Of the papers thee speaks of, some will be found which to me are very interesting, giving accounts of dear old uncle and aunt Dillwyn's travels and doings on the continent, and in England and Ireland.†(footnote) But dear aunty, though I well know she was a sensible woman, yet her letters are so entirely the chitchat of one sister whose heart was open to another, and that other so ready to throw the veil of love over all her eccentricities, that they really are hardly suitable to be exhibited to other eyes. They are curiously mixed up, as was natural;—old silk gowns and cloth coats, garden seeds and bits of character, and religious meetings, &c. all in a jumnble—yet they are interspersed with valuable information, touching accounts of her meeting with her long-separated sisters (hats and feathers not forgotten), excellent descriptions of interesting people, with often a little scrap in uncle Dillwyn's handwriting expressive of his love, and redolent of the heavenly atmosphere he lived in—so as to make them to me altogether beyond price.
I am my dear brother's
MARGARET HILL HILLES.
Margaret Morris appears to have held the readiest pen of the family, ‡(footnote) excepting that of her father. She exhiibited a marked degree of excellence through a life of trial. In all her written matter that has been preserved there is a propriety of expression, a vein of piety and resignation, and a correctness of diction, that is very remarkable. It is witnessed in her sprightly journal kept during the Revolution, in her private diary, and in the account of her family afflictions during the yellow fever of 1793, no less than in her letters, and the beautiful memorandum attached to the bundle of her parents' letters copied on page 17.
The sisters left in America, it will be remembered, were not old enough at the period of the separation of the family to recollect much, if anything, of Mary and Harriet, who were taken to Madeira. The letters of Sarah Dillwyn and her husband, in the possession of Margaret Morris Smith and my sister, carry on the history of our great aunts Lamar and Scott, and of Deborah Bisset’s children, in a manner that could scarcely have been hoped for had not their visits to England taken place, and opened a correspondence, in which this family topic was regularly kept up, so as to complete a picture now almost perfect. S. D.’s accound of her first interview with her sister Lamar, pages 245, &c. is most graphic, natural, and touching. She supplied her sisters in America with particulars of the English portion of the family, which are full of interest. By this it appears that Robert and Deborah Bisset left a son and two daughters, as mentioned in M. H. Hilles’s letter. The son, Richard Bisset, continued a member of the Madeira firm for some considerable time, and was further enriched by being left the heir of $200,000 by one of his school-fellows, an officer of the British army, who was killed at the siege of Pondicherry. His will left Richard L. Bisset property of the above value, including a good country-house well furnished, and a farm well stocked.
His sisters, Henrietta and Mary Bisset, brought up by their aunt Lamar, received a good and fashionable education. Henrietta married a gentleman of family, named Edward Walsby, Prebendary of Canterbury. He was also preceptor to the children of the Duke of Gloucester. Allusion will be found in Henrietta Walsby’s letters to their accompanying their “royal friends” to the Isle of Wight, &c.
Mary Bisset most kindly nursed her aunt Lamar through a long period of palsied helplessness, and in somewhat straitened circumstances for her mode of life, in London, Bath, &c. After her aunt’s death, she married Major William Davis, Aide-de-Camp to General Charles Hope; he was afterwards in the Seventh Dragoon Guards, and the Horse-Guards also.
The letters now copied tell all we need care to know of the history of the English sisters; more has been inserted than otherwise would have been the case—not for their value as letters, but because we knew less of them than of our other relatives, and they and all theirs have passed away. I find letters from all of them, breathing an affectionate love for their American connections, but written with some constraint, as was to be expected from persons who had scarcely known those they addressed (except Sarah Dillwyn), and whose education and religious convictions were so very different.
Richard L. Bisset was once in America, where he formed a very high opinion of his aunt, Margaret Morris. There is a short correspondence between them of an affectionate, confidential cast; in this the little episode will be found amusing, of his falling half in love with my cousin Hannah Cox, daughter, by his first wife, of John Cox, of Burlington, N. J. Richard engaged his aunt Morris to ascertain how his addresses would be received! She discovered that they would not be acceptable; and he then intimates that he regrets he had not looked after a daughter of her Burlington friend and neighbour, J. M. W.!
Richard afterwards exhibited his esteem for my grandmother by presenting her son with a considerable lot of ground in Philadelphia.
The reader of this correspondence cannot fail to discover many beautiful traits of character. Among many others, some letters have been necessarily omitted relating to business, a subject it was thought best not to complicate the narrative with. In the mercantile accounts, which became occasionally entangled from the number of partners and heirs interested, amid difficulties long unsettled, there was still apparent much affection and a remarkable degree of disinterested action.
The strenuous wish of Richard Hill to provide for his daughters, is a beautiful feature of the correspondence. A letter to Hannah Moore, his eldest daughter, to whom he writes with the confidence of a brother, a friend and adviser, dated Madeira, Feb. 16, 1759, is an evidence of his truly paternal wishes on this deeply interesting topic. It contains a partial description of the vineyard, called “The Achada,” which he bought in the Island; it was the family country residence soon after, and is many years later valued in the accounts of the firm at $20,000, and was sold for $22,000. The picture of the house will add interest to the description.
Go to: Doctor Richard Hill