Letters from the Past

Francis Robinson Esq, London
from J Simpson, Edinburgh, 1831

This is a very long closely–written letter over the three inside pages plus the outside areas beyond the address panel. However, the outside of the letter is also of interest. It is sealed with a black sealing wax impression of a signet ring which bears the words “Profitez du Servir”, which I think translates as “Take advantage of being of use”. The postal markings are intriguing, because it bears the FREE frank mark a morning duty type dated 6 De 6 1831 with a crown at the top of the circle, applied in red ink and is the type in use in London from 1812-1839. Because it is a franked letter, it has to have the date and place of posting at the top of the address panel Selkirk October three 1831 and also the signature of the person who is entitled to the frank at the bottom left of the address panel, in this case it is clearly legible as A. Pringle and the address is written by the same hand.


The reason that this is so interesting is that the letter inside is not written by A. Pringle, and it is written from Edinburgh and not from Selkirk. When the letter is opened there is the name and address of the addressee, written in the same handwriting as the rest of the letter, which looks as if the writer had put that there so that A. Pringle could complete the address panel on the front.

On the face of it therefore, this would appear to be an unofficial use of a franking privilege, but as the letter is nearly 200 years old who will worry about that now?

So now to the letter, which begins with finances and questions and suggestions, which are complex. The writing is mostly legible, but a couple of names are questionable.

Northumberland Street Edinh. 1 Decr 1831

Dear Sir
I have received your kind letter and have learned from Miss Day that receipts were never required for her Dividends, a bill used to be sent to her at a month‘s date, which she called when it became due. I took your hint and made Mr (Tewson?) and her write to Mr Samuel Hailstone at Bradford a letter requesting him to remit the dividends to you regularly, till further orders. Of course you retain for Mr Day not only a fair half of the dividend and 4-3/4 shares equivalent to the half of a half years dividend of one additional quarter share which was sold. In other words add one twentieth = one quarter of five, to the actual dividend & also the half of that to Mr Day. For the award divide the dividend on the entire five shares, as I have particularly observed.

From not hearing at the time I concluded that you had kindly agreed to be receiver & divider for these poor and really grateful people‘s allowance. The best mode of remittance will be to pay the balance into Jones and Lloyd‘s Lothbury to my credit with the Commercial Bank Edin, and I will draw it here without a bill. Enclosed I have sent a note to my friend Mr Heathfield to remind him of his promise not to bill Miss (or Mrs ?) Day, but to get from Mr Ricardo the freshest intelligence, when the good lady‘s immediate wellwishers intimate to him that they are now proprietors of certain government stock vested in her name. This is our most unequivocal way of getting the most desired information. This reversionary fund is the security upon which we have been enabled to borrow the needful to pay the debts of the family necessarily contracted last year when their means were locked up at Bradford.

Please see that Mr (HOVE?) really takes off the locks, if not already done. I think you said that the expenses of the reference would be laid upon Mrs Day, & that the arbitrators would determine this point. Be sure to deduct any expenses which you do not recover, that you may be fully reimbursed.

That finishes the financial part of the letter, and the writer continues with information about family concerns etc.

Mrs Deathbury‘s
(?) death has much shocked Mrs Simpson & me. I have heard of the illness & we were not dreaming of the departure of that very excellent & ladylike & by no means aged person. Will you express our sympathy with Mr Deathbury and his sister when you see any of them.

The Judge Holroyd I am not aware that I ever saw, but I have often heard him talked of in your house as a friend of your grandfathers. I am glad to hear that he himself is well, your mother & Miss Juliana. Saying nothing to the contrary I take for granted yourself & brother are well & thriving. It was odd enough our glance of two of them, each being an independent traveller, but it was a very tantalising glimpse of both – Frederick&squo;s was limited to three hours, & a moonlight departure from our romantic woodland summer dwelling & Charles‘s was but a dinner eaten in Edinburgh and away. We were glad however to see them, it keeps up a link Elena would lament should be broken, she was happy to introduce to them her mystery birds. Frederick sent off stories with their drawings &c. He would have been a great favorite with them, & they would have rambled him all over the country. Come yourself next, bring your Sister, and use us better.

The next paragraph concerns legal matters, referring to the Solicitor General.

When Charles was with us I was several days employed in the Arbitration office patent question which was the subject of our Commission in London. My Client has triumphed on the question of infringement & we are now ascertaining the damages. If the whole case was ever referred to Cockburn the Solicitor General, & the escape from a jury was an immense advantage to us. An adversary agreed to a submission upon the logical sequitur that the Solicitor gave to two other questions in his favour!

How common the idea of favors is in an arbitration. Your accounts of Mrs Haldane are not cheering. It increases Eliza‘s wish to see her poor mother. She must do so next spring. Henry has the double disadvantage of a waning university and a waning branch of learning. It would do better at Cambridge.

Again with love to you all & much from Elena‘s friends here to the two travellers.

I am truly your

J Simpson

He adds a PS at the top of the first page

PS will you mention to Mr Wilson if he does not know it that the Crosleys have triumphed in the case in which he was Commissioner at the White Hart.
On the outside of the letter, by the seal, is a note which does not seem to have been mentioned in the letter.

Bill at 1 month £47.10.0.
Sources : Great Britain Post Roads, Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839 Alan W. Robertson

Herewith my Frank by J.M. Lovegrove

Copyright By E & R Shanahan
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