April 26, 1721

My dear Cecily,

Your letter has come in the mail this morning, and I am made exceedingly happy by the receipt of it, but that the cause for celebration should be as miniscule as the sight of your handwriting is not altogether incredible, for I have not laid eyes upon it since February instant. That you are hale and well, and safely arrived in Germany is excellently reassuring news. If you should pass my greetings and well wishes to your mother, I shall be pleased.

As for myself, the days wear great shawls of monotony, and each minute I am brimming filled with the utmost ennui. I confess these days only London, who varies in her heat and temperature by the hour, becomes more fickle of a character than I, to the deep chagrin of my poor mother, who has re-doubled in determination and re-tripled her efforts to locate a suitable husband for which she intends me to wed. It will not work, I repeat to her in all rational manner, I do not mean to wed, not yet and not so, but this I do not believe she appreciates, for forthwith she sends me to my room to
Robert Walpole, British statesman and newly elect'd Leader of the House of Commons
Robert Walpole, British statesman and newly elect'd Leader of the House of Commons
contemplate God and meditate upon all breeds of Honor and Thankfulness.

Public affairs remain much the same this side of the continent as when you departed. It is two weeks since Sir Robert Walpole has become Leader of the House of Commons, and he is faring exceedingly well in esteem there, and for that my parents, being partial to the Tories, are suspicious of conspiracy.

At the dinner function to-day, Robbie Wellington (who was uncharacteristically hesitant in manner towards me, it was all very odd) occupied our ears speaking of it, and the outrage of the collapse of the South Sea Bubble; I was nearly bored to either tears or death, and amused myself by eyeing my knife in contemplation of expediting the latter process. Manners and a dreadful fear of the sight of blood restraining me, I am not yet deceased, and so wait eagerly for your reply. For I am, as ever, your old friend,


P.S. I am so wretched that the perusal of advertisements rouses my mirth. I may acquire, The London Journal tells me so, a delightful vaunted copy of the Natural and Medicinal History of Worms, bred in the bodies of Men and other Animals; Together with an Enquiry into the Original of Worms, and the Remedies, which destroy them —observ’d and written by the most enlightened men across Europe, to be sure. One may become its proud owner for 99 pence a piece.

May 25, 1721

Dearest Cecily,

It is just like you to propose my mother cease her search and demand me instead come to Bremen at once, untenable as such an entreaty may be. Words cannot speak to how glad I am that you are in Germany, and not Poland nor Sweden, for weekly the paper reports unsettled talks between the Swedes and Muscovites, and how the Turks advance upon the side of Poland. Although, truth be told, much conversation of late turns towards the German states, and their status of possession, due to our Hanoverian King and the plain ambition of Charles VI, who has too keen an eye for other lands. These topics preoccupy our society, and I listen keenly for news of Bremen, where you are.

Our neighbors have fallen ill, and we all worry it is the Plague, which the papers report is spreading and growing worse in France. It will, of course, surely turn out to be the common cold, and we will think ourselves silly for worrying. Yet we read and track the Plague’s path in The London Journal with due attention.

The London Journal becomes very politickal. But perhaps I observe it only now because of present circumstances. I used to read Cato and his letters with some measure of enjoyment, and indulged in guilty pleasure in sharing his more radical views, for his advocacy of liberty and a fierce protection of man’s natural rights spoke to me. But his letters and the printing space they occupy irritate me more often than not now, anxious as I am to perusing the foreign news, for thought of you. I am bored, bored, bored, and to trifle the clock, I have begun browsing the recently publish’d The Strange Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and His Family by Mrs. Penelope Aubin, in hopes that it will indeed be strange.

Tell me more of your new town; it sounds darling, and I am invariably jealous.

As ever, your old friend,


June 17, 1721

My dear Cecily,

I receiv’d your letter gladly as of June 11. Are you so starved for English things? You asked on The Strange Adventures, so I shall tell you in lavish detail. There is a man, the Count de Vinevil, his daughter, Ardelisa, and his daughter’s betrothed, the Count de Longueville; so does the tale begin, with the Count’s decision to uproot his family and move to the great East, Turkey, for search of new fortunes as a merchant. Yet in Turkey his daughter (who is beautiful) is the subject of unwanted attention, partickularly from the Turk Mahomet, who falls in love instant and conspires to steal her away. But a great storm separates Ardelisa from the party, and when this Mahomet launches his planned ambush, he discovers only the poor Count in the household, who he kills in great outrage, and afterwith swears he will find
A copy of The Strange Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and his Family
A copy of The Strange Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and his Family
, or destroy all the Frenchmen in Constantinople trying (which seems greatly ambitious in mine eyes). Ardelisa, upon discovery of her father’s murder, swoons beautifully and falls into lamentations before she thinks upon her own preservation, which includes retreat to a village called Domez-Dure in the guise of a Man’s clothes. Alas, even then the Turks find her location, but Ardelisa flees into the woods before they can lay hands on her, into a small Christian’s house deep in the forest, and at which place the Lady passes time alone in pious prayer and discourse. There she remains a while. Her efforts to return to France (for even she grew tired of pious prayer and discourse, I surmise) materialize after due course of six months, wherein she travels to Constantinople for the ship’s voyage but is accosted by Osmin, a great Turkish general, who falls in love with her after confirmation of her sex, for she is still clothed in Man’s garments. It is fortunate, then, that a fire starts at the palace in which she is taken, so that Ardelisa and her Maid may escape amid cries of Fire! Fire!, that natural element that will consider them burned, and prevent all reports of their escaping.

Happily they board a ship and set sail for France, and during which voyage they encounter multiple adventures, and mighty storms and strange lands, but also a lovely detour into Venice, where Ardelisa and her company are entertained magnificently by Don Manuel (and here the text reminds me strongly of Robinson Crusoe, and his voyages upon sea, although this text does not confess itself a travel narrative, and is detailed by a narrator other than the characters involved at hand. So too does Robinson Crusoe involve itself in economic matters, which does not concern The Strange Adventures, save for the Count’s initial want for money. But it is pleasing to see a female character so pronounced; which was rare and too missed in Crusoe.) But to return. Now the Count de Longueville (do you still remember him?), who has safely been arrived in France before his betrothed, knows nothing of Ardelisa’s whereabouts and is exceedingly anxious to hear news of her. Ardelisa and the good Father Francis play a trick most cruel upon him; that is, Longueville is told that Ardelisa lies deceased in Turkey, upon which Longueville like a noble Knight declares in grand fashion that this day he will quit the World; and which is all well and good for Ardelisa lives and the lie had been made as a trial of Longueville’s constancy. The happy couple are reunited and the next year she blesses her Lord with a daughter.

I am humored, if not altogether enthralled, by this narrative; yet it strikes me the unilateral representation of the Christians, who are together good, wise, humble, generous, unaffected, beautiful, yet learned and prudent and modest, and so on and so forth, and the Turks, who are, at once, lustful, treacherous, and violent in words and in deed. The discrepancy seems quite stark, and I entertain, these days, thoughts of traveling to the East, in order to ascertain these things for myself, as I have heard talk of Lady Mary Montagu doing, in accompaniment to her husband.

Would you come with me?

I await, as ever, your response,


P.S. There is a brothel in the vicinity of your neighborhood??

June 22, 1721


Shield your eyes; Robbie Wellington has ventured approach. He has writ me a letter, which I receiv’d not two days ago, and it is simply HORRID. I am beyond APPALLED. Is he as dim as dying candlelight?? Is he illiterate??? Did he learn nothing from Pope?? Gay?? Swift??? I will gift, for your amusement and my eternal embarrassment, a choice line from this most unfortunately receiv’d letter and its most unfortunately distressed recipient:

A single 1.8034 meter tree, which equates 5 feet and 8 inches.
A single 1.8034 meter tree, which equates 5 feet and 8 inches.
“My wine-dark Prudence, you are as sweet as the sweetest moon and as tall as a 1.8034 meter tree. Your silken eyes are golder than your hair and sunlight’s light, but at night they turn golder still to outshine the moon, like a cat’s. In fact, they are so gold they are hazel. Which is actually the color of your eyes in reality, and which is more beautiful to me than gold, anyway.”

Forgive me, Robbie, but you are mistaken, for presently my eyes are RED because they SCALD. FOR MY OWN STUPID CURIOUSITY IN OPENING YOUR LETTER.

Pardon the outburst, and my presumption in sending to you two letters forthwith without a reply from you, but these surprising circumstances have forced my very literal hand, and I could hardly wait for your response and retain this my news in confidence any longer.


P.S. I anticipate your laughter, and indeed I can hear the tinkle of it here across the seven seas now, but truth be told, I am feeling much better after this unburdening of stress that has weighed heavily upon my brow since Monday.

June 22, 1721

My Friend, Robert,

I receiv’d your friendly letter of June 20, and thank you for it. Your letter flatters to a great degree, and to that I am much obliged; but I am otherwise engaged on your desired date and must decline your invitation to the theatre.

With great respect,
Prudence Williams

August 18, 1721

My Cecily,

Forgive me the long delay since my last letter. You even with your enviable imagination cannot imagine how the situation has since escalated: I am being accosted on all fronts, by my dear Robert Wellington, who has in rapid fashion addressed six letters to me since my initial rejection, each more daft and vapid than the last; and by my dear mother, who has, somehow, in Robert glimpsed something nostalgic of her ideal man, and has upbraided me for my subsequent six readily available rebuffals since. She thinks me stupid for neglecting to embrace the opportunity; He is handsome, says she for my review, and well-bred (handsome next to a cow, perhaps, and as well-bred as the freshest one in the country; indeed some of his features seem most remarkably bovine), and his intelligence may surprise you still.

A map of Europe in 1721, after the Treaty of Nystad.
A map of Europe in 1721, after the Treaty of Nystad.

Pray do not doubt my judgment of his intelligence or his imagination, or lack thereof in either; prose may be cruel but it imparts the most genuine insight into a person, I argued, and his is lacking severely, and continued to cite Mr. Pope’s[1] and Mr. Swift’s[2] [3] recent comments upon the subject, that writing is simple, and that it best be unadorned, in support of my defense. So you will idly watch this opportunity pass by, cried my mother in great passion, upon which I in response made reassurances that I would hardly be idle, but rather active in my discouragement of his attentions. This latter reaction was perhaps ill-advised, and I think now that I had misjudged the extent of my mother’s fragile emotional state, for she immediate broke down into tears; and I spent the remainder of the afternoon handicapped and helplessly retrieving handkerchiefs into which my mother could weep and blow her nose at ev’ry regular interval, for maximum histrionics.

I have retreated to my room, and have begun perusing remarks by Mr. Dennis in response to Spectator No. 70, although in truth I wait in dread for Robbie Wellington’s seventh letter, for I believe the arrival of it inevitable. Do you believe me too harsh in my rebuttals? You have always been the more rational, and I entrust myself whole to your advice, although I pray you to be kind in your giving of it, for I am not as brave nor as certain as you might think me so.

The paper today tells us positive news of a probable peace between Sweden and Muscovy, but cautions forbearance and emphasizes the probable; I have noticed The London Journal is circumspect in politickal matters such as this. But I suppose that these things like peace are variable, partickularly where the Russians are involved. What am I saying? I flatter myself to believe that you would observe my absence, and miss the stream of my interminable prattle. I am, as always, your ever loving friend,


August 26, 1721

My Friend, Robert,

Please desist in your recent pursuits.

With respect,

Prudence Williams

P.S. Also your most recent letter reeks with inaccuracies, and if you would be so kind as to allow me the liberty to point each out:

  1. You could not accompany me to a million and one theatre performances this-year even if you hoped to, for, amorous a declaration as that may be, firstly there are only two hundred fourteen theatre performances being held at Drury Lane this season and one hundred sixty-six at Lincoln Inn's Field. The dubiousness of my mathematickal qualities aside, by my count, that is three hundred eighty performances total, which falls nine hundred ninety-nine thousand six hundred twenty one performances short of your esteemed projection.
  2. Secondly Drury Lane has halted acting in order to redecorate its interior.
  3. Thirdly I have no intention of attending all, indeed, any, of those three hundred eighty performances with you.
  4. Fourthly Lincoln’s Inn Fields will not be showing Agrippa, for it specializes in and reproduces English plays for its programme. We may find Agrippa at the King’s Theatre,which shews pleasing Italian opera. But we will not, since I again have no intention of doing so with you.
  5. Fifthly for education upon future performances at the theatre, please refer to either the Daily Post, Daily Courant, or in partickular the Daily Journal, which lists theatrical advertisements and cast listings, in the stead of writing me for my opinion.
  6. Sixthly. I am exceedingly partial to Shakespeare; so your gentle mockery of his person is ill-met and worse receiv’d, for I had plans of attending his play Macbeth in September at Drury Lane; the character Macbeth being acted by Mr. Mills, of whose acting quality I am fond.

September 3, 1721

My dear Cecily,

Drury Lane in 1721, which competed primarily against Lincoln's Inn Fields for theatregoers.
Drury Lane in 1721, which competed primarily against Lincoln's Inn Fields for theatregoers.
Your heading The Unfortunate Affair of Wellington of 1721 seems quite apt, and provoked a snort from myself that my mother would surely not have approved ladlylike. Although I confess your letter frames the sharpest relief of my mind; I had begun to worry to on ‘t, and had begun to entertain second thoughts, not on acquiescing to his attentions, but rather on the severity with which I had conveyed my own response.

Nein, you are mistaken, the Spectator No. 70 concerns not Paradise Lost. Has your memory left you in Germany? Rather Mr. Spectator observed in the 70th that ballads ought to be respected; for they follow the rules of old, which follow nature. Methinks he agrees muchly with Mr. Pope, who advocates the traditions of the the great classical poets quite fiercely. Yet I find the Spectator's belief that 'tis impossible (I quote, direct, from his essay), 'tis "impossible, that any thing should be universally tasted and approved of by a Multitude, tho' they are only the Rabble of a Nation," of a tasteless sort, for -- I ask you -- would you, my dear, be impressed upon being compress'd into one in a Rabble, or a faceless Multitude?

So Mr. Dennis' rejoinder is one for intrigue, for he argues 'tis absurd and ridiculous, that man's poetry ought cater to a mob, ought please and meet the approval of a vulgar whole. This he says, and I am much in agreement, although Mr. Dennis also believes that there is (and I quote again, for though I am arrogant, I am not presumptuous enough to believe myself capable of lifting words the same way these authors do), there is a "way of deviating from nature by bombast or tumour which soars above nature, and enlarges images beyond their real bulk." In this I am afraid my instinct is one of disagreement; nature is the constant, the thread towards which all our writing yearns and wants. And now I expect to receive prompt in the mail, a heavy pamphlet of parchment from you, detailing your argument against my claims, for you are contrary like that. Oh, I do miss you so.

As for Mr. Wellington - I am understood he has retreated, for I have not heard from him in two weeks, more or less; I do believe I have put this matter to bed. Do not laugh, for I know you are laughing; I mean that of course in the most metaphorickal way possible.


September 23, 1721

My dear Cecily,

I must hasten in my writing of this letter — for my mother calls me for another social function (ugh!) — but did you think I would forget your birth day?

I have enclosed a bundle of nine pounds of cheese, and am also sending your way a copy of Natural and Medicinal History of Worms, bred in the bodies of Men and other Animals; Together with an Enquiry into the Original of Worms, and the Remedies, which destroy them. I am sure you will appreciate it; you must tell me, exactly, in as many words, how delightful a read it is.

I am, your old friend,


P.S. Peace in the North between the Swedes and Muscovy has finally been achieved, and the Treaty of Nystrad has been reached! Happy, if not long-awaited, news, and I rejoiced upon the reading of it in the paper to-day.

Works Cited

Addison, Joseph. "The Spectator, No. 70, Monday, May 21, 1711." Journal of Folklore Research 31.3 (1994): 181-190. JSTOR. Web. 8 December 2012.

Aubin, Penelope. The Strange Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and his Family: being an account of what happen'd to them whilst they resided at Constntinop;e: and of Madamoiselle Ardelisa, his daughter's being shipwreck'd on the uninhabitd island Delos, in her return to France, with Violetta, a Venetian lady, the captain of the ship, a priest, and five sailors. Internet Archive. Archive.org, 1721. Web. 8 December 2012.

Mullan, John, and Christopher Reid. "From John Dennis, Original Letters, Familiar, Moral and Critical (1721)." Eighteenth-century Popular Culture: A Selection. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. pp. 80-83. Print.

Pope, Alexander. "An Essay on Criticism." The Commerce of Everyday Life, Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator. Boston: Bedford's/St. Martin's, 1998. pp. 441- 449. Print.

Scouten, Arthur H. The London Stage 1660 - 1800. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1960. Print. 1247-1746.

Simms, Brendan. "A Protestant Empire, 1721-1724." Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714-1783. New York: Basic, 2009. pp. 159-181. Print.

Swift, Jonathan. "Letter to a Young Clergyman." Online-literature.com. The Literature Network, 1719. Web. 9 December 2012.

The London Journal (1721). Eighteenth Century Journals. Web. 7 December 2012.


[1] “Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound/Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found./False Eloquence, like the Prismatic Glass,/Its gawdy Colours spreads on ev’ry place; The Face of Nature was no more Survey.”
[2] “Two things I will just warn you again: the first is, the frequency of flat unnecessary epithets; and the other is, the folly of using old threadbare phrases.”
[3] “However, I shall venture to name one or two faults, which are easy to be remedied, with a very small portion of abilities. The first is the frequent use of obscure terms, which by the women are called hard words, and by the better sort of vulgar, fine language; than which I do not know a more universal, inexcusable, and unnecessary mistake…Where men err against this method, it is usually on purpose, and to shew their learning their oratory, their politeness, or their knowledge of the world. In short, that simplicity without which no human performance can arrive to any great perfection, is nowhere more eminently useful than in this.”