Lovingly preserved letters sent by an adoring young Yorkshire Curate to his beloved fiance Elizabeth Musson in rural Lincolnshire.
Between 1865 and the end of 1866 Joseph Foster sent his ‘Bet’ (presumably Betsy, or Elizabeth) 93 letters which she has gathered together and sewn into a borrowed vellum binding (and clasp) using pink legal ties. The binding is in very good condition with slight pushes to the top and tail of the spine. Bound together, the 93 are arranged in chronological order dating from November 6th 1865 to December 1st 1866. Five of the letters have detached and are laid in place.
Joseph Foster wrote to his ‘Bet’ every few days consistently, twice a week, over the course of the year using note paper varying in sizes and colour. At first the letters were sent from Mr Foster’s residence in Leeds; then from November- December 1866 the letters are sent from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire with a long run of letters written in Hellifield in the Yorkshire Dales as well as letters from York and Lincoln and Skipton as Foster cast around for a permanent job as a clergyman.
Throughout, the tone is gushingly affectionate: early on Foster writes about how the couple has moved further away geographically from each other but that ‘the cord that binds me to you is not broken - it is a string of, I should fancy, the most elastic quality, &; the further I go from you it stretches out to the required length’. While ‘In Leeds amongst it’s lamps & streets’ he finds her as ‘dear to me as when I was at Martin [her village] of presentation …..’ Foster quotes from the Irish poet Thomas Moore; he sends Bet a piece of his hair (envelope but not hair present) and promises that ‘I intend when we do come together, we may grow old grey loving each other’. He reflects with shock on how ‘a poor boy was sentenced on Thursday to death at the Leeds Assizes for murdering his sweetheart.’ Foster seems to have been an aspiring writer, mentioning his articles for the Pioneer, an interview with the Yorkshire Post as well as attending a reading by the writer Theresa Yelverton in Leeds on February 25th 1866: she read ‘like a school-girl’. The course of true love does not flow smoothly - Foster discusses a job offer from the Bishop of Adelaide and a move to Montreal. In his uncertainty he even considered what would happen to these letters: ‘will they crumble away like copies? In the dark? Of the drawer in which you keep them? …. or will you keep them to read to our children? To let them see what fine things he [Foster himself] would write + what a sentimental creature he was years ago’ (August 1866). It seems that after all their travails the couple were indeed married just after Christmas 1866.