To Lady Olivia Sparrow, [20? October 1815] [incomplete]

To: No name
Address: None
Stamped: None
Postmark: None
Seal: None
Watermarks: Undetermined


MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 ff. 40-1
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

I have delayed writing from day to day till it should please our gracious father to determine the fate of our beloved Mrs. Thornton. That afflicting event has now taken place near a week, and yet I have not had the heart to write. [2] You doubtless have been informed by the same kind hand with myself, of the fatal progress and final termination! God’s will be done! This we must not only say but submissively assent to under dispensations the most trying. And surely the removal of our dear friend is a very trying as well as Mysterious dispensation. To herself the charge is most blessed. To her children the loss is most irreparable. Poor dear Orphans! little did we think a year ago of this double bereavement! but let us bless the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ that he enabled this suffering friend to bear her dying testimony to his faithfulness and truth . Never was a sweeter death than that so feelingly painted by Mr. Wilberforce How strong must have been that faith which not only lifted her so much above all worldly considerations /but/ which enabled /her/ to commit her beloved children, about whom her anxiety had been so excessive, to the father of the fatherless. It has pleased God to raise them, among many friends, Mr. and Mrs. Inglis to whose care she consigned, and who have generously accepted the charge. They are peculiarly fitted for the purpose, sensible, pious, amiable, strongly attached to the Thorntons and without children of their own. Thus is the saying illustrated that the Seed of the Righteous shall never be forsaken.[3] My opinion is that Mrs. T is dead of suppressed grief. She reminds me of part of an Epitaph I have seen, only changing the word day for Year

One year she tried
To live without him, liked it not and died.[4]

Marianne’s behaviour is angelic. God has put great honour on that dear Girl by making her, at such an early age an example of heroic piety.[5] May this event be sanctified to us all!

Your dear Son is in perfect health , and I believe going on as well as can be. I have seen him twice lately. I never saw him appear to such advantage as on his last visit. He was without his Mentor, and obliged to take an equal share in the conversation, which he did with spirit and good sense and modesty on general topics.

My heart is not much in tune for indifferent subjects or I could give you a large account of two visits we had from Sir Gore Ouseley the Ambass[ad]or on his arrival from Persia. It was the more obliging as we were not acquainted before. I think I never was so entertained by any conversation, as he was over flowing with information from a court and Country of which we know almost nothing. His manners peculiarly pleasing, as was his narration of his carrying the new Testament to the king of Persia and the favourable reception it met with He paints the people as uniformly treacherous, deceitful and base, and seems to think the king almost the only man of sense and honour. Perhaps you will not think it a great proof of either that he has 500 Wives, 50 Sons and 132 daughters!![6] I wish you were here that I might give you the details.

I spent a few days with the Bishop of Gloucester who is going on like an Angel. We are expecting him here. Has Mr. Gisborne’s Letter to said Bishop on the Bible Society yet reached Ireland?[7] It is a Master piece, for argument for eloquence truth and Spirit. It will make some people wince

Harriet Bowdler has been staying here. She is going to meet dear Mary Gisborne at Mr. Bowdlers the father of our lamented friend near Town. I fear, owing to the prejudices of this father, the much desired Memoir by Ld. Calthorpe and Mr. Inglis does not proceed. [8] What a pity! Doubtless Mrs. Henry and Miss Gisborne had promised themselves a sadly pleasing meeting. But a higher interview I trust has taken place between our dear departed with her own husband and the lover of her friend.[9]

Yesterday was quite an Irish day as it brought me letters from the Archbishop of Cashel,[10] Knox, Jebb and Lady Lifford.[11] The latter was happy in the expectation of Lady O. Sparrow the next day. The Archp. gives but a gloomy picture of the state of his part of Ireland! I was sorry to see both Knox and Jebb date from Cashel or Limerick, as it makes me fear you missed them at Bellevue, but I hope not.


The letter is dated as the 20 October because of More’s reference to the death of Marianne Sykes Thornton having ‘taken place near a week’. She died on 14 October, making the 20th a plausible date.


Marianne Sykes Thornton’s health had been in decline since the death of her husband Henry in January 1815.


From Psalm 37:25, ‘I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’


The epitaph was written by Sir Henry Wotton in 1628 on the death of the wife of his nephew, Sir Albert Morton, though in the original the first line runs ‘He first deceased, she for a little tried’. Joshua Scodel remarks that ‘The poem first appears in a letter Sir Henry Wotton sent to John Dynely on November 13, 1628 [...] It subsequently appeared in numerous anthologies and miscellanies’ (see Scodel, The English Poetic Epitaph: Commemoration and Conflict from Jonson to Wordsworth (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 69, fn. 57).


Marianne Thornton, the eldest of the Thornton children, was just 18 when she lost both her parents.


Fath Ali Shah (1772-1834) was the second king of Persia. More’s figures were a little off: the king was reputed to have had a thousand wives (though the true number is likely much lower), with around fifty sons and fifty daughters surviving him.


Thomas Gisborne’s A Letter to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Gloucester on the British and Foreign Bible Society was published by Cadell and Davies in 1815 as one of a flurry of pamphlets attacking and (as in the case of Gisborne’s letter) defending the Bible Society. Much of the criticism centred on what was felt to be an incursion into the territory of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


More had, for some months, been urging the publication of a memoir of John Bowdler the younger, who had died in February 1815.


John Bowdler, who had died shortly after his friend Henry Thornton in February 1815, had been engaged to Mary Gisborne, daughter of Thomas Gisborne and a friend of Marianne Sykes Thornton.


Charles Brodrick (1761-1822), Archbishop of Cashel in the Church of Ireland. He was appointed in 1801.


Lady Alicia Oliver Hewitt (1762-1845), second wife of the Right Hon. and Very Reverend James Hewitt, 2nd Viscount Lifford.