Home Again

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson



April 5th, 1831.


These be the first words writ by me in this, my own, Journal.

And indeed, I never thought to put such words down on paper ever in my whole life.

For many years I’ve had a Determination to write my journal – for reasons given in the start of this journal.  And to this purpose, my sweet and gentle niece Eliza, hath been come, most Sunday evens, to take down my words.

And therein lay the rub! For, chocked full of learning until her 14th year, Eliza was wont to write my words using her learning words, and to tell me that my normal words was not writing-down words; or that some of the things I was wont to mention was not writing-down things, neither.

But, come last November first, my Eliza was called to Cornwall to help out a married cousin just lately widowed and with 6 children to feed.

And come the end of Christmastide, did Missus take it into her head to go a-travelling with Miss Martha. (Which were well done I say with Miss Martha making sheep’s eyes at the soldiers here, and never leaving the house without at least three linen handkerchiefs to drop artfully at their feet - young hussy!)

So it came to me then that I should be forever beholden to Eliza or some other, till the ending of my days, if my journal were to be writ.

Which is when a new Determination – stronger than any other (except the Determination as come upon me first time I ever did set eyes upon my handsome George!!) took a-hold upon me: I should learn to set all down by myself!  I should learn to apprehend reading and to cipher writing all by myself.  I should do some education.

‘Twere right lucky that the household had but recently moved up to the London house when I made this Determination, for ‘ tis there as lives Mrs. Monk – as was once a schoolmarm and is my close bosom-friend.

So all through the long winter nights, while Mistress and Martha were a- jaunting in furrin lands across the water; and the other servants had gone home to their Mams for a stretch, Mrs. Monk did learn me the mekanicals on reading and writing. And what a world was put before me!

For Mrs. Monk be a one for reading of the broadsheets and newspaper as well as books – which is some’at of a difference to young Eliza who be not fortunate enough to own a book, nor to join the penny library.

From Mrs. Monk I thus learned me that, contrarywise to what I had always figured, there were women in the world who had actually written books!! I’d never heard tell of such a thing and so I be-took me not just to the pamphlet or broadsheet sellers, but into the library in London with Mrs. Monk. I was knocked all of a heap because I wasn’t sure we would be admitted on account of us being women; but mostly because I had never thought there were that many books in the whole world!!

Which is when I learnt something more – the books I could see were only a little bit of all the collections there are in the world! Thousands upon thousands of them!  And I had never known that: but, until that day, neither had I known that there were some women who were scholars! Women who not only wrote stories – but women who knew all about Science and Inventions!

I did not, of course, make a Determination to be a scholar myself.  But it was that visit which strengthened my Determination to learn to read and write proper: for I had, of a sudden, understood that, even without my Grandam or my Mother, I could still learn of many things – between the covers of a book!

So here I be: back in my warm kitchen in Brunswick Square, with the glow from the fire lighting my way. And I be writing! All by myself!

Ahhh! I do feel as though someone has given me a Christmas Box all to myself. And I wonder what my mistress will say when she returns? Will she be pleased for me? Or will she think I have ideas above my station?

Yet one thing I have learnt from my reading is that there are those who say that one day, in times to come, every person the whole length and breadth of the country, will be able to read and write!

 So I keep that wonderful thought in my mind and have made another Determination... that when Daft Bessie and the stable boys return, I shall set them all to learning their letters too!