Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 29 April 1770


Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 29 April 1770


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


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

While initially opposed to the idea, the former mistress of the Ursuline monastery has consented to lead the new foundation in Ireland. Local cleric, Fr. [Francis] Moylan, is currently doing everything in his power to get leave for her to travel.

Although expressing her delight at these small victories, Nano is troubled to hear of her cousin's 'hysteria' or propensity to develop ‘violent fits’. The issue is causing some disagreement within the Ursuline community, who are under the impression that her ‘disorder’ is contagious.


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


‘I had the pleasure of receiving your kind favour and hope my last letter has convinced you that it was no neglect on my part not answering you sooner as nothing can give me more real pleasure than hearing often from you, till I have that of seeing you. And that longed-for sight, I hope, is not at such a distance as I some time ago imagined it to be.


I can't too much admire your zeal and great trust in the divine Providence, which I always looked on as the most settled beginning any foundation of this kind could have. And I build more on the success of it from that poor way [in which] it first took its rise than any means it has pleased God to give me at present to carry it on. I can't express how much I suffer to think of all the severe trials you have gone through, and am sensible it's more painful to meet them where [you] should expect everything to forward such a good work. Yet the Almighty permits this to try your patience and to hasten this establishment, and to draw a future benefit from it, as the faults we disapprove in others we take generally to mend in ourselves. I dare say it will be the peculiar care of them that begin this foundation to inspire always to others to do all in their [power] to forward other establishments, as in all appearance several may spring from this. It's in this light [you should] look on their odd manner of acting in both convents. And as to myself it does not disedify me, as I believe it's all for our good. It's certain others might not think as I do, which makes me sometimes imagine the disappointments I have met about the foundation going abroad to have happened for the best, as very probably they might have lost their vocations had they seen their behaviour in our regard.


As to what you mention to me about being professed here, as your worthy friend and his uncle approves of it and as it's your own decision, it's highly pleasing to me also. And I think it would be going to a very unnecessary expense, as you could not reap any advantage by it hereafter and I suppose would be very disagreeable to the ladies you are with that anybody intended for this place should profess among them, as they may always have a dread of their returning back to them. On the whole I hope you have come to the best resolution in every respect.


There is nothing in Mr. Moylan's power he won't do to endeavour to get leave for your former mistress coming over. If he can't succeed by writing, he is so good as [to] be resolved to go over himself, though he can hardly be spared even for a few days from this place, his presence is so necessary here. Yet he has it so much at heart to see it once fixed [that] he does not think anything a trouble [which] he can do to serve it. We all admire that amiable lady's zeal and fortitude to leave her own country. I flatter myself that you and she will be amply recompensed when you see all the number of souls you'll be the means of saving, and the universal good not only to this country and very probably to others. I beg you will tell her I should have wrote to her to acknowledge my thanks and gratitude to her when I heard of her consenting to come here, only the want of not writing the French, or more the fear of my letter being read before it came into her hands as with the help of one of my friends I could have sent [?] a French letter. And at the same time assure her of my respectful compliments.


It gave me a vast deal of trouble to hear my cousin had such a violent fit. You may well imagine if I thought she had hysterics, I never would have been such a fool as any way to think the nuns would ever permit her to receive the habit among them. It makes me uneasy to think how disagreeable it must be to them to have her in the house, as they have a notion it's a disorder that is taken. We can't foresee what sickness it's pleased God to afflict us with or at what time. I wish her native air may agree better with her for her own sake and ours, for a better mistress for the poor children I fancy won't be easy to get. She was indefatigable about...


P.S. As [I am] informed Miss Coppinger has been also very uneasy at not hearing from any of her family, I must beg the favour of you to tell her I heard yesterday from them, and they are all well and [so are] her cousins in this town; and at the same time assure her of my affectionate compliments. Adieu, dear Miss’.[1]


[1] T.J. Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin, 1959), p. 348.

Original Format




Nano Nagle , “Letter from Nano Nagle to Miss Mary Angela Fitzsimons 29 April 1770,” Welcome to the Nano Nagle letters, accessed December 8, 2023, https://ursulinesisters.omeka.net/items/show/19.