Letter 31: 17 February 1810

Letter 31: 17 February 1810

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (18.5 x 22.5 cm)
  • Cover: Mrs Withering / at Mrs Rickards / Crescent / Birmingham
  • PM: [x] o’Clock / FE 20 / [xx]
    A F [x] 20 1810
  • WM: G PIKE / 1808
  • Endorsement: [in ink on cover] Answer’d March 10th
  • SM: Misc MS 4371

My dear Mrs Withering,

I have been some time debating with myself whether I should write to you or no, for, shocked & concerned as I was at the news which reached me of your dear Mother’s sufferings, [1] I knew I could do you no good, nor offer you any consolation which had not already suggested itself to your own mind. However I can no longer repress the desire of expressing my deep sympathy with you & with her in this affliction, & of begging a line from you, if it will not be too much trouble, to let me know if her dreadful pains are at all alleviated—May that God in whose hands we all are, lay no more upon her than she is able to bear. She has the two greatest consolations, trust in him, & the soothings & care of an affectionate & tender daughter like yourself. May the

[fol 1v] scenes you have gone thro and those you may have to go thro not hurt your own health. I have not forgotten that I recieved a very kind & pleasant letter from you longer ago than it ought to have remained unanswered. I have also experienced painful sympathies, some for near some for more distant ties. The death of Johnson the Bookseller [2] was to me the loss of an old friend, & to all who knew him of a most worthy benevolent character. But, for a few days we have been in the greatest distress from an illness my Brother has had.  [3] It was but for a few days, but was of a nature that if he had not had relief soon must have ^been^ fatal. Judge of the agony of our suspense. He is quite well now, & it has been very grateful to us all to witness the cordial congratulations of all who know him, rich & poor, when he was out of danger—Another shock we have just recieved by the very sudden death of Mrs P. Martineau [4] of Norwich I think you must have seen her. Her husband in the night observed something peculiar in her breathing took her hand, her pulse was gone & she was dead in a moment.—She has left a very afflicted husband, & a large circle of relatives & friends who will long feel her loss. So often are we reminded of the terms on which we hold all our comforts here—And yet

[fol 2r] are comforts & precious ones too, & much the more endeared to us by the tender anxieties they occasion; &, by all the intercourses of joy & sorrow the moral feelings are quickened, & all that is amiable & good in our natures brought into action— I have been only once to Hampstead this winter, I spent Christmas day with the Carrs. Their wedding day, [5] which my dear Mr Barbauld & myself had for so many years spent with them, you will easily believe I could not bear to spend again, but on the day I did spend I had the pleasure of seeing all their eight fine children well & happy. Sarah is quite a [tear] she made the discovery [6] at a ball they had just been at, where she danced & was handed into the supper room by a grown gentleman. Our good friend Mr Lewis, [7] whom a while ago we thought in a dangerous state, is got quite well, I never saw him look better —I like Hampstead very much, but to go down Church Street & past a certain house, I do not like. Alas! now less than ever, when the sufferings of the dear owner of it, with whom I have spent so many pleasant

[fol 2v] hours are present to my mind—The Kinders are now collected in London after the Summer excursions, by which Sarah has been much benefitted & perhaps still more by the seeing again her favourite brother Thomas, [8] who is now upon a visit to them from America, where he has been settled five or six

[on address panel]

years. He seems not greatly to like the society of America, but the growing prosperity he says is beyond any thing we can conceive[.] Among other inventions they have a passage boat [9] which goes by steam up the Ohio from New York to Albany. It can go 120 miles in 20 hours.— Adieu. In my fervent prayers I shall remember, ease to the dear sufferer & every blessing to yourself. Remember me to Mr Withering if with you

Your’s ever most affectionately AL Barbauld


[1] "your dear Mother's sufferings": Lydia Rickards Senior died in 1810. BACK

[2] Joseph Johnson (1738–1809), ALB's regular publisher for most of her career. He was greatly respected by the writers he published. BACK

[3] "an illness my Brother has had": In late January 1810 JA suffered from an obstruction of the bowels that, had it continued, would have required dangerous surgery. BACK

[4] "Mrs. P. Martineau": Mrs. Peter, or Mrs. Philip, Martineau. The Martineaus were an extended Norwich family. BACK

[5] The Carrs celebrated their wedding anniversary on New Year's Day. BACK

[6] "Sarah": Sarah Carr, afterwards Lushington (1794–1837), a favorite ALB pupil, for whom she wrote "True Magicians," one of her most important pieces. Sarah's "discovery" was the onset of puberty. BACK

[7] Mr. Lewis: A Hampstead friend and neighbor. During the "Loyal Association" mania at the end of 1792 he had joined RB in refusing to sign a "loyalty oath" (ALB to CRA, 4 Jan. 1793, in GC, 211). BACK

[8] Kinders: See Note 5 to Letter 7, Note 2 to Letter 10, and note 4 to Letter 23. Thomas and Robert Kinder headed the American branch of the firm. BACK

[9] "a passage boat": ALB refers to the steamboat, Robert Fulton's recent invention. "Ohio" is a mistake for Hudson. BACK