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Letter:
Susanna Moodie to James Bird
Date:
April 09 1831
Collection:
Susanna Moodie Collection (National Archives of Canada)
ID:
3

Middleton Villa
Near The New River Head
April 9, 1831

My Dear Friend,

I received your poem, and the most kind communication that accompanied it, with equal pleasure. I have read Framlingham, with the conviction, that it will rather add to, than diminish your reputation, particularly in your native place. The story is the most interesting you have ever penned, but, upon the whole, I prefer the versification of Dunwich. Framlingham will be read with greater interest by most people, but there is something in the lonely grandeur of that fallen city which operates more powerfully upon my poetical feelings. There is nothing in Framlingham I think so good as the opening of the I and II Cantos of Dunwich, and its concluding lines. They were written in one of your happiest moments. I must scold you, (as you know I have turned critic) for dealing so much in extravagant metaphor with which you often spoil a fine passage by giving it a ludicrous cast. I refer you my dear Bard, to the four several descriptions of the speed of our hero and heroine's horses. The Earl of Stradbrooke would give half his estate for such a brace of racers. Your thoughts my friend often outspeed the wind, the lightening, the shooting stars and meteors, but I do not see why your horses' legs should perform miracles to keep pace with the vivid imagination of their Master. 'You are a pretty Damsel, Susy,' I hear you say, 'to find fault with me, when you leave such great windows of your own,' but, my friend, you are welcome to cast at me, that ugliest of all pebbles, a critical stone. That illnatured weapon of offensive, and defensive notoriety, has broken more hearts than you or I ever cracked nuts, for the life of me, I wish they were all pounded up in a mortar and appropriated by the turnpike surveyors to Macadamize the roads. I do not fear your censure, you and I friend Bird, have been too long acquainted to quarrel about trifles. I am heartily glad, that you altered your first plan, and instead of making Helen an only girl, bestowed upon her such a very charming brother. The picture of the old castle makes me long to visit the place, and now I repent me, that I so often refused to accompany you thither when at Yoxford. I feel little doubt as to the success, of the work, which I heartily wish may exceed your utmost expectations. As to my Enthusiasm, it begins to cool, and if the printers and editors, who have dawdled so long over it, do not quicken their movements, it will soon be extinguished altogether.1 Like a glass of evaporated soda water.

     Tell dearest Emma, a piece of now old news, that I was on the 4th instant at St. Pancras Church made the happiest girl on earth, in being united to the beloved being in whom I had long centred all my affections.2 Mr. Pringle 'gave me' away, and Black Mary, who had treated herself with a complete new suit upon the occasion, went on the coach box, to see her dear Missie and Biographer wed. I assure you, that instead of feeling the least regret at the step I was taking, if a tear trembled in my eyes, it was one of joy, and I pronounced the fatal obey, with a firm determination to keep it. My blue stockings, since I became a wife, have turned so pale that I think they will soon quite white, or at least only tinged with a hue of London smoke. We are settled in very pleasant lodgings, only a few minutes walk from Mr. Pringle's. I have a large, airy, well furnished sitting room, and a very pretty comfortable chamber. The house is entitled Middleton Villa. A pretty name you will say, and vastly romantic. I am perfectly satisfied with my quarters, and am indeed very happy, in the society of my dear and talented partner. By the by dear friend, I have hardly learned my new name, and it is often twice repeated before I recollect that it is my fortune to be a Miss no longer (a miss of fortune I might have said). My dear Katy was with me today, she looks, but so so. Mrs. Harral has been annoying her in the most unwomanly way, and to shew her spite put the announcement of Katy and Frank's marriage into the Globe in which she called him Thomas Harral Apothecary, and Mr. Moodie – John Moodie. K__ will I doubt not inform you on her return of all her wickedness.3 I agree with you, that authors are not the most impartial creates in the world. That they are gossips in their way, and often attack the works and character of a successful rival with a degree of asperity which would shame an old maid of 50 while discussing the features of a pretty girl of eighteen.

     Yet, there is to me a charm in literary society which none other can give, were it only for the sake of studying more closely the imperfections of temper and the curious manner in which vanity displays itself in persons of superior mind and intellect. With the latter I consider the heart has little to do. Mr. Martin improves upon acquaintance. I begin to think him a very fascinating man. Have you seen the first number of the Englishman's Mag.4 and what do you think of it? I am much pleased with its contents, and heartily wish that it may succeed. I send you twenty copies of Mary's History, and 2 of Ashton Warner. If you can in the way of trade dispose of them, I should feel obliged. I have begun the pudding and dumpling discussions, and now find, that the noble art of housewifery is more to be desired than all the accomplishments, which are to be retailed by the literary and fashionable damsels who frequent these envied circles. I am glad that I am not forgotten. Give my love to dear Emma, to my boy5 and all the bairns. Not forgetting the rest of my old friends in La Belle Village, and believe me, 'tho' with a new name,

Your old friend
Susanna Moodie

Notes

1. Enthusiasm finally appeared in April or early May as it was reviewed in the Literary Gazette on 21 May 1831.

2. Catharine wrote to James Bird on 6 April 1831: 'our dear Susanna was married last Monday April the 4th to J. Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie on his Majesty's 21st regiment of fusileers. What do you now think of the vagaries of woman kind? ... The dear girl kept up her spirits pretty well though at times a shade of care came over her brow but she rallied as much as possible ... I feel assured that they stand as good a chance for domestic happiness as any two persons I know of.' (Glyde, Public Records Office, Ipswich)

3. Catharine's engagement to Harral's son, Francis, was thwarted by their lack of income and by his mother's interference. In her letter of 12 May 1831, Agnes writes: 'Some malignant person, Mrs. Harral I suspect, put a hoaxing announcement of the event into the "Globe," And not contented with that, announced poor Kitty's marriage as well; but I understand it has been formally contradicted by the editor since.' (Glyde)

4. The Englishman's Magazine, published by E. Moxon, first appeared in April 1831 and lasted for only six numbers; edited by Leitch Ritchie, it had a deliberate anti-slavery policy, 'tak[ing] Liberty as handmaid and oppos[ing] slavery.'

5. Walter Bird, her godchild (see Letter 5)

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