Fragment: Fall of 1798

Fragment. Eliza Gould at the Squire’s in Kempston to Mrs. John Gould at Dodbrook[1] [fall of 1798].

Kempston House

My dear Mother

I comply immediately with your request—& I am exceedingly sorry that my silence has occassioned you so much uneasiness. I have day after day for a long time past intended & indeed attempted to write you but my time is so completely occupied as to preclude the possibility of my saying what I wish to say in a short period. I have much to tell you on one account and another—& for this reason have defer’d writing longer than I ought—hoping to find a better opportunity. I will however begin a letter & fill it at intervales & in the course of a fortnight I hope to transmit to my dear parents some interesting communications to enter upon which now would mutilate my subject.

I am much pleased to hear you are all well & glad to find that my dear father has not forgotten the art of writing—his metaphors are always striking & appropriate & require but a few of the embellishments of style to render them beautiful.

I wish you could any where borrow Blairs Lectures on the Belles Lettres[ii] for Mary—it would improve her in the art of English composition beyond any thing. I hope you will make a clever girl of Mary & [illegible] so much depends on it for from their situation in life & their habits of intercourse with very genteel society it is highly necessary the manners of the child should win a little of its polish—tho I am very far from recommending a too assiduous attention to the rules of modern politeness. I despise the systems & am hurt at its being introduced as a branch of female education in too many of our Seminaries—but the eye of reason is I trust expanding & mankind I hope will discover the fallacy of sacrificing the Charms & graces of Sincerity to the Shrine of affectation & artific­ial civility in which the heart has no shame into which no benevolent feelings enter. But when love (says a favourite author of mine) is without dissimul­ation—when complaisence appears to spring from a sincere desire to please—when the kind affections are the fountains from whence it flows however destitute of artificial grace however defective in delivery of language & in elegance of carriage it is infinitely more pleasing than that which is studied & assumed. I would not have you from hence infer that I am an advocate for a perfect inattention to the rules of behaviour a genteel address is pleasing & recommendatory & in a degree ought to be attended to but it should spring from a benevolent desire to contribute to the ease & happiness of those around us & I think the best way of instructing a child in the rules of politeness is to cherish the kind affections, watch them as they form in the infant mind & bestow on them that culture bent instead on the nature of the soul. How good to be grateful and we will never ...


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. 39-40.

[1] The Goulds moved to Dodbrook, Devon, in late 1796 or early 1797.

[2] Hugh Blair’s Lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres, first published in London in 1783, appeared in eight editions in London and America by 1798.