Letter

Scope and Content

From M B [near Bristol] to Mary Fletcher at Madeley (addressed to My dear generous friend and beloved cousin'). She yesterday received Fletcher's letter with the half-note enclosed, which was a 'very acceptable providence' as M B has been severely ill and has had to move farther into the country for a change of air to a very small village. She was accompanied by her two youngest daughters who have also been poorly. They stayed eight weeks and their lodging expense came to £10, which Fletcher's kindness will reimburse Mr B for. The expense was so high because they were obliged to have a chaise. They had first tried a great deal of medicine, blisters, bleeding etc. In the end, M B decided to rely on fresh air and exercise to restore health. This was particularly needful for her as she was unable to walk twenty yards - her ankle has been subject to swelling. Mr B's expense at home has also been very high.

They have had to get a new house as the general closeness and low ceilings of their old cottage affected the girls' breathing and also the bad roof meant that rain leaked in. They resolved therefore to move and found a place a quarter of a mile closer to Bristol. Their house is just large enough - the rooms are fifteen square and ten feet high. There are two very convenient kitchens with a connecting oven and a small parlour where Henry stays when at home. There is a very good eating parlour, a 'China pantry' and a long narrow parlour. The eating parlour is M B's sitting room, decorated with plain blue paper and a white and olive border. There is also a looking glass, a [unreadable word] of shell flowers and a little India cabinet - these are the only ornaments. Debby [M B's daughter] has a piano - she plays and sings very sweetly. For furniture there is a 'sopha' [sofa], two tables, seven chairs, two stools (M B's work in former days) and a carpet which used to belong to M B's father. In the eating parlour are M B's aunt's [two unreadable words]. M B and her daughters prefer simplicity. It is in the eating parlour that they pass their first devotional hours and where they sit for most of the day. M B's sleeping chamber is on the same floor and her eldest daughter sleeps in the room above. The two other girls sleep over the drawing room. Above them are two garrets. There is a large closet in every room. The house is genteel like a Bath house [house in Bath?]. The front is on a kind of lane with other good houses. The back commands a good view of Brandon Hill, Tyndale Park and a pleasant view of Bristol and beyond that to Somerset. At the front they look towards Mrs Goldney's kitchen garden. The air is better and the house warmer than their old place, which agrees with M B's lungs much better.

In reply to Fletcher's kind enquiries, M B would say that she is recovering after her chest complaints and constant morning fever. 'It is a particular time of life, all last summer I had regular [unreadable word] violent bleedings & kept on one floor for months…' Her health problems are further described in detail.

Her girls are better but still look like two ghosts. 'They are my greatest comforts, being pious, affectionate & tender, well-informed, lively, notable & preferring the kingdom of heaven to earth - I live but for them & my Henry who went to school by his own choice & is a fine boy of eleven as yet unspotted from the world…I have been disappointed in all the rest. My eldest daughter has at last chosen for herself the line of the world. She is just the same gloomy reserved being in regard to me, but she is often out in all public places - her dress expensive but she has an income of her own & her company not very select. [William] who was so long the darling of my heart…has obtained orders & by special providence the curacy of this place 50L per annum. He retains some amiableness but he has methinks been Oxford corrupted & destroyed his [unreadable word] from the most attentive, tender, filial child [missiing word] wholly for himself, he is barely civil…seldom dines with us unless he brings his young companions - but observe his father makes him a good allowance & gives leave for all this. It is not in my power nor indeed my choice to do anything, for irritation or control would make him fly out for ever. He has good sense, had once the fear of God & a good education, often recoils to the mind & saves when all appears lost, besides I still find power to pray for him. This summer he has been & indeed still is in the height of [unreadable word] at the well, a ringleader…in every gay expensive party. You may suppose the weight of this trial, my 2nd son last summer - ran from his ship, committed several misdemeanours - lost us a large sum in London, is now by the mercy of God in a guard ship at Plymouth called The Bombay Castle. His conduct has been so [unreadable word] infamous, he has little connexion except that sometimes we have a good deal to pass on his allowance'. Mr B is the same as ever - a kind husband and father but imprudent, selling to raise money to live in a manner which is really beyond his means. He is very much concerned with the world and this leaves little time for spiritual matters.

M B is quite happy that poor health has allowed her and her girls to live a retired life.

Her sister is well. She has changed her lodging and they are civil to one another but really she is so worldly and set in her opinions that they can have no real fellowship.

Spiritual matters are discussed.

Her brother and children are well, although she enjoys only a formal relationship with them. M B's three aunts are also alive and well. They are kind but M B only saw them once last year and that for just one day.