Bishop Edward Synge writes to his daughter Alicia
Elphin, County Roscommon, 1746-1752 It is an unusual occurrence when a small collection of archival papers comes to light that transforms what had previously been known about a historical era or subject. This, however, is exactly what happened in 1998 when 221 letters, written by an eighteenth-century Bishop of Elphin to his daughter, were presented to Trinity College by their descendant Mary Louise Jennings.
Edward Synge, bishop of Elphin (1691-1762), had only one surviving child, out of a family of six; his daughter Alicia (1733-1807). Motherless from the age of three, her father took on the role of mentor and, when he had to be absent from their Dublin home, he wrote to her.
It was not entirely surprising to discover in these letters that the bishop - a liberal man - expected his daughter to be well-educated, confident and independent. What was more surprising, in an age when men were not generally directly involved in raising their own children, was the range of subjects about which he spoke to Alicia. This included topics he could only speak about in French! What is most poignant is the language of affection that the bishop used. On his sixtieth birthday Edward Synge wrote to his daughter: 'Thanks be to God I have you, to gladden my eyes and heart. Nor do I fear anything hurting me, while I know that you are well.'
Shelfmark: TCD MS 11566
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