1794 September 19 (Maria)

Maria Grace Andrews, Isleworth, to Anne Andrews, Salisbury, [Friday], 19 September [1794].

I promised you my dr Creature, yt I wd write if it were possible on ye post day, but a very high wind, so distracted my nervous head, yt I forbore attempting it till Night, when after writing a few lines to Mrs Saffery, I was interrupted –

Because I know yt ye exercising of my Mind, will be interesting to you, I will go back to the Morn:g of the 15th, the closing Event of yt day I have already inform’d you of. My Father went to Town early by [Sowaits?] Coach & left me in bed. I was then awake but so exceedingly deprest in my Spirit, that I had scarcely recovered my recollection when with a kind of Melancholy presentiment [I prayed] to the Lord that my strength might be sufficient for that day. Soon after a letter was brought me from my dear friends in Chapel St. whom I expected to see the day following at I—th to say yt Sister S– had a lameness in her knee, of the same nature wh yt in her hand, which prevented their coming. The Acct: you may suppose rather increased my dejection. & tho nothing very material was apprehended, to this was added the thought of a Party to dine & spend ye Even:g composed of Mr & Mrs Burgess, Mr & Miss Terry, & Mr Kendal – you who know my feelings at such occasions, wd readily ascribe my Melancholy to this Course – I spent the Morn:g however quite alone, & I hope enjoy’d in a measure the superior beauty & excellency of divine things. I cannot help observing yt those promises which afforded me comfort, seem’d address’d to One on the Eve of an approaching Trial. & to my shame I own, I found a rising disposition to reject them, (precious as they were), while I started back from the affliction to which they pointed. –

The dinner tho’ elegant cost me little attention, as Sarah procured help, & Mr Drakes late footman who is generally here waited at Table &c &c the Company came late & as we did not sit down to Table till past four the rest of the time was nearly employ’d in a succession of eating & drinking till near a quarter past Eleven when Mr & Miss Terry retired with their Friends < > Mr Kendal with my Father, thankful yt the hours of oration & solitude were now past. I withdrew to the window wondring at the composure of my Mind after a day which had cost me such anxiety in the prospect. There seem’d a general calmness to prevail in those very moments wch were pregnant with Calamity & horror. Mr T– had not been gone ten minutes when we were alarm’d by a violent rapping & presently we heard his voice, tho’ almost drown’d with his feeling, exclaiming to my Father, yt ye Mill was in a blaze! I never understood the meaning of sympathy better than at [that] instant. Nor can I ever express the sick sensation it excited in my heart. My Fathers Complection was sufficiently expressive, & tho’ his first language was in ye wildest strain of indifference, to one who penetrated thro’ ye superficial Calm wh he affected, this was more terrible than when the sensibility of his nature appear’d in convulsive emotions of Sorrow (remember he is from home today or I cd not mention this) – by this time the Confusion was general. The dreadful cry of fire! fire! awoke the trembling Inhabitants many of whom ran to us to shelter their children & effects. Of this number was our dr Mr & Mrs Collins, to whose kindness I am indeed a great debtor. Mrs Ford with little Sarah at her breast ran to Keen’s poor dear Mrs Sansom was in an agony her husband dared not leave her for some time thro’ divine Mercy the dwellings of these beloved Friends were all safe. Contrary to the general opinion which was that half the village wd be consumed a gentleman riding on Ham Common < > seen to pick up a pin it was seen at Wandsworth, Colnbrook, some say at Reading, & the Engines < > Town were directed by the light before the Messenger reach’d [them] and help cd be afford’d till they came of any importance whatever & had it not been for the serenity & stillness of ye Night the conflagration wd have inevitably been general. It is worthy remark yt they told me, what wind there was ceased when ye flames were at their highest & threatening the surrounding buildings with dissolution only one house entirely consumed & two or three others injured. –

My Father did not know at the time yt he was insured sixpence for himself but on looking over his Policy finds the value of his property secured to him. The Mill you know is insured; & they hope to rebuild it in a few months. Can give no Acc:t of ye Cause. It is generally supposed to be the effect of friction my Father does not fear the Constancy of his Friends who are earnest in their promises of returning when he can take them in.

Now my dear love, I have told you all the paper will let me, but I have so much to say about other things that you may expect a letter in a few day’s more, but don’t my love play the Extortioner as in late instance, & not condescend [to] write till you have all the intelligence you wanted. Be assured when I have more leisure you will hear of it Adieu, my very dear Friend May ye very God of Peace be with you & sanctify yt Providence and make it matter of growing Praise, thro’ time & in all Eternity, to you & yr unworthy Sister

Maria Grace Andrews

I have been in C. St. & have had Mrs C & Miss C—herd. I have not written to Town since yt E[vening]

be pleased my Love, to answer, for fear of Post house bars as it is very cautiously

Text: Saffery/Whitaker Papers, acc. 142, I.B.1.(8.), Angus Library. Address: Miss Andrews, | Mr Hardings, | Exeter Street | Sarum. | Septr 19. Postmark: Brentford, 19 September 1794; for a fully annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, gen. ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 6, pp. 81-82. Concerning the fire mentioned in this letter, compare Maria Grace's language with that of Anne Bradstreet in "Verses upon the Burning of our House," in which she awakes to hear "the piteous shrieks of dreadful voice" and "that fearful sound of 'fire' and 'fire'" (ll. 5-6).