1774 July 18
Jane Attwater, Bodenham, to Mary Steele, Broughton, [Monday] 18 July 1774.
Bodenham July 18: 1774
’Tis with real pleasure I now retire fm all ye hurry & bustle of life from company where compliance & giddy mirth are most conspicuous to
examine injoy the true delights of sincere & affectionate Friendship. How numerous are ye pretenders to this noble passion but how few how very few are there who deserve ye name of a real Friend. Such a treasure I have ye happiness of possessing as such I esteem my ever valued Silvia. Long as Life shall animate this frame may I share this blessing and when we bid adieu to all ye changing scenes here be that Friendship matured in ye blissful regions above wch tho’ now I believe to be reciprocally sincere yet it falls far short of perfection in this imperfect State.
I have numerous things to say to my beloved. When when shall I see you? Could you not let me know when you think to come it would be but a little walk for me you know & wn going to see my Silvia do you think I should a moment delay? No I should most sincerely rejoice to do ^it^ were ye distance by far greater. I have some inclination to go tomorrow but as you was at Sarum last week think you will not be there tomorrow do I judge ’twill be too late to inform me.
Scarcely had I congratulated my dear friend on her Mamas recovery but you tell me of her being again afflicted in ye same manner I fear it will not be well long together. Do you think this man uses quite the same method as his nephew at Stapleton? I wish some means may be bless’d for ye intire removal of this troublesome Complaint – I rejoice to hear Mr Steele is better. I did not apprehend him to be so bad as to use Crutches. May our valued Friend be soon perfectly restored & his Life Long Long spared. We tenderly sympathize with your dear Afflicted Friend – is her fitts less frequent? They seem’d quite shocking to me. To hope of returning health & strength was in those melancholly seasons banish’d with wch ye few intervals of bearable Ease it inspired me with. I now as you tell me of little amendment again indulge ye hope of seeing our dear Theodosia injoying at least better health than she ^has^ for this great while past. May I encourage this pleasing perswasion or is it fix’d upon so precarious a foundation? May we yet be favour’d with this blessing.
Poor Mrs Phillips is very poorly. Her disorder is much altered, her appetite is mended, her Stomach better, & she does not find so much of yt Inward weakness wch she used to complain of but her Legs & Stomach swells very much wch we imagine to be something of ye dropsy. Her blood must be extreemly poor – they say its common for people in a consumption thus to swell a little before they die but what may be ye result of this alteration is not to be determined by us finite creatures none but him yt ordereth all things can absolutely determine what the Event will be & with him all things are possible. That power that spoke us into being is Sufficient to raise from ye borders of ye grave – Mrs Philips’s spirits are much better I went to see her yesterday. She very much affected me by her discourse by telling me she thought yt morning very much of our family particularly my dear & hond mother & was preposess’d with an notion she was Ill & would not live Long. You my dear can guess at what I must feel however my mind was more calm yn usual tho’ it greatly shock’d me it ^did^ not terrify me so mch as ye thought of that awful event used to do. My dear my beloved Friend was troubled Saturday with a bad pain in her head nor was it gone yt morning wch circumstance fulfilld ye first part of Mrs Philips prophecy – but O may yt preserving goodness wch hitherto spared my dear parent still be continued ^& prove ye last to be intirely groundless.^ Long O long may her valued life be lengthen’d out. How does her every virtue now press upon my mind, but I must not persue this subject. Suffice it to say I hope I was enabled by a reviewal of past mercys & deliverances to calmly confide in ye Same Almighty Donor for a continuance of this one of my greatest the Unmerited mercies.
I had ye happiness wn my mama came to meeting ^as I was there before you^ to hear her head was better & to day through divine goodness its quite well. May sincere gratitude tune my heart & tongue to praise ye bounteous Giver & chearfully may I confide in ye same almighty power knowing yt all things are ordered for ye best yet my heart is not so grateful as the least mercy requires much less yn what this wherein consists, ye chief part of my temporal happiness. I cannot think of leaving my hond Mother now. I have long talk’d of going to Bradford & Bratton, I fear my sisters will take it unkind especially Maria yt I dont go. I hope Thyrsis will not insist on my coming as it would be totally against my Inclination, tho’ I hope there is no real grounds for my dark surmises – but it greatly eases ye mind to give vent to those gloomy doubts wch sometimes beclouds ye mind. To you I impart my joys & sorrows therefore excuse this melancholly digression. Say but little of it in yr next favour or rather give me yr ^impartial^ opinion. I long & most earnestly wish to receive a Letter from you for ^to^ see you I allmost dispare of yt pleasure. Dont you my dear Silvia think me low spirited for I am not. I only told you of this as you know what is most in my thoughts must must flow from my pen.
I can share yr pleasure in the good news of yr Uncles safe return – how close are those tender ties anex’d to our heart, our happiness & their welfare I feel to be ye same thing – poor Myra her distress must be great. I waited to hear particularly of her Situation from my Silvia before I wrote & now I know not how to adress ^her^ on ye melancholly Occasion. My Love & best wishes attend her when you write.
Fidelia and I was ye week before last to see Miss Bucknel. She is really agreeable. How did I wish for my Silvia there! You would have been delighted with ye sentiments of ye old Gentleman which was yt he thought yt female capacity, genius or talents were noways inferior to those of Men but ye former for want of ye advantages ye latter injoy’d did not shine or oftentimes appear so conspicuous or something to yt purpose. I really love & revere him. He particularly enquired for yr papa & talk’d much of yr family, told me knew your great & I think great Uncle who was in partnership with yr Grandpapa – I must tell you ye company we have had this afternoon. This morning ye sevt was sent with compts from Miss Bedwell & Miss Hibberd & they would come down &c &c so accordingly this afternoon they came dress’d quite genteelly especially ye former. Miss Hibberd ask’d for my Silvia for which I love her. They behaved agreeable on ye whole. I showed Miss Hibberd Myra’s Satire. She admired it much [at] first but when she found it recommended, ye terrific Sound she [made] discommended it as much as she had before extolled it. I told [her] she would come into my rank yn – Sister Watters too had company this afternoon, Mr Little of Sarum & the Earl of Radnors second son, Mr William Bouverie. They staid & drank tea & coffee & yn after some time took their Leave – the young Gentleman behaved himself extreamly affable & free. Fidelia & him conversed a good deal – he seem’d very well pleased with his Entertainment putting off all ye proud superiority of Rank wch many of ye nobility takes on ym on ye whole by the discription I had he appear’d like ye true Gentleman – Fidelia & I went afterwards to accompany my two visiters home & yn we met ye whole Family when ye compts &c past but alas so mama says the Election is advancing. Be it so ’tis best to view things in ye best light we can & put ye most favourable construction on all ye Incidents we meet with.
My dear Silvia will not be anxious for her unworthy Myrtilla. I have not had ye chicken-pox wch you seem’d doubtful of. I am through mercy now blest with health a Blessing wch if improved is a most valueable gift. Forgive me for not mentioning anything about yr book. It was only for want of time & not for want of room I cannot say any more yn both my Mama & Self approve of what you have done. I could not refuse yet was unwilling to give my chearful consent ^to one of ye writers^ –
We unite in ye best Salutations of Friendship to all your happy circle. Adieu my beloved Silvia. I have not time nor room to add all I want to say to you nor should if I had a month to do it. May you my ever valued Silvia with all my dear Relatives & Friends be favoured with every blessing. Long may each of your Lives be preserv’d, still may providence pour its best of blessings on you, and as we hasten on from one Stage to another in Life so may our journey towards the Mansions of eternal felicity also be finished till at Last we shall be filled for ye blest above and through the divine Intercession of the Glorious Redeemer receiv’d into those Mansions & join in one harmonious Concert of Eternal praise is ye wish & I trust ardent prayer of her who is ye
but affecte Friend
Don’t you often observe in conferring one favour we make way for ye receiver asking of another, especially of ye coveteous part of Mankind. My request if you remember I acquainted you with wn you was here but as you have sent me no answer back I am almost afraid to again present my petition wch was to beg leave to transcribe one or two of those sermons yr Aunt was so kind as to send me. Mama thought I might but I cant proceed or however my procedure will be to no purpose if I have not first permission. My love to Lucinda & Clarissa & all the dear little folks –
I have not room to apologize for this simple scrawl.
I ask your forgiveness for this long scribble I have not time to write another if I had I would. Let no one see it as it will too evidently evince ye weakness of your friend once more adieu write soon to yr affecte
Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.2.(c.). Miss Steele / Broughton / Hants; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 245-49.