Letter 36: 22 June 1814

Letter 36: 22 June 1814 [1]

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (18.3 x 22.1 cm)
  • Cover: Mrs Withering / — Withering’s Esqr / Larches / Birmingham
  • PM: 7 o’Clock / JY 22 / 1814 N.T.
    S J Y / 22 / 814
  • WM: None
  • SM: Misc MS 4376

My dear Mrs Withering,

That it always gives me great pleasure to hear from you I trust you need ^not^ be told, & I have particularly to thank you for your last letter, as it gave me a welcome account of your health & spirits. If I am to begin mine with mentioning our little circle I must advert to the loss we have sustained by the death of poor Sarah Kinder [2]—A loss however to be dated, not from her recent death, but from the obscure slow wasting disorder which hung upon her during all the bloom of youth, &, during the latter months at least of her existence, was attended with so much suffering to herself & so much fatigue & anxiety to all the family that I am sure they must think the last stroke a welcome release. Her two sisters would have been quite worn out had she continued much longer, for nothing would have prevailed upon them to spare themselves by remitting any of their generous cares—They are now going to Tunbridge & Hastings [3] to recruit a little. My niece is going to Liverpool for the summer, Arthur

[fol 1v] Aikin to the mines of Cornwall, [4] some of our neighbours to France, [5] some to Ireland, so that I do not know whether we may not be tempted to wish for Winter again to reunite the scattered circle— My Brother indeed makes no excursion & is very busy with his Biography, [6] which is nearly finished, he is now at the Letter W & as he wishes to insert a notice of the late Dr Withering, [7] he commissions me to beg the favour of Mr Withering to supply him with the requisite particulars, or at least to direct him where such notices may be found. To this request he adds another, that he will be so good as to send whatever materials he may favour him with as speedily as possible, as otherwise the press would stand still— And is it possible that you have been sitting quietly at the Larches, while all the world have been staring at Emperors & Kings; [8] & all the young Ladies & others not young, at both which I feel very indignant, crowding to beg a kiss from that whiskered old fellow Blucher—And then the fireworks & the Roundabouts &

[fol 2r] & gingerbread stalls in the park, & the cockleshell fleet in the Serpentine river [9]—Will not these bring you up— And now the cry is, The poor princess! shut up, deprived of pen & ink—as ill treated as Miss Clarissa Harlow! [10] Will no knight in black armour & plumed helmet appear to deliver her from durance vile—Charming subjects these for gossipping tea tables[.]—I think there is this difference between London & the Country, that in the country different parties talk of different subjects, according to their tastes or their connections; but in London you may be sure if you enter into twenty companies that they are all talking of the same thing the event of the day— I am afraid on reading this letter you will thinking I have been talking thro three pages about nothing at all, & indeed it is my Brother’s request which has made me let my pen run in haste, & consequently pretty much at random, nor have I more to add, but Compts to Mr Withering & that I am

Ever Your faithful & affte

AL Barbauld


[1] Although the postmark is clearly "JY" (July), the letter is equally clearly dated "June." June was the month in which the European royals arrived in London (see n. 8 below). Perhaps ALB did not post the letter till July. BACK

[2] Sarah was the eighth child of John Kinder, draper, of Cheapside, ALB's cousin. Her sisters (below) were Letitia, Hannah, and Mary, all of whom died unmarried (Hunter, 182). BACK

[3] Tunbridge Wells in Sussex, a spa, and Hastings, at the seaside in Kent. BACK

[4] As a student of Geology, Arthur Aikin would be interested in the tin mines in Cornwall. BACK

[5] After the defeat and capitulation of Napoleon, France was again open to English tourists. BACK

[6] Since 1797 JA had been at work on General Biography, a predecessor of the DNB. It would be completed in 1815, in ten volumes. BACK

[7] "the late Dr. Withering": William Withering (1741–99), botanist, father of LR's husband. BACK

[8] "Emperors and Kings": The celebrations for the end of the war brought several European royals to London, and also a military hero, German field-marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. ALB mentions displays and public amusements in the parks: for details, see ALBVE, 489. BACK

[9] The Serpentine, a lake in Hyde Park. BACK

[10] In the course of his quarrel with her mother, the Prince Regent ordered their daughter, Princess Charlotte (1796–1817), to live without servants in isolation at Cranbourne Lodge (ODNB). ALB's comparison of her lot with Clarissa Harlowe's is melodramatic but not inapt. BACK