18 December 1796

Amelia Alderson to Mary Wollstonecraft, 18 December 1796.1


Alderson confesses that sometimes 

when hurried away by my feelings, [I] talk the language of extreme interest & if friendship towards those against whom my heart is in reality guarded – & by this means my manner towards the other sex is as I am told, dangerous from the wrong & deluding idea it often gives of my sentiments, & hence, I am very justly stigmatized with the name of Coquette – But I repeat it I have only one friend – one who has been the sharer of my thoughts from childhood to the present moment, & perhaps I love her the more, because she is the child of affliction. Many hours of my youth have been spent in endeavouring to sooth the agony I could neither wonder at, nor remove, & while I soften’d the anguish of her heart, she insensibly became dearer to mine – But Sorrow has improved her character, & called forth energies in her mind, ^which were^ latent before, & I am every day more & more struck with the clearness of her judgment, & the strength of her intellect – I wish you would invent some word warmer than acquaintance, & less warm than friend – as the latter and owing to the poverty of language is frequently applied, where it does not belong –

      Sometimes I flatter myself that you, like me are in a degree the slave of early impressions; that those you have long < > & long loved have claims on yt affection to which perhaps their talents in the eye of reason, give them no claim – am I mistaken? – By this time I flatter myself yr indisposition has left you – when I shall see you again, I know not, but probably not before April. My play has now been in Mr Richardson’s hands ten days I am delighted with Miss Hays’s novel!2 I would give a great deal to have written it; tho’, as society now is, it is something to be capable of admiring it I hear in a letter just received from Town, that you are to marry Opie.3 I mean Law willing – that he would be most happy to marry you, I firmly believe; but I doubt yr willingness to marry him – I wish I did not for many reasons, all of which, if I explained them you would find affectionate towards you – If Mrs Clarkson4 were as sensible of the kindness of yr offer as I am, she would have been eager to inform you thro’ me, of her acceptance or repressg of it & her silence is a mark of insensibility which I did not expect from her – it cannot last long –

      I am just returned from a visit of some days to some rational country friends – part of our amusement was painting, or working, while the master of the house read to us Mrs Radcliffe’s Italian!5 Mem: when I marry to have it inserted in the marriage articles that my husband shall read it to me in an evening while I work &c – God grant he will also be able to converse well on the merits of the work he has just read, for at least two hours after supper – Then my greatest idea of domestic happiness will be realized –  . . .


1 Bodleian, MS. Abinger c. 41 (old shelfmark Dep. b. 210/6), ff. 3-4.

2 Emma Courtney. 

3 This reference serves an interesting twist, for Wollstonecraft would not marry the artist John Opie (1761-1807) but Alderson would, in Mary 1798.

4 The former Catherine Buck (1772-1856) of Bury St. Edmunds, who married the abolitionist leader Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) in 1796. 

5 Anne Radcliffe's The Italian, or The Confessional of the Black Penitents apparently appeared in late 1796, though the title page has "1797."