A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter XII." by Isaac Taylor, Jr., of Stanford Rivers
Publication: Taylor, Isaac. The Writings of Jane Taylor, In Five Volumes: Volume I, Memoirs and Poetical Remains.. Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1832. pp. 181-199.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 181] 

CHAPTER XII.

LETTERS WRITTEN FROM CORNWALL.


TO MRS. W.

Marazion, June 20, 1814.

My dear Friend,

As this is one of our Saint's days, I cannot do better than devote it to my friends: one letter I have already despatched to Ongar; and I am sure it is quite time to address you, as I believe my last letter was written to inform you of our arrival at Ilfracombe, though I think the fault has not been all on my side. The interval has been pretty well filled with incidents:–S. and A. have not been idle:–you and the Prince Regent have been receiving company:–father and mother have left the Castle House:–we have removed to Marazion; and Bonaparte to Elba:–so that the world does not pay us the compliment of standing still till we have time to animadvert on its revolutions.

I would have waited a week or two longer, when I should have been better able to say how well we like our new situation, but that I hope this will now reach you before your friends leave you, as S. mentioned the last week in June for returning. To what is she returning?–I hope to a life of usefulness and happiness: I have never known one better fitted to enjoy and to adorn the [Page 182]  peaceful scenes of domestic life, than our dear S. Happy is he who is destined to be the companion of them!

I suppose by this time Mr. C. has been introduced to his little grandson, with whom I may safely venture to guess he is pleased. I enjoy for you, my dear friend, the pure and real pleasures of the nursery. I am thinking too anxiously of dear Ann. The wide distance that separates us increases this anxiety:–if I could be near her, I should feel comparatively little; but to wait a five or six days' post for such intelligence is what I dread. Yet He to whom we should cheerfully commit her, is "nigh at hand, and not afar off."

* * * I told S. that we did not think of leaving Ilfracombe till August; but finding that, during the summer, it does not often happen that vessels from Cornwall put into Ilfracombe, we determined to avail ourselves of the first good opportunity:–we regretted that one offered so soon:–we had scarcely twenty-four hours' notice. But our little affairs were soon arranged, and at nine o'clock on the evening of the 9th, we set sail, and a mild breeze wafted us from our dear Ilfracombe. We were tolerably well till about the middle of the night, when a fresh gale sprang up, and from that time to the moment of our landing, at nine o'clock the following evening, we suffered continued sickness. We landed at St. Ives, and took lodgings there for a week: on Friday evening we reached this place, where we had [Page 183]  before engaged lodgings: they are not so pleasantly situated as those we occupied at Ilfracombe; but they are comfortable; and our hostess is a good woman, who takes pains to please us.

Marazion is pleasantly situated on the margin of Mount's Bay, which forms a fine sweep: on the western side lies Penzance, nearly opposite to us, at the distance of three miles:–it is a fine ride by the sea side. This morning we have been there: it is a large and very pleasant town; and being so near, we can have many of the conveniences it affords. The views here are open and agreeable: St. Michael's Mount is a fine object, distant about half a mile, and Penzance and the adjacent villages very prettily skirt the Bay. We were recommended here in preference to Penzance, as being milder; and it suits us better on account of its being more retired. In spite of our nonconformity we shall probably attend at the chapel of ease, at which Mr. — now officiates, whose name I dare say you have heard. * * *


TO MISS E. M.

Marazion, Cornwall, July 2, 1814.

* * * The expectation of shortly leaving Ilfracombe, almost ever since I received yours, dated in April, made me defer writing from day to day, thinking I should soon be able to tell you where we were destined; but at last we went off so suddenly that we had scarcely time to arrange our own little affairs; and although I have felt [Page 184]  impatient to do so, I would not write immediately after our arrival here, that I might be better able to tell you how we like Cornwall. I have been sorry to hear that you are unwell, and I know that you do not complain of trifles. It is not surprising that, exchanging the pure air of Devon for such as you are now inhaling, your health should suffer. Although there is so little temptation to go abroad, you must not neglect daily exercise. It is not complimenting London air too much, to allow that it is better out of doors than in. I am not surprised that London makes you love Devonshire more than ever. The sight of it, especially after a considerable absence, never fails to make me low-spirited; and I scarcely know whether this is occasioned most by its wretchedness, or its magnificence. I entirely understand your affection for the old mulberry tree: there is a laburnum at Colchester which is quite as good a friend of mine. I saw it blossom sixteen springs; and plucked a spray when I took leave of it, thinking it would be a great pleasure to ruminate over it now and then, but I believe I have never found time to look at it yet: it has lain ever since undisturbed, amidst a variety of similar relics, which have been abandoned to the same neglect.

In consequence of strongly urged advice, we determined, early in the year, to remove to Cornwall during the summer months; for I could not summon courage to undertake the voyage on the approach of the autumnal gales. We had not [Page 185]  intended to leave Ilfracombe quite so soon; but a good opportunity offering, we availed ourselves of it, and after a passage more safe than agreeable, landed at St. Ives, from whence we crossed to this place; which has been recommended to us in preference to Penzance; and where we had already engaged lodgings.

I think you have not been so far in Cornwall; so I may tell you that we are very pleasantly situated on the margin of Mount's Bay, which forms a fine regular sweep, surrounded by sheltering hills. Penzance, a very handsome town, at the distance of three miles, is in full view; and with its adjacent villages, prettily skirts the bay. The surrounding country is open and cheerful–near Penzance, pleasantly wooded; and here and there are some shaded and rural spots. St. Michael's Mount, directly opposite to us, and accessible at low water, is the most striking object in the scene. We have not yet thoroughly explored it; but it is much finer and more picturesque than we had expected, from such views as we had seen of it. Altogether we are pleased with our situation; it is a complete contrast to the wild and solitary scenery of Ilfracombe. Being prone to form local attachments, I cannot at present decide impartially to which I should give the preference.

How long we shall sojourn in this land of strangers is quite uncertain. I feel with you, that I dare not look forward to distances I may never reach: and I too could think of next summer with [Page 186]  the delightful hope of again seeing many that are dear to me; but I am afraid of expecting it, or of forming any plan beyond to-day: by painful lessons I have learned that it is vain and dangerous to do so. Seldom perhaps till we have lived long enough to observe that the wishes we form for ourselves are either directly thwarted, or if indulged, that they wholly disappoint our expectation, are we sincerely disposed to say "Choose thou mine inheritance for me." When such wishes appear very moderate and limited–falling far short even of the common objects of worldly pursuit–when we ask neither for length of days, riches, nor honors; but only for some one favorite comfort, we are almost ready to expect that such a reasonable request will be granted; and it is well if we are taught, either by being disappointed of it, or with it, that eager desires for any thing short of the favor of God, are displeasing to Him, and injurious to ourselves: there is a sweet feeling of security in committing our future way to Him, with an entire dependance on his wisdom and goodness, and a cordial acquiescence in his appointments.


TO MR. J. C.

Marazion, September 23, 1814.

* * * Now that you are so much a man of business I should really scruple to intrude upon you with four pages of thoughts and reflections, if I were not persuaded that there are frequent [Page 187]  moments when, in all respects essential to true friendship and friendly intercourse, you are what you were in times that are past. And as I feel it to be pleasant and refreshing to sit down and converse with you as we were wont, so I have no doubt you will still peruse the somethings or nothings that may escape from my pen with a kindred feeling. Months have passed since I wrote to you; and in the interval I have travelled a hundred miles further west, and seen many new places and faces: but this I can say (and I hope you will think it worth sending three hundred miles to tell you) that associating with strangers, so far from alienating my thoughts and affections from those I have long known and valued, attaches me still more to them. I am surrounded with those who know that I am–Miss Taylor; but know not that I am–"Jane;" and it sometimes makes me sigh for a renewal of intercourse with those who, for that simple reason, have yielded me an unmerited share of their regard. The many follies, infirmities, and dificiencies which are intimately known to them, may, it is true, be partially and for a time concealed from strangers; but yet, I would rather be with those who, "with all my faults, have loved me still." * * *

* * * Nothing can be more tranquil and agreeable than the manner in which our time passes here: we are both sufficiently occupied to preserve us from dulness; nor do we need other relaxation than the pleasure of conversing with [Page 188]  each other in those hours of the day which we spend together. We have, however, some society here–more indeed than at Ilfracombe. I would gladly avoid the trouble of it; but I know it is good for me to be obliged to exert myself in conversation sometimes. * * *

* * * I do not think my attachment to nonconformity is likely to be at all shaken by my present circumstances; on the contrary, I long to attend "among my own people," and to worship in the simplicity of the gospel. Yet it is both pleasant and useful to associate with good people who differ from ourselves.

It is not from intention, but accident, that I am writing to you on this day of the month. You remember, I dare say, the advanced stage at which I am arrived:–at five and twenty I regretted the departure of youth; but now I am quite reconciled to being as old as I am. In looking back upon the past, nothing strikes me so forcibly, for future benefit, as the different sensations occasioned by a review of its misfortunes, and its faults. Upon seasons of care, anxiety, and distress, of which (though they have been comparatively few and light) I can remember some, I can reflect without a feeling of regret or uneasiness; indeed there is a kind of satisfaction and complacency in looking back upon scenes of suffering; while the mistakes, follies, and sins, that have marked my life, are sources of present and perpetual uneasiness. Of this, past experience and present [Page 189]  feeling tend increasingly to convince me, that, whatever afflictions may be appointed for me in future, if, in the course of the next ten or twenty years (should I see so many) I shall attain more holiness, I shall also enjoy more happiness, than in the years that are past. To do quietly the duties of to-day, without ambition, and without anxiety, is to ensure comfort;–and comfort is a word that suits better the present state than happiness; and in truth it is all that would be desired by us if our thoughts were familiar with death and eternity;–if we habitually remembered that the time is short–that all we are most interested about is passing away, and that the flower we best love fadeth. * * *


TO MISS E. M.

Marazion, May 31, 1815.

My dear Friend,

Although I quite forget the date of my last, I know that I have many times since felt much inclined to converse with you; and that I have not written before is only owing to the constant recurrence of some employment that is more immediately pressing, and whose plea is more readily admitted, because it is usually something that requires less exertion than writing, even to so kind and candid a friend as you, to whom I know the most simple expressions of regard are more agreeable than a studied epistle. Some people think it a great recommendation to be able to write a "clever letter;" but if there is any thing I dislike [Page 190]  to receive, or that I am unambitious of writing, it is a clever letter; by which I mean a letter that exhibits obviously an endeavor to be smart and pointed, or worse still–fine and sentimental. In this I am sure you will think with me. But to my languid mind, it is generally an effort to say any thing beyond how d'ye do; and therefore, I often delay the task in hope of an hour of vigor, till those who are oftenest remembered, might fairly imagine themselves forgotten: but now, though I am flat and chilly, and have more than half a head-ache, I am determined to spend the morning with you.

What you told me in your last letter, made me almost envy the situation of those to whom religion appears as a glorious novelty, and who embrace it with all the ardor, and gratitude, and joy, of a newly received message from heaven. They who, "from their childhood, have been taught the Holy Scriptures" have, no doubt, their advantages; but how liable are these advantages to be abused! It often happens, I believe, that persons who have been long familiar with the name of Jesus, as the sinner's friend, are shamed out of their coldness and negligence by the warmth and energy of those whose eyes are newly opened to behold him.

To inquiries, such as those which you make relative to your not having felt the strong convictions, and the overwhelming fears that many experience in the commencement of their religious course, I have heard the most judicious Christians [Page 191]  reply, that a holy walk with God, a humble consciousness of preferring Him, and his service, to any other thing, is a better and safer evidence of a real change of heart, than a reference to the most remarkable emotions of mind, at any particular time. The Bible does not specify any certain measure of terror, or any violent apprehensions of the Divine anger, as essential to true conversion.–"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is its simple declaration; and as the evidence that we do believe, and that our repentance is genuine, we must "bring forth the fruits of righteousness." True sorrow for sin, flowing from a contemplation of Divine mercy, which is called in the Scriptures "a broken heart," is surely a more acceptable sacrifice than the most fearful apprehensions of Divine wrath.

I cannot pass over in silence your hint on the subject of church communion. Although it is nowhere mentioned as essential to salvation, yet the tender injunction of our Lord–"Do this in remembrance of me," is so forcible an appeal to our gratitude, that the neglect of it cannot be considered an immaterial circumstance. If the rules of a society, calling itself a church of Christ, are so strict as to present any real obstacle to a humble candidate, they must be unscriptural. And in some places, where a full written account of the candidate's religious history and feelings is made an indispensable condition of admission, such rules are unscriptural: though, even then, whether the [Page 192]  exaction should be considered as a real obstacle, is a serious question. In most cases, I believe, a private conversation with the minister, or a christian friend, is deemed sufficient; and whether so, or in writing, a simple and general profession of trust in the Lord Jesus, and of willingness to surrender heart and life to his service, is all that would be required. Many, no doubt, would be better pleased with a circumstantial experience; but I believe it is very rarely demanded; and I am sure it would not be by your present pastor. You know too, that what is communicated on such occasions is not heard or read by a whole congregation, but only by the members of the church; and that, in the absence of the candidate. The admission of a member is always considered as a pleasing and profitable, not an awkward or formidable service, by those who witness or are engaged in it.


TO MRS W.

Marazion, Sept. 19, 1815.

My dear Friend,

It is quite time to ask you how you do once again upon paper, though if you did but know it, I am very often making the inquiry in my thoughts. I have so many far distant and dear friends to think of now, that my thoughts are become quite expert at the business, and fly from Ongar to Rotherham, and from thence to Axminster, Bridport, or London, with wonderful ease and expedition. There was a passage in your [Page 193]  last letter, which brought old days so forcibly and suddenly to my recollection, that it made my tears overflow before I was aware. There is a long train of recollections, you know, connected with those days; but they are over and gone–all is settled, and well settled. For myself, as to external things, I was never so happy–I should rather say so comfortable (for that word best suits this world) as I am now. The last two years of my life have been so tranquil, so free from irritation, passed in a manner so suited to my taste and temper, with such a beloved and congenial companion–they have been so occupied with agreeable employments, and so enlivened at times by pleasant society, that I have often thought, should any thing occur to alter my present lot, I should look back upon it as the brightest spot in my life.–Ah well! I hope I am in some degree willing to commit the future to one who knows how to control it, and who will certainly prolong my present comfort if it is for my good.

I heard from — a little news, which did but serve to set off our perfect tranquillity to more advantage. * * *

* * * Oh what a world it is! Well indeed if we learn from such things to despise it in the right way, and to be looking towards a better country. [Page 194] 


TO MISS M. H-E.

Marazion, October 16, 1815.

Your ceremonious commencement of our correspondence, my dear M. was so discordant with my feelings, at the moment of receiving your affectionate letter, that I determined to break through all restraint at once. But if you do not follow my example, I shall consider it as a signal for returning to the usual formality in the next.

Your kind letter was gratifying to me as a better evidence of real regard than the most elaborate epistle. I thank you for your many expressions of friendship. If I were conscious of having been a friend to you in every and the best sense, I should receive them with unmixed pleasure. I am, however, the more obliged for affection which must overlook so many deficiencies, imperfections, and infirmities, as a twelvemonth's intercourse has exhibited to your view. I say this, not as a flourish, but from the bottom of my heart. It was some time after your departure before I quite ceased to listen for the well-known step upon the stairs: for a few days I was miserably flat, and unable to take any interest in my employments. But I have by this time begun to be again sensible of the pleasures of regularity, and of the satisfaction of resting in some degree upon myself. This revival, however, is not accompanied by any diminution of regard towards those who are gone. The substantial pleasure of having gained a friend –of having one more heart [Page 195]  in this cold world with which I can feel sympathy, and from which I may expect it, remains. And as for the rest–the relief and recreation of frequent intercourse–it is a pleasure which, however desirable, may be cheerfully resigned, without at all impairing friendship; and which, indeed, might have been enjoyed independently of any feeling that deserves the name. * * *


TO MISS E. M.

Marazion, January 16, 1816.

* * * Here we are surrounded by Methodists; and have the opportunity of knowing what Methodism really is. We usually attend at their chapel: their preachers generally appear to be zealous and devoted men; and their preaching well adapted to be useful to the class of persons who are their hearers. I have never any where before seen so general a profession of religion; and there is every reason to believe it is more than a profession with many. A little romantic fishing town, just opposite to us across the bay, contains, we are told, a large society of experienced and fervent Christians; and it is the case with many of the forlorn, desolate looking villages in the neighborhood, that seem in all things else a century or two behind the rest of the world.

* * * When one has been screwed up for some time with narrow-minded people, it is no small relief to meet with those of enlarged and liberal views; especially if their piety does not [Page 196]  suffer by their intelligence. But I am indeed much inclined to believe that the poor in every sense, the mentally poor, are generally the richest in faith–that they receive the gospel more simply as it is, without reasonings and disputings, and live upon it more entirely, and more happily. * * *


TO THE SAME.

Marazion, April 24, 1816.

* * I am glad you have heard and were pleased with Mr. —, and wish you knew him as a parlor companion:–one does not often meet with a person so completely intellectual.

Of Methodism and Arminianism, I knew scarcely more than the names before I came here, and am very glad of having seen them for myself. Cornwall certainly offers a favorable specimen of the Methodists: the good they have done is unquestionable, even by the most prejudiced witnesses. But what they have effected is fairly attributable to their zeal and laboriousness, rather than to their peculiar opinions. The ignorant poor, when they become pious, are so almost exclusively "taught of God"–they are so little encumbered with human knowledge, that I believe it makes very little practical difference indeed whether they are called Arminians or Calvinists. The same unerring Spirit guides the minds of both to all essential truth. But does it not seem that opinions are of more importance, and produce more decided effects in the more [Page 197]  cultivated? I think I have lately witnessed some such effects. An Arminian who is much interested in his peculiar views, unconsciously perhaps to himself, very sparingly and partially exhibits in his preaching the good news of the christian system:–he seems fearful of preaching a too free salvation for sinners. I am far from saying that this is the case generally with the Methodist preachers; but I am sure it was the case with the most zealous Arminian I ever heard or knew. But if peculiar opinions give a bias to the strain of preaching on one side, there can be no doubt that it does so in a much more baleful degree on the other. I would much rather, as I value my soul's safety, attend the preaching of an Arminian, than of a high Calvinist. I have heard a few of these preachers, and have seen and heard much of the effects of such doctrine among the common people. It is said to be just now a fast spreading evil among the evangelical clergy of the establishment; and it is spreading like a leprosy among the ignorant in all denominations. I believe there is scarcely any tendency towards it among the regular dissenting ministers; but some of their flocks are infected. There is something so flattering, and imposing, and comfortable, in the statements of preachers of this class, and the evil (except in avowed Antinomianism) is so much concealed, that it is no wonder the doctrine is eagerly embraced by those who wish for a cheap and indulgent way of getting to heaven; nor even [Page 198]  that many of the sincere and humble are led into the snare. If the accounts we hear are correct, it is not Towgood, but high Calvinism that has induced Mr. — to leave the establishment:–it is said he objects especially to reading the Ten Commandments!

Having heard and seen so much of the evil tendency of these sentiments, I was very sorry to hear lately that they had found their way to —: at least what I heard led me to suppose that it was so:–it was said that Mr. — had lately professed that a great change had taken place in his views;–that he now perceived he had never before known or preached the gospel; and that the minds of many of his most pious hearers had, in consequence of this change, been very much unsettled; but that they were now falling into his views. Now though it may be wrong to judge upon this evidence alone, yet this is so precisely the language of the party, that one cannot but fear that the fact is as I have supposed.

* * * * Many of the people, I have no doubt, are so truly Christians that their own minds may sustain but little injury, and their lives continue as ornamental to their profession as before; but it is not probable that this will be the case with the majority. It is certainly a temptation to a young man to preach in that strain, for nothing will so certainly ensure popularity.

I am glad that so favorable a change has taken place at —, and hope Mr. — may find some [Page 199]  judicious guide to direct his inquiries; though if he is indeed inquiring, he will doubtless be directed well at last. I have lately read an excellent paper on Hyper-calvinism explaining some causes of its growth, and especially tracing it to a backwardness on the part of many professedly evangelical ministers in introducing the grand truths of the gospel; so that their hearers, having real cause of complaint, readily run to the opposite extreme.

You have indeed been led to the true, the only way of solving your difficulties on some of the deeper doctrines of religion. Every attempt to explain them has, to me, always rather increased than removed the difficulty, and my own discouragement. But certainly I should not fly to Arminianism in order to escape from it. This system may indeed seem to remove the difficulty a step further off; but there it meets us again, just the same as before, unless the omnipotence and omniscience of God be disputed. But let us wait:–it is but a little while and we shall comprehend something of the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God; though now "unsearchable and past finding out." How chilling are the very terms of controversy, and how unlike the language of the Bible! To live near to God, to walk humbly with Him, is the surest way of having our minds satisfied on these points. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him: He will show them His covenant." * * *

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom