Letter 12: 3 March 1803

Letter 12: 3 March 1803

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (18 x 22.5 cm)
  • Cover: Miss Rickards / Church Row / Hampstead / Middlesex
  • PM: [xxx]lock / [M]R 4 / 1803 N.T
    TwoPyPost / Unpaid / Stoke Newington
  • WM: Crest with GR subjoined
  • SM: Misc MS 4353

My dear Miss Rickards,

I heard with a great deal of satisfaction that you & Mrs Rickards were safely returned to Hampstead, & I hoped the being so near us would be soon followed by our seeing you at Newington, but as this is not likely to be immediately the case, I wish to thank you for your kind letter, & to express those affectionate feelings which habitual intercourse esteem & friendship has so long connected with both your names. I am sorry to hear Mrs Rickards & you have been so much indisposed, but you have had but neighbours’ fare [1] & if it was the influenza you had at Northampton, your tribute may be considered as paid— We have had & have, as I believe

[fol 1v] you know, a very sick neighbourhood amongst us; however we are all, more or less, getting better, & look forward to the kindly influences of the coming Spring to establish us again in health & spirits—By the way, your Cousins, who desire their love, are surprised they have not heard from either of you, & will be glad of a line. I saw Mr Belsham [2] the other day, he desired to be remembered to you, he had a little touch of this complaint, but not much—I find I am filling my letter with nothing but ailments—I cannot help it, I had much rather tell you that people were all well, & the young folks going to be married by dozens at a time, & that we are very gay with balls & concerts & all manner of revelry. But if people are not gay, & are not going to be married & will be sick, I am not answerable for it——I understand it is still very dubious whether Mr Kenrick goes to Birmingham, especially as the Exeter people have made an affectionate effort to keep him amongst them [3]

[fol 2r]—Well! is the piano in tune? Have the pencils & brushes been drawn from their repositories, & do the soft sounds of the Italian again delight you? By the way, when I speak of the soft sounds of the Italian, I do it in compliment to the general opinion, for Mrs Sowden, [4] from whom I have had a letter dated Pisa, tells a different story—She says “We were all extremely surprized at the noise made by this soft harmonious people, as their language & music indicates. But the fact is, that if the Italian were not so[?] vowelou[s the] vociferation & amazing loud voices of the Italians [would] be as bad as forty Germans when they scold” She says this is not only the case with the lower orders, but with people of the first fashion at their conversaziones, who talk in the loudest key.——We have been reading with much interest Hayley’s life of Cowper, or rather Cowper’s letters for the 2 Vols consist of letters connected by a very slender thread of Biography. It is wonderful how Cowpers mind seemed to flow out in affection & embrace new attachments, even when his dreadful malady had hold of him. [5] The most amicable pure & gentle heart shines thro the whole——

[fol 2v] Affectionate & cordial remembrances from Mr Barbauld to yourself & Mrs Rickards & the same to Miss Harrop if with you. I am dearest Lydia Ever Yours AL Barbauld


[1] "Neighbors' fare" sounds like a proverbial phrase, but I have not found it in the OED. The sense is clear: "You have fared equally with your neighbors." BACK

[2] The Rev. Thomas Belsham (see Note 7 to Letter 11) was a friend of the Rickards family; in January 1787 he recorded the death of his friend John Rickards of Birmingham, LR's father, and in January 1792 he consoled Mrs. Rickards on the death of her parent (John Williams, Memoirs of the late Reverend Thomas Belsham [London: privately printed, 1833], 335 and 442). BACK

[3] The Rev. Timothy Kenrick (see Note 7 to Letter 3). His preaching against the Birmingham Riot in 1792 had alienated his more conservative Exeter congregation, but apparently they had forgiven him. BACK

[4] Mrs. Sowden is not identified. ALB had studied Italian in the later 1780s and became proficient enough to quote Dante in Italian (see ALBVE, 364). BACK

[5] "Hayley's life of Cowper": See Note 3 to Letter 11. Cowper suffered from pathological depression. BACK