SOMERVILLE William - Autograph Letter Signed 1828 discussing medicine and family matters
William SOMERVILLE (1771-1860)Autograph Letter Signed (“W Somerville”) to Mrs. Hodson in Ripon, remarking on his views of medicine, and giving news of his daughters.
3¼ pages 4to with address leaf, 6 Curzon Street, 2 February 1828.
“I have now had an opportunity of making earnest and anxious enquiry about you and we have rejoiced to hear that your health has . . . improved, which must entirely proceed from your escape from the hands of bad doctors – the French you know are fond of new names, & the jack o’lantern which has tickled the imaginative of their physicians for some time is . . . la medicine expectante – this was my system of practice, with regard to you, and which has been known and followed, I apprehend by all conscientious & experienced men under the less ostentatious title of hands off – a principle which it is for the patients benefit to follow same & except when the medecins sees valid grounds for more energetic measures. Long may you keep out of all our systems. Thanks many thanks for your very kind invitation, & you may rely upon our meeting it in the spirit in which it is made, if it should be our fate again to revisit our nation woodlands wild, we shall assuredly come to your door in the hope of being admitted & presented to your husband, whose acquaintance we shall be most happy to make. Alas! the Fell-foot, now like a tale that is told, a subject of recollections pleasing yet mournful. No house that received that intellectual society has ever an open door. Since the irreparable loss of Mrs. Dixon[?], Miss Stubbs’[?] death has been the severest blow - & to us especially. She was in the habit of spending a quiet day at Chelsea & enjoyed it – which delighted us, because we thought we had contributed to the happiness of a valuable friend, pulled down by many cares. In the Scotch Kirks when the bell is rung on Sabbath morning to assemble the worshipers, towards the close of ringing the bell man makes the clapper move very rapidly – what is called ringing in [missing word] admonition to hasten the tardy. [missing word] as we go [missing word/s] life – one perceives the ringing [missing word] of friends [missing word] to very many. She is perhaps [missing word] most unchangeable being you ever knew – Steadiness itself – one whose lips the breath of slander never passed, one who is irascible only if an absent friend is attacked. This is a pretty history for a husband to write – but who knows it so well. You are one of those who have daily appreciated her worth. She devotes her morning to teaching our two darlings & the rest of her time to . . . application, finding abundance of leisure for duties & social intercourse. The girls are doing well to a wish. Martha, 12 last novr. has finished one book of Homer – 5 of Virgil – 2 of Euclid – reads German French & Italian well – and is as good a child and as simple a child as any of her age Mary is advanced in preparation, & both have good stock of every day useful knowledge. I will only add that if any thing seems to you in which you think I can be of use to you in any way, pray command me.
Let me beg of you to make our united and kind regards to your husband – who shall have brevet rank of friendship from your standing in our affections.”
The distinguished physician William Somerville was equally remarkable in his day for his enlightened encouragement of his wife’s mathematical and scientific work. William and Mary Somerville were well acquainted with some of the most interesting writers, artists and thinkers of their day, including Ada Lovelace, Sir Walter Scott and JMW Turner.
The identity of Somerville’s correspondent is uncertain, but it may perhaps have been the writer Margaret Holford, who was at this date married to the Reverend Septimus Hodson and who was, like the Somervilles, a good friend of Joanna Baillie. The Reverend Hodson died in 1833 and was buried near Ripon.
The letter has been torn in two places when it was unsealed, resulting in the loss of some words, as noted in the transcript. It has been annotated, incorrectly, on the address leaf as being from “Mrs. Somerville”.
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