Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

List of Letters | About This Collection

Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, February 23, 1721

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant, William Dawkins, February 23, 1721, to chastise him seveerly for his impertinence in writing as he has done about the handling of the schooling of Carter's three young sons who were under his charge while in England at school. Carter reminds Dawkins that he owed his position in his firm to his apprenticeship with Arthur Bailey with whom Carter had lived while in England for his own education. He lectures Dawkins about the unnecessary sums he has spent on the school, and on jewelry, and refutes Dawkins' jest that Carter should attempt to keep up with Mrs. Heath in purchasing expensive jewelry. He informs Dawkins that he has directed his older son John to relieve Dawkins of the trouble of overseeing Robert, Landon, and Charles's schooling.

Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, February 23, 1721

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Febr. 23d. 1720/21

Mr. Wm. Dawkins

     Arthur Lee's Ship arrived hither two Days ago Your Letters
by her which were only copies (the Originals are not come to hand.) I have
That of the 20th. of September carries such an air of Pride & Waspishness
that It must not lie unanswered,

     The Affair of my Children is handled as if they were
dependent upon Your Charity for their maintenance, what they
have I expect to doubt not I shall pay for even to a farthing, You may believe
when I committed them to Your care, I had a respect to Your friend
=ship and an Opinion of Your prudence, & Expected You would

-2 -

be so far from counting it a trouble, that You would look
upon It as an obligation & a pledge of my Friendship

     Before I sent them I consulted You what their
maintenance might Stand me in You tell me You believed £40 per annum
apiece, to put You in remembrance of this, forsooth must pass
for unkindness, and wear the harsh name of bringing You
under an Obligation Seeing You are a Gentleman of Such a tender
touchy elevated nature that cannot Endure a plain Style and think
me so much Your Debtor for the oversight You have of my
Children, I have taken care to Ease You of that burden
my Son has orders from me to remove them to another
person who will treat me and them with more Civility
If You want not me, I Shall let You know I want You as little
Do me but Justice with the Concern of mine You have in Your
hands & I shall not value how soon I shut up all corres=
=pondence with You,

     Your next paragraph [sic ] is a note above Elah sure
You were then Sitting in Your masters Chair of State, with Your Rope
Makers and Carrmen about You and looking upon me as
one of Your Dependents and Inferiors, I shall come a little
to particulars, You had laid out my Money upon Several things
much beyond my orders among the Rest You had laid me out
£20 extraordinary upon a pair of Earrings & tell me in a
way of banter or rather tantalizing Mrs. Heath had a pair cost a
Thousand pound, this brought in the word muckworm which is
so offensive to Your nice Stomach, I had not the least thought
of throwing any Reflection upon the Memory of the Dead nor
the Living, neither does the Sentence carry any such Import
to my understanding, and if You want the Skill to Measure
the force of words You Should keep a Dictionary by You
but that You may have a true Idea of the Scope of the
word muckworm I shall reccommend to Your peru=
=sal the fifth part of Doctor Scotts Christian Life
where he's treating of the Excellency of the Soul, There
You'l find the significance of this word and how

-3 -

Applicable It is to the best of us all. I knew Mr. Bailey both
father and Son better than You did. I lived in the family, and have
a very good Respect for their memories and have been often
concerned in the Vindication of their Characters, from asper=
=sions that have been let fly at them -- & yet after all I
think It no Injury to them to say they were too much Muck
=worms, that is in other words too great lovers of this world
and by the way I wish both You and I were more mortified to
It than we are, The thoughts of having a little more white and
Yellow Earth than our Neighbours would not puff us Up
with So much vanity and Insolence, nor make us so uneasy
when we meet with plain dealing, I have a great value for
Mrs. Heath, both for her own Sake and her fathers and if
It lay in my way I would requite her Ten fold for any
respects She has shown to any of my Children but let me
tell You I Esteem her more for the ornaments of the her mind
her humility, Prudence, Affability, Piety, Charity, than for the
fine Trappings of her person, these are but of Short duration
& will quite vanish away when a winding Sheet comes to be her
portion but her virtues and graces will keep her Company into
the other world, We are but Stewards of God's building the more he
lends us the larger Accounts he Expects from us and happy they tht.
make a right use of their Masters talents

     Now pray upon the whole where was Your prudence or
rather manners to use me with the Language that was hardly
fit for Your Footman if You keep one, You might remember I
was Your Masters equal and all along have lived in as good rank
& fashion as he did, Even [illegible] when You were something like Graves's Cabin
boy and am old Enough to be Your Father, not to mention any
more reasons that Justly give me a Title to Your Deferrence I
Shall Conclude with telling You that I resolve to live in a Calm
quiet air the rest of my Days, & will be treated with respect by
those that Do my business, if You are so overgrown & tumefied
with the little Success You have had in the World, I would
have You vent Your vanities upon those that are to be gainers
by You and not upon

Your humble Servant


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1720 July-1721 July, BR 227, Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California. Printed: Wright. Letters of Robert Carter. . . . pp. 79-82.

Robert Carter generally used a return address of "Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than "Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especially to merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

The controversy between Carter and William Dawkins spread over some months in 1720-1721. Carter had written before to Dawkins in terms similar to those used in this letter; see his letter to Dawkins of 13 July 1720. Dawkins had begun his career as an apprentice in the Bailey mercantile firm as Carter notes in this letter. After the death of Arthur Bailey, Jr., he succeeded to the firm into which he brought Edward Athawes with whom Carter would also correspond, as would his sons after his death.

[1] This Arthur Lee may be a son of Francis Lee (1648-1724), third son of Richard Lee the emigrant; Francis had returned to England to become a merchant in London.

[2] A carman is a carter or wagoneer. ( Oxford English Dictionary )

[3] When Louis Wright edited this letter for his 1940 edition, he speculated that Mrs. Heath might be a Mrs. Samuel Heath of Northumberland County. According to more recent research by Alan Simpson, Mrs. Heath probably was Katherine (Bailey) Heath, daughter of Arthur Bailey, Jr. and granddaughter of Robert Bristow. Bailey and Bristow had been partners in a London mercantile firm and had owned ships in the Virginia trade. Carter had lived in the Bailey household in the six years that he spent at school and would have known Arthur Bailey's daughter well. As an heir to both wealthy men, Mrs. Heath could readily afford the expensive jewelry of which Dawkins wrote Carter. (Wright. Letters of Robert Carter. . . . p. 11 ; and Simpson. "Robert Carter's Schooldays." p. 173.)

[4] John Scott. The Christian Life, from Its Beginning to Its Consumation in Glory. His inventory shows that Carter had several volumes of a 1712 multi-volume edition of Scotts works. See footnotes 7.25 and 7.27 in Carter's inventory for notes of columes by Scott held at the time of Carter's death. (Wright. "The Literary Interests of the First Carters." p. 57.

[5] These words are in Carter's hand as is indicated by the use of italics.

[6] A winding sheet was the burial cloth in use at Carter's time.

[7] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, tumefy means "to cause to swell; to swell, make tumid.."

This text revised March 26, 2009.