Eliza Flower, Harlow, to Mrs. [Rebecca] Gurney, c/o Mr. White, Esqre, Deal, Kent, Sunday, 15 September 1805.
Harlow Sepr 15 1805
My dear Mamma G–
I have at length received from Cambridge the rules of the Child bed linen Society tho I think they are not sufficiently descriptive of the plan & government of the society. I will however subjoin them & endeavour to inform you wherein I think them defective.
Rule 1st That each subscriber pay 6s/6d a quarter & provide a set of Linen (2) That each subscriber in her turn be appointed Treasurer & visitor for a Quarter of a year having the liberty if more convenient to exchange her quarter with any other subscriber and in case any Lady declines visiting that she pay 2s/6d to the fund & the next in order be appointed (3) Gentlemens subscription will be received without their finding Linen (4) That every subscriber be entitled to recommend a proper object and send a note by the woman recommended to the visitor with information what family she has and what are her means of support (5) That no Lying-in woman keep the linen longer than a month without leave (6) That every person be required to return the linen clean & right in number (7) That any person deviating from these rules be incapable of receiving any benefit from this charity in future (8) That the subscriptions be paid quarterly & that those members who have it not in their power to attend send their subscriptions on the day appointed to meet (9) That the subscribers meet at the beginning of every quarter to pay their subscription inspect what has been done & make new rules if necessary (10) That there shall be a Fund for keeping the linen in repair (11) That the above fund be supplied by the overplus of the quarterly subscriptions if there be any & from the forfeitures of those Ladies who do not visit in their turn (12) In cases of necessity the visitor may make use of the money from the above mentioned fund if the quarterly subscriptions are not sufficient for the expences. State of the subscriptions for the last year 33£.6s.donations 2£—Persons relieved 112
I think the mode of relief should have been specified in the above plan & a nurse allowed where a poor woman cannot afford to hire one. I have known serious instances of a neglect of this kind & where a poor woman has fallen a victim to bad management when she has only depended on the casual assistance of her poor neighbours—were I to frame a plan of a society of this kind I should not hoard any sum for repairing of linen because as every Lady keeps her linen in her own possession there is no fear but she will keep her stock in good repair without drawing on the society to defray the expence. I have known the Treasurer of the Society at Cambridge have 10 or eleven pounds in hand which hardly any distress would tempt her to break into—neither would answer in every place to oblige all the subscribers to visit in their Turn because I do think that many people subscribe to charitable institutions who have neither heads nor hearts calculated to render them beneficial as active members—in London such a plan would by no means answer. It would not answer as a general will to have self elected members of a Society particularly where every member had to take an active part & at some time or another to have the uncontrouled disposal of 17 or 18 pounds (the fund is seldom less than 10 pounds). I will suppose the case of a person in distress appropriating the money to her own use & never being able to replace it—in charitable institutions I am a great enemy to hoarding. I would fund nothing but Bequests.
There is a considerable Society at Hertford but their plan is a singular one. You buy as many tickets as you like at 14s/ pr ticket one ticket relieves 1 person, for whom you are provided with a set of linen & the managers who are two Ladies return you 10s/ which you dispose of to the poor woman in any way you think proper the overplus of 4s/ goes towards keeping up a stock of linen & all the sets are kept at the House of these two Ladies. I should have said that you pay a double price for the first ticket & this furnishes the linen. I rather think for a large neighbourhood the latter plan would answer better than the former.
You quite disappointed us in not coming to Harlow. I really so fully expected you that I was not prepared to find you gone another way but I hope in your present situation you will encrease in Health & strength. I say Health but really I must correct myself for health strictly speaking I fear you will never enjoy again—but you enjoy what is infinitely better than all earthly blessings resignation to the will of God.
We are thro mercy well my little Sarah is wonderfully recovered & grows quite stout—Eliza is become quite companionable & we are teaching her to read. Harlow is a most pleasant place, & but for one circumstance
our life would be a state of great enjoyment, but our Sabbaths are literary fast days as far as it concerns public worship & it is miserable work to [illegible] merely because he [illegible] as [illegible] bad examples, for with such prospects as we have, I am sorry to say [illegible] no other [illegible] Benjamin has been lately 3 or four times at a village about 5 miles from home & preached in the evening, most of Severn’s principal people attended & all wished to have an opportunity of hearing him often. “What a pity Mr Flower should not preach & what a shame that he should have to come five miles, & indeed that we any of us should through a soaking rain whilst the meeting at Harlow stands empty”? said some of M r Severns people to me. “M r Severn won’t preach himself or collect the straggling idle young people who wander about the fields or lounge at the public House of a Sunday nor those who would” said another. This certainly is the fact but with such facts as these I am shocked to hear him speak of the glory of God & the good of souls. Yours ever
Note: Sarah Flower was born on 22 February 1805. For annotated text, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Politics, Religion, and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794-1808 (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 2008), pp. 303-05.