24 April 1820

M. A. Starling, Marlborough Square, to Mary Hays, Upper Cumming Street, Pentonville, 24 April 1820.1

Marlborough Square

April 24th 1820

My dear Madam

       Being well acquainted with my Mother’s reluctance to letter writing – and convinced that her numerous occupations are likely to prevent an early answer to your kind letter – I take up my pen to reply to your very friendly congratulations which I assure you were received with much pleasure nor does it afford me a trifling gratification to be convinced of a friendship which – on one occasion in particular – you have so kindly evinced by giving me your disinterested advice – Do not think, my dear Madam, that I have been regardless of that advice because my conduct has betrayed a difference of opinion[.]

     At the period I refer to, when we had opportunity for conversation on various subjects – I had no thought of marrying – and had long resolved I never would before my one & twentieth year – This I do not hesitate to name to you, being persuaded – that one of your generous mind and sentiments will not construe into a want of sincerity that agreement with your opinion which was in fact a candour resulting from the interest and partiality you have shown me And I will not think, that, unknowing if reflection, time, or a change of circumstance has occasioned the alteration in my opinions, that you can censure my choice –

      You have I think spoken truly, in saying that love is of an illusive nature – and if this is the case we cannot be too careful how we censure the errors which it too often ^sometimes^ leads us into – But tho’ love be transitory, and perhaps insufficient to constitute happiness in the married state, yet ^(I am of your opinion)^ we may hope to find it in confidence and friendship – and should even these fail us, we cannot be very miserable while possessed of a mind which with conscious rectitude may be said to rest upon itself, to look for happiness within ourselves at all times is perhaps selfish and impossible to a generous soul; but it is, I think, our duty to discipline our minds, or I should say imaginations to the moderate possessions of life[.] We cannot form the world, to our wishes, what then must we then do? We have no alternative but to model ourselves to that form of in society with which we are destined to form a part –

       With the exercise of the faculty of reason we cannot be deceived – with the love of philosophy, or reading & of study we cannot become disgusted and if to these we can add the society of an agreeable and congenial companion, what more can a rational mind desire?  – I say rational for I am not a little tenacious of the title you once honored me with, of “a rational young woman” But let me not be carried away by my present feelings – I am well aware there are many dispositions, many emotions of the heart which require a kindred sympathy, to which the colder voice of reason would ^be^ insufficient. I think I know too, a little of the force of romantic elevation of sentiment but I know it only to be convinced of the danger of resigning to its influence.

   In our intercourse with the world, owing to our relative happiness ^situation^, there is much we are continually compelled to resign – but the pain which it causes us, would be greatly diminished could we early temper our mind, to moderate expectations – and instead of indulging the romantic visions of futurity (so flattering to our vanity) seek the practice [of] self denial –

      I anticipate more conversation on this subject when we meet; as we hope to have the pleasure of seeing you at Chelsea soon – My Mother begs me to say for her that she has been hitherto much engaged in arranging her house and that your apartment being still only partially finished has occasioned her to delay writing to you – that it will soon be finished when it will give great satisfaction to welcome you at Little Lemans.2

     Mr Hookham3 desires me to present his best respects and thanks for your kind wishes.

      We all unite in best remembrance and hopes that the fair weather has contributed to the reestablishment of your health

                         I remain my dear Madam

                                    Yours truly

                                                    M. A. Starling


In turning over some papers I have just found your last letter which you so kindly addressed to me during my illness – continued indisposition prevented my reply to it, though it contained much I was desirous of answering – and above all I was anxious to thank you for your professions of friendship, and to assure you that you were under [a] mistake in supposing that it was my opinion, “inequality of age rendered friendship less endearing or valuable.” I do not know what I may have said to allow of this mistake, but it is certain that in choosing a friend I should seek it in the person of one much older than myself.


Address: Mrs Hayes | Upper Cumming^ St^ | Pentonville

Postmark: 25 April 1820, 7 o’clock


1 Misc. Ms. 2200, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 539-40.

2 Hays was still active in searching out homes where she could stay and would find intellectual conversation pleasing to her tastes, but such locations, as her correspondence reveals, was never easy for her to find. The Starlings' residence in Chelsea (apparently a new one, for they are no longer living in Brewer Street) with an apartment being made ready for Hays may be the same residence where Hays spent the early months of 1829, noted in Crabb Robinson's diary but located by him in Pimlico, not Chelseea, even though the two areas were basically adjacent to each other. 

3 Starling has just married Thomas Hookham (1787-1867) on 15 April at St. George, Hanover Square, Westminster. They would soon take up residence in quarters at the library at 15 Old Bond Street (see previous letter, Starling to Hays, 1 December 1819). Her signature is still her maiden name, which may have simply been an inadvertent omission given the close proximity of her marriage, or she may have wished to conceal her marriage from Hays a bit longer, for Hays appears to have discouraged her from marriage at this time.