March 1799

Letter 8. Eliza Gould, at the Squires, Kempston House, to John Feltham, March 1799.

Dear Sir,

Unkindly as you have treated me I did not intend to exercise any thing like cruelty to you in suffering your letters to remain so long unanswered. I do not know how to act cruelly by any one but I really could not write. Your letters and especially the first are so full of unjust reproach and groundless accusation has created in my mind such a train of painful feelings (tho not from a consciousness of deserving the censure you have heaped on me believe me) as to put it for a time out of my power to reply—neither can I from the manner in which you have addressed me conceive it possible that you can feel any regard for or anxiety about so malignant a being as you represent me to be.

I am indeed truly grieved after having by a mode of conduct which you still vindicate, wrenched from my heart that affection which I nourished with so much care & even whilst you were cruelly sporting with my peace & happiness still tried to retain—I say I am truly grieved, to see you thus vault into the seat of judgment reproaching on the one hand one whom you have made to suffer so much, from the other inconvertably professing to esteem a person who must to have acted as you charge her be worthy only of your contempt.

It is very cruel Mr Feltham after all the anxiety you have from time to time caused me that you should harass my mind by reproaches I have never deserved—the charge of “persecuting”—I might retort on you for the manner in which you attempt to defend yourself is but another act of unkindness to me.

And do you verily and indeed think me capable of opposing friend to friend for the vile purpose of gratifying a malevolent disposition. I know malevolence by name only, & whatever be the errors of my mind you from the knowledge you have had of my character must be well convinced that they are not of this stamp—neither do I think that rancour & grief (even in minds the most revengeful) can subsist together for the same object. I am extremely sorry that you have written to me at all, but since you have I could have wished that you had expressed yourself more consistently because I do not conceive that a person who has studied the nature & operations of the human mind as you have, can associate to themselves the Idea of “perfections” rending in a character fraught with so much malignity as you represent me to have acted with—in “Trying (as you say) to make your friends parties against you & of being guilty of so many injudicious acts of no avail but to show dispositions &c.” You have made many other charges against me of which I am equally undeserving, & it does not reflect any honor on your humanity to contend for the propriety of that conduct which lost you my regard.

By some considering the purport & design of your letters it might be denominated candour, as much as to say—“if you renew the acquaintance I will not deceive you—you must expect to experience the same proper mode of treatment as formerly”—“I will visit you once in eleven or twelve months as I have been used to do, altho you tell me my absence grieves you to the soul[”]—“I will desert you in an hour of accumulated distress—tho you tell me the power of mitigation is mine”—“You shall even supplicate a short interview, & enforce the necessity by reasons the most irresistible, & tho I have not the shadow of a tye to withold me I will not yield to your request”—“Your letters which tell me from month to month how bitterly my absence grieves you, shall be vaguely answered, & instead of attending to your remonstrances, I will (with the utmost sang froid) tell you where I have been (at concerts &c) what I have seen, & where I am going, as I did from Salisbury whilst you were suffering by a severe illness to which my neglect had brought you”—“I will then hear you speak of your pecuniary distresses of your being reduced to a shilling, of your many & encreasing obligations, & to enforce the necessity of seeing me—you shall tell me again that my unkind conduct puts it out of your power to lay yourself under another obligation, whilst the weight of those you already feel is so much encreased by my unkindness.”

Those and similar remarks you shall make but I will not attend to them—tho sometimes I will write you a letter glowing with the most rapturous enthusiasm—every sentiment of which my conduct flatly contradicts—my next shall be penned in a style the most distant & reserved, & thus will I (absenting myself all the while) by trifling with your feelings sacrifice your health & your happiness to my—(I dont know what I am sure) caprice perhaps & when I have gradually worn out that love for me which you took so much pains to preserve (because alas! you had no other way of cancelling your obligations) I will tell you when time has kindly heal’d the wounds, that my unfeeling conduct made in your grateful & affectionate mind—that my heart, is glowing with the purest regard—& Mark!—“That notwithstanding you have heaped on me a continued succession of injuries by repelling my visits and endeavouring to deprive me of the esteem of my friends Tho you have acted towards me under the influence of bad advisors & your own rooted malignity[”]—that I am ready to forgive & overlook—What indeed if Eliza Gould were guilty of you should despise her for—Affection! were I obliged to live under the constant operation of such affection as you have manifested towards me—the measure of my days if I may be allowed to judge from the passed[1] would soon be accomplished.

You tell me & with truth in your first Letter that “you never refused to administer to my pecuniary necessities”—you never indeed did refuse me, & I have a still higher tribute to render you than the mere acknowledgement of this—because you assisted me unsolicited & unexpectedly at a time when I was almost sinking under the pressure of domestic distress—all that a grateful heart can feel on such a subject—I have felt—& all that justice requires I will do. You shall judge between us in this affair & I will abide by your decision—I will do every thing in my power to satisfy you on this point—but to make my happiness a matter of experiment I cannot—indeed I cannot.

That I attempt to vindicate myself on the charges you have brought against me is a necessary & a natural consequence I hope therefore that you will grant me your patient attention whilst I by stating forth as they have existed—& the mode of conduct you have pursued—& the manner in which it has operated on my mind, render to you & myself the justice we both deserve.

I am sorry after all I have felt & written on this subject, that a recapitulation of so many distressing facts should be necessary—but you seem to have forgotten my injuries as you were deaf to my complaints, & to consider me now only a subject of blame, as you heretofore did of neglect.

I am not speaking the language of warmth or the dictates of anger or resentment, my own efforts aided by the lenient hand of time, & the change of scene & situation, has greatly tended to diminish those feelings, & the long long series of trial & affliction to which I have been exposed, from the time it pleased providence to deprive me of a father’s protection untill now, has so tranquilized my mind that I believe there are very few things that would irritate so as to make me uncomfortable—& this I rank among the blessings which grow out of Adversity. You charge me with repelling your visits—saying your own obstinancy alone repelled me not my want of regard. It is scarcely necessary to state anything on this head but you will do me the favour since my letters are in your hands to look over those which I wrote you on the subject of your absence during the principal part of the time you stay’d at Salisbury nay even before you left Honiton.

I told you how very uncomfortable it made me—the severe remarks it exposed you to—& the mortification it was to me to be so often & for so many months together ask’d “When does Mr Feltham come to London”?—again & again I said how much your absence affected my happiness & injured my health & so strongly expressed my feelings on the subject that I am certain had our regard been mutual you would not have pass’d two days without seeing me.

Taking for granted that you would visit London from Salisbury I answered the enquiries of my friends by saying I expected you & when I found it was not your intention feeling your character was involved I mentioned the Idea I had held out, & stating at the same time my illness & pecuniary distress submitted to request a visit if but for two day’s. Was there any thing obstinately repulsive in this. Your neglect at the period I am now speaking of had made a pretty considerable breach in my affections. I told you so—you had written to me unkindly often from Honiton saying you should do as you liked & act as you thought proper & stay there as long as you should & if I had examined the state of my own heart when I asked you to come to London I scarcely think I should have found that my request for an interview at that time proceeded from that tender and affectionate regard which is best fostered by kind & delicate attentions, my mind had long been in a state to require the consolations which friendship is always ready to communicate. I wanted to hear the voice of soothing sympathy & I expected it from you—I wished ardently wished that you might be induced to visit me—I was anxious to preserve an affection for you that I felt to be on the decline. Alas! I was destitute of every other means of compensation than to love you sincerely—I was willing to save your character from the but too just censures of those who had for a long time noticed your negligence of me & blamed you for it.

I hope my prolixity does not tire you—to exonerate yourself you have charged me heavily & I am under the necessity of vindicating my character & my conduct or by my silence tacitly to acknowledge the validity of accusations equally untrue & unjust—these are strong expressions, but to Truth and Justice I can sacrifice nothing. I have never injured younever sought to deprive you of the esteem of your friends repell’d your visits never (as I will prove to you) untill you had forfeited my affection.

You have forgotten it seems all the uneasiness you occasioned me on the score of absence before I left Devon (the Summer more especially when I was with Mrs Quartley) & the letters I found myself obliged to write you on the subject—you did not visit me then from the month of March or April when you came thither with Docr Bierkin till the February following that you walked to Bampton. In vain did I entreat complain & remonstrate, told you how much I was pained by the remarks of my friends & the uneasiness of my own mind—but your brother was with you & he you said so lazy you could not get him out—the week after this you took a walk to Plymouth visited your friends on your return for a week after & as much as to bid me defiance sent me a list of places you had been at saying so you see it is quite a visiting week with me—began your letter with the distant & forbidding address of Madam & subscribed yourself with the most provoking formality your most obedient humble servant paid the postage of the letter—told me by way of postscript that you had sent your sister an elegant gown the day (or week) before (which you certainly were at liberty to do). But I was hurt at your tantalizing indelicacy in naming this circumstance you purchased it for me before I left Southmolton—& I refused to accept it because you absented yourself & neglected me & tho I gave you this as the reason of my refusal you did not remove the objection—even then you would not visit me—I have mentioned this circumstance (& could think of many more of the like description)—because I acted on the receipt of this letter as I did on the last acts of unkindness you had ever an opportunity of rendering me. I told you then tho with less firmness & indeed with less provocation than I have since had—that from your very unkind conduct I found it necessary for my happiness to break off our connection. You would neither hear of it nor visit me—by what tyranny then must my mind have been fettered to be induced by any letters you write to retract my resolution—you wrote me to be sure kindly but it was a sense of obligat­ion that added weight to your excuses tho in fact they were inadmissible—as you could find time to quit Plymouth to visit elsewhere you certainly might have found time to have walked but little more than 20 miles to have seen me. Soon after this you wrote me that it was not unlikely but you might walk with your brother to Kentisbeer (Lord Montraths)[2] & that of course Stallenge Thorn could not be overlooked. I was quite happy to tell the Quartleys that I expected you & for some time never heard the gate open but we thought of seeing you enter. They had form’d ideas of your conduct which I wished them not to entertain. I had then no other home where I could feel myself so easy & unrestrained but through your negligence this also was rendered uncomfortable by the constant remarks they made on your absence & especially so when you told me you had altered your mind & did not intend to come as you had suggested or go any more out for the summer.

But to pass from Devon to London—I will leave your new advocate Benjamin Hawes to defend that conduct of yours in which he talked to you so pointedly as he said he did on your walk to Old Sarum & so violently condemned to me & to his whole family—I have comparatively speaking but very little to blame you for there. Your attentions save in an instance or two were regular & moderate I expected no more. He discovered what appeared to him deficiencies—but we are the children of habit. He no doubt had acted the part of a kind & attent­ive Lover—had you always done the same I too might have thought you defic­ient.

In regard to your conduct in Town I shall say but barely enough to remind you how much reason I had to be dissatisfied with it before you left me—& passing over your kind & cold fits of behaviour manifested at different periods & too often discovered & remarked on by your friends your conduct at Whitton[3] which so much mortified me &c. I will come at once to the time immediately preceeding your departure affection then had you possessed it in the degree you professed to do—must have spoken its own peculiar language—must have told me in kind & soothing expressions your regret at leaving me without friends without a home & without any prospects before me but absolute dependence & even this unascertained. I am thus circumstantial because my mind at this period received a shock that it never afterwards recovered. On Mrs Ortons & my return from Margate Mr Orton[4] came down to Billingsgate to meet us—we of course asked why you did not come also—he told us you had left home when he did & were gone some other where & that you intended to leave London either the next day or the day after—I did not think him serious as you had never mentioned your intention to me & as I had told you that I should perhaps be put a shore at Woolwich to see a friend of my mothers I knew it must have been impossible if only for your own credits’ sake that you should leave London without seeing me which in that case you must have done & as a situation had been advertized[5] for I had a claim on you to stay till you saw how it was likely I should be disposed of. However I found it the fact—you returned in the afternoon had taken your place & almost completed your arrangements. In Mr Ortons little room you must remember that I gave you my Ideas on your conduct which I was exceedingly hurt at—your reply was as you are always so full of your complaints I think we had better put an end to our connections acquaintance or some synonymous word—very well answered I then here it ends—O! would it had but ended then—what heartfelt grief should I not have escaped. What bodily afflictions been exempt from—but tho you said thus much you would not suffer it to be & I was doomed to be the victim of capricious neglect for nearly a year longer during which time you never saw me—nor could any intreaties prevail on you to do—& why did I suffer those injuries why not deprive you of the power of neglecting me by giving you at once. I wanted nothing but money—the possession of 60 or 70 pounds perhaps not so much but you know best & I could not have hesitated a moment on what line of conduct to have pursued & as it is I know well that I have been unjust to myself to suffer my mind to be so long enslaved. It is but justice to you to add that I have not to reproach you with your ever having by any word or remark obliged me to think myself your debtor this is a point on which you have always expressed your self generously as far as related to words—but I wanted to see you consistently attached to me & to take those measures which you knew were the only ones to promote my happiness & which you as it were purposely avoided to do.

You staid one whole day after my return from Margate in the afternoon we drank tea in Cow Lane & it was remarked by some who were present that you for the first time since they had seen us in company condescended to sit by & direct your discourse to me—during almost the whole of the day you were more than ordinarily attentive in the evening we went to Mrs Goodalls[6] & as we were returning back you gave me such a lecture as I never shall forget the subject of my complaint on your conduct—I said but little tho I considered it very cruel & like what you had said to me the day before sunk deep into my heart—tho deserted as I considered myself by you I was full of confidence that that Almighty Being in whom I had trusted & to whom I committed my cares would not leave me destitute. I had seen too often in the course of a few eventful years great deliverances wrought out for me to quit my anchor to give up my dependence but I had a great deal to encounter with & in regard to the situations that had been advertized for disappointment succeeded disappointment Mr and Mrs Orton were very kind to me & tho they at first paid me attentions as being your friend I will not do them the injustice to suppose that they did not love me on my own account because to think otherwise would preclude those grateful sensations of mind which I always feel when I reflect on their attentions to me manifested even to the time of my quitting London.

For an introduction to those other valuable friends that I have to boast of I believe my self principally indebted to the manner in which you left me & the negligence with which they observed you treated me whilst you were in London & that our acquaintance has been heightened into so permanent a friendship was owing in the first instance to nothing less than that manifest disregard with which you behaved to me during my illness & for months before.

Your sister took no notice of me for some time after you left Town her plea was that the vague manner in which you had expressed yourself respecting me restrain’d her—& but for my very valuable & affectionate friends the Miss Hawes’s I should have remained in London without a knowledge of those connections with whom I consider it a privilege & blessing to be acquainted—I all­ude particularly to Mr Gurney & family—to whom the Miss Hawes’s introduced me. Hurt and mortified as I was at the manner in which you left London I had determined not to cultivate an acquaintance with any of those friends of yours to whom you had introduced me. I thought of nothing but of getting into the first reputable situation that offered me an opportunity of getting my living. Harriett Hawes called upon me & tho I had at that time but a very slight acquaintance with her she almost insisted on my going to see them—& it is thro the means of those friends in the first instance that I am beloved with all but parental affection by one of the worthiest of women & by all the family considered as an adopted branch of it.

I anticipate your reply—You are ready to answer did I not tell you that you might remain at Mr Ortons if you liked?—did I not say that you had no occasion to look out for a situation—the latter I should not have thought of doing if I had not considered you as deviating from your original proposals & viewing your conduct in such a light where was the propriety of any acceeding [sic] to the former.

According to your first intentions 6 or 8 months more from the time of your leaving London would have inseparably united us—when you stated to me the situation of your affairs at the commencement of the year 1794 & the reasons by which you were witheld from settling before the expiration of perhaps 3 years which were principally the nonage of your Brother & the expectations of a certain sum from another quarter that you expected would come into hand at that time; there is no one but must have approved of sentiments & resolutions so prudently formed & candidly expressed—in the same letter which I have returned to you—you speak thus—[“]Before a thinking Man forms a lasting union it seems necessary that time should sanction his choice to himself & when an unreserved intimacy proves the internal virtues of the object of his love he will [take] the most exalted pleasure in rivetting the attachment for life—In the next place let a Man from experience love ever so well he is possibly doing an injustice to the object of love if he does not pre-consider how the exigencies of domes-tic arrangement &c are to be provided for this I own has made me hesitate & determined me to wait a little longer untill I might be enabled to overcome the difficulty”—then mentioning your expectations &c you told me that your Brother would be of age in about 3 years & at the expiration of which time you also look for something handsome from a quarter of which you would inform me—those were the only barriers according to your statement thus which lay in your way & adverting to them you add [“]if therefore untill this or some other prospect opens to me of settling with comfort to you you conceive me to be worthy your unreserved friendship & love &c.” Whilst we were at Mr Ortons some circumstance or remark but I have quite forgotten what brought up the subject & in the course of conversations you said it might be 4 or 5 years before you settled & you had before told me that you should most likely live with Mr N[7]—as long as he lived—tho it was but just before I left Wellington that you told me you wished I would go with you to London or Salisbury as we should meet Mr Haskins & as you intended to talk with him about settling yourself you wished me to be present. I was never called to assist at any conversations of the kind.

The day indeed before you left London[8] Mr Haskins call’d at Mr Ortons & the few minutes we happened to be alone he entered with me into conversation respecting you & said he wished I would endeavour to exert any influence I might have over you to persuade you to return with him to the Isle which he had in vain attempted to in order that you might look about you for a prospect of settling there & that he had no doubt if you liked the situation but you might do very well—he was very anxious he said to see you settled & that he would do every thing in his power to assist you. He told a person in London that he fear’d you did not mean to settle at all & that he could not account for your conduct. You had received then the largest half of what his friendship design’d for you & I have no doubt but you might have had the whole. I saw even so long ago your way quite open before you & every impediment that you had stated to me on the point of being removed & I at least expected that after the expiration of 2 years & half you would have got into some business or employment. I rather conceived you were misleading me then but I was more fully convinced by a letter which you wrote to me soon after you arrived at Salisbury in Febry 1797 tho on recollecting myself I think it was just before you left Honiton—when after telling me that you should pass some part of the approaching summer in the Isle of Man you added—“If I can fin[d] a residence at Salisbury the ensuing winter & have you there I should be glad otherwise I would be happy to pass a few months with you at your fathers at Kingsbridge” we had been acquainted now full three years & you were planning how to dispose of the fourth. My health at this time was in a very delicate state & my friends in the country were uneasy about me in many respects. Of a different nature were my feelings. My highest wish was to see you a consistent man & I was anxious that you might after so long an intimacy pursue a line of conduct that should appear to me to be better regulated by the reason & good sense that I knew you to possess. I wanted to approve of it also & to say the truth I had for some time been hoping that you would soon consult me on an important point that of settling yourself—mine was not an interested wish & I told you in a letter I wrote to you whilst you were at Salisbury in 1797. That had you been engaged in any unsuccessful pursuit or had your plans been such as to require a series of years to bring them to maturity or had any incident occurred to lengthen to any extent the period you at first proposed, it would have been of consequence to me only as your interest & happiness were involved. I should have been happy in possessing your friendship whilst I had reason to think you deserved mine.[9]

On the death of Mr Northcote when you expressed your regrets (& very natural & laudable they were) at leaving a place perhaps on my account which a long residence & a thousand other kindred attachments must have endeared to you I thought perhaps that you might have a secret wish still to reside there & felt much pain at the thought of your quitting a place (perhaps on my account) for another in which you might not be so happy. I mentioned my fear respecting you to Mr & Mrs Orton & resolved in my own mind so to act as might appear the most likely to promote your happiness. I knew but of one probable way of fixing you at Honiton (as you had decidedly spoken before against going into your own business) & this I proposed to you in such a manner as I conceived to be unexceptionable because it would have left you at liberty to have followed the bent of your most favorite inclinations you would have had leisure to have pursued your literary avocations either as a source of profit or amusement & you might as I suggested have farmed Lucerhays[10] advantageously my employment would not have interfered with your pursuits & that a school would have answer’d at that time in Honiton (there being no opponent[11]) is with me beyond a doubt. I have been thus circumstantial to put you in mind in what a variety of ways you acted so as to make me uncomfortable. I read to Mr & Mrs Orton that part of my letter which related to my proposals & which they much approved of —but your answer was disgraceful to you & to my very great sorrow sunk you so much in my opinion that I was almost sorry I had ever mentioned it. I expected at least that you would have thanked me for my concern & for the sacrifice I had offered to make because to me it would have been entering immediately into a state of labour & confinement. In reply you said in a very contemptuous & illnatured manner (what I well know & what you well know was never the case) that you had proposed to me before to farm Lucerhays & to seek for a partnership in Gittisham school, “both of which (said you) were indignantly refused.” If any part of your conduct could have hurried me into an intemperate degree of warmth this was calculated to do it. I think I never felt more from any unkind act of yours than I did from this. When I wrote you in the letter in question you had not been in possession of Lucerhays I believe more than a month it was directly on Mr Northcotes death & as to my having a partnership in Gittisham school I had no recollection of your ever naming it but once in a mere casual way at Sion House when I call’d there in my journey from Stallenge Thorn to Ottery. It was quite an accidental question of yours produced by my remarking how uncomfortable I was to be out of a situation & on wishing you to advise me how to act you said “Should you like a partnership in Gittisham school.” The absurdity of the proposal never struck me till afterwards & I was I remember in my answer as mildly laconic as you were in your question & all this indignant refusal was nothing more than a mere negative reply without any animadversion on either side. You never after mentioned the subject—I believe I did in a letter but it was not replied to—I am sorry for the necessity of this detail but I cannot by any silence plead guilty to such heavy accusations.

I owe you money and feeling that I ought not to concede to you on that account I have ventured this statement of facts—if you wish to vindicate yourself on them I hope you will answer me point by point. I have made my statement. I have thought perhaps too contractedly—thought I fear like a mercenary that by being obliged to you for money I had not the power to pay that on that account it was my duty to endeavour to retain a regard for you also. I tried to do this & took pains with myself to cherish those affections which you were so effectually subduing & tho your conduct grieved me I even compelled myself to esteem you by often enumerating & dwelling on your estimable qualities & many you have evinced to my knowledge which do honour to your nature.

I cannot conceive how my asking a favour of Mr Haskins could possibly affect you since the application was made more than a year after our acquaintance was broken off—when I was reduced to the painful necessity, so far from endeavouring to prejudice him against you I purposely avoided any mention of your name his letter in reply required that I should say something about you for he said he had long wished to write me & very freely gave me his thoughts on your conduct together with his advice.

In whatever way you might have suffered in his opinion you have yourself only to accuse & I have been inform’d that he blamed you for your negligence long before he knew that it made me uneasy—uninfluenced as his mind was then and for anything I know is now by any of those aggravating circumstances which has rendered your late conduct so very reprehensible his remarks could be founded on his own observations only & I need not say how very apparent your habitual negligence was to all your friends nor how much felt by me from one year to another.

I did not as you must be well convinced from having seen the letter enter into the detail of your conduct or mention that I can recollect a single instance of your unkindness—but stated to him only in general terms some of my reasons for breaking off our connection.

I never should have mentioned to Mr Haskins but in my own defence the injuries I had received from Mr & Mrs Hawes[12] it was that tenacious regard to character which I hope I shall ever feel that impelled me to do it—they had endeavoured to sink me low in the opinion of my friends & not content with inhospitably turning me out of their own house but they shut also the door of their fathers against me where till then I had always been greeted with a friendly welcome. I knew I should not be spared to Mr Haskins for how could they vindicate their own conduct without condemning me & I wish’d to do myself justice by preparing him for what I was convinced he would hear whenever he came to London. I did not mention those expressions made use of by Benjm Hawes or the severe epithets he had bestowed on you in consequence of your neglect with a view to depreciate either you or him, I thought of nothing at the time but a vindication of my character & by adverting to those facts I only wish’d to evince to Mr Haskins that a change of conduct so sudden in them without any alteration on your part to warrant it (for they did not even hear from you on the subject till after I had left the House) could not proceed from conviction or principle.

Enclosed in this you will receive a 10 pound note. I sincerely hoped that you would not have been in London before I could have had the opportunity of explaining five pounds in the parcel with your letters where it was a long time deposited & where you would have found it but for the positive state of distress to which I was reduced. One half of it paid my apothecary’s bill & the residue was appropriated to the discharge of smaller debts due to those to whom immediate payment was necessary—perhaps the other would have shared the same fate had you not remanded it back again—which you did by desiring Mr Orton to ask me to send it you—knowing the delicacy I felt on the score of obligation it was far from kind to act as you did in regard to those 2 notes—it was placing me like Tantalus in sight—nay even in possession of relief which consulting any other feeling than necessity I dared not venture upon.

I told you for two months before you left England of my pecuniary embarrassments & that you by persevering in a conduct so unkind put it out of my power to be any farther obliged to you this was taken no notice of (but sending me a 5£ note the day after I went to Cow Lane which I returned again to you soon after) & you suffered me to proceed step by step till I wrote & told you that I conceived our connection at an end—about a fortnight after this (about a month I should say) you sent me struck off on a sheet of paper a copper plate device of a broken pillar a weeping willow &c altogether expressing itself to me as being a faint memorial of the dissolution of our connection there was nothing said in reply to my letter not a word but its contents very much provoked me for writing as you did &c but the day before you left Salisbury “if I hear you are well by the next post (which was the morning that you meant to put off in the afternoon) I shall take London in my way to the Isle of Man”—the former you had no reason to think I could say, & the latter was very improbable—besides why should your coming depend on the state of my health & if it did at all my ill state of health should have impelled you to have seen me & at any rate after the uncomfortable correspondence that had subsisted between us for so many months & the height to which it had been brought. I am very certain & it is impossible to convince me to the contrary that had you valued my esteem & been anxious to have made me comfortable & to have promoted my happiness—you never would or could have left England at least without taking London in your way—it would not have depended on this or that for if you had loved me (for your own sake as well as for mine) you would have endeavoured to have made me happy—the relief which you administered to my necessities after what I had said on the subject before would have been yielded to me with that affectionate delicacy that might have tended to lighten the weight—instead of which it was enclosed at least one note was in some of those devices I have before spoken of & after you had acknowledged the dissolution of our connection which you apparently did with reluctance as far as it related to words—I make my appeal to your actions.

I will give you the address of those of my friends whom you have named but I have no reason to think that they know much of the matter. I have never written to any one of them on the subject or mention’d that I can recollect to any of my relations in the country that our connection was broken off except to my parents not even to my brother—knowing how apt people are to exaggerate in those cases & misrepresent & wishing on that account it should not become a topic of conversation in the country I expressly desired my mother not to mention it & if any enquiries were made to wave the subject She soon after removed to Dodbrook & I have no reason to think that any of those aspersions you fear have been thrown on you.

To the Creswells[13] I have not written since poor Harriets death[14] & to the Quartleys but very seldom & not once have touched on the subject of any disagreement having taken place between us—they are not fond of writing & lately I have not urged it on purpose to avoid their enquiries—& when I wish to know something about them I pass a letter with Mr Holman of Wellington.[15] I did not want to injure you in their opinion, & if you had call’d on them when you were in Devon you would I dare say have been as hospitably received as before. When you visited Ottery you might have seen Mr Creswell & why if you considered a vindication of your conduct necessary did you not do it then. They knew from the first as well as Mrs Quartley the essential services you had rendered me & if you wish I will inform them and all my friends & all yours that you have express’d yourself disposed to renew the acquaintance—giving them in a few words & as little to your detriment as possible the serious reasons which have determined me to reject your proposals.

It is very true that my affections were once set on you more perhaps than they ought to have been on any earthly object & it was a solace to my mind, under those severe trials to which I have been exposed, that there would a time arrive when we should enjoy in peaceful retirement the society of each other. I knew you had peculiarities (but these hoping they would not extend beyond a certain degree) I had resolved to indulge. I esteem’d you for the rare worth that I thought our minds were essentially similar, I hoped we should have been happy —whatever change has taken place you yourself have effected—that you have trifled with my affections by your personal neglect of me is a fact too strong to be controverted—there is no arguing against such feelings as you have produced in my mind. You might call them the effect of prejudice if you please, or a want of self government, but I think otherwise & hope never to attain to that stoical hardness of character which will produce in me an indifference to the happiness of those I love, proceed from whatever source it may.

I might venture I think to allow you (tho it was for a long time an ambig­uous point with me) that in one sense I have suffer’d my reason to be too far enslaved by my feelings I mean in respect to what I owe you,—it held for a time too great a bias on the freedom of my actions—but how dearly we love our prejudices—even those feelings I would dignify with the title of gratitude—& consider them to proceed from a grateful sense of obligations operating in full force on a too susceptible mind.

I have always dealt openly with you as I intend to deal justly on the only point that remains to be settled between us & it would have made me feel comfortable had you complied with my wishes on the subject 2 years ago. I have again to request the same favor that you will permit me & my father jointly to give you a bond to assure the payment of a debt that you must consider as due to you. I cannot advance more at present than the enclosed ten pounds which I am sorry I have so long been obliged to wait for as in part to delay my answer till this period—a long time has elapsed since I began it & the principal part has been penned during the little leisure that has occur’d to me from the attentions necessary to be paid to 6 children & this I hope you will admit as an apology.

I could perhaps by asking some of my friends procure now a sum sufficient to answer any claim you might have on me but I would rather not do it if I could avoid [it] neither do I think you would wish me.

The former mode however I must insist on & if you will tell me how or in what way a security should be worded or send me one filled up, I will affix my own signature & pass it on to my father for him & he will return it according to your direction.

You have I am conscious nothing to blame me for. I exerted every endeavour to retain an affection for you, & that you suffered it to diminish & knew it was diminishing my letters for a long time together will testify—& that I have not acted under the influence of any sudden pique or momentary warmth of temper. I call your negligence & my anxieties,—remonstrances & patience to witness—but enough has been said. I wish you happy—I have a set of books which belong to you—Paleys Philosophy[16] & will send them to Mr Ortons where I will thank you to leave those letters that are yet in your hands. I remain with good wishes, yours

Eliza Gould

Address of my friends (according to your request)

Mrs Quartley Stallenge Thorn Wellington

Mr Creswell Ottery St Mary

Mr John Gould Dodbrook near Kingsbridge

Mr Thomas Gould[17] Mrs Haynes West Exe Tiverton


I am sorry I have not yet had it in my power to remit to Mr Haskins which I mean to do soon—will you favor me with his address as I was inform’d he had left Shagh.[18]

Wishing to be correct I would say that I have (tho an imperfect Idea of it) some recollections that I mentiond in the first instance to a friend in the country of our disagreement but nothing since has transpired.


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. 40-53.

[1] Eliza means past.

[2] Kentisbeare is located about five miles east of Cullompton. Charles Henry Coote of Castle Coote, Ireland, 7th Earl of Montrath, an eccentric character, built Montrath House at Kentisbeare in the latter part of the eighteenth century and lived there for many years (Barrett 103-04). Montrath owned at least five other homes situated between Norfolk and Devon, including one in London, so that when he traveled he would not have to sleep in an inn, largely due to his fear that people would be frightened by his face (previously disfigured by smallpox). His choice of a home in Devon may have been the result of his affection for a Kentisbeare girl who lived with him for a time, though he died unmarried in 1802. See Tiverton Gazette, 5 August 1925, p. 8.

[3] A small village fourteen miles from London.

[4] The Orton’s, the family with whom Eliza stayed c. 1796–97, lived in Cow Lane.

[5] Most likely a position as governess, which apparently did not materialize.

[6] The wife of Richard Goodall, a London merchant, who lived at 2 Chapel Yard, Spital Square, not far from the Hawes’s at 8 Spital Square. See Lowndes’s [1787]: 68; Wakefield’s [1790]: 135.

[7] Richard Northcote.

[8] In 1797 Haskins and Feltham walked from Bristol to Liverpool, through the counties of Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucester, Monmouth, Hereford, Salop, Chester, and Lancaster, a journey of 208 miles which they accomplished in only seven days. They then ferried from Liverpool to the Isle of Man. During his stay there, Feltham, along with the American J. Edward Wright, toured the island extensively, recording observations that would later comprise the material for his two books on the Isle of Man. The next year, Haskins emigrated to the Isle of Man.

[9] See Fragment 3, in Whelan, Politics, Religion, and Romance, pp. 53-54.

[10] Lucershays (also called “Luckershays” or “Lucerhayne”) was an estate in the parish of Widworthy, in the Colydon Hundred, about five miles to the east of Honiton.

[11] By that time Mrs. Symonds had closed her school in Honiton and removed to Taunton.

[12] Benjamin Hawes and his wife, Ann (Feltham’s sister).

[13] The Appendix to the UBD lists a Mr. Cristwell, clothier, in Ottery St. Mary (5.149). Given the variations in the spelling of names at this time, this is probably the same person mentioned in the above letter.

[14] Probably the Cresswells’s daughter; it is not Harriet Hawes, who died in 1822.

[15] James Holman received his medical diploma from Edinburgh and was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1797. In April 1800 he was elected physician to the General hospital in Bath. Apparently, he spent considerable time in Wellington as well. He resigned in 1804 and retired to Wellington, where he died in 1812. He appeared in print in a Statement of the facts respecting Dr. Browne’s conduct in visiting, without any authority, a patient of Dr. Holman’s, in the Bath City Infirmary: with strictures on Dr. Browne’s reply and Mr. Starke’s observations in the “Bath Journal” (1797). He will serve as one of Eliza’s doctors during her visit to Devon in the fall of 1799.

[16] The reference here is probably to the 11th ed. (2 vols., 1796) of William Paley’s Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy.

[17] Eliza’s older brother, Thomas, was apparently living with Mrs. Hayne. Eliza had other relations living in Tiverton as well.

[18] Haskins’ former place of residence, near Honiton.