In 2007 some 20 letters were purchased from a Mr Touil of Ez-Zahra in Tunisia. The letters were part of the estate of his grandfather, who had been a 'collector of stamps and old letters'.
Twelve of these letters were written by Thomas Williams (1753-1804) to his wife Mary and one to his eldest son, Thomas Sydney Williams. The earliest letters are a sequence of seven, and include the letter to Sydney. They are all dated June and July 1794, and describe Thomas's arrival in Nottingham with his son John, and nephew Edward Marsh. Thomas is busy preparing a new home for the family to move into at Nottingham, while the rest of the children are still with Mary at Gosport.
There is one letter written in 1802 and a sequence of five written in 1803, all relating to an extended business trip in the West of England. These are written to Mary who is now living in Nottingham.
Although all the letters are written by Williams's, I often refer to these as the 'Touil' letters to distinguish them as a group, from other family letters.
On a number of the letters this has not been easy, although we seem to have a very high percentage of accuracy. One letter in particular, the 4th of the 1794 letters, has small sections missing, and others are sometimes cross-written. I have tried to present the transcribed letters with the following rules:
A word that there is some unsureity about, or as to spelling, has an(?) immediately following and adjacent to it.
A word that we cannot transcribe is represented by (?) with a space between it and adjacent words
A word that is totally missing (through damage) is represented by an underline, thus: .
Where ever we would expect to write a double 's' today, in the originals it is always written to appear like an 'ƒs', as in claƒs or paƒsion. These are shown on the web pages as 'ss', as in class, passion.
'You' and 'Your' were always written by Thomas with a capital Y regardless of where positioned in the sentence.
Emphasis used in hand-written letters, is of course represented by underlining, so this has been followed in the transcription.
As you will read, Thomas uses an '&' a lot, (about 50 times in the first 3 letters), and ends many words, normally ended today in 'ed', in 'd (135 times in first 3 letters). Examples: tir'd, call'd, Edw'd, perceiv'd, nam'd, vein'd.
Overall, the general understanding of language and the use of words, seem to be far superior to that of today.
My appreciation and thanks to Nevil of Market Harborough, U.K. who spent many hours pouring over images of the letters to break the back of the transcription, and Carol, Joan and Chris in Havelock North, N.Z. who spent much time transcribing the same. Both transcriptions were compared and any differences adjusted. And to Nevil again for his knowledge and ability to place and link the relevant events and people, and in checking the associated notes for accuracy.