Despite its reputation as an age of sensibility, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were periods in which prescribed codes of conduct and the constraints of polite societal expectations influenced elite behaviour. Consequently, emotions have often been considered in terms of what shaped their expression rather than on how or why they were expressed. This article, however, will look beyond these controls and examine the agentive nature of emotions and the impact that their expression had on three elite Northamptonshire families. With a focus on gentry families, and a review of their correspondence, it will demonstrate the ways in which emotional rhetoric was used in letters to negotiate relationships and influence the behaviour of other family members. Moreover, it will analyse the function of anger and argue that its expression within the family, was on occasion, deemed necessary. Finally, the study will explore from what these families sought emotional comfort, and will suggest that the closeness and the bonds of family were the principal sources, but that letters, which were more than a formulaic product of a polite society, provided emotional comfort in the absence of physical and geographical proximity.