Letter to Francis Towne


James White, Letter to Francis Towne : Exeter, 8 July 1786

Exeter July 8th 1786. -1

My dear Sir,

The daily Expectation of seeing you for some time past is the only Reason for my not having written to you sooner - but as your Business2 may detain you longer than you expected I risk these few lines just to inform you that yesterday Mr Merivale3
& I fixed the plan of our Northern Expedition4 in which we Both most heartily wish to have you for a Companion, the Sketch of which follows -

We intend to set out from hence either the first or second week in August most likely the first - to go in the Common Carriages from hence through Bristol Birmingham & c to Manchester, and to stay there a couple of Days, where you may meet us if it shou'd be more convenient to you to go from London than to set out from hence, all together. Afterward to pursue our Adventures either in Diligences on Horseback or on Foot, just as we find agreeable - I shall take Richard5 with me, and we propose to be absent about ‘Five’ Weeks Do let me hear from you by the Return of the Post that we may be able to settle the Plan more thoroughly - If you should see Mr & Mrs Calamy6 before you leave Town do remember me to them both most kindly and say that I am very glad to hear so good an account of them as I lately did from Mr Barblett.7 Remember me also to Mr Downman & believe me to be your affectionate Friend

James White

To Mr Towne
No 79 St James’ Street


  1. 1 This text from Emily Buckingham's transcript c.1915, Paul Oppé records.
  2. 2 Possibly this 'business' included the payment by Towne of 500 to Susannah [?]Goff on 4 July. See Appendix 2, Table 3.
  3. 3 John Merivale (1752-1831), gentleman. Merivale was the son of the leading non-conformist teacher Revd Samuel Merivale (d.1771) and attended his father's Exeter Academy with James White, who became his lifelong friend. White later introduced Merivale to Towne, who made his son, lawyer John Herman Merivale (1779-1844), his residuary legatee. In 1776 Merivale married Anna Katenkamp, a Unitarian, and in 1779 inherited a fortune from a Mr Shellaber, including a house in Bideford and an estate at Annery on the banks of the Torridge. The juxtaposition of non-conformist values and easy wealth unsettled Merivale and he suffered depression throughout his later life. In 1781 the family moved to the upmarket cathedral close in Exeter, where they lived until 1797. Inspired by his 1786 Lake District tour with Towne and White, Merivale built a picturesque cottage at Cowley, north of Exeter, and in 1797 he moved to the area permanently, purchasing an estate and building a house there called Barton Place (see FT881), where his neighbours were the Gibbs, Snow, Northcote and Jackson families (see the notes at FT143, FT350, FT426, FT876). In 1823 the Merivales moved to Windmill Hill, Hampstead, where Merivale died. Merivale was 'a staunch Tory' and a keen amateur gardener. Merivale 1884, pp.106, 124, 127, 224; Eyre-Evans 1906; see also the note at FT746.
  4. 4 The Lake District. Towne's drawings there are dated between 7 and 25 August (FT454, FT480).
  5. 5 This is presumably White's servant.
  6. 6 Edmund Calamy (1743-1816), of a distinguished dissenting family, and his wife Hesther (d.1837). Edmund Calamy was schooled at Warrington Academy to become a minister, but studied law at Cambridge and practised as a conveyancing solicitor in London. He retired to Alphington, Devon. The Calamys were evidently friends of White and the Merivales, and were also known to Towne. On 10 April 1798 John Herman Merivale had breakfast with their sons, brothers Edmund and Michael Calamy ("The former seems a very pleasant young Man"). Anna Merivale mentioned Mrs Calamy in a letter of 5 June 1818. Grasmere, Wordsworth Trust, Barton Place Letters pp.6, 41; Wykes 2004
  7. 7 unidentified
  8. 8 This was also John Downman's address from 1780 to c.1785.