Letter 30: 28 September 1808

Letter 30: 28 September 1808

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (20.2 x 25.2 cm)
  • Cover: Mrs Withering
  • PM: None
  • WM: Monogram [no year]
  • Endorsement: [on cover] Answer’d Nov:r 15th
  • SM: Misc MS 4370

My dear Mrs Withering,

I should not have been thus long in offering you my congratulations on the late interesting event, but I knew that after the example of all the couples just paired you had taken a flight, & till I saw Mrs Rickards I had not your address. I took it very kindly indeed of Mrs Rickards that she bestowed a morning upon me during the short time she spent in London. It was to me an interesting interview. The opportunity of hearing with some detail what I had only heard in general, & of mingling my own wishes & feelings with the wishes & feelings of one so interested in your welfare as a parent was very grateful to me, & many a fervent wish did we pour out for your happiness which we humbly trust the dispenser of all happiness will sanction & fulfill— Alas my dear Friend it is only in carrying my thoughts out of myself & my own situation that I can now enjoy any happiness—Mrs Rickards has no doubt told you that

[fol 1v] an arrangement for a separation has been found necessary between me & (I can scarce believe it) the person I have loved & still do love more than any other in the world, & whose tender affection to me you have so often been witness to—I have been this week here at Parndon, [1] when I return I shall in a few days be left alone, a solitary being, in a large house where every thing will put me in mind of my lost companion—I hope in some way or other to engage a companion that will prevent the utter solitude which I am sure I cannot bear, but the companion of more than thirty years will he ever return? Alas at present, I see little prospect of it—This is not like a congratulatory wedding letter, I am sorry for it, but I cannot help it——You will naturally ask where does Mr Barbauld go. He will take for the present lodgings in London near Charles, & board with him, & I hope will spend his time pleasantly, for he is generally in good spirits & you never saw him more lively or entertaining— I think you know a little the family I am now with; the young ladies are all grown up but one, & exhibit a pleasing variety of tempers & countenances all, in different degrees, agreeable. Mrs Smith [2] has devoted herself to them with a perseverence which few mothers have been able to exert who are so much in the world as she is. The country hereabout

[fol 2r] but little of beauty. The grounds, Mr Smith has taken a good deal of pains with, & he has a very good taste, but as to flowers—My Sister [3] has fifty times as many (I am sure I speak within compass) as there are in all the grounds at Parndon— It is well for you & for me that Mr Smith will frank this letter, [4] for I am sure it is not worth postage—all that it means to say is, to express my hopes that Mrs Withering will from time to time remember with accustomed affection the old friend & correspondent of Lydia Rickards—Please to make my compliments acceptable to Mr Withering & believe me ever,

faithfully & affectionately Yours

AL Barbauld


[1] "Parndon": Parndon Hall, the estate of William Smith, MP, in Essex. BACK

[2] Frances, wife of William Smith. Three of her five daughters were Martha (1782–1870), Frances (1789–1880) and Julia (1799–1883). Frances was the mother of Florence Nightingale (ODNB). BACK

[3] "my sister": Martha Aikin, wife of JA. BACK

[4] "frank": Among the privileges of MPs was the right to send letters free of postage. BACK