Doddridge Family Correspondence

Calendar of 118 Manuscript Materials and Transcriptions Relating to

Philip and Mercy Doddridge,

their Three Daughters

(Mary, Mercy, and Celia),

and a Cousin, Mary Doddridge,

1729-1781


The Doddridge Family Correspondence consists of 81 letters and 4 miscellaneous documents composed by female members of the Doddridge family: Mercy Doddridge (1709-90), her daughters Mary (1733-1799), Mercy (1734-1809), and Cecilia (Celia) (1737-1811), and Mary Doddridge, a cousin of Philip Doddridge (see Part II below for her letters). These letters were glued into a bound volume titled “The Doddridge Family Correspondence,” a volume that now resides among the collections at the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge (Crew MS 50), which have been transcribed for this site by permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge. The letters appear to have been initially collected by Mercy Doddridge (1709-90), for she identified, dated, and sometimes numbered most of them at the top of the address page (a few were similarly identified by Philip Doddridge). They were most likely passed on to one of her surviving daughters, probably her eldest daughter Mary, whose children and grandchildren would have possessed the manuscripts into the 19th century. At some point, these letters were glued onto the folio pages of a bound volume that bears many of the common features of mid-19th century letter books. What makes this bound volume particularly unique is not just the fact that it is the largest surviving collection of letters involving the Doddridge children now extant but, even importantly, these letters were composed solely by the female members of the Doddridge family (the obscurity of the volume may also be related to that unique characteristic, for letters by prominent men like Philip Doddridge were highly prized in the 19th century unlike those of his daughters and cousin). Included on this site are 17 miscellaneous letters to and from Philip and Mercy Doddridge, a small collection of miscellaneous manuscript materials relating to the Doddridges, a collection of various legal documents of the Doddridge family, and an extensive biographical index of all individuals named in the materials.

The letters in the Doddridge Family Correspondence begin ...

The letters in the Doddrridge Family Correspondence begin in 1748 and end in 1778 (one note is dated 1781) but for some reason they were not placed in chronological order or arranged by writer; instead, the letters were inserted in a completely haphazard manner, which has created numerous difficulties in placing them in their proper order. The letters cover the period when the Doddridges lived in Northampton (including a rented house in Mary Street in the 1750s and '60s) and then in Tewkesbury, where Mercy and her two unmarried daughters, Mercy and Cecilia (Celia, had moved by the early 1770s to be near their eldest sibling, Mary, who had married John Humphreys of Tewkesbury in 1759. His first wife, Elizabeth Hankins, had died in 1752; her brother, D’Avenant Hankins, had been a student of Doddridge at Northampton. Mercy and her children continued to live in Tewkesbury through the death of her son, Philip (1735-1785), her own death in 1790, and that of Mary Humphreys in 1799. The two surviving unmarried sisters remained in Tewkesbury into the early years of the new century, though they spent much of their time in Bath (see Part 2, Letter 1, where Elizabeth Hamilton suggests they were still living at least part of the year in Tewkesbury in 1803). Philip Doddridge, Jr., is mentioned occasionally in the letters and in several of the legal documents in Part IV. The other significant correspondent in this collection is Mary Doddridge, the cousin of Philip Doddridge, who lived in Worcester and then in Northampton (most likely for a time with the Doddridges after the death of Dr. Doddridge in 1751). She was very close to Mercy Doddridge and her children. Also included in the collection is a remarkable set of letters between two of the daughters, Mary and Mercy, in which they employ pastoral noms de plume (“Roselinda,” “Belinda,” and “Cleora”), a common literary device found in many 18th century correspondences, both male and female. They also occasionally insert poetry into their letters, sometimes borrowed and sometimes original, another common epistolary feature of the time. Throughout the letters in this collection, the persistence of the nonconformist practice of maintaining relationships within the “household of faith” (which in this instance were almost exclusively Independents/Congregationalists and Evangelicals) is prevalent.

The final letter by Mary Doddridge in November 1751 to her father is presented here for the first time, as are accounts of the reading habits (novels, mainly, such as Mary Collyer’s Felicia to Charlotte, Being Letters from a Young Lady in the Country, to her Friend in Town [1749], which appears in Letters 9 and 19) of Mary and Mercy and their social activities: dances and ”consorts” at Norwich and London; social calls they made to members of the nobility, such as Lady Ann Jekyll of Dallington, Lady Abney of Stoke Newington, Lady Fergusson of Scotland, Lady Heslerig of Leicestershire, and Tyrphena Scawen of Northamptonshire; and detailed accounts of their extended visits to numerous friends in Northampton, Worcester, St. Albans, Enfield, Walthamstow, London, and Norwich. At one point young Mercy fears that her father’s reading of her letters to her sister, Mary, will inhibit their freedom to express themselves as openly as they were used to doing, a fear most modern-day teenage girls would feel over such an “invasion” of private conversations (see Letter 14). Frequent appearances are made by Dr. James Stonhouse and Sarah Ekins, the ward of Philip Doddridge and companion of Mercy and her children, with numerous references as well to their courtship and marriage, which apparently did not meet the complete approval of the Doddridges, as evident by this comment from Mercy Doddridge, the daughter, to her sister Mary: “you tell me evry body is of opinion that the Dr [&] Miss [E] will make a match of it at last, I wonder the world’s not tird of the Subject” (Letter 32]. Even more important are two sets of letters, one by Mary Doddridge in 1754-55 to her sister, Mercy, and her mother concerning a desire on the part of Nicholas Clayton of Enfield (a former student of Doddridge and family friend) to court and marry Mary Doddridge, a pursuit that she and her mother had terminated by mid-1755. Another suitor, a Mr. Cooper (most likely from Hackney), appears in a set of letters from Celia Doddridge to her mother in 1767-68, a pursuit on his part that, like the one by Nicholas Clayton, did not result in acceptance from Celia and her mother. Mary’s casual courtship by Clayton did not keep other suitors from pursuing her, such as George Maltby of Norwich, a dashing and wealthy young dissenter who might make some young woman happy but, as Mary wrote to her sister Mercy, “for you & I my Dear he is not the thing. He has not sense enough for me & not half enough for you or I think I wd commend him” (Letter 45). Despite numerous writing deficiencies, these young women appear to have been avid readers and their use of language possesses a sufficient sophistication to mark them as the daughters of Philip and Mercy Doddridge.

The letters and miscellaneous documents composed by Mary “Molly” Doddridge, the cousin of Philip Doddridge, are difficult by any standard, even that of the 18th century, as the image above (top right) suggests, even though it is by far the fairest copy by her in the collection, most likely because it was addressed to Dr. Doddridge. Her letters to Mercy are not nearly as neat, but they both wrote in a similar style and found each other’s hand perfectly readable, though they are anything but that to a modern reader. Mary Doddridge lived in Worcester before removing to Northampton around the time of the final sickness of Philip Doddridge in 1751. She appears to have moved into the Doddridge home in Northampton, assisting Mercy with her children and in managing the household in Northampton when Mercy was away from home, even paying her bills, cleaning the house, and keeping Mercy informed of the church and her friends. She remained in Northampton after Mercy and her unmarried daughters (and eventually her son, Philip) joined her eldest daughter, Mary Doddridge Humphreys, in Tewkesbury. The letters of Mary Doddridge (the cousin) are weighted heavily with evangelical language and sentiments, a characteristic common to letters by devout nonconformist women at that time. She attended to the Doddridge children during their time in Northampton and was obviously close to them; she was also a devoted member of the Northampton congregation where Doddridge had ministered and where she continued to worship after the Doddridge’s departure from Northampton sometime in the late 1760s. These letters also provide a glimpse into the movements of Mercy Doddridge from the early 1750s into the beginning of the last decade of her life. Only a few letters by Mary Doddridge the cousin have been transcribed; a short summary accompanies the remainder of her letters. Mary Doddridge also appears in several of the legal documents in Part IV of this website as a recipient of monies and some rent receipts for lands that were a part of the estate of Philip Doddridge.