RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive Reference / Library Class No.D8760/F/FSJ/1/1/26
Former ReferenceD3311/8/3/22
TitleLetter from Eleanor Anne Porden to John Franklin, on her sadness at leaving Berners Street and the poor state of the Royal Institution, both in terms of its losing subcribers and the state of the building
Date9-10 Jun 1823
DescriptionFirst section written in French: references to finishing business at Berners Street; she describes him as one of the most useless people in the world, being the proverbial Englishman; her sadness at leaving the house: Mr Oviatt has not found somewhere else yet; she is reluctant to establish herself at Gower Street, as she does not find it calming, much as she loves her sister; thanks for his his letter, being amused at the idea of them dining tete a tete, given the variety of her current dining arrangements. Letter written in English from 10 June. The managers of the Royal Institution are looking into the abuses of the Household Establishment. Eleanor feels she might have been instrumental in this decision as she had preached upon the subject. The institution had been losing subscribers. Seems that some users of the space did not cover the expense of their usage. Continues that the spaces are bad for hearing and ill-ventilated. Father made comments on its poorly thought-out architecture.
Extent1 sheet
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SenderEleanor Anne Porden
Sender LocationLondres [London]
RecipientJohn Franklin
Recipient LocationPost Office, Matlock, Derbyshire
Archive CreatorSir John Franklin (1786-1847)
Gell family of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth
LanguageFirst part in French
Transcript or Index[Transcriber’s note for the first part in French: Eleanor was apparently able to speak French fluently, but she frequently uses “o” instead of “a” in certain words using the imperfect tense, and her use of grave accents instead of acute ones.]

Londres – ce 9 Juin – 1823

Mon très cher Capitaine

Je viens de finir une letter francaise, et comme j’ai pris la peine de me mettre à penser dans cette langue la, je ne peux pas resister à l’envie que j’éprouve, de vous en écrire aussi quelques mots. Seriez vous très fachè contre moi, mon ami? J’espere que non; surtout comme je vous laisse libertè de me repliquer dans aucune langue que vous voudrez.
J’ai fini mes affaires à Berners Street, pour le moment. À vous dire la verité, j’ai fait un peu trop. Hier, et l’avant hier je me trouvai bien malade, et j’avais peur de recommencer l’Invalide, mais un seul jour de repos m’a tant retabli, que je pouvois travailler encore, si c’étoit necessaire.
Eh bien, Monsieur, vous êtes l’une des personnes les moins utiles du monde! Une belle confession! Si vous eutes été auprès de moi, je vous aurais fait travailler <pour tout cela>. Je n’aime pas les Chats qui n’attrapent point de Souris – pour vous traduire un proverb Anglais. Ce n’est que la paresse, et la paresse est la racine du mal. Encore un proverbe! La vente sera demain, et je me rejouirai quand c’est finie. Je ne peux pas vous nier que quand je revenois chez moi Samedi Soir, et que je voyois les petits billets affichès à chaque meuble, comme pour me dire que je ne les reverrai jamais, une foule de souvenirs semblait s’attacher à chaque objet, et j’éprouvois quelques moments peu agréables. Sarah me dit que ce n’est que cela qui m’a fait du mal, et qu’elle a peine de s’empecher de pleurer elle meme. Je n’ai pas poussè l’affaire si loin, mais les larmes ne sont pas ma forte. Graces au ciel, j’aurais dit; mais je crois que bien de fois je souffre plus que ceux qui peuvent se soulager ainsi.
La malheureuse maison nous échappe toujours. Monsieur Oviatt n’a pu rien trouver et je n’ai pas encore eu un moment pour chercher moi meme. Si vous êtes empressé de fixer notre demeure, j’ai de fortes raisons pour l’être aussi. Entrè nous, il y a des causes qui ne valent pas la peine de les écrire, mais qui m’empecheront de rester long tems [sic] ici, et l’alternatif de m’établir en Gower Street ne me plait pas de tout. J’aime beaucoup ma Soeur, mais il y a un manqué de tranquillité au près d’elle, que dans ce moment je ne peux supporter. Je vous dirai à l’oreille qu’une soirée avec elle et sa famille me fatiquent plus qu’une grande réunion. Il n y a pas un que je ne cherie pas, mais après quelque tems [sic] je me trouve toujours si fatiguèe que je ne sais pas comment faire.
Votre letter est venue m’interrompre. Mille graces pour elle, ainsi que ses predecesseurs. Je m’amuse de votre idèe d’un diner tête à tête avec moi. Vous vous trompez délicieusement! La societè auroit été autant varièe que la porcelain. Je crois qu’il n’y avoit pas un seul jour qui ne m’apportoit pas à diner quelque personne inattendue. Une fois j’avois une telle compagnie que c’étoit vraiment ridicule. C’est si agrèable d’avoir un moitiè de couteau à chacun! Pour le vin dont vous parlez il n’y en a pas beaucoup, et je vous défende de vous tourmenter le cerveau sur son égard. Je l’ai gardè, ainsi que toutes choses qui pouvoient être utiles à nous. Si vous pourriez regarder ma chambre répositaire j’attendrois un éclat de rire. Elle contient tant de choses, et de choses qui ne pouvoient jamais attendre de se rencontrer de si près.
J’ai quelque espoir que l’Institution Royale ne se fermira pas cette annèe.

[Translation of first part of letter from French.

London this 9 June 1823

My very dear Captain
I’ve just finished a letter in French, and as I took the trouble to get myself to think in this language, I cannot resist the desire I experience to write some words in it to you as well. Will you be very angry with me, my friend? I hope not; especially as I leave you the freedom to reply to me in any language you like.
I have finished my business at Berners Street, for the moment. To tell you the truth, I’ve done a bit too much. Yesterday, and the day before yesterday, I found I was very ill, and I feared I would start again to be the Invalid, but just one day of rest set me back up so much that I could still work, if it were necessary.
Well, Sir, you are one of the most useless people in the world! A fine confession! If you had been near me, I would have made you work for all that. I do not like cats that don’t catch mice – to translate an English proverb for you. It’s only idleness, and idleness is the root of evil. There’s another prover! The sale will be tomorrow, and I will rejoice when it is over. I can’t deny to you that when I returned to my house Saturday evening and saw the little tickets attached to each piece of furniture, as if to tell me that I will never see them again, a crowd of memories seemed to attach to each object, and I experienced some less agreeable moments. Sarah told me that it was only that which made me ill, and that she had a struggle to stop her crying herself. I have not pushed the matter so far, but tears are not my forté. Thank heavens, I would say: but I believe that many times I suffer more than those who can relieve themselves this way.
The wretched house still escapes us. Mr Oviatt has not been able to find anything, and I have not yet had a moment to look myself. If you are in a hurry to fix our abode, I have strong reasons to be the same as well. Between us, there are causes which are not worth the trouble of writing, but which will prevent me from staying a long time here, and the alternative of establishing myself in Gower Street does not please me at all. I love my Sister a lot, but there’s a lack of tranquillity at hers, that at this moment I cannot bear. I will tell you in your ear that that one evening with her and her family tires me out more than a large assembly. There’s not one of them I do not cherish, but after a little while I find so tired that I do not know what to do.
Your letter came to interrupt me. A thousand thanks for it, just like its predecessors. I am amused at your idea of a dinner tête à tête with me. You are deliciously wrong! The society would be as varied as the porcelain. I believe that there has been only one day which did not bring some unexpected person to dine. Once I had such company that it was truly ridiculous. It’s so agreeable to have half a knife each! For the wine of which you speak there isn’t enough of it, and I forbid you from tormenting your brain on its account. I have looked at it, as with all the other things that could be useful to us. If you could look at my storeroom, I would expect a burst of laughter. It contains so many things, and things I could never expect to encounter so close up.
I have some hope that the Royal Institution will not stop this year.]

June 10th
My letter was interrupted yesterday and today my French fit is past so I will go on in plain English. The Managers are proposing a variety of new Regulations, and above all, I understand they are at last going to look into the abuses of the Household Establishment. I have been preaching on the subject to some of them for these two years past, and am in hopes that I may have been of some use in turning their attention to that quarter. What I complained of was that the work was not done, whereas it now appears that it was paid for exorbitantly. I rather think this department will be put on an entirely new footing, and there is a talk of various other alterations as to Annual and other Subscriptions some of which I am certain will not answer at all. I am very doubtful whether more can be done than to patch up a crazy existence for a year or two. The fact is, the fashion is over. The Ladies have deserted it (except some few such fixtures as myself) and the gentlemen have flown either after them, or to the Alfred. Brande’s Morning Course too has been highly prejudicial. With that, which is for his own profit, he of course takes pains, and can easily make it more valuable to men of Science than the afternoon Lectures, about which he gives himself no more trouble than is necessary not to lose reputation. One third of the Morning Subscription he indeed pays to the Institution for the use of the Room and Apparatus, but Mr Milllington says that from the extravagant manner in which the Experi[me]nts were conducted this never covered the Expense with r[egard] to the London Institution. It has been <also in> a bad way t[wo or] three times. Two years ago the Managers were going to shut it up, and when Millington offered to Lecture gratis his offer was declined because they could not afford to light the room! The tide of Scientific enquiry has suddenly set Eastward, & the Theatre is now overflowing. The Professors are many of them the same as at the Royal Institution, and the rest, I believe their equals in reputation. So far it would suit you as well as the Royal Institution but if you wished me to attend with you, it is plain I could not on account of the distance, and indeed after being accustomed to Albemarle Street I should not soon reconcile myself to the difference. The Theatre is splendid in comparison, but it has none of the comfort or the quiet. The entering at the top and having to descend to your seats at different intervals, together with the steepness of the steps, makes a continual creaking of boots <which interrupts the Lecture> besides which I do not think it is so well constructed for hearing. It is moreover excessively ill ventilated, and I could hardly sit out the only Lecture I ever attended there. The audience also are too close on the Lecturer. I have often heard the Professors complain that they could not exhibit one half the Apparatus they wished for want of room, and in Electrical Experiments of any magnitude it must be dangerous. My father used to say the whole Building was evidently the work of a young Architect. There is a good deal of talent shewn, and of Architectural Beauty in parts but the designer’s head was evidently too full of Greek and Roman Edifices, and wanted experience to adapt his classic fancies to the uses for which they were destined. The Library however is at once handsome and convenient; but in another part, there is a magnificent approach to a door, (I rather think it corresponds with the entrance to that) but when you attempt to open it, behold it is but pretence. The Surrey I very much preferred, but it is lately broken up. I never see the London without being reminded of many of the French buildings, more parade than convenience. Indeed the theatre is very like the Chamber of Deputies at Paris. You may perhaps smile at my saying so much on the defects of the building, and think that my remarks smell of the shop, but the want of personal comfort must diminish one’s power of attention in spite of oneself. You however may feel it differently, and even think it more commodious than other. As to Edinburgh, I see you have a strong hankering after that Athens of the North. I will not speak of what I do not know but, from what I have heard I much suspect Dr. R. to sketch rather a flattering portrait of its Society and it public schools. I am glad that you and he bore your separation so well, though I should suppose it to be the most trying you ever encountered. You have been together so long and in such situations that he must be more than a Brother to you – Adieu – E. A. Porden.

I had a kind message from Gower St. If I had left room for it.

I feel this is a stupid letter, but I cannot help it. I never before wrote to you with my head so little in what I was doing. Tomorrow I shall not be able to write as I shall be at Greenwich all day, but on Thursday I hope my thoughts will again be a little more collected – and if I have still no orders shall d[…] again to Nottingham. I have an odd feeling as if some [?thing] pleasant were about to happen to one of us, but I dare to s[…] the worry I have been in about the Sale which occasi[?oned] perhaps the consciousness that it is proceeding at this […] [Transcriber’s note: for the gaps in the last few lines the paper has torn away by the opening of the seal]

[Addressed to]
Captain Franklin, R. N.
Post Office

U 10 JU 1823
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