Sun 1st Nov 1818 [Her 40th birthday]
This is my birthday, and should I reach the longest span of man's pilgrimage on earth the half of my life is spent. This reflection ought to make me think. My father is just as old again, and is at this moment in perfect health, sound in mind and body, this picture of green old age might create in me some hope of having still a long long journey before me, but I will not deceive myself with this expectation, something whispers me I shall not live long. Keen feelings and a warm temper make sad havoc on a delicate constitution, and I have never enjoyed robust health, therefore I have every reason to conclude that long [ere] as many summers pass as I have seen, this house of clay will be dissolved and the active power within, which has so often threatened its total demolition, springs unclogged with mortality to the hands of its Maker. I shall sin more than those who never think at all should I neglect to improve those thoughts which naturally arise from this contemplation but there is in my mind such a strange jumble of every thing good and bad that it will be no easy matter to separate them. I am constantly thinking, night and day, sleeping and awake, this busy faculty never rests. My dreams exhaust me, I am forever at the pinnacle of happiness or in the slough of despond. I have a part to act through the day, and I endeavour to do it with propriety, but there is one corner of my mind filled with household cares, and another which I keep to myself. This precious deposit is all my own, no one can guess what is there, for I have no pleasure in communicating my ideas, nor any vanity in appearing unlike my associates. I am the strangest jumble of romantic feeling and common sense I have ever met with. My own real character I can scarcely define myself and I have been at no little pains to discover it. Soloman says truly "The human heart is deceitful above all things". Few people accurately judge of themselves, there are so many hidden springs of action, that it is scarcely possible to feel convinced that our very best ..
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Then follows a train of musing of a more agreeable cast. If I were not rather better than many (thinks I) I would never think at all on the matter. Progressively rising in my own estimation, the gloom of despondency dispels, everything smiles around me, I begin to fancy myself an animal of some discernment.
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.. I ought to do, I am never forgetful of his mercies nor unthankful for his protection. What do I intend by writing this history of my feelings? Who is there that will care for this detail? While I live, no eye but my own will peruse it, and when I die in all probability my nieces may curl their hair with this honest index of my mind. My sisters I dare say may look upon it as a sacred relic of a friend they loved, and sometimes turn over its pages and talk over the time long passed when the Sunday evenings were thus employed by their sister. Many a foolish scrap of my writing they will find should I die before I accomplish what at present is my intention, to commit almost the whole collection to the flames. I often wish I had time and patience to separate the wheat from the tares, for I am not so modest as to pronounce all my productions foolish and vain. There is a true and a false modesty, and under a display of the latter much real conceit has hid. Now I think some of my things both in prose and verse very good!!! To be sure I have no one's opinion of them but my own, but as long as I can discover faults I see no reason why I may not find out something to admire in my own productions. I never fancied myself a poet. I have none of the requisites, none of the signs of poetical genius, no irresistable effusions ever flow from my pen. I say to myself I will write a letter in rhyme, or I will turn a sermon into verse, and after beating my brains a little, out it comes, but still it is merely rhyme, and answers no other purpose than amusing myself. I scarcely rank this among my acquirements, pray, that surely I may rest easy under this day's sin. I certainly am not truly Religious, and I say this without horror or remorse. What is the meaning of this? I wish from the bottom of my heart to be so, but wishing is not enough. The Spirit of God must enter my soul and stir up in me the will to obey him. Oh Lord give me this will, shed abroad in my heart thy holy spirit, and make me wiser and better and more worthy of thy mercies than I have hitherto been.
Sun 8th Nov 1818
I have heard an excellent sermon today on the blessing of health, and having been very nervous all the week I can the more keenly enter into the subject. It is certainly the greatest of all blessings, for deprived of it everything fails to interest. The most enlightened mind cannot throw away the sense of pain. The greatest worldly comforts cannot make us forget bodily uneasiness. Sickness then is certainly not the best time to meditate on serious subjects. The present feeling will be heard, and the mind cannot disengage itself from its prison so as to soar to brighter regions. People no doubt feel differently, and I have no right to say that none surmount this difficulty, but I know how I feel myself, and I have experienced a great deal of bad health. The hour of prosperity has ever been to me the hour of most serious reflection, and the days of health have presented me with the brightest views of futurity. The goodness of the Almighty is the attribute most congenial to my conceptions of Him, and to enjoy health, and friends, and food, and rainment, and all the sweets of nature unclouded by sorrow, fills my whole soul with gratitude and love. I cannot conceive anything so truly delightful as the feeling of thankfulness towards God, and who can enjoy such blessings as these and forget from whence they flow. Sickness is often very beneficial to the mind. It withdraws us for a time from our usual avocations, and although I do not think we are at that time best prepared to investigate and examine the state of our own souls, yet few rise from a bed of sickness without feeling a wish to improve in Christian grace, fear of God if not love creates this wish in the mind. We have experienced his chastisement, and we tremble at his power. The pleasing contrast of returning health fills us with gratitude. It is then only we truly appreciate its value and to taste this unspeakable blessing in perfection we must experience the reverse. Another good arising from sickness is the knowledge it gives us of our real friends, those who can patiently bear with our infirmities, and cheerfully attend us in all the changes which sickness often creates in the temper and disposition. I do not know any thing I have more reason to thank God for than this, but I will not expatiate on the subject. Time I hope will only confirm my present sentiments which are those of grateful thankfulness.
Sun 3rd Jan 1819
It is an easy matter to say I will do so and so. When I looked at this book last I determined to write an hour every Sunday evening and let my thoughts wander in any direction they pleased. We are poor short-sighted mortals, and yet full of conceit. How seldom do we perform what we determined to do, and how much seldomer do we do all that we might do. Our sermon this morning was on Beneficience, the Text do good unto all men while you have opportunity. It is a most copious subject and I thought it particularly well handled. There were some observations too on the rapidity of time that I thought very excellent. "What a moment it appears since we met and heard similar observations on its flight. Since our birth our days have been like a flash, and should we reach the longest span we have but an instant before us when we compare time with eternity"! Then followed an exhortation to charity, and the merits and necessity of the Infirmary to the benefit of which we were called to contribute. [Crossed out] But instead of pondering on the sermon I would be as well employed perhaps in reflecting on the year gone by. I wonder if I am wiser or better than I was this day twelvemonth? If I am not, I have lost a great deal, and I certainly cannot say I am sensible of any great improvement, but after examination and mature reflection do not think I am worse! It has been an uncomfortable year, and yet I have had much to be thankful for. Little Robert died in January, and in April I closed the eyes of my Uncle, in May the Dr. and Margaret went to England, the former in very bad health, in June my father and sisters went to Pitlochry, and in July I sailed in the Mansfield for London, remained at Kensington 3 weeks and hurried home in consequence of my father's health which has continued ever since in a precarious state. Various family occurrences have impaired my happiness this year, and much
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flights of fancy, if bestowed on the correction of my own deficits, or in the cultivation of some useful talent might raise me far above the level of my present sphere. I certainly might be a much wiser and a much better woman than I am! But I'm not sure if this acquisition of knowledge would make me happier. I should then be so convinced of the folly of wasting a thought on unreal things, that nothing but substantial good would ever excite in the real enjoyment, and human life display so little good unshaded by evil, that a happy moment would not meet me once in a hundred times to what it does at present. So fully convinced of the contradictory nature of my own reasoning, I resolve to continue in my sins and indulge my imagination in the art of castle building.
[Next few Sundays are purely religious writing]
Sun 7th Mar 1819
Arthur and his wife dined with us and I could not devote a moment to writing.
[Continues with purely religious writing for some time]
Sun evening, 2nd Jan 1820
Well, 1819 is gone! And what has it told of me? Is the catalogue of my sins greater or less than they were the preceding year, am I nearer to God, or am I still further removed from the light of His countenance, have I improved in Christian knowledge and am I better acquainted with myself? What a moment it appears since I sat down to take a similar view of 1818. I can scarcely believe that a whole year has passed away since that Sunday evening. Everything around me appears the same, I wrote in this book, upon this little desk, every object in the room appears the same. My father and sisters remain, they are employed as they were then, each has a book, time has not marked them with any material change and yet I know they are advanced a stage towards Eternity, and although I appear in all respects the same, yet I am posting with rapid strides to death, every year appears shorter than the last, and every moment to come is uncertain, the thoughtless hours of childhood and youth are past, a few fleeting years and I shall taste the bitter cup of old age should life be lent me. In the meantime what should I principally attend to, "Surely my own salvation". This is a work that none can execute for me. I am now blest with health and possessed of a reflective mind which marks the passing events
Sun 23rd Jan 1820
I went to bed last Sunday very much dissatisfied with myself. I spent the whole evening reading over a parcel of my own letters, addressed to my sisters which they fancied worth preserving. What a strange creature is man, more strange still woman! I am as different to what I was 15 years ago [i.e. 1805, age 27], as I am now to an entire stranger. My letters must have been amusing at the time they were written but the subjects were so personal that now when time has shown me those persons in a different point of view, and changed the whole face of things, they appeared to me highly ridiculous, and my own compositions not worth reading again. I threw the whole bundle into the fire, and had been in my bed an hour before I could forget my own letters and think of Wilkinson's sermon, "Rejoice always and again I say rejoice", and again and again I repeated this text to myself, but I could not rejoice, and at last fell asleep and hope I shall again hear this sermon and I shall
Sun evening, 30th Apr 1820
Constant changes are forever taking place. My father's health is a perpetual cause of anxiety, and at present most of the family are on the wing for the summer months. Robert has returned to London, Doctor and Mrs. Allan are come home from their marriage jaunt; and thus ends April! The weather particularly cold.
[Ends quite melancholy]
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