Henry Man’s Letters to His Wife

The following letters were written by Henry Man (1747/48 – 1799) to his wife Eleanor (Thompson) Man (1744 – 1823).

Letter 1.

To Mrs. Man
Reading
December 28, 1777

As matrimony is no excuse for a want of politeness, I hold only myself accountable to you for a long letter, to assure you, you are constantly in my thoughts at forty miles distance, that I wish to treat you with the same deference I was used to do to convince you of my sincerest affection, and to account to. you of my journey, and my present situation. I arrived at Henley at three stages, about three o’clock, and found the whole family well, (a propos they all desire to be remembered). We drank and sang till eleven. o’clock, and then to a solitary part of the house, three quarters of a distant from the rest of the family, I retired. I confess I would gladly have parted with my best wig, and have gone bare-headed, to have been in my old post, and have heard the watchman go his rounds every half hour. If there, there was one rat behind the wainscot, there were one thousand; and, I verily believe every one of them had three score legs. Ma ‘am, they kept up such an infernal tattoo upon the hand gallop for five hours, that I perspired from the head to the foot of me; as Helston says, my hairs lifted up my cap, and I lay stewing for the whole time like a Dutch dish in its own gravy. A large dunghill-cock that roosted under me kept crowing from midnight till morning, and every time the rascal clapped his wings I went devoutly to prayers; started up in my bed, and expected to Go to **** . Thank Heaven, I am now up, and my fears have at length subsided; a delightful walk of seven miles has brought me to Reading. Tomorrow we return to Henley, and on Tuesday we meet the Philistines there; I shall hardly kiss your little finger before Saturday, but on Sunday you may depend on me. Indeed, it is not impossible; if the rats should serve me, a second trick like the former, but I may let myself down by a sheet, as Jezubel assisted the spies, in the middle of the night, and make the best of my way to London.

In my absence I expect great things from you. I hope you will have written your letter to Lisbon, have drunk two bottles of rum, and have parted with your complaint. And above all this, I wish you could intimate to W_____ that the bond will be wanted; and prepare him for a more serious demand for it; for I have ruminated coolly upon the matter on the cold hills of Henley, and I think a man’s own money is best in a man’s own pocket, as a man’s own wants are a man’s own at all times. Do, my dear little persuasive girl, mind these things.

If the glasses in, which we all drank your health last night could have affected your senses, you would have been as drunk as lady Harrington before dinner. These rats have so damped my spirits, that I can’t write, worth one farthing. However, I shall take up the pen again if I can find time tomorrow, though, Heaven knows, unless something extraordinary happen to night, I shall want matter to fill a sheet with; this I am sure of, that flesh and blood cannot support another distress like that which I have had; and, therefore, in a second trial of this sort, nature must take her way, and the sheets may, and must, and shall suffer for it. I am, my dear Nelly,

Yours affectionately at all hours,

H.M.

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Letter 2
Reading, Dec. 27th 1778

Dear Nelly,

After a tolerably agreeable journey of forty miles, which was passed ill the company of a jolly farmer and a sentimental gentleman, I reached Reading at Six o’ clock, and found all well, all glad to hear you were so, and all desirous to send you their best wishes. When as a single man, I had no silver candlesticks to think of, no wife, no Peter, no possessions; I then slept well in all corners of the creation, and never troubled my head with home — indeed, home was the least agreeable object of my thought at that time, though now, with reason, I confess it to be the greatest. As it is, I think much of what I enjoy, and much more of what I have left behind me. Sometimes I want to shut the front door, sometimes to dance my boy, sometimes to kiss my wife, and sometimes to smoke my darling pipe in the nursery. Well, be it so. Perhaps our present anxieties bring future profit; at least I think, with the Poet, that we live, my dear, too much together, and this tour will remedy the evil.

Tomorrow I go to Mr. Hall’s, from thence I shall write you more; and. If you go to Enfield leave word with James to forward my letters to you, in spite of wrinkled foreheads, and sunk eyebrows, pouting-lips, and rough language, in spite of anathemas and denunciations; these letters of mine are cordials to you, they comfort your uprisings and down-fallings, and invigorate and refresh your sweet pretty animal system. You said, I was an old married man, an indifferent sort of husband, forgetful of the honey moon, and careless about writing. I am determined to prove the very reverse of the picture to be the true likeness, and to establish a reputation, for attention, and politeness, and affection, and so forth, by writing at every opportunity. It was the plausability of this poor man’s language that won a wife; and, in the name of good- breeding, it shall preserve her. An indifferent man who studied convenience, writes long letters, which he owns in his present frame of mind is perfectly convenient to him.

I expect you will write to me, and tell me all things -but let the first be your boy is well – your boy is happy — for, God bless the dear little fellow, I think less of prayers than of Peter. With shooting, and hunting, and something, I shall pass over my week I hope, with pleasure; but thinking of my wife will be the most grateful idea of all. Remember me to all our good friends, — – we With shooting, and hunting, and something, I shall pass over my week I hope, with pleasure; but thinking of my wife will be the most grateful idea of all. Remember me to all our good friends, — – remember me in your devotion, — depend on my correctness, and assure yourself I am, at all times,

Your affectionate and faithful
Friend and Protector,

H.M
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Letter 3

Harpsden, Dec. 29, 1778.

From these regions of hospitality and good humour, I once more, my dear Nelly, salute you with a letter; it is a courtly kind of phrase, but I know you to be so great a lover of politeness, that thc higher style of it must suit you. We live here, as our forefathers did before the flood, amidst all sorts of country pastimes, and chearful exercises; indeed I believe the Antediluvians did not drink quite so much, though we read that Noah would crack a bottle with the best of them. I got safe here with brother John on Monday. On Tuesday we had, as usual, a Jubilee-day — a day of love and laughter. Yesterday we were coursing of hares without success; and to-day is but just begun, and therefore cannot say how we shall end it. I think I shall not come here before Monday, being engaged, out every evening this week; therefore I recommend you to stay at Enfield, till that time, when I shall be glad to meet you in London. Do not depend on my coming to you after that, as the making so many holidays will oblige me to stick close by my office. I hope nothing will be done with Peter till I come to town — I must debate a little about this inoculating business.

You will not complain, I hope, of my want of punctuality in writing, not having favoured me with a line unless it come by to-day’s post, which is not yet arrived. My hoarseness still continues, and is very disagreeable, disqualifying me for singing, and every thing else that is clever and comical. Do you spend your time chearfully at Enfield? Do you visit? Play cards, write, walk, or study astronomy? Do you ever ride upon a side-saddle? Do you read Drelincourt or drink brandy? For my own part, I attend to a few of these things, though I do not profess them all.

Yours affectionately,

H.M
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Letter 4
August 13, 1780

Dear Nelly,

NOTWITHSTANDING I wrote this morning, and wrote upon nothing, I write again at night, from Brigthelmstone; my love, the dear charming inspiring Brigthelmstone; once more I send to London The sea air, the country, the every thing, raise my spirits fifteen degrees at least beyond par, and make my heart all riot and rapture. We arrived here about three o’clock after riding five hours, a little incommoded by the sun over the finest downs in the world. After eating a mutton chop, and drinking a bottle of port, away we went on the stroll by the sea-shore; rambled here, there, every where; went down to the beach; stood like Canute on the sea-side, waiting for the waves to wet me; saw the fishing-boats set off at sun-set, and waited till the moon got up to give a soft sweet serenity to the soft sweet scene; then, the painting was brilliant indeed, so mild, soothing, placid. O, I’m in Elysium! I can’t express it!

“Happy the man, who crowns in scenes like these,
“A youth of labour, with an age of ease.”

I assure you it is my determination to bring you here, if you shall be able to travel before the winter comes on; it is worth living for nothing else but travelling; and travelling for little else than to see Brighthelmstone. To-morrow we go to Mr. Venn’s estate, about ten miles from hence, and then proceed to Chichester; if I have opportunity, I will write from thence again, but promise myself no pleasure equal to what I have here; for here I taste a new scene such as I never had an idea of, and promise myself great health and pleasure, from taking a souse in the sea to-morrow morning. A great deal of company is here; smarts and simpletons are as plentiful as at an execution; there is a large square place, called the Steine, set apart by the shore for walking; a library; a fruit-shop; lodging-houses, and piazzas round it; but 1 pledge myself you shall see it. The eye wanders from that place, over a world of waters, which the bathing-machines, the fishing-vessels, and ships of government enliven alternately. Lewes, about eight miles from hence, is a lovely town, remarkably clean, the houses handsome, streets long and straight, has three or four churches, seems very populous, and I believe may vie with any town in England. I received great pleasure from riding through it, I can assure you. I again recommend my dear Peter to your care. As we must stay till Wednesday at Chichester, if we see an opportunity to do any good there, you need not expect me till Thursday day, but do not depend upon me even then; it is my intention to come by that time if I can, but I will not fix for an hour; between this and then I may determine the time with certainty. I expect good accounts from and remain my dear girl,

Yours ever,

H.M
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Letter 5

Findon, August 15 1780

My dear girl,

Since Sunday I have had a variety of adventures of little moment. We left Brighton about twelve o’ clock yesterday morning, and went to a place called Hurst, within eight miles of which is Ned’s estate, staid there all day the smugglers in this country go in droves of one hundred, and sometimes two hundred together. The house we were at was on of their rendezvous, and about three this morning we were waked with the most discordant noises in the universe, swearing, singing, hallooing, hooping. I’d have given the world to have been at home. The house was full of them; and the stables full of their horses. Such a desperate banditti I never saw before. This morning we left It, and rode to the above place to dinner; a sweet ride we Had, one view in particular exceeding, every thing I Ever saw. Imagine to yourself a range of high hills, With the clouds sometimes beneath them; the valley laughing with corn and fatness, towns, seats, groves, woods, lawns, enclosures, &c. and, beyond all this, the sea reflecting the majesty of the Supreme Power who made it. We rode a considerable way with this prospect, saw ships at sea, and all the pleasing variety by and that a fine country could give. We intend going to night ten miles further, to a place called Arundel, and to Chichester to-morrow morning. O Sussex ! Sussex ! much do I owe thee for the pleasure thy prospects give me. I do not know whether this will reach you till Thursday, when I expect to see town, but in case I should not, you will not be alarmed. Give my compliments to Mrs. Hubbard, and desire her to take care, of you; and do you take care of Peter, dear boy. Whenever I see a little fellow in Sussex with a round frock and a simple innocent set of features, I think with great pleasure of Peter. Tomorrow I shall expect a letter from you or Miss K—, with a good account of all of you. I have written to Mr. Crespigny by this post, and if I don’t come so soon as I promised shall certainly write to you again. Absence is as necessary in matrimony as any thing I know. At a distance I admire my wife the more, because I see but not hear her — see her in imagination, which is as flattering a medium as can be -this is the silent advantage we occasionally want, and I dare say you rejoice that you have it. Believe me, not withstanding every thing here, home has a wonderful recommendation for Harry, and the objects of it make up a great part of his most pleasing ideas. Ned and I laugh from sun-rise to its setting, which we set down to the account of proper weaknesses and a pure air. But our horses are nearly ready, therefore it only remains for me to conclude.

I am, my dear Nell’s

preposterous, affectionate Servant,

H. M.

Reading

2nd July 1773.

 A Letter from Henry Man to his friend Edward Venn

As our Mutual good Friend is expected by me this Morning, being up rather earlier than usual, I will prepare a little Pacquet for him to take to town to you.

Miss Man is I hope restor’d by this time. Upon my Honour I hardly know when to promise that I will see London, it will put my whole frame, Spirits, Passions, Affections everything into disorder come when I will. The best tund instrument in the World an easy heart, will be spoiled there. These are glorious Halcyon Days with me indeed. My Day is calm, my Sleep sound and unruffled; And I find the tempers of every body about me, conducive to the serenity of my mind. I am shock’d at the Smoky City; I pity the Men of it. Seriously, I don’t think of returning till this Day fortnight, and if any exception should be taken to that Stay, perhaps I shall remain here sometime, only occasionally come up and enjoy yr. Company for xx a Day, and then return to the Country and trust for Bread to the Blessed Being who feeds the Young Ravens on the Common. You will Satisfie me, my much esteem’d Mr Venn how his pulse beats, and whether the Chepstow Letter satisfied, for I cannot at all events think of breaking my heart till next Saturday Sennight. My Evenings are pleasantly passed as I could wish them. The Walks are very various & very beautifull. Sometimes we each take a book, and now Creep, now Walk faster and again rest us on a Stile. About 8 Oclock when the Sun is leaving the Western hills. The Country appears to most advantage. Soften’d every Scene, and every Object strikes my senses with double pleasure. Then it is that I often think while my Ear is open’d to the twittering of the Yellow Hammer in a Neighbouring Hedge. The distant warble of the Blackbird. The tinkling of the Sheep bells dying away upon the breeze, The Cuckoos Notes half heard, and the Song of the Haymakers returning with the bottle and the Scythe, I say Sir when I hear all this, from my inmost heart I pity you, and pity all Men, whom inclination, or obligation, confine to London. It is not the Life of Nature, it is not the Life of learning, of Philosophy, it is not the Life of Heaven, but the sorry existence of Art, of Fraud, of Misery of Riches, of Trade. And as the Eternal will judge one on the last Day, I think my Soul not safe in it. But for the Advantage of having my two Friends near me, I would carry a pitch fork here, and whistle away the Hours. I protest the longer I stay the more infatuated I grow, and if I don’t come soon I shall never be able to leave it.

You are very much my Debtor, for a Circumstantial Reply to two long letters. I fear your Silence proceeds from the doubtfull state of yr. Cousin. I guess you are engaged in it deeply. Only write to me at yr. Convenience, and I shall be happy. We were very near caught last night in a terrible Shower, a Barn however sheltered us and We played at Chuck farthing the Old Gentleman and all, till it was over.

It was an innocent cheerful engagement for the Mind, & I thot full as rational, as fretting over Cash Accounts, and studying to save Money. You see I constantly I revert to former Scenes. I love sometimes to see you all at Dinner in my Fancy, and compare the horrid confusion which prevails in yr. Parlour, with the regularity & order before me. When I meet a poor Woman in my Walk, I directly hear a certain Old Hag, ringing a peal to her Basket Women. The Noise of some surly Hind thrashing his Wife, brings Wright to my Ears immediately. We have prim Toads enough in this town, to remind me of all the Misses you and I know in London, but respecting the large logger head that has lately been set up in the Country House I am obliged to bring him in neck and shoulders, for I’ll behang’d if I see one Object here that can give the least Idea of him. Thus my back ground always recommends present Objects and makes them ready to start from the Canvas, Thus I am indebted to Discord for Harmony; to the Town for the Pleasure I hast here. If a Man would be Wise and consider his latter end. The Country is the place for him. If Wise to prize the present time, the Country is the only place for him. Sweet sweet Scene how do I doat upon your beauties!

I cannot Walk further than the Orchard this morning, in expectation of Thomson. Yesterday I ambled over a lovely Park of Lord Cadogans. Two awful solitary deep glooms of clustering trees, murmuring with hollow Wind. No voice no footstep near me. I stood Collected and was calm; and call’d a levee of reflections, and they bow’d to me. Some spreading Beeches pendant on an hill; and some ____ sunk into a Valley, and noble Elms clusterings every where about me, formed a fine effect upon the Eye, and gave one raptures. I sat down upon a bench sometime attentive to the Cawing of the Rooks, and the nimble foot of the Hare, that flew about me. The best Birds sung their best tunes, and the best Prospect flash’d with all its charms. It was a scene for Judgment to have meditated upon. For Genius to gather graces in, for Fancy to have danced upon, and for Passions rude Passions to have slept upon. It has now modul’d me altogether. I am not the Savage that left London about a month since with a Gentleman’s Black breeches but an harmless, careless, quiet, inoffensive poor soul called yr. Affectionate

Henry Man

 

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