The Mary Martin Rebow letters are a rare and significant trove of surviving correspondence of a young woman in Georgian England. Spanning the dates 1767 to 1779, these letters from Mary Martin to her cousin Isaac Martin Rebow document the progression of their relationship from a long secret engagement to their married life. In addition to Mary's letters, the collection also includes one letter by an unknown author.
Mary Martin Rebow (d. 1804) lived in London and later Colchester, Essex at Wivenhoe House with her husband and first cousin, Isaac Martin Rebow (1731-1781). Isaac Rebow served as Recorder in the Borough of Colchester and as a Member of Parliament for nearly thirty years, although records show he was a relatively inactive member, having only a few recorded votes during his tenure in office. His estate at Wivenhoe produced livestock and a wide variety of crops, as described by Mary in multiple letters. Rebow also served as a colonel in the East Essex militia. His political and business affairs required him to travel for extended periods of time, enabling a rich exchange of letters with Mary.
Little is known about Mary beyond what is written in her letters, and research provides conflicting dates for her birth and marriage. The courtship between Mary and Isaac was at first clandestine, and lasted nearly a decade. They were married sometime between 1772 and 1776, when there is a gap in the correspondence, and had three daughters. Isaac died in 1781, less than a decade after their marriage.
In these 117 letters from Mary to Isaac, she writes about the everyday goings-on of a wealthy family. The earliest letters (1767-1772) date from their courtship, and the later letters (1778-1779) date from their marriage. In the early letters, Mary describes her social life with family and family acquaintances, her trouble with finding suitable servants for her aunt, who was also her future mother-in-law, and her management of the building of Isaac Rebow’s London home at Duke Street. In her later letters, written after the death of her mother-in-law and father, she writes more about running the farm at Wivenhoe, and about her two eldest daughters.
Former Washington State University librarian Josephine Asaro Manning published two substantial articles on the Mary Martin Rebow Papers in The Record, the journal of the Friends of the Washington State University Library, in 1971 and 1972.
These letters can be found in the Mary Martin Rebow Papers (Cage 134). All of the items from the collection have been digitized and transcribed, and are included in this digital collection.
Megan Ockerman scanned, transcribed and created metadata for the letters under the direction of Cheryl Gunselman, Manuscripts Librarian.