelings. After having been for some time under the necessity of the strongest exertion, both mental and bodily, the power seemed suddenly to cease with the occasion and every thing became dull and tasteless to me. If I may again quote from myself I would say:
My frozen heart nor love nor hate could warm,
Grief had no sting, and pleasure lost its charm.
I cared not whether it were joy or sorrow, but I would have given anything to be able to feel again. I therefore say to you, do not regret that your present life offers to you no sensation equally absorbing with those that are past. They were like the excitement of opium and must be followed by a corresponding state of exhaustion. You will perhaps not be able to agree with me at this moment, but I know that you will hereafter.
There is yet one question to which you require an answer—and if you have not received it sooner, I can assure you it has been from no wish to trifle with you. You may indeed wonder that I cannot shew on this point the same firmness and readiness of decision which I am told marks my character in general.
In situations of difficulty, danger or suffering I believe my nerves would be as firm as your own, but in other points no woman was ever more timid, and my resolutions “to behave better next time” all proved of no avail when the time came. However, the matter is now I believe settled, and Mr. Kay has, as I expect acquainted you with the result of our last night’s conversation. I own I scarcely feel that every thing necessary can be in readiness by the 6th August, [their wedding-day] but if it can, I will make no opposition where I am so strongly urged, and hope that the time fixed will suit your convenience and that we neither of us shall ever look back upon that day with regret.
Your note interrupts me. I congratulate you on your Brother’s safe arrival32—and your improved hours of rising. For the present farewell.
Ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
6 Upper Portland Place,
21st July, 1823
I meant to have sent you back Mr. Finch’s letter, but as my sister wishes to see it, I will leave it with her, and beg you to reclaim it there, if you return to London before me. I enclose one for a friend at Berne—Should it suit you to present it as a letter of introduction, you will find M. Zeerleder a valuable acquaintance, and if you do not visit that part of Switzerland this time, pray just poke it into the post at any convenient point.
I have seen so little of you for the last twelve months, that I feel it as difficult to enter into anything like confidential communication, as it would be unjust to our long friendship to withhold it. But, indeed, I believe I have no secret to tell you; by some strange and unfathomable means it got wind in spite of every precaution. In uniting myself with Captain Franklin I believe I am fulfilling what would have been my father’s most earnest wish with regard to me and the noncompletion of which, was indeed his greatest anxiety in the later months of his life. I sometimes feel as if I had in some respects, made an odd choice and at this moment I have naturally all the dangers and perils of such a change arrayed in all their force before me, but on the other hand, I have the strongest reliance on the worth of his character, and his regard for me. I have at least proved that the latter only derived strength from time, and distance and suffering. That I shall have your good wishes I am certain, and I have no doubt that when you and he come to be really known to each other, you must be friends, though his extreme shyness makes him appear to disadvantage. When you see me next, I trust it will be in No. 55 Devonshire Street, the house in which I was born, and which by a strange coincidence has been fixed upon after a search of three months in various quarters, and where I am sure you will always be welcome.
When matters are so near a serious conclusion, I find as I have often heard said, that even as to those who ascend some lofty mountain, all lesser things shrink into utter insignificance. Yet even now, I cannot help asking whether your muse be in condition for an epithalamium? Our promise was mutual, was it not? and pray what are you about that your Romance is not finished? I little thought to have been the one to claim said promise but I think you might find it a tolerably good subject. After writing so long about Cœur de Lion, I have contrived to catch hold of a Lion’s heart, have I not? When the “Arctic Expeditions” fall in my way now, I cannot help laughing at the jokes which were cut upon me when they were published. By the bye you have never given me your critique on Richard so I shall now expect one on the Captain’s work as well, not that I saw a line of that till it was published.
My best regards to all your circle. If all matters go as they are planned, and I do not fall ill again to disconcert them, we shall about return when you do.
-- Ever your sincere friend,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Should anything occur on your tour which you think worth communicating, remember that I shall always be happy to hear from you.
Office for Milr. Boards,
22nd July, 1823
Dear Miss Porden,
Harried and worried as I happen to be this day I scarcely know how to reply to your note as it deserves, but this I can at least assure you, what no external interruptions can prevent me from feeling, that I do most sincerely participate in the prospect of felicity that seems to open upon you. You have known me too long to want to be told how much good I wish you; and though the communication which leads me to dwell on those prospects and to wish I could adequately express those wishes happens not to be quite new to me, I cannot tell you how agreeable it is to me to receive it thus confidentially from yourself.
With slender means of forming a judgment, I will say that all I have seen of Captain Franklin has made a favourable impression upon me (which as far as looks could go was also made upon my sister on Sunday) and if, as I have no doubt, he wrote his Book himself, I would be bold to say that the heart and disposition which it unaffectedly lays open could not be professed by a man with whom one ought to fear entering on the most intimate connection. I hope and wish to become his friend for your sake. I am disposed to like him for the sake of his book, and I think I shall be disappointed if I do not find him likeable for his own sake.
Did I “promise”? I fear to attempt to perform—if I did—I once fancied the Gods had made me poetical but have long since found out my mistake.
What confidential communication shall I make you in return? I cannot for reasons too long for a note explain all the perplexities of my situation, but they are great—and what is most curious, at the moment I thought all was at an end for ever I received a more unequivocal testimony of being—may I say beloved—than in the happiest days of my romance—do you recollect an Attic evening when I was en crise? What may be the end I cannot tell you—for there are some family circumstances too in the way, but if I ever should marry my fate is fixed. But, I wrote for the purpose of telling you that my tour is knocked on the head, by an accident that has nearly destroyed the hand of my assistant here, in whose absence I cannot go away. Edward therefore goes without me, goes direct to Paris and will take your Review to Pictet, if you will send it per bearer or to our house to-morrow—he starts Thursday per steamboat for Calais.
Adieu—once more; busied to death—with every good wish,
Your old and sincere friend,
July 23rd, 1823
My dear Sir,
I found the enclosed note on my return last night, and though it bears its own evidence that it was not intended for your eye, I send it to you as the means of making you better acquainted with a long valued friend of mine. I have also another motive. From the intimacy which subsisted between our families, and the familiar association produced by the Attic Meetings many of my friends imagined that I must necessarily belong hereafter to one of the Mr. Elliotts, and Henry was more especially pitched upon. As some of these idle fancies might possibly come round to your ear, I thought it due to you to shew what were the terms on which I had really been with him. If some persons might be inclined to wonder that such long intercourse did not lead to the anticipated result, I will make bold to answer that it is greater matter for surprise, that the mutual consciousness of such belief being entertained, did not put an end to our acquaintance; but in fact the knowledge on my part that his affections were otherwise devoted, made me apply to him on all occasions without scruple, while at the same time he felt certain that no attention of his would ever be misconstrued by me. I was particularly glad to see him on Sunday, for though I knew that he was aware of my situation with respect to you I felt it due to our long friendship and habits of confidence even on such subjects to make some communication myself, and we had not met for so long a time that I knew not how to enter on it. I had however another reason for sending to him on Monday and the matter then came in naturally.
The latter part relates to his own affairs and to an old promise made when he first engaged himself (7 or 8 years ago!) to the lady whom I hope he will one day be married to. It was in the days of the Attic Chest, and we settled that whichever required it first should claim an Epithalamium of the other. I then little thought to have been the one to whom the debt would be paid, though to speak truth I expect it never will.
You will say this is like many of mine, a long note about nothing, but the habit of talking on paper was given me so early, that, as you have had occasion to remark, my pen will often run more glibly than my tongue.
Ever your sincere and affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Porden
Upper Portland Place
July 25th, 1823
My dearest Eleanor,
I was extremely gratified by your affectionate kindness in permitting me to peruse the note of your friend Mr. Elliott. I can well imagine the sincere and may I say, affectionate esteem which an intimate connexion with so true a friend must have produced, and it will ever afford me real happiness to cherish this sentiment between you. I should indeed be unworthy of your regard, could I for a moment desire to obtain it at the sacrifice of your esteem for any of your previous and well known intimates. With respect to Mr. H. Elliott, I will reverse his words and say I hope and wish to become his friend for your sake at the same time that I feel how great will be my individual happiness and advantage in having the honour of such a valuable friend.
We mustered very strongly at my sister’s to-day, and only wanted your society to complete a happy family circle. How greatly did I enjoy the two last days from having passed them nearly altogether with you! I am quite rejoiced that we now begin to converse with each other more confidentially and unreservedly than ever, the natural consequence I presume of feeling our affections, our hopes and our interests to be truly united.
I regret having an engagement to dinner or I would have anticipated the pleasure of being with you the greater part of to-morrow and of having another of our agreeable evening walks. I hope however you will dine with my sister33 as I shall be able to be with you until five—besides I am desirous you should become acquainted with my brother’s34 wife who will dine there with her sister, and the three children. But perhaps the noise will be too much for you.
I write in haste,
Believe me ever my dear Eleanor,
Your most affectionate friend,
3 Great Portland Street.
On August 6th, 1823, in London the wedding of John Franklin and Eleanor Anne Porden took place. Probably the date was chosen partly to secure the privacy which John so greatly valued. There is no family record of the wedding. Did the formidable six-foot Miss Appleton really act as bridesmaid? If so, she must have completely dwarfed the tiny bride, whose dress of silver brocade and fairy-like shoes are still in the possession of the author.
By the legal documents, it appears that Eleanor was a considerable heiress. Her father’s will, made two years previously, left her all books, prints and furniture. The prints were many of them valuable. But the principal asset was house property in Upper Berkeley Street and elsewhere.
This was in the marriage-settlement, her father’s will stipulating that it should be for her own use and benefit, and without the control of her husband if she should thereafter marry. This last is a great proof of her father’s confidence in her judgment and business acumen.
The settlement further provides that she is not to anticipate. Her property is “not to be liable for the debts, or control, interference or engagements of the said John Franklin.” It is left to John Franklin for life, at her death; or to any child born in her lifetime. Eleanor has absolute power of appointment; none is given to her husband. Apparently John Franklin settled nothing.
After all the fatiguing house-hunting, the most appropriate abode turned out to be the very place in which Eleanor herself had first seen the light—55 Devonshire Street. This therefore was the centre of their brief married life, and there in due course their little daughter was born.
Naturally for the first months no letters passed between the two; but those to Eleanor’s sister, Henrietta Kay, show how she adopted the hordes of new relations con amore.
Unfortunately the air of the fens brought back the terrible breathlessness from which Eleanor had previously suffered and her husband, thoroughly alarmed, removed her in haste to a more congenial climate, returning himself to attend the various festivities arranged in Lincolnshire in honour of their marriage.
The letters begin again in the Spring of 1824, when John’s father died at the age of 84, and the family fell back upon John for everything, quite regardless of his wife’s claims. She was in very special need of affectionate companionship and care. Her indomitable spirits made her inclined to over-exert herself whenever she felt a little better; and though she is always too unselfish to complain, some of her letters do gently hint that people are apt to throw on John business which they really might transact for themselves.
On June 3rd, 1824, their only child, Eleanor, was born, like her mother, in Devonshire Street, but nevertheless on June 11th we find the new-made mother writing from Tonbridge stating that she has been to church in the morning, for a ride in the afternoon and now feels very weary!
Evidently her babe is the greatest possible delight. She writes of her as “Little Puss,” “Goosey,” “Poppet,” “Little Miss,” and describes her as “fat, fair and funny.”
Franklin’s renewed absence in Lincolnshire, and usual uncertainty as to places, make the vital questions of vaccination and christening very difficult to arrange. On the other hand, she compliments him on his great improvement in letter writing.
On September 24th the Sunday question is once more to the fore, and Eleanor is hurt by what she considers a lack of confidence and frankness on her husband’s part in discussing it. Perhaps he felt it was too agitating a topic for one in such frail health.
By the autumn, multifarious arrangements for the Arctic Expedition which was to start in February 1825 were in full swing. Franklin’s frequent absences in Lincolnshire threw many of the interviews in London on his delicate wife. The competition for inclusion in the Expedition was very keen; Eleanor was besieged by applicants imploring her to use her influence in their favour—one, a lieutenant, is willing to go as a midshipman rather than be left behind. Eleanor thinks the Captain should be on the spot, as she does not believe in “petticoat influence” in such matters. She wards off many invitations to the public dinners he detested (was this the real cause of his lingering in Lincolnshire?). One was from the Duke of Sussex, who had invited a large party to meet him before discovering whether the hero of the hour was in Town or no!
Eleanor’s personal contribution to the Expedition was to be an embroidered flag to be hoisted on the highest point north reached. Dimensions and material are discussed.
Guests for the Christmas dinner are debated. Franklin is anxious to collect any members of the family in London for this last Christmas before his perilous adventure. But amidst all these claims—a prey to constant suffering as she was—Eleanor finds time to vent her indignation at Sir Humphry Davy’s condemnation of Professor Buckland, because his scientific views could not be made to square with the Mosaic account of the Creation; and to delight her soul with some poems of Hafiz and Ferdousi translated from the Persian by her brother-in-law, James Franklin. Nor is she less interested in her husband’s glee that he has discovered pyrites in Lincolnshire.
It is the picture of a pure, innocent life, rising above the weakness of the flesh, feeling that the absence which so greatly aggravated her sufferings is perhaps a merciful preparation for the time when her husband will have sailed. She is resolved to leave nothing undone which can contribute to his welfare, and send him off under the happiest auspices, recking naught of the cost to herself in the gallantry of her self-sacrifice.
Keill, near Bolingbroke,
Sept, 17th, 1823
I am afraid you think me very negligent and even unkind in not writing to you sooner, but my finger chose to play its old trick of chapping with the change of water on the road, and I afterwards hurt it in getting over a style so as almost to disable it. It was so much inflamed with writing to Mary Anne that I have been obliged to make my husband answer Mr. Bedford from my dictation, but that plan would not do for you on this occasion, and so the letter has been forced to wait.
I have passed my time very pleasantly since I left London and on the whole find cause to be very well pleased with those I am brought amongst. Old Mr. Franklin is as you know totally blind and nearly deaf. His faculties also, particularly his memory, are much impaired by age, but his eyes are clear and bright, and there is no indication of his infirmities in his appearance. When he gets reminded of the early pranks of his sons, or anything that has passed more than twenty years ago, his speech flows on in an easy and cheerful strain of anecdote; and his spirits seem to be uniformly good. My elder brother-in-law, the most worshipful judge Sir Willingham, is indeed a constant theme and source of merriment with every one in this part of the world, for he appears to have been the veriest little pickle that ever lived, and as hard to catch or confine as Wayland Smith’s dwarf assistant in Kenilworth. But I am wandering from Mr. Franklin, whose head I meant to tell you might sit for Mr. Flaxman’s portrait ten years ago—though he is now 84. The shape of the skull and the hair are as close a resemblance as the features, and he is not unlike in size, but without any deformity. His blindness appears to have been brought on by incessant reading. As to Brothers and Sisters Booth, Cracroft, and Wright, and brother Sellwood, and all the descendants and relatives of all there, it is in vain for me to attempt an enumeration of them. Mr. Booth I have yet seen but once, but the Captain’s two younger married sisters are both very pretty and very pleasant women, particularly I think Mrs. Cracroft with whom we now are. The four children she has are very pretty, well taught, intelligent animals, the second girl is so like my husband as to be generally called Johnny. Mr. Cracroft I thought vulgar at first from his shooting dress and Lincolnshire dialect, but I have since corrected my opinion and find him intelligent and well informed. He is a farmer on a large scale, and a great sportsman.
I think Mary Anne would enjoy being here very much for as he seems really to understand every thing he has to do with and to keep his eye upon every modern improvement, she might not only extend her knowledge of horseflesh, but of the merits of different breeds of cattle and the nature of soils and crops. I am making great progress in my knowledge of cattle and sheep about which he has taken particular pains, and I believe has been of great service to the whole country; and those are not unwilling to profit by his results who had neither spirit nor intelligence to make his experiments. The house here is something between a farm house and a gentleman’s residence, situated on a hill side and covered with roses in full blossom above the bedroom windows. My worst complaint is that one cannot stir without going up or down hill, not perhaps a general grievance in Lincolnshire; however we have a fine prospect over the low lands to Boston Church, whose tower sticks up like a great tree in the horizon.
We are to be a family party of 14 though neither the Booths nor Wrights are included. Of Cracrofts and Brackenburys there seems to be quite a clan, and the children have such a lot of Aunts and Uncles that if they are not by nature good arithmeticians they will be sadly puzzled among them. This house is always full of company, and it is only a morning of continual rain which gives me leisure for this long letter.
I don’t know what you mean about putting principals last, but climax is better than bathos.
Your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Keill, near Bolingbroke,
2nd October, 1823
I should have written to you two or three days ago, but knowing that my husband was to be away from me the greater part of this week, I reserved my letter writing for his absence. A pretty story, you will say, for him to be running off so soon—and indeed we have had a good deal of fun about it here, but it is all my fault, and so I have no right to complain. The fact is, that both he and Miss Franklin feared from the beginning that the air of Ingoldmells would not suit me, and the Captain particularly begged that I would not stay to get ill there, but let him know immediately if I found myself affected. I told him there would be no need for me to say anything, since it would speak for itself if I suffered. Accordingly we went there last Friday, and he noticed, which I did not, that I altered after passing a particular village. I was not very well during the evening, and when I went to bed was attacked with one of my fits of short breathing. Being the first time he had been treated with such a specimen of me, he was frightened accordingly and called Mrs. Booth, who said it was Betsey35 over again. In short the whole house was disturbed about me all night though I was not so bad as I have often been, and before I was up the Captain and his sister had sent for horses to carry me back, declaring that I should not stay there another night to suffer in like manner. The distance from the post town made it dusk before we could set out, and we had then a three hours’ drive through a pouring rain, notwithstanding which I left all my ailments behind on the very spot where I had taken them up, and as Mrs. Booth returned with us, I was particularly pleased at being able to give decisive proof that it was the air which disagreed with me by being perfectly well the next morning.
She had reckoned on a great deal of enjoyment while we were with her and was sadly distressed, even to tears; for she says here are two of her sisters whom she can never hope to see at her own house. From Miss Franklin she has been almost entirely separated for 18 years, but when I describe the scene you will not be much surprised. The name of “the Marsh” is not tempting and the scenery is less so. A dead flat without either tree or stone. The fields intersected by ditches instead of hedges and the winding road flanked by deep trenches from which a bridge of earth and a gate communicate with each separate enclosure. The land however is valuable and affords some of the richest pasture in England. Ingoldmells is about a mile from the sea but the embankment which is necessary to keep it out renders it invisible and yet such are the charms of one’s native soil, that those bred in these regions will not live in any other, and a man for whom Mr. Cracroft had procured a very advantageous situation among the hills, left it in a fortnight, declaring that there was nothing but clambering and descending, and the place was so shut in with hedges and trees he could not get his wind. The Booths themselves are a case in point, since they prefer living there in an ugly inconvenient old house which is not half big enough for them, having only a weekly communication with any post town, and at such a distance from most of his land, that he is never at home more than two days in seven.
Nevertheless I am sorry I could not stay, for the sands are particularly fine and we were to have had many a drive, besides rowing and fishing, and a good deal of pleasant society, not to mention a dance which we had been arranging the evening I was there, with two young men who are Mr. Booth’s pupils, and whose gallantry had debased their sportsmanship that morning to shoot nine and twenty sparrows for a pudding which was promised me. The Captain was to have been Master of the Ceremonies and Mrs. Booth to have led the Quadrilles. To close my long tale my husband is gone back to attend two or three parties which were formed on purpose for us, and accepted before I knew I could not go, and to make amends for his desertion Mrs. Cracroft is going to turn me out in his absence. Indeed I fear our return here has been somewhat inconvenient, for this family are in the act of moving to another house. I go this afternoon to Mr. Wright’s, who I suppose you know is the son of Mr. Pennington’s sister—and on this day week we return to Horncastle where your letters must be directed after Monday. By the bye I suppose you have heard of me through Mr. Pennington. I little thought ever to have claimed him as a sort of an Uncle!
I regret very much that you should have received any unpleasant impression during our visit to London as I am certain nothing could be farther from both our wishes than to have given rise to it, and I in particular have a great deal of kindness to thank you and yours for. Of the Friday, I have no remembrance but as having been much disconcerted by Miss Appleton, who do what I would was [? determined—paper torn] I should not part from her without a squabble and would not [paper torn] be contented with it once either. On the Monday [paper obliterated] no thought of asking Mr. Kay or any one to dinner, till on talking matters over he found it would be most convenient for him to be in Devonshire Street at 5 o’clock—the time when our beef was ordered, so I very naturally asked if he would eat a bit of it; you appeared to me much too ill to venture out even had I known that matters would turn out so tolerably as they did (for which you should praise Sarah, and not blame me). My Uncle’s staying arose from his arrival two hours beyond his time and appearing much fatigued, and when I found our party so much increased I called Sarah in a great fright to ascertain whether our provision would hold out. In like manner I did not expect either of the gentlemen to stay to tea, and was very glad to find there was some in the house. The wine, Mr. Kay knows, was sent for after his arrival. In a word, I can only say that there was not the remotest thought of hurting your feelings in any way, and so I hope you will dismiss the impression.
I assure you I have not let the last month slip by without remembering last year, or without a deep feeling of gratitude for the contrast. My husband’s kindness towards me increases with every day and his family seem all disposed to receive me as one of them. As to any feeling of dislike towards yourself I am sure you are mistaken. He often says that no one who had known him at any other time would believe his silence and abstraction when in London. Of his manner towards you he often complained at the time and said he never entered your house without determining to be more himself, but when there, he never could get rid of the idea that you were watching him. That however he observes, must be all over now. These remarks however did not arise out of your letter which of course he has not seen, but have occurred occasionally in other conversation. The Captain too begged I would not forget his love to you and all. By the bye his nephew Tom Booth was commissioned to call in Devonshire Street, and I hope will not also be taken for an Imposter, but the box we know nothing of.
Your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Oct. 20th, 1823
I would not dine out, reserving myself for the Ball on Thursday, and the Ball cured me. At half past twelve was a sermon for the benefit of the dispensary, attended by all the grandees for twenty miles round. Then at 3 o’clock the gentlemen dined at the Inn. The Captain had his health drunk, and made a speech. The prosperity of the town of Horncastle was also given, but no one returned thanks! The toast was addressed to Mr. Sellwood, and he not perceiving it, spoke not, and of course no one else did, but we have had a fine laugh against him for it. The ladies used formerly to dine with the gentlemen, till Mrs. Dymoke36 changed the arrangements because it was a bustle for those three or four miles off to drive home and get dressed and back by 8. However it is to be resumed next year, as it is found that those who come from a greater distance, and are at the Inn, are in danger of starving, while their spouses are stuffing. After dinner, business was discussed. Now you must know that the physician of this place died last week, since when the whole neighbourhood has been as much distracted between two rival candidates as if the contention were for a seat in Parliament. A ci-devant apothecary, recently dubbed physician, had canvassed and secured the Champion and the gentry five months ago; while the town have espoused the cause of Dr. Bousfield, a clever man at Spilsby, who held back out of delicacy to the dying man. To save ill blood, both were proposed for the post (which is honour and not profit) and so I suppose both will settle here to try their rival skill.
At eight o’clock came the ball, and a very good one it was. Mrs. Dymoke, Patroness. She had promised better music than usual, and sent 100 miles for a harp, but no harp was to be had, no, nor even a flageolet, and as she disdained a drum we were forced to be contented with the scraping of some half score of boys who were almost lost behind their fiddles. All else however was well. The Horncastle Ball is only reckoned second to the Staff Ball at Lincoln and this was an unusually good meeting. Every one seemed to enjoy it, and so did I, but I almost knocked myself up with a Country Dance. Quadrilles however prevailed. The supper is a picnic, furnished by the neighbouring gentry, and their cooks display all the mysteries of their craft on the important occasion. Lord Yarborough’s death kept the whole of that family away, and I understand that Sir Joseph Banks is much missed on the occasion, but nevertheless all was very gay and very pleasant.
We dined yesterday at Mr. Short’s—a gentleman of fortune, residing about two miles from here, so you see we have plenty of it and might have for some time yet if we could stay, but on Monday we start for Nottingham. I am quite glad to have sent my cold packing before I had to encounter strangers again and must endeavour to pick up no more of them. The weather has been bad, but is now delightful again. The leaves however are falling fast. Miss F.37 begs her best compliments to you and yours and hopes for better news of Mr. Kay. I believe I gave you our address at Mrs. Burnside’s, Castle Gate, Nottingham.
Ever your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Wednesday, Nov. 12th, 1823
You will laugh to hear how unlucky we have been. In the first place Saturday last was a nasty Scotch misty sort of a day, in which no one would have wished to set out on a journey, but Mrs. Burnside was to commence her removal on the Monday, and so we had no choice. Then the doubt arose whether, under such a sky it were worth while to go nine and twenty miles round for the sake of seeing Belvoir Castle, it being most probable that the outside would be lost in the clouds, and nothing but a cold to be caught within. While the matter was in debate, it was settled by intelligence that the road, always bad, had been impassable for four-wheeled carriages a week before, and the subsequent rains were not likely to have amended it. Then our change of route produced a delay respecting horses, and we were compelled into taking four the greater part of the first stage on account of a hill which was said to have been new gravelled, but the whole proved a trick, as indeed we expected all the time. The result was that we got no farther than Hinckley that night; but were pretty comfortably lodged.
The next morning at Church I was surprized by the number of boys and girls with their heads in steel frames, but believe I have heard of some celebrated spine doctor residing there. The parson who was right Warwickshire, treated us with a sermon against duelling, which I have heard some years ago delivered with great effect, but thought somewhat misplaced before a country congregation. In the afternoon we proceeded under a more auspicious sky, looked at Coventry Church (where the bells were ringing for afternoon service, and which seemed not likely to have standing room in it five minutes afterwards) and thence through Kenilworth to Warwick. A most beautiful drive, through a belt of wood which has the grandeur without the formality of an avenue, and which not even November could deprive of its charms. Kenilworth is a complete ruin but the remains are considerable. The Great Hall and the Chapel appear to have been handsome pieces of Architecture. We slept at Warwick which is one of the best towns I have seen. The new Jail and the town hall are fine buildings though I do not admire the taste which suspends a pair of fetters over the door of the former. But Warwick Castle which we had come so far to see—Warwick Castle which like Belvoir had dwelt upon my fancy for years, we were also fated not to behold. There was a grand fête there last Friday, and the removal of the decorations renders it invisible for a week. We therefore departed on Monday afternoon, drove through Leamington, which seems principally attractive from its being still tolerably rural and in a fine country, and passing on, we slept at Banbury. The road was execrable, and made us so late that I could only see by moonlight the Church, which was too far from the Inn to revisit next morning. It [words obliterated] the new ones, and seems a good building, with a semicircular portico and a handsome steeple.
The waters were much out the whole way from Nottingham, and I know not whether it be owing to that or not, but I have lost my voice on the way, though otherwise quite well; and I think the fine clear frost of the last three days ought to have counteracted such an effect. From Banbury to this place we passed some dozens of fine trees torn up by the roots in the late hurricane, and many of them lying across the road, three or four together and only just dragged so far to one side as not to impede its traffic. At Blenheim they were strewed around us, and we learned that not less than 500 had been blown down in Lord Bathhurst’s Park at Cirencester. Blenheim we visited of course, and got here in time to squint at the High Street last night. My husband has never seen either place before, and is much delighted as I expected. I have really walked about all day to my own astonishment, and too much interested to feel fatigue, but I now find that it grows upon me as I write. I have been much amused with Professor Buckland, and his Cabinet of bones. To-morrow we depart, but I scarcely think till afternoon, and as Captain won’t let me travel after dusk we shall not reach London before dinner time on Friday, when if you please we will dine with you. I think you said you should be in town. I had a letter on business (crabbed enough) from Mr. Bond at Warwick. Did you know of it? Also one from Uncle. Captain desires his regards to you, Mr. Kay and children in which joins also,
Your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
April 8th, 1824
My dearest Love,
I fear you have left your business in hands more willing than able to attend to it, for I have been sadly languid once you left me, or would have written in readiness last night and believe, as you feared at the time, that I rather overexerted myself on Monday and Tuesday. I must therefore instead of sending you such a letter as I would wish about many points of minor interest confine myself to what it is absolutely necessary to communicate. The enclosed letter I believe is one of those you expected. Mr. Millington is dangerously ill, but will take care that Capt. Beechey is proposed. Mr. Hunter called last night, with an invitation from the Duke of Sussex to dine with him to-morrow and I know not whether you will or will not regret the impossibility which excuses you from obeying a royal order. I told Mr. Hunter you would be at least a fortnight away. I understand the party was invited to meet you. Mr. Bond was with me this morning, indeed has delayed my writing. We have talked over several matters pretty satisfactorily and settled about the Insurance. I believe it will also be necessary to insure Berners Street but this he could not say without looking to Mr. Guichard’s lease. I had a letter from Ferdinand this morning, complaining somewhat strongly, and I think now not without reason, of Mr. Bedford’s delay in selecting the books, after the principle of selection has been agreed to. The Bonds also seem to feel much aggrieved by the litter in which it keeps their drawing rooms—albeit litter is no novelty there! I have got Giblett’s bill which is £343; some parts of it I am not over well pleased with, and some I shall certainly object to, where the charge is above what he asked. I have also got Tyars’s. My sister I shall see to-morrow and Miss Griffin has volunteered to drive me to Greenwich at any time if I decide on venturing. I believe I have engaged a nurse, and as Dr. Thomson told her the 1st week in June at farthest I think it is high time. I have written to Mrs. Beaufort; Mr. South and Sir A. Johnstone have called, and Capt. Parry’s dance is postponed to the 4th of May. I have also written to thank the American Reading Room and in fact believe I have omitted nothing.
I had not time to ask you about mourning as I ought to have done, but supposed I could not be wrong in getting a black gown for each of the maids and shall send John about a suit for himself. Farther I shall not proceed till your return or till you give me orders, as your wishes will probably be in some degree regulated by what your family do, and I have known so much ill blood arise from one member’s choosing to do too much or too little in such a case, that though I am sure there would be no danger of such feelings in this instance, I would rather act upon sure grounds. There is also one point which I feel it delicate to ask at this moment, but which I should like to have answered when you return—as I must act accordingly—namely whether it is intended to wear black the whole old fashioned twelve months (which you among others quarrelled with me for sticking-up for last year) or the more modern term of six months. I have found it impossible to get my letter finished in time to catch Capt. Parry for a frank, without a degree of hurry which I thought would do me more harm than copying Mr. McDonald’s short epistle, so have written the last part more at leisure.
I am not unmindful of what is perhaps passing at this moment and should go on in a very different tone if I had either time or leisure, or indeed strength, for I feel quite exhausted. I hope you will be able to tell me that you have all been well supported through this trying day,38 and though all must suffer from the effects of feelings which we cannot and ought not to be able wholly to silence, I do truly believe that if there be a family to which death has no terror, and sorrow would come without its sting, it is yours. My best love to each and all, and pray assure them that it is no want of interest and sympathy in their feelings which prevents me from writing. My sister and Mr. Kay begged also that I would express their sincere regret. I shall endeavour to write a few lines to Mary Booth this evening if I am well enough but shall not write to you again till Saturday unless something material occurs to communicate.
Ever your affectionate wife,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
I have had no more sheets, and pray say how your cold is.
5th April, 1824
Yours of the 29th inst. I duly received and thank you kindly for your offer and in reply have to acknowledge my excepting it; although the wages is far below what I anticipated, having had a much larger salary with the H. B. Co. who had no fault to find with me, except that I could not keep accounts. In regard to the duty you have laid down which you expect me to perform, I have only to state that you will find me capable of it in every respect. McKensies River I am acquainted with having both summered and wintered there.
I flatter myself that my conduct through the journey will meet your approbation, and shall leave any advance in salary to your own generosity—if you are in want of a few good boatmen I can procure you some able hands here. I have been attending the French school since I came home, which will also be of some use to me should you have any Canadians in the Expedition.
Before I leave this, I will require a little money in advance which I hope you will have no objection to let me have.
Waiting your further instructions, I am, etc. etc.
P.S.—Please address me as formerly at Mr. McFarlanes, 13 and 14 Wilson Street. Mr. McFarlane desires to be kindly remembered to you and wishes you as good a train of dogs when you pass his old Post, Green Lake, on this journey as you got on your last and hopes you will once more return safe to old Caledonia and spend with pleasure the fruits of your hard and hazardous undertaking.
Saturday, April 10th, 1824
Many thanks, my dearest Love, for your kind letter. I am glad you both bore your journey so well, and found your sisters so composed, though I do not like your account of Betsey’s health, but she perhaps will improve when things around her are quiet again. Do you wish me to make any application to Dr. Thomson about her? I was almost ashamed to write you a letter of mere business on the day I did, but fear this will be like it, for my cough is so troublesome I scarcely know what I say, and I have taken up my old trade of sickness again in full vigour. It is very provoking, and I am sure you must be tired of hearing of my complaints, yet if I tell the truth, I can tell no other tale.
I send you another of the letters you expected from the North, and shall also enclose Lieut. Marshall’s prospectus and queries, in the hope they may excite a laugh. Sir Richard Keats has sent an invitation to you for the 20th which I have declined on the plea of your absence from Town. I have also one from the Chalons for an evening party on the 30th which I cannot answer till I know whether you intend visiting at present. You must also inform me whether you wish me to send out cards of thanks, and when? If you do, I fear I shall get into sad scrapes, as I am likely to forget one half of your friends. Not more than half a dozen have made enquiries at present, so I presume that the event39 generally known here, your father not having lived in London, and that if you wish to avoid the ceremony, the return of visiting cards to those who have sent may be sufficient.
I own that at this moment I could wish to avoid the fatigue of receiving our whole acquaintance over again, but it is a matter which must be entirely regulated by your own feelings and wishes.
I yesterday sent back three sheets to Mr. Clowes, and received two more last night, which I will if possible despatch to-day. I thought from the postponement of Capt. Parry’s Ball, that his voyage was also deferred, but understand he is to sail on the 5th. I had read my cousin’s letter but carelessly when I wrote to you, but on looking at it again I found it was written in a tone of sarcasm and even menace which I shall answer very briefly. I have sent it to Mr. Bedford, and begged him if possible to bring the business to a termination. I have also given him all the particulars he desired about the tenants, and as Mr. Kay was to meet him to-day upon a trial, I hope they will get a little conversation together, and put something in train. My sister and Mr. Kay dined here yesterday and Mary Anne is now with me. Mrs. Woodfall I expect on Monday, so you need not distress yourself about me.
I am glad that you were able to see your father, but I should not have expected it, as it was necessary to close up both my parents much sooner, though I believe that necessity was hastened by the circumstances under which they died, and the countenances of both were so lovely in death that we were anxious to take our last look before dissolution should have wrought any change which might make the impression less pleasing. My mother’s face in particular had relaxed from the distortion of paralysis into something of that beauty which it had lost for at least fourteen years, and the last gleams of which I could but faintly remember. It is a superstitious feeling, since it must frequently be fallacious, yet it is difficult not to consider the serenity of the lifeless countenance as an assurance of the happiness of the Spirit which has left it, and notwithstanding the exceptions which convulsion and pain may occasion, I still think that that composure of mind which none but the good can feel at all, and none but the good Christian can entirely enjoy, may have some influence in tranquillizing the body in the last great struggle.
Many thanks to your sisters and brothers for their kind solicitude about me. I wish I were less interesting. Tell the former that I hope to set to work in earnest about my baby linen next week and that such an important business yet to do, will fully explain what sort of animal I have been throughout the winter. Playing the invalid is quite a new occupation to me, but as every body promises that I shall be myself again, I live in hopes.
Pray take care of yourself and send your cough into the fen ditches. It is my natural inheritance to suffer, but I cannot bear to think of your being ill, and so mind you do not make a close companion of it.
If Sidney Smith’s Sermon to the Judges at York appears in your paper, pray read it. You know I am not in general one of his admirers, but I like it very much, and though perhaps carried a little too far in some parts, think it likely to have a salutary influence on Judges, Juries, and the minds of the people at large, in those towns where our Courts are held. Considering the character of the City in which it was preached, I reckon him a bold man, and do not wonder it should have produced a great sensation. High as he upholds the character of a Judge I have pleasure in believing we have many who fully sustain it, and trust his view of the subject may operate on many more—but I must have done, and so farewell.
Ever your affectionate wife,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
I had forgotten Mary Anne’s love and some like messages which Sister and Mr. Kay left last night.
Monday evening, May 3rd, 1824
Dr. R. came in too late for you to receive an answer by this night’s post, and having missed that, I conclude your earliest information would be received in your meeting to-morrow, therefore stopped their writing. The trio are gone to Matthews’s at Home, and I have been so busy reading that I find it is bed-time before I was aware, so I must cut my note short—a strong proof how much better I must be. In fact I have not felt so well, nor seemed to have the use of my faculties so much for these six months. I have often fancied that people must think I was hatching complaints and ailments for amusement and have sometimes even thought I must really be doing so—it seemed so unnatural to me to be always hanging my head. However I find that let me be a little better, and my spirit bounds up as buoyantly as ever. It is absolutely delightful to feel the power of employing oneself again, and if I am as ill as ever to-morrow, I have still crammed a few new ideas into my head to-night, and among other things have made myself learned on the subject of Hydrophobia. Perhaps you do not think it a very exhilarating one, but chacun à son gout. I got information from it, and that’s enough.
Dr. R.40 goes to Chatham on Thursday and unless the Commanding officer refuses him leave of absence, will dine with you as invited on Friday, and Signor Capitano will bring down said Doctor’s lady to join your party. And I—will not let Mrs. Byrne know I am to be alone. I wish I durst risque the ride!
The selection of the books is to be finished tomorrow! Hurrah!!! Oh lack! it has struck eleven, and I must off or shall be caught. Much pleasure to you to-morrow, and water only on one side. You are to consider all the drops which the skies have shed this day as my tears at not being able to gladden the fête with my smiles, but as I would not play dog in the manger, I will do my best to produce only a few April showers tomorrow, just enough to spoil plumes and pelisses and give a few agreeable colds, but not to mar all the gaiety of the scene. By the bye, mind the girls do not jump overboard and get themselves turned into river Mermaids.
Ever your affectionate sister,
What a shame to have left me alone the only evening that I might have been amusing!
Sunday, June 11th, 8 p.m., 1824,
My dearest Love,
All the rest of the world is walking out this fine evening, but I, having been to Church in the morning and had a ride in the afternoon have done quite as much as I am equal to, and am very tired. I thought however that you would be disappointed if you did not find a few lines from me on your arrival at home to-morrow and Mr. Kay will be off before I am up.
I have gained ground very fast since I came here, but you must not expect too much at once, even from country air, and I feel that the postponement of the journey to Chatham was wise. Dr. Thomson drove over here with Mrs. Dingley on Friday and gives Tonbridge his decided approval in every way but thinks our better plan both for shortening our journey and seeing beautiful country would be to go there from Chatham—and if we must go to London, to go there before we visit Dr. Richardson. I know not however what arrangements you have made, or how this plan might prove more or less convenient than the other. Dr. Thomson had been to Devonshire Street and saw Sarah, but as he observed “he acted with the prudence which a medical man ought always to have,” and did not alarm her by letting her suppose I had summoned him on her account, but merely said that your note named her cold and spoke to her accordingly. He thought she did not appear to have much the matter with her, but he would see her again—I believe to-day. I tried hard to make him take his fee but he would not. He did not know about her impending marriage till sister and I told him, but as he seemed even without that explanation of extra nervousness to find no settled disease, and above all no signs of any affection of the lungs, I trust we may make the plasterer the scape-goat and dismiss our apprehensions.
All here are very well. I have made great progress with Captain Hall and like him very much. You are not so civil to the books I want you to read. Are you? Naughty boy! but I am really too much fatigued to say more than that. I hope you have enjoyed your tour, as much as I do the sight of every new object, after having had my view so long bounded by four walls, and that I long to have you back nevertheless.
Ever your affectionate wife,
E. A. Franklin
Tuesday, July 20th, 1824
My dearest Love,
I was very glad to get your letter, as I had begun to feel very uneasy at the total absence of all intelligence from Lincolnshire and hardly knew how to write to you till I heard.
I am on the whole tolerably well satisfied with your account of Isabella42 and hope there is no longer anything to fear for her. I know the agony of that sort of silent stupor, and rejoice that it found its vent at last. I am most alarmed at the account you give of the numbers that are with her; at such a time I believe they would actually drive me mad, indeed I once thought they would have done so, but pray take care that all do not leave her at once, nor for some time to come. She will be best with only one friend at a time but that one (I mean some one, it need not be always the same) ought to stay with her till she has thoroughly returned to her usual occupations, and begun to find an interest in them. She will otherwise suffer severely when you think all danger is over, for the exertions, both mental and bodily which she is now making to recover her spirits and resume her employment. Very likely all this would occur to you and others, but I know the causes from which I have suffered and would fain save her from similar experience.
I rejoice if my poor letter afforded a moment’s comfort; I generally think myself particularly awkward on such occasions. Like you, it is not that I feel less than my neighbours but that I cannot find utterance. When very young, I was compelled so to subdue all outward appearance of emotion, and was so long and so incessantly called upon to exercise this species of self-command, under circumstances which though they may have been exceeded in importance by those of later years, could scarcely be exceeded in pain, that it has become as difficult to me to express my feelings as it is to many to conceal them. When I consider what a mere child I was, and in what manner I was called upon to act, I cannot look back without both wonder and gratitude; but I did not take the pen to write of myself.
I am not surprised that Betsey is so well, nothing is of more use to a nervous invalid than to feel that others are dependent on them for support. It is not only the pleasure of paying off part of a debt of kindness, but that most delightful feeling of being useful once more. Pray give my best love to her, and to Mrs. Booth and Mrs. Wright also. You were angry with sister for smiling at the idea of Mary’s taking care of the house and the children, yet if you were to call up one of your most formidable frowns, and even bend “the penthouse of your brows” till they bore the impression of a horse shoe, I could not avoid a similar piece of indecorum when I think what a brood she has under her wing, herself but a chicken, though in truth a full grown one. My love to her also, and to all, not forgetting the gentlemen, whom I, as usual am overlooking. If Sophia were with you I would bid you tell her, that long as my letter may be in coming, it is not because I have forgotten hers, and that I wish she would lend my back some of the insensibility which distinguishes the tones she is so curious about, that I might answer it.
I have had a letter from Mrs. Richardson who wants me to go there while you are away, and offers the Doctor to fetch me from this place, but I shall decline the invitation on account of Baby’s Christening. I mean to go home to-morrow, as settled with you, and get everything ready both for Sarah’s departure and ours. If you do not return by the time my labours are completed, and I feel very uncomfortable by myself, perhaps I may pop off again somewhere, but always within reach, so that little Miss may be named as soon as you come back, and that we may lose no more than we need of our short English summer. Indeed, when you can let me know the probable length of your absence I shall fix the day with sister and Mr. Kay as they are going to Folkestone. Mr. Kay must be there on account of his business and wishes my sister to go with him, and as he has found a house, and all but taken it, I presume they will not be long [original letter torn] starting. At the same time you need be in no hurry, as [original letter torn] possibly [original letter torn] bonnets and spencers packed, in less time than you would commission a fleet!! By the bye did you not tell me that you either had written, or should write to Mr. Garry to put off your Parisian trip? I think it is a great pity. I know not how far this late event may render your presence necessary in Lincolnshire, but as far as I am concerned surely every thing is much more favourable for your going than could have been calculated on when it was first proposed. Would your staying a little longer at Harrington now obviate this necessity of your going again at least till later in the Autumn? I do not think that the expense, which you mentioned as one reason for declining it, need now operate. Its amount would depend greatly on yourself, and to which of the two classes of Englishmen it might please you to belong. There certainly was a time in the winter, when knowing how much had been incurred, and how much was necessarily coming in, I did feel very anxious lest we should not have stood perfectly clear at the end of this first year, and then, if anything had occurred to prevent your expedition, we might have felt ourselves awkwardly off for a while. But this cannot be the case now; and why you should not enjoy yourself as much as you reasonably can, while in a civilized quarter, I do not know. As to your reading or speaking French to me, I believe in it as much as I did in your purchasing an account book!! I kissed baby as you bade me; she grows very fast, but I half fear I shall have a quarrel with Baker for over feeding her. She has been all the better for it hitherto, but I think she is now beginning to get too fat, and to be uneasy with it. My sister and her nurse are of the same opinion, but I shall take care to act under orders and then I will be mistress. My sister begs I will give her love, and I know not how many of the young ones have been in severally to charge me in like manner.
I am sorry to say Toby keeps far from well and is not half the size you left her.
Ever your affectionate
E. A. Franklin
I have just heard from Mrs. Philip King that Tamaamorah died last week—I am very sorry for it, and wish it may not cause any political evil.
Thursday, July 22nd, 1824
I owe you many thanks, my dearest love, for your last kind letter, which was doubly welcome to me from the assurance conveyed still more in its style than its words, that every thing is now becoming more cheerful about you. I hope your accounts of Isabella and of all will continue to improve progressively, and that when you leave them it will no longer be with feelings of anxiety. Pray give my love to them, and say that I would write, but that I find one letter as much as I can yet manage in a day, and, besides that it appears exceedingly natural to me to address that to you, I have generally had business which has determined the question. I am sorry that you would not hear from me on the day you expected. Saturday was the first morning that I felt equal to an attempt at visiting, so we drove to Lady Keates, whose staircase almost did for me, and thence to Miss Browell, who kindly came down to me, and Miss Larkan, who had no stairs to climb.
All this I bore very well, but unluckily driving afterwards through Greenwich to Mrs. Philip King (who was not at home) the stones quite overpowered me, and if I had got back in time for the post, which is very inconveniently early there I fear I should not have been able to write. Besides I scarce knew what to say till I heard from you, and so should have been quiet till Monday, but for Mr. Garry. I suspect I send you a third epistle from him, and have written to tell him where we are, and allay his troubled spirit. (N.B.—I have just had an answer in which he confesses he knew you were in Lincolnshire! He is surely in love!!) I found I could not get my letter finished in time for this day’s post, as besides my sister, who came to town with me, we had Mr. Kay and five of the children to an early dinner, and now they are all off in the phaeton to Astleys, the two Mama’s waiting till you return to beau us, as sister did not like going with so large a company, and I thought a little more time would make me stronger. You see I am beginning to be saucy however. As you have put me upon my obedience I must of course let the books alone, though one of my motives for coming to town was to rid you of a job which I thought you had no taste for, but I shall have enough to do without it, and well it is that I did come, for Mrs. Sarah has settled to be married on Saturday, and I have time little enough to look things over with her. She offers to return again for a few days when all is over, but I think it will be cruel to part turtles, and do not suppose she would be able to bring either head or heart with her.
It is well if the lovers be not in a scrape after all, for they have been asked in a parish to which neither of them belong, and I doubt whether they can be married or not. I have in vain tried to persuade Sarah to have the enquiry made, or to convince her that if she be not married legally she may as well not be married at all. She is in love, so of course incapable of hearing reason, and I must try to ascertain the matter myself, lest she should have to come back from Church like a baffled dog with her tail between her legs. They have not looked out for a lodging or made any arrangements and he is at present engaged in work which keeps him at Kew from Monday morning till Saturday night, so I think they would have done as well to wait a little. I say again that it is well I did come to town. I have had Mrs. Lambert to pay her rent, Mrs. Ward to receive hers, the Water Works for their rates, and in short I seem to be doing business by wholesale. It is well for me too that I seem to have benefitted quite as much by the change back to London as I did by that to Greenwich or I should have been overpowered; nevertheless I will send for Miss Appleton’s books as soon as I have leisure to think about them. My sister leaves me tomorrow and I shall be quieter after that and have more leisure for business. Dr. Thomson called yesterday to tell us that he had seen several things at Tonbridge which he thought would suit, but should not engage any. However he would keep a look out for us, and tell you of all he knew whenever you were going down.
Baby is very well and grows as fast as ever, fat fair and funny. Miss Levesque called yesterday and says that she is your child and not mine as I have always told you. Mrs. Babbage called also, and said she was so much improved that she should not have known her. You will be sorry to learn that the whole scheme of the Insurance Company Mr. B. was to have belonged to is given up. It fell to pieces the day before he was to have opened. It is very provoking with their family to lose a provision which appeared so certain, especially after the waste of so much time, and I should fear from what she said, of considerable expense.
I am glad to hear you are enjoying yourself so much among the fruit, and though I suspect your ideas of moderation to be somewhat liberal I have no fears for you. Those now ripe can do little harm beyond causing a few wry faces, and bringing down your fat a trifle, but you did make me uneasy with the plums last year. They are liable to bring on so many serious disorders, and especially in such a season, when they do not get half ripe. An invitation came yesterday from Colonel and Mrs. Pakenham to dine there tomorrow. The servant waited, so I told John to say his master was in Lincolnshire. You will I suppose write a note when you return.
I am sure if you apologize for your letter I know not what I ought to say for this. I have been so often interrupted that my head is quite confused, and I am conscious that I have omitted many things I wanted to say. Give my best love however to Isabella. Mrs. Booth and Mary (by the bye I hope you have thanked Mrs. B. for her kindness about Baby. I never had time to talk to you about it), and kiss all the children for me. My sister also sends her love to you, and remems. to Miss B.
Ever yours most affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
I have been both riding and walking to-day, and seem none the worse. For the first time I do really think I am getting stronger though it be slowly.
July 26th, 1824
My dearest Love,
I am puzzled and perplexed, and disappointed to boot, at not receiving a letter from you to-day, and my uncertainty is increased by an epistle from your sister, which keeps alluding to your movements throughout, without giving me one atom of real intelligence, or enabling me to guess, whether you may not even now be on your road to London. It happens that I was particularly anxious to know your arrangements because Dr. Thomson rather wished Baby to be vaccinated before we left London, an operation which will consume a fortnight. You have lately accused me of indecision, a proof how much illness must have changed me, but I am almost afraid you may be displeased at my determining on such a point without consulting you, when I confess that I had settled with the Doctor to inoculate her this morning, provided he could procure matter which was satisfactory. He has not however come, and as I do not now expect him till Wednesday, it is probable this delay may decide us to wait till our return to London. I also expected your reply about the Christening.
On Saturday, Sarah I believe was married, at least she went from here at 8 o’clock in the morning for that purpose. In the afternoon Mr. Kay gave me a little drive before he took sister back to Greenwich. Yesterday I was quite alone, but I think you will say I was very courageous, for I not only went to Church and stayed the Sacrament, by myself, but paid two visits in the evening! In fact being tired of eating, sleeping and reading, and having no inclination to sit down and write, and being loth to waste a fine evening in studying my own shadow when the air would do me good, I summoned resolution to attempt walking along, taking John with me however, lest I should founder. Having nothing else to do, I thought I might as well make a charitable visit—or if you prefer another version, I felt that Mrs. Vardell would feel it kind if I called on her before I left town, and that most likely I should have no other opportunity. Her house I thought I could just crawl to. They say an act of kindness always meets its reward, and mine came immediately, for I found Mr. and Mrs. Niven arrived about two hours before from Scotland. The old Lady seems exactly in the same state she has been in for so many years. Of Mrs. Niven’s looks I could not judge, for her face was red as a damask rose or a with the sun to which she had been exposed in travelling South for four days. I am afraid there is another baby on the road. Alack! Alack! what a pity! I sate with them till past 8, and then crawled home again, when finding that Mrs. Babbage, who had been out all day was just returned I went to her. Mr. Babbage had set off for Devonshire early in the morning, so she, like me, was all alone, and perchance not sorry for company. I know not what the servants here will think of me, but as none of them ever saw me stir hand or foot almost without it being lifted, I must take care they do not think me crazy now that I at least travel about the house a little.
I ordered Miss Appleton’s books at Colbarn’s on Saturday but they do not come. I suppose however that they must in the course of to-day, though if he has them not ready stitched they may be longer. With regard to her conduct last year, I retain precisely the same feeling which I had then. She used me ill, very differently from what I had a right to expect, and without even that consideration which a woman might naturally be supposed to have for one circumstanced as I was. But I knew that she had been worretted by many events of a very painful nature, into a state of bilious excitement, which made her scarcely herself. What disordered bile will do, we have painful evidence in poor Oviatt, and even your brother last winter, afforded some illustration. I knew moreover that in her heart she was affectionately attached to me, and I may say that both for my father’s sake and my own I had a claim to such attachment; I believed therefore that when she had leisure to reflect she would find all her kind feelings return towards me, and be most heartily ashamed of her conduct. Surely then it was better not to lose a friend for a cloud which would blow over, but I felt her waywardness most deeply at the time and can never remember it without pain.
As a preceptress I believe her to be as watchful over her charge as a mother could be, and in her very worst moments her capriciousness or ill humour never got into the school-room. If your sister’s circumstances render such a school adviseable for her children, I know no one with whom I would so readily place a child. But I fear she would not only find the expense considerable in itself, but that a girl would not learn there any of those habits of usefulness which are so necessary to every one who has not a large fortune to look to, and the neglect of which is the crying evil of our present system of education, and the cause of half the ruined families which run off to France not to cure the disorder but to hide it. If your sister contemplates Miss Appleton’s only as a finishing school, for a year or two, I should think it might answer, but if her health permits she can give her children a much better education than they ever receive at school, and if she finds the task too much, I should say that with so many girls a governess at home would be not only the best economy, but by far the best for them. A school girl may always be known all her life from one educated at home, by the commonplace ideas, and the habits of petty deception and chicanery, which they always get more or less.
I should say that the total expense of a good governess need not be more than £100 a year, and if a like sum be allowed for masters it would only equal the placing one girl at any tolerable school in London. I am however running into greater length than I meant and above all advising, like the rest of the world, without knowing the data, and so I had best have done, only sending my love, and expressing my happiness at Betsey’s good report of health in herself and others.
Your most affectionate,
E. A. Franklin
Vale Cottage, Tunbridge Wells,
13th Sept., 1824
Mon très cher bonhomme,
Votre lettre vaut mille remercimens. Autrefois il vous fallut huit jours pour concocter autant de lignes, goutte à goutte, de très mauvais humeur, et à présent vous ne pouvez vous éloigner de moi quarante-huit heures, sans me faire part de vos nouvelles, Je m’en félicite, de tout mon cœur; et dites moi franchement si je ne predisoit pas ce resultat, il y a plus d’un an, Il faut de pareille marière vous instruire, de ce que nous est arrivé depuis votre départ, Pour commencer comme veritable egoiste (si ce n’etoit que je sais que l’assurance de mon bien vous fait toujours plaisir) je me porte à merveille. Je ne puis vous en donner une preuve plus éclatante que le simple fait que, quoique privée de vous, les heures ne m’ont pas paru longues.
Le Dimanche même, ce dimanche larmoyant, les momens ont glissés presque sans être aperçus. Je commence à retrouver le pouvoir de m’occuper; et être occupé, n’est ce pas toujours d’être heureux? Le matin, comme vous pouvez croire c’etoit impossible de sortir. Le longueur du jardin aurait suffit pour se mouiller entièrement, mais l’apres-midi Emilie et moi ont même pu prendre une petite promenade, avant de nous rendre à l’eglise, où Monsieur Benson nous donnoit un discours superieure; mais quoique je trouve dans ce moment une egale facilité dans les deux langues, je quitterai sur ce sujet mon français, pour m’exprimer dans mon Anglais patemel, à crainte d’être mal conçu. I wish very much that you had heard him. His subject was our Saviour’s healing the palsied man on the Sabbath day, and the main object of his sermon was to exhort us not to look with malevolence on the actions of others, to shew mercy, as we would ourselves expect it. How often might that which appeared a crime to the casual observer be in the eyes of Him who sees not only actions but motives, an exertion of superior virtue, or if a crime, already atoned for by secret penitence, for ever invisible to his fellow creatures! Yet how apt were we to condemn a man upon such solitary action, imperfectly understood, and viewed through the jaundiced eye of jealousy, when we ought rather to contemplate the excellence of his general character, his piety, his benevolence, and if we detected a blemish, to lament over the frailty of our nature and to receive it as a warning. “The Son of man was Lord also of the Sabbath,” and if he, in the strict eyes of the Jews transgressed by the performance of an action which might as well have been performed on another day, it was a work of mercy, a work which in itself ennobled the moment, a miracle which attested his Divinity. He then adverted to the different mode in which many of equally pious feelings were disposed to spend that day, some considering it as one of unmixed solemnity, and others diffusing over it their native cheerfulness. I did not like this part of his discourse the less that he pursued a course exactly parallel to that which I ventured to hold in a letter of last year, and which I think you have not forgotten, and while I feel deeply gratified by the support of a man like him, thus far, on almost the only subject which has ever been at issue between us, it is but just to confess that in the course of his address I felt many admonitions which I trust to be the better for while I live. If half our clergy had the ability and the industry of Mr. Benson, we should soon have neither sectaries, nor fanatics nor infidels. He regretted that this was a subject on which of all others we were least inclined to be equitable towards our neighbour, and he concluded by repeating the exhortation that we would be merciful to others as we ourselves hoped for Mercy.
I have gone into this matter principally because I feel that there is not between us on religious subjects that openness and confidence which there ought to be. You seem to think me unworthy of it, and I feel that you are unjust. To you I have been perfectly open, and have even thought it more my duty from the consciousness that we differed. I cannot agree with you respecting Sunday. Last year you would have spent it like an Anchorite. If I have read my Bible right, God blessed the seventh day. What else could you do if he had cursed it? The present fashion seems to be, to rob it of every innocent recreation and to return us to the Puritanism of the Commonwealth. But when I have seen on the Continent, the whole population, their hearts lightened by the recent adoration of a bounteous Maker, enjoying the remainder of their day of leisure in those recreations for which they had no other moment,—when I have seen the whole land wearing as it were one universal face of gladness and thanks-giving, I have felt that there Sunday was as it ought to be, the holiday of the poor, and I cannot think those their friends who would rob them of their brief hour of mirth even for what they might deem superior religious instruction. The times have proved that nature will have its vent, its excitement, and in my mind, the village dance, the social concert, or the cricket match are preferable to the gloomy seclusion, to the ale house, or the conventicle. I think I can truly say that it is not the hankering after such amusements in my own person which prompts me. I should innocently join them, but I have every day to indulge in them, and the poor have not.
In such sentiments at least was I brought up, while from such as yours I was vigilantly guarded, so that I am perhaps hardly likely to be quite impartial, but though the opinion of my parents ought not to weigh against my conscience, I think you will acknowledge it an additional reason for not yielding without conviction. After the maturest deliberation I cannot agree with you, and I could not teach a child to do so. Shall I tell you the truth? I have studied you much, and have thought that on some points of this subject you seemed to be guided by an impulse foreign to your general nature,—as fierce as it was unnatural,—and seeming rather to have been engrafted than natural. Shall I acknowledge I once ascribed this to the influence of Dr. Richardson, to whose Church it might naturally have belonged? But I have since perceived that he and I should differ little. Mild as you usually are, your looks and voice have actually terrified me, and the first time left an impression which I cannot recover. There is nothing which I should so much dread as the idea of weakening in your mind one feeling of genuine piety, one habit which was acceptable with God, but I feel that you have not done me justice, and I cannot be easy till you do.
I had much to say on other topics but it is eleven o’clock and I am sleepy. I enclose you a note to which I thought it civil to reply, and have copied what I wrote. Your being in town allows you an easy means of declining, if you wish to avoid being made a show of here.
We went to Mr. Wood’s Lecture to-day, which though it would not do for the Royal Institution (where he lectured nevertheless with fair success some years since), I have no doubt gave a great deal of information to most of his audience. I found it was my old acquaintance and therefore spoke to him. Having introduced myself by a new name, I did not choose to shew him my card without yours, so that it is possible he may call, where the matter may end. He is a worthy man, who by his industry has creditably brought up 14 children, but I do not suppose him one with whom it would suit you to have farther intercourse. His lectures may be attended piecemeal, so you can hear him once or twice if you think fit. Good night and sleep sound.
Ever your affectionate wife,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
At Dr. Richardson’s,
Royal Marine Barracks, Chatham,
Aug. 14th, 1824
I suppose you will expect to receive a certificate of our movements, and assurance that we are in the land of the living so I hereby testify that we left London by the steam packet at four o’clock on Thursday last, and were landed at Gravesend as the clock struck seven, whence we soon posted over here. I was very much tired, in spite of a nap on board, so that I suspect I should hardly have been equal to the journey in any other manner, but, I had a violent cold in my head at the time, and that perhaps made me weaker. I would have written to you yesterday, but was very indifferent, and my eyes so weak that I thought it best to wait. Dr. & Mrs. Richardson are very kind to me but I seem as usual to be good for nothing but giving trouble.
They appear on the whole to be comfortably off here, and are more settled than I should have expected in so short a time. They have quite sufficient space in their apartments, but as usual in such public establishments, much of it is wasted, and the Architect has thought it utterly beneath him to consider what might be wanted for the convenience and comfort of a private family. I think it generally seems as if they allotted so many square feet of building and left the partitions to drop from the clouds.
I was not out at all yesterday, for it rained hard a great part of the day. The gentlemen however contrived to make some experiments with their pedometers which are a small instrument like a watch with a tail to it, to be worn against the thigh. The tail has a spring (mind I did not say a sting) which clicks at every movement of the limb, and moves the second hand whose advances are duly measured by another index, answering to the hour hand; and thus an account is kept of the number of paces to 2,000 and thence again by another hand to 12,000, after which it begins again. The Captain and Dr. R. find that the said thousand steps answer very nearly to a mile, but this rate of course varies with different persons. I cannot understand how the instrument should succeed on rugged surfaces, where the length and number of steps must be unequal, but it seems to do very well on a turnpike road, and I understand will be of great use as a measure of distance in winter journeys on the snow, where the surface is even and the snow shoes compel the steps to be equal. I am making a bungling explanation of it, but am very stupid, and my back will hardly let me sit up to scribble a few lines at a time.
This morning they have been making meridian observations to try their instruments, and had to dislodge Miss Baby from her sky-parlour at rather a critical juncture, because the sun would not wait for them; but she did not seem to resent the affront very deeply. She is quite well and very good. We have had plenty of visitors, and invitations, so that we have all sorts of engagements for the remnant of our time, one half of which I think I at least shall not fulfil, but as I am certainly mending, I will do what I can; being weary of studying ceilings and repeating snatches of poetry to myself. We purpose keeping our appointment at Tunbridge Wells on the 20th.
I began my letter yesterday, in a great hurry to save the post, having brought my London ideas out of town with me, and then discovered to my great consternation that it could not go till to-day. We have had a showery morning, which has ended in settled rain, so that I have been robbed both of going to Church and of all the gaieties of the place, not forgetting the parade in the evening and the music. Do not laugh, for you know I do like Military Music, and besides there was the Piper. As yet I have only seen him. He seems to be a tall fellow of his hands and knocked down seven men the other day when he was drunk, so I suppose he has superior capabilities for inflating his most harmonious machine.
Your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
55 Devonshire Street,
Tuesday morning, Oct. 16th, 1824
My dear Sister,
I fully purposed writing to you yesterday, but the arrival of Dr. Richardson in the morning somewhat changed the course of my thoughts and employment. You will I know rejoice to hear that I am much better; I should almost say provokingly better, as the suddenness and extent of the change confirms me in the opinion that Greenwich air is inimical to me at this season of the year—an opinion which I much wished to have confuted. All the while I was with you I felt a degree of oppression which was unaccountable and which affected my spirits in spite of every effort. Here, if I am not particularly strong, and feel it prudent to keep out of the way of such cold winds as appear to be blowing this morning, I have at least the use of my understanding and for once a tolerable command of my pen. Dr. Thomson who called yesterday congratulated me on my improved looks.
I have been thus minute about myself, because I fancied you seemed a little uneasy, and was myself truly grieved that your kind attentions should have been wasted on a perverse subject, who seemed resolved not to profit by them. Moreover I have no other news to tell but that Brother James43 says he will go down to see you one of these days, which I shall believe when I find he has been, and that Mr. T. Booth44 is grown tall, and is marvellously improved altogether.
As for little Puss, Dr. Richardson says he never saw anything so grown, or with a stronger character of health. You may tell Mary Anne that she laughed and crowed at me for a quarter of an hour when I got home, though I understand she squalled with her; so that she does distinguish new faces from old. I have not yet seen Captain Lyon, but I want to know what he says to her.
Ever your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Thursday, Oct. 28th, 1824
We returned from Fulmer last night, having enjoyed our visit very much. The Captain and Mrs. John got on admirably together, and she did her very best to win his heart. Windsor he was delighted with, but it seemed to me but half Windsor without the Terrace. I am amazingly better for my jaunt. I know not how it is, but there is something in that air which has always a striking effect on me. When we got home we found our table covered with letters and cards—-no less than 32 in number, some of them of portentous size and portentous price, being the despatches of all sorts from North America. One worthy gentleman had thought fit to send a mineralogical specimen, either lead or iron, for Dr. Richardson, by the post. The tone of these letters, and the information brought by them, is as encouraging as possible. The boats and men have arrived in perfect safety, provisions seem to be abundant this year, and last, not least, the Traders are fully convinced that their own interest is connected with the success of the Expedition, and promise their most cordial cooperation. As far as human prudence can foresee or provide, all seems most auspicious.
With our united love to you and yours, believe me
Ever your affectionate sister,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
My pen is bewitched, for I have mended, or rather cut it over and over again, but it is sworn not to ink more than half a letter at once.
Monday, Dec. 13th, 1824
My dearest Love,
I send you another official despatch, being the only thing which has occurred worth communicating; and if I again take only a half sheet of paper to address you, you must not quarrel with me. I have as you know a reasonable knack of spinning out a letter when I have a subject, but I cannot, like some ladies, fill four pages with nothing; and though I have had a succession of company ever since you went, I never knew so many days bring so little to talk of. On Saturday evening I expected to be alone but Mr. Robinson dropped in, and we had a pleasant chat, chiefly geological. He said that he was sorry to find Sir Humphry Davy had adopted the fashionable cant which was now so prevalent, by declaring that he could not sanction or patronize the Geological Society, or any such society, whose pursuits tended to subvert the Scriptures. That Professor Buckland and the rest, while pretending that the whole of their statements were in accordance with Holy Writ were in fact, enemies in disguise, since the theories which they promulgated were inconsistent with the Mosaic account. Now all this, if it be true is too ridiculous. I never suspected Sir Humphry to be one of the over-righteous, and for him to quarrel with any of the pursuits of Science would be downright hypocrisy. I understand that some Revd. gentleman has made an attack upon Professor Buckland on the ground that the vast deposits which he supposes to have been made by the waters of the Deluge would infer a total change in the face of the earth, and are inconsistent with the circumstances that the dove, on her second flight from the Ark brought back an olive branch, a proof not only that the waters were subsiding, but that vegetation had not been destroyed. In my opinion this is refining a little too much.
It is remarkable that in the account of the Deluge there is no mention either of the destruction or renovation of the vegetable kingdom, but it is absurd to suppose that a flood which covered the whole earth, and destroyed all flesh, should have left the trees standing. I very much wish that Buckland and his brother Geologists would be content for the present to let the Deluge alone and to collect facts. I have too much respect for my Bible to like to see it dragged into every paltry controversy. Whether the account of the Creation and Fall of Man be literally true, or as many learned and devout men have supposed it, an allegorical history, analogous to the parables in the New Testament, it is that account of our origin which the Almighty has thought fit to transmit to us; in either case, the lesson to be derived from it is the same, and human speculation, when it has done its utmost, can only leave it where it is. Of natural phenomena, the Bible, it is plain, gives not a scientific but a popular account, and to attack a rising Science, because it may develop facts not therein mentioned, or appearing at first not in accordance with the received interpretation of some particular passage, is to bring back the days in which Galileo was persecuted and Copernicus obliged to conceal his discoveries. “The world is all before us,” for our inspection, “a book wherein mankind may read strange matters,” and if they will read only what is written, though they will read much that is not in the Bible, I do confidently believe that they will find nothing that contradicts it. It is only half-knowledge which does harm.
Yesterday your brother was here and finished translating a Persian story to me. He has brought me a number of his poetical versions of Hafiz and Ferdousi which have just popped out of one of his chests, so that if I had time and health I might drink deep of Eastern lore.
I do not quite understand the Doctor. He comes and looks at me almost every day, but gives me no medicine, says I am going on very well and will not let me go out. I can see he adheres to his first opinion, and I am a little doubtful myself whether my hopes were not fallacious.
I have been so much taken up, both by business and company, the D’Israelis and Mrs. Phillips having occupied me in succession, that I cannot even finish this half sheet. My love to Mrs. Booth and Mary or whoever you are with. I shall hope for a letter to-morrow. You feed me but sparingly;—I suppose to accustom me to be without food hereafter; and I am busying myself with household matters and fixing my attention on everything I can lay hold of to learn to do without you. I begin to wish you were off, for then I might hope that every day of your absence was bringing on your return. Baby was quite disconcerted when she came down yesterday after dinner, and found your brother in your stead. Pretty creature!
Ever your most affectionate,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Tuesday, Dec. 1824
No letter to-day, you naughty boy! you don’t deserve this from me. I was sorely vexed yesterday when I had at last contrived to complete my epistle, to find from John that it was too late to get the packet franked, but now I do not care, for you deserve no better. I am glad however that you have found all in Lincolnshire so much better than you expected, and hope you will be able to keep them from getting into the dismals on your account, for in such matters much depends on the tone which is given at first starting.
I know I am preaching on a case which will soon be my own, and that I shall perchance have a hard battle with myself, but my judgement I feel to be sound, and I shall endeavour to make my feelings follow it. I suspect your present absence has been of service to me, by exciting me to depend on myself, and shewing me [original letter torn away] do it. Something of reviving vigour has [original torn] my attempts and I am certainly now capable of much more exertion and employment than for some time past. I am still very nervous, but not nearly so much so, and have two or three times been able, by a strong mental effort, to keep off that violent pulsation which I complained of, when it was coming on.
Your brother45 tells me that all is going on well at Toulouse, but his wife is hardly allowed to move from the sofa, so that he hears only through Lady Brown. Mr. Bond tells me that Chambers’s affairs do not wear quite such a promising appearance as at the first meeting, and that five years are taken for their adjustment. You sent me a wrong address to Mr. Murchison, which occasioned John a fruitless search but I at length found his card, and have sent the gun. A letter for Captain Franklin, after travelling half over the kingdom, has at last been sent by the Admiralty to your agents, who have sent it to you. As your name is often misspelt I opened it, but it can’t be for you and I do not know what to do with it unless I send it back to Brine’s.
E. A. Franklin
16th Dec., 1824.
My dearest Love,
Isabella has just retired and I am sitting up to write to you that the post to-morrow may be saved. I parted with Hannah yesterday very well, without the slightest agitation on her part, owing to the expectation which she indulges of seeing me again in London before the month of January closes. I most sincerely hope she may be able to get up to London as I think change of scene and air will be beneficial both to Mary and herself. I have been to-day to call on Mrs. Massingbird of Ormsby and in my way geologized a little, examined a marl pit from whence the material for making Lime is taken, and then descended into the valley where I procured a specimen of what I conceive to be Pyrites—but which is here termed Brinkhill Gold, and which seems to be generally spread in the valley surrounding the village of that name. I shall bring my specimens for the inspection of my Tutor Dr. Fitton.
The flag you have is the size for a ship. I think three yards long by two wide sufficiently large for a boat; if any Naval man should call before you commence, consult him, if not let that be the size.
I am sorry you have caught no other bird for Christmas Day than Mr. Robinson. It has occurred to me that it would be desirable to invite Mr. & Mrs. Peacock and the two nephews Henry and Franklin, if you like, though I suspect they would decline on the plea of preferring having a family party at home; would you write to them and state that as it is the last Christmas before my departure we beg them to come; if the Papa and Mama do not accept, perhaps they would permit the younger ones.
I have a great wish to see them all en famille and I know no better occasion. Bell intends sending you by the coach to-morrow a hare, a few homemade preserves, a few pears, and little frock for Miss Baby, with her love. To-morrow’s post will probably inform me whether you wish Mr. Booth’s basket for Christmas Day, if so it shall be sent in due time.
I am indeed rejoiced at your communication respecting the non-brewing of mischief. I could not possibly desire any such occurrence in your present state of health, however much I might otherwise wish for Master Jackey. I am sure the lowness of spirits will depart with the bile, and I sincerely hope an increase of strength will be the consequence. You must however take care of yourself, and not suppose as heretofore that you were necessarily exempt from bilious attacks; depend upon it they are more or less the lot of us all!
Your account of Mr. Kay is distressing, though the information as to his dropping suddenly and soundly asleep for a short time is not new to me. I have often perceived it, when you have left the dinner table. I may say he has scarcely ever failed to dose when we have been quite alone, and in no instance has he kept up any connected conversation. I have always thought this sleeping was a habit so long indulged, that he would have felt uncomfortable without it and therefore have not endeavoured to arouse him. He never appeared to me to use any exertion towards warding off drowsiness and I have always supposed that his active employment of mind and body have induced it.
His life is indeed a valuable one to his family and I ardently hope it may be long spared to them, but it is precarious and surely they ought to fix upon some profession for William. I cannot see why they do not permit him to look towards that of his father. His sight does not appear to me a sufficient objection. If his inclination tends strongly towards the profession of Architect, and his talents also, why not begin to qualify him for it? There is no profession which a lad of his age can enter where his sight would not be equally tried. In the event of their father’s loss however, I should feel as I do now, more anxiety about the girls. Boys can generally be provided for if well educated, not so girls. I have often thought perhaps unnecessarily that these girls are likely to acquire more expensive habits and more lofty ideas than could probably be gratified in case of their father’s death. This will be checked in Mary Anne by her good sense and amiable disposition, and I trust will also be in the others, but would it not be advisable in the younger ones at least to consider in the course of their education that it is possible they may have to look to the situations of governesses or assistants in schools for their future prospects? I venture this suggestion with much hesitation even to you, for if it pleases God to spare their father’s life this cannot be anticipated; it is however my candid opinion and I think it would be unkind to withhold it from you. You can do as you please as to mentioning it to your sister.
Mr. Keith’s letter is as satisfactory as the former letters from America. If Back should pop in upon you, invite him for Christmas Day.
I am now tired, it is past midnight,—late hours for the country.
Ever yours most affectionately,
Kisses to baby.
Bell’s basket is not to be sent till to-morrow, 17th Dec.
Dec. 16th, 1824
A letter of shreds and patches, of matters necessary to be communicated, but neither important nor interesting—I do not know, my dearest, how I happened to forget little Goose, unless because I had been laughing and playing with her half the morning, for she has got such a trick of crowing and chattering at me, that there is no getting away from her. Then as to ducks and turkeys, I think with Mr. Booth’s permission that I shall prefer the week after Christmas, begging at the same time that you will thank him and his good lady for their kindness towards us. Our Christmas turkey always comes from York, and I find we shall have no party as the Richardsons cannot leave Chatham till January. The Flaxmans have declined dining, and come to us on the evening of the 31st for which I shall ask the Beauforts etc. so there is another dinner got rid of, which I must say is no matter of grief to me, so long as it is their choice, and not our lack of attention. For the week after I am ready for dinner, or evening, or both, and will have my lists prepared against you come as I am anxious to get part of it over while you have time, and I am well enough.
Now for another matter, do you wish me to send oysters into Lincolnshire for Christmas Day as last year, and if so, am I to send to all at once, or shall part go at one time, and part a little while after? They are not things that keep, and I think it must make an overflowing of little fishes, if the family are all together at that time, or had I better send another jar of grapes by James instead, if the invalids found them pleasant and they are not easily to be got there? Oysters can be sent at any time, but the others only at such an opportunity. James means certainly to spend his Christmas in Lincolnshire. He intends to set out some day next week, and will write as soon as he can determine. His present idea is to go first to Ingoldmells.
Tell Mrs. Booth that I rejoice in the prospect of seeing her and Mary, and though we shall be two invalids croaking together, we must try what can be done to pass the hours away. I certainly had no idea her danger had been so extreme, but as she has had delicate health for some years past, I should not wonder if the effect of such a severe attack should finally be to renovate her constitution. I am glad you think their fears respecting Isabella46 unfounded. I should hardly have thought her likely to forsake either the Church of England, or its Liturgy. But there are many minor degrees of danger, which in fact may be said to be rather habits than opinions. Above all there is a sort of melancholy to which Religious contemplation itself might lead, one that is perfectly consistent with resignation, and apparent cheerfulness in the presence of others, but which would at the end undermine her health and bring on an indifference to every thing here. I confess I speak partly from experience and her friends must watch her.
The more she has summoned her fortitude to the first weight of affliction, the more is she likely to sink under it afterwards, perhaps when superficial observers would think the danger over. To such a consequence the abstraction of a country residence would of course be likely to conduce. I am perhaps speaking without a sufficient knowledge of her temper and constitution but I think that I must be right upon general principles.
Mr. Garry has transmitted to you a copy of Mr. Hulbett’s work, from the Author, and begged a dinner of you next Wednesday, to which I replied that you were away, but I would give him one with pleasure. I have invited your brother to meet him and think of asking the Millers for the evening.
James did the honours yesterday to Mrs. Byrne and Mrs. Kennion, and having the principal part to play, acquitted himself most actively and admirably. This is certainly the secret of his ordinary supineness. However he made the old lady half tipsy, and she chattered away till I wished either her or myself asleep, Mrs. Kennion and I lost a rubber, as usual, in spite of the cards, which she would not allow to win. I generally make a point of being her partner,—poor body,— for I know so perfectly that she is not to be depended upon, as even to pick amusement out of her bad play. William has been to see me to-day and I find that his Mama is in town with the two girls, having come up to meet him and Henry. The young ones are all going to a juvenile masquerade at Miss Appleton’s tomorrow.
Sister sent to ask if I would dine with them to-day. I must say I felt half provoked, as she knows I have not been permitted to go out, even in the day time. It looked so beautiful and mild to-day that I felt much tempted, but as I am certainly better since I have kept house, I thought it best to let well alone unless I had had a dry carriage to pop into, or your arm to lean upon. I have not yet been an evening alone; and as my company has been so quiet as not to fatigue me, I am the better for being called on again to practise the duties of hostess. My friends have been very kind, and my time has passed pleasantly, but one half hour by your side is worth it all. As for Nottingham, I suppose you are best judge, but it seems that none of your family can do anything without you, and your self-love is flattered by it, you vain animal! How will they get on when you have taken wing? My love to them all however and pretty speeches to Mr. & Mrs. Elliott47 and the Burnsides. I suppose to-morrow will bring your answer to some of my questions. Miss Mitford has just been sitting an hour with me. I am sorry to find she is again in the hot water of the Green Room. Baby sends you a kiss.
Ever yours most affectionately,
Eleanor Anne Franklin
Dec. 18th, 1824
My dearest Love,
Lieut. Allen called just after I had sent off my last despatch, and in consequence of the message which John brought up for you, I requested to see him. He told me that all which he had since seen and heard had increased his desire to accompany you in your expedition, and understanding your intention of taking another officer besides Mr. Back, it was his wish to volunteer. He said you had spoken of a Midshipman, whom you thought of taking and if you had any friend in view whom you preferred he certainly would not interfere, but that otherwise he should rejoice in being permitted to waive his rank and fill the place. He had got a letter of introduction to Sir George Clarke, recommending him for that purpose but he would not deliver it without first calling here, as if you had the slightest objection he would not take it. I told him that Mr. Back had accepted the appointment, and as to your views or those of the Admiralty respecting a Midshipman, I knew nothing but was very certain you could have no wish to prevent his delivering the letter to Sir George Clarke. I regretted that Back was not arrived, as I thought it high time he should be making his own preparations, and besides, the being without any assistance threw all the details of arrangement on you, which I felt ought to be partly borne by those who were to accompany you. He said, “Certainly,” and that whether he were so fortunate as to be one of those or not he hoped you would permit him to be useful to you if there were anything in which you could employ him.
Yesterday Dr. Richardson called, being in town for a few hours—principally to regret that he should hardly be able to quit Chatham before the second week in January, to endeavour to learn who was intended as his successor, and to mention a Captain Stokes, late of the Iphigenia who was desirous to go with you, and who called to-day with a letter from Captain Phillips. He is also a friend of Captain Sabine, who sailed in that vessel as you know. I said to him nearly as I had done to the other, that I believed it was a Midshipman who was wanted but he seemed to think the Admiralty would do anything you pleased, and tried hard to persuade me that there ought to be another officer! I wish you would come home and do your own business, for I feel it very ridiculous to have all these gentlemen coming to me to try the effect of petticoat influence. I suspect from what he said that he means to send Captain Sabine to back him. Captain Lyon has also been here with two men, but him I did not see, not being up.
I am far from well to-day, being annoyed with a pain in my side which prevented my sleeping, and which does not go. I have sent after the Doctor who says he will be here in the evening. Mrs. Babbage advised me to do so, or I felt very unwilling to summon him, but I was forced to ring them up in the night to get me some hot tea which made me a little easier. Do not take fright however for I am very well otherwise and think it is only some muscular pain which will probably go off as unaccountably as it has come on. I was exceedingly well yesterday, and went to bed without the remotest expectation of anything going wrong.
Baby is superlative.
What you say about the Kay children is not new to my thoughts, and with regard to the management of the girls, you know I have often said that I wished to see their habits simplified; at the same time I know no children who are brought up with habits so little expensive in all that will hereafter depend upon themselves, since what I complain of has merely to do with domestic arrangements. Mary Anne I hope will be likely to marry before any change occurs which can affect their prospects. Were Mr. Kay in stronger health, I should wish for her own sake that such an event might be delayed for some years, but as matters now appear, I should consider it an advantage not only to herself but her sisters, and should a desirable opportunity offer, I would advise the not obstructing it more than her youth requires. If Mr. Kay lives to bring William forward in his business, it would be the best thing he could do for him, but if not I could wish he were set going in something that did not depend on his father. However these are not matters to discuss at the tail of a letter, and I am not very equal to writing. My love to Betsey, and all whom you have not yet left. The Peacocks come and I have asked the Bedfords.
Ever your affectionate wife,
E. A. Franklin
Goosey is making believe to talk, and even gets out some sounds very like “Mama.” You cannot think what a favourite I become. The Harrington basket is not arrived, so I suppose will come to-morrow.
20th Dec., 1824
Indeed my darling, you are a very good boy, and have written abundantly since your letters began to tell—but your Cross Country Posts are cross things, and in your flying tours your absence is generally half over before I begin to hear from you. Moreover I can assure you that I have no dislike whatever to your going to Nottingham except that I fear you will run yourself so hard with your own business as to find it impossible to get properly through with it, either public or private; and what you are about, the parties concerned ought to be able to do as well without you.
I was sorry to find my letter just too late for the post on Saturday, but was in too much pain to have written earlier. The Doctor ordered me some leeches which Miss Appleton had the kindness to apply, and which relieved me considerably. I have since had some ointment to rub on with the view of exciting an eruption. You ask what I think. The truth is, all these things are very symptomatic but it is impossible to, tell yet.
I send the notes I told you of with the view of making a parcel to look a little business-like at the Admiralty. Captain Hawker’s two books are as gay as Crimson and Blue Silk and Gold can make them, and put me again in mind of Parry’s pink satin counterpane. They are fitter to be under a glass case in a drawing room with pet china and essences, than to toss about among the Esquimaux. Moreover as religious books I think more modest bindings more decorous, at any rate more suited to the printing and paper. The poetry seems to have some good names among it but I can think little of the accuracy of a work which takes one of Mason’s beautiful and well known hymns, alters it just enough to spoil it, and gives it as anonymous! The Prose seems to be a mass of Calvinistic verbiage which I should be sorry to prostitute my reason or taste in the perusal of. The Nature of the books is what I should have expected from such a quarter, but the little I saw of the Lady would have led me to expect something in rather better taste, something which if I did not perfectly agree with in doctrine, I should at least not feel that a woman of any education would be ashamed to have seen on her table. I am writing post haste, and again afraid to be too late. Baby is well and Captain Beaufort has instructed me about the flag,48 but I find some difficulty in getting the silk of the proper width.
I had more to tell you about Mr. Kay, but it must wait. However I hope all will go on well with care. Dr. Thomson tells me that Marsh’s are likely to pay a dividend of 14% in the pound which is good news on that score.
I must leave many little matters untouched, for I have been interrupted till my head will not recall them. Your brother goes down on Thursday next, but I am afraid his visit will give less pleasure than I hoped, as he must be back on Friday following to be presented at the Geological. I have said almost more than I felt authorized, but neither persuasion nor reason, nor reproof has any effect on him so he must go his own way. Pray remember me very kindly, especially to Mr. & Mrs. Elliott. I would have cooked a message or two but have no time. I have even sent baby out without a kiss—the Poppet—but I will pay her after.
Ever your affectionate,
E. A. Franklin
The pathetic race of Eleanor’s brief, though brilliant, life was well-nigh run. The last letter was written to her husband on December 20th, 1824, and in its varied interests and playful allusions to father and daughter alike, reveals a very winning aspect of the renowned poetess and social leader.
This letter, with all the preceding ones he had received, was found in a packet among Franklin’s papers, labelled as follows in his own hand:
“Letters received from my dear wife, Eleanor, to be given to my daughter. J. Franklin.”
The Christmas dinner apparently took place, but the brave spirit of the hostess could no longer conceal the extent of her malady, and it increased with such alarming rapidity that in January Sir Henry Halford (the famous physician who had played such an important part in the life of Princess Charlotte) was called in. He diagnosed the disease as tuberculosis, which had set up inflammation of the lungs. He did not conceal from Franklin the gravity of the situation. The unfortunate husband was well-nigh distracted by the verdict. The Expedition was due to start in a month’s time; yet how could he leave his beloved wife under these cruel circumstances? He decided that his place was with her and that—at long last—she must come first.
But here he had reckoned without Eleanor. When he communicated to her his decision, she would have none of it. Her gallant spirit rose, surely to the highest pitch of altruism and patriotism ever manifested by woman! With a regal gesture she swept aside the suggestion that his public duty should give place to her private need. She reminded him of the long months during which ships, stores, men had been accumulated. (Indeed, some of the party had already started.) And above all, she set forth that his honour was pledged both to the Government and to the public, and that as a man of his word he could not go back on it.
Then she brought other considerations to bear. The disease was known to be of long standing; indeed, it afterwards transpired that it had begun when she was six years old. Doubtless the devoted nursing of her mother, the stunning blow of her father’s death, the excitement of her engagement and marriage and the immense strain to one of her peculiarly sensitive nature of endeavouring to adapt herself to John’s somewhat rigid views, had something to do with the rapid development of the mischief. This last consideration was naturally not one put forward by Eleanor, but she did represent for the comfort of her husband that, though there was admittedly grave cause for apprehension, yet such cases as hers often lingered on for years. What would be her feelings, if, tied to her sofa, the noble career which was the very life of his life went by the board! She flatly declined to be a party to what she regarded as a betrayal of the interests of her country, for in those days it was thought that the discovery of the North-West Passage would open up a short cut to India, avoiding the dangerous transit via the Cape, and thus largely increasing trade.
In her usual high-minded way, she put aside all thought of the devastating loneliness—the agonising anxiety—to which she was condemning herself, and finally her generosity triumphed and, to the inexpressible relief of his subordinates, Franklin declared himself prepared to start on the agreed date. They were to sail from Liverpool on February 16th, and in the interval he nursed her devotedly.
From that moment of victory, Eleanor concentrated all the strength that remained to her on an appearance of improvement. With her dying hands she embroidered the famous flag to which reference has been made above, and on the fated day bade the man of her choice farewell with a cheerful countenance. He embarked on February 16th and the following day, February 17th, Sir Henry Halford was again called in. His report, forwarded to Captain Franklin (though it did not reach him for weeks), was as follows:
“I do not think Mrs. Franklin out of danger by any means, but I have no hesitation in saying that she is less ill than she was, and that my hopes of her ultimate recovery are much brighter than they were.—Henry Halford.”
Five days afterwards, on February 22nd, 1825, her gentle spirit passed away. She had, of course, a trained nurse, and Franklin’s sister, Hannah Booth, was also in devoted attendance, as well as Mrs. Kay. But of spiritual help in this supreme moment it is to be feared little was available. Hannah, with the best of intentions, had but mechanical ideas of the needs of a soul in extremis. To her, the Bible was the Bible; discrimination was superfluous; so to help the dying woman she proposed to read through the whole of the New Testament, chapter by chapter. She began with Matthew and the genealogies and “thought the reading soothed the patient.” She got as far as the XXIVth Chapter. Significantly, the last verse she read was “Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour when the Lord shall come!”
The suffering for days had been very great, though relief came at the end, and with the parting from her husband, in a sense, the bitterness of death was past. She had faced it more than once before; and the beautiful lines written in Rouen Cathedral show that to her the Unseen World held no terrors, but was increasingly peopled by those she loved.
There is a sense of tragedy at thought of this radiant life cut short before she was thirty. And yet, was it in very truth a tragedy? She had known fulfilment in many directions: as an idolized daughter; as the queen of her salon; as a recognized poetess; and, finally, as wife and mother. To her had been given the opportunity of a great renunciation, when she sent her husband from her on patriotic grounds, and nobly had she embraced it. She had indeed achieved.
And it is consoling to think that perchance she was taken away from the evil to come. For the dispassionate observer cannot but realize that, despite their undoubted attachment, husband and wife were too varied in character ever really to blend. Their points of view on some fundamental matters were as the poles apart, yet held by each with such tenacity that they could only have been waived at the cost of acute suffering.
It is strange to realize that all Eleanor’s heartsearchings and anxieties about such questions as her Salon and Sunday observance never became actual, but were solved by Death, the Reconciler. Her projected book of poems, to which reference is made, and the editing of her father’s works never materialized; but, worst of all, the precious child, the “little Puss” already so dear, was never to know a mother’s love and on her—unconscious babe as she was—the blow fell most heavily of all.
Relations vied with one another in their desire to care for “John’s little darling,” but, among them all, the motherless bairn was homeless. Later, a step-mother, who despite the fact that she was a friend of John’s first wife, never understood her daughter, embittered the years of adolescence, and though she eventually made an ideally happy marriage, it was shadowed by the harrowing uncertainty as to her father’s fate. Tragedy dogged the footsteps of mother and daughter alike, for the second Eleanor too was wrapped away in the prime of her womanhood, leaving seven little ones to face the world unshepherded by a mother’s care.
Yet of Eleanor-the-first it may well be said, “Her soul goes marching on.” Her qualities were such as could not fail to be transmitted to her descendants, in some of whom may be traced her rare literary gift and the devotion to ideals which was so signal a characteristic of her brief existence. Through all her letters and journals, in that era of lack of reticence and even of habitual coarseness, there is not one unbecoming word or unsavoury story; and this spirit of fastidious purity and instinctive recoil from all that degrades and drags down, is the inheritance of her successors in abundant measure.
And so the lost ship comes to port; the spent arrow finds its mark; the quenched lamp flames forth anew; and “She, being dead, yet speaketh.”
Supposed to be Edinburgh. ↩
Her poem, “Richard Coeur de Lion.” ↩
Presumably the “Printer’s Devil.” ↩
His proposal of marriage. ↩
The invalid she had nursed for twelve years. ↩
Richard Cœur de Lion. ↩
Viz., A biography of her father. Death prevented her carrying out this intention. ↩
Miss Griffin became Franklin’s second wife. ↩
Their new home after their marriage. ↩
Her sister’s house. ↩
Her niece. ↩
Mrs. Oviatt was many years her husband’s senior. ↩
Packing up and preparing the house for letting. ↩
One named after him in the Arctic regions. ↩
Recently rescued by Lord Curzon and presented to the nation. ↩
Now in the National Portrait Gallery. ↩
Sir John Franklin’s second wife. ↩
The Royal Naval College, to which her brother-in-law, Mr. Kay, had been appointed, ↩
This aspiration was not fulfilled. ↩
James Franklin had married Miss Burnside. ↩
Eleanor’s faithful maid. ↩
See Chapter I. ↩
Probably Lady Lucy Barry. ↩
They were married August 6th, 1823. ↩
This was to be their married home. ↩
Sir John Franklin’s letters number thousands. ↩
Eleanor Anne Porden’s two-volume poem. ↩
Lucy Barry. ↩
James Franklin from India. ↩
James Franklin (Major). ↩
Franklin’s eldest sister. ↩
Wife of the Champion. ↩
Funeral of Franklin’s father. ↩
His father’s death. ↩
Her daughter was born June 3rd. ↩
James Franklin. ↩
A nephew. ↩
Had Mr. Elliott’s nine years’ romance at length culminated in marriage? ↩
The flag to be planted on the most northerly point reached. ↩