16 September 1814

Penelope Pennington, Vicarage Tolpudle, Dorset, to Mary Hays, 5 Felix Terrace, Islington, Middlesex, 16 September 1814.1


Vicarage Tolpudle Dorset

16th Sepr 1814

My dearest Madam,

         Your charming Letter greeted my arrival at this Mansion of Peace, Friendship, & Hospitality on Monday last. – We left Weymouth in the finest [paper torn] ever seen; the Royal Standard flying! – the Ships [were] decked out in their gayest Colours, and the Inhabi[tants] all busily preparing for a general Illumination to testify their Joy in being honoured by the presence of the Princess Charlotte – their probably future Queen & Sovereign Lady, who arrived on Saturday Evening. – I had an opportunity of seeing, & considering her Countenance compleatly at Church, and repeatedly afterwards from the Windows,* but without any Pleasure, or satisfaction excepting from gratified Curiosity. – Her Figure is very bad, -- her Features rather pretty, but the expression & general Effect not pleasing. She is neither graceful, nor gracious in her manners, and instead of the conciliating or polite Curtesey, throws her Head at the P[eople who] offer her their respectful obeisances, too m[uch in the] style of Mrs Jordans Hoyden.2 – She has [paper torn] a vulgar trick of shaking her arms in her Sides akembo! I felt pity for her however when I saw the set of frosty faced old Women with which she was surrounded. – They really put me in mind of the Frontispiece to Gray’s “Long Story” in which “the Ghosts of the Lady Janes & Lady Joans” of former Times are represented expressing their astonishment at the Countesses condescension to the Poets.3 The constant [association] of such a set of < > is enough to annihilate [good] humour, good Spirits, & even good Looks in a Girl – 

      Weymouth was delightfully pleasant to us! and I think salutary to Mr Penningtons health, yet having no hold on my affections I left it without regret. – We are here with an old, & dear Friend at a sweet, little, Parsonage, in the most retired part of Dorsetshire.4 – The sweetest neatness, and every Comfort that domestic Life can afford surrounds us. 

     They have the most luxuriant Garden I ever saw, with a profusion of Fruit beyond what I have ever found, whom there has ever been three times the extent, from the Master perfectly understanding its cultivation; great plenty of Game; agreeable Books; [thought]ful and intelligent Society; – much kindness; [paper torn] Quiet, – and the finest Weather possible! [Thom]sons beautiful Picture, furnishes nothing [more] than we enjoy.5 – On the 27th however our departure is peremptorily fixed, and I contemplate a return to my Household Gods after 7 weeks absence, with much satisfaction, which is considerably heightened by placing you my dearly elected Friend in the Vista – on either of the Days you mention be assured a warm & cordial welcome awaits you. –

       I have given particular orders respecting the airing of your Bedding &c – and shall see myself every thing properly prepared for your reception. – If it [appears?] that I conceived you had expressed impartiality or any thing like it, on the delays that have [occurred] as to the period of our Meeting; – or if there appears anything like reproach, or recrimination on the subject in my Reply, I must have expressed myself very ill, and very foreign, and with great injustice as to my Feelings on the Subject. – If we have lost the freshness of Spring & the bloom of Summer, a delightful Autumn I trust remains, and I know not any Season when our Scenery is more captivating[,] the Morning Walks more pleasing, & [satisfying?] – 

       These I promise myself to enjoy [with you] in all their Beauty; -- I am sorry to find your [paper torn] & spirits have not benefited by your Summer [paper torn] but trust the fine, bracing, air of Octbr, new [scenes and a] Friend disposed to soothe, to sympathize w[ith &] love you; a settled Home, & “holy Liberty” will soon renovate your Nerves, & restore the tone of your Mind & Spirits. – I am rejoiced you are so partial to my ever dear Miss Sewards Letters – I devoured them with enthusiastic delight & avidity! tho hurt at being dragged naked as it were after 20 years – and all my private concerns not only laid open to the Public, but mistaken and misrepresented. – She however dear Soul! had no delicacy of that sort in her Composition, – and what woud not have hurt her in her own case, she coud not imagine woud operate injuriously, or painfully [on others].6 – Mr Pennington desires his kind Regards 

[paper torn] when we shall, I trust, most happily for both, [exchange] the Epistolary, for Personal Intercourse [It draws] so near, that this will probably be the last ^letter^ you will receive until I may daily, & hourly assure you how Sincerely I am disposed to be

                                     My dearest Madam

                                                Yr affectionate & faithful Friend

                                                             P. S. Pennington


* [on front page] Of Gloucester Lodge, from which she shewed herself to the multitude assembled before them, at different times for some Hours on Saturday Evening & Sunday.


Address: Mrs M Hays | No 5 – Felix Terrace | Islington | Middlesex

Postmark: 19 September, 1814, 10 o’clock

1 Misc. Ms. 2189, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 528-30. 

2 Dora Jordan, actress and one-time mistress of the current Prince of Wales; earlier in her career she had performed the role of Miss Hoyden in Thomas Sheridan’s A Trip to Scarborough

3 Taken from Thomas Gray’s “A Long Story” (1753, with engravings by Richard Bentley), ll. 98-99.

4 The home of the local vicar, Thomas Warrens (see letter above, 26 August 1814). 

6 Reference is most likely to “Summer” in Thomson’s Seasons

6 Correspondence between Pennington (at that time, Sophie Weston) and Anna Seward, covering the period of October 1784 to July 1791, was included by Seward for publication in her Collected Letters (1811). Excerpts also appeared in Seward’s posthumous Poetical Works (1810), edited by Walter Scott. Their friendship waned as disagreements emerged over their literary tastes and social habits, thoughthe two were reconciled around 1804.