This letter is a chatty ‘social’ letter written in very flowery language. It was written by Charles Storer in Hingham, a town in Massachusetts, situated in a small bay to the south of Boston Harbour. It is addressed to Mr Thomas Atkinson, 5 Newman Court, London - this still exists and is located in what is now Finchley, London.

Postal Marks

There are no postal markings to show that the letter has originated in America. Other postal markings are

  1. Liverpool Ship Letter boxed two-line measuring 50mm x 13mm in black ink (dates of use 1822-1832). The Liverpool Ship marks are a study in themselves, the first one being used in 1781 and 28 different types were in use during the next 100 years.
  2. Receiving stamp of London morning duty 8 October 1822 - single circle, date both sides of the month, code letter E, applied in red ink. This type of mark was in use from 1810 to 1840. This date shows that it took a total of 50 days, from the time the letter was written and posted, to being received in London -- which seems a long time.
  3. manuscript charge marks 1/7 on the back and also on the front, this charge is made up of 8d for the sea part of the journey and 11d for the inland component Liverpool to London. Liverpool is 206 miles from London and from 1812-1839 it cost 11 pence for a single letter weighing up to quarter of an ounce, over the distance of between 170-230 miles. As it was not prepaid, Mr Atkinson would have had to pay to receive it.
  4. In a different handwriting what appears to be the name of the ship “pr Triton Buney” or Bussey? I have not been able to trace a ship of this name, or any ship that sounds like that name. However, as the letter obviously arrived in London, there must have been a vessel available.

The Letter

The letter, which begins with no greetings, sounds as if it is written by an old man, but the writing is beautifully clear and legible. Some of the words are spelled differently from the way we spell them nowadays, so I have reproduced it as he wrote it, beginning with health problems.

Hingham, 19th August, 1822

Often have I been with you, my good friend, in my mind’s eye and as often would I have made it known to you by a written token, but listless, lifeless, & spiritless, by reason of many ails and infirmities, my pen has refused its wonted office & has escaped my hand, I am sorry for this seeming remissness in not replying to, nor even noticing your kind favor of February last. Excuse me when I say my spirit has been willing but the flesh has been weak. Still my active powers are circumscribed, and I remain the same solitary invalid, seeing no hopes of convalescence, I have therefore only to make myself as comfortable as I can & await the event.

I can truly simpathise with you in the sudden bilious attacks which have repeatedly brought you to your bed, but am relieved by your assurance that they are not deemed dangerous. May you long injoy the health which you say is now restored to you

I am very glad that a settlement has been made with your Uncle & with J.A. & Son1 and lament that it has not been more agreeable to your feelings & interest, which ought in an especial manner to have been primarily considered. I know that your demand was large and was glad it was secured on might be considered ostensibly good property, presuming there would be wanting no good will in a fair & amicable adjustment & settlement. That you should think you have sufficient cause to think otherwise I very much regret - and as much admire your candour & benevolence, in suppressing further unfriendly thoughts that might interrupt the harmony of families so near akin. May you long enjoy the pleasurable effect of so virtuous a sentiment.

I am much gratified in the information of the general health of your family & of your Uncle Francis & particularly that George has been so fortunate in his new connection. I hope his studies will not impair his health. Should they have this effect, you will know where to dispose of him, since where he has been once cured he may be again. Will you accompany him, & shake off your bilious humors into the Atlantick? If you think George’s spirits will bear it, you may communicate to him, what I learn from a late Boston Paper — that Miss Cornelia Romana Susanna Little is married to a Mr Brown. I send this to you that you may break it to him by degrees, fearing lest he may accidentally hear of it, and the shock overset him. This may wean him from the “North End” of our town (Now a City,) in case he visits us again.

It is with pleasure that I have your assurance that my young friend Mr Coolidge has in some measure done away the prejudice which English folks allow themselves to indulge against us poor Yankees.2 We bear it hardly, but hope that time & further acquaintance may obtain us more credit. We might select adventurers here from your Country, whom you would not allow us to call the pride of your Island, nor would we hold them up as true samples of Englishmen. Let us be candid & praise where we can. Mr Coolidge’s family are much gratified at the favor Joseph has gained. He will be in England again next Winter, and I hope his acquirements on the Continent will not make him otherwise than the Modest American a character that may exist - Make my regards to him.

We are much shocked at the distressing accounts, detailed in our Papers, of the sufferings in Ireland.3 I am much at a loss to account for this, since the Commonalty of that Country are so easily fed, and the soil so productive.

My sister, Mrs Johnson is at present at the Falls, & will visit Middletown, New Haven, & N. York this fall - after which she will pass the winter here with me. I may need her aid, and she would not be absent when it should be required

He then closed the letter with usual greetings

To your good Mother & family present my cordial good wishes for health & happiness, and to yourself the sincere esteem of N. Thomas
Yr Frd & Humb Servt
Chas. Storer4

John Atkinson Elizabeth Storer

By one of those co-incidences that happen in life, Gus was talking to a friend in the public library, and explained he was looking for the Storer family details. Surprisingly, she told him that she was researching the Atkinsons who married into the Storer family. Later, she kindly e-mailed me pictures of John Atkinson from Kirby Moreside in England and Elisabeth Storer of Boston, both of whom died and were buried in Vermont.

Although I have not managed to confirm details of the writer it is possible that he was a son of Ebenezer Storer (who was later treasurer of Harvard) and and if so this interesting passage from "John Adams" by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, 2001, p. 274 may refer to him.

U.S. President John Adams traveled to France to negotiate the Treaty of Paris with the British in October 1782. With him were John Thaxter, [former law clerk of Adams's and tutor to his children], and an additional new secretary for the work at Paris, Charles Storer, a recent graduate of Harvard.

Addendum 17th January 2006.

I was contacted by a visitor to this site Peter Jangaard who kindly gave me this confirmation.

Charles STORER was born in 1761 in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts and died on 10 September 1829 in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts at age 68. He was a graduate of Harvard College in 1779; was Secretary of Legation to John Quincy Adams, Minister to France in 1779. He came to Bellows Falls, Vermont about 1790 in the interest of himself and his brother-in-law John Atkinson in connection with their investments in Vermont lands and property.

He was intimately connected with the Atkinsons in the building and management of the Bellows Falls Canal up to 1814, and was clerk of the corporation from 1804 to 1814. He lived in a small house standing on the island about where the Bellows Falls Machine Company's manufacture does at the present time (1907). He was a very cultivated man and spent most of his time among his books. He returned to Boston and died there in1829. He never married. (Hayes 1907).


VW Political History Social History Letters from the Past

Last modified 24 January 2006