Letter 5: 18 August 1800

Letter 5: 18 August 1800

  • Physical form: One sheet folded into 2 leaves (18.8 x 22.7 cm)
  • Cover: Miss Rickards / at Mrs Hunt’s / Crescent / Birmingham
  • PM: B / AUG19 / 1800
  • WM: Crest and GR
  • SM: Misc MS 4341

My dear Lydia,

I have been expecting with some impatience a letter from you, for I thought it was settled that you, who came first to your journey’s end, should write first. As no letter however has yet greeted my eyes, I suppose I was mistaken, & therefore mean to try the experiment of drawing a letter from you by writing myself. We set out for Norwich on the 5th, & as it occurred to us that my niece Lucy [2] would probably like to visit a place where she has so many friends, we obtained consent, & brought her with us, & a great addition they all think her to our parties. Unluckily her friend Eliza Enfield [3] was at Cromer, but she returned yesterday. I cannot tell how you may spend your time at Birmingham, for our parts I must acknowledge that we are passing ours in complete

[fol 1v] dissipation, calls & strolling about in the morning, visiting in the afternoon & evening. Tuesday we had a very pleasant sail up the river to a tea drinking house, which commands ^a view^ over a very rich & varied country, particularly beautiful at this time, as the fields are waving with the finest corn I ever saw, ([parens written over comma] the red corn most of it) the colour of which is particularly glowing, & the pastures, which lie low & by the river, preserve that tint of fresh green which the higher grounds have completely lost. It was Mr John Taylor’s birthday, & he & Mrs Opie sung all the way in the boat. [4] I wished you with us on that account. Lucy does not sing indeed, but the next day she revived the pleasure we had enjoyed by producing a copy of verses on the occasion . We have also spent a pleasant day at Mr Ketts, [5] where we met some of the Gurney’s [6]—Betsy Gurney is to be married on Tuesday, & half Norwich will be at the wedding. An interesting scene of leave-taking took place one day this week at her father’s. Betsy, who has devoted herself

[fol 2r] very much of late to acts of charity & piety had a school of boys & girls to the number of 80. These were all invited to drink tea &c & dance upon the green, & then each took leave of their benefactor, not without many tears on both sides. We shall leave Norwich on Thursday next, & after staying a few days at Diss [7] shall return, ([parens written over comma] at least as we at present intend) on Monday the 25th—We shall either bring Laura Beecroft [8] with us, or she will follow, for I have prevailed on Mrs Beecroft to let her spend some time at Hampstead. She is a very good tempered gentle girl, two or three years behind her sister in person & womanly appearance, tho not much more than one in a[ge]—Since I began this I have received your very pleasing [tear] I do not wonder Mrs Rickards has been disordered by the heat of the weather, it has been very debilitating, as we have felt it. We are well however, but it somewhat lessens our enjoyment of parties. We both beg most affectionate remembrance to Mrs Rickards, & Compts to all your friends & ours. Accept yourself the sincere affection & esteem of

Your’s &c AL Barbauld

[At top of fol. 1r, between date and salutation] I hope I shall hear from you again as soon as you have determined when you shall return. Till the 25th direct to Meadows Taylor Esqr Diss Norfolk. After that, to Broad street Buildings [9]


[1] The principal town of Norfolk and at that time a national commercial hub, 20 miles north of Palgrave, the village where the Barbaulds kept a school from 1774 to 1785. Many of their pupils came from Norwich. At Norwich, the Barbaulds were visiting old friends and reviving old connections. BACK

[2] Lucy Aikin (1781–1864), JA's daughter and ALB's posthumous editor and biographer. BACK

[3] Eliza Enfield: Daughter of the Rev. William Enfield (1741–97), an old friend from ALB's years at Warrington Academy and literary co-worker with her brother. At his death Enfield was minister to the Octagon Chapel congregation at Norwich. BACK

[4] John Taylor (1750–1826) was head of the extensive Taylor family of Norwich. His son Richard (1781–1858) became ALB's publisher; the Taylor daughters (Sarah and Susan) were ALB pupils and protegees. "Mrs. Opie" is Amelia Alderson Opie (1769–1853), poet and novelist, whose work ALB admired and whose uncle, Robert Alderson, had been a student at Warrington Academy. BACK

[5] Mr. Kett: A relative of Norwich-born Henry Kett (1761–1825), teacher at Oxford (ODNB). BACK

[6] The Gurneys were an extensive Norwich family of Quaker philanthropists. Bartlett Gurney was banker to Palgrave School. His cousin "Betsy" (Elizabeth, afterwards Fry, 1780–1845) became an eminent prison reformer. See the genealogy in Verily Anderson, Friends and Relations (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980). BACK

[7] Diss: A market town on the Norfolk side of the river Waveney, about a mile north of Palgrave. There the Barbaulds would visit Meadows Taylor (1755–1838), a friend from Palgrave School days and trustee of the school in 1803. BACK

[8] Laura Beecroft: A daughter of Judith Dixon Beecroft, of Norwich (1762–1833+), who was perhaps ALB's first female protegee. BACK

[9] Broad Street Buildings: In London, just north of the City. CRA lived there at this time. BACK