October 15, 1782. My Dear Child,
IT is rather to your disadvantage that I have lately corrected a mistake I had made. I thought you were but twelve years old last birthday ; but I read in a blank leaf of the great Bible, that my child was born June 22, 1769 ; consequently, you are now in your fourteenth year. Therefore to keep pace with my ideas and wishes, you ought to be a whole year more advanced in improvements of every kind than you are, a whole year wiser. Some things which I might think very tolerable in my child, supposing she was bur twelve years old, will seem but rather so so, when I know she is thirteen; and some things of another sort will be quite unsuitable at the age of thirteen, ■which might be more excusable if you were but twelve. You see, my dear child, you must stir your stumps, and use double diligence to fetch up this year, whichwe have somehow lost out of the account. You have a year less for improvement, and a year nearer to the time in which you will begin to appear like a young woman than I expected. 1 know not but I should have been pleased to find that I had made a mistake on the other side, «nd that you were a year younger than I had supposed you. As it is, I shall hope the best; I do not complain of you. As I love you dearly, so I have much comfort in you : and I trust you will pray to the Lord for yourself, as 1 do for you, that he may give you his grace and wisdom and blessing; then I know you will do well. But sometimes when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them, I have some painful feelings for you. The other day I was at Deptford, and saw a ship launched : she slipped easily into the water : the people on board shouted ; the ship looked clean and gay, she was fresh painted, and her colours flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity :— "Poor ship," I thought, "you are now in port and " and in safety; but ere long you must go to sea. " Who can tell what storms you may meet with here" after, and to what hazards you may be exposed ; " how weather-beaten you may be before you return " to port again, or whether you may return at all !" Then my thoughts turned from the ship to my child. It seemed an emblem of your present state : you are now, as it were, in a safe harbour ; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance ; but I take courage ; my hopes are greater than my fears. I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at his command. There is hardly a day passes in which I do not entreat him to take charge of you. Under his care I know you will be safe; he can guide you unhurt amidst the storms, and rocks and dangers, by which you might otherwise suffer, and bring you at last to the haven of eternal rest. I hope you will seek him while you are young, and I am sure he will be the friend of them that seek him sincerely ; then you will be happy, and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this ; though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters, except you love him, and live in his fear and favour, you would appear to me quite miserable. I think it would go near to break my heart; for, next to your mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you. But the Lord gave you to me, and I have given you to him again, many and many a time upon my knees, and therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall, be his.
I hardly know any accomplishment I more wish you to attain, than a talent of writing free ar^d easy letters : and I am ready to think, if you could freely open your mind to me, you might inform me of something I should be glad to know, or you might propose to me some things which now and then trouble your thoughts, and thereby give me an opportunity of attempting to relieve, encourage, or direct you. For these reasons I have requested of your governess to permit you now and then to seal up your letters to me or your mamma without showing them to her. I have asked this liberty for you, only when you write to us ; nor even then always, but at such times as you find yourself disposed to write more freely than you could do if your letters were to be seen before you send them.' I have likewise told her, that I would desire you to be as careful in writing as if she was to see your lettersj and not send us pot-hooks and hangers, as they say, because you know she will not inspect your writing. Under these restrictions she has promised to oblige me ; and I take it as a favour, for I am well aware that, in general, it is by no means proper that young people at school should write letters from thence without the knowledge of their governess. But yours has so good an opinion of you and of me, that she is willing to trust us, and I hope we shall neither of ua make an improper use of her indulgence.
I am, with great tenderness,
My dear child,
Your very affectionate father.