Letter 7: 29 September 1801

Letter 7: 29 September 1801

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (18.5 x 23 cm)
  • Cover [on fol 1v]: Miss Rickards / No 45 Middle Street / West Cliffe / Brighton
  • PM [partial]: 801
  • WM: A S[x]ACE / 1797
  • SM: Misc MS 4348

Dearest Lydia,

I am much obliged to you for your two entertaining letters, & would not have been so long without answering them, if I had not been in hopes some opportunity would have presented itself, as none does, I must make use of the post. I am glad Brighton [1] presents to you so many scenes of entertainment, & above all that the grand object, health, is likely to be so well answered. I very willingly acknowledge myself a false prophet with respect to the cold autumnal blasts I threatened you with, & willingly confess that the weather has been [tear] (two or three days excepted) as must make the sea br[tear] delightful. We have not had one fire, & at this present mom[ent] (the twenty ninth of Sepr, at eight in the evening) I am sitting with the windows open, courting all the air I can get. We returned from our Parndon [2] excursion the very day you left Hampstead, & tho I had not expected to find you here, yet I could not help a feeling of disappointment, when I found I had missed you by so little. The scenes we have met with have been all of the quiet kind. At Bedford a quiet Batchelor’s house, a quiet & rather stupid town, [3] a flat country, & a river creeping slowly & quietly between its willowy banks. At Parndon perfect seclusion from all but the family we were with, quiet walks in the grounds, or lounging with a book by a piece of water, & tea in an alcove out of doors. Thus you see our respective amusements have suited our respective periods of life, Yours gay & full of

[fol 2r] bustle, Princes Plays Prospects & Promenades—ours retired & sober— And pray when do you intend to visit Church Row [4] again, we want your family very much & I cast many a longing look at the windows as I go by. If you do not make haste you will see a new house or two sprung up before your return. Mr Kinder & Sarah have spent a few days with me, Sarah is far from stout yet. [5] Charles is recovering his strength rather slowly, his waistcoats want a great deal of filling up yet. We have lost poor Mrs Mallet. [6] She was buried quite in a private manner yesterday. Her’s is a private loss, Mr Wakefield’s public & private. [7] Lucy has written a copy of verses on the occasion, which will appear in the next Magazine, as well as an account in the Obituary by my Brother. [8] How melancholy was the event of his death! Just liberated, restored to his friends, beginning life as it were anew with new plans & prospects & cut off by a week’s illness[.] Then Mr Arnold Wainwright has taken a lodging at Hackney on purpose to comfort the family, he is like a brother to them. [9] How often our sympathies are painfully exercised, but it is good for us it should be so— The Hoares & Bocketts are returned from the lakes, the Carrs have been in London a week to meet Mrs Ibetson, who has taken a house in

[fol 2v] Gower Street, where she means to spend three years with her two daughters for the advantage of masters &c. This will be a most desireable acquisition for Mrs Carr. [10] And so you are reading Sir Charles Grandison! [11] I think I was about your age when I read it first. The method of carrying on the story by letters, has certainly the fault you point out. Richardson, I believe, introduced it, & it has the advantage when well managed of giving an air of life & truth to the narrative & making the characters, as it were, show themselves. Sr Charles is so perfect & withal so cool, that I think he would have been well matched with Belinda, if she had not been born forty years too late for him. [12] You ask me how I like Thaliba. [13] I think there is a great deal of fancy in it, & beautiful description, a very defective plan, tho often beautiful sentiment, much Poetry & no verse—I think I could make use of some of his magic to transport myself to the Stein at Brighton, amongst you all, for one day, but hoys I do not like, & Post Chaises I cant afford, except my health required it, & thank heaven it does not, so we have shut up our travelling schemes for this year, & look forward to the quiet winter evenings, & their uninterrupted literary occupations——Mr Barbauld desires to be most affly remembered

[fol 1v] to yourself, & along with me to Mrs Rickards & Miss Hurry [14]

Your ever affte

AL Barbauld


[1] Brighton was at this period a fashionable seaside resort. BACK

[2] Parndon Hall, in Essex, was the estate of William Smith (1756–1835), merchant, abolitionist, and MP. The Barbaulds often visited Parndon, and ALB continued to do so after RB's death. BACK

[3] Bedford, the county town of Bedfordshire, was the site of Woburn, the estate of the Dukes of Bedford. ALB's nephew George Aikin served there as an estate agent. Why she writes "Batchelor's house" is not known, for Aikin had married in 1798. BACK

[4] Church Row: The street in Hampstead on which the Barbaulds lived. Hampstead at this time was experiencing a building boom; hence ALB's witticism (below) about seeing a new house spring up. BACK

[5] The extensive Kinder family were in-laws of ALB through JA's wife, Martha Jennings, who was also ALB's and JA's cousin; hence, the Kinders were also ALB's cousins. A Kinder genealogy is given in Joseph Hunter, Familiae Minorum Gentium, ed. John W. Clay (4 vols., London: Harleian Society, 1894; cited hereafter as 'Hunter'). "Charles" in the next sentence would have been Charles Kinder, not CRA. He visited the Barbaulds three times in June 1802 (RB, Diary). BACK

[6] Mrs. Mallet: Perhaps the wife of Philip Mallet, a vintner from whom ALB ordered wine. BACK

[7] Gilbert Wakefield (1759–1801), biblical scholar and controversialist, author of An Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship, a critique of social worship answered by ALB in her Remarks on . . . Social Worship (1792). For criticizing the government's war with France Wakefield was jailed. He died shortly after his release. ALB's critique of Wakefield's rejection of social worship notwithstanding, Wakefield and the Aikins were close: in 1806 ALB's nephew married Wakefield's daughter Anne. BACK

[8] Lucy Aikin's lines "To the Memory of the Rev. G. Wakefield" appeared in the Monthly Magazine in October (12: 220–21), and JA's memoir, "A Tribute to the Memory of Mr. Wakefield," on pp. 225–30 of the same issue. BACK

[9] Arnold Wainwright was a friend of Wakefield and, with J. T. Rutt, his first biographer (ODNB). Hackney was a village north of London, site of an eminent Dissenting academy at which Wakefield had taught. BACK

[10] The Hoares (Samuel Hoare, banker, and his family), the Bocketts, the Carrs (Thomas William Carr [d. 1829] and his family), and the Ibetsons, were all friends and neighbors of the Barbaulds in Hampstead. The Carrs had a house in London as well; hence Mrs Ibetson's taking a house in Gower St. (in central London, what is now Bloomsbury) would make her socially available to the Carrs. The Hoares are also mentioned in Letter 6 (Note 9). BACK

[11] Sir Charles Grandison: The novel (1753–4) in which Samuel Richardson undertook to represent a "good man." BACK

[12] In Belinda (1801) by Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849), the title character is a self-possessed young woman entering into society. BACK

[13] Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), by Robert Southey (1774–1843). BACK

[14] Miss Hurry: A daughter of the Hurry family of Yarmouth, patients of JA during his residence there. BACK