Jane Attwater, Bratton, to Mary Steele, Broughton, [Monday] 27 May 1771.
Bratton May 27: 1771
From the dairy Farm at Ivy Abey
How shall I paint the various Emotions of my Heart when I parted from my Dear Silvia – Stupidity and a listless languor seiz’d every faculty and I became at once incapable of viewing anything with undisturbed Satisfaction – The dark side still appears upwards I restlessly wish’d for something Unpossess’d – Yet hardly knew what – Ah my Silvia how transitory are our pleasures they fade even in the possession of them when once obtain’d – fall short of our Expectation & fill us with Disappointment – You must excuse my Melancholly Digression as it proceeds from the two great [paper torn] which always attend us in parting with any of our [paper torn] and hinders us from enjoying the present by too much regretting those that are past¾You my dear are not a stranger to this may I hope you experienced it in some little degree when you left your worthless Myrtilla. Tho I wou’d wish the thought of parting with your insignificant friend may not in the least imbitter any of your pleasures.
Recollection bids me stop Ungrateful girl that I am these plaints are the vent of a Mournfull Gloom wch always attend the separation of dear friends – Cease wayward heart to murmur & recall to mind that my most sanguine expectations were exceeded in being favour’d with the much lov’d company of my amiable Silvia. My heart is truly expanded with gratitude to her dear papa & his lovely Daughter for conferring on us the Obligation of their much desired Company – My Sister would have esteem’d it a very high favour if you could have made your stay longer. She greatly regrets the shortness of yr visit – and would be exceedingly oblig’d if you would accompany Mr & Mrs Steele – whose agreeable Company she hopes to be favour’d with this summer – In every walk we take she wishes for you. She says she can’t think Bratton would be quite disagreeable at this season of the year. I wish my dear Silvia would comply with her request. I long to hear of your safe arrival at the Seat of the Muses (I wish you would be so kind as to spare me one of your lovely Visitants) – I hope you found our valuable Theodosia much better than you expected May health that desireable Mercy resurrect its pristine Vigour & diffuse Gratefull joy through every friendly heart. Long My dear may we be bless’d with each of our dear friends & whilst we are favoured with these some of our greatest blessings thankfully enjoy them & improve them as we ought.
I am really uneasy about the Head affair. I am when I think of it almost lost in astonishment to think how very contrary it has turn’d out to our Expectations this summer you know I hope my Sister will be directed for the best Let it termanate which way it will. But why do I thus go on I have certainly reason to desire you to summon all the patience you are possesst of [to] read my tedious Epistle so remember I tell you of it in time that you may be prepar’d for the sequel of my [paper torn] Scribble –
Dorinda & your Myrtilla have taken a very agreeable Evening’s ramble up by the Church where viewing the gardens The slooping hills The lovely fields cloth’d with richest Verdure The blossom’d orchards yield a sweet perfume and helps to compleat the rural prospect All beautious & serene – The Lofty Elms hung pendant o’er the purling rills which gently murmering sooth each care to rest & lulls the Mind to pleasing melancholly Meditation – Near our sight on the top of the impending hill was the Receptacle of our fellow Mortals there stood the Church in antient form Rear’d by the hands of those who perhaps once inhabited this very spot. There now they lie in heapless ruin all – there are deposited the Master & the slave – Mouldered alike to Dust – & soon shall this frail Body which now surveys these Mansions of the Dead sink down in Death’s Cold Arms – Ah! What avails the curious wish to pry into futurity or looking back to past Events recall the many Incidents which happened to [paper torn] friends All that I know is that they are gone¾and [paper torn] adieu to this our Lower World – Here I walk & gaze [paper torn] With pleasing Melancholly Sorrow – & are they [paper torn] to the Dark Mansions of the Dead Yes these [paper torn] Intelligers confirm their sure departure – & whisper [paper torn] Ear prepare to follow – Warnings continual [paper torn] strike my sense & shall I still unheedful stray [paper torn] Dark grove & solemn Day – Here let me spend [paper torn] Hours in Meditation far from the World’s tempestuous [paper torn] unseen unknown to all its glittering honours in sweet [paper torn] Retirements solitary shade. Here would I trace the image of Him by whom all worlds were made. O thou great [God] of my being ^supremely happy supremely just^ teach me myself to know – Lead my thoughts [paper torn] these lower scenes amidst them all to view Thy love [paper torn] the vile race of Creatures here below Blessings how [paper torn] mercy unbounded hast thou shower’d on us – which [paper torn] lasting cause for praise and admiration – The Lovely [paper torn] salute my ear in a most melodious concert pour forth their artless [paper torn] Listening fields reecho with Delightful Musick & not a breeze stirs to disturb their harmony.
I could with pleasure go on to describe in faintest colours the beautious scenes around me had I the pen of my Silvia. I would persue the delightful task but my poor Description falls so very short of its beautiful Original that I will (if I could) ere quit the desiring of doing it. Enough for me if whilst I partake of these Blessings my heart could gratefully enjoy them but that one inestimable Blessing a thankful heart I amidst all am in a great measure destitute of. I must hasten to release you from my tiresome scrawl & through necessity of my papers being exhausted & pity to your patience which I am sure must by this time be quite worn out.
Accept my dear and make acceptable to all our ever valued friends our joint respectfull Compts My love awaits my dear Nancy & kisses in abundance to Pretty Patty Nancy almost daily talks of her dear Nancyteel as she calls her.
Adieu My Amiable friend continue to love her who is with sincerest [paper torn] for your Happiness your Oblig’d & Ever Affecte
Compts & love awaits Miss Scott I am really asham’d [paper torn] what I ought to have done with the greatest alacrity [paper torn] I should had not to greet a consciousness of my own [paper torn] beg her forgiveness for this failure for me [paper torn] & soon let me hear the wellcome tidings that I have it – then I will with pleasure engage in the lov’d Employment of answering her kind & wellcome Letter – I beg it as a particular favour that you will let no one behold this. Mr Whitaker did not go last Saturday so I could not send then excuse hast[e] bad writeing & blunders it is a bad pen I have not told you half what I have to say to you let me here from you very soon adieu
My Compts to your Uncle & all enquiring friends – I wish you a pleasant journey pray write very soon
Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.2.(a). No postmark. Address: Miss Steele / at Broughton / to be left at the three Lions / in Salisbury / Wilts; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 215-17. This letter has been torn along one edge – portions are unintelligible. Jane had been staying with her sister, Caroline ("Dorinda") Whitaker (1746-1825), at Bratton, Wiltshire, for some time. Caroline had married Thomas Whitaker (1735-1784) in 1766. As the letter reveals, Mary Steele and her father had recently stopped by for a visit with Jane and the Whitakers. Marianna ("Maria") Attwater had recently become engaged to George Head of Bradford-on-Avon.