‘Nothing has actually modified’: letters from 1719 reveal acquainted worries of London life

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‘Nothing has actually modified’: letters from 1719 reveal acquainted worries of London life

When Ben Browne set off on horseback from his small village within the north of England for the brilliant lights of London in 1719, his issues weren’t so totally different from these of in the present day’s younger individuals. Primarily: please ship cash, the whole lot is so costly.

About 65 letters despatched by Browne to his father again in Troutbeck, within the historic county of Westmorland, now a part of Cumbria, have survived the intervening 300 years. On Tuesday they go on show at Townend, the Browne household house that’s now cared for by the Nationwide Belief.

The letters are filled with vivid descriptions of Browne’s new life in London, the place he skilled as a clerk to a lawyer, in addition to his want for funds. Early on, he encountered social unrest within the type of violent protests by Spitalfields silk weavers towards imports of calico from India. It was, he wrote house, a “very nice mobbing by the weavers of this city … they’re starved for need of commerce”.

The letters are filled with vivid descriptions of Ben Browne’s new life in London. {Photograph}: Nationwide Belief

As time went on, his letters continuously requested cash to assist pay his lease, and to purchase stockings, breeches, wigs and different objects essential to his new life. He hoped his dad and mom wouldn’t assume him extravagant, however “… my Cloaths which [I] have now are however imply in Comparability [with] what they put on right here”.

Browne described working lengthy hours, from 8am to 8pm, copying authorized paperwork, and was irritated to find his father had apprenticed him to his employer for 5 years. “I’ve Misplaced the prime of my Youth,” he complained.

Nonetheless – and regardless of telling his father how in need of money he was – Browne maintained a energetic social life, assembly pals, and consuming and ingesting round Fleet Avenue, near the Inns of Courtroom. He additionally discovered the sources to indulge his ardour for getting books.

A variety of surviving volumes within the library at Townend have buy dates comparable to the years Browne was in London and have been annotated in his hand. They included romances, fictional works and Shakespeare performs.

Exterior view of Townend, Cumbria. Ben Browne {Photograph}: James Dobson/Nationwide Belief Pictures

He additionally needed to discipline requests from household and neighbours again in Troutbeck to supply varied objects solely out there within the metropolis. He despatched a number of snuff bins to his dad and mom, and in a single letter Browne listed the requests he had fulfilled together with a wig trunk, sealing wax and a silver thimble, a “Cap for Parson Sawrey & two necklaces for him”, “Linnen for a robe and cape for Mrs Birkett Merrers” and “Chocolate & Espresso for my mom”.

In a single letter, Browne introduced he had married the maid of his employer, Mary Department from St Albans, having courted her in secret. He begged his father for his blessing and forgiveness, which was duly given. Browne wrote that he “shall ever acknowledge the various and endearing kindnesses and affectionate advices by me rec’d from so indulgent and affectionate father and mom”.

Emma Wright, the collections and home supervisor at Townend, stated: “These letters are so relatable, and so they present nothing has actually modified. Just like the emails or textual content messages they might obtain in the present day, many dad and mom with a toddler going off into the world will respect how [Browne’s father] should have felt getting information of [him] and requests for assist, whereas any younger one who has arrived in an enormous metropolis to check or work will recognise the conditions during which younger Ben finds himself.”

Browne spent 16 years in London earlier than returning to the household farmhouse within the Lake District. His father, additionally named Ben Browne, saved dozens of the letters younger Ben wrote house, however few written by the older man to his son have survived.


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