Elizabeth Phelps, born Dickinson, was ill and went home from Madeira to her parents. This letter is from her mother to her husband. Elizabeth recovered and had 3 more children after this!
(I have seen the original of this letter and hope my mother still has it safely.)
Friday 9th May, 1834.
My dear Joseph,
It was not until Thursday the first of May that I folded your dear Elizabeth to my bosom, though I found her only the shadow of her former self. I nevertheless think that there is every prospect of her returning to you in a very different state. I trust many years are in store for you both of health and happiness and that your children will prove a reward for the attention and care their dear parents have so liberally supplied, on the part of their poor mother at the expense of her health at present. Her heart and every faculty are devoted to them and to you. She seems to live for you and to disregard herself. The writing all the day previous to the packet going, which, added to the excitement and emotion of seeing the family, before she had recovered from the effects of the voyage, and recent attack of her malady, so taxed her that a recurrence of it has taken place under which she is at present suffering, though not to the extent of former occasions. Doctor Durie, the head of the medical staff here, attends her and I have the comfort to believe that she could not be in better hands, as his long residence abroad has rendered him conversant with the disease and I fully expect by Monday or Tuesday next she may be able to take a journey to Town to consult Sir Charles Clarke, who will give her case his fullest consideration and, as Doctor Durie will go to Town to see Sir Charles Clarke after he has made himself master of every minutiae, I trust we shall so conduct our beloved charge as to ward off future attacks and have the Delight to witness her progressive return to health and strength. She bears up under her suffering wonderfully. Her willing spirit exceeds her strength, and repose of mind being as essential as bodily rest, I have insisted on her deputing Bella to write for her, and even the dictating calls forth such feeling of tenderness for you and her children as were better avoided in her reduced condition. If proof of your kind treatment of her were wanting, the warmth of her affection for you would be sufficient evidence of your devotion to her. I know dear Bella* is busy with her pen upstairs so I will not tire you with repetitions.
I rather expect dear Mrs Page* today. I cannot express the comfort I feel having her here. I respect and love her and truly she is to Eliza as a sister.
I was obliged to write to Anne* yesterday to put her off coming up from Bosworth with Mary* next Monday. I wish the London business to be gone through before any fresh emotions are called forth - with every care and precaution it will prove an exertion to the utmost of Eliza's strength - therefore I am intent on keeping her as quiet as possible. When once she is back here I shall cease to oppose her ardent desire to see 's child. She will then be able to enjoy the society of her and of her own sister without suffering from the meetings.
I hope to be able to borrow or to hire a little chaise to draw her about the grounds here. This will amuse without fatigue
Two o'clock: The doctor is just gone. He finds an improvement since yesterday and says the appearances are favourable. He is to send two little pills for tonight and a little draught for tomorrow morning. Tomorrow being Saturday, I think it likely her journey (12 miles) may be postponed a few days beyond Monday - but of course we shall lose no time in consulting Sir Charles when she can, without fatigue, encounter the journey.
I hope, dear Joseph, that you are satisfied that we are taking every pains to re-establish your dear wife and happy am I to add that the doctor sees every ground to believe that she will get permanently well.
God bless you and all your Darlings,
F. D. = Frances Dickinson, Elizabeth's mother.
* Would Bella be Elizabeth's eldest daughter (14 at the time) who might have travelled with her?
*Mrs Page is Joseph's eldest sister, Elizabeth's sister-in-law. Joseph also had sisters called Anne and Mary, who may be these, though Anne may refer to Elizabeth's sister, Anne Evans.
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