Mary Cummin's

Letters home to Lisburn

Edited by Jimmy Irvine 1982


Letter 10 Letter 11 Letter 12 Letter 13 Letter 14 Letter 15
Letter 16 Letter 17 Letter 18 Letter 19 Letter 20  

Letter No. 9

February 24th, 1812 

It will be two long months to-morrow, my dearest Margaret, since I had a letter from you, I cannot tell you how anxious I have been for some time, for I am very sure it is not your fault. This has been so dreadful a winter off this coast that there have been few arrivals, but I hope sincerely that the first ship from Ireland will bring the much longed for packet. I have got my picture taken for my darling Margaret,1 and as I did not like to send mine without Williams he very good-naturedly had his done for you also. I know my dear Margaret will prize it very much, they are thought to be extremely well executed. William will have them sent by the first ship to Liverpool, there to be framed and forwarded to you. I wish the originals were to accompany them. I had my hair done as you wished, and I think it will render the likeness more striking

William and I have enjoyed uninterrupted good health this winter, I hope and trust all the loved inmates of Strawberry Hill have done the same. William said he would have me weighed in order to tell you how much fatter I was than when I wrote last.

William Brown spent some days with us about six weeks since, he intended going to Savannah, but the weather at that time was so intensely cold that he was afraid to undertake so long a journey. You have little or no idea what cold weather is in Ireland, for a few days this winter the cold was so intense that water froze in the room we constantly sit in, and a large pitcher was broken by the frost, though it was on the sideboard near the fire. But this weather did not last, indeed I do not think we have had more altogether than three weeks' or a month's winter; for some time past the weather has been very pleasant, as warm as it is with you in April, I have begun to my garden, and I hope to get the seeds put down soon, a great many have their early peas up already. I am to get my flower seeds from Mrs. Bell, I was very busy the other day nailing up roses and jessamine in my little flower garden, I intend having it very nice.

The more I know of the inhabitants of Petersburg I like them better, they are extremely friendly and social, I think my acquaintance will be almost too numerous soon. I received an invitation to attend the Birth-night Ball, on Friday last, but declined going. I do not care for dancing so much as I once did. I am told it was very well attended. It is held in Blandford, a short way from Petersburg, in honour of the birthday of Washington. We have nearly finished the History of America, it afforded us great amusement this winter. Oh, my dear Margaret! how I long to hear how you have all been this long time past. I need not say how much or how often you are the subject of my conversation and thoughts. My dear Rachel has gone to school by this time, I hope she will like it, tell her I will expect to hear from her some time soon. I wish my dear James would answer my letter that I wrote to him, you surely have received letters from me lately? This is the fifth I have written since I came to America. 

We got our winter store of pork six weeks ago. You will think it odd to mention this piece of intelligence, but I assure you it is quite a serious business to the Petersburg folks, and I hope before long you will be able to tell me how you like my hams. In my opinion they are far superior to any you have in Ireland, they are much smaller and not nearly so fat as yours. We never think of cutting a ham here, they are just large enough to boil whole. We laid in eighteen pigs all at the same time, as you may fancy what an eating of spare ribs souse, chine, etc. we bad for along time after. Old Nancy is a famous hand at making force-meat, cheese, souse, all these kind of things. The cheese is made of parts of the feet, head, etc., boiled, spiced, and put up in a shape, it is eaten cold, with vinegar, and is extremely good. Souse is the feet boiled and kept in salt and water and used in the same way as the cheese. Pig's jowl, alias cheek, is thought to be a very nice dish with turnip tops in Spring. The head is cut exactly through the middle, the top is the skull and the under part the jowl. The tongue is left in. We put a little sugar on the hams and cheeks, which is thought to be an improvement. We keep all the bacon in tubs for five weeks, and then put it all in the smokehouse, there to remain, there must be a little fire put in almost every day for two months. I was thinking that the far end of the but would make a very good smoke-house, it would only require the floor to be taken up. You cannot think how much it helps to keep the meat from spoiling, and makes it so much better. What a dissertation I have given you about bacon. Mr. Cumming hopes to be able to send some hams to Ireland, and then I will have your opinion on this important subject. Our pork came to fifty-four pounds this year (�54).

How delighted I shall be when I return to you all to be able to amuse you with all I have seen, and heard in this part of the world. Oh, Margaret! when will that happy day arrive?

William has made several inquiries respecting the success Mr. Neely would likely have if he came to America, and he does not doubt of his final success. Baltimore would be the place for him to settle in, as such a teacher is much wanted there, but it would be impossible for Mr. Cumming to say what he would make. Good schools are much wanted in America, does he still continue to think of leaving Ireland?

I like the black servants, (I cannot bear the word slaves) very much. Nancy is a good-natured old creature as can be. I pay her a visit every morning, given her orders about the dinner, which she always executes well, Jinny is a very decent woman, she washes and does up our clothes as well as I could possibly wish, in time the children will be very useful.

There have been no less than three earthquakes since I came here, two happened about a fortnight ago, neither William nor I felt any of them, but a good many in this town felt the shock quite perceptibly, both happened at night and I am told many felt the bed shake in rather an unpleasant manner. There are no earthquakes in Ireland!

There is great work here in winter getting the icehouses fitted. Mr. James Cumming has got a very nice one on his lot. There is no living without ice herein summer I am told. Do you know the greatest comfort and amusement I have when alone is in building castles of what I will do when I go home for this is the burden of my song, what happy scenes I picture to myself when I am again in dear, dear Ireland, many a time William laughs at me about my castle building.

I hope my dearest Father has been quite well this winter, does he often speak of me? But I am sure he does. Oh, my dearest Margaret, what I would give to see you all once more! If I heard often from you I would be better reconciled to our separation. What keeps up my spirits is the constant attention and kindness of my dear William, he has without exception the best temper of anyone I ever knew, months fly away and still find us happy with each other, and as poor Mr. Wilson said �

"Wedded concord proves itself,
Brightens the bloom upon the cheek,
And looks the joy it need not speak." 

You know I am not given to boasting, this I assure you is how I feel, and I have no doubt of its continuation.

How are all my dear friends in Lisburn? I hope well, tell me all the news when you write, though absent I still feel very much interested about them all. I hope Miss McCully and my little friend Margaret are well and happy, give my most affectionate love to them and all my Lisburn friends.  How does Margaret . . . . go on now? Tell me when you write. I kept a diary of the weather for the last two months for my dear Father's amusement, which I will transcribe. I would like to know the difference of the two climates.


January 1 fine clear day, wind at the west
January 2, 3 fine clear day, wind at the west.
January 4 frosty and clear.
January 5 delightful day, hardly a cloud to be seen
January 6 fine day, a great deal of dust on the roads.
January 7, 8, 9 fine day a great deal of dust on the roads.
January 10 dark and cold, in the afternoon snow came on.
January 11   heavy fall of snow during the night, this day fine and clear
January 12 cold and dry.
January 13 hard frost.
January 14 dry day
January 15   a charming warm day, so much so that I sat at an open window at work, as warm and dry as a day in May with you
January 16 cold and unpleasant, ground covered with snow.
January 17 cold frosty day.
January 18 intense frost.
January 19, 20, 21 intense frost.
January 22 the most dreadful cold day I ever felt, water froze in the room with fire burning.
January 23 not so cold.
January 24 a thaw, not so cold; it is wonderful what effect the least change of wind has in this country.
January 25 mild day, in the evening heavy rain.
January 26, 27 wet, unpleasant.
January 28 fine clear day.  
January 29, 30 dark and disagreeable, rain in the evening. January 31 fine clear day.  
February 1 cold and unpleasant.
February 2 delightful day, warm and pleasant.
February 3 dark day, at night a great deal of thunder and lightning.
February 4 rather dark a little rain.
February 5 rather clear day.
February 6 fine clear frost day.
February 7 mild and dark, the shock of an earthquake was felt at night.
February 8, 9, 10 fine day.
February 11 dark day.
February 12 cold, frosty.
February 13 delightful day, plenty of dust.
February 14 very wet.
February 15 warm fine day, quite like Spring.
February 16 very wet.
February 17, 18 dark and unpleasant.
February 19, 20 lovely day.
February 21, 22 fine Spring day.
February 23, 24 delightful day.


From this little account you will be able to judge what a changeable climate this is, I will continue to keep an account of . the weather for this year, tell me when you write what kind of a winter you have had, in Ireland. Do you know I love to listen to the rain beating against the windows, it reminds me of my own dear country. I have only been once out in the gig since I came, the horse was lame for a long time afterwards, and now the roads are in some places so bad that it is almost impossible to get through them. It is as handsome a gig as ever I saw, and the horse is a beautiful creature, he is worth �90. Will you not be tired before you get through this long letter? But I hope you will retaliate and send me one twice the length. I must now begin to make little things. Oh, my beloved Margaret, how I wish you could be with me: but I trust in God all will be well. 

How are the Armagh people, I expect to hear from them soon. I hope Mary has been with you this winter. William joins me in a thousand loves to you all. That you may all enjoy health and happiness is the sincere prayer of

M. Cumming.

God bless you, my darling Margaret.

Tell my Father a law has passed in Congress to raise an army of 25,000 regular troops for the avowed purpose of invading Canada. This army is however only on paper as yet, and it is the general opinion it will never be raised, and that peace, so much to the interest of both countries will continue. William thinks there will not be war.


Miss Margaret Craig.

Strawberry Hill,

"Ann Alexander" via Liverpool. 

1.         See Plate 1.

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Letter No. 10

March 31st 1812.

I received my beloved Margaret's long looked for letter on the second of this month. It is impossible to tell you how delighted I was to hear that you were all well, and I hope and trust that you may long continue to enjoy every blessing this world can bestow. You have long before this received letters from me, and I now begin to think I should soon have another from you. How often I have read over your dear, dear letters I wish they were much longer. I Celt proud and delighted that my dear Father was pleased with my poor productions, and it would be the greatest delight of my life to think that the great pains and trouble he took with my education have not been thrown away. William and I have been as well as possible since I wrote. Indeed, I have never enjoyed better health than I have had this some months past. My old torment, toothache is returned of late, and troubles me a good deal, but I hope it will soon get better. How delighted you would be to see my dear William looking so well as he is at present. I assure you he looks many years younger than when he was with you. He says it is all owing to me, and I, you may be sure, have the vanity to think so. Do you know I have become a great gardener of late? I have got a variety of seeds sown long since, and a great many are coming up. My peas will be ready for podding in a day or two, my cabbages are doing very well, and this week I intend getting my melons and cucumbers sown in a large square. There is not any occasion for glass to put over them here, and I intend sowing some corn for roasting. I am told it is as good as green peas when young. So I flatter myself I shall have a plentiful supply of vegetables this summer. It is just a pleasant walk to the garden, and I visit it very often. I have sown all my flower seeds in the little garden before the windows. I got them all from my kind friend, Mrs. Bell, who has been uncommonly attentive to roe. Indeed, I never met with more friendship and kindness than I have experienced since I came to Petersburg from many of the ladies who have visited me. I have got quite a numerous, and I think very pleasing acquaintance. I am sure you would admire the American ladies very much, they are so affable and pleasing in their manners. Oh! my dear sister, how often I think of you, how often wish you were with me. I always loved you, but my affection for you is now increased tenfold. I think if I could but see you again I would be completely happy. I have been very busy of late making a variety of little things, I have now got them nearly finished. Oh, dear Margaret! what happy days I hope to spend when I return to you and Ireland. This is my constant wish, I may add prayer, that I may see you all once more. I think 1 know what "maladie du pays" is.1

The weather at present is very pleasant, there were several wet days at the beginning of this month, which is very unusual in this country. I do not know what will become of me in summer, for even in February some days were too warm for me. One in particularly was oppressively warm, the thermometer stood at 72. The warmest day in Ireland it is not much more, I believe. The peach trees look most beautiful just now, in full blossom. There are a good many growing in the yard, which I am told bear very well. I have my early potatoes planted long since. They are very good, I hear, for some time after they come in, but will not keep during the winter as they do at home. I would give a great deal for a little oatmeal,2 they do not make any here, the climate is too hot for the corn, it ripens before it fills. I am not partial to the American meal, as yet, though it is very superior to what we had in Ireland at one time. William is going to get me a cow directly, which will be a great comfort to me, I do not like buying milk. You see I tell you all my little domestic affairs, but I know you are interested in everything that concerns your poor Mary. Old Nancy and I continue to be on the best of terms that can be, she is very good-natured, and appears to be very fond of her young mistress. I think the negroes are very affectionate, they cannot do as much work as the white servants. Palermo works in the garden now, and little Joe is our butler, and a very good one he is, he is a great favourite with me, I would like to take him home with us.

Mr. James Cumming speaks of going to Ireland sometime in May, he is not very well. I expect a great packet of letters from Ireland soon, I think my dear James will write to me, and I expect to hear from some of my Armagh friends. I hope my dear Mary Cumming has been with you lately. I am very glad to hear that my dear James is in as pleasant a situation as you tell me he is, how proud I will be of him when I go home, tell him to write to me soon. How does my darling Rachel like school? I wish she would write to me and tell me all the news. How I love her! If she was with me we would have a great many little affairs to settle. William says he will send the pictures along with the hams, I hope they will be good. Nancy puts a little fire in the smoke house almost every day.

I baked a seedcake some time ago, by way of trial, which was very good, it was the first I had ever attempted. I shall be busy doing a great many little things this coming month. I will write a long letter the latter end of April, and I suppose the next one will be from William-with good news I hope.

You tell me the next letter will be from my dear Father, how delighted I shall be when I receive it. I cannot express the joy I feel when I get a letter from any of you, continue to write every month, I shall do the same. They are all talking of an embargo being laid on some time soon, I hope they will not go to war; William does not think they will. He has been engaged this some time past getting tobacco shipped off to England. I fear you will find this a very stupid epistle, but my head feels confused for want of sleep. If Madame Toothache does not soon take her departure I shall have to get the tooth drawn, and I do not like the thought of it at all. Do not be afraid of writing long letters to me, the most trifling circumstance is interesting to me coming from you. I am delighted to hear that all my Lisburn friends are well. Remember me in the kindest manner to Miss McCully, and M.B. and the rest of my kind friends.

William desires his most affectionate love to you all, he will tell you what kind of a little wife I make when he writes.

Heaven bless and send you every happiness, is the constant prayer of your

M. Cumming

  I send my Father a few musk and water melon seeds, I wish he would sow them in the Hot bed3. I believe you have not the water melon in Ireland.

  Once more farewell, my darling Sister!

Miss Margaret Craig.
        Co. Antrim.

 per "Ariadne" via London.

1 `Maladie du pays' is homesickness.
2 Oatmeal was eaten with new potatoes m Ireland.
3 A forcing bed composed largely of horse manure.

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Letter No. 11

April 24, 1912

My dearest Margaret,

I received the welcome letter that came by the "Protection" on the eighth of this month, and on Tuesday last I had along letter from my dear James, and another partly written by my Father and you, for which accept my most sincere thanks. How thankful and delighted I am that you are all well, long, long may you continue to enjoy every blessing that this world can bestow. I cannot express how much I am obliged to my dearest Father for writing me such pleasing letters. You cannot think what a long, affectionate and pleasing letter I had from my dear James, he writes in excellent spirits, and seems to be very happy in his new situation. I wrote to you the latter end of last month, but you have not received the letter yet. I suppose, it was very near being embargoed, but the ship, with some difficulty, got away in good time. Embargo and war is the present topic of conversation just nowhere, but I still hope there will not be war, if there should I fear I may bid adieu to hearing often from dear Ireland.1

Mr. James Cumming speaks of returning to his native country this Spring, if he should I believe we will send the pictures with him. I have been busy doing a great many little things for some time past, but I have now got my work all nearly finished. What would I give if my beloved Sister was with me now, but this is a vain wish.

I had a letter from Kitty Cumming2 about a week since, when she wrote Mary was staying with you. I hope she is still with you. I was very glad to hear that my dear Armagh friends were so well. I fear I have not much news to enliven this letter with, as I have not been much from home of late. My health is very good at present, and so is my dear William's, we walk every evening in the garden, it is now very nearly finished, and I think we shall have a very plentiful supply of vegetables during the summer. My little flower-garden is doing very well, there has been the most rapid Spring within this week past that lever saw, you have no idea how very variable the weather is here, we have had some very warm days already, the thermometer on Saturday last was as high as 88 in an open exposure, but this is an unusual circumstance in this month. We have made use of ice very often, and I find it extremely pleasant to cool the water, there is something oppressive in the warm weather in this country that is not with you. On the thirteenth of this month we had a very heavy fall of snow.

Last night William and I drank tea at Mrs. Robinson's, there was a tolerably large party, we had music and cards, I have not commenced card-playing yet, except with William, who sometimes plays whist with me in the evenings, you cannot think what a profusion of nice things they have at their parties in this country, I think they are at a great deal of unnecessary trouble.

I have not got the letters you sent by Mr. Sinclair, and I see by the papers that he has arrived in America. You will find it a good plan to send your letters to Liverpool, in future, as William hears often from James3 he could send my letters with his. How often, my darling Sister, I read over your highly prized letters, every word of them is dear to me. William says he will love you the longest day he has to live. I cannot express the many obligations I feel to him for his uncommon kindness and attention to me, every day I experience some new instance of his love and care of his little pet, as he calls me, it will be the greatest delight of my life to be deserving of all his attention. The next letter will be from him, I suppose, God only knows what may take place before another month, but I will hope for the best. I feel fiat sometimes. Oh! if you were with me! but I trust all will be well. 

Give my most affectionate love to Miss McCully and my dear Meg, thank her most sincerely for her last very pleasing and satisfactory letter, it afforded me a great deal of amusement. I will write to her when I have something worth writing about. When you write to James tell him that his letter pleased me more than I can express. I find he has not forgotten his once dear Mary. I have not a doubt of his doing well in everything he undertakes. I hope to hear from my dear Rachel soon, does she still continue to like school? Write to me very often, my darling Margaret, for your letters are the greatest comfort to me you can imagine.

God bless you, my beloved Father, my darling Sister, and Brother, and grant you every happiness, is and still will be, the prayer of your sincerely attached

M. Cumming 

The races are to be here next week, I do not suppose I will be at them, I would feel sorry when I thought on the last races that we were at. 

Mrs. Brown 4 has not been confined yet, but I expect we will hear good news from Baltimore very soon. Write, my dear Margaret, when you receive this. William will write as soon as we have good news to tell you of. I know you will be very anxious to hear. Tell my Father it is William's opinion that we will not have war, but that if Great Britain adheres to her orders in council the present Embargo system may be adhered to. Much, however, will depend on what Mr. Barlow will be able to effect with France.

Once more, farewell, my dearest sister. 

When the time comes that we are to return to my beloved Ireland, I almost think I will be a little crazy with joy.

Not the tranquillest air that the winds ever blew,
Nor the silvery lapse of the Summer-eve dew,
Were as sweet as the breeze or as bright as the foam
Of the wave that would carry your wanderer home. 

These are the lines James Cumming repeated to us, and passed them for his own composition, but I find them in a collection of Moore's poems that we have here. I think they are pretty.

Miss Margaret Craig,
        Co. Antrim,


1 The American War of 1812. During the Napoleonic wars both belligerents,Britain and France, took punitive measures against         the other which inevitably hurt the overseas commerce of neutral countries such as the UnitedStates. Napoleon had declared a   blockade of Britain which aimed at preventing her importing raw materials from abroad. Britain replied with Orders in Council which  required neutral vessels trading with the continent to call first at a British port, and if allowed to proceed. to pay re-export tax  before doing so In America there were those who considered France's tactics the more harmful. but President Madison and the governing party regarded Britain's as even worse. In an attempt to coerce Britain to change her policy the American government imposed an embargo in April 18 12 on British vessels trading across the Atlantic. This had little or no effect, so on 18th June the United States declared war on Britain. As Britain's military forces were already fully committed on the continent the war was fought largely at No. Not until Napoleon was defeated in 1814 were troops released in sufficient numbers to be sent across the Atlantic in strength, by which time the States had thought better of their ways and an arrangement was reached to terminate the war.
2 Kitty Cumming was another of William's sisters.
3 Probably James Brown who was then working in the Liverpool office.
4 Mrs. William Brown.

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Letter No. 12.

2 May 1812

My dear Margaret, 

Last evening at six o'clock we were blessed by the birth of a fine daughter. Mary was only a few hours ill, and both she and the darling infant are now quite well. I am not a good judge of what she will be like when grown-up, but Mary thinks she will be like her grandfather.1 Should this be so, and she should be like him in principles also I shall be content. Mrs. Swail, formerly of Ballynahinch, attended her, she is a great favourite among the ladies here. Mary wishes you could all see her little darling, as she terms her.

Tell your father that War is the order of the day at Washington, I am clearly of the opinion that the Executive and Congress wish to plunge the country into war with Great Britain, but they cannot wage war unless the people are with them, and this is by no means the case in my opinion. The Eastern people begin already to sit uneasy under the Embargo, this is a self-destroying measure, which cannot be long enforced in this country. It is the opinion of many that intercourse with England will be thrown open at the end of 90 days, I most ardently hope this will be the case, but there is no possibility of judging what steps our Rulers will take. Indeed, I am convinced they don't know this week what measures they will pursue next.

Our Spring races are just over, Mary went one day, she thinks the running is better here than at the Maze.

I hope your Sister will be able to write you a long letter in a few days, indeed, she is now so well that it is her intention to add a postscript to this. Please drop a line to the Armagh people on receipt of this. I wrote my Brother2 there along letter a few days since. Make my affectionate love to your Father, Rachel and James, and I am, my dear Margaret,

Your ever affectionate brother,

William Cumming.

It would be impossible, my beloved Margaret, to describe the rapture I felt on the birth of my darling little daughter, my happiness would have been complete if I could have had you all with me. William and I both wished it to be a little girl, and now we are completely satisfied. My darling William seems to be quite delighted with his little daughter. I feel as well today as I could possibly expect, and the little baby seems to be quite strong. She is just now on Mrs. Colquhoun's knee, taking some food. I think she is something like my beloved Father, I trust she will be like him in every respect. I often think how delighted he would be with his little granddaughter. Tell my dear Rachel that I have now the little Mary we used to talk so much about. How delighted my beloved Margaret would be with the little pet. I know what all my dear friends will feel when they receive this letter. I will write a long one as soon as I get well, at present I fear, sitting up long. Tell my dear James of the little niece he has got. Oh! that you were with me, but I will have that happiness one day.

God bless you all, my dear, dear friends. Write very soon, my dearest Margaret.

Remember me in the kindest manner to Miss McCully and my dear Meg, I know they will participate in my happiness.

Miss Margaret Craig.
        Co. Antrim,

1 i.e. like the Rev. Andrew Craig.
2  His brother, the Rev. Thomas Cumming

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Letter No. 13

  May 26th, 1812

My Dearest Margaret,

I am now so far recovered as to be able to go about again, and I feel very anxious to tell you all about my little darling, for I am sure she is almost as dear to my beloved sister as to myself. She has been as well as possible since she was born, and is grown the sweetest, fat little pet you ever saw. Oh, that my dear friends could see her! But I must give you a description of her little ladyship; in the first place her hair is the colour of her father's, she has a little round face, fine dark blue eyes, a tolerable good nose, and the handsomest little mouth I ever saw, the people all say she will be very fair. William is quite delighted with his little pet, she is very like what Isabella 1 was, and sometimes I think her very like my dear Father. She is very good as yet, and I hope will continue so, I believe I will be a pretty good nurse, I have great reason to be thankful for no one could have recovered better than I have done. I experienced the greatest kindness and attention from Mrs. Colquhoun, one of my nearest neighbours, indeed she was more like a relation than an acquaintance. My dear William (as he always is) was as attentive and kind as possible, but still I often felt the want of my darling Margaret. I used to think if you were with me how happy I would be, but that time I trust will one day arrive. Oh! if I was now at my dear Strawberry Hill, and could see my beloved Father with his little Mary in his arms I would be the proudest, happiest creature in the world. This is the summit of my hopes and wishes, and I live in the sweet hope of one day having them realised, what a blissful, happy time that will be, the longer I am from you I feel more anxious for our return to dear Ireland, and then my darling Margaret will come and stay with me, and be so happy, how I wish that time was come! I received the letters by the "Hibernia"2 during my confinement, and was delighted to hear you are all so well. I hope soon to hear again from you, I well know how happy you will be when you receive William's letter, he makes a very good nurse. How pleased my dear Rachel would be with her little niece. I had a letter from Mrs. Brown lately, she got a little daughter on the second of May. Mrs. Brown3 and the child were very well, they propose returning to England this summer. The weather just now is very pleasant, we have not had any warm days this month, there has been a great deal of very wet weather of late. I suppose the summer will be dry and warm. I have not been at the garden on the hill this long time, but William says it looks very well, the peas are ready for use, we shall have plenty of vegetables in a little time.

I wish you would send me a few of the tunes I used to play on the flageolet, the letters you sent by Mr. Sinclair have not come to hand, nor I fear will not, he arrived long since4.

You will be surprised to hear that we have thoughts of leaving this house, Mr. Bell's fine place belongs now to Mr. James Cumming, and William thinks of going there to live. I shall be quite delighted with the change, for it is a charming place, the house is very large, and the gardens and surrounding improvements are beautiful, it is about half a mile from Petersburg. Mrs, Bell has had the gardens always kept in the nicest order, they intend going to Richmond the first of July, if we go to Blandford I will give you a better description of the place than I can do now. I never will like to live in a town so well as in the country. William tells me sometimes that if we go there to live I will get so fond of the place that I will not like to leave it, but there is not the least danger in that respect, a cottage in Ireland for me, before a palace in any other country. Tell my Father that his letters gratify me more than I can express, and I hope he will continue to write frequently to me.

Little Mary is just now on my knee, one of her little hands is on my letter. Oh, my dearest Margaret, that you could see the sweet little darling! As soon as she is able to speak I will teach her all your names, she shall know her friends by description long before she sees them, she has very nice long fingers, we must have her-taught to play on the piano.

William thinks there will be an open intercourse with England at the end of the Embargo. I hope most sincerely that we may have peace.

I am sorry to hear Sally has been so poorly, remember me in the kind manner to them both. I hope to see them both well when I return. I was very glad to hear Mary Cumming stayed so long with you, I was pleased to hear she was so much admired in Lisburn, I do not wonder at it.

Give my kindest love to Miss McCully and my little friend Margaret, tell her that her letters afford me great amusement. I hope she will write often, I will write to her sometime soon, and thank her for her latest entertaining letter. I hope all my Lisburn friends are well, though far from them I shall always be glad to hear of their welfare. Tell my dear James I will answer his kind letter soon. William joins me in the kindest love to you all, and in wishing you every happiness. I am, my beloved Margaret,

Your ever affectionate

Mary Cumming.

  Write very soon and tell me everything.

  Miss Margaret Craig,
        Co. Antrim,

1.         Two of the Rev. Andrew Craig's Children, Isabella aged five and Arminella aged six, had dual young.

2.         The �Hibernia� was one of Alexander Brown's ships.

3.         Mrs. William Brown with whom the Cummings had sailed out to America on board the "Lydia".

4.         See page 46

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Letter No. 14

June 24th, 1812

.My dearest Margaret,

As this is the only opportunity I may have for some time of sending my letter to Europe, I am determined to write, though I fear I have not much good news to enliven this letter. Before you receive it you will have heard that War is declared between Great Britain and America, my dear Father's fears are now all realised, I could never bring myself to believe that they would go to war. 1 Last Sunday the declaration of War arrived here, and the happy news was announced by a number of the inhabitants by the firing of cannon, such is the spirit of a good many people of this place. I cannot express how much I have felt since I heard the welcome tidings, and when the cannons were firing and the mob shouting and rejoicing so on Sunday, it made me almost melancholy. I now feel as if I was a prisoner in this country, I much fear the time for our return to my dear native land is now more uncertain than ever. If I could hear often from you I would be better reconciled, but that I cannot expect. God only knows when war will be ended, at present I think the prospect is very gloomy, but I will not dwell any longer on this unpleasant subject, for I cannot bear to think of it.

Now for some good news, in the first place then, my little darling Mary is grown the sweetest little pet you ever saw, she has not been once sick since she was born, she has got so fat and white that she is like a wax baby. Oh, my beloved Margaret! when I sit looking at her pretty little face I think what a pet she would be with you all at home, how you would love her if you saw what a sweet little darling she is. She is beginning to take notice and will attend to you when you talk to her. I do not know who she is like, some think her like William, I believe she will be pretty, she is very fair, and has very dark blue eyes and a sweet little mouth, but I believe I told you all this in my last letter. I know my darling Margaret will not be tired hearing of her little Mary. Tell me does my Father speak of his little grand-daughter, or express a wish to see her? I hope he does, I am sure he would love his little Mary, as he always did her mother. How delighted I shall feel when I go home to see him with his little pet, talking and explaining everything to her. Oh, Margaret, dear! when will that blissful time come? but I live in hopes that my dreams of happiness will one day be realised.

I hope I shall have a letter very soon from you, it is now nearly three months since the last letters were written, I think I would hear oftener if you sent your letters to Liverpool, William heard from James yesterday. 2 I hope we shall be in Blandford before I write again, I am anxious to get to the country once more, I was there about a fortnight ago, and the place looks beautiful. I think the garden Will be a source of great amusement to William, as I suppose there will not be much business to attend during the war. 

When I return to Ireland you will not hear me complain of the heat as I used to do, having experienced the heat of a Virginian summer, yours will appear quite pleasant. It is more oppressive than you can imagine, I can compare it to nothing but living in steam, the air is actually scorching sometimes, but this uncommon heat does not continue more than a week or so at a time. During the very warm weather the mercury is from 90 to 94 in the shade, I wish very much I had brought a thermometer like my Father's I believe it does not rise higher than 76 with you. William and I continue to enjoy excellent health, which I hope will continue throughout the Summer, we are obliged to make use of ice to cool the water constantly, indeed I could not have conceived it would be so necessary as I find it is. There is an ice house at Blandford which I hope will be a great comfort to me.

When you write now, my dearest Margaret, you must let your letters be very long, tell me everything, no matter how trifling, many is the time I read over your dear letters. I shall write every opportunity I can hear of. How is my dear Rachel? I hope she continues to like school, how she would dote on her little niece. I have not written to my dear James yet, bat I will soon. I hope he is well. I intend not to have my little pet christened till we go to Blandford. My dear William makes an excellent nurse, he is so fond of his little daughter. I fear she will be spoiled between us, but I will try and bring her up as well as I possibly can, for I cannot bear spoiled children. I had a long letter from my dear Mrs. Cumming 3 lately, which I will answer when I get to Blandford:

Remember me most affectionately to them all, and to all my good friends in Ireland, particularly to my kind friends Miss McCully and my dear Margaret Byeres. I send you a curl of my darling Mary's hair, she has not got much yet.

I received a letter about three weeks since that came by Mr. Sinclair, dated Nov. 6th.4 I hope you have got the letter William wrote to you before this time. I hope the pictures5 may go safe, God knows when you will see the originals, but I will hope for the best. Oh, my darling Sister, the day that takes me to you again will be the happiest of my life. Tell my Father I hope he will write to me soon. William joins me in the kindest love to you all.

God bless you my beloved Margaret, and grant you every happiness, is the sincere prayer of

Your ardently attached

  Mary Cumming.1

1 See Letter No. 11 footnote 1.
2 Probably from James Cumming. William's brother, who had by now crossed over to England.
3 Mrs. Cumming, Mary's mother-in-law, who lived in Armagh.
4 Sees, page 77
5 The portraits of William and Mary which James Cumming took with him across the Atlantic. That of Mary is reproduced as Plate 1.


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Letter No. 15

If I was writing to any person but my beloved Margaret I would be sure they would be completely tired before they would read all I have written, but it gives me the greatest pleasure to think that my poor productions may amuse you and my dear Father a little. I suppose you are in Armagh now, I hope all my dear friends there are well. I must write to Mrs. Cumming soon. I am very glad to hear my dear Rachel likes school, tell her to write to me sometimes, how I wish she was with me, I think little Mary would afford her great amusement. When you write let your letter be very long, you can hardly imagine what delight I take reading them over. Tell my dear James not to be offended with me for not answering his kind letter before this, I will write to him the very first opportunity, give my kindest love to him, time or distance cannot diminish my love for the dear, dear companions of my early days. Oh, Margaret, will I ever have the happiness of being with you all once more? I trust I shall. I am rejoiced to hear Miss McCully and my dear Margaret are well, give my most affectionte love to them and all my kind friends, I am glad I am not forgotten among them. You have not mentioned Nancy Wrightman1 in your letters, I hope she is well. Give my kindest love to her, tell her though far away I have not forgotten the many happy days that she and I have had together. William will write a few lines to my Father. I was surprised to hear of Dr. Crawford's marriage. I hope I will soon hear of J.C. 2 being "Benedict the married Man" you will know what I mean. Write very soon to me, my beloved Margaret, that you may all enjoy every happiness is the sincere prayer of your

  Mary Cumming


Dear Sir,

Petersburg 3rd August, 1812.

An event that you have so long feared has at length taken place, War was declared by Congress on the 18th June, against Great Britain, although contrary to the wishes and expectations of a great majority of the people of Property in this country. I believe it was a last effort of the party in power brought about with a hope of keeping themselves in, but of all others it is in my opinion calculated best to hurl them from their seats. Indeed we cannot reasonably calculate on an establishment of a perfect understanding till our present rulers are turned out and the genuine friends of the country, the Washington party, are brought into power. It is much to be hoped that so desirable an event may not be far distant. Indeed, I cannot believe that the good sense of the people of this country will permit the party in power to govern them much longer, nor do I think there is any danger of an alliance with France, although I firmly believe Mr. Madison would like such a measure, but he will not in my opinion attempt so bold a step.

The mercantile part of the community, the New England States particularly, will be dreadfully injured by the War, they are much the greatest shipowners, four-fifths of which is now abroad, and nearly all of them have and will fall into the hands of Great Britain: already many have been captured, last New York Gazette contains a list of seventeen valuable ships that have been taken off our coast and sent to Halifax. This is a fine harvest for officers of the ships on this station: One of our national vessels has already been taken, and great fears are entertained for Commodore Kaye of this squadron, they sailed about forty days ago in pursuit of a Jamaica fleet, and since then John Bull has mustered a superior force on the coast, expecting to intercept him and his booty.

Notwithstanding the hostility of our Government to Great Britain, yet I cannot bring myself to believe that the war will be of long duration, it is so much the interest of both nations to be at peace and in habits of friendship that I hope and believe the present contest will soon be at an end.

I was happy to learn by your sundry letters to Mary that you had quite recovered and that the family enjoyed good health. I most sincerely hope this will long continue, and that in the course of a few years we shall all meet again in our native country.

Please make my kind love to Margaret, Rachel and James. who am, dear Sir,

Yours Affectionately,

William Cumming.

Miss Craig,
        Co. Antrim.

Received and forwarded by your obedient servant William Brown.

1 Nancy Wightman (1792 �18.. )was the only daughter of John Wightman of Lisburn in whose home the Rev. Andrew Craig had  lodged prior to taking up residence at Strawberry Hill. Mary and Nancy were much of an age and were obviously friends. Nancy's brother, Thomas Henderson Wightman, served in the Mediterrean as a naval surgeon during the Napoleonic wars and then studied for the ministry at Glasgow University. He died in 1823. Their elder brother, William (1785 - 1848), married Madelina Patton in 1814 and emigrated to America. (Florence. Alabama) shortly afterwards, where Nancy  joined them afte Henderson's death.
2 J. C. was James Cumming.   

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Letter No. 16


November 17th, 1812 

I never before felt reluctant to begin a letter to my beloved Margaret, for never till now had I bad news to communicate. Oh! my dear sister, how you will be grieved to hear that God has been pleased to take to Himself my darling child. The little angel breathed her last on the fourteenth September, and "winged her early flight to heaven."

When I look back on the last three months it appears to me like a frightful dream. I dreaded this Fall, but little did I think we were to experience such sickness as we all have done. I was taken with a bilious fever about the middle of August, which confined me to bed for three weeks, during my illness my sweet infant took a bowel complaint, from which she never recovered. This is the most dangerous disease that children have in this country, my beloved child lingered in it for three weeks, two physicians attended her, but all would not cure her. Oh, dearest Margaret! it almost breaks my heart when I think that my lovely baby is gone forever. Oh, that you had seen her, you would not wonder at my sorrow. She was one of the most beautiful infants I ever beheld, and so good, she was too good to stay in this troublesome world. I believe she knew me, for when I would go to take her out of her little crib-bed the darling would look up at me and laugh, she was beginning to take notice of everything, but she is an angel in heaven, and in that happy place I trust in God I shall meet my little Mary.

It will be long before I can get the better of her loss, for I am so lonely without my sweet pet, but I will try all I can to be resigned to the will of Providence.

"The numerous ills of life to prove
To us survivors may be given,
My babe has scaped this gloomy train,
And winged its early flight to heaven." 

These lines I think of very often, they are the last verse of the beautiful little poem my dear Father gave to my Mother on the death of Arminella1, I brought them with me. My dear William has suffered very much as well as myself this Fall, he had the same kind of fever that I had which confined him for a long time. He is now, thank God, almost quite well, he walks to Petersburg every day. I am getting better every day though still very weak. I was not sufficiently careful of myself after my first illness and was taken ill again and with one complaint and another have been confined to my room for nearly three months, but we now have fine, cold, frosty weather, which will soon bring us round again. I now know too well what ague and fever is. This has been among the most sickly Falls ever known in Virginia. I do not know from what cause. The physician that attended me told me he visited from thirty to forty patients every day in Petersburg. A lady who lived near me this Fall lost two fine children in less than a fortnight, but there have been very few deaths among grown-up persons. This is a sad, unhealthy climate, but I have had my seasoning, as they call it, and hope not to be ill again during my stay in this country, which I trust will not be very long, for oh, I long to breathe once more my native air in darling healthy Ireland. It is the country for me. They talk of the wetness of the weather, but what matters when the people have no agues and fevers? I do not know what I should have done during my illness if it had not been for Mrs. Freeland, a lady of my acquaintance who lives very near me. I never experienced so much kindness and attention from a stranger as I have done from her at the time poor William and I were so much distressed that we could do nothing. She came here, ordered everything to be done that was necessary, and indeed appeared more like a kind relation than an acquaintance.

She came every day to see me, till she herself was taken ill, but is now almost recovered, she spent Sunday evening with me. Dearest Margaret, how you would love her if you knew her. Mr. Freeman is a Scotchman, they have two fine children, both girls, the eldest (Agnes) is a great favourite of mine, she is fifteen years old, just about the age of my darling Rachel. She is very fond of me and brings her work and sits with me very often. When I get well she is coming to stay sometime with me. Whenever I would say to my dear Mrs. Freeland how much I felt obliged to her for all her kindness I am sure she would reply "You would do the same for me if I were in your country." I can never forget her uncommon attention to me. When, my beloved Margaret will I receive another letter from you? I have not had one this long long time. Your last was dated 28th May. I am sure you have written several since that time but none have come to hand. I would have been very uneasy had I not heard by a letter from Mary Cumming that you were all well. William had one the other day from Mr. Cumming 2 dated August, in which he mentions that the Strawberry Hill people were all well. Still I am most anxious for a letter from yourself. My beloved Margaret, what would I give to see you and all the dear dear inmates of Strawberry Hill once more. Will the time ever come that I shall be with you all again? I trust from my heart it will. My affection for you increases every day. God bless you, for if anything happened to you my happiness would be gone for ever. I think as you do that there never were sisters loved each other as we did and do. I have great reason to be thankful, for I enjoy a thousand blessings and that first and greatest of all is having the best of Husbands, which I have. My dearest William is my constant comfort and support through all my trials, he is so kind and indulgent to me that now I feel quite lonely when he goes even to Petersburg. You would require to be in the house with him to see all his kindness. God bless and spare him to me. He is very busy overseeing his labourers every day and getting the garden put into nice order. This is a sad stupid letter but my spirits are not good. Will you tell my dear Father that I wish he would write to me soon. Give my affectionate love to my dear friends in Armagh. Tell Mary3 I am very much obliged to her for her kind letter which I will answer when I am better able than at present. I hope my darling dames and Rachel are well. I am rejoiced to hear my dear Father is in such excellent health. Long long may he continue so! William joins me in the kindest love to you all, and wishing you every happiness, I am my darling Margaret's ever affectionate,

M. Cumming.

It is William's opinion that the war cannot last long, the great majority of people of information and property are for peace. God grant that we may soon have matters settled. I forgot to mention in my last letter that I had made inquiries respecting the young man of the name of Morrison that my Father mentioned, but I cannot hear of any such person teaching school in Petersburg. Write to me dearest Margaret, whenever you receive this and let your letter be very long. I wish you would send your letters to Liverpool directed to the care of William Brown and Co. and they would send them by the first opportunity. William has received several lately from that place. I suppose Miss McCully has left Lisburn long before this, I hope she and Margaret are well. When you write give my most affectionate love to them. I intend to keep myself constantly employed as I can this winter, for thinking much does me a great deal of harm. 

Oh, my dear Margaret, will you and I ever wander about Strawberry Hill and talk of the days that are gone? I trust we shall, I will write soon again when my spirits are better. You have got the pictures by this time, I suppose. I hope you will think them like, once more, farewell! my darling sister.

1. See Letter No. 13 footnote 1.
2. Mr. Cumming, William's father.
3. Mary Cumming, William's sister.

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Letter No. 17


My dearest Father,

January 29, 1813. 

This day your long wished for and welcome letter came to hand. I cannot express how very anxious I have been for several months past on account of not hearing from you. It is eight months past since Margaret's last letter was written. I could not imagine the reason why none of your letters came to hand, as William receives his from his friends in England and Ireland as regularly as before war was declared, 1 but I hope I shall be more fortunate for the future. The letter you mention of Margaret's will not arrive now if it was sent by the "Charles Faucett" as all her letters were taken out and destroyed. I wrote a long, letter to Margaret about two months ago, but the ship did not sail till the fourteenth of this. Once more I have the happiness of telling my dear Father that William's health and mine is now quite re-established. I think I have got completely quit of the ague and fever which was very unwilling to leave me, but' by taking great quantities of bark 2 I have at length succeeded in stopping it. 

Thank God, my spirits are much better than when I last wrote, though I mourne and still will deplore the death of my beloved child. What a lovely baby she would have been had she lived till now! I amuse myself as well as I can with my drawing and work, which helps to pass the time when William is in Petersburg. He goes over every morning and returns to dinner, he is now very busily engaged buying tobacco. We have amused ourselves during the winter nights reading Marshall's "History of the Life of Washington". It is very entertaining. This manner of passing our evenings reminded me of the ones we used to spend at my darling home.

Our winter for so far has been uncommonly pleasant, there has been little rain and not much cold weather. William has peas sown a month ago, he has learnt already to be an excellent gardener. The place is all kept in the nicest order. He was obliged to get two more men for the garden so that we have now nine black people about the house, a pretty large family you

will say. I like this place much better than living in town, 3  I wish my dear Father would pay us a visit, I think you would be pleased with our place of residence. I intend making a collection of seeds and roots to take home with me. We have a great variety here which I believe are not to be met with in Ireland.

Almost every week adds to the list of my acquaintance. I have been visited by several very pleasing people since I came to Blandford, indeed the society in and about Petersburg is most delightful, the more I know of the American ladies I like them better, many of them are highly accomplishd, all friendly and agreeable. Mrs. Scott, a lady lives very near me is going to teach me botany, she is a most pleasing woman, has a fine taste for drawing, and seems willing to give me every instruction in her power. In spring we intend going into the woods on a botanising expedition, she says there are a great variety of very curious plants to be met with in these wild woods. You that have a taste for these things would find constant entertainment if you lived here, but you live in afar better country where you are not afraid of the ague and fever. However, William intends for the future to take a jaunt for two or three months during the sickly season, and by that means I hope we will enjoy good health for the future. Agnes Freeland stayed some time with me lately, she is a great favourite of mine. I can never forget the attention I received from that family during my illness. I go to see them very often. How delighted I am to hear that you have all been so well. May you all long continue so is my earnest prayer.

I hope my dearest James will be everything your fondest hopes can wish, indeed I have no fear but he will be an ornament to his family. I shall be quite proud of my brother when I return. Write to me often, my dearest Father, for I can't express the heartfelt delight your letters afford me. I will write by every opportunity. I would be very much pleased to get the view of Strawberry Hill. Often I look at the view of Lisburn and think how many times I have admired the original from that sweet little spot, which I hope I shall revisit in a very few years. l am sure my dear William will leave this country as soon as he possibly can, for he does everything he possibly can to please and oblige me. How delighted I will be if I can amuse you when I return relating the many wonders I have seen and heard of in this great quarter of the globe. The people of this country certainly enjoy many blessings, provisions of all kinds are so plenty that you seldom or never see a beggar. I wish I could send some of our nice hams and flour to you. William is concerned in a shipment of flour that is to be sent to Cadiz. I suppose they will get a high price for it.

I was very much grieved to hear by your letter of the death of Mrs. Fulton, I pity the girls from my heart. Will you give my kindest love to them. Many many is the happy day I have spent with them and will spend again I hope. If it was not for that sweet flatterer I would be very dull sometimes, but still she whispers that I shall live to return to Ireland and to meet once more the beloved friends I left. I suppose Dublin will be the town where we shall reside and then I hope I shall have the happiness of seeing my dear Father in my house. William says he wishes very much for peace, but is afraid it will not be brought about soon. There is some hope, however, that the discomfiture of Buonaparte in Russia may tend to lower the demands of this government on yours, and in that case a peace may be concluded during the present year. I trust it may be the case. God bless you, my dearest Father and grant you every happiness this world can bestow is the constant prayer of your 

Mary Cumming.

I thank you most sincerely, my beloved Rachel, for your kind letter. Believe me, I never could suppose for -a moment that you would forget your sister Mary, whom you used to love so much. I am very glad to see that you are so much improved in your writing. I shall hardly know you when I return, you will be so much altered. I have my heart fixed on your coming to stay with me in Dublin, by that time I hope my darling Margaret will be in a house of her own, and then my Father can stay the most of his time with his children, you see I have not left off my old amusement of castle-building. Ah, Rachel! many of my schemes of happiness have been destroyed within the last six months, when you speak of your little niece I am so grieved to think she is no more. Oh! Rachel, had you seen the angel that she was you would have loved her, in my life I never saw so lovely an infant. Give my kindest love to Mrs. Telfair, I hope she will be more fortunate with her baby than I have been with mine.

            I have written a long letter to Mary Cumming, and another to Mrs. Brown of Liverpool, she left her eldest little girl with friends in Baltimore. Tell my dear Margaret if there was any particular news in the letter she wrote me in summer I wish she would repeat it in her next, as I am sure I shall not now receive it. When you write to James give my kindest love to him, tell him I wish he would write to me, my next letters will be to him and Margaret. What a happy time it will be when I return to you all again. How delighted I would be to have my dear Rachel staying with me. You would be delighted with our house and garden, I hope Mr. Neely is well, give my kindest love to him. I am glad to hear you are making so good a progress in drawing. I suppose you area nice worker now; who makes your frocks for you? I have done a quantity of satin stitch lately, it is the kind of work I like best.

Agnes Freeland taught me how to make a very neat trimming of white cotton, many a time I have wished I could describe the manner of working it, so that you and Margaret would learn it, but you could not unless you first saw someone work it, however I shall have the pleasure of teaching you when I go home, it amused me very much when I was not able to do any other kind of work.

I hope Miss McCully and my dear Margaret Byers are well, I am glad to hear they are to live in Lambeg, I am sure you and Margaret would have missed them very much had they gone to Newtownards.

I shall be much obliged to Margaret to send me a receipt in her next letter for making currant wine, we have a great many in the garden, I wish to try to make some next Summer. We have plenty of fine Madeira here, but I have so bad a taste I would rather have currant wine.

William joins me in kindest love to you and my dear Margaret, and believe me, my dearest Rachel,

Yours Affectionately,

Mary Cumming.


Rev. A. Craig.
        Co. Antrim.


1. William's friends dispatched their correspondence through William Brown act Company of Liverpool, a means Mary repeatedly asked her family also to use. That letters were thus able to come through e n in time of war, demonstrates the strength of the Brown family establishment.
2. Bark. i.e., quinine.
3. Blandford, where William and Mary were now living, lay on the outskirts of Petersburg.

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Letter No. 18

March 10th. 1813 

I received my darling Margaret's welcome letter a few days ago, it was a very long time since I had one from you. I wrote a long letter to my Father and Rachel about six weeks ago, in answer to theirs, but I do not believe the ship they were to go in has left this country yet. There is a report to-day that letters will not be permitted to leave this country, but I sincerely hope it is without any foundation. It is also said that letters will be opened and read, I care not who reads mine.

How delighted I am to hear you are all so well, William and I continue to enjoy excellent health, and by leaving this place for a few months during the sickly season I hope we shall enjoy it (or along time to come.

I am very much pleased to hear you think the pictures like, and I hope you will have the originals with you in a very few years, and then how happy we shall all be. Do not, my dearest Sister, ever be afraid of your letters appearing either stupid or tiresome, believe me, I would like them to be much longer, I wish you could see how delighted I am when William brings me one, many is the time I read them.

I got some tunes which you sent me about a year ago, but I would like to have a set of "The Heather-Bush" and some other Irish airs I used to play. I still continue to like the flageolet, the people here are quite pleased with it. I will get you to teach me to play on the Musical Classes2 when I go home, Margaret Byers says you play very well, and I shall take the greatest delight in teaching you and my dear Rachel any thing I may have learned in this country. I have written along letter to Margaret Byers and another to James, which I enclose, you will send it to him if he is not at Strawberry Hill; I wrote to Mary Cumming some time since. You have by this time, I suppose, received the first letter I wrote after my recovery, I know how much my dear Margaret will feel for my loss, when I read your letters how grieved I am to think the little angel who is the subject of so much of them is no more, what a lovely darling she would have been had she lived till now. 

William is very busy with his garden now, getting seeds put in, this place will look beautiful in a month or two. I am on the most intimate terms you can imagine with my neighbours, who visit with each other without the least ceremony, when I feel lonely in the morning I take my work and sit with the Freelands, how much I wish my dear Margaret knew that family, I am sure you would like them very much, many a time Sally Freeland says she wishes I was her Sister, she is a lovely little girl about nine years old. I think the Virginian people are more like the Irish in their manners than any I have met with yet, they have all that affability and kindness that is so pleasing to strangers.

We had a card party here last week, everything went off very well. I have not been at many parties this Winter, we are engaged to dine at Mr. Robert Colquhoun's on Friday. William and I went to the birthright Ball on the 22nd of February, there were a great many at it. There is to be another on St. Patrick's night, but I do not think we shall go, I am not as fond of dancing as I was once, but I shall recover my taste for it when I go to Ireland, I do not like the reels they dance in this place as well as the country dances I once enjoyed so much.

How delighted I am to hear my dear Rachel is so much improved, I am longing so much to see her; she will be very much changed when I return.

You tell me Mrs. Ward will write to me soon, give my affectionate love to her, and tell her I will be very much gratified to hear from her, she was always a great favourite of mine. Is there no word of another little one?

I think Mrs. Walker is determined to have as large a family as her mother, if she goes on much longer in the same manner she has begun, give my love to her, and tell her I look forward with the greatest pleasure to the time when I shall be a neighbour of hers, tell Eliza I expect she will be living in Dublin by that time. Oh, my dearest Margaret! what blissful days we will all spend when I return, I shall have you or Rachel constantly with me, and I will do all in my power to make you happy. I wish every month was a year till that time arrives. William joins me in the kindest love to you and all the dear inmates of Strawberry Hill.

Write soon, my beloved Margaret, to Your much attached

Mary Cumming.

  Miss Craig.
        Co. Antrim

1. The portraits of William and Mary taken over to England by James Cumming.
2. It would seem the Crags at Strawberry Hill had purchased a set of musical glasses sometime during 1812. See Plate 9. The instrument, invented by Richard Pockrich of Co. Monaghan in 17", consisted of a number of graded drinking glasses, played by running a wetted finger round the rims. Marianne Davies turned performer, retired in 1785 at the early age of 40 due to her nerve having given way under the stress of the strangely penetrating sound of the glasses she played so much. Thereafter public interest in the instrument declined and has never since recovered.

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Letter No. 19

November, 7th, 1813. 

It is a long time, my beloved Margaret, since I wrote to you, my last letter was dated in July1, which I hope you have received long since; about a fortnight ago I got three letters from Ireland, one from my dear Rachel, another from Mary Cumming, and one from James. I thought I would have had one from my dear Margaret as Rachel mentioned you had written. If you sent yours by the same conveyance it has not yet come to hand, but I hope I may yet receive it, as I would be very sorry one of your letters should be lost. I was uneasy at not hearing from you during the summer, as there were several arrivals; I believe I got all the letters you and my Father wrote during the winter, his last was dated in March. I would have written to my dear Margaret long before this time, but my health for these two or three months has been so bad I could not bear to write till I recovered a little. I have now the happiness of telling you I shall soon be quite well, I gain strength every day, and was able yesterday to walk to Mrs. Freelands. You will also be delighted to hear my dear Mr. Cumming is, and has enjoyed uninterrupted health during the summer and Fall, indeed I never saw him look better than he does at present.

I believe I mentioned in my last our intention of leaving this place during the sickly season, this we would have done, but as I expected to be confined in September, I could not think of leaving home, and returning again just at the most unhealthy time of the year, which would have been worse than if we had not gone away, and I thought by taking great care of myself I would get over the Fall in tolerable health, but I have been sadly disappointed. I was not well during the summer, but was still able to go about, the fever and ague I have never got completely quit of, which troubled me a good deal in the Spring and Summer; though not a dangerous, it is the most disagreeable complaint I ever had. The last Summer was the warmest almost ever remembered in this place, and you may be Sure I felt it most sensibly. About the middle of September I was taken with what they call a bilious colic which confined me a few days and on the eleventh day I lay in, but my dear sister, I grieve to tell you, my darling baby never breathed, it had been dead for a few days before, owing perhaps to my weak state of health.

After all I had suffered and all the schemes of happiness I had planned, to be thus deprived of my sweet child was almost more than I could well support. I was taken immediately after with the same kind of bilious fever that I had last year which confined me in July to my bed for five weeks. I was very ill but with the best advice and attendance I have at length got over the disease, and I hope to enjoy tolerable health during the winter. Good health, such as I once had, I do not expect to have till I have been to dear Strawberry Hill. How often I longed to enjoy the sweet healthy breeze that you have in that blissful little place. You do not know half the blessings you all enjoy.

My little baby was another daughter, this was what I wished it to be. Oh, my dear Sister, I can hardly help repining at losing these two little angels, but I shall try to be resigned, and hope for happier days. What keeps up my spirits much better than they would otherwise be is the unremitting kindness and attention of my dear William, indeed, Margaret, unless you were in the house with him you would not know how very affectionate he is to me. He gratifies me in all my wishes, and as soon as he possibly can will take me home to you again. Our days glide on in peace and quietness and if I was once more with you I should be completely happy, I think. I do not believe a physician from Ireland would know how to treat the complaints which we have in this part of the country. For my own part, I think the severe remedies they are obliged to make use of are almost as bad as the diseases themselves, bleeding, blistering, salivating, are three of the most favourite cures for bilious complaints. All three I had the pleasure of experiencing this Fall. The two first are nothing, but if I had an enemy on whom I wished to inflict a most severe punishment I would order them to be salivated. For a fortnight you would hardly have understood what I said, my mouth was in such a state, but unless they tell me nothing else will keep me alive never shall they stuff calomel down my throat again, just as if it was magnesia. However, I believe it partly saved my life, for nothing but powerful medicines will do for the complaints incident to this climate. Adieu to this subject, I have dwelt too long on it.

I wish I had something amusing to tell my dear Margaret. Well, as I have got nothing better at present I will tell you what kind of weather we have just now. 1 have been out riding in Major Taylor's carriage this morning, and enjoyed the little excursion very much, I assure you the roads are about half a foot deep with dust, not a cloud to be seen (which is generally the case during this month) and at twelve o'clock the day as warm as any you have felt in April: So you see every place has its advantages. The woods are the most beautiful object at this season I can conceive. I think the colouring of the trees more beautiful than even in Ireland.

As usual, my good and kind friend, Mrs. Freeland, has paid me the greatest attention of late. She was with me when I was confined, and for a week after she stayed day and night, nursed me as if I was her own daughter, my dear Agnes was my housekeeper. Never, never shall I forget what I owe to that family. I see some of them almost every day, my acquaintances in Petersburg are extremely kidnd and attentive, indeed, I think I am very fortunate in having so many pleasing neighbours. I am very anxious to hear from you again, it is along time since the date of the last letters. There is a ship called the "Good Friend" expected to arrive in a few days, which I trust will bring me a large packet. This is the same ship Mr. J. Cumming intended coming out to this country in. I had a very long letter from my dear James and am delighted to hear he is well and happy, I will answer his letter and also write to M. Cumming and Mrs. Brown by this opportunity. Oh, Margaret, if you knew how much I think of you all, and how anxiously I look forward to the happy times that will take me to your arms. This is a stupid letter, but I hope I will have pleasanter news to tell you when I write again, which will be soon. Tell Margaret Byers I hope to hear from her very soon, remember me in the kindest manner to her and Miss McCully and all my other friends. Write to me very often, my dearest Margaret.) am very much obliged to my dear Rachel for her kind letter, which I shall answer at the next opportunity. I am very much pleased with her writing, and the accounts I hear of her improvement in every respect. Mary Cumming tells me you both play sweetly on the glasses. How I long to hear and become a scholar of yours. I wrote several letters to you last summer, very likely they did not arrive safe, I generally get yours ready opened for me.

William joins me in the kindest love to you all, and in wishing you health and happiness. I am, my beloved Margaret's sincerely attached,

Mary Cumming.


November 14th

My letters have been detained for a week past, as I wished to send them with William's. Yesterday he received a large packet from Ireland, but not a single line from Strawberry Hill, which I am surprised at. I had another letter from M. Cumming, where she tells me of poor William's2 death. I am sincerely sorry for this melancholy event. I have still hopes of getting a letter from you by the next arrival. I am stronger than when I began this epistle. The weather has now got extremely cold but still very dry. William is the very picture of health, I have been busy lately getting the black people's winter clothes, which is a very troublesome business. The women and children have all to get gowns and frocks of cloth, to keep them warm during our piercing cold weather. My waiting maid, Mary, is grown almost a woman within the last year, her face, I can assure you is not very handsome, but she is a very good-natured and extremely smart at learning anything, and immoderately fond of dress as almost all the negroes are.

This is Sunday, William is gone to town, he generally invites someone to dine with us. I have not ventured to church yet. Had I gone to-day I would in all probability have had a little bit of a shake when I returned, and this I shall avoid as long as I can. I am sure you will be tired before you get through all this long letter, but I almost think I am talking to you, "Where ignorance is bliss, �tis folly to be wise�, as I shall now prove to you. When I lived in Ireland I heard now and then of a complaint which the good people there call the spleen, and I have seen a farce which was entitled a cure for it, and so forth, now I was then so very ignorant of all diseases that I imagined it to be nothing more than bad spirits. But in this new found country it makes its appearance in a very different shape, as I shall explain to you, having myself experienced what it is for six weeks past. After having been much debilitated by sickness, there is a hard lump about the size of a goose egg, which rises in the left side. If occasions a little uneasiness, but very little pain, and is not in the least thought to be dangerous. I shall get quit of it when I am strong again. How very learned this trip to America will make me! Do not you think so? What if I begin to study anatomy? You may know I am much better to-day. Had I not been I could not have written all this badinage. I wonder what you are all about just now? I am very much pleased with the bonnet M. Cumming sent me, which I shall be proud to wear, I wish I could meet with an opportunity of sending you all some little keepsake, perhaps I soon may. God protect my darling Sister, and grant that I may live to see you once more. Write by every opportunity.

Miss Margaret Craig,
        Co. Antrim.

1. The letter referred to is non in the collection and presumably never arrived.
2. This William was Mary's nephew. Thomas Cumming's son.

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Letter No. 20

November 11th, 1813. 

I thank you most sincerely, my dearest James, for your kind and welcome letter, which I received about a fortnight ago. I am delighted to hear you are well and happy, and am extremely gratified to find that neither time nor distance has diminished the love you always had for your sister Mary. For my own part, the longer I am from the beloved friends whom I left, my affection for them increases. I am happy to tell you William never enjoyed better health than he has had for the last twelve months. As for myself, I have been ill and am now almost well again, and this is all I will tell you, for I have written every particular to Margaret,1 and writing an account of one's own bad health is so unpleasant a subject that I shall drop it altogether.

I wish I could think of some news that would amuse you, but I have not any, being so much confined of late, and as this is the case I think the best thing I can do is to give you some good advice, as I am now an old married woman I think I am privileged; but I must remember it is ton young man I am now writing, and not to a school boy; and now for a long lecture. In the first place I shall take notice of that part of your letter where you speak of a certain young lady with so much . .. what word shall I use? . . . preference I believe will do. Now my dear Brother, take the advice of one who loves you most sincerely, and as you value your own happiness, do not let your affections be engagedbefore you know that everything will end as you would wish. The lady you speak of has many advantages that you will not always meet with, but you are very young2 and your sentiments may change greatly, therefore keep your heart disengaged for two or three years to come (How these married people talk, I think I hear you say) but my dear James, so much of your future happiness depends on the choice you make that you cannot be too much on your guard. I am sure you will make your wife happy if she tries to please you, and this is what she should do if she wishes to live happy herself and to make her husband so. You will be tired before you get through all this letter, but believe me your happiness is as dear to me as my own. I have only one more advice to give you (perhaps I may not live to give you another) and that is, if you wish to be happy, never marry without my Father's consent. Another piece of advice I must give you, never tell me any more of your marrying to gain a fortune, without having affection for the lady, if you do your misery will be certain. And now I have done, if you areas happy in your choice as I have been in mine I shall be quite satisfied. I wish, my dear James, you would write oftener to me than you do, if you knew how much pleasure your letters afford me I am sure you would. I would give anything for your picture, sometimes I am almost determined to ask you to get it done for me. William joins me in the kindest love to you, and in wishing you every happiness.

Believe me to be 
Your ever affectionate
Mary Cumming

Mr. James Craig.
Rev. A. Craig,
        Co. Antrim.


1. In letter No. 19 of November. 1813.
2. James was twenty, three years her junior. He eventually Married June Waugh of Armagh in 182

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