Family tree

First Letter from Emily Binney to Emily Dibblee

See Emily Dibblee (recipient of letter)
Emily Binney (sender of letter - mother of Emily Dibble)
Irwine Binney (brother of Emily Dibblee)
Margaret McKenzie (sometimes called Old Margaret, servant of the family)
Lucy Binney (Loo's - sister of Emily Dibblee)
William Binney (Dear Willie - brother of Emily Dibblee)
Stephen Binney (father of Emily Dibblee and husband of Emily Binney, died in 1872)
Frederick Lewis Dibblee (husband of Emily Dibblee)

This letter was written in 1874 from Emily Binney to her daughter Emily Dibblee, who is England but about to return to India. It is the longest letter of the collection. It was written on two sheets of paper, each folded in half and written as four pieces. I have separated out the pieces as I think it makes it clearer. There is a black border to the 'front' page of each sheet. I suspect that the paper was bought as mourning paper after the death of Stephen Binney. Whether they were still using it up, or whether Emily Binney still regarded herself in mourning, I don't know.

Binney is George Binney Dibblee, Emily's oldest son. Emily Binney seems to have a particular interest in him, possibly because he has the family name.

I find this a charming letter. Emily, the mother, thanks her daughter very prettily for her presents, gives an amusing account of the family servant's delight in her present, and carefully skates over the fact that the sister will probably not bother to write a thank you letter! The mother fusses over the health of the grandchildren and manages to control her sadness that she will not see her daughter again, or her grandchildren. She also supports her daughter in an appalling decision that the daughter will have to make about her own children while recognising how she must feel about it.

This decision seems to be that Emily Dibblee was about to leave her children in England while returning to her husband in India. This needs to be put in context. Emily Dibblee lost three children to cholera in 1871, which is only 3 years previously (and explains the worry of her mother about the grandchildren). It seems that Emily Dibblee feels that her children would be safer in England, which is probably true. But Emily Dibblee herself must rejoin her husband, which is a common Victorian idea. Emily Dibblee did give birth to one more child, born in India. She seems to return to England, and was in England at the time of her husband's death in 1888.

There is a reference to Mrs Ketchum, who seems to have visited the Dibblee children, presumably in England. She may have brought back the presents that Emily Binney was talking about. Irwine Binney married Mrs Ketchum's sister, Lucy Milner.

Dolly Varden was a character in Charles Dickens' novel Barnaby Rudge. Dolly was a vain, flirtatious girl who wore colorful clothes. All through the 19th Century articles of clothing were named after her, such as the Dolly Varden bonnet.

Mrs Robinson might be Grace Dibblee who married Morris Robinson, mentioned in one of Irwine's letters - this would be the sister of Frederick Dibblee.

It's interesting to speculate why Emily Dibblee kept this letter. There seems to have been a good correspondence between her and the rest of the family, but not much survived. She moved around a lot, so must have had frequent clear-outs. Most of the other letters are about deaths, and were presumably kept as memories of the departed. Perhaps this leaving the children was an important decision of Emily's life, and the advice of her Canadian family had helped her, so she wanted to keep the letters.

I have given the transcription of the letter first, and the original after, in case you want to check it.

Transcription - Page 1 of original letter - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6 - Page 7 - Page 8

Moncton 28th May 1874

My Dearest Emmie

I was grieved to learn by your letter to Irwine you were uneasy about dear Binney’s health, if you remember, when in India you wrote me – he was either not well, or lazy, as he was so slow in his movements – I then felt worried about him, and fear’d that he had been too long in a hot climate – the darling. I trust your next letter may be favourable and am longing for the English Mail to arrive. I received the Box - and parcel – Mrs Ketchum sent them from Fredricton, and dear Emma, I am much obliged for the pretty Caps which suit me exactly – the plain one is something like what I wear, but yours has such lovely borders, and the material is so very fine and white, mine looks like strainers besides them – I do not know how to tell you of Margaret’s joy on receiving her Cap – it fits her beautifully and her delight is unbound’d – and thinks if Loo’s would only line it she might wear it in the street for a Bonnet - in the afternoon she called to me, Mrs Binney do you know the name of my Cap – why it is a dally Worden – and it was better than ever in her eyes – you must know she had seen a picture of a dolly Varden, and ever since it has been her ambition to possess one, you can imagine how grateful she feels to you, and her many thanks for it – Loo’s Cloak is very splendid and the embroidery Magnificent – what lovely things are made in India, I fear Loo’s will not be able to write you this Mail as intended, as they have the house in a Mess just now. Plastering Papering – and painting – and what makes it worse for poor Loo’s her Servant left her the day after they commenced – after staying another month to accommodate them, they as usual did not succeed in getting the people to work until it had slipt away – to my astonishment, they spent Sunday Afternoon with me – I have not heard from them since – I am glad you like Irwine’s letters – his many worries this last Winter has made him look thin, and worn – poor old Job ( you remember the story of the dunce and the genus) I trust his mining business is going to be a success at last. I had a long letter from dear Willie last Mails - he has been telling us for some time past, his Brother in Law, now in New York, is going home shortly and intends to come and see us – and he now says Mr Pateraki will no doubt pay you a Visit during the summer – old Margaret and I are great people to wait on (Strangers but for dear Willie’s sake) I shall be very glad to see him and do all in my power to make his Visit pleasant – I forgot to tell you it was a year before my blessed Husband died that he first told us he was coming.

I have just heard the Mails will be here tomorrow – I do so hope that there will be a letter from you, I am so very anxious about darling Binney – I have quite forgotten to tell you Mrs Ketchum wrote me with the parcel - and said every thing lovely about you all – she left you well – and said you have such remarkably fine Children – and I would be delighted with Binney – he is such a fine boy – and a perfect little Gentleman in his Manners – and it was always such a pleasure to go and see them – they are so well brought up – and been thoroughly taught obedience – I knew it all dear Emmie, after seeing the Photos - will add a line after arrival of Mail –


Dearest Emmie it was such a relief when Irve brought me your letter of 18th yesterday, to find you writing in such good spirits, and dear little Binney so much better, and you have really heard you are to go back to India again, I hope it will be a long time dear Emmie before it is all settled, what you tell me about dear Binney made me shed tears – his asking you to stay until he was 8 years old – and his love for you – the darling – was so touching – how you are going to bear it all poor Child I do not know, not in your own strength – but in his who fits the back to the burden – and will I trust support, and comfort, you in this your great and sad trial – do not worry about my disappointment in not seeing you, when you first wrote of coming I was overjoyed – and you said if Sophie & Betsie would only take charge of the Children you would come when your Husband left or soon after then I expected you - but your letters alter’d, were different, and in the long waiting I gave you up, for I could see it would be a disappointment, I thought I would see the Children very often who ever had them, but God’s will be done, it is better for them, and it must be right – it is only a little more to bear, and some person will have to look after me I expect before long – I shall be very happy to get a Photo of you dear Emmie – it is years since I have had one, and I have not yet seen one of dear baby – the Dr. went to Shedrie(?) yesterday and I went over and spent the afternoon with Loo’s , she had paper’d two rooms in four days besides doing all the other rooms yesterday she baked, washed, and when I went over had commenced papering the hall. I think I have the smartest, most clever daughters in the world (take it from their dear Father) I sit for hours alone thinking what are they all to me now, when you part from your Children dear Emmie, you will be able to feel for me, not until then.

I have not heard from Bessie for over two Months - some person told Loos Mrs Robinson had sold her house and they had all gone to Fredericton.

With love and Kisses to the darlings
dear Child
Always yours
your Affect Mother
Emily Binney

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