1773 May 5

Jane Attwater, Bratton, to Mary Steele, Broughton, [Wednesday] 5 May 1773.

Bratton May 5 1773

To say my Dear Silvias letters afford me the sincerest pleasure is what I have given repeated assurances of and is a truth which I hope my friend is well convinced of to speak the Gratitude & pleasure your last wellcome wish’d for favour gave me is impossibleat least I find myself utterly incapable to express half I felt on perusing the charming lines you oblig’d me withI want words to express speak the Delight the tender simpathy with which it inspired me. O could I borrow the pen or rather the genius that tunes to harmony your every line, how should my heart flow in the tenderest sensations of friendship & tell something of the pensive simpathy which actuates the tear to flow. Earnestly did my heart reechoe in ardent wishes for the blessings which you mourn the loss of ^to be restored^ & ^for^ a continuance of those you injoy but I think the observation which I lately said is now justly applicable to me. I find by Experience the more I feel the less able I am to express those feelings ’tis seldom I may say never that I can find words to describe my ideas ’tis a painful accusation to me to labour under such a want of Expression. My dear Silvia has this happy art & I find a peculiar pleasure in her productions as they are (forgive ^me^ if I say it) expressive of the thoughts of my heart. My feelings seem exactly delineated in some of your much lov’d lines & ’tis as I have often said what I would say if I could

I sincerely simpathize with my dear Silvia in the Affliction of her friends. I well know the anxiety which depress your feeling mind. O may life be prolong’d health & ease granted to our dear our truly valuable Theodosia. God is able to restore from the borders of the grave if ’tis consistent with the Divine will. I would earnestly wish for a continuance of that life which have been so much desired & so truely valuable¾let not sorrow too much prey on your spirits be careful my dearest friend of Your Health & welfare. All your friends happiness in a great measure ^consists^ therefore by being careful of yourself you will evidently show your Affection to your friends. I know your distress is very great in viewing the painful sickness our dear Theodosia have so long labour’d under to see her ^severe^ Afflictions rends your heart knowing yourself unable to mitigate them. May the disposer of Events in mercy pity your distress & restore your dear Afflicted Friend. May she be supported & comforted by the God of Mercy & know of a truth that those Afflictions which are indeed heavy, very heavy for Nature to bear. Yet may she be inabled to rejoice in the blest Assurance that they worketh for her a far more Exceeding Eternal weight of Glory, may she view Christ as her Almighty never failing friend by him who is ye Rock of ages, may she be supported & inabled to triumph over the last EnemyMay she see that it has been for wise Ends unknown to us & that God hath thus Afflicted her. Still may patient Resignation be her guest what a pattern of this Excellent Virtuesubmission to the divine will is her happy lotMay it be continued & whenever we shall be Exercised with the same trials – May we be inabled to follow her good ExampleAffliction what is it? Justly does my good friend term it an “Angel in disguise” were it not for this salutary Evil, these kind Chastisements of an alwise God who “doth not afflict willingly” how would the wandering deceitful human heart be annexed to this Changing State & forget its home its God & guidestray in the paths of vanity not remembering that ^this^ world is not its resting place. O could my waffering heart be fix’d unmoveably fix’d above those transient scenes of woe may all my hopes and Affections be where Sin the procuring Cause of sorrow shall never enter.

No solid good from Earth born joys arise

The airy phantom cheat our longing Eyes

Experience of this Sacred truth impart

Best impress’d on this deluded heart

That real good & permanent delight

Dwells only in the blissful realms of Light

Thither my Wishes soar nor think it best

Here to enjoy this journey as thy rest

How apt is the humane Mind still to catch at some Sublunary good. Notwithstanding I have been so strongly convinc’d that Happiness is a thing not to be met with below the Skies yet I am so infatuated as to look forward with Expectation of some pleasures arriving at such & such periods. I well know ye folly of this & that disappointment constantly insues yet such is my frailtywhen I look around me & consider the various blessings I possess I wonder at myself for desiring more my ingratitude strikingly appears in those desires and Reason shews me that those blessings which are withheld is for the Best

All gracious heaven in wisdom has designed

Immortal ^Bliss^ for yt immortal Mind

And destin’d us an equal Share of woe

To wean our hearts from vanity below

To prompt our wishes for a happier state

Where an Eternity of joys Complete

How highly am I favour’d above many of my fellow ^creatures^ when I look around me & see how few there is who is in the possession of so many Blessings as I am. I am almost lost in admiration of the unmerited goodness of GodMy lot in this respect is better than most. Few very few families enjoy such an uninterrupted series of health as we are blessd with. O may suitable returns of praise & gratitude be paid by us to our bount’ous donor – how apt is my waffring heart to forget the giver “& Idolize ye boon”

But ah how weak is each resolve of mine

Unless assisted by a power Divine

O be that power my constant guard & guide

By whom my every want is well supplied

Be grateful love & adoration mine

May tuneful praise with constant worship join

Indulgent heaven hath has crown’d my days with health

With a blest competence tho’ not with Wealth

With Friends endear’d by soft Affections ties

To them to me repeated Blessings rise

O be Unceasing praise my blest employ

Whilst the goods of providence enjoy

O my lov’d Friend thou welcome boon of heaven

Thy Friendship heightens every blessing given

O be my Silvia heavens peculiar care

May you in every needful blessing share

For you my friend the ardent pray’r shall rise

May heaven indulgent hear a suppliants cries

Yet long may our lov’d Theodosia live

And share those Mercys God alone give

Long may you know that kind parental care

Long live those friends whom justly we revere

But if far Different Wisdom has design’d

O may we still be patient & resign’d

Obedient bow beneath a Father’s rod

Prostrate adore the Sovreign hand of God

Of hope & resignation still possest

View all the wise degrees as right as best

I have hastily wrote a few trite lines occasioned by your Excellent verses to yr Unworthy. I did not intend to have sent any of them as they are so very inferior to my feelings. Indeed I cannot express my simpathy & wishes for ye friend I so justly love & as I find myself so very unequal to ye task I have only sent you a few extracts which I have not plac’d in any form but promiscuously as they happened to come into my dull head. I write by bits of time. I began this scrall last week but could not finish it. – I beg as a particular favour you would not let anyone see those few jingling aim’d at rhymes as the rest of ym are not finished & I promise my dear Silvia a sight of ye whole if she can think it worth her perusal. I assure you I dont & [paper torn] it shall be consign’d to ye friendly flames.

Sister Head came here last Thursday staid till yesterday when Thirsis came after herI am griev’d at the news she told me which was yt our dear Theodosia is much worse. O my dear amiable friend Silvia how great are your trials may you be all supported with those Consolations which is necessary in such a long melancholly series of Affliction:

The tear of simpathy sincere I lend

And feel the sorrows of my much lov’d friend

When anxious Care depress your pensive mind

Where every soft sensation is combin’d

Where tenderest love in sweet compassion flows

And melts in tears & feels for others woes

You share ye pain in Agonies of grief

When art & med’cine yields no kind relief

Poignant I know the feelings of our heart

And wish in vain one comfort to empart

Your dear mama is too in a very melancholly situation. I am very sorry for her hope soon to hear her legs are better. I doubt not but it effects her spirits much shall rejoice to hear the dear little prattlers are both better & that each of our dear much lov’d friends are restor’d to former health & ease¾soon may Hygea bless your peaceful stairs. Beg my dearest Silvia to write very soon.

The remainder of the page is torn off, but the letter continues on the back of the small piece on which the last portion of the letter was written:

dangers I could not have thought she would have had resolution to have gone through this operation when she was brought so very weak with the Illness she had before her lying in. My little niece & nephew for whom you so kindly enquire are very well and all came off very light & was fearful of writing but hope there is no reason for my apprehension of danger as I shall lay this in the garden some time before [illegible] sends it & shall send it to a house where they have not had the small pox. I aim to write to Mr Phillips ye latter end of this week & if you can let them know at Bodenham [paper torn] excuse this long scrall I have not time to write [paper torn]

On the first page, written above the salutation, is the following:

My sister seems in a very good way also Nancy & Molly Glass. But the dear little baby is but poorly tho better then she was. Since I wrote this the dear little infant has been much worse. My sister have been in the deepest distress for her. O pray a kind providence preserve ye lovely babe. She have a great many Eruptions. Nancy has but about fourteen – Let no one see this scrall it is in great haste how affecting is it to see the dear little creature thus in affliction.

Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.2.(b.). Address page missing; ; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 228-32.