So here is the sum total of correspondence between the Guise-Cutler branch with William Windham (1750-1810). These letters come from the William Windham papers at the British Library. I will try and add some context to these letters, particularly the relationship between the people mentioned in the letter, and those who are writing to William.
First I have to say that I am a wee bit disappointed that the only letters that survived to be collected after Windham’s death into this collection are begging letters. I sincerely hope that there existed at some point letters to him that did not ask for anything, and just wished him well. They didn’t survive, nor did his responses the letters. The result is a skewed view of their relationship – but five letters cannot be all there was.
Letter number 1 from Sarah Eliza Cutler to William Windham dated 23 April 1795. Sarah was the daughter of his natural sister Elizabeth Windham Guise, so she was Windham’s niece. She is writing on behalf of her husband the Reverend John Cutler, who was the headmaster of Sherborne School in Sherborne, Dorset.
ADD 37914, f. 145
The anxiety of a Mother who wishes to bring up a family of small children with decency & credit, will I hope plead my excuse, for troubling you with this letter. Mr Cutler, who has been in orders eighteen years, & who served his Majesty three years, in the East Indies, on Board the Hero, as Chaplain to Sir Edward Hughes’ Fleet, has now literally nothing in his profession, not even half pay, as a Navy Chaplain; which I believe is customary. Our present income, arises from the school at Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, founded by King Edward the 6th; when we came to it, there was not a single boy, we have now 50, but schools are fluctuating, and uncertain, of course we are in a very anxious situation. If therefore you Sir, could among your numerous and powerful friends, procure any small piece of Ecclesiastical preferment, for Mr Cutler, both me & my children, would be ever bound in gratitude to you for it; & I flatter myself, that Ld Ilchester, Ld Digby, our County members, & all the
Neighbouring gentlemen, would speak of my Husband in a manner that would not disgrace your recommendation. I will not intrude further on your time, than to beg your pardon for the liberty I have taken, & to spare your, that I am with the greatest sincerity,
Your affectionate &
S Eliza Cutler
23 April 1795
Letter number 2 is a testimonial sent to Windham concerning the worthiness of the Reverend John Cutler, and how he deserves a reward. It was likely sent by John Cutler to his wife’s uncle. It is dated 1797.
ADD 37877, f. 209
We the undersigned do testify that the Rev John Cutler AM Master of Sherborne Grammar School, in the County of Dorset founded by K Edward VIth is a man of strict integrity, indefatigable industry, and of tried abilities. We have heard much & from indubitable authority of his merit as a Master, and of his work as a man of moral character, and undoubted loyalty: and that he has sent many excellent scholars to both universities. He has also serv’d his King and Country as Chaplain of Sir Edward Hughes’ Fleet in the E. Indies in the years 80-81-82 and 83, and was discharged for his services. He has been near 20 years in orders, is an old AM has five sons to bring up and has no Church Preferment whatever.
County of Dorset
Dec 16th 1797
Francis John Brown
William Morton Pitt
Letter number 3 is a letter from the Reverend John Cutler to William Windham, asking for an ecclesiastical living – ie a church with income which he can hold in addition to his work as a headmaster. This is a letter basically to his wife’s uncle, begging for more of an income reflecting his own merits, and those of his wife and children. He also ends the letter with a statement saying Windham’s sister Mrs Guise is present, but he has not told her about writing this request. Might mean she would disapprove. I certainly would have – the letter is much!
ADD 37915, f. 214
I should be extremely unwilling to intrude upon you at this time, if the LvσζΚδΠ μεζϦП ϴϵos [approximation of characters in letter – likely Greek] did not compel me. When I had the honour of delivering you some years ago the testimonial of my character, signed by the Lord [Illegible] & the two Members for the county, I could not have supposed the reigning Minister could have neglected an old servant of the Crown, one who has served well of his country in war, in church & state. In case, you might not have had a proper opportunity of introducing my name & character, I take the liberty of enclosing you a copy of it. Believe me, Sir, I find it difficult to exist – as I am at present greatly in debt for the necessities of life. And how can this be otherwise, with an income of 60 per An; badly paid. Pardon me, Sir, I do not mean to be troublesome, but when I find myself surrounded with a large family of children, which I can not decently support by my labours- your goodness of heart, your sensibility, your humanity will pleas my excuse. I should humbly suppose, that the circumstance of my having been to Cambridge Mr S Phillips, who his this present year has won the University Prize, would claim some attention from the Minister or Chancellor, I should fondly hope that my having bled for my King & Country
I for tho’ Chaplain with Sir Edward Hughes, I was severely wounded in an action off Ceylon I would at least give me some claim to the smallest of his Majesty’s preferment. With your kind condescension, Sir, I should suppose this might easily be brought to pass either with the Minister or Chancellor, or even both.
May I humbly hope, that you will take this my humble request into your consideration, & let me not, when my claim is greater on my King & Country, than of most men existing – sink into the grave unrewarded, forgotten and friendless – let me not, when I eagerly & humbly stretch out my hands for some small ecclesiastical gift, after having been in orders 24 years – let me not say, that I must be still doomed to find – nihil, prater plorace.
Mrs C is worthy of a better fated sending her respects. Mrs Guise is with me, but she knows nothing of my writing this.
I am, Sir, with unfeigned respects your most obedient & faithful humble servant
June the 11th 1802.
Letter number 4 is perhaps the best letter in the bunch. It is not really a begging letter. I think perhaps its author Elizabeth Guise, William Windham’s natural sister, was not particularly comfortable about writing it. It concerns a Mrs Lukin who has asked for money from Mr Guise (Richard Guise, choirmaster – Westminster Abbey). The Lukins were related to William Windham, his mother was married to a Mr Lukin before she met his father. Elizabeth was likely raised with the Lukin children when Mrs Lukin became William Windham senior’s mistress, not long after her birth. It is unclear to me who the Mrs Lukin referred to in the letter is specifically – is she the wife of one of William’s brothers, or a wife of one of his nephews? Likewise, the Mr Lukin mentioned in the letter could be a brother, a nephew, a cousin?
ADD 37913 f 58
I think it right to inform you that Mrs D Lukin called here Thursday on account of her annuity, and was much disappointed when Mr Guise referr’d her to Mr Lukin. I hope he has committed no error in doing so, he having understood you, that business was delegated to him. As I am now troubling you on this unpleasant subject, will say further, that Mr L has taken no notice about repaying Mr G who is quite in doubt whether you would approve of his calling on him, or waiting to hear from him. Mrs D Lukin has rec’d of Mr G Sep 29 1798
Feb -24 1799
Apr 7- 1802
March 24 1803
I am most particular because when M L paid him the £60 he [illegible] his having made his sister so many payments as he had done, at that time.
Mrs Cutler who is with me, unites in respectful love to you and Mrs Windham
I am Dear Brother,
Your affectionate sister,
2d Jan 1804
Letter number 5 is a letter from Sarah Elizabeth Guise to her uncle William Windham. In it she mentions the death of a Mr Lukin, who I believe was his cousin, and who held the living on Felbrigg Estate. While the letter starts off well, it degenerates into yet another begging letter. She asks that Windham let her husband Rev John Cutler have control of the Felbrigg living while Mr Lukin’s son who is destined to ultimately receive it, is a minor. I find it tacky to on one hand sympathise with the death, while on the other use it to your advantage. Nonetheless she does finish the letter talking about her mother, and how she will be moving to Bath, which she did. Elizabeth Guise was now a widow, losing her husband the year before. She died in Bath in 1810.
ADD 37916, f.111
Blandford Place, Pall Mall
10th Nov 1807
My Dear Sir
It was with the greatest concern, that my Mother & myself head of the death of Mr Lukin & most sincerely sympathize with his family in their heavy affliction. You will I trust excuse the liberty I am about to take, in supposing his son is designed to succeed him in his Norfolk preferment, & so I apprehend he is not of age to take it, saying that should you approve of Mr Cutler to hold it for him, he would think himself honoured; & having no preferment whatever, there would not be any of those impediments which frequently occur where a clergyman has living of his own. I have been here this past ten days, visiting my Mother in clearing her
house; & we mean to leave town this evening for Sherborne where she means to stay a short time with me & then it is her intention to settle at Bath. She desires her love to you, & kindest respects to Mrs Windham & Mrs Lukin, and when she is a little settled, she will write to you & give an account of herself. I will beg you to present my best respects, & believe me to be
Mr Dear Sir
And affectionate humble servant
S Eliza Cutler
Summing up, the begging came from the Cutlers, who desired that John Cutler have some sort of extra income, an ecclesiastical living. While Sarah Elizabeth tells her uncle that because he has no living in 1807 he would be able to serve, it seems unlikely that he would have. When he did finally get a living, in 1815 (5 years after Windham died) he did not serve there, but continued at Sherborne, and finally retiring in London. His living at Patney, Wiltshire was run by someone he hired from his income as minister. It was only after his death in 1833 that they saw their assigned minister in their service.
I get that he had a big family, and he didn’t make that great a living as a headmaster. He was likely entitled to a pension of some sort for his service in the Navy, so there is that sense of entitlement. And how fortuitous that his uncle by marriage was Secretary of War! There is no evidence that Windham actually helped them.