Kirke White's Winteringham letters

Winteringham Local History and Genealogy

Excerpts from the letters of Henry Kirke White

The following excerpts from the letters of Henry Kirke White, are chosen because they are relevant to his life in and around Winteringham.  Each is part of a longer letter, other parts of them being concerned with Henry’s health, family, hopes for his future at Cambridge, and much advice particularly of a religious nature.

August 3rd 1804, to Ben Maddock: "My days flow on here in even tenor.  They are, indeed, studious days, for my studies seem to multiply on my hands, and I am so much occupied with them, that I am becoming a mere bookworm, running over the rules of Greek versification in my walks , instead of expatiating on the beauties of the surrounding scenery.  Winteringham is indeed now a beautiful place: the trees are in full verdure, the crops are browning the fields, and my former walks are become dry underfoot, which I have never known them to be before. The opening vista, from our church-yard, over the Humber, to the hills, and receding vales of Yorkshire assumes a thousand new aspects.  I sometimes watch it at evening, when the sun is just gilding the summits of the hills, and the lowlands are beginning to take a browner hue.  The showers partially falling in the distance, while all is serene above me; the swelling sail rapidly falling down the river; and not least of all, the villages, woods and villas on the opposite bank, sometimes render this scene quite enchanting to me; and it is no contemptible relaxation, after a man has been puzzling his brains over the intricacies of Greek choruses all the day, to come out and unbend his mind with careless thought and negligent fancies, while he refreshes his body with the fresh air of the country."

20th October 1804 to Kirke Swann: "We are safely arrived and comfortably settled, in the parsonage at Winteringham.  The house is most delightfully situated close by the church, at a distance from the village, and with delightful gardens behind, and the Humber before.  The family is very agreeable, and the style in which we live is very superior.  Our tutor is not only a learned man, but the best pastor, and most pleasing domestic man, I ever met with.  You will be glad to hear we are thus charmingly situated.  I have reason to thank God for his goodness in leading me to so peaceful and happy a situation....."

1804, to Mr John Charlesworth: [Note: This letter was written in Latin, and has been kindly translated by Harry Wells] : “Our teacher, by name Grainger, has not been educated at college nevertheless he is not mediocre in learning and is of extraordinary piety. He was an usher at the school and as such to the well-known and venerable Joseph Milner who revered and honoured him.

His manners are easy and pleasant, elegant of speech and altogether gentle although sometimes sorrowful and sad in countenance. Towards the good he administers gently, to himself more harshly. In the same manner more or less is the diligent Pastor (rector?) an excellent man and a good mentor. At his home we read the works of Homer, Demosthenes and the Holy Scriptures and in the works of the Romans, Virgil, Cicero and Terence for relaxation. We even write in Latin both for politeness and elegance. Nevertheless, as evident from this letter, the effort is not remarkable though to you I may appear somewhat successful. In writing Latin, except in the syntax of the English language, I am slow, dull and even absurd. Alas, the words come slowly and eventually, even with effort, are very inelegant. I hope, all the same, that by usage and application of a diligent mind to Latin sermons, I will be able to attain some facility, at most to be made satisfied to strive to master it, a great task.

You will be aware, though perhaps vaguely, about our living of the village of Winteringham, sited on the bank of the river Humber, not a place to be perceived as wildly rustic but one graced by rivers, hills and arable land, all charmingly attractive. Our home lies adjacent to the Temple of God; at the back are pleasant gardens and hilly fields, hedged by trees, where we are accustomed to walk. Nearby there are rural hamlets to which we often stroll for relaxation after a good lunch. There is a country estate called Whittonia where from a rocky eminence you are able to see the river Trent merge with the huge Humber and, a little higher up, the river Ouse.

Under the shady rocks is a spring where it is possible for you to turn things made of wood into stone: from the highest boulder various types shellfish turned into stone (fossils?) fall on the shore. From our house, across the Humber, the hills of Yorkshire rise, dappled with trees and villages, where the rays of the sun smile alternating with dark clouds and storms. Between the banks, the sails of ships fill while in the air high above fly long skeins of honking geese.”

16th December 1804, to his mother: "Since I wrote to you last I have been rather ill, having caught cold, which brought on a slight fever.  Thanks to excellent nursing, I am now pretty much recovered, and only want strength to be perfectly re-established.  Mr Grainger is himself a very good physician, but when I grew worse, he deemed it necessary to send for a medical gentleman from Barton; so that, in addition to my illness, I expect an apothecary's bill.  This, however, will not be a very long one, as Mr Grainger has chiefly supplied me with drugs.  It is judged absolutely necessary that I should take wine, and that I should ride.  It is with great reluctance that I agree to incur these additional expenses, and I shall endeavour to cut them off as soon as possible.  Mr and Mrs Grainger have behaved like parents to me since I have been ill: four and five times in the night has Mr. G. come to see me; and had I been at home, I could not have been treated with more tenderness and care.  Mrs Grainger has insisted on me drinking their wine, and was very angry when I made scruples; but I cannot let them be at all this additional expence [sic] - in some way or other I must pay them, as the sum I now give, considering the mode in which we are accommodated, is trifling.  Mr Grainger does not keep a horse, so that I shall be obliged to hire one;  ..."

11th January 1805, to his brother James: "Midway between Winteringham and Hull, Dear James, You will not be surprised at the style of this letter, when I tell you it is written in the Winteringham Packet, on a heap of flour bags, and surrounded by a drove of 14 pigs, who raise the most hideous roar every time the boat rolls.  I write with a silver pen and with a good deal of shaking, so you may expect very bad scribbling.  I am now going to Hull, where I have a parcel to send to my mother, and I would not lose the opportunity of writing..."

1st March 1805, to Ben Maddock: "I sailed from Hull to Barton the day before yesterday, on a rough and windy day, in a vessel filled with a marching regiment of soldiers; the band played finely, and I was enjoying the many pleasing emotions which the water, sky, winds, and musical instruments excited, when my thoughts were suddenly called away to more melancholy subjects. A girl, genteelly dressed, and with a countenance which, for its loveliness, a painter might have copied for Hebe, with a loud laugh seized me by the great coat, and asked me to lend it her: she was one of those unhappy creatures who depend on the brutal and licentious for a bitter livelihood, and was now following in the train of one of the officers. I was greatly affected by her appearance and situation, and more so by that of another female who was with her, and who, with less beauty, had a wild sorrowfulness in her face, which shewed [sic] she knew her situation. This incident, apparently trifling, induced a train of reflections, which occupied me fully during a walk of six or seven miles to our parsonage. At first I wished that I had fortune to erect an asylum for all the miserable and destitute : - and there was a soldiers wife with a wan and hagged [sic] face, and a little infant in her arms, whom I would also have wished to place in it. - I then grew out of humour with the world, because it was so unfeeling and so miserable, and because there was no cure for its miseries; ..."

April 1805, to his brother Neville: "Almond and I took a small boat on Monday, and set out for Hull, a distance of thirteen miles, as some compute it, though others make it less.   We went very merrily with a good pair of oars, until we came within four miles of Hull, when, owing to some hard working, we were quite exhausted; but as the tide was nearly down, and the shore soft, we could not get to any villages on the banks. At length we made Hull, and just arrived in time to be grounded in the middle of the harbour, without any possible means of getting ashore till the flux or flood. As we were half famished, I determined to wade ashore for provisions, and had the satisfaction of getting above the knees in mud almost every step I made. When I got ashore, I recollected I had given Almond all my cash. This was a terrible dilemma - to return back was too laborious, and I expected the tide flowing every minute.  At last I determined to go to the inn where we usually dine when we go to Hull, and try how much credit I possessed there, and I happily found no difficulty in procuring refreshments, which I carried off in triumph to the boat.  Here new difficulties occurred; for the tide had flowed in considerably during my absence, although not sufficiently to move the boat, so that my wade was much worse back than it had been before. On our return, a most placid and calm day was converted into a cloudy one, and we had a brisk gale in our teeth.   Knowing we were quite safe, we struck across from Hull to Barton; and when we were off Hazel Whelps, a place which is always rough, we had some tremendous swells, which we weathered admirably, and (bating our getting on the wrong side of a bank, owing to the deceitful appearance of the coast) we had a prosperous voyage home, having rowed twenty-six miles in less than five hours."

June 1805 to his brother Neville: "Our adventure on the Humber you should have learnt from K. Swann, who, with much minuteness, filled up three sides of a letter to his friend with the account. The matter was simply this: He, Almond, and myself, made an excursion about twelve or fourteen miles up the Humber; on our return ran aground, were left by the tide on a sand-bank, and were obliged to remain six hours in an open boat exposed to a heavy rain, high wind and piercing cold, until the tide rose, when two men brought a boat to our assistance.   We got home about twelve o'clock at night: no evil consequences ensued, owing to our using every exertion we could think of to keep warmth in our bodies."


Have you tried the other Winteringham Websites?
Winteringham News, Don Burton World of Nature Photo Archive (modern photographs of the village), What the Papers have said about Winteringham (since July 2004), High Resolution Historical Photographs , Winteringham Film Archive, Winteringham Football Club , Winteringham Nature Site, Winteringham Recipes, Winteringham Sales, Winteringham Camera Club, Winteringham Village Hall, Winteringham Chapel

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