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“I thank you for your good wishes on my birth-day. I cannot say I have not attained to the days of the age of my father, for he died in the 77th year of his age, and I have completed my 78th. In the course of this last year I have had four dangerous attacks. They have made a great alteration in me, and I am become very feeble and infirm. I still feel a degree of pain in my right side; I fear it is some relict of the pleurisy, of which I dread a return, for it was very painful. Whatever the cause of it be, the effect ought to be a memento to me to prepare for my leaving this world, which God grant I may do in his favour; though when I reflect that I was sent hither only as into a state of probation for a better and never ending life, and consider how the time has passed, I should tremble at the thought of death, but that I trust in the merits and sufferings of my Saviour, through whom I hope for salvation, and not through any merits of my own, for I have none. May you, my dear, live a better life than I have done, and though we should never see each other more in this world, may we hereafter meet in a better place. Mean while, may God bless you in all your undertakings, so prays
66 Your ever affectionate “ Bath, July 20th, 1784.”
Mrs. Bowdler survived her husband many years. She was (as has been already stated) daughter of Sir John Cotton, of Conington* in Huntingdonshire, and Stretton in Bedfordshire, the last baronet in the line of Bruce Cottons, and lineally descended
* This estate was granted by William the Conqueror to his niece Judith, and continued in her descendants in a right line till the death of Sir John Cotton in 1752.
from Sir Bernard de Brus, younger brother of Robert, one of the competitors for the crown of Scotland. This family was conspicuous for its tried attachment to sound principles in church and state, in the most adverse as well as the most prosperous times, and many of its members were distinguished by their learning and abilities. Sir Robert Cotton was one of the first baronets created by James I., and laid the foundation of that noble collection of manuscripts, which, being much increased by his son and grandson, was by the last presented to the public, and having suffered a considerable injury from a destructive fire in Palace Yard, was for its greater security deposited in the British Museum. Sir John Cotton, the grandson of the donor of the library, after losing two sons, (one of whom, a young man of uncommon merit, died of the smallpox in his twenty-fifth year,) left four daughters; Jane, married to Thomas Hart, Esq. of Warfield, whose only child, John Hart Cotton, left no family; Elizabeth Stuart, married to Thomas Bowdler, Esq.; Frances, who died unmarried ; and Mary, married to Basil, Earl of Denbigh, grandfather of the present Earl. The four sisters were much distinguished for elegant manners, polite accomplishments, and varied and extensive reading. Mrs. Bowdler had also great skill and taste in music. Having passed her early years in France, she became intimately acquainted with the French
language, in which she conversed and wrote with almost greater facility than in her native tongue. She was also well read in Italian, and had some knowledge of Latin and Hebrew. In France she acquired likewise many accomplishments, and an easy elegance of manner, which was uncommonly pleasing; but she retained her English principles and her English heart. At Angers, where her father chiefly resided, it was then the fashion to send young Englishmen of rank and fortune to finish their education. His hospitality, and the accomplishments of his daughters, made his house the resort of all the best society, both French and English, and the years spent there were always remembered by Mrs. Bowdler with peculiar delight. Such scenes are not, however, free from danger to the best tutored mind. She there contracted a friendship * with a young
* with a young French lady,
* This continued through the remainder of their lives, and Mrs. Bowdler was enabled, at a much later period, to contribute to the comfort of the friend of her youth, who, having been deprived, under the French Revolution, of a small pension from the King, which constituted her whole means of subsistence, was obliged to depend for support upon a faithful servant, who shared with her the scanty provision which his industry could procure. She gladly accepted some assistance from Mrs. Bowdler and her family, which was continued till her death, at the advanced age of ninety-seven. The following interesting letter was written by her, when she must have been eighty-three or eighty-four. The postscript was added by her servant.
Mademoiselle Despreaux, who was a few years older than herself, and strongly attached to the Romish faith. Mrs. Bowdler became thereby exposed to many endeavours to alter her principles;
“ Rien n'égale, ma bonne amie, la satisfaction que j'ai, du moyen que vous avez trouvé, de renouveller notre commerce. J'ai reçu votre seconde lettre par Liège à son temps de date, et quoique je ne vous en aie fait tous mes remercimens aussitôt, ce n'a pas été faute du désir le plus empressé de vous en témoigner ma reconnoissance. A l'égard de j'ignore comme vous les moyens de me faire passer ce que vous nommez, à moins que vous n'ayez quelques connoissances à Liège ou en Suisse, qui ayent un correspondance avec quelque banquier à Rome, ou à Paris. Voilà les seules ressources que je puisse imaginer dans la misérable position où je me trouve. Hélas ! Hélas ! cela aura-t-il une fin ? Dieu sur tout! Mon courage et ma confiance en sa providence croissent avec mes peines, et je mange le pain le plus bis sans dégout, mais nous n'en avons pas notre suffisance. Les autres denrées nous manquent; mais, trève à mes lamentations, je ne finirois
pas si je vous contois tous nos misères et les miens personels. Me revoilà retombée dans mes craintes pour mon pauvre gardien, Joseph, qui à l'heure que je parle, va peutêtre attrapper un billet noire, car on fait aujourd'hui une levée de troupes depuis 25 ans jusqu'à 40, et il ne les a pas. Ma ressource est dans la Providence, &c."
" De Joseph. “Enfin j'ai attrappé le billet blanc. La Providence m'a bien servi, car quel chagrin pour moi d'avoir été obligé d'abandonner Mademoiselle dans le tems qu'elle a le plus besoin de moi, et moi besoin d'elle. Enfin nous voilà encore une fois hors d'inquiétude. Dans trois semaines j'aurai attrappé 40 ans, si cela peut me mettre à l'abri je serai bien aise. Je vous remercie, Madame, de l'intérêt que vous voulez bien prendre à moi ; j'en ai toute la reconnoissance possible. Je fais arranger
and these were seconded by the arguments of a pious, but very artful Jesuit, who skilfully selected the points which were likely to receive some support from those notions of the authority and antiquity of the church, which she had imbibed. All these, however, were resisted with a firmness which, perhaps, few girls of eighteen could have exhibited. Her correspondence with the Jesuit is still preserved, and affords striking proof of early talent, much acquaintance with the points in dispute, as well as the greatest diffidence and humility. After her marriage, the superintendence of her domestic concerns, which she never permitted herself to neglect, and the education of her children, in which she had no assistance from a governess, seemed likely to furnish full employment for her time. Yet she found opportunity to pursue her private studies with unwearied application. “ I often look back with wonder as well as gratitude,” says one of those who enjoyed the privilege of being her scholar, “ on those years when I can account for the employment of every hour from eight in the morning till nine at night, and know not how it was possible for her to do
ma petite maison le mieux possible, pour que Mademoiselle y soit à son aise. Je suis avec toute la sensibilité et la reconnoissance possible de ce que Madame fait pour Mademoiselle ; elle n'a plus que cette ressource à present. J'ai l'honneur d'etre, &c."