1773 May 31

Jane Attwater, Bodenham, to Mary Steele, Broughton, 31 May 1773.

Bodenham May 31 73

I am after an 18 weeks absence at last return’d to my retired abode. I came (accompanied by my little niece Sarah from Bratton last Thursday we had a very wet journey wch render’d it not so agreeable but through a kind providence we were preserv’d in safety & had the pleasure to find my dear and Hond Mother & the little boys well. Fidelia has not yet lost her cough – Florio was gone to Portsmouth did not come home till yesterday whilst there he took a little voyage saw sixteen ships of ye Line which was drawd up & there are to be 4 added in order to be review’d by his Majesty who they expect this week. I left my dear Dorinda ye little folks &c very well which was a great satisfaction to ye unworthy Myrtilla. Sister Head & Miss Gibbs came to Bratton the day before I came away. Sister Head have not yet lost her cough & pain in her side wch has of late been very troublesome but is now much better. She told me she had wrote to my Dear Silvia which I was glad to hear of as I doubt not but it was a pleasing imployment to keep her from indulging that vein of Melancholly which she is too too apt to be in. We hope to see her next week at Bodenham. May we not meet with a disappointment. I have gone a long way without thanking my dear Silvia for her kind her valueable Letter. I own myself greatly oblig’d for the favour of it & wish it were in ^my^ power to answer it but that I find my self incapable of doing. Excuse me my dear with your often experienced partiallity & believe me wn I say grateful Affection supplies the place of Expression. I find myself quite incapable of espressing half the tender regard I have for my dear Friends. I am realy wn I consider my own unworthyness astonished at the kindness of all my much lov’d friends who are by far too indulgent to my foibles. I wonder how their partiality can so excuse my faults but I must attribute it wholly to the goodness of their Dispositions. Now my dear Silvia I hope will not think I too much degrade myself for I assure you I do not I try to speak what I feel but my conscious Unworthyness is far more than I can express – this then should if it is possible heighten my affection for those Dear Friends I so love – O Self Self forgive me my Dear –

I rejoice to hear our dear Theodosia is no worse I hope as the summer comes on her health will yet be better establish’d may a kind providence lengthen out a Life so truely valueable – I hope our amiable Silvias legs are quite well I doubt not but ’twas very melancholly for her wn they were at the worst. How is the dear little prattlers? may they be preserv’d from the hooping cough. I think it must be a very bad disorder – I sincerely rejoice with my dearest Silvia at the welfare of her good & best parents long may heaven in mercy preserve ye life of our valueable & by every action indeared friend. O my Silvia how peculiarly are we bless’d in our much lov’d friends may we always esteem it as a blessing & improve it so that it may termanate ^to promote^ our everlasting happiness – many are cut off in the bloom of Life in the strength of Manhood or in declining age yet we are preserv’d & that through numerous Dangers – awake my every power in grateful praise to our Bounteous Donor Mercies unnumbered continually flow from the kind hand of our Benificent God – how many spirits have quitted their frail tabernacle of clay since I left this peaceful retreat. Some who seem’d like to have withstood ye ravages of a long time & repeated sickness might have hover’d over the robust Constitution and the vigourness [of] youth remain’d unhurt but Ah how short is the sight of mortals the weak the infirm are spar’d & youth & health is miss’d in its flourishing blossoms. Let not the young boast of trust to his Youth nor the strong man to his strength even these shall submit to the power of Death nor be able to withstand swart his fatal dart. How loudly does yt admonition speak to all “boast not thyself of to morrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” & “be ye also ready for in such a day & in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh.” How various are the Harbingers of Death. Some perhaps linger long on a bed of pain & sickness, others with a slight indisposition take a final leave of this lower world – & some dreadful to think of it are ^by some unforeseen accident hurried out of Life with perhaps scarce a moments warning of their approaching Dissolution. Awful thought if they are not prepared how must the trembling soul appear before an angry a just God whose laws they have repeatedly broke & not sought through Christ the only refuge for pain & reconciliation how inexpressibly shocking is the call of such.

We have had another melancholly accident happened a few miles from us I think they say at Brickworth 2 men kill’d on the spot by a wagon what rendours the circumstance most dreadful is yt they had been people of bad Character as they were much addicted to curseing & swearing tho’ we are not to judge by this or limit ye mercy of an alwise God but to all outward appearance it seems an unexpected and an unprepared for Event – poor Sarah Sutton I hd Saturday was yet alive but they think her wound & bruises are so bad she can [letter incomplete]

Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.A.6.(i). No postmark or address page; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 17200-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 233-34.