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1821 Dec. 25th

  • South Cave, 25th Decr. 1821
  • (Christmas Day)

Dear Wm.

In the first place I will give you an account of the Letters and papers we have received from you lately. On Monday the 17th inst a Newspaper marked of the trials you had heard at the Court of King's Bench, in my Opinion (and who is qualified to form a better judgment on the point?) the line with which it was marked was superior to the celebrated Painter's line of Beauty. On Tuesday the 18th. we recd. from Hull the letter and parcel containing Cobbett's works. I have lent them to Mr. Day, who enquired of me if I had lately seen any of the Works in question; he is so fond of his Sermons that he says he will buy them. In his Cottage Economy18 he says he knows of no law human or divine to restrain a poor Man working in his Garden on a Sunday, if the necessity of his family require it, for my own part I do not think that any such case of necessity can ever exist, then he justifies his Argument by a piece of very bad reasoning — namely because some particular persons are obliged to do some kind of work on the Sunday therefore it follows that there is no law to prevent a poor man working in his Garden on a Sunday, this is downright Sophistry and unworthy of Cobbett, for he knows very well that if every so many persons commit a crime it still remains no less a crime for that. On Friday the 21st. we recd. the letter and Farthings,19 when I first saw them I was surprised as I mistook them pg 9for Sovereigns but I was quickly undeceived. The Brittania is a beautiful figure; the head I can say very little for, — on Sunday we recd. the letter and Newspaper, and much satisfaction they caused us, we are particularly glad to hear that you have recovered so wonderfully, for which both you and us ought to be thankful. I am glad to find that Mr. Day was so kind as to make an offer of lending you money but I am still more glad that you had no occasion to borrow, however the Gentleman's kindness is no less, and I hope you will evince the same Gratitude, as though you had not had a Farthing. I am sorry that the Partridges did not arrive safe; with respect to the Box which contained the Apples, Gingerbread and Stockings, we sent it to Hull on the 7th inst. and desired your Aunt to send it you by the first conveyance which I expect was done as we have not heard any thing from her since. I hope before you receive this you will have received it. You say you think the parcel would come cheaper in the Barton Coach,20 I do not think it would make much difference, and then the conveniency of the Rodney21 is so much greater, that when we have any small parcel we shall always send it by this Conveyance. Eliza could read your letter nearly as well as myself[;] she had got it read over before I got up, and much Joy it diffused in our small Family, it is with infinite pleasure we hear from you, — I really do think the Situation22 you are in will be found by you to be a pleasant one, as you will see so much of the busy scenes around you, and it will certainly give you a great insight into your business by attending every day so many different Shops, and I think it will be more conducive to health a great deal than being constantly confined in a Shop. In short it is such a situation as I should wish for you, for it is a place of trust and Confidence by having money delivered to you every day and only accounting once a week; I know you are qualified to keep all your accounts correctly, which you will of course take a pride in doing. — You say in one of your letters that the Chapels are fast approaching the Church in Gowns[,] Bands and other appendages of Popery, which John Knox the Scottish reformer would have called the cast off Rags of the Whore of Babylon. I am afraid that the Simplicity in the worship of Dissenters, is in a great measure changed for shew and splendid decoration. I am much pleased with your description of Westminster Abbey, and hope I shall have the pleasure of being conducted by you to see this temple of the mighty dead, should all be well with us the next harvest. Last Sunday night after your Mother and Eliza were gone to Bed I took a solitary walk into this venerable pg 10pile where I staid till near midnight. I entered at the great Western door and what a sight struck my eyes! The lofty Aisles I viewed with astonishment and wonder, the great Iron gates of the Choir were opened and I trode the marble floor until I reached the east end of the church or rather chancel, where I admired the beautiful Altar of White marble, but this was not the place for me. I passed almost with unconcern the monument of Lady Eliz. Nightingale23 and made the best of my way to the southern extremity of the Cross Aisle which you know is the place called "Poets' Corner", the monument you lately saw. I noticed one you did not mention, which is to Dr. Watts.24 I then walked to the north end of the Cross Aisle where is the monument to the Earl Lord Mansfield25 sitting in his robes with a piece of parchment in his left hand and as he did not know where to put his right hand, he laid it on his knee. I can say nothing adequate in praise of Henry the 7th Chapel only it is supposed to be the finest piece of Architecture of the kind in the World, all this which I have been describing was more endeared to me by knowing that you had viewed many of the same monuments but a few days before. — You say a Yorkshireman is easily known in London. I do not wonder at it, — I once heard some person (whether Londoner or not I have forgot) on the hearing of your Maternal Grandfather say that such a person whom he had heard preaching was a poor Creet-shure (Creature) to which your Grandfather replied he was indeed a poor preacher, so that you see Creature is here pronounced to be mistaken for preacher; however if any improvement can be made in your pronunciation you will act wisely to adopt it. I heard the Archbishop of York pronounce the word mercy with an a, as marcy which is certainly broad Yorkshire, but you know there are many persons' examples I would follow before those of Archbishops. — It will be towards the latter end of January before your Mother will be able to get your Shirts ready to send in the next Box.

The weather here is very wet and I suppose it is the same with you; On Sunday last I was in the Vestry of the Church, with the Parson, and a Man of Broomfleet by name John Baitson, when either to confound us by his knowledge or astonish us by his ignorance when talking about the weather he said it is very "contracted weather", and confounded and astonished I certainly was, for I could not even guess what kind of weather he meant; I scarcely ever heard an expression but I could make something of the meaning, but this was perfectly pg 11unintelligible. This Box which we now send, will go in the inside of the last, and the last will go in the inside of the next we send, so that they will fit one into another like the Sentences in the Agricultural Report, which Cobbett compares to a nest of Pill Boxes.26

Mr. Day has lent me the Beauties of Cobbett in three twopenny numbers,27 the first part contains the life of Paine, the second is called the "Torch of Truth" and part third "Politics for the People" they are extracts from his Works, ["]Published by H. Stemman, 68 Princes Street, Leicester Square" with Medallion Portraits of Thomas Paine and William Cobbett. — They shew the changeableness of the Man. — Were you here we should be asking you twenty Questions before you could answer one, but I will ask you a few now, and you can answer them at your leisure.

  1. 1. What time do you rise in the morning?

  2. 2. What do you get to your Breakfast?

  3. 3. What time do you begin work?

  4. 4. Where do you dine?

  5. 5. What do you chiefly get to dinner?

  6. 6. Do you get tea in the afternoon?

  7. 7. Where do you get your Supper?

  8. 8. Have you a room to yourself?

  9. 9. What time do you leave work at night?

  10. 10. What does your Dinner cost you?

  11. 11. How much is your Weekly Expences?

I sent you a newspaper on Saturday last which I expect you would receive on Monday morning, it had a few lines written on the bottom of the 2nd. and 3rd. pages. You need but send me the title of the Act relative to sending newspapers by the Post, as I can refer to the Act if I know the title.28 I would advise you to eat Greens to your Dinner or Carrots sometimes, as I find them both of a laxative Quality; and could you get good Porter; to drink a very little at a time; but it is in general such a Diabolical mixture of Coculus Indicus29 and other pernicious ingredients that it is scarcely prudent to let it come within ones lips. — you must persevere in taking a few pills occasionally just before you go to bed at nights, as you find yourself costive. — I went last week to see a collection pg 12of Wild Beasts which stopped here on their way to Hull, amongst the rest was a very large fierce looking Lion, with a shaggy mane the first of that description I ever saw; his roar was most dreadful[.] A man's life would not have been worth a moment's purchase if he had met him in the desert. — There is a beautiful little Poem which I have seen in some Collections many years ago called "Hassan or the Camel driver", which I had rather see again than all the works of Lord Byron which I have yet seen, if you should happen to meet with it, preserve it for me, after reading it yourself, — one line is "What if the Lion in his rage I meet"! another Couplet I recollect is,

  •              "The Lily peace outshines the silver Store,
  •              And life is dearer than the golden Ore".30

You must procure some Ink rather more different from the colour of your paper than the last you wrote with. I was at Barnard Cook's on Monday night where I shewed your new Farthings [to] Mr. Brown of Brough the same young man who was at our house at Cave fair[.] Said if I would let him have one, he would treat me with a Glass of any thing I chose, to which at length I consented, so you see I have one Farthing less than I had; I now recollect the following lines which if I had thought upon at the time might have kept me one 960th. part of a pound richer than I am

  •              "Weigh every small expence and nothing waste
  •              Farthings long sav'd amount to pounds at last".

You will instantly discover that this is a maxim of thrift, with a great deal of meaning in it, but as you know Poor Richard's maxims of Industry and Frugality31 I need not enter into a comment to darken the words of the text. — James Marshall was here on Monday[,] he is very glad to hear you are better and so indeed is Robt. and all the Marshalls and all our other Friends who know that you have been ill.

Now for the Contents of this present Box[:] here is one Goose Pie with a few Slices of Old Ham in it. And another Pork and Beef. Here are likewise some Sausages & Black puddings of your Mothers own making, with Mince tarts made on purpose for Christmas[.] We hope you will receive all in good order and Condition, which you may either enjoy in a Solitary or social manner as you think the most conducive to your own interest. Only I think you must get your kind Landlady to boil your Sausages, and invite her to Sup with you, and if either or both of the young men Clerks in your department are kind to you, you may let them taste of a Yorkshire pie. — Here is likewise what I must not forget namely five Gold Guineas, which if you want do not spare them, and if you do not want put them in your purse, and the Chink of them I think will sound as pg 13sweetly in your ears, as the sound of Bow Bells in the ears of Cockneys. We have had Robt. Marshall to dine and drink tea with us to day and at this present is set by the fire side while I am writing. I have strict charge to remember him to you, which here I do. Now you see I have written you a pretty long letter, made up of the first thoughts that came into my mind — well I expect you will receive this Box on Thursday evening so be sure to write on Friday, which will come in due course on Sunday morning, I hope you will be able before you write to give a good account of the last Box, Your Mother & Eliza's kindest love to you along with my own

So Remain

  •                     your loving Father
  •                               R Sharp

[In margin]: My father Dec 25. 1821

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
18 William Cobbett, Cottage Economy: Containing Information Relating to the Brewing of Beer, Making of Bread, Keeping of Cows, Pigs, Bees, Ewes, Goats, Poultry and Rabbits, and Relative to other Matters Deemed Useful in the Conducting of the Affairs of a Labourer's Family. London, 1822. This work was originally issued in 7 monthly parts (1821–2), one of which provided the source of RS's reference.
Editor’s Note
19 The last issue of copper farthings, which featured the head of George III, had been in 1806. The Mint resumed the issue of farthings in 1821, with pennies and halfpennies following in 1825. The new farthings depicted a portrait bust of George IV. with draped neck and head wreathed in laurels (Purvey 232 and 242).
Editor’s Note
20 From Barton, on the south bank of the Humber, the Royal Mail departed daily at 9 a.m. for London, the journey taking approximately 22 hours. The returning Royal Mail was due back at Barton at 6 p.m., when the Express Post Coach left for London, each day (except Sunday). Both coaches connected with the Waterloo Steam Hoy which left Hull at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. to cross the Humber to Barton (Baines ii. 349, 353).
Editor’s Note
21 The Rodney Post Coach from Hull passed through South Cave at 8 a.m. daily on its way to Sheffield and London, via Booth Ferry, where a ferry crossed the River Ouse (Baines ii. 187. 349).
Editor’s Note
22 William Sharp had joined the staff of the London publishing firm. Longman's, only in the previous month. (See Introduction).
Editor’s Note
23 The monument of J. G. Nightingale (d. 1752) and his wife (d. 1734) is situated in the north transept (west wall of the east aisle) of Westminster Abbey. It was made in 1761 by Louis-François Roubiliac and shows Mr Nightingale standing against an arch and seeking to protect his wife from the figure of Death in the form of a gruesome skeleton pointing a lance at her (Pevsner (1973) i. 448–9).
Editor’s Note
24 This monument is located in the north transept (in a bay on the south wall of the south aisle) of the Abbey. It commemorates Dr Isaac Watts (1674–1748), the hymn writer. He is shown with pen in hand, listening to an angel. The monument was made in 1774 by Thomas Banks (Pevsner (1973) i. 460).
Editor’s Note
25 This monument is located in the north transept (east side of the west aisle) of the Abbey. It commemorates William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705–93). Lord Chief Justice, and shows him, dressed in robes and wearing a wig, seated on a tall circular pedestal with Wisdom and Justice standing to the left and right. At the rear Death as a naked youth leans on an extinguished torch. The monument was erected by John Flaxman in 1801 at a cost of £2,500. (Pevsner (1973) i. 450–1).
Editor’s Note
26 Cobbett's critique of the Report of the Select Committee on Distress in Agriculture took up much of his Weekly Register between Sept. and Nov. 1821. The passage alluded to here (CPR 40 xvi (3 Nov.) 1821, 1043) refers to that section of the Report concerning rents, prices, and changes in the currency.
Editor’s Note
27 William Cobbett, The Beauties of Cobbett. London: H. Stemman, [1820?]. — pts. Extracts designed to discredit the author.
Editor’s Note
28 The principal Act of 1764 (4 Geo. III c. 24) had been further modified by the Act of 1802 (42 Geo. III c. 63), entitled: 'An Act to Authorise the Sending and Receiving of Letters and Packets, Votes, Proceedings of Parliament and Printed Newspapers by the Post …'
Editor’s Note
29 Cocculus indicus, the dried berries of Anamirta cocculus, found in Malabar and Ceylon. "The berry is a violent poison and has been used to stupefy fish, and in England to increase the intoxicating power of beer and porter.' (OED).
Editor’s Note
30 The quotations are from 'Eclogue the Second, Hassan; or, The Camel Driver' by William Collins (1721–59) (EP).
Editor’s Note
31 Poor Richard's Almanack was written and published annually by Benjamin Franklin (1706–90). Each issue contained a number of popular sayings and proverbs expressed in Franklin's own words. They were collected together and published in the issue for 1758 and subsequently reprinted under a variety of titles such as Father Abraham's Speech, The Way to Wealth, Poor Richard's Maxims etc. RS quoted from the work on 3 occasions in his letters and diary (25/12/21, 25/4/27 and 15/5/29).
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