Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 13 May 1770


Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 13 May 1770


Penal Laws, Catholicism, Ursulines, Nano Nagle, education, poverty, poor, eighteenth century


Letter written from Nano Nagle, Cove Lane, Cork to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons, Ursuline monastery, Rue St. Jacques, Paris.

Nano gives an account of a very ‘desirable’ young lady whom she is seeking to take on in Cork. The young ladies father however, is opposed to his daughter’s decision to become a nun and is offering a substantial sum of money if she will marry.

Nano is also encountering opposition from the Ursuline monastery in Paris. The former mistress of the Ursuline monastery is unable to lead the new foundation in Ireland due to the objections of the current mistress [Mother Marie Thérese Peiti de St. Joseph].


Nano Nagle


Ursuline Convent archive, Blackrock, Co.Cork


Sisters of the Irish Ursuline Union




Caroline Maguire, National University of Ireland, Maynooth


Property of the archive of the Ursuline Convent, Blackrock, Cork












Paris, France
Cork, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Galway, Ireland
Flanders, Belgium
Liege, Belgium

Original Format



‘I am glad to profit of any opportunity to assure you how pleasing it's to me to acquaint you with anything I thought would be agreeable to you, as I am certain [it] will be to hear that I hope we have got a very desirable subject in the young lady I mentioned to you some time ago, recommended by Mr. Austin. I wish I could transmit to you that part of his letter in respect of her, that he wrote to Mr. Doran. [But] as it was not convenient to give it to me, I shall give you a full account of her and some conjectures of my own in her regard. As you may be surprised I have not insisted on a better fortune if you did not know how matters stand, [let me tell you that] I have done nothing in it only with the approbation of our worthy friend and his uncle. Her father will give only £200 to the house, he is to pay £15 a year interest on it; while she lives, he is to give her a pension for herself that he does not choose to name at present. His indignation I believe is so great against her for being a nun [that] he offers her £2,000 if she will marry. Her inclination, I find, was to go to the same convent where she was brought up in. He would not consent to it, as he says there is a probability [that] in France they may demolish all the monasteries. He consented [that] she should go to Flanders, and Liege was the place he chose for her; I suppose, being under an ecclesiastical prince, he thought it would long subsist.


All these objections made her determine, I believe, on taking on here; and [she] says she is greatly pleased to [be] among them that has been educated in France. When he gave her leave to come here, he desired that she should leave Dublin in July and go to a convent in Galway, to remain [there] till things are fixed here. I have begged [that] she should come here and stay with me. In [the] first place she could be of great service and it would be a great comfort to me to have her; and [secondly] it's thought more advisable for many reasons by his odd manner of acting in her regard. At least I imagine he does not see her, so as the footing I request is put on being less expense for her going to Galway than coming from thence would cost him more. If he thought it would be agreeable to her, I dare say he would let her come. I fancy you'll admire to hear she is his only child and, I believe, the same [person] we mentioned to you about two years ago, as everything corroborates with what I heard then, only her being so very young as they told me she was. If it's the same, the father is a very religious man and has made a very good fortune, and retired from business lives in the country. There is a great appearance [that] beside[s] her wealth [?] she will be of vast service to the house. Her name I don't know. She has had a mind to be a nun since [she was] a child, [and she] is mighty devout. Nobody can write better than she does or [has] better orthography— this [is] what Mr. Austin mentions of her in his last letter. When he first spoke of her, he said she had great talents. Providence has ordered everything for the best in her regard to keep her for this place.


It mortified me that she did not join you; and had she, I am sure she would have met with the same fate that others did. Even Mr. Austin heard so much to the prejudice of this Foundation, that I believe he did not endeavour as much to prevail on her as he would [have done] had he known how matters were. Ever since Mr. Halloran has been here, who was informed of the truth of everything, nobody can interest himself more than he does for its success.


We must think the Almighty permits everything for the best. You'll see with His assistance everything promises well. And His divine hand will uphold us in getting your former mistress. The house she is in will in my opinion bring a judgement on them if they hinder her from being the means of saving so many souls.


Mr. Moylan desired me to assure you of his most affectionate compliments. He is so hurried that he has scarcely time to eat his meals since the Jubilee. He attempted several times to try to get an hour to sit down to write to you; it was in vain. It mortifies him he can't, as I don't know anyone he has a higher esteem for. His health is so much impaired since this great fatigue that he told me himself yesterday as he could...any ease here to relieve on your account his friend with.... afraid it would have no weight with him...


If it was not in regard of this Foundation he thinks you would choose to finish your noviceship there, and as soon as leave is got for that other lady to come away immediately....[lines scratched out]. He expects his sister every moment and will have time to write to you and to the Superior at the same time as the Jubilee will be soon over. I was surprised when he asked me if I wrote to the mistress of novices. I never did, I know I ought have done it and to....; not writing the French prevented me; as I am very unfond of being troublesome to persons that have not time to spare, and I could not entrust anybody else.


I hope your fortitude will bring you through all crosses and put a happy conclusion to this Foundation. And never be discouraged from choosing any young lady you think proper. I have often been ashamed for fear you would have thought I was any way flattering you with the success of it. I met so many disappointments; and that very young lady I now mention, I was sorry that we ever spoke of her to you, though we were sure of her when we did and afterwards she was resolved to go to France; you see we have got her back again. And if Miss Smith is not entered into any other convent, Mr. Moylan think[s] he will prevail on her to come here; I sincerely wish he may.


I beg you'll be so good as to present my compliments to the Superior, [to] your mistress, and [to] your former one who[m] I love and reverence, and [to] Mr. Fitzsimons. My best wishes attend the young ladies. All the family of Barryscourt are in perfect health, and Miss Nagle['s] family are also very well. I hope you and they enjoy, as I wish you may always, perfect good [health].


It gives me a vast deal of trouble to find [that] them two young ladies that want to learn can have no advantage. If it could be permitted them to have anybody to teach them anything you thought would be hereafter an advantage to the house, don't spare any expense. You'll be [the] best judge in that and everything else in their regards. They are happy to have a person of your good sense to direct them. And [I] can with truth say you are under God the chief support of this good work, which I flatter myself you will see prosper far beyond what one has a right to expect in such a country as this. I am, my dear Miss Fitzsimons, your most affectionate friend, Nano Nagle’..[1]


[1] T.J. Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin, 1959), p. 350.



Nano Nagle, “Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 13 May 1770,” Welcome to the Nano Nagle letters, accessed April 20, 2024, https://ursulinesisters.omeka.net/items/show/18.