Jane Attwater, Bodenham, to Mary Steele, Broughton, [Monday] 20 February 1775.
Bodenham Feby 20th -75
The pleasing hope of hearing from my Dearest Silvia last Tuesday was turn’d into unwelcome disappointment. Have you not yet recd the letter as was sent by Mr Smith? I cannot but be very anxious on ye account of our dear afflicted Friends at Broughton. I long to hear particularly how they are. It seems a little age since we have had even any paper-talk for our discourse of late has been disagreeably interrupted – O when shall I have the happiness to see the dear partaker of my inmost thoughts? I am often ready to ask & shall I ever be so happy to see my dear my only much loved parent & my dearest best loved Friend together in this now disconsolate Mansion – Sometimes the starting tear & foreboding fear
concludes makes the mournful & I may add the distrustful conclusion & answers no. I check those gloomy thoughts, hope presents a fairer scene & many a blooming pleasure rise to my view, the dear loved pleasure yt soon again Indulgent providence will return my long absent Friend & yt I shall yet be so happy as to enjoy both your welcome converse in this peaceful abode. I am ready to say with exulting joy, haste yt lingering moments & prolong your tarience when they are here – but I will not give way to a pensive mood. I well know its bad effects & there is certainly much in giving way to it at its first approach. I will endeavor to take my dear & hond friends advice wch he yesterday delivered wch was “Call to remembrance the former days” &c under a consideration of the many past mercies I have ^received^ I may look forward with chearful confidence yt they will be continued, yt goodness & mercy wch has hitherto followed me is unchangably ye same & may I not confidently hope all things shall work together for good – I trust I may & in yt hope wou’d I desire to be calm & chearful.
I have much to say to you. Wn will you come to Sarum? Any time if you will let me know I will meet you there, tho’ our time will be but short yet such an Interview wou’d be inexpressibly welcome to me & I think not disagreeable to my Friend – I am quite glad to hear Miss Sharp is at Sarum. I knew nothing of it till ye week before last I was quite surprized wn I heard of it. I long to see her I intend to go very soon as I think it wou’d be quite ungrateful if I did not as they shewd so much kindness to me wn at Romsey. I suppose you are acquainted with the Election Affair at Hindon of that Burroughs being disfranchised &c. We have had grand company I assure ^you^ of late on yt occasion. Mr Herberts agent first applied to my Bror for his Vote & Interest. Next Mr Dawkins & Mr Herbert in person using the greatest familiarity as is usual at such times. This Afternoon Colonel Bathurst came to solicit the same favour as he was pleased to call it. My Bror ^desired to know their political sentiments,^ spoke freely to ym, told ym he was determined to give his vote to none who is against the Americans – ye latter told him he was for ym but as my bror was partly preingaged to the Earl of Radnor he could not absolutely give him his vote. Saturday ye Earl sent to him to desire it after wch my Bror wrote to his Lordship giving him his Vote upon condition yt ye person he should nominate was of ye same political sentiments with himself not otherwise – don’t you think he is a firm advocate of our distant our worthy Brethren? – I long much to know what your papa thinks about these things. You know you & I are much swayed by the superior judgement of our Hond Friend. I wish my Silvia or Myra wou’d draw up a petition to present to her Majesty on this Interesting subject to be sign’d by all ye females. I think she is of ^a^ too grateful & humane disposition not to be diligent in using all her interest with her Royal Consort to perswade him to adopt paciffic measures & to not to involve their subjects in inevitable distress & ruin. How can the father proclaim war against part of his once beloved Offspring & those Friends who once lived in delightful Harmony together? Perhaps in the same place in the same family shall they now rush into the field of Battle & lift up the hostile weapons against those they did & those they still love. Nature recoils at the thought, humanity shudders at the dreaded prospect, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” &c. I fear the fall of England is at hand – I am really much concerned about our present situation & I think every individual should lay it to heart. – But I know not your opinion on these matters perhaps we are not of the same mind if so you will excuse my prolixity on the subject – if otherwise your far abler pen will in your next I hope animadvert much more to ye purpose on this topick.
Thank you my dear for your patterns. I have drawn out one of ym and work’d part of it. Our affecte compts & best wishes await all our dear Friends. I have ye pleasure to say my dear Brors leg is almost well & through divine goodness we are favoured with health. Mr Philips is much better but not well he preached yesterday once. My love to Lucinda & Clarissa. Sister Head wrote to me last week wherein she tells me Mr Head is gone [on] his journey, her leg is better but ^yet^ weak & sometimes painful, her affecte compts await her Broughton Friends. She thinks it long since she heard from you – my dear mama is still at Bratton nor do I know wn I may expect her home as she said nothing of it in ye last Letter we recd from thence. I thought to have wrote but a line & now I have not left scarce room to direct it. I cannot help thus doing wn speaking to my amiable Friend who I hope will excuse this with the numerous foibles of her ever affecte Myrtilla my love to the dear little prattlers
Feb 20th 1775
Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.2.(g.). No postmark. Address: Miss Steele, Broughton; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 263-65. Mary Steele expressed her opinions on the looming war with America in her ‘Ode finish’d in the Year 1775’ (MS copies in STE 5/5/v and 5/7), which was published in the same thin volume as Danebury in 1779 as ‘Liberty, an Ode’ (see above, poem 4). Lamenting the current ‘civil discord’ and the prospect of ‘war’s dread horrors’ thrusting its ‘baleful influence’ over ‘Albion’s Isle’ (ll. 27, 28, 31), in which ‘Amid the din of universal strife, / A brother at a brother’s hand implores, / Implores alas in vain! – his fleeting life’ (ll. 34-36), Steele pleads that Heaven will ‘avert the impending storm!’ and ‘Justice’ and ‘Mercy’ will ‘restrain [the] lingering hand’ of ‘vengeance’ (ll. 42-44).