George Canning Is My Son

By Julian Crowe

A new biography of the remarkable Mary Ann Hunn.

Angry and dismayed at her son George’s refusal to receive her as part of his household, Mary Ann wrote him a 65,000 word letter explaining and justifying those actions which he claimed made her unfit company for his wife and children. Her letter, known as ‘the Packet’, is the principal source for the first 27 chapters of the book, and the first 53 years of Mary Ann’s life. This chapter covers the twenty weeks that it took her to complete the task. It summarises her arguments and gives examples of her writing style.

Chapter 28: The Packet, January to June, 1803

‘My Beloved George,’ she began. ‘At last I have acquired courage to sit down to the task which I have so long meditated.’ Courage was needed to face uncomfortable truths, and because so much hung upon the reaction of her one reader, beloved George. The ‘Injured Woman’ letters of 1776 demonstrated Mary Ann’s capacity for special pleading and her skill at marshalling facts. Back then she had concentrated on the events of just a few days. Now she had a whole lifetime to work with, to present in such a light that George would have to withdraw the charge that it would be ‘contamination to suffer his wife to visit her’. All the injustices she had suffered would be cancelled if she could only enjoy ‘the Embrace of Nature’. Like many of the phrases she and George used, this is more impressive than precise. It sounds as though she were asking just a limited thing – a meeting, a sight of her grandchildren, an embrace, nothing more substantial – but the phrase stood for a future in which she would enjoy her natural place in the life of his family.

Without losing sight of her purpose, Mary Ann clearly enjoyed the process of remembering and writing. She enjoyed the performance. It was her birthday, 27 January, and her opening paragraph at once presents an intriguing mystery: ‘This day completes my Fifty third (or Fifty Sixth— for I am not sure which) year ...’ And the letter goes rattling on for another 65,000 words of anecdote, revelation and rhetorical appeal, until some twenty weeks later she brought her ‘long and heartbreaking manuscript’ to a close, writing the final paragraphs to the accompaniment of a summer thunderstorm. The events were often painful, rousing her to indignation or wringing tears from her eyes, but still there was pleasure to be had in recalling incidents, turns of phrase and snatches of conversation. She took pride in her professional skill, her ability to face facts, her self-reliance and resilience under the buffeting of events; she was vain enough to enjoy placing herself at the centre of things, persecuted by the mighty, suffering the enmity even of the king himself, calm and strong in a crisis. There was artistic satisfaction too. The letter was written with almost no revisions or corrections – a few words changed or added above the line, a single sheet inserted with a newly recalled incident, a final section added after a break of two months – but for all its spontaneity it is a well-crafted production. She knew how to tell a story, hold an audience, and play upon her reader’s feelings.

She wrote long into the night. On that first day she poured out some 4600 words, describing her mother’s origins and marriage, and the difficulties of the Costellos’ life in Dublin, and bringing the story down to the point where she was herself installed in the Guy-Dickens household. She quickly became engrossed as she recalled her childhood and pieced together scraps of family-history picked up from her parents. Her own part in events naturally dominated the narrative: she brought about the reconciliation with her mother’s foster-parents, the Smiths; she worked with her needle to earn comforts for the family; she took the initiative in tracing her grandfather and throwing herself on his protection. Picturing herself as she was when she left Dublin, an innocent girl, she felt a sudden surge of indignation: she was still innocent, her heart was still pure. ‘I have been, I repeat it, the Victim of too much feeling,’ she wrote, picking up the idea from the she-tragedies she knew so well, ‘but guilt I never knew — yet — had I been the vilest — the most depraved of all human beings, what punishment coud have been prepared for me keener than what is implied in your Conduct?’ She apologised for the digression, admitted she was tired after writing so long, and promised to go to bed when she reached the end of her current sheet.

In the course of the next ten days, despite frequent interruptions, she produced a further eight thousand words. Mary begged her to visit, insisting on a family meal on Sundays. Maria, now fifteen and less docile than her sister, was installed in Tufton Street and Mary Ann found she could only work on the letter at night or when she managed to persuade Maria to go round to Millbank Row. She kept her project secret from her daughters, although they suspected she was up to something, and that it had to do with George. At the same time she kept up her regular weekly correspondence with George, and also attended to the ointment business and saw to furnishing her new house. George paid occasional visits, and was aware that she was writing something out of the ordinary. He referred ruefully to the expected ‘packet’ that he would have to read and reply to.

The flow of her story-telling was not disturbed by the interruptions. She described her life with the Guy-Dickens family, her trips to Bath, the attempted seduction by Zephaniah Holwell, the offers of marriage. She reached the summer of 1767 and her daily journey with her aunt to Islington. She laughed again at the self-satisfied and dull-witted Mr Rash – ‘He sometimes attempted to mark his attention to me — but I laugh’d, & he was dumb’ – and then there came the momentous moment for which she took a new sheet and a new pen: ‘Two new Comers attracted our Notice – One look’d like a man of science – or of the better order of Traders – the other – God of Heaven! – the other was your Father!’

Now and then she inserts the current date, enabling us to trace the progress of her work. By the end of the first week in February she had described her courtship and marriage, the birth and death of Laetitia, and the birth of George, ‘the Delight, the Blessing of my fond Heart’. One evening she was deep in the story of her husband’s early struggles, his ill-treatment by his father and the reckless idealism of his anti-government pamphlets, when she broke off. It was late at night, and her recollections had taken an unpleasant turn. Her romantic picture of her husband as the brave and principled victim of his father’s malice and the king’s resentment was suddenly clouded as she recalled another side of his character, his secretiveness, his insistence on unquestioning obedience. ‘He had some of his father’s Illness,’ she concluded, ‘although the deference I paid to his will generally averted its influence from me.’

Next day she was ill, with pains in her face and head, quite probably the result of writing so long into the night. The trouble persisted for the rest of the month. At times she lay in her room, unable to read or write. When her condition improved the exceptionally cold and stormy weather kept her indoors. On some days it was too wet to send Maria round to Millbank Row, but her illness gave her the excuse to shut herself away and carry on without being observed. It was also a spur: she was afraid of dying before completing the task. She had reached the most difficult point in her narrative. 

After describing her widowhood, the callousness of her father-in-law, and her efforts to find an income, she had to account for the events which had separated her from George: her decision to go on the stage and her liaison with Reddish. Special care was needed over the presentation of these two fatal steps. She admitted not the slightest hint that she had hankered after the excitement and satisfaction of an actor’s life, or that she had slept with Reddish because she fell in love with him. There must be nothing to lend credence to Stratty’s dreadful verdict, that she had all the time consulted her own immediate pleasure and satisfaction. Her argument was that she had been driven by circumstances. With no friends or family to advise her or support her and her children, she had to grasp anything that came her way, and when every other opening proved illusory the opportunity offered by Garrick was too good to refuse. Since she took it for granted that George would agree that the alternative occupations suggested by Mehitabel, keeping a shop or employment as a higher nursemaid, were impossible for the wife of one George Canning and the mother of another, she must have felt she had made her first point effectively enough.

She was on shakier ground when she went on to suggest that she couldn’t help taking Reddish as a lover and protector, tracing this decision also back to the loss of Stratty’s support. As the ‘dear and sacred prop of Fraternal Affection’ was withdrawn, ‘what was I to do? My Heart wanted a resting place’. This admission that Reddish had taken Stratty’s place in her heart was the closest she came to admitting that she had followed her affections. It was dangerous ground. It was safer to imply that her liaison had followed inevitably upon that fatal first step of going on the stage. She’d been lonely, an innocent in the sophisticated world of the theatre, exposed to the hostility of regular members of the company and the ‘intricacies’ of green-room politics; Reddish had helped her, praised her, advised her, when everyone else had deserted her. She yielded to his ‘assiduities’, not through any ‘foul or unworthy’ motive or ‘coarse passion’. After a digression describing her brief acquaintance with Charles Phipps in Dulwich, she returned to the origin of her liaison with Reddish, summing it up without any tinge of passion:

I saw that my point in life was fixed — and as I had no doubt of an Engagement, tho I coud not guess how productive it might be — I was not irrational in concluding that my Interest woud be secured by having the protection of a person who knew what every portion of merit deserved, & woud probably be able to make the best bargain when a permanent Engagement was to be made 

She further blurred the issue by her vagueness about the sequence of events, implying first of all that she accepted Garrick’s offer of work only when entirely deserted, whereas in fact she remained on reasonable terms with Clements Lane even after Jane Shore; and then claiming both that she eloped to Scotland with Reddish because she was isolated in the theatre, and that her isolation was caused by the malicious gossip arising from her elopement. This imprecision was not necessarily a deliberate tactic. Her motives at the time must have been confused, and the passage of thirty years is unlikely to have made them any less so. Although her memory for incidents was clear, it was another thing to place them in a neat sequence of cause and effect. Her claim to have been abandoned by Stratty before she started at Drury Lane was an exaggeration, but not entirely false. With his marriage to Mehitabel, Stratty inevitably withdrew somewhat from Mary Ann’s life; seeing what the future must hold for her, she felt obliged to seek work, and when she found it in the theatre, this accelerated the process of alienation. Similarly, her early association with Reddish following her first appearance as Jane Shore gave rise to gossip, which pushed her more and more towards him, until the salacious speculations of the rumour-mongers became a reality.

Mary Ann recalled her sense of achievement in providing for her family by her own labours, and her admiration of Reddish’s professional talent, but for the most part she was content to describe her actions of thirty years before in neutral, practical terms, with little indication of what she thought or felt about them. She wrote nothing of the thrill and glamour of the theatre, the excitement of working with David Garrick, or the intellectual challenge of learning her lines, understanding her roles, and becoming initiated in the mysteries of her profession. She wrote of Reddish’s attention to her during her illness, of his ‘assiduities’, and his care and attention to George, but nothing of his good looks, his lavish generosity, the flattery of his attentions. Beyond that brief reference to her heart seeking a resting place she gave no hint of the passions and desires of a young woman whose sexual nature had been first aroused in her brief marriage to an experienced and demanding sensualist. 

She was similarly reticent in what she wrote about her relationship with Stratty. She recalled how he had lightened the gloom of life with her sick and moody husband, and supported her during the first years of her widowhood, attempting ineffectually to combat Mehitabel’s animosity towards her, but in all these recollections he was always her brother, his affection for her always fraternal. There was no question of their marrying – marriage to a dead husband’s brother was against both the law and the teaching of the church – but the story of Marianne Clement in The Offspring of Fancy makes it clear that Mary Ann had contemplated what might have been if she had become Stratty’s wife. The relationship of Mehitabel, Stratty and Mary Ann was troubled from the start by money problems and differences of class and education, and later on by the trauma of Mary Ann’s sacrifice of her child, but at root it was a love triangle. When Mehitabel expressed frustration at her delayed marriage she was not merely exasperated at Stratty’s indecisiveness or anxious about the expense of supporting Mary Ann, but jealous of the sexual hold exercised by her more sophisticated rival.

Mary Ann’s long letter is full of passion, but for the most part it is the passion of an injured mother. She is largely quiet about the passions that drove her in her youth. This was partly for the sake of decorum, partly in order to assert her innocence, but also because the passions had faded, making it hard to take seriously her sentimental yearning for Stratty or her infatuation with Reddish, easier to think of it all as a matter of putting food on the table, of sustaining her position in the theatre, of keeping going. At fifty-three, weary and depressed, these were the things she found most real. But in the second week of March, after 164 pages, when she thought she was near the end of her ‘heartrending task’, suddenly new recollections flooded her mind. The antagonisms of her youth sprang to life. Recalling that one of George’s reasons for wanting her to leave London was to prevent her coming into contact with his aunts, she launched into a ferocious attack on Mehitabel, accusing her of having from the outset done everything in her power to alienate George from his mother and even of having plotted to capture him as a husband for her daughter Bess. To Mehitabel, she wrote, she owed ‘every Misery of my Life since the year 1772.’ 

Exhausted, and perhaps shocked at this sudden vehemence, she brought her account to an end. There were still many things she might have written, new episodes from her long and troubled history which might have made George see things her way, but it was too late; she lacked the patience and energy to re-cast her letter; it must stand as it was. She moved to her final appeal. Having told her story as best she could she begged George to consider the sufferings that drove her to act as she did, and to judge her mercifully. She went further: he should not be judging her at all. She recalled the conversation between Stratty and her husband on the subject of the Scots, whom George Canning senior regarded as a hateful, selfish people. Perhaps Mary Ann recalled as she wrote this that her daughter-in-law Joan was from Scotland, but the point of the anecdote was to repeat her husband’s saying about James VI: ‘Mary was his Mother … and by every Law of God and Nature he was her Defender – not her Judge.’ 

Then she went further still, risking an allusion to the passions that had swept her into Reddish’s arms. She admitted that she had erred, but it was error without guilt: ‘I was neither impel’d nor guided by Guilt – my Heart was Pure.’ This was the plea of Amelia in The Offspring of Fancy, who erred, but without criminality or guilt, because she was guided only by Nature, by feeling. Women like Amelia are, in the formula of Jane Shore, ‘Sense and Nature’s easy fool’, or in Mary Wollstonecraft’s more sympathetic words, ‘dupes of a sincere, affectionate heart’. Passions could be terrible and destructive, they could drive women to error, but hers had been natural, sincere, affectionate. As she recalled her husband’s denunciation of cold-hearted King James, Mary Ann must also have remembered his lectures on love. Hard though it was, after thirty years, to recall the feelings that had animated her in her twenties, when she insisted that her heart was pure she was doing more than claiming to have been driven by practical necessity. She couldn’t say it to George – it would sound too much like seeking her own pleasure – and most of the time she hardly admitted it to herself, but now, as she summed up her arguments, she stole a glimpse at her younger self and recognised that she and Reddish had been moved (to borrow the words from her husband’s letters) by ‘those sources of inexpressible delight: our sympathetick Hearts’.

The justification of her decisions forms the main argument of the Packet. Another part of her case was to assert the importance of family ties, both by rhetorical appeals to the God of Nature, and by carefully chosen examples of filial duty. She criticised her own parents, but continued to love them and work for them. Her husband was appallingly treated by the old people of Abbey Street, but, she said, never lost his love and reverence for them. In particular, it had gone without question that his mother should be godmother of their first child, Laetitia. ‘Nature was his guide.’ The story of King James epitomised her husband’s uncompromising views on a son’s obligation. Mary Ann writes of the joy she took in George from the time of his birth, of the love and care she had bestowed on him – all of which, so long as Nature was his guide, he had amply repaid. In her letters over the preceding year she had accused him of changing towards her out of false pride. Now she suspected something more, something for which ‘Nature knows no name’; she suspected that ‘some imperious and irresistible influence must have counteracted Nature’s Laws’. It’s as though she understood the compact he had made with Joan’s family in his letter to Lady Jane Dundas.

It was, in a sense, unnecessary to assert the sacred duty of a son to his mother; George accepted it, and repeatedly asserted that his obligations to her were the first concern of his life. From childhood he had been taught to sign his letters to her as ‘ever my dear Mother’s affectionate and dutiful son’. To Mary Ann this conventional formula seemed increasingly hollow. He did his duty so far as her material needs were concerned, but his affection went no further than the occasional grudging visit and his hurried weekly scrawl. All he did, as she said at the beginning of the Packet, was done out of cold charity and duty. But as she nears her conclusion she admits, in one of the most powerful passages, that she cannot be angry with him:

For you my beloved George, I have preserved an Affection that even the unexpected harshnesses of the last three years cannot weaken — and if I am Sensible of any thing like injustice in myself, it is a good consciousness that had any other of my Children acted exactly in the same way — what I now feel of regret — woud have been anger & resentment — I cannot be angry with you; my brain woud not sustain a conflict so dreadfull — as the process of rooting out all the fondness, all the pride, all the enthusiasm of Thirty Three years, and placing anger in the desolate region of a bankrupt heart

The peroration of her letter was written in March against the background of new quarrels. George was busy, his time divided between political manoeuvring in London, supervising building work at South Hill, and visiting his family at Welbeck. He shrank from calling on Mary Ann. On the last day of February, following an acrimonious letter from her, he actually turned back on his way to Tufton Street. It’s not clear what this was about, but she interrupted work on the Packet to complain of a letter which was ‘of a Complexion, which for your sake I hope will not meet again the Eye of a Mother — For the present Adieu to Narrative’. A few days later he was passing through London again and made a brief visit, in the course of which he said things that led to another furious exchange.

It seemed trivial. For some years now Mary Ann had been receiving a pro-government newspaper, The True Briton, from George’s newsman. George kept the newsman informed of Mary Ann’s changes of address. He didn’t want her to contact the man herself, and had been annoyed once before when she had done so. Now Richard Thompson, possibly with George’s assistance, had acquired an interest in a rival, The Oracle, and Mary Ann wanted to support her son-in-law by changing to his paper. She mentioned her intention in the course of George’s visit. He was put out and told her crossly that on no account was she to write to his newsman, in his name, to make the change. She was so hurt by his peremptory tone that when he had gone she once more left off the task of winding up her Packet in order to compose a bitter remonstrance. How could he have spoken to her so roughly and angrily? Why did he suppose she was about to write to his newsman? Couldn’t he trust her not to make use of his name? If it mattered so much, why hadn’t he mentioned it before, and why didn’t he explain clearly? She wrote at such length that when he received her letter he thought it was the long-promised packet. Confused by her unexpected fury, he composed a careful response consisting of three numbered points, concluding that if she didn’t understand why she was not to contact his newsman he couldn’t explain further and she would have to take his word for it. ‘I should have believed – (had not the event disappointed me) that my mother would take my word without explanation,’ he wrote, in a manner that recalled his father, and his father’s father – the Canning ‘Illness’.

What he was not prepared to tell her was that the True Briton was financed by the government, and the copy she received was one of the many hundreds bought by the government in order to keep the paper afloat. Since the beginning of the Addington administration the paper had followed Pitt’s line of supporting the new government, but in the course of 1803 it moved towards demanding the return of Pitt, a change that George approved of, and may have been instrumental in bringing about. The goings-on at the True Briton were closely watched by opponents such as William Cobbett, and it could have been embarrassing if it got about that a subscription to the paper in his name had been cancelled. Without this explanation, the incident confirmed everything Mary Ann suspected about his changed feelings towards her. If he could treat his mother like this it proved that his grand marriage and new-found wealth and position had made him proud.

The weather was bitter in the middle of March. George, staying at Lothian’s Hotel during the Parliamentary session, was confined to his room by ‘la grippe’. Mary Ann, after a sociable evening with William Thompson and his wife, was hurrying out to a waiting coach when she slipped on newly fallen snow, knocking her head against the stone steps. Dr Thompson examined her and established that her skull was not broken, but for a day she found herself unable to put the finishing touches to her letter. Once she had recovered enough to read and write she was impatient to get the packet off her hands, becoming increasingly irritated by the demands made on her time by Maria and the Thompsons. She did not want to make any changes, but still she feared to draw her story to a close. Ending it, she said, would be ‘like drawing an important bolt — that may either open wider the door of our intercourse, or close it for Ever’. The result depended on George, and she begged him to consider carefully before he responded. 

She repeated the two complaints that had precipitated her writing of the Packet (his failure to visit on her birthday, and the despatch of his children to Welbeck) and then added some inconclusive remarks about her plans, emphasising that she saw her future lying in London, close to Mary, though not living with her. Alluding indirectly to the recent quarrel, she told George how well the Oracle was doing. None of this was relevant to the grand theme of her letter, and when she could postpone the end no longer she wrote a conclusion of great dignity and grace.

I know not that I have any thing more to say — but my heart lingers on the momentous subject, and clings to it, as a sort of link of the chain that binds us to each other — and I fear to snap it rudely, lest it never shoud close again — but I must release you — This consideration decides — and I will say farewell!— May all the fondness my Heart treasures for you, support me under the consequences whatever they may be! And my prayers be heard with mercy proportioned to the Zeal that offers them for every Blessing on your beloved head — and on those you love!— Accept that blessing my Darling George, & believe that Never Mother loved a Son — as you are loved by your Ever Aff: Mother!—

When George was fully recovered from his cold he called on her and took delivery of the packet, promising to read it as soon as he found time to be alone with it. He expected to have an opportunity on the journey to Welbeck, but it turned out that he had to travel by night, so the chore was postponed. Six weeks went by and he still hadn’t found the right moment. In May, as she thought of the packet lying unread in George’s desk, Mary Ann wondered anxiously whether she could add or change anything to make her story more persuasive, and eventually asked him to return the packet. Now she looked at it on her own desk, hesitating to open it, until she heard that George was planning to go out of Town, so that if she was to make any changes it would have to be done soon. 

Re-reading the story was, she said, a dreadful task, but on the whole she was satisfied with it. She added a few words here and there, inserted a sheet about The Offspring of Fancy and her dealings with William Flyn, and planned to add a few sheets at the end. She began this new section by begging to be allowed to stay in her house, even though the Thompsons, whose proximity in Milbank Row was her original reason for choosing Tufton Street, were planning to move to the southern suburb of Kennington. All her life, she said, she had been driven from place to place, never able to settle; now she had a house and garden that pleased her, and she hoped to stay in peace. Whatever one might think of her larger claims, this plea for peace after her turbulent life seems unanswerable. But she knew what George’s answer would be, and she feared to hear it. ‘Oh my George! When at this period of the year 1770 you hung at my fond Bosom – drew the Supply of your precious life from mine and clasp’d in my supporting Arms – look’d in my delighted face conscious of the sweet gratification which as Natures delegate I administered to you – who coud have foreseen that at this day I shoud fear to meet you!’ But in the middle of this emotional outburst she was interrupted, and a further fortnight passed before she took up her pen again.

In the interim she had come across some old letters, including the one written by Mehitabel which put an end to the negotiation with the Misses Gore, and which now provided a further cue to reflect on the coarseness of Mehitabel’s mind. She had also seen George, and he had been kind to her. He had even seemed to take pleasure in her company, staying with her for an hour, well beyond the time he had stipulated. Ever alert to slights, she was no less eager to recognise kindness. He also told her that if she wanted him to take the packet with him into the country it would have to be ready by 10 June. On the eighth, therefore, she resumed her task. His unexpected kindness precipitated a cascade of disjointed sentences encapsulating her whole argument:

In the middle of the last sentence I was interrupted, and forced to lay aside my pen –– since that I have seen you – and I think with kinder looks than I have lately met with – my heart expanded with delight when I found you had pass’d more than an hour with me – how often it shoud seem, I might have such indulgence, and neither God nor Man offended! – but I will not ask, what is so much sweeter when volunteer’d – I am sure, my Hearts own transcript, your natural course coud not have been easily turn’d aside – form’d with every gentle, every affectionate propensity – I saw you – all my breaking heart coud pray for, and with reluctance that was too prophetic, I yielded your Infancy to the forming hands of – but what coud I do? – It was not for their sakes – but for yours – your Education – the cultivation of those talents in which my proud heart delighted, and all my future glory was anticipated – that was the price of my fatal acquiescence – Well, well, to you it has been as profitable as to me it has been fatal – I was not sure your Mind would be poison’d – your Affection, your pious fondness for me – taught to tread the mere cold path of duty – that to give me bread – a Nurses claim, would be the prescribed conduct of a darling Child to a Mother whose bitterest Enemies coud not charge with a want of a Mothers love for you – I am going over ground which I have already trodden bare – I did not intend to return to it again – but the discovery of those letters which I have not seen for years, has brought back recollections, which I had either lost, or which time had weaken’d & obscured – in some of your Uncles, I find references to facts that will act as a sort of interpretation of some parts of my History – but I had quite forgotten Miss Patricks kind advice respecting my seeking for a place in some family, as a sort of Upper nurse maid – she thought it would be very eligible – and I now remember she mention’d as an inducement, that there were many families, such as the Duchess of Ancaster or Lady Jane coud recommend me to, where it woud not be necessary perhaps for me to dine with the servants – this was whilst she was in London – I saw poor Strattys lip quiver and then pale; so I let it pass

The most material addition that she made to her story was a circumstantial account of the offer made in 1793 by the West Indian merchant, Mr Mercier. This incident showed how axiomatic it had always been in her mind that it was unthinkable to enter any form of domestic service, however dignified, and so reinforced her argument that there really had been no alternative to the stage.

On the ninth it was raining too hard for Maria to leave the house, so Mary Ann made an excuse to retire to her room, to round off her letter. She summarised again the current state of the ointment business, in order, she said, to assure him that she would be able in the future to maintain herself and discharge her debts without his help. She was almost dismissive:

You have been the best of Sons – and tho I had rather have held your affection and Esteem for my advocates within your pious breast – than mere duty and the portion of Natural affection inseparable from it – and if I may so express myself – have felt it more an equal communication than a dependant good – yet under whatever colour – I bless you for your conduct to me and mine – and when I sometimes regret the burdens I have been, and have brought upon you, I feel a counter argument in the opportunity it has afforded to the heightening of your Character, and the exercise of your Virtues – Heaven has rewarded your pious works, with every Species of Earthly blessing; and even shoud some of those blessings take a temporary flight – the hand that guides this vast Machine will point your way to such comforts and consolations as only the good & virtuous can taste here, and hope for hereafter.

The rain continued to pour down and there was thunder as the summer day came to an end. She summed up her blessings, her joy in her new grandchildren, Mary’s twin daughters, and her own resilient nature with its predisposition to be happy, but then the thought of her separation from him came back to her, undermining her peace of mind and threatening to embitter the love and duty she owed to her other children. But no, she would not re-open the great issue between them. She drew her letter abruptly to a close, reminding him that she was about to leave London for a few weeks in Devonshire, asking him visit Mary and Maria, and finally calling on him to ‘pity the hard Fate of your Ever affectionate Mother!!!’ – echoing that plaintive epilogue: ‘Be kind at last and pity poor Jane Shore.’

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