8 May 1792

Ann Robinson, Shipdham, [Norfolk], to Mary Hays, Gainsford Street, 8 May 1792.1


Shipdham.  May 8th 1792.

   When I look at the date of your last letter I have all the reason in the world to blush and be ashamed, but when I recollect it is my dear Miss Hays to whom I am writing I tell myself that she will not make her rustick sister a transgressor for so small an offence: very seriously, my beloved friend, I should have written to you sooner, but I have been very ill since last I had that honour. Your letter I thank you for; but this I can simply do, for I despair of attempting to answer it, or any of those epistles so far superior to my scratch-scrawls! Yet give me leave to say that they ^your letters^ always afford great pleasure, convey to me much information, and render me solid satisfaction in reflection: that sweet, yet alas! sometimes bitter, ingredient in human life. I was much hurt to understand by your last that you had been poorly, and sincerely hope that ere this you are perfectly restor’d to health and tranquility: long, long, my dear Miss Hays, may you enjoy the former, and may inquietude never again annoy a breast which has already suffer’d too much from its influence. Pardon me, I would not for the world write an unpleasant idea.

     I can readily acknowledge your remark relative to the “extreme sufferings of a susceptible heart.” Here indeed I can sympathize with you, for it ever has been my misfortune to be too soon, perhaps, aware this disposition of mind has caused me many a heart-ach, yet I should not willingly (were it possible) relinquish it for one of a more flinty nature: there are certain exquisite emotions unknown to persons whose nature is that of steel; emotions which I should be sorry to be a stranger to. Forgive my speaking of myself – this part of your letter excited the idea. –

       It gave me some pleasure to hear that yourself and sister were join’d to Mr Worthington’s Church:2 a connection I dare say you will reap satisfaction from. This gentleman’s preaching I admired when last in London, but had not understood that his ideas were so similar to the great Priestley’s3 as I find they are. You, ladies, enjoy a peculiar ^happiness^ in being freed from that load of superstition and errour which is abroad in the world: ’tis wonderful to see the ^gross^ ignorance and darkness of some on the important subject of religion, which of all others ought to be the most clear: yes, a mind superior to vulgar errours, and popular prejudices is an invaluable blessing; a blessing which <-> ^persons^ can never be too thankful for.

       I am flattered that Mr Curtis4 met your approbation, and wish you had seen more of him, he is a man of good understanding and a well informed mind, and it is a gre[at] pleasure to have a sister so happy in a hu[sband] as she must be. I do not give the sex credit for too much, but where a woman meets with a man of sense and a friend in her husband I think she must enjoy the full happiness allotted for mortals. So you do not like “John Buncle”5 – neither do I think so highly of it: certainly he was an eccentric man but I see nothing very imitable in him. –

       You know doubtless (from my dear sister in Love-Lane6) that we have heard from Henry7 since I last wrote to you, that he was well – and his letter was written from Rio de Janeiro in South America. – [P]ardon all imperfections in this hurried letter, and do not remember my long silence in dudgeon I beg of you – but write soon my dear friend and tell me you are well and happy. My Aunts beg their best compts and present mine also to your sister.

      Farewell, my dear Friend – may every benediction be yours, and long may I have the honor of subscribing myself you affectionate sister

                                                             Ann Robinson

P.S. I shall not quit the pleasant county of Norfolk yet, but shall expect to hear soon from Miss Hays.


Address: Miss Hays | Gainsford Street

1 Misc. Ms. 2204, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 272-73.

2 Hugh Worthington (see previous letters and the Biographical Index).  

3 Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was the most celebrated scientist, philosopher, and Unitarian minister of his day. He was educated at Daventry Academy, after which he ministered to Independent congregations at Needham Market, Suffolk, and at Nantwich between 1755 and 1761. Hw served as a tutor at Warrington Academy in Lancashire, and then assumed the pastorate at Mill Lane in Leeds in 1767. He resigned in 1772 to accept a position under the sponsorship of William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelbourne, for the purpose of devoting himself to scientific experiments. In 1780, now espousing Unitarian doctrines, he returned to the ministry, this time at the New Meeting in Birmingham. Tragically, his home, along with his manuscripts and scientific apparatus, was burned during the Birmingham Riots in July 1791. He removed to London, but immigrated to America in April 1794, where he died in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, in 1804. Among his numerous philosophical, scientific, and religious works was The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity Illustrated  (1777).

4 William Curtis, Ann Robinson's brother-in-law.

5 See Thomas Amory, The Life of John Buncle, Esq. (London: J. Noon 1756; 2nd ed. in London by Joseph Johnson and B. Davenport, 1766). 

6 Ann's sister, Mary Robinson Brown. 

7 Henry Robinson, Ann's brother and a sailor.