18 June 1807

Benjamin Flower at Harlow to Eliza Flower at the Creaks, 69 Cornhill, London, Thursday, 18 June 1807.

Harlow, June 18, 1807

My Dear Love

Your scrap informed me you were alive and well and that was all; if I have not to morrow morning a long letter, I shall say you treat me very shabbily. We have been all very well, and my mind has assumed rather a brighter colour than for some time past. Our dear Girls are in usual health and spirits; and yesterday afternoon rather more than usual, as I ventured to treat them with a ride to Stortford, for fearing Miss Jennings might not come to Harlow. I was determined she should have a sight of them. So we went—the driving box taken off—with Eliza on the left side duly secured with the Red cravats, Papa on the right, and Sarah well wedged in, in the middle. We had a charming ride, the horse went very gentle, and just as we wished him. Sarah indeed would hardly be contented without having both whip and reins in her hands, or bridle for so she termed the latter. However I thought the whip quite enough to hurt her with in which opinion I suppose you will agree with me. She as well as Eliza was full of remark on every thing she saw; besieged the Turnpikeman for “that pretty flower you got—pray give it me”—“Yes my Dear” was the reply, “and I’ll go and get another for your sister.” But when we got out at Stortford, I thought I could not have got Sarah from one shop to another, she wanted so to look at something in each.[1]

Miss J– was very glad to see us; she thinks Sarah the picture of her aunt Mary. As she stays a few days longer than she first intended, she will come to Harlow on Tuesday next. After staying an hour at Stortford we returned as we came. We had their great Coats. Both the Girls as lively as ever, and not in the least inclined to sleep. Eliza was less tired than I was, we both supped together, and went to bed together. She was much struck at family prayer, and asked me a heap of questions about it. And now to save a sheet of Admonitions reproofs and injunctions, I will just give you a promise to ease you of all your fears, apprehensions, &c. &c. &c. &c. that I will not repeat my expedition, or take the children out in the chaise any more till your return.

People one would imagine had concocted together to come when you are out. Miss Nottage came yesterday with the intent of spending a day, and sleep-ing a night with us, but you being from home, she set off by the Walden Coach for a relation’s near London. She returns next week. Will you ask Mr Gurney how he likes the wine—I am to have the 20 doz of Port & the 20 doz Sherry at the price I mentioned. You heard what was said about the Sherry being a super­ior sort: If Mr G. chooses he may have part of both, but how much I cannot say, as Miss Barnard,[2] Freeman &c. like theirs so well, they wish to have more of it.

Frank Bailey pays due attention to your Garden. Sam is fully employed in the Printing office, as we have had an unusual number of jobs.

Mary I suppose has left you. I expect Mr Cowell every minute. I will come for you either on Saturday evening, or Sunday Morning, probably the former, but I will give you a line by Friday evenings post directed to Cornhill.

Mr Cowell is come. Farewell

With respects to all friends

I remain Ever Yr B Flower

The Girls break up at School to day.

I wrote you by Wednesday’s post.

Note: Incidents such as this helped form the basis of Harriet Martineau’s Five years of youth, or Sense and sentiment (1831). In her novel (clearly influenced by the Flower family history), two sisters exper­ience an education both “original and erratic,” consisting of “a few masters, the best that the small country village of Harlow could afford, a good deal of reading, both sacred and general,” and an occasional jaunt “about the country in an old-fashioned, one-horse chaise” with their father, all designed, he contended, to cultivate “their naturally quick powers of observation” (Bridell-Fox 7). For the complete 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. 330-31.