28 August [1796]

Amelia Alderson1 to Mary Wollstonecraft, 28 August [1796].2


In this letter Alderson confesses that, after reading Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796),  she saw Wollstonecraft as a 

creature of feeling, & imagination, & I resolved if possible, to become acquainted with one who had alternately awakened my sensibility & gratified my judgment . . . You & the Lakes of Cumberland have exceeded my expectations.

       Mr Godwin disappointed them.  I found him indeed eloquent, entertaining & luminous in argument, even beyond my conception of his abilities, but my fancy had so long delighted to picture him, a man after his own heart, that I shrunk back almost displeased from a man after the present state of things – The fault was in me I know, & I have made ample amends since – every day, pass’d with him, has endeared him to me more strongly – & made me cease to regret he was not what I expected to find him . . . Weaver Browne3 has been two or three times of our parties here – He talk’d in a very warm manner of you to a Mr Thigby who repeated his conversation to me – one of his expressions was “she is a very voluptuous looking woman!” I stared! – not that I dispute the propriety of the epithet as applied to you, but that I was surprized to find him capable of applying it4 –  

      “Such thoughts are neither new, nor rare,

The wonder is how they got there5

Upon my word, I can see you blush at this distance . . . What would Miss Hays say? – would you believe it the false hearted man calls her old, ugly, & ill-duped – he is no philosopher . . . All my respect for Miss Hays is returned so without hypocrisy. I can send o’er my good wishes – Fare thee well!. . .

1 Amelia Alderson was part of the radical Dissenting group from Norwich. For more on her life and her significant literary career, see her entry in the Biographical Index.  

2 Bodleian, MS. Abinger c. 41][old shelfmark Dep. b. 210/6], ff. 9-10.

3 Stephen Weaver Browne (see above, Elizabeth Hays to Mary Hays, c January 1796) was a friend at this time of both Alderson and Mary Hays (see his entry in the Biographical Index).

4 This is in reference to the two meetings in June in London between Godwin, Alderson, Hays, Browne, and Wollstonecraft.

5 Lines are from Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Arbuthnot," and read as follows:

The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,

But wonder how the devil they got there?