From the journal of Miss Susanah Wellington (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somersetshire. Her diary includes copies of letters and a record of the last few years of her life.
The copy of the letter the young ladies of Mrs Eason’s School wrote
to Mrs Eason when they presented her with a desk.
Yeovil April 1835
Dear Mrs Eason,
You undoubtedly feel very surprised at your presence being requested at this time. Need we tell you that your increasing kindness to us has long ’ere now made an indellible impression on our minds and we have frequently wished to testify how highly we appreciate it, by some memento of our affection.
We have found some little difficulty in deciding on something that would be as useful as ornamental, and we trust that we have at last selected an article which will be agreeable to your own taste. Allow us then to present you this desk as a small token of our united love and respect.
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1835 was the year Susanah WELLINGTON turned fifteen and the last year of her schooling. The graduating class gave a gift to Mrs Eason, the principal and benefactor of the school in the spring of 1835.
The desk may have been a portable table-top writing slope similar to one used by Jane Austen to write her manuscripts and letters.Or it’s possible it was a small ladies writing desk called a cheveret, which stood on dainty legs and had several drawers to hold paper and correspondence. They were often topped with a detachable book carrier. The lower drawer was fitted with compartments for pens and ink-wells. Everyone of good standing needed a handy writing desk. Letter writing was a daily ritual and an art form. Letters were the social media of the 1800s. It appears to me that Susanah’s transcriptions of letters were her study of correspondence suitable for any occasion. She was learning what to say, and also how to say it.
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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. Journal transcription by Terry HASTINGS. The British Museum website. Jane Austen Society of North America.