12 October 1791

Ann Robinson, Shipdham, to Mary Hays, [Gainsford Street], 12 October 1791.1

Shipdham. Octr 12. 1791.

       Unequal as I ever have been to the beautiful and elegant accomplishment of letter-writing, I never found myself so much so as now, on the perusal of your epistles. I thank you, my dear Madam, for your last letter, which I recd at Chesterton and which I ought to apologize for not opening sooner; almost immediately after [I recd] it I was confin’d for a fortnight [wi]th a violent head-ach, tooth-ach & swell’d face. I have not been so ill for some years; since these ills have quitted me, I have made a journey into Norfolk, where I propose spending the winter. I am under the protection of two maiden Aunts, sisters of my Mother, two good and amiable women. You would smile if you could know how I spend my time here: it is a very remote place, and I frequently converse for hours with trees, shrubs, flowers, birds and purling streams: and am look’d up to by the inhabitants of the neighbouring cottages as a sort of superiour ^being^, which they know not whether to like, or dislike – a sort of creature to whom they have not been accustom’d, and with whose ideas they are wholly unacquainted. This account does not I hope savour of vanity, which I despise, for to be look’d up to by the most ignorant and abject, or the honest, laborious and respectable kind is no compliment you k[now.]

      I feel myself, my [dear] and ever respected Miss Hays, highly [sen]sible of the honour conferr’d by your friendship and correspondence – but somehow or other I cannot attempt to keep pace with you, a pattern of letter-writing in style and precision. Yet the evening Star is not to be over-look’d because it does not shine resplendent like the meridian Sun. –

      I shall always be extremely glad to hear that you are well and as happy as you can be in this sublunary state; for I am aware that happiness and mortals have but little to do with each other. –      

       Yes, you are indeed right in your idea of our situation being somewhat similar to your own. The young of both sexes rather fear than love us: but I often laugh and tell my sisters they give us credit a great deal more than we deserve. However a name you know is sufficient – we are accus’d on all hands of being satirical and proud, and “slander, whose tongue is sharper than the sword” is always, you know, glad to fix and [root] itself on such an idea. For my [part] I [fear] them not – and glory [in] acknowledging that I never yet saw a cringing or submissive Robinson! –

       Yes, my dear Madam, time, sickness & many other ills will oblige us to own our <-> inferiority – our perfect nothingness – to the great Creator of all, but to a fellow-creature – an equal – I never can. You recollect by what part of your letter this idea was excited, and will forgive me for speaking rather warmly on the occasion. Adieu, my dear friend and believe me to be at all times, and in all places, your ever affectionate friend & sister

                                    Ann Robinson


Address: Miss Hays | Gainsford Street | London

1 Misc. Ms. 2203, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 266. Ann Robinson (her father refers to her in his letters as "Nancy") was the sister of Mary Robinson Brown and daughter of the Baptist minister at Cambridge, Robert Robinson (1735-90).