Letter 32: 1 May 1810

Letter 32: 1 May 1810

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (19 x 22.9 cm)
  • Cover: Mrs Withering / Crescent / Birmingham
  • PM: 7 o’Clock / MY 1 / [x]810 N.T.
    [also, faintly] TwoPy Post / Unpaid /
    MA / 1 / 810
  • WM: CHILTON MILL / 1806
  • Endorsement: Answered June 29th
  • SM: Misc MS 4372

My dear Mrs Withering,

You will I am sure think it natural that I should wish to mingle my feelings with yours on the event which has recently taken place. And, dear as the excellent woman who is departed was to you by every tie of affection & relationship, I feel assured that you, as well as myself, must have looked upon her departure as a happy release rather than a deprivation of any joy or comfort. And how soothing it is to reflect that every pang is past, every struggle over, to gaze at the quiet composure of the lifeless form & to think that the soul is entered into its eternal rest, that its fate is sealed, its reward is sure——The tears I know will flow, but they will not be bitter tears, they will be accompanied in you with the recollection of days & years spent in the uninterrupted exercise of kindness on the one side, of duty & affection on the other, no regrets, no remorse, no voice crying at the bottom of the heart, Oh if I had her again how differently would I behave to her! nothing but that

[fol 1v] separation which a little sooner or later a child must expect in the natural course of things to experience & with regard to which one of your principles well knows where to go for consolation. Mr Withering too must feel much satisfaction in having had the opportunity of showing so much kind & assiduous attention to the dear sufferer, & she, I am sure, would feel the consolation of leaving her daughter in such kind hands—I shall be glad to hear that your health has not suffered. I write, not knowing at present where you are, but I presume I shall gain the information from Chiswel Street. [1] I wish any thing would bring you to London, tell Mr Withering that as we are disposed to be so riotous he ought to come & keep us in order.— I have seen lately some of our Hampstead friends, who always mention you with great interest. As I doubt not but you feel the same for them, you will perhaps be glad to hear that Sophia Hoare is going to be married, & yet I do not know whether there is much room for joy either, for the man is a widower with six children. His name is Powell. [2] That he is not a Quaker I daresay is no objection either to Sophia or her father— I am much pleased with a young friend whom I have in the house with me at present, a daughter

[fol 2r] of Mr Peter Martineau’s. [3] She is gentle, amiable, diligent, remarked by all who see her for sweetness of disposition & propriety of manners, & often puts me in mind—Guess of whom. Have you got my Neice’s Poem [4] yet at Birmingham? You will see it no doubt, & I have as little doubt will be pleased with it. She has recieved many compliments upon it already—The subject On the character of Woman is delicate & requires management, but she has taken great care not to make assumptions, or say anything which a man jealous for the superiority of his sex (which you know Mr Withering all you men are) can reasonably object to. —I shall be very happy my dear Mrs Withering to hear from you whenever leisure & disposition concur, & to be assured that your health has not suffered from the fatigue & affliction you have gone thro. May heaven for ever protect you, prays, Your sincerely affectionate friend,

AL Barbauld

Compts to Mr Withering.

Quite Dr Darwin’s May day
“Born in yon blaze of orient sky” [5]


[1] Chiswell Street, London. Someone known to Lydia must have lived there. BACK

[2] The daughter of the Hampstead banker, Samuel Hoare, who wrote about ALB in her memoir of her father was Sarah (1777–1856). She had a younger sister, Sophia (1781–1852), who married a David Powell, 17 years her senior (Hoare, "Explanatory Pedigree," Memoirs of Samuel Hoare by his Daughter Sarah, ed. T. S. Pryor [London: Headley Bros., 1911]). A relative of the Powell ALB mentions, living in 1911, was Willielmina L. Powell, who is said to have owned Sarah's MS album containing ALB poems (Hoare, xii). Its whereabouts today is not known. BACK

[3] Peter Martineau's daughter, Catherine Martineau, became ALB's companion in 1808. BACK

[4] "my Neice's Poem": LA, Epistles on Women, exemplifying their Character and Condition in various Ages and Nations (1810). BACK

[5] "Dr. Darwin's May day": Erasmus Darwin. ALB quotes Canto II, l. 309, from The Loves of the Plants. BACK