Some Transcriptions of Literary Sources Relating to Joseph & Mary Mitchell Collyer

On this page are transcriptions of some literary sources, created by Joseph Collyer the Elder and his wife – Mary Mitchell, which we have come across during our research into this couple. We have chosen extracts which, we believe, convey something of the character of these people.

Where a direct quotation is given the text is coloured blue

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First Source

The Death of Abel
in Five Books, by Mary Collyer. Twelfth edition, published 1780.
Penn State Library, USA, Rare Books Call No A1.She1 PT1886.T613 1802.
Researched by Dulcy Bryan, 1999.

Pages i – vi – Dedication To the Queen

Permit me to lay at the
foot of Your Throne this
volume, which is an attempt to
translate from Your Native Lan-
guage a work deservedly admired.
I am sensible it is but a faint repre-
sentation of the glowing beauties
of the excellent original: yet I
flatter myself I have, in some mea-
sure, treserv’d the ideas, especially
those which fill and warm the
heart with the love of virtue. On
this account, and this only, I
presume to hope for Your MA-
JESTY’s favourable acceptance of
the work.

Placed by the hand of Providence
at an humble distance from the
Great, my cares and pleasures are
concentred within the narrow li-
mits of my little family, and it is
in order to contribute to the sup-
port and education of my children,
I have taken up the pen. Your
MAJESTY’s Patronage will un-
doubtedly insure my success: but
I am far from hoping that You,
Madam, will give Your Royal
Sanction to a performance that has
no other merit to plead than the
ill-judg’d, tho’ affectionate industry
of a fond mother. If I have at-
tempted a task for which Nature
never designed me, it is just that
disappointment should teach me
humility and wisdom, and I bow
without repining to the stroke.

Confined as my situation is, I
shar’d in the universal joy visible
on every countenance on Your
MAJESTY’s safe arrival. This ge-
neral satisfaction was a most auspi-
cious omen in the beginning of
Your happy Reign. May You,
MADAM, ever feel the delight of
giving joy to a brave and loyal
people! May Your exemplary vir-
tues, united with those of our be-
loved Sovereign, put wickedness to
shame, and force vice to hide its
head! May all ranks, influenced
by Royal Precedent, and the man-
ners of Your Court, grow ashamed
of licentiousness, inhumanity, pro-
faneness and dissipation! May the
sincere gratitude and love of a re-
formed, united, and happy people,
render valuable the splendour of
Your public station: while domestic
peace, conjugal felicity, and ma-
ternal-love, fill with tranquil de-
light Your more retir’d hours!
May You see, with transport, the
rising virtues of a numerous Pro-
geny! May You, MADAM, to
use the patriarchal language of my
author – May You, full of days,
and full of glory, after having
beheld your Children’s Children
flourish round You, late, very late,
resign an earthly crown, to receive
an everlasting diadem in the realm
of bliss and immortality! These
are the ardent wishes of,


Your’s and His MAJESTY’s

most dutiful,
most devoted
and most Obedient
subject and servant,

Note: The Queen to whom this Preface was addressed was Queen Charlotte, formerly Princess Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, who came to England and met and married King George III in 1761

Second Source

The Virtuous Orphan or The Life of Martianne Countess of ***** (2nd Edition, 1743)
An Eighteenth-Century English Translation by Mrs Mary Mitchell Collyer of Marivaux’s La Vie De Marianne
Ed W H McBurney & M F Shugrue (Southern Illinois University Press), 1965

Extact from the Translator’s Preface (pp 4 – 5)

The history before us deserves to be considered as a useful piece of instruction, a lesson of nature, a true and lively picture of the human heart. Our little foibles are exposed with much wit and spirit. The true motive to every action is honestly acknowledged, and not the least pretension made to a virtue which in reality had no existence. Of what use this natural coloring and painting things just as they are in themselves must be is very obvious: for they who know anything of human nature will readily acknowledge that we are too apt to impose upon ourselves in ascribing those actions of ours to a laudable motive, which in fact had their rise from some low and sordid disposition. The reflections have nothing in them studied and forced, but are the language of the heart, the fruits of experience, dictated immediately by the circumstances of the person who makes them. The sentiments throughout have an uncommon delicacy and beauty in them: they do honor to morality, and ought to be cherished by everyone who would be truly polite, and throw a luster and an attractive quality on his virtues: in one word, it is a production that reflects a glory on the French nation. But still there may be some readers whom it will disgust. A few of mankind, out of a love of cavil and an affectation of superior judgment, find fault with everything for no other reason but because it is generally approved of. Others again can relish no history that does not set the hero in a perfect and unexceptionable light; blemishes and defects in his behavior they won’t admit of; a low character, though justly painted, is contemptibly hurried over; in short, their pride and delicacy are shocked, if they meet with any circumstance that suits human nature and is below the pitch of supreme excellence. The first sort are not worthy the pains of making a reply; and these last, I am afraid, don’t propose to themselves any real improvement from what they read, but rather the gratification of a heated and elevated fancy. But I would have these visionaries reflect that the avoiding vice is the first natural step we take in pursuing virtue; and unless the difficulties and obstacles that arise from headstrong passion and corrupt habits are removed at our setting-out, we shall never make the least progress towards the height of virtue we aspire after. What rule of conduct then can an example afford us that is beyond the reach of human capacity to imitate? And how shall we be ever able to shun the consequences of vice and folly, to which we are all in some degree subject, and these readers among the rest, when our whole time is employed in contemplating such objects as have no defect either in point of understanding or manners?

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Third Source

A New System of Geography, by D Fenning, J Collyer & Others. 1771 edition.
British Library, London, Shelf Mark 216 e 3-4

(Vol 1)

Japan – Section 4, p.11

…The Japanese in general, particularly the inhabitants of Niphon, appear very disagreeable: They are short sized, tawney, with flattish noses, thick eye-lids, and are strong and thick-legged: But the descendants of the eldest and noblest families are more like the Europeans, and have something more majestic in their shape and countenances.

Vol 2

Brussels, p 274

The antient inhabitants of Brussels …have shewn a singular fondness for the number seven; for here are seven principal streets that enter into a great market place, in which there are seven stately houses; seven parish churches; seven noble families, eminent for their antiquity and great privileges; seven midwives, sworn and licenced by the senate to visit the poor as well as the rich, whenever called; seven public gates of the Doric order, remarkable for leading to so many places of pleasure …

There is another pleasant custom, says the author (Mr. Misson), observed among the citizens of Brussels on the nineteenth of January, when the women undress for their husbands and carry them to bed and the husbands are obliged to treat their friends the next day. They give us ‘two reasons for this custom; The first is, that the city being reduced to such extremity, as to be obliged to surrender to the enemy, the women only were allowed to escape, and to carry with them what they esteemed to he most valuable; when, instead of their ornaments, they all marched out with their husbands on their backs. Others allege that a good number of the citizens of Brussels, following St. Lewis in his first crusade, most of them had the good fortune to escape the general destruction; and afterwards coming home in a body, their wives rejoicing at their return, met and caught them in their arms and carried them home.

Italy, p. 374

Of the Ecclesiastical State

According to Canon-law, the Pope is the supreme, universal and independent head of the church, and invested with sovereignty over all Christian communities, and every individual member. He has a right to prescribe laws to the whole world. What he does is as if God himself had done t, he being God upon earth. All sovereigns must pay homage to him. He may depose both disobedient and ill-governing princes, and give their dominions to others. He has a right to examine any person promoted to any kingdom and may require an oath of allegience from him. On the vacancy of a throne the government devolves to him. He has the right in all states to use both the temporal and spiritual sword. …. This is a short sketch of the extravagancies of the political system of the court of Rome, which, notwithstanding its impiety and absurdity, has been ambitiously obtruded on the world, and even was for some ages tyrannically put into practice. It is chiefly owing to the Reformation that these corrupt maxims are at present, by the rational part of Christendom, treated with contempt, and that the Pope has lost a great part of the formidable power he has vainly and arrogantly assumed …

Great Britain
Britain was treated at some length, and in thoroughly complimentary terms. It was interesting to note that the principal towns named in this text were totally different from what would be regarded as the major cities in Britain today. They included Bristol, Bath and Norwich, and excluded such modern cities as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, which were not significant places in the eighteenth century. My final extract from this work comes from Collyer’s general description of Great Britain


Great Britain is the largest island in Europe, and one of the most populous, rich and fruitful…….The climate is indeed infinitely preferable to that of any part of the continent in the same latitude, the summers being neither so hot, nor the winters so cold…. With regard to the character of the English, they have always been allowed to be brave and naturally jealous of their liberties; they are industrious, fitted for labour, lovers of the liberal arts and capable of carrying them to the greatest perfection. They are also generally humane and friendly; but at the same time artless, and not fond of compliment; and perfectly averse to servility and cringing.

Fourth Source
The Parent’s Directory and Youth’s Guide by Joseph Collyer.
British Library, London, Shelf Mark 8410 ccc 40

In this book Collyer provided advice on how to bring up children, placing a high value on education and discipline.

iii Preface

My motive for writing the following work was a love of the Arts, and sincere desire to promote the happiness of those useful persons who practise them …

Chapter 1 pp 1-12

The business of Education is the most important duty of the parent and guardian…

… when the child wantonly cries, storms, and strikes all about him or is peevish and obstinate let him see that this is not the way of procuring what he wants.

The parent ought not to be much astonished, if his darling son, whom he has permitted , in his infancy, thus to torment innocent creatures, should not have the cruel dispositions of a ruffian, and have no tender feelings for the infirmities of his old age.

A parent should be highly to blame to punish a child for falling down in the dirt.

… a child ought to be guarded against the ridiculous and impious practice of insulting people on account of their personal defects.

Children are naturally fond of mimicking everything they see; their parents, or guardians, should therefore be careful not to mistake what arises from their natural activity and love of play, for the effects of genius. Thus, a boy’s military talents cannot justly be inferred, from his aping what he has seen performed by the soldiers, from his marching with his companions in rank and file and performing a part of the manual exercise with a broomstick.

Of particular interest to us, bearing in mind Joseph’s occupation, was his summary of the attributes required of a Bookseller (pp 69-71). Maybe here we gain an insight into how Joseph viewed himself:

1. Wholesale Dealer.
2. Dealer in bibles, common prayers, almanacks Etc. (Wholesale Dealers)
3. ‘Retale’ Dealer – new books.
4. Foreign book Dealer.
5. Old book Dealer.


Clear understanding, a taste for literature, and a liberal education. Should possess a good hand, and be expert in the common rules of arithmetic.

Apprentices to a foreign book dealer should speak fluent French and write it with ease.

Apprentices to Dealers in old books should speak French and Latin with ease. The Trade is …

overstocked, by the numbers who have thrust themselves into it, without any of those qualifications that are essential to a bookseller, a gentleman or an honest man; some of whom are so far from having a taste for literature, that they can scarcely read an English title.’

Booksellers of reputation take with an apprentice from 20l to 40l, and pay their Journeyman about 20l a year with their board.

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  • This page was last updated on Sunday July 3rd, 2011.