|Description||Her conscience would not be at peace if she does not write on their difference in their religious opinions; he has suggested more time for reflection, even until after they were married; due to a previous misundertsanding about a particualr subject, she is writing in case he mistakes her silence as an admission of agreement with his opinions. She was given papers by him yesterday, of someone of almost maternal character, with whom he had long been intimate [Lady Lucy Barry]; she was a strong Methodist, anxious for his conversion; she asks whether he has become her disciple or does he not revolt like her against "the prostitution of Scripture", with one passage approaching blasphemy. Eleanor sees the friend's work as well-intentioned and better educated than most religious enthusiasts; she did agree with some parts and began to think she had been wrong about the writer, only to be shocked by the re-appearance of all she feared. If he is a convert and expects Eleanor to become one, the best thing would be for him to say farewell. She feels that she is risking a great deal in composing this letter to John. Their prospective union is well known and any interruption could lead to unkindness towards her. Their original difference had been about her not observing the religious traditions of Sunday; she disagrees with him about it, admitting to being half a Catholic about it; strict observance seems to be against the spririt and intention of the day for rest and relaxation; they are from different mould, but she has tried to make him really acquainted with herself; if he still desires their union, she is ready to fix it: if he has any uneasiness about her, it would be best to keep them separate. Eleanor insists that she is ready to share their lot together, and to sacrifice her own wishes to those of others. In exchange for his friend's letters, she encloses a letter received from a clergyman's daughter [Anna Vardill] who was a friend and fellow sufferer of his namesake Governor Franklin at the time of the American War; she married a Scotch gentleman a year ago and is inclined to lecture her, but writes as seriously as him in a temper she prefers. She begs that he does not tell her sister or anyone in Gower Street about their difference. Once he has settled his mind on this letter, she has to send answer to Mrs Oviatt, at her proposal that he and she should go down with Mrs Kay and three of her children on Monday. Relieved to have got letter written. PS: she has re-read what his friend has written and she quotes Shakespeare on Wolsey and his serving King and God.|
|Transcript or Index||July 8 1823 (in pencil in later hand)|
My Dear Sir,
I am conscious that most persons would think me very imprudent in addressing this letter to you, but the simple fact is, that my conscience will not be at peace if I do not write it, and as it has never yet troubled me, so am I determined that it never shall. It appears that there unhappily exists in some difference in our religious opinions, and though on points which I consider of little moment, I perceive the circumstance has given you uneasiness. You proposed that all farther [sic] discussion of the subject should wait till your return to London, and having as you know entered on the subject most unwillingly from the beginning, I should be well content to let it rest till we had more leisure for reflexion and quiet conversation, or even till after our union, when I might consider it a matter almost of absolute certainty that our opinions and habits would become in a great degree assimilated; but the remembrance of one occasion when the want of clearer explanation had nearly led to a serious misunderstanding between us, makes me feel it a duty to write this, lest you should mistake my silence for an agreement in your opinions.
So far had I written three days ago.An accident interrupted me, and I have been prevented by accident from resuming my letter, but the papers which you put into my hands yesterday make me feel that it is doubly necessary. I presume the writer to be one whose long habits of intimacy with you, and almost maternal character may have authorized her interference on such a subject, but I feel that the fear of wounding any feelings of respect you may entertain towards her, must not prevent the expression of mine. I perceive that she is a strong Methodist, and very anxious for your conversion – Except from some expressions which you have <occasionally> let fall, and which I own startled me at the time, this circumstance would have excited no alarm, but I now conjure you in the name of all which you hold sacred to answer me truly. Has she succeeded? Are you become her disciple; or does your heart revolt like mine at the prostitution of Scripture on unnecessary occasions and do you not even feel that there is one passage which approaches to blasphemy. Do not think I mean to accuse the writer – I have no doubt her intentions are good, and she appears to have more education and common sense than usually fall to the share of religious enthusiasts, and is therefore but the more dangerous. I read many parts of her letters with unqualified pleasure, and was many times beginning to hope I had falsely taken up an impression against her, when I was again shocked and startled by the reappearance of all I feared. If you are her convert, and expect me to become so, it is my duty to tell you frankly that you are mistaken. In the name of that God through whom alone I also hope for salvation I dare to tell you that you would never succeed & that the greatest act of kindness you can perform towards me <in such a case> would be to bid me farewell. In other years I might have had the hope of preserving you from that gulf on the brink of which you appear to me to be at this moment but I feel that my health and spirits are not now equal to the contest, and that I should sink under it before I could hope to accomplish the end, much as I would risk to obtain it.
I am well aware what I have at stake in writing thus to you – almost all which woman holds dear, and even some part of that reputation which is almost necessary to her existence; for our expected union has become unluckily so publicly known, that any interruption of it must expose me, independent of my private feelings, to much of painful and perhaps ungenerous remark. I would fain hope that I have entertained a needless alarm, but whatever be the event, the religious feelings in which you may perhaps think me deficient will sustain me, and <at> any rate when I thought I clearly perceived what was my duty, I never yet suffered myself to enquire what was my inclination, and I will not begin now. I should in such a case only pray that you might be saved from the danger in which I think you stand, though it would not be by my ministry, and that I might never recurr to your memory at an hour when you wished me forgotten.
The subject which was originally intended to occupy this letter, appears now almost too trifling to follow what I have said <since perhaps it would principally affect my personal comfort>, but I am determined that at any rate you shall understand me fully though indeed I might say that it has been in your power to become so thoroughly acquainted both with my habits and modes of thinking, that it must be your own fault if you have not done so long ago. Our original difference was with regard to the observance of Sunday respecting which you made an attack upon me which I must say was utterly unexpected after you had had the opportunity of seeing so constantly what was my usual mode of passing that day, and had done so without any remark. I had intended to inform you that with your ideas on that point I do not and cannot agree; for the more I reflect on the subject the more do I differ from you, and it would therefore be hypocrisy to pretend to conform to them. I told you in the beginning that on this head I was half a Catholic. The strictness which you appear to think necessary, I believe is peculiar to a portion of our own island, and upon what foundation it was first adopted I confess I do not see. It appears to me to be contrary to the spirit and intention of the day, which was surely meant to be one of rest and relaxation, of divine worship and innocent recreation, but in no respect one of privation or penance. Such an acceptation of it we are surely not enjoined in the Old Testament and to my ideas we are warned against it in the New. On this point however as on every other, much belongs to individual character; that which would encourage piety in one mind would destroy it in another, and much as we may resemble each other in many ways, yours and mine were certainly not from the same mould. All I have to say is in fact to repeat what I once said before (on a subject respecting which, by the bye, I hope we are understood and agreed) namely that I have endeavoured to make you really acquainted with myself as far as was in my power. If you are so far satisfied with what you have seen of me as still to desire our union – if in fact you can be satisfied with such affection and duty as I have to offer, I am ready to fix its period, and am determined that I will not permit myself to be again overcome by those feelings which overpowered me when you last questioned me on the subject; but if on the contrary you think my disposition or habits likely to cause you uneasiness, we had better keep them separate. I am ready to share with you the lot of pleasure or of pain, of prosperity or adversity, as it pleases Heaven to bestow them, and if I know my own disposition at all, I think that you will find me always ready to sacrifice my own wishes to those of others, but I own that I tremble at the idea of any future contest with you on either of the subjects which have become a source of doubt between us – I again repeat that I hope and believe my alarm to have been in the latter instance unfounded, but it is not the less due to both that I should make the matter certain, and therefore I have written.
In return for your friend’s letters I enclose you one received this day from the daughter of a Clergyman who was a friend and fellow sufferer with your namesake Governor Franklin in the time of the American War. She married a Scotch gentleman about a year since, and as you will see, is inclined to exercise her matronly privilege by lecturing me. Her Sermon, as she calls it, was certainly not meant for your eye, and perhaps I ought scarcely to communicate some parts of it, but I do so, to shew you that my friends can write as seriously as yours upon occasion, and I must add, in a temper which I much prefer.
I have only to beseech that you will take no notice of this in Gower Street. My sister has my confidence on most subjects, but in any difference which may now or hereafter unhappily arise between us (though I trust we have not many to fear) I believe it to be no less my duty than it is my wish that it should be confined to ourselves alone.
When you have settled your mind respecting this letter I must send an answer to Mrs Oviatt about Monday. It is proposed that you & I should go down with Mrs Kay and the 3 elder children in a Glass coach in the morning, so as to have a complete day of ruralizing, and to return in the Evening – You know it is a mere cottage that they are in for the Summer – so the delight is to consist in fresh air and green trees with the addition of a syllabub – and I won’t promise you not to stick fast in a hedge, or tear my fingers and clothes to pieces in robbing the wild rose of its blossoms. Roses you know have thorns, just as you have your whims. I am much relieved by having got this letter written, or I should not begin playing with you, and so before I get grave again I will sign myself – ever your affectionate
Eleanor Anne Porden.
Tuesday – July 8th – 1823 –
I perceive on a fresh perusal that your friend has in some sort paraphrased or rather reversed the celebrated exclamation of Wolsey on his disgrace which Shakespeare has so finely expressed – in the finest sermon I know.
“Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my King – he would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.