Elizabeth Gwillim and Mary Symonds’ original letters from India between 1801 and 1807 can be found in the British Library under the shelfmark Mss Eur C240 as the “Lady Elizabeth Gwillim Papers.”

The Gwillim Project members transcribed the correspondence from images of the originals and added some explanatory notes.

Transcribing the letters

There are almost 700 pages in the sisters’ correspondence. The handwriting can be difficult to read, with words crossed out or added between the lines. Some letters are torn with pieces missing. In some the ink has blurred such as the letter to the right.

The letters often lack punctuation between sentences or spaces between paragraphs. The sisters’ spelling is also inconsistent.

Mary Symonds to Hester James, 20 October 1803

In one letter, Elizabeth says that a knowledge of Latin:

…is the only means of being certain as to the principles of spelling, & the want of that knowledge makes us women so uncertain.

Elizabeth Gwillim to her Mother, Esther Symonds, August 12, 1804


The McGill transcriptions were made by Victoria Dickenson, Emilienne Greenfield, and Rebekah McCallum. Thanks also to Jeffrey Spear and Patrick Wheeler for sharing their transcriptions and to Jane Ruddell for sharing Rosemary Ruddell’s transcriptions.