6 May 1814
Penelope Pennington, Hot Wells, to Mary Hays, c/o Messrs Hays & Wedd, Gainsford Street, Southwark, 6 May 1814.1
Hot Wells 6th May 1814
My dear Madam
I do most sincerely congratulate you on quitting a Situation where I really think your Feelings must have suffered the pains of Purgatory; – half what you describe wou’d have compleatly exhausted my small stock of patience, but if compelled to have endured it from Day, to Day, wou’d have rendered me Insane in the course of a few Months. – Whatever may be your Lot here, I can venture to promise you will have nothing of that description to complain of. – Domestic quiet, freedom of Time, & House-range; – pleasant change of Apartments, and uniform good Manners, you may safely calculate upon; and from the “single Word” that seems to have alarmed you so much, I can also venture to say, from the acquaintance I have already made with your Mind, and with your Feelings, you can have nothing to fear. – Allow me but to love you, and prepare yourself, with an indulgent Eye to my numerous Faults, & Foibles, to feel, and return my Affection, and that spell which creates, and keeps alive Sympathy, will also secure harmony. – The grand quarrel I have had with Life for some time past, is that People will not let me love them – and the disappointment, Irritation, or “Asperity” (call it what you please) that sort of repressed Feeling produces, preys oftener on myself than is expressed, or shown towards others – therefore fear nothing, but let us meet full of Hope, and Trust. – I like, and think I perfectly comprehend the Character of the Portrait you have given me of yourself, – but if you look to meet any remains of Miss Sewards once fair, & brilliant Sophia2 in the Care worn Being, now “fallen into the seas, and yellow Leaf,”3 great indeed will be your disappointment! – I long however for the period which shall resolve expectation into (I hope, & trust) well pleased Reality on both Sides. You will let me know in due season when I may expect the happiness of embracing you, and will then speak fully respecting the necessary arrangements of Furniture &c. –
The wonderful turn in Public affairs since I last addressed you, has almost exclusively occupied my thoughts, and attention. – If you cannot bear “strong Emotion” I know not what wou’d have become of you in Bristol Streets for some Weeks! – We were literally all wild, & beside ourselves!! Every Mail that arrived encreased the Intoxication of Joy until it rose to a degree of Rapture almost painful, and no period of Public Calamity cou’d have produced more Tears than flowed on this occasion!
Peace will now come “with healing in its Wings”4 and the Blessing will be as permanent, as it is desirable; – while the Minds of all, purified by past sufferings, and profiting by recent experience, will be better fitted for enjoyment of this Gift; – and to such Potentates as Alexander, justly styled the Greater & the Good, – who with the power of retaliation, so delightful to most human Beings fully in his graspe, disdained to use it!
As Francis, whose sacrifices of private Feeling to public, and general Duty, merits all our Praise; – as Frederic, and Louis who nobly forgetting Injuries of the deepest, deadliest dye, sink all desire of vengeance in the wish of Conciliation, – the People will pay a willing & dutiful Obedience, and the silver Cord that connects them will remain unbroken, I trust, for many, many Years to come5 – While the novel Scene of Europe bound together in Bands of Brotherly love as one large Family, will harmonize all rough Passions, and produce a delightful calm in the Minds of Men, rendered almost savage by such continued, and long excitation. – Our own Prince6 also has acquitted himself with a firmness, and displayed a Feeling and Magnificence of Spirit, that must always entitle him to our Esteem and Respect. – Mrs Hannah More says, and I think very aptly, “it has pleased Providence to raise up the Emperor Alexander to show the present Generation, how much the Christian Hero surpasses all others.”7 – and I say, never let us again presume to call that nation barbarous, of which He is the Head. Yet with all these cheering and hope inspiring prospects, I feel considerable fear, & curiosity when I consider the difficulties into which the restored Family are precipitated amongst the horde of Tigers, and Vipers they are of necessity, compelled to commit themselves; and amidst the “Lillies” and Roses in which, after so many hardships, they may naturally expect to repose, I suspect they will find many Thorns. – I never cou’d have believed however that Bonaparte wou’d have made so dastardly an End, and am almost sorry he has not left one corner in my Mind for Admiration even of his Soldierly Qualities! but perhaps it is for the best, as [now he] renders People so powerless as their exciting a Sentiment of unqualified Contempt, and this point he has managed to perfection, for there is not a Blackguard but despises him for “giving in,” what they term “Dunghill at last.”
We have been reading Madame D’Arblays new Work “The Wanderer”8 – I shou’d like to hear your Opinion of it; my own is divided. – I think it in parts greatly below, as in others it rises above her former Productions. – There is a great deal of good Material, used with very bad Taste. – The Incidents, Characters & Language are disagreeably forced, – the latter certainly not improved by her long Residence Abroad, for she sometimes uses a foreign Idiom. – The Dialogue also infrequently mere vulgar Slang, and so verbose, & tedious, that you get sick, and weary, and wonder how a Woman of her Intelligence & refinement cou’d ever find Models for such Stuff, or patience to detail it. – She likewise degrades her Heroine too much in my Opinion, and detains you with People you wou’d certainly run away from in real Life; and by Incidents, & circumstances, unworthy the importance she attaches to them, and unnecessary, in the degree, and to the excess she uses them to her general design. – Yet the Observations are excellent – the Characters, many of them original, and the Hero enchanting!! – On the whole, tho’ like an ancient Pistol & his Leak,9 we fed on this Intellectual Banquet “grumbling,” and finding fault, we were enough amused, and interested, to be sorry when we came to the End. By the by her Heroine is not to my Taste.10 – To be sure the author has given her strong Reason for Concealment, but she is too self-possessed, – too cold, & to cautious for me who hate all mystery, and all unnecessary Secresy, & Reserve.
To know where to confide, is the proper mean between Wisdom, and Folly, and her noble, generous, and perfect Lover (Harleigh)11 deserved this distinction. –
But I must bid you Adieu! – Mr Pennington desires you will accept his Compliments & best Regards with every pledge of strongly disposed Amity, and I remain, with sincere Esteem, and devotion, My dear Madam
much, and truly Yours
P. S. Pennington
Address: Mrs M. Hays |To the care of Messrs Hays & Wedd12 |Gainsford Street |Southwark |London
Postmark: 7 May 1814
1 Misc. Ms. 2183, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 515-18.
2 Pennington appeared often as Seward’s correspondent and friend, Sophia Weston.
3 From Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, scene 3, l. 25.
4 Malachi 4:2. An armistice between France and the armies of the Sixth Coalition was signed on 23 April, which led to a treaty signed in Paris on 30 May 1814, later known as the First Peace of Paris. A second one was signed on 20 November 1815.
5 References here are to Alexander I (1777-1825), who ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825; Francesco [Francis] Gennaro Giuseppe (1777-1830), son of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and nephew of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, who was appointed Regent of Naples in 1812 by Lord Bentinck and was afterward Duke of Calabria and then Francis I of the Two Sicilies (1825-30); Frederick the Great (1712-86), who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786; Louis the 18th (1755-1824), who ruled France from 1814 to 1824 (except for a brief period in 1815).
6 The Prince Regent and future King George the IV.
7 Source not traced.
8 Madame D’Arblay (Fanny Burney) (1752-1840), The Wanderer; or, Female Difficulties (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1814); this was her last novel on which she worked nearly fourteen years, and it was not a success, damaged considerably by a harsh review from William Hazlitt in the Edinburgh Review.
9 Shakespeare’s humorous character, Ancient Pistol, appears in Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, usually in conjunction with Shakespeare’s more famous character, Falstaff. In the latter play, Pistol and his friend, Corporal Nym, are enticed by Falstaff to help him seduce the wives, but they refuse and are summarily dismissed by Falstaff. As their revenge, they “leak” Falstaff’s plans to the wives’ husbands, who then proceed to humiliate Falstaff.
10 Pennington is probably referring to Elinor Joddrell, not Juliet Granville.
11 The brother of Elinor’s fiancé and Juliet’s suitor.
12 This is the cornfactoring firm of Thomas Hays, Mary Hays’s youngest brother, and George Wedd, her nephew. Most likely the Wedds are already living in Gainsford Street, and in the near future Thomas Hays will move his family from Wandsworth to a house in Mill Street near his businesses.