Friday, 19 November 2010

De Quincey's First Visit to Liverpool 1801

The first visit made by De Quincey to Liverpool was in 1801. At the time, De Quincey was studying at the Manchester Grammar School residing at the home of the school's headmaster Charles Lawson at Long Millgate in Manchester. (See Robert Morrison The English Opium Eater Chapter 3 for more details)

The reason for his first visit to Liverpool was to participate in a family holiday in Everton which included amongst others his sisters Mary and Jane plus brothers William and Richard (Pink).

Before he departed for the holiday, he received the letter below from his mother Elizabeth Penson Quincey which gives us an insight into how he was to travel to Liverpool and what to expect on arrival:

Liverpool, May 20, 1801.

My dear Thomas,— I am much afraid of any mistakes being made in your getting to me, therefore send you laid down in black and white your steering chart; and this being the language of the place we are in, I beg you will think it very appropriate.

You will leave Manchester on Saturday morning in the canal-boat, first of all informing yourselves whether there is a boat sailing upon a Saturday morning, of which I have great doubts; almost a certainty, indeed, that Saturday morning is the only one in the week it does not go. You will be landed about a mile from Warrington London Bridge, where you will meet coaches, into one of which you will get and go to Warrington to dinner; and you must secure your places in the Long Coach to Liverpool, which (with all the Manchester coaches) comes to the Angel Inn, Dale Street. Should my suspicion about the boat be right, you must come directly from Manchester in the Long Coach in the morning of Saturday; — lose no time as soon as you can on Thursday to know all this, and let your place be arranged.

Whichever way you come, I beg your principal care may be given to Henry, who is so blind he cannot see a horse till it is close to his elbow, and so frightened when he does see it, that he loses the power of moving. In the variety of plans it is possible William may not happen to meet you; I shall, however, endeavour to send him to the right place and hour ; if you miss him, get a porter to call you a coach and drive to Everton, to Mrs. Best's cottage ; it is on the middle road, opposite Mr. Clarke's the banker. I must repeat, do not let Henry go from you a moment, and let Pink mind the luggage. Keep Henry from leaning against the coach-door or over the edge of the boat.

You need bring no books, for Mr. Clarke, our neighbour, will lend you any Greek or Latin author. Of Italian, French, and English books he seems to have store also; and in the town there is really a noble library, to which Mr. Cragg will introduce you. It is a new institution, comprising a great collection. The room is a fine one, and occupies the upper floor of a handsome building. The lower floor is a public news-room. I am persuaded you will like this place, and our sweet cottage, which has a delightful view of the water; the bathing is not so near as might be wished, but within the compass of a walk.

Mary has had a letter from Lady Carbery with a bad account of her health ; she is going to London for advice. Mrs. Brotherton is alive, and for the
present somewhat better.

Last night, as we were returning from Liverpool about nine o'clock, a gentleman on the road, who was observing the heavens through a glass, invited us to look at the planet Saturn, which we saw with his belt very finely. You know this planet is very seldom seen, sometimes not for many years, but at this time it is visible, and, it is said, Mars also. You may see Saturn to the left of the moon with the naked eye, I suppose, to-morrow night; but whether at the same hour in the same position I don't know ; I should think farther to the left. You cannot see the belt of Saturn without a glass.

I am reading Dr. Currie's ' Life of Burns,' not without a sharply jealous eye to the Doctor's Jacobinism. "Alas, my dear Thomas, for the fate of that brave man, General Abercrombie!

Mary's love. Jane has gone to see the bathing-house with William. — Yours ever most affectionately,


P.S.—I see nine sail of ships where I sit, and have never before counted so small a number. You must expect to see us in an Irish cabin, or very little better; when you approach the cottage, you may reach the chimneys with your hat. I have had three applications for Green Park Buildings, We have a piano lent us; books as many as we want; and all the vegetables we use are given by Mr. Clarke, and have half our furniture from Mr. Cragg's house. I now find there are coaches to other houses besides the Angel, so the hazard of meeting you is greatly increased.


Manchester to Warrington

What can be gleaned from his mother's letter is that he would have to make his way from Long Millgate ( Seen above in late 19th Century) in Northern Manchester to the start of the Bridgewater Canal south of the city as can be seen on the 1801 map below (click on image to enlarge):

De Quincey would have travelled by barge/boat to Stockton Quay as seen below. The wharf which overhung the canal and the sizable warehouse were an important location for the transhipment of goods to and from the canal.

The London Bridge pub was also part of Stockton Quay and served as a passenger transfer location for the Duke of Bridgewater packet boats.

From the London Bridge pub, he would have travelled to Warrington to catch the coach onto Liverpool. The main coach house in Warrington in the late 18th and early 19th Century was the Red Lion.

In future posts, I will be looking in detail at Mrs Best, Lady Carbery, Mr Clarke, Mr Cragg, Dr Currie, the Angel Inn Liverpool, "the noble library" and the bathing house plus the environs of Everton.

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