17 May 1791

Mary Brown, Shipdham, Norfolk, to Mary Hays, Gainsford Street, Southwark, 17 May 1791.1


Shipdham  May 17. 1791. 

My dear Miss Hays

Are you not much obliged to me for not troubling you with a letter before? I hope however you are all well and very happy.

      I am here in the bosoms of delight and now see nature in the fullest strength of all it’s perfection, every thing breath[e]’s perfect purity – the Earth is dress’d in it’s gayest garb and displays ten thousand, and ten times ten thousand, lovely hue’s; the perfume they send forth captivate the sense and gratify the sight. My heart thrills with welcome pleasure when I walk out, and see the sheep every one with a little Lamb, the cows too look so clean, and the young horses frisk and play, all seem to enjoy themselves – at the close of the day I ramble through the Park adjoining to the House and am charmed beyond expression at the harmonious and soft sounding strains which surround me on every side – this is the music I love, this is above art, the birds feel and are warmed with energy of a tender sort. At this moment I hear a black bird warbling forth his ardent lays most divinely – I wish sincerely you could hear him too – This my dear Sister is the place for life, for reflection, for every thing rational, and worth possessing. Could I bring from London all I love there, I would never desire to see it again, on such a spot of the globe is this I yet hope to spend my last days, till I quit this for a better world. [B]ut that which have I been writing about all this time? why nothing. You begd me to let you know what I thought of the Sea, so I will when I see it but I have not yet, for when we got to Norwich I was so ill and fatigued Mr Brown thought it most prudent to defer our journey to Yarmouth till another season, we therefore slept3 at a friends, the gentleman’s with whom my brother Robert spent 7 years of his life. We stayed at Norwich till Saturday afternoon and then took a postchaise to Shipdham, we arrived about 8 oclock in the evening and had the happiness to find my Aunt’s and Sister Hester quite well and very glad to see us, these dear women my Aunts are I think people after Gods own Heart – can I give them an higher Character – you know I have no bounds to my affection – they know of you, and regard you, they say because my father loved you, all, that is my dear Aunts and Sister beg their compts to all your family – Kitty returned to Chesterton with Mr Butcher and Brother Robert – I went to Mattishall last sunday, from here about 7 miles on Horseback, my eldest Aunt went behind a servant-man and I went single, dont you think I had great courage – we heard a Mr Carter3 the pastor of the Church, he made a most excellent sermon from these words, “for ye were as sheep going astray; before you returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your Souls.”4 It gave me pleasure to see a very full House of the most Honest faces in the world – tho not the most enlighten’d – the meeting house is situated on a common but the House itself is almost covered with the finest oak’s that seem to whisper peace to all within. Mr Carter took notice in prayer of the Revolution in France with that judgment and discernment that discovers a5  good heart, and an elevated mind. We had a pleasant ride home in the evening. Monday we spent at a Mrs Vincents a Sister of my Mothers – and as good a woman as lives, tho’ widow, she has 3 daughters and one son –

      This letter cannot go till tomorrow therefore you cannot have it till Friday. My Aunts talk of my staying 3 months – My love to all of you. I daresay before you get thus far you will be thoroughly tired. 

                            Ever yours

                                         M I Brown

Address: Miss Hays | Gainsford Street | London

1 Misc. 2162, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 264-65.

2 theirfor sleep’d] MS

3 John Carter (1749-1816) was from East Tuddenham, Norfolk, and studied at Heckmondwike Academy c. 1769-71, under the Rev. James Scott, and Independent minister. He assumed the pastorate of the Independent congregation at Mattishall, Norfolk, in 1771. This was the first Dissenting interest to emerge in that village c. 1662, but by 1760 the congregation had declined considerably and was essentially revived by Carter. He was ordained there on 30 September 1772, and remained there until his death in 1816, preaching as well in his final years at East Dereham, Norfolk.  His funeral sermon on John Glover of Norwich (friend of Robert Robinson) was published, along with a Memoir of Glover, in 1774. In 1780 Carter published excerpts from Glover’s diary (Carter kept a diary throughout his career at Mattishall as well) titled The Hidden and Happy Life of a Christian, Amid a Variety of Trials and Afflictions Incident to the Present State, Exemplified, in an Extract from the Diary of Mr. John Glover, Late of Norwich (London, 1780). He also published two pamphlets (1781, 1782) in response to a pamphlet by the Baptist minister at Lynn, William Richards, against infant baptism. Family Records: A Brief Memoir of the Rev. John Carter, of Mattishall, Norfolk, appeared in 1880, edited by his son-in-law, John Goddard Wigg, who was a that time living in Australia, where the book was published solely for the family (only 25 copies).

4 Taken from I Peter 2:25.

5 The French Revolution began on 14 July 1789 and at the time of the above letter was still widely approved by Dissenters like Hays and the Robinsons who saw in it a model of political reform that could be a benefit to England. By 1793, however, many who held such an opinion had changed their views of France due to the advent of the Reign of Terror and England's eventual war with France. 

6 discover’s an] MS