June 1794

Letter 2. Eliza Gould at South Molton to John Feltham at Mr. Northcote’s,[1] Honiton, June 1794.[2]

Southmolton June 1794

Friday eveng

My dear Friend

My reason for writing this entire Letter, is to inform you, that my being in Southmolton after to morrow is quite an uncertainty. I shall pass a fortnight or three weeks with the friends of two young Ladies I have with me, & we want only for a Tiverton Exeter or Crediton return chaise to convey us, the first which offers after to morrow, I shall take. As the families where I visit in the holidays are related it is immaterial whether we go first to Tiverton, or Pughill,[3] about 16 miles from hence, the latter place is in the Exeter & Crediton road leading from hence & a chaise from either place will convey us.

I thought it best to give you this information, lest you should have occasion to write, in case of which your letter might lag at Southmen and find it impossible to comply with the numerous invitations of my friends, but these were prior to some which I have latterly received & of course must be first complied with.

A parcel by Haskins[4] came to hand Tuesday last, your repeated pres­ents put me quite out of countenance, & I am ashamed to receive them you gratify yourself my Friend no doubt, but forget that you load me with a weight of obligations. The muslin is very pretty & quite to my taste, remember you have given me your promise “never to do so again” which I take you will faithfully keep.

I will get the ribbon work in hand immediately on my return, the cravats shall follow, you will not wear them till you put off your mourning, & that time will be longer protracted in consequence of the death of your uncle. I forget not to speak my thanks for your remembrance of the letters, I have perused those of your sister’s[5] more than once, & am sensibly hurt at the Idea, of the chagrin, & disappointment she will naturally feel, when inform’d how I am circumstanced in regard to pecuniary matters. I wish it were otherwise. To her enquiries I presume you have ere this answer’d—“I hope she has a fortune” it is undoubtedly a very reasonable expectation of hers being interested in your welfare. I should like to know her, tho perhaps it is an honour at which I shall never arrive. When you speak to her of your friend Eliza, be not too partial an encomiast, lest in some future time a double disappointment should be the consequence.

I feel a thousand uneasy sensations, your friends might think me unworthy of you, & I might perhaps be the happy tho innocent cause of lessening their regard for you, of severing the bonds of family agreement, & totally annihilating those ties of mutual friendship, which directly bind you to each other—a circumstance this, at which I should feel the most poignant regret & uneasiness. It is a matter of which I have thought very seriously, & many Ideas have recently occur’d which I wish not [to] encourage—a sensible mind my friend ill brooks contempt—pardon me I have perhaps form’d uncharitable suppositions, & will still cherish a hope that my fears are unfounded & chimerical.

I have nothing wherewith to accuse myself nothing like duplicity ever has, nor ever shall, influence me to act unworthy myself or you. I wish & vainly strive to render my mind less susceptible of those impressions which tend to create uneasy sensations. I think your friends were acquainted with every particular respecting me, which is necessary they should know, if they are interested in your welfare, it is a compliment they have a right to expect. Ingenuous candour is the life of friendship, it keeps alive every generous sentiment, & unites more closely the bonds of esteem & regard.

To think explicitly when there is a necessity, notwithstanding in some cases it might subject us to momentary pain—is to secure to ourselves the latent satisfaction, of having discharged a necessary duty. You have a mother she is en­tit­led to your confidence, let her share it, tho I greatly fear for your sake, that you will experience the weight of a parent’s resentment. I will dwell no longer on a subject which has already distress’d me too much.

Where is Mrs Cooke—I wish matters might be brought to an amicable conclusion, tho I greatly doubt it & sincerely participate in the mutual distress & anxiety, which both parties must feel, if they possess any degree of Sensibility—their late disagreement is, I am sorry to add, made notoriously publick. Tis not wealth, but innate goodness and an harmony of souls, “tis friendship makes the bondage sweet”[6] tis sensibility & meekness, esteem & confidence, a congeniality of sentiment, a reciprocity of affection & mutual regard, a conscientious observance of reciprocal duties & obligations, & a train of et ceteras which must exist, before they can expect to enjoy that felicity, or attain to that degree of happiness, which I most sincerely wish them to possess.

Tho having at their command the good things of this life, yet there is wanting some other emollient drop to correct the acidity & sweeten the gall with which their cup is dash’d or at best it will be but a life of splendid misery—without equanimity of temper, & serenity of love, happiness will never be their guest.

I have undertaken a task from which I hope & expect to derive much pleasure. Mr Tanner a clergyman who lives in Southmolton,[7] has a daughter, a charming girl about sixteen, full of life & vivacity, & if under proper restrictions might ultimately prove a very amicable young woman, her understanding greatly exceeds her years, she is satirically witty, tho I hope her heart is good, she can render herself agreeable, or the contrary, however upon the whole, her manner is pleasing & unaffected. I drank tea with Mrs Tanner last week, when she express’d a wish, that I would commence with Mary an epistolary corres­pondence, saying she was in a disagreeable predicament, not having a single person in the Town of their daughters age with whom she would wish her to contract an intimacy, she urged her Suit so warmly, that I know not how to refuse her tho I acceded to her wishes with diffidence.

My mind recurs with melancholy pleasure, to those days of juvenile hilarity, when my sun shone bright & unclouded. Then my prospects were fair, & every reasonable wish had its full gratification—hope and pleasing anticipation stood on tip-toe to peep into future years. How deceitful were those youthful visions, experience (too dearly purchased for my happiness) has fully convinced me—there is an enduring frankness which characterizes the morning of life, but which alas! is too often enhaled by the meridian ray of experience. The young & virtuous heart, untaught by reflection, unaided by consideration, unassisted by reason, stops not to analyze but incautiously embraces, whatever wears the semblance of rectitude. Youth treads the flowery path of pleasure, unmindful of the thorns which lurk beneath.

Our introduction into life is mark’d by innocence—fancy colours with the most vivid hues, & we yield implicit faith to every spurious appearance—gradually however the pleasing vision dissipates, we learn to form a more exact estimation, & we exchange the glow of youth, for the sapient caution of years. But however necessary the tutorage of time, or whatever advantage may result from nice investigation, it will not I conceive be easy to find a person who does not regret those hours of exquisite sensibility, which gave the confiding mind to enjoy without hesitation, & to enhale from every passing gale from every opening flower, the unimbitter’d sweets of complacency, there is in this unsuspecting period a charm which age never forgets.

Should any part of my future life, take its tinge from the qualities of his heart, with whom I have twin’d the wreath of amity, I have reasonable ground to hope that much mental improvement on my side will be the happy consequence. The path of knowledge I am still aiming to pursue, & I have only to boost my wishes to become a proficient therein. My correspondence with you is one of the means, of accumulating which, I propose to myself.

The futile matter of female correspondencies, has been to me a source of much mortification, & given rise to very sincere regrets, yet from an observation of the abilities, with which our sex are in general naturally endowed, I rather impute the deficiency so apparent, to a false method of cultivation, or perhaps, to a total want thereof, than to any mental incapacity. Error is a declivity, and it is hard to say to what lengths false lights may betray, even the strongest, & best inform’d understandings. A truce to your scribbling you say, well you may, for I believe I have tir’d your patience. I seldom write if I can help but when I am in a writing humour then I generally make my letters unreasonably long, & perhaps please myself, more than others.

You will scold me I expect for not leaving a space for the wafer, I forgot it till this instant “but if you will forgive me I will never do so any more” you see I have sent you your own.

My Mother & Father send their kind remembrance Mr Gould[8] his best respects I should not wonder if he gave you a call en passant on his road to Weymouth soon—our kind compliments to Mr Haskins. You will accept from me every good and friendly [missing word] that the best of blessing might be yours & believe

Sincerely your friend


address me

Mr Morrick’s Pughill

to be left at Mr Sharlands[9]

Peter Street Tiverton

as I shall be at either of the above named places I am ashamed to send you a letter so illegibly written I have no hour to revise or correct


Text: Timothy Whelan, ed., Politics, Religion, and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould, 1794-1808 (Aberystywth: National Library of Wales, 2008), pp. 4-7.

[1] Richard Northcote was a linendraper in Honiton for whom Feltham had been working since the late 1780s. After Northcote’s death in 1796, Feltham assisted Mrs. Northcote for a time in the management of the Northcote property at Higher Blanicombe. See UBD 3.392.

[2] On the same page is written in Flower’s hand, “Eliza June 1794”; attached as well is the following address: Mr Oldfield, 8 Buckingham Court, Spring Garden (possibly T. H. B. Oldfield, author of An entire and complete history, political and personal, of the boroughs of Great Britain [1792?]). Flower advert­ised the 2nd edition of Oldfield’s History in the Intelligencer on 26 April 1794.

[3] Current spelling is Poughill.

[4] Joseph Haskins, Esq., of Honiton.

[5] Feltham’s sister, Ann.

[6] Taken from a poem by Isaac Watts, the stanza reads:

Two kindred souls alone must meet,

‘Tis friendship makes the bondage sweet,

And feeds their mutual loves;

Bright Venus on her rolling throne

Is drawn by gentlest birds alone,

And Cupids yoke the Doves.

[7] The Rev. William Tanner (1749-1830), at that time Rector of Meshaw, a small parish situated between South Molton and Witheridge.

[8] Her relation from South Molton.

[9] Richard Sharland, a Tiverton sergemaker, married Anna Thomas of Poughill in 1783, which explains why Eliza’s letters during her Poughill visit were to be left at Mr. Sharland’s.