Tag Archives: Mary Carstairs

Alexander Bayne on his family

The previous letter by Alexander Bayne was written in 1713, when he had just been (re)introduced to Mary Carstairs. They were soon married and lived, if not happily ever after, at least until death did them part. Here he is, writing twenty years later (November 21, 1734) fondly about his family

…You may imagine therefore the account you give me of your family was most acceptable. And, in return, I am to tell you, that I am very happy in mine. The Sparkler, I am afraid, is not now so proper a name for Mrs. Bayne as it was when I wrote you that letter you mention: however, that part of the brilliant which she has lost, is lost only by communication, for she has brought me two girls, one of twenty and another of eighteen, who have caught it; and I have the satisfaction to think, it is the least part of their value that they are handsome. I have three boys, the eldest of seven years of age, who are all much handsomer than is needful for them, and the eldest promises something of a genius, which I am the apter to flatter myself with the hopes of, as his eldest sister has it; who, without being in the smallest degree prompted, has gone through more books that most men of twice her age usually do: and, which is best of all, she is not sensible of that superiority she has over most of her sex of like age with herself.

Later his health turned worse, and in 1737, he began a trip to Bath in hopes of recovery, but he died on the journey at Alnwick, Northumberland, where he was buried and his wife put up a memorial to him in Latin with the epitaph, “The Gods conceal from men, that they may endure to live, how pleasant it is to die.”

Bayne tablet small

Davison, in A descriptive and historical view of Alnwick … (1822) gives this colourful story of his end:

Dr. Alexander Bayne, in his way to Bath from Edinburgh, when he was much reduced, was in such high spirits that he got out of his carriage a little before he came into Alnwick, and walked and sung for some way. But making a slip upon the stairs of the Angel Inn as he went to bed, he instantly expired.

His widow Mary lived on to 1759.

The letter was reprinted in: J. Duncombe, Letters by several eminent persons deceased … with notes explanatory and historical, 2 vols. (1772)

The Sparkler

Another letter of Alexander Bayne, written in 1713, is on a happier note:

You may remember, I had a cousin and friend, that, two years ago, came to see me, and stayed some time in Lincoln’s Inn. With this gentleman, you must know, I have had a very long, constant, and warm friendship; and, you’ll readily imagine, he was at Edinburgh to meet me upon my arrival there. The next morning we contrived to be together tête à tête, when he, who has devoted himself to a single life, took occasion to complain to me how much he suffered by my absence, and how joyless even his rural amusements, and one of the prettiest country-seats of his, were to him, while I had no share therein, wishing withal, as he had done two years ago, that I could think of leaving England, find out a proper mate for myself, and come and live with him. You cannot doubt but these warm solicitations of so dear a friend made a very deep impression on me. A few hours after, I chanced to go to pay my respects to this gentleman’s mother, whom I found at a tea-table with her three daughters: the Sparkler very soon caught my eye; for having known her when she was a girl, and then a great favorite of mine, I had an elegant satisfaction in observing that she was now what she then promised to be. In short, I soon found myself so much hers, and she being so nearly related to my friend, that I could not but think that Providence had contrived to make this proposal effectual.  I gave into it, and matters are as far advanced as decency could permit in so short a time.

Reader, she married him.

The letter was reprinted in: J. Duncombe, Letters by several eminent persons deceased … with notes explanatory and historical, 2 vols. (1772)