3 March 1808

John Dunkin, Woodham Mortimer Lodge, to Mary Hays, 3 March 1808.1


Woodham Mortimer Lodge Mar 3 1808


My Dear Mary

      Having a leisure Hour this Morning I was thinking about making you a call at Islington, but as I can only do it by Letter I shall ask how you are in Health & Spirits, and hope to hear you are better – how are the Dear Girls also – give them a kiss for me, and tell them I anticipate the pleasure of seeing them with you, and their Cousin Mary2 in the Country, as soon as the weather is settled and more inviting – I have a treasure in all my Girls, and love them more than I can describe – as this is an affectionate call, allow me to hope your own Mind is more at ease – the man who has given you so much vexation was not worthy of you – he proved it to me a long time past, and you must yourself, be now, so well convinced, that I trust you will bury him & his ingratitude in oblivion – his own Conduct will be his tormentor, for tis impossible to do a base action and be happy3 – If your pleasures are confined, your Cares shoud be also – I have had much of the former, and now feel, on account of my family, an increase of the latter – were it not for committing that Care to the Mercy and goodness of God I shoud feel much difficulty in getting rid of it when after the fatigues of the Day my pillow <--> ^too often denies me^ rest – perhaps there is hardly a period in our lives when we are done Castle building, but I think I have done with Castles myself, and am ^now^ (more Congenial wth my own feelings) building ^a^ Cottage – I do not know if my son John has told you Mr Wedd & Mary4 if they live to be married, are to have my farm at Hazleigh, and that I propose adding two good parlors two Chambers & a dressing room – if tis furnishd according to the plan proposd, it will be as neat & pretty a Cottage as can be seen – the expence I limit to £400 – the Grounds which are capable of great improvement must be done by them – Mr Wedd is in treaty for 5 small fields adjoing to be added – this Connection promises as much Comfort as falls to the lot of Most – I trust Mary will be happy, as he is a prudent, amiable Man – the greatest kindness and affection runs through the ^his^ whole family, and ^as^ they are united by bonds, not to be dissolved by life, they may hope to join the family above, never to part.

       What can I say more at home, but to rejoice in the kind and affectionate Heart of my Dear Emma – I am happy to say she has lost her Cough, looks is <-> allways [sic] contented & lovely both in Person & Mind – while I extol these at home it is not disparagement to the others, for is not the price of every virtuous Woman far above Rubies?5

       Where is Thomas?6 I have heard from others that he is promoted to a Lieutenancy in the 9th Dragoons, but I have not heard it from himself, nor do I know where the Regimt is – Tis hard for a father to say, he wishes a son sent abroad, but I am convinced from his dissipated turn it is absolutely necessary, that he may get rid of his present Connections – I hope he will not be sent to the West Indies where the yellow fever rages like the plague – I shoud then never see him more, but I may hope if he went to the East, he might return and help close my Eyes in peace – I have told you my pleasures – bear with me while I add my anxieties – John L7  I am sure is not happy – Nancy  must feel it, and how can I be happy while any of my family are not – his father told me, in addition to what he gave him on Marriage, he shoud leave him one of his farms – this I considerd, in addition to what I left woud be equal to his wishes, and I am sure it woud have been, but poor unhappy man he will have nothing left for himself – his Son knows it – I know it – we are both disappointed, not to call it a harsher Name – he was to have had a Concern in Mundon Hall, and to have advanced his Share of Capital £4000 but alas he has it not – my spare money has lately been locked up in the purchase of Goldhanger, which I expected woud have extricated him, but for want of a fair Statement of his affairs that will be sunk & nothing left – at present I cannot therefore add to his Capital as I otherwise shoud feel the greatest pleasure in doing – he has only abt £5000 Capital & to do the farm justice he wants £8000 – Coud I meet with any thing better the lease might be parted with & at least I think £1000 put into his pocket – I have sometimes wish’d when Thomas threw himself out of Business I had proposd that J L shoud have taken his place and lived at the Counting House – he understands accts & keeps his own very regular by double Entry – has a very good understanding, and might have been very useful to your Brother8 – this however, I cannot now mention – your brother is now rather more Confind, tho’ he reaps half the advantage from Thomas going out – I shoud be giving up a few Hundreds a Year – but what is that in Competition with seeing my family happy – I protest that I shoud feel much pleasure in retiring were it not for the necessity of keeping them together, and looking after the Capital which must eventually be divided among them, also for the hope that Henry9 may be steady and Capable, at the end of our term to take my place in the Country – I shoud be ready with the Miser to say (tho’ not with his motives) give me but the Interest now, and take the principal among you10 – I have unburdend my Mind to you – I feel for you – are you not the Sister of my late Dear –  ? – 

       I send this in Confidence – perhaps I may find relief – Cares divided are lessend, whilst our pleasures are multiplied, but ^by^ giving a share of them to others, also – I expect this will be sent by J L – To morrow when I go to Chelmsford I intend taking <-> my last Porker, one quarter of which I expect you will have received – 

       Make my best love to all Friends and be assurd I am

                                    Very affly Yours

                                                J D Junr

J L, and every other person but yourself, is a Stranger to what I have written 


1 Misc. Ms. 2285, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 490-92.

2 Mary Hills (1792-1832) was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Hills (the sister of Mary Hays) and was a cousin to the Dunkin girls living with Hays in Islington. Mary Hills was only one year older than Sarah Dunkin and would be a bridesmaid at her wedding in August 1812 to George Wedd.  A month later she and her brother William attended a dinner in the home of George Wedd in Gainsford Street (most likely this is the Hays's old family home). At that dinner was Crabb Robinson and another niece and nephew of J. T. Rutt, as well as Ambrose Lanfear, Jr. (1787-1870), the son of Elizabeth Hays’s husband, Ambrose Lanfear (d. 1808). The younger Lanfear would marry Mary Hills on 28 September 1826 at Islington. They would immigate to New York where she died in 1832; Lanfear then moved to New Orleans, where he died in 1870.

3 Dunkin is referring here to William Frend, who had carried on a friendship and, at times, a romantic relationship with Hays since 1792; after many starts and stops and considerable emotional turmoil for Hays, her ultimate fear and pain came to fruition with the engagement and marriage of Friend to Sara Blackburne in 1808. Apparently, Hays had given no warning of the event, which only further increased her pain.

4 Mary Dunkin (1786-1855) married Peter Wedd (1782-1817), older brother of George Wedd, on 29 June 1809 at the Hazeleigh Church, Maldon, Essex. He was the nephew of J. T. Rutt and relation of Crabb Robinson. As the letter notes, Dunkin established the couple on one of his many farms in Essex. The Wedds had a son, Peter (17 May 1811), his birth entered at St. Peter’s Independent Church, Maldon, Essex, the Wedd family church.

5 Proverbs 31:10.

6 Thomas Dunkin (see previous letter). In this letter we learn that to his entering military service he had been working with the family business but in the counting house (most likely in the wharehouses along Shad Thames) and working for one of the Hays brothers, either Thomas or John. 

7 The “JL” here is a reference to the John Lee, Dunkin’s son-in-law, who married his daughter Anne (the “Nancy” mentioned above) in 1805. Dunkin had obviously known Lee’s father previous to the marriage, and both men were having difficulties establishing the younger Lee in business, one of the most important concerns of any father and son at this time.

8 John Hays and Thomas Hays had been in business with John Dunkin for several years and had prospered considerably. However, in 1808 they separated and formed their own firms, with Dunkin remaining in business with John Hays and George Wedd at 89 Shad Thames until 1812, when he dissolved the firm and retired. 

9 Henry Francis, Dunkin's son-in-law, mentioned in the previous letter; he will be a future neighbor to Mary Hays during her time at Vanbrugh Castle in Greenwich.

10 Loosely taken from a line by Shylock, the Jewish miser, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene 1, l. 336.