A young woman who love
d a young man; their parents opposed it for many years; and they wrote love letter
s. Dorothy Osborne's letters to William Temple
from 1652 to 1654 are among the freshest and most natural of any in literature, and eminently enjoyable
She was born in 1627, into an old and wealthy family that lived at Chicksands Priory in Bedfordshire. Her father Sir Peter Osborne held Jersey for the King in the Civil War. Returning home at its conclusion in 1649, they stayed at an inn on the Isle of Wight and met a party including young William Temple, and they got on well. Dorothy's brother scrawled rude messages about the government on the window, and they were all arrested for it. Dorothy confessed, trusting to chivalry for a pardon.
Her father and brothers strongly opposed her love for William, who was a year younger than her. He travelled the Continent, and they kept up a devoted correspondence. Her letters for two years survive; in 1654 her father died and on Christmas Day of that year (it appears) they were married. She caught smallpox a little time before that, which ravaged her beauty, but he was undeterred in his devotion.
He became Sir William Temple and a great figure in his restored sovereign's government, and she, Lady Temple, became a devoted lady-in-waiting and friend of Queen Mary II. She died for grief only a month after the Queen, in 1695.
Dorothy was funny and mischievous, she was bold, she wrote of garden gossip and affairs of state and the romances she was reading. She was sometimes downcast, upbraiding William for his inattention, but most often she was full of constancy and love. She is one of the people from the past whom one can truly get to know.