"Misunderstandings: -
London to Nottingham, 1809 "


Eunice Shanahan

This letter is an outpouring of disbelief from a misunderstood man to his lady friend. It was written from the York Hotel, London on 17th June 1809 to Miss Julia Beevor of Claypole, Newark, Notts.

Claypole is a small village about 5 miles south east of Newark on Trent, which would have been the post town when this letter was written. Claypole has been inhabited for a long time and was entered in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the 1801 census it had a population of 486 - and in 2007 it has 1000 inhabitants.

It has just the two postal markings, first a black evening duty double ring stamp with the year in 3 figures and the date in a small centre circle, and code letter A on the left denoting which table was used - this type was in use in the General Post from 1800 - 1828. Secondly the manuscript charge mark of '9' which was the cost of sending a single sheet letter a distance of between 120 to 170 miles, during the period 1805-1812. The paper is rather the worse for wear, but being almost 200 years old, that is only to be expected of a letter, which is not a museum piece. The watermark on it is the crown with a Posthorn, and the initials G   R.

The letter begins very formally, and the style of writing is just the kind of thing to be found in Jane Austen's novels of the 18th century. I have transcribed it as it was written. The spelling is not as we are used to seeing it now, and there are many nouns given a capital letter. The comment in the first paragraph refers to the contemporary etiquette of letter writing. At that time, if there were more than one daughter of the household, the first one would be named (in this case) "Miss Beevor", the subsequent daughters by their name, so this would be Miss Julia. Nowadays we are not so formal, and it seems that anything goes. [1]

Excuse this seemingly distant Appellation, I deer not as yet address you by a more tender name. I have read your letter of the 19th instant over and over again, with the greatest Attention and from the prudence of the Stile, added to the Circumstance of my having directed my Letter to your Elder Sister, instead of addressing it to yourself I fear that it never reached your own Hands, and that its Answer has not been pen'd by you but by another;

The Expressions contained in the Letter which I have received are so guarded and reserved, that I can scarcely divest myself of the Idea, that it was either written by, or under the immediate inspection of a Parent - If it is really your own, I must confess that you are an excellent Lecturer, - you seem to think that I am lost in a Labrynth of Pleasures, and desire me to read well the real Sentiments of my Heart, but studiously avoid letting me into the least Secrets of your own - My inclinations are I do assure you the same as when I first had the felicity of meeting with you, and I trust that your next will convince me that I am not totally indifferent to you."

(Note: This man is obviously eloquent, and not afraid of telling of his feelings - a Sensitive New Age Guy of 200 years ago.) He continues with the theme of his distress :-
"Seriously to inform you that my Heart was touched by what passed at Newark and to receive Letters which indicate that your own remains untouched, is more than my feelings can endure, and the very thought is painful in the extreme; I therefore beg of you to be candid and to write me (as the Letter before me expresses) in the plain and simple language of your Heart, which is sure to strike home and leave the Mind at rest, whilst a contrary Stile brews hurt, inquietude and uneasiness, and leaves the mind and Heart on a wide expanded Ocean blown about by every dubious and uncertain thought that rushes across the imagination."

(Note: after he has revealed his feelings in this flowery language, he then has to explain away one of her criticisms.)

"I must apologise for not having recognized you when you met me the morning after the Ball and I feel that you will be convinced that this was the only reason of my seeming inattention - I remember very well that I met your sister whom I passed with a Bow, in the hopes of finding you amidst the group of Ladies that followed her and was much chagrined and disappointed in being unable to descry you amongst them.

That you wish me happiness, I have no reason to disbelieve since every human being would be disgraced by entertaining a contrary Sentiment, but when coupled with the Declaration ; you wish me Adieu, I refuse the Wish in hopes that I shall one day have the pleasure of visiting you at Claypole where I trust we shall acquire a greater knowledge of each other than we can possibly do by Letter. Waiting your Reply.
I remain
Your sincere Admirer

Surprisingly he signed the letter only with initials. I wonder if Miss Julia Beevor relented towards this passionate and thoughtful Admirer. The letter was torn open quite roughly, perhaps in eagerness, but the fact that it is still in existence after all these years makes me think that it was held as a keepsake.

[1] It is said that Sir Harry Verney wanted to marry Florence Nightingale but addressed his letter to "Miss Nightingale" who was Florence's elder sister Parthenope. He proposed to — and then married — the wrong sister. [ back ]


In February 2014, we received an e-mail from a visitor to our website, who wrote:-


I just read your article "Misunderstandings:-London to Nottingham, 1809"

I was interested to read it, mainly because I am one of Julia Beevor's great, great, great, great grandaughters. As far as I know, she did not marry the 'W W' quoted and I do not know who he is, but she did eventually marry George Hodgkinson at Claypole in England in 1814.

In the meantime, thank you for putting the letter online - it's an interesting insight into someone from 200 years ago.

After we sent her scans of the letter, we received this follow up e-mail, giving us information about the addressee of this letter and her family.


It is the strangest feeling to see that letter and of course you can add that a relative has been in touch. Julia Beevor was born in 1784, the daughter of John and Ann Beevor. John Beevor was the Rector (Vicar/minister) of Claypole. She had one older sister (the one mentioned in the letter) called Ann, plus numerous other brothers and sisters.

I am lucky to have quite a lot of family papers as one of my great-aunts was (a chief) archivist until the mid-1960s and was also interested in family history.

I wish that we knew what went before and after that letter. There was a lady who recently contacted me as she had just bought a photograph album with some photographs of the Beevor and Hodgkinson families, amongst others. She is trying to research the families as a hobby. So it sounds as though there was a house clearance at some point.
With many thanks and kind regards


I was really excited to have this contact to give more information about this letter, and if only the writer had signed his name instead of just his initials, we might have been able to follow up his side of the story.
Another link - February 2014.
The same contact was checking through the other letters on our website and noticed that
Another letter that was of interest was the letter from Sir W Welby to Mr Tallents in Newark, 1834. There are several connections to Julia Beevor. One of her grandsons, Grosvenor Hodgkinson, became a partner in Hodgkinson & Beevor, which eventually merged with Tallents & Co in 1970. Members of the Tallents family were at my great-grandmother's (Philippa Emma Hodgkinson) wedding in 1903. She was Julia's great-granddaughter. Finally, my great-grandmother and her husband lived on a farm owned by the Welby family from 1903 - 1931. It's quite a coincidence (for me) that both Julia's and the Welby/Tallents letters ended up in your collection. The Tallents & Co website is incredibly helpful. I came across it last year and it helped to fill in a gap or two.

This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

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