Letters from the Flower-Gould Correspondence

Elizabeth Gurney Letters and References from Politics, Religion, and Romance: The Letters of Benjamin Flower and Eliza Gould Flower, 1794-1808, ed. Timothy Whelan (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 2008).



Eliza Gould at the Gurneys, Walworth, to Benjamin Flower at Newgate, Sunday, 15 September 1799.


      I have good news for you my dearest friend.   I find myself this morning better—I have not put a good face on a badcase—I am much better.

      I thank you my Benjamin for your affectionate Letters they are very soothing & satisfactory—such as I have not been accustomed to receive—you say much to make me comfortable—you tell me you will compose your own mind—endeavour to do so at all times, & the assurance will make me happy.  Your charming letter of yesterday—how much I owe you!  I will love you with my whole heart now & forever.  I will write you when I can a long letter—& see you as soon as possible.

      Mr Saumerez the Apothecary[1] who attends me recommends that I still continue in Bed at least for a short time longer—my voice is recovering—my diet consists of fruit & vegetables my drink of whey—Linseed, Bran, & Beef Tea—he recommends that I take my Devonshire journey as soon as my strength will admit & has not the least doubt but it will be the means of completely renovating my constitution.

      I have read your letter again—my heart sympathizes with yours—lean upon God, & he will support you—you by experience know as well as I that he always delighteth to do us good[2] & I have found in numerous instances that the heaviest afflictions I have experienced have proved in the end the greatest mercies my God has ever bless’d me with—let us beg of God to sanctify the dealings of his hand & make them subservient in promoting our highest our eternal interest.

      I should have been very happy to have met your Brother & Sister the Idea has pleased me much—& should they as you mention call on me I shall be very glad to see both or either.  I hope Mr Saumerez will let me get up and change my room to morrow.

      What a mercy it is to be situated with friends such as Mr Gurney’s family are to me—I have every thing to make me comfortable in my present illness— (except the satisfactions I should derive from your society) that I can possibly wish for—write me as often as you can.  Tho you will not dispute the fact now which I have so often contested, of blots blunders scratches &c you will I know find an apology   a “chair” would be a better “desk” than a pillow I allow.

      The only remark Mr Saumerez has made to the family on my present illness is that my lungs are weak & that care is necessary (now I am getting better) to prevent a relapse & that a journey into Devonshire will quite reestablish my health—adieu my dearest friend believe me ever 

                                    your faithful & affectionate

                                                Eliza Gould


Will send you a line if but one, to morrow morn’g by the first post—Miss Gurney will not awake me should I be asleep at that time but will write you herself.


On the back page is the following note from Elizabeth Gurney:


      In addition to what Miss Gould has said respecting her health Miss Gurney has the pleasure of adding that MrSaumarez assures her that Miss Gould is a great deal better but as he still considers her lungs as weak he requests her to take the greatest care of herself that she may not again catch cold.  E G will so far as depends upon her enforce the strictest attention to what she considers as so very important a piece of advice and hopes soon to see her friend in the possession of recovered health.   She however begs leave to hint that from what Mr S says she conceives that a short confinemt to the house will expedite her recovery & therefore hopes Mr F will not urge to an interview too speedily.



Benjamin Flower at Newgate to Eliza Gould [at the Gurneys, Walworth], Saturday, 21 September 1799.


                                                            Newgate Sep 21.  1799

                                                                        Saty Morng 11 oclock


      . . . .


                                    1 oclock


      After walking about the passage, and waiting for the Postman, he is, tho’ later than usual, at last arrived, and has brought me Miss Gurney’s most welcome note.  I will not mind your mending slowly, if you do but mend surely.  If we can have the main of our wishes gratified, altho’ not in every circumstance, or so speedily as we wish, we must be thankful; and very thankful I indeed feel! 

      I find myself so abundantly better, that I believe I shall not repeat my slip slops; but if towards night I should be worse, I will be sure to take as much care of myself as I am worth, if not more.

      It was my settled intention to send over to morrow morning; Old Mother Bird[3] is not now in the way, but I expect her every minute; and as I am sure Miss Gurney will think me rude if I do not return an acknowledgment of her note, I must enclose this in one to her, and I hope to mention the time, of my sending to morrow.  Pray do not again seal your note with a black wafer.  I tore it off from that received this morning as soon as it stared me in the face.

      May heaven speedily accomplish your recovery is the first the constant Prayer of 

                                    Your    B Flower



Eliza Gould at the Gurneys, Walworth, to Benjamin Flower at Newgate, undated and incomplete [Sunday, 22 September 1799].


                                                                        Sunday one o clock


My dear Benjamin

      I hope I have hobbled down stairs in time to confirm the morning report of my affectionate friend and truly indefatigable nurse Miss Gurney and to tell you myself that I really am much better and tho still feverish & weak that I gain strength daily to a degree that I could not have expected.



Benjamin Flower at Newgate to Eliza Gould at Bath, Thursday, 3 October 1799.


                        s                                   Newgate Oct. 3.  1799

                                                                        Thursday Evening.


      . . . . . 

      I slept well, and this morning before 8 oclock, your excellent friend Miss Gurney and her brother[4] came to breakfast: their company was the more welcome as they brought me the reviving intelligence, that you was charmingly, in good spirits, and apparently well prepared to take your Journey.  We had a good long morning together, as it lasted til near 12 oclock.  We had much literary conversation; and (how surprised you will be!) your friend to me appeared to more advantage, than before, when the “foil” was by her to set her off.  We talked about you, which by the bye I need not have told you, but what she said to me was of that Consequence that I cannot help relating it.  She told me, that I could scarcely conceive how much your late notes to me had tired you: that writing she was sure would injure your health, if you did not take great care—that you stooped much when you wrote and that she dreaded your writing long letters.  This I own made me almost regret that I had given you any large Folio Post, and I do assure you, my Dear Love, that unless you inform me at the close of every letter, that you have taken time, have not written long at one sitting—and that you have not fatigued yourself—the pleasure I shall receive in the perusal of every line you send me, will be considerably abated.  I wish indeed you would always endeavour to have a high desk, or something on your table: I assure you, I mean to let you see that your promise shortly to be made of “obeying”—is not to consist of words only; and that if after you are married, I cannot break you of the bad habit complained of by any other means, I must serve you as naughty girls are served, get a Collar and a back board, or some such apparatus to make you, when writing, hold up your head.  To be very serious—I do firmly believe there have been instances in which much sitting and stooping at writing has laid the foundation for disorders the most fatal. . . .




Benjamin Flower at Newgate to Eliza Gould [care of J. Haskins, Esqr., Three Tuns, Bath], Saturday,  5 October.


                                                            Newgate, Oct. 5.  1799

4  oclock.


. . . Miss Gurney is just gone to her Brother’s to dinner, after favouring me with her company for an hour.  She has given me some farther particulars of your late illness, which to me have been peculiarly interesting.  She desires her love.  When you do not write to Walworth, she desires you would mention it in your letters to me that I may inform her how you are.  



Eliza Gould at Three Tuns, Bath, to Benjamin Flower at Mr. Kirby’s, Old Bailey, Newgate Prison, London, Sunday, 6 October.


                                                                        Three Tuns Bath

                                                                        Sunday Octr 6th 99


. . . Write Miss Gurney or on second thought I think you had better send her this—I have no reserves of any kind to her.   She is the Sister & the friend of my Heart—she must be yours also.  



Benjamin Flower at Newgate to Eliza Gould [care of J. Haskins Esqr, Three Tons, Bath], Monday, 7 October 1799.


. . . I enclosed your letter in a short note to Miss Gurney agreeably to your intim­ation.  It was your wish and I knew the perusal would give her and the family much satisfaction, or else I hardly knew how to part with a letter which proved such a cordial to my heart, so very soon.  I was able to read it twice over only, before it was time to send it by the afternoon post.



Benjamin Flower at Newgate to Eliza Gould [“to be left at the Post Office”] at Bristol, Wednesday, 9 October 1799.


                                                            Newgate   Oct 9.  1799


My Dearest Friend

       Your Favour of the 7th, reached me yesterday just after Miss Gurney had left me.  I heard her say she was going to dine at her Aunts on Holborn hill.[5] After reading it over, I sent it to her there, she has returned it [to] me this morn­ing.  I have now likewise before me your Favour of Yesterday.  I have written the note you requested, but as I fear it will not be in Time to stop the letter alluded to, you will give directions accordingly to some of your Bath friends. . . .



Eliza Gould at Bath to Benjamin Flower at Mr. Kirby’s, Old Bailey, Newgate Prison, London, Thursday, 10 October 1799.


. . . I shall have your letter to morrow have just heard from Miss Gurney—I shall love her the better for every visit she has paid you.  I hopd to have finished this sheet—but as I respect your commands will only tell you that I am & ever shall be your sincere & faithful



Benjamin Flower at Cambridge to Eliza Gould at Dodbrook, near Kingsbridge, Devonshire, Thursday, 24 October 1799.


. . . Though I am very busy, I cannot, somehow or other, settle to business as I wish.  Miss Jennings tells me she knows I never shall, till you come and help me, and I believe she is right.  Before I left London, I shewed Miss Gurney the profiles, asking her if she knew either of the originals.   After surveying them for sometime she said no: One of them I then said, I believe you know as little of, personally as I do  that is the gentleman—but may I hang up the lady and thus introduce to my acquaintance our friend—Eliza Gould, as it is done for her?  With a look of astonishment she replied—“Yes you may, but you must write under it—This is not the likeness but the Caricature of Eliza Gould.”



Benjamin Flower at Cambridge to Eliza Flower at Dodbrook, Sunday, 10 Nov­ember 1799.


. . . I intend by this Post to send your last letter to Miss Gurney, as I am sure it will give pleasure to her as well as to others of your London friends.  You have left me room enough to write a line on one page, and for a direction on the other.



Benjamin Flower at Cambridge to Miss Eliza Gurney at Walworth, Sunday, 10 November 1799.


                                                                                    Cambridge Nov. 10. 1799


My Dear Madam

      I sent you by a Friend a packet of My Dear Eliza’s Letters.  From the few lines which I transmitted with them you perceived the agitated state of my mind.  I have indeed been preparing myself for the worst, but blessed be God the Cloud that hung over my mind is breaking.  The letter I now hand affords a reasonable hope of the recovery of our Friend.  God grant it may be speedy and complete.  As I have to write to her by this Post I can only add that I am 

                                    Yr sincere lovg & hume sert

                                                B Flower


Have the goodness to return this with the other letters.


      Wedy Morng   9 o’clock


      As I did not in consequence of an accidental delay of this letter receive it till past 3 o’clock yesterday (too late for the post here) I return it by Coach instead of post as that will make about a days difference in the time of your receiving it.

                                                            Eliza Gurney


I hope you will be able to read the letter that accompanies it but it is scrawled I almost doubt it.


Eliza Gould at Dodbrook to Benjamin Flower at Cambridge, Monday evening, 18 November 1799.


                                                                    Dodbrook Novr 18 1799


My dear Benjamin

            From our Friend Miss Gurney I have just received a Letter which has had on me almost an electrical influence tho on examining all circumstances I still think a mistake must lay somewhere because I have a letter from you written on the same day you meant to write her which so far from hinting any thing of the kind rather plans my return from Devonshire according to our original intention—I will copy a few lines from her letter—“Once more only my friend I suppose may I venture to address you as Eliza Gould for from a note I received yesterday evening from my father (she writes from Ponders end) I find I have more claim to the character of a prophetess than you have.  Mr Flower is really going to take this very long journey which you deemed it so impossible for him to leave his business long enough to accomplish.  I wish him a safe and a pleasant journey pleasant I have no doubt it will be in one respect for the anticipation of may I not say the promised reward of his persevering attention will beguile the tediousness of the road.  You see I take it for granted that as he is to bring you up you return as his Bride.”  Now what my dearest Love am I to infer from this letter the whole drift of which is to prepare my mind for the very important & solemn event—is it your wish & intention to fetch me from Devonshire & have you taken this delicate method of preparing me for a letter on the subject from you—I am almost afraid to say how happy such a plan would make me lest you should subject your self to inconvenience. . . . 



Benjamin Flower at Cambridge to Eliza Gould at Mrs. Quartley’s, near Well­ington, Tuesday, 26 November 1799.


. . . Miss Gurney returned me your “Trumpery Letters” Yesterday.  She calls it a “valuable packet” and assuming to be me says—“How fine are the Ideas, & how beautifully expressed”—You see how simple we all are to value “Trumpery.”  Well I am glad to find that tho’ you know me to be warm hearted, you do not think me hot headed.  [I have] not however yet clothed my poor skull with flannel.   



Benjamin Flower at Cambridge to Eliza Gould at the Gurneys, Walworth, Sunday, 22 December 1799.

. . . You have been very kind my Love in assenting to my wishes respecting the day of our Union.  Every thing relative to that day, even the least minutia shall be as you wish it.  Have you any plan respecting the day?  Do you wish to spend the day at Walworth, as I think you said you should, if we did not go to Hertford, or had you rather set out for Hertford soon after breakfast?  Is it your wish to have our friend Miss Gurney at my brothers?  I have no doubt he with my sister will make her heartily welcome.  I know that you, equally with myself, wish to avoid as much parade as possible on the day.  



Eliza Gurney would stay with Eliza Flower for a time after her marriage to help her get settled in Cambridge.


Eliza Flower at the Gurneys, Walworth, to Benjamin Flower at Cambridge, Saturday, 20 November 1802.


                                                Walworth   November 20 1802


My dear Benjamin

      I thought it would afford you satisfaction to be informed of my safe arrival yesterday, & I accordingly dispatched a hasty line or two this morning.  I am better than I could possibly expect to be after so long a journey, indeed I am quite well except a slight degree of pain in my back.  I have not been long down stairs tho it is now nearly one oclock.  MrsGurney having recommended me to rest long in bed this morning & to prevent any ill consequences from travelling, she rubbed my back with some Riga Balsam.

      I have just received my dear Benjamins kind little note & the papers for which I thank him—pray let me have a long letter on Monday—Col Despard[6] is heavily ironed & closely immured—my present opinion is that this affair is a meer  state trick, a plan of Government perhaps, to introduce some despotic act, or to revive the worn out ones—the circumstance of the apprehension of these men & the opening of parliament is a singular coincidence  it is reported this morning that the state prisoners are not to be tried for treason, but ford seducing the soldiery & that [the] Administration have assured, or mean to assure the public that no advantage will be taken of these circumstances to abridge the liberty of the people but I should trust none of their professions.   Another report is current in Town this morn’g “that the Attorney General has prosecuted the Editor of a French Journal published in London for a libel on Bonaparte”—if this be true I fear it is but the Harbinger of similar measures—indeed I more & more am satisfied with the propriety of your giving up the Editorship of your paper.  I do not think that your hint on the subject is sufficiently explanatory to induce any enquiry to you on the subject because your reasons for giving up the paper will be only understood by people who are already acquainted with your intentions your Hint of yesterday[7] will speak to the Nottingham people but to few others there are very few of your friends who know how badly the public have supported you—indeed public support or approbation I care very little about, whilst the safety of my dear Benjamin is at the mercy of perhaps a very persecuting Administration & that could compensate us for the loss of every thing dear & valuable in this life & I can truly say when viewing the posture of public affairs I have no wish or desire that you should settle any where in a public capacity. 

      I must now my dear Benjamin turn from our own individual concerns to inform you of the domestic distress of those who have manifested such affectionate concern for us—Poor Hemming[8] Alas! is a ruined man.  I am sure you will feel for them & their dear little ones as I do & I know of no circumstance that has occurred for some time that has more afflicted me there is no blame whatever to be attached to Mr Hemmings conduct as it was not his own speculations but a failure of his principals & of his being obliged to make up their defaulters—this reverse of fortune has been within a month—a recent loss about 3 days ago completely finished the business.   One circumstance more which adds to their affliction is that the provision which Mr Keene wisely made for Mrs H has not been fairly made up to her, in consequence of the improper conduct of Mr Smithers[9] who was one of the Executors but her frank hope [is] that the whole may be recovered both she & Mr Hemming bear their affliction with much fortitude, & resignation, but you can easily see how agonized are their hearts since Hemming came in possession of so good a business & income he has paid four thousand pounds of debts which were due to his creditors before his former Bankruptcy & was going on to pay them all—tho by law they had no claim on him for a shilling—he’s so much respected on the stock exchange where he is secretary that it is to be hoped & expected that his affairs will be satisfactorily settled I trust they will & that they again may be happy both he & Mrs Hemming passed the last evening with us  they came to meet me—& Mrs Gurney very prudently concealed from me till this morning this distressing affair—tho poor Mrs Hemming could not conceal from me that she had been weeping bitterly—but I suspected not the cause.  I shall I fear be too late for the post—adieu my dearest Ben  I am most affectionately yours

                                                E Flower


You will remember me kindly to Mary.  I will thank her to put my desk quite out of the way of being rummaged or take the key which is tied up with the key of the caddy & lock it up  you will of course go in your whisky to morrow & not on horseback & do not stay out to Ten so as to be obliged to ride after & [at] night.  Your best friends have most heartily subscribe[d] to your giving up your paper—we talked it over last night & both Mr Hemming & Mr Gurney & all hope you would do so.  Mr Hemming called this morning to give me your paper—& said he was much pleased with your Hint—all here seem to expect critical times & as you are no half & half man they fear much for your having now so much more to make your liberty as dear to you than heretofore—besides they say you can make yourself to the world in a variety of ways besides editing a newspaper conducted with so much risk & inconvenience.  I like your stroke on the parsons it was very well introduced & your remarks meet my Ideas quite you cannot bother the present administration too much about giving up their places.



Benjamin Flower at Harlow to Eliza Flower at the Creaks, 69 Cornhill, London, Tuesday, 16 June 1807.


. . . Miss Jennings wrote this morning to say she would spend Thursday or Friday with us.  I have written to her informing her you are in London and putting her off till next week.  I will thank you to call at Conders & desire him to send the pamphlets to Miss Gurney, Keene’s Row Walworth, by Coach and ask him what they come to doing up, as I want to include the charge in my bill.[10]


At the top of the first page (upside down) is a note to Benjamin from Eliza Gurney:


I requested your Eliza to give my love to you but she hands the paper to me that I may convey it myself.  Whether it occasions any unpleasant sensation to her to give the love of any other woman to her well beloved I know not but if so I think she manifests a great deal of candor & liberality allowing me to write.  I can only add come as soon as you can & stay as long as you can.         

                                          Yours   E G


My Mother & Bror Wm desire me to send their love to you




1   Richard Saumarez (1764-1835), younger brother of General Sir Thomas Saumarez, after studying at Christ’s Hospital, London, became a surgeon in 1785, working at Magdalen Hospital, Streatham, from 1788 to 1805, after which he was appointed honorary governor of the hospital   

2    Isaiah 42:1.

3   A servant in the Gurney household who served as letter carrier at times.  

4    William B. Gurney.

5    Martha Gurney’s bookshop was located at 128 Holborn Hill.

6    Colonel E. M. Despard (1751-1803), along with forty others, was arrested on 16 November 1802 (four days before Eliza’s letter) for conspiring to assassinate the King on his way to open Parliament on 23 November. 

7    Flower had noted on 20 November 1802 that his coverage of the current Parliamentary session would be his last.

8   John Hemming of Hemming & Son, linen-drapers, 38 High Street, the Borough (Lowndes’s [1780]: 80; Wakefield’s [1790]: 160).  His business does not show up in Holden’s Directory for 1805, which would corroborate the announcement of his bankruptcy in the above letter. A Hemming connection existed with the Gurney’s home church, Maze Pond, for Mrs. Hemming was the daughter of Henry Keene (see following note). Most likely John Hemming and his family were Baptists and attendants at Maze Pond, though his name does not appear in the Church Book.  He supported Baptist endeavors, being one of the largest subscribers (£10) to the Baptist Missionary Society in 1800-1801; his subscription was considerably less in 1804-05 (he was listed then as living in Walworth), though still quite generous at £3.3 (PA 2.205; 3.133). Hemming, along with William Hawes, Joseph Gurney, Michael Pearson, and John Vowell, served as a Director of the Humane Society in 1788 (see Milne 7-15). Flower may have had a previous connection with Hemming, for in 1796 Hemming, then listed as living in Westwood, subscribed to Flower’s edition of Habakkuk Crabb’s Sermons. There may have been other connections as well, for a John Hemming, M.A. (1793-1847), pastored the Baptist church in Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, from 1817 to 1847, the same place Flower’s friends, the Hensmans, lived and who may well have been attendants in the Baptist church there (Couling 230).  Most likely he was one of the Hemmings’s sons who lived for a time with the Flowers in Cambridge (see letter 92). 

9   Henry Smithers, a member at Maze Pond, became Henry Keene’s business partner sometime around 1790. There were numerous Smithers among the members of Maze Pond.  Martha Keene (Henry’s Keene’s sister) joined on 3 May 1752, afterwards marrying a Joseph Smithers, who had joined the church on 7 July 1750 and eventually became a deacon in April 1773.  He was suspended from communion, however, on 21 July 1783 for “immoral conduct,” shortly after the death of his wife.  A Mary Smithers, most likely his daughter, joined on 2 August 1767, but she died in 1783 (Maze Pond 1.155, 376, 523). Henry Smithers was probably Joseph’s son and therefore Henry Keene’s nephew.  Apparently, after the death of Keene in 1797, Smithers was appointed one of the executors of Keene’s estate, of which a portion was left to Mrs. Hemming (Keene’s daughter).  Evidently, the investments were not handled as well as they should have been, and, coupled with Hemming’s losses, contributed to his eventual bankruptcy.  

10  In the bound volume of political pamphlets owned by Elizabeth Gurney  (shelfmark 19.d.2) at the Angus Library is Flower’s Reflections on the preliminaries of peace between Great Britain and the French Republic (3rd. ed., 1802) which was sold by Martha Gurney.  On the title page of the copy in the Angus Library, Flower wrote, “To Miss Gurney-with the Authors Respects.”