1796 February 2 (Anne)
Anne Andrews, Isleworth, to Maria Grace Andrews, Salisbury, [Tuesday], 2 February 1796.
Tuesday Eveng Feby 2nd 1796
My dr Grace’s backwardness in writing, has not yet so far discouraged me but that I feel the truest pleasures in devoting an hour to her service: I long as much as possible to make up for the want of her beloved society, and beguile the tedious Moments of absence: Alas! it is at best but a poor compensation – I could wish to chuse some subject at this time whh might enliven my own Mind, and prove refreshing to yours; there is indeed a theme fully calculated to accomplish these desirable ends, but you well know that the cold and stupid Heart of Man is often wholly insensible to all its power and sweetness – however it is with me, I feel no liberty to converse on any other topic and therefore chuse it by a sort of pleasing necessity – At present my Ear is the Sense whh makes the heaviest complaint, I would gladly keep silence, might I but hear the language of Canaan; the animating words of Truth; the grateful accents of Praise & supplication – when I recall past enjoyments of this kind I languish for a return of them and say with the Poet –
Give me O Lord a place
Within thy blest abode,
Amongst the chosen of thy grace,
The Servants of my God.
but such regret and such desires as these constitute some of the most pleasing part of my experience, the dark side I do not wish to present to a Mind already too much oppress’d; no, my Beloved, I am too tender of your peace even to claim your sympathy. I have been overwhelmed in deep Waters but there is no depth so great, but the Arm of Almighty Mercy can fathom. I am beset with Snares, but I trust the same Advocate who pleaded so successfully for Peter is engaged on my behalf ’tis true I am ready at times to give up all for lost but again my hope revives, and I begin to say with the Psalmist “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all my Days and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever” – Ah my dear Sister how sweet will be the Haven of eternal rest after such a tempestuous Voyage, & what a mercy is it that however great the Storm we cannot sink with our heavenly Pilot on Board and have we no ground to hope he is – has he never interposed for us and rebuked the tumultuous Waves of trouble with a “Peace be still” let us not suffer the cruel suggestions of Unbelief to rob us of all our comfort, but rather adopt the determination of Job – “Tho he slay me yet will I trust in him” – I long for a comfortable letter from you that I might have to rejoice on your behalf – I think I should be better able to contend with those troubles to which I am exposed, if I had assurance of your prosperity – remember my friend the exhortation of the Psalmist – “Wait on the Lord be of good courage & he shall strengthen thine Heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”
I send you an epistle from dr Mrs Ford whh I trust will animate your spirits; that beloved friend feels the tenderest solicitude on your account – she is aware of the danger to be apprehended from the influence of melancholy on a Mind too nicely susceptible and is fully sensible of the unhappy tendency it will have if yielded to in robbing you of your comfort, but indeed my love you must struggle against this dejection lest it should become altogether habitual – I am more than ever charm’d with the dignified sweetness, patient firmness, and prudent zeal of our Friend; she is at present exercised with many trials tho’ on the whole things are much better than they have been – it is with concern I add that she is three months advanced in pregnancy –
Another Friend claims attention at this time I mean dr Mrs Sansom who last Saturday became the Mother of a fine little Girl James was here on Monday to superintend some business whh is in hand for Messrs Dunkin & Brown – he told me that tho’ on the whole she had been better than usual she was very poorly when he left her – I shd rejoice to see her, but know not when that will be in my power –
Kendall has been discharged some time & I thought we shd have had Sansom again but there have still been difficulties – & I really suspect he is half-hearted in the business: I had a long chat with him Monday eveng when I was forced to acknowledge that I could not say much in a way of persuasion their present situation being so much more eligible as it respects their best interests –
They have preaching at Keen’s Sabbath Day Aftn besides Tuesdays – Mr Giles has preach’d there once & as you may suppose gave great satisfaction. I have not been within their Doors as Mr A– is more jealous of that than anything else – I feel indeed no inclination to attend the preaching both because I could not like what I shd hear & because there is so much disorder &c: that it would not be likely to afford profit in any way – there is something far more trying than this whh you have no idea of – before my return to Isleworth a Minister had preach’d a few times at Mrs Ford’s and another or two had given them an occasional Sermon I believe all on Week Nights; since my return a Mr Bodington has preach’d and made proposals to come of moonlight evenings & preach here in the after parts of the day – tho’ he was formerly no great favorite of our friends she approves now of his Ministry very much – and there is reason to think there may be preaching there for some time – tho’ I do not form the most pleasing opinion of Mr B– from his particular attachment to Huntington the suspicions whh have I find been entertain’d of his favoring Antinomianism &c: yet I cannot but feel my Mind exercised respecting attendance on it – not that I think I should be suffer’d to do it at any rate, as I suppose Mr A– would much rather permit my return to Salisbury tho’ this I am persuaded he would at present submit to with great reluctance as the pleasure resulting from the novelty of my society &c: is not yet over – but the question is how far it is my duty to contend for this privilege and assert a right whh is without doubt indisputable. There are many circumstances whh make greatly against me one is the extreme obscurity of the plan on whh it is conducted the Room being up Stairs, able I suppose to contain at no rate above 30 persons of whh the family taking in the Sparrows who occupy the Lower rooms make a very considerable part; a few from Brentford with some of the neighbours and two or three serious people in this place make a Congregation and I really believe the generality of the Inhabitants know nothing of the Matter. Another thing is that a Mr Jackson is expected to take part with Mr Bodington; a Man well known here, but whose Character is strongly impeach’d whh tho’ it is to be hoped unjustly as to criminality, even his friends allow is deservedly so, in point of imprudence – indeed some of the folks here do not scruple to say they don’t like him. A third is, that the afternoon preachg is just at our Dinner Hour, the Eveng begins somewhere between five and six whh is equally unsuitable so that there is no point in whh it would not appear in a very unfavorable light to my Father: I am much straiten’d and stand greatly in need of divine direction & strength intreat you will pray that these may be afforded –
I know not whether it be right but I cannot help thinking that there was scarcely ever more manifest tokens of God’s dereliction than are display’d in this Neighbourhood – There is nothing but discord at Troy Town & it is expected to be shut up soon Hounslow has had no supplies these two Sabbaths and will also be shut up in a short time no attempts for the establishment of a Gospel Church are crown’d with success: the character of many Professors and what is worse of some Teachers is a disgrace to the Cause, the coldness of some & imprudent zeal of others who are sincere friends of truth are greatly prejudicial but I must forbear – Remember me very affectionately to the dr People & separately as tho’ named to Mr Smith in particular – You have neglected to mention Miss Attwater present kind remembrances to her – respects to Mrs A–
Adieu my dearly beloved that the God of all grace may establish, strengthen, settle you, and fulfill in you all the good pleasure of His Will and the Work of faith with power is the constant desire & earnest prayer of – Your very affectionate Friend & Sister
Am truly pain’d to send you such trifling presents but you will I know accept the intention
If you have not already beg you will give my dark Gown to our Hannah, as proposed – If you can spare it will thank you to send me a few bits of lace to answer the purpose of Robins &c –
Pray send one word how our little Betsey does – suitable remembrances to Mr & Mrs Harding
Text: Reeves Collection, Box 14.3.(f.), Bodleian Library, Oxford. Address: Miss Andrews. No postmark; 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. 117-20. Reference here to is Mary Drewitt Attwater (1746-1812) of Nunton, the widow of Gay Thomas Attwater, the brother of Jane Attwater Blatch; Miss Attwater is most likely her eldest daughter, Sarah (1765-1830). All attended Brown Street in Salisbury. Early attempts at forming some semblance of a nonconformist meeting, possibly Baptist, at Troy Town and Hounslow (both places not far from Isleworth) would not come to fruition. Troy Town, especially, was fraught with problems by 1795. As one historian wrote of Brentford and Troy Town, ‘many 18th-century travellers saw only the handsome shops, Market Place, the Butts, orchards and market gardens, and a few aristocratic houses at Old Brentford. Heavy traffic on the highway, however, churning up mud or creating dust, had already given much of Brentford a reputation for dirtiness. Most inhabitants lived in weatherboarded cottages, crammed into yards and alleys such as Spring Gardens and sometimes constituting districts such as Troy Town. Many cottages were ramshackle huts in 1765 and not liable for rates in 1786. From the Surrey side of the Thames they were an eyesore: hence the remarks that Brentford in 1765 was the “ugliest and filthiest place in England” and that in 1807 Kew Palace looked on to the worst part of Old Brentford. That was before industrial growth had added to Brentford's unsavoury character.’ See M. A. Hicks, ‘Ealing and Brentford’, in A History of the County of Middlesex, Volume 7, ed. T.F.T. Baker (London: Printed for the Institute of Historical Research, by Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 113-20.