14 June 1814

Penelope Pennington, [12 Dowry Square], Hot Wells, to Mary Hays, c/o of Messrs Hays & Wedd, Gainsford Street, Southwark, 14 June 1814.1

Hot Wells 14th June 1814 

My dear Madam

       It is said that contrast in disposition often produces the most compleat harmony in married Life. – I hope the contrary principle does not hold good in Friendship, or we shall stand little chance of suiting each other, as a more exact sympathy of Sentiment & Character I have seldom traced than in your last Letter. – Had I wished to express the feelings of my own Mind, I cou’d no where have found expressions more apt than those you have used. – In early life, perhaps, I had more constitutional vivacity and hilarity of Spirit, “but hard unkindness altered Eye2 has long since effectually subdued all those ebullitions, and the severe checks, & disappointments I have met with, together with a perpetual irritation of Nerves from one circumstance, or other, has left little of my native chearfulness, and tranquillity in my Bosom – When I look back to that “facile” Season you so touchingly allude to – When I recollect what I was, and think of what I am! – When the mind was so Elastic that it resisted every thing and made the happiness it did not find!3 – When as Madame d’Arblay describes her Camilla – “every step was a bound, and every thought was a Joy”4 – I remind myself of Bonaparte, who testified in one of his Bulletins, an absurd surprize that, when perishing amidst the Snows, and all the horrors of “that frightful Climate,” the Soldiers lost their Gaiety, & good humour!! – I am glad Camilla is a favorite Heroine of yours, as I have often felt there was a striking resemblance between her Character, & my own. – I had, once, all her Gaiety, and alas! much of her Indiscretion! – But to have done with this Egotism; such as we are, I trust, we are cordially prepared to Esteem each other. – The principle of attachment must be very weak within us if we cannot love our Friends with all their little constitutional, or acquired Foibles, and even for some of them – so we must determine to make all reasonable allowances for each other. – I think I shall love you with all your Faults, as an elegant Writer says – “make an effort, and love me with all mine.”5 – I am sorry the period for our Meeting is postponed.

       The Verdue & Foliage will have lost its first freshness, and my dear, pretty Garden its first Blooms; – but, what is more to the purpose, I have arranged my Plans according to your original intention, and now I cannot change them, as they are with the convenience of others, which I never think I have a right to break in upon. – A long confinement to this Spot, with the uninterrupted Cares of a large Family, and the daily, and wearing attention to my poor Mother, who, no care, or attention can make happy, have induced Mr Pennington, & myself to determine on an Excursion for a few Weeks; and, indeed, the present State of my Health, having been succeedingly Indisposed for the last Month with a Cold, and low Fever, on which Medicine has had very little effect, renders such a change not only desirable; but in some degree necessary. – I had hoped to have seen you perfectly domesticated before I took my flight, and left you in the Society of two very amiable & sensible Ladies, who have been long made a part of my Family, & who have kindly undertaken the care of my poor, helpless, and aged Parent in my absence. –

       But we must all yield to Circumstances, and if the period of our association previous to my departure is short, we must endeavour to improve it to the best advantage, and look forward to the future for the more ample, & perfect cultivation of that Intercourse, of which the short Space now in our view will, I trust, prove the happy commencement.

       We purpose leaving Home the first Week in August, and returning about the middle of the following Month; certainly, not to be absent more than Six Weeks, and many Circumstances may arrive to frustrate this design, but I wou’d not leave you uninformed of our Intentions. Respecting the conveyance of your Furniture, &c, I am not competent to advise.

      I have been so stationary here, that I know little of the safest, and best modes ^of^ sending heavy Luggage. – I have never had any experience of Water Carriage from London, – but in that neighbourhood you can gain, I shou’d suppose, the most accurate information on the Subject, – as the Intercourse with Bristol is perpetual. – I have been confined some time by Illness, but, as soon as I am able, will make what enquiry I can, & if they recommend the Canal, will let you know; – dear Pennington is the most useless Animal on Earth in the way of Business, as you will find out, therefore, I can only depend on my own exertions. If the difference of Expence is not material, I shou’d prefer the Waggon, as the safer conveyance. –

      The apartment allotted to your use has Blinds, & Window Shutters, & shall have Curtains. – It has also a very neat Tent Bed, with excellent Bedding, Mattress &c, plenty of Chairs, & Tables; – it only wants a Chest of Drawers, and Night Table, to be compleatly furnished; – therefore, do with respect to Furniture, as best suits your own Convenience. – I have plenty of Garratt Room to stow it away if not wanting, & if you are at any Expense for Ware house Room to deposit those Articles. –

       The Drawers & Carpets, are all I have any particular desire to put into requisition, & I think your Book Case wou’d be useful to you. – So may it prove to me, to have a spare Bed to put up, in case of Sickness, as I shall be compleatly full when I have the happiness of receiving you; – but this matter I leave wholly with yourself.

      In the account of Bed Linen you will probably include Coverlids, of which, from the necessity of change, and for the above reasons, I run rather short. This point settled, nothing more remains in the way of arrangement but to fix the time, the much wished for time of Meeting!

      I envy you your present Situation, which I am afraid will bring my Taste into discredit when I say, I prefer ^it^ greatly to this; but all the happiest Hours of my Life were spent in your Neighbourhood, at dear Streatham Park! Our Rocks are certainly Sublime! – their vegetation wonderful! and the distant views noble, and beautifully varied! – but all our Home Scenery has been ruined by sordid Speculators, who have introduced disorder in the place of rural Beauty; – while the finish, neatness and polish of everything about London had undiscribable charms for me! – I hope, however, you will not be disappointed, as all Strangers agree in their Admiration of these Environs which, for some perverse cause or other, are not, I believe, properly appreciated by me.

     I think “Patronage”6 will have more of your approbation than “The Wanderer” – There is a sterling good Sense in all Miss Edgeworth’s Writings that is sure to make its way to the Understanding and, if her Characters have not the zest of Roxana, they are always natural & interest the feelings.

       No ones discriminations are more just, & her light, & shade, is generally admirable. – I was much diverted with her French, & English Classes, & her Statesman is a finely drawn, & well supported Portrait. – Adieu! my Hand is unsteady, & my Head aches; proofs of both you will find in this Letter, with the assurance that I am  My dear Madam

             Much, & sincerely yours

                                     P. Pennington


Mr Pennington desires you will accept his best Regards. – He says I am very saucy & to prove it commands me to send you the Enclosed which contains the fullest information possible on the subject. – shou'd inflict the tax of double Postage on you, my consolation will be that it will, at least, save the cost of another Letter, written, purposely, to express the same thing.


Address: Mrs M. Hays | Messrs Hays & Wedd | Gainsford Street | Southwark | London

Postmark: illegible.

1 Misc. Ms. 2184, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 518-21.

2 From Thomas Gray’s Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1747).

3 Line derived from Samuel Johnson’s poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes

 (1749), l. 368.

4 Camilla is the teenage protagonist of Fanny Burney’s novel, Camilla, or, A Picture of Youth (1796), taken from the opening chapter of Book 1.

5 Source untraced.

6 Maria Edgeworth, Patronage, 4 vols (London: J. Johnson and Co, 1814); Daniel Defoe, Roxana, or, The Fortunate Mistress (London, 1724).