Jane Attwater, Bodenham, to Mary Steele, Broughton, 13 November 1775.
Novr 13th 1775
Was I not assured of my dear Silvias Friendship I should need to make many apologies for so often sending such scribbles to her but as I rejoice in ye Assurance of yt valuable blessing I think I need not apologize for wt I know will give her friendly heart pleasure as I doubt not but I shared your Sympathy in distress so now I wd call on my dearest Friend to rejoice with me in the preservation of my dear Relatives. Hitherto it has pleased God to preserve his Almighty power is still ye same I desire to trust his Guardian Care & chearfully hope yt mercy will benignly shine on us tho’ underserving of it.
Wt gloomy apprehension fill’d my Breast with horror wn last I wrote I was sorry after I sent it as I fear it pain’d yr feeling heart but wt a release it is to a Mind in distress to unburthen itself to a Friend. One who can so tenderly feel for others as yourself. I hardly knew wt I wrote distress & anxiety so affected my Memory yt yt Faculty seem’d almost quite gone. I beg you my indulgent Friend to forgive yt with ye various others Incoherencies you see so conspicuous in yr worthless Myrtilla.
Many thanks for ye pattern I have not yet bought ye muslin for Mrs Steele. I hoped to have met some of yr family at Sarum wn I could have had their superior approbation. – I doubt not but you begin to wish yr papa & mama at home. I suppose you are almost tired of those Domestic Avocations wch you are now obliged to attend to. I hope we shall not be disappointed of ye pleasure of seeing our expected visitants, the amiable Clarissa & lovely Patty. My love awaits ym & I promise to make our dull place as agreeable as lays in my power to ym. – The Girl is in a fair way to do well & I hope earnestly wish ye disorder may not spread. If my dear Friends escape this threat’ning distress how great a deliverance & blessing will it be – may we be truly thankful to our kind preserver & render Him all ye praise to whom alone it is due may this dispensation of providence together with ye various others wch we are Exercised with be sanctified to us & tend to make us all more confidently depend on him who ordereth all things well & who does whatsoever he pleases in Heaven & amongst ye children of men.
My dear Bror blessed be divine goodness is mch better. Ye Agitation of his mind about ye dreaded disorder deprived him of Sleep – he was quite poorly for several days. Mr Chubb Mr Pike & Mr Philips came to see us & to comfort us. How much did I wish for Mr Steele in ye midst of my sorrow. I thought if my Hond Friend had been here how much his advice wd have alleviated those keen sensations wch I yn felt.
The smallpox is at Britford. Several are Innoculated & some has it in ye natural way – may my dear Friends be preserved from it may calm resignation to the divine will and a chearful Hope & dependance on Almighty Goodness be mine, may I not so anxiously pry into future events for who by taking thought can alter ye least decree. ’Tis certain a firm belief of a superintending providence does not in ye least forbid us to use yt prudence & reason wch heaven has bestow’d on man. Therefore in my humble opinion we ought to use those faculties in taking every necessary precaution to avoid sorrow & yn leave it to ye All wise disposer of events.
Yesterday I went with my Bror & Sister to Downton to hear Mr Evans. He spoke many good things much of ye will of man & explain’d the subject in an Intelligible manner. I shd not have gone but it was wet & I could not so well have walk’d wch I must if I had gone to Sarum. My good Friend H. P. has made application to Mrs Evans of Yeovil. I don’t know assuredly but I imagine he has recd a favorable answer – but you must not mention this to any body, ^not to^ Mr & Mrs Rawlings or any one out of yr family for it was communicated to me as a secret. I have lately recd a Letter from Maria & one she wrote to mama at ye same time with Intelligence in it yt is very disagreeable to me – I have wrote & desired to hear no more of yt affair wch indeed I wish may be granted. If I hear anything more of it wch I hope I shall not I shall soon waft an account of it to the dear partner of my Heart. Every little anecdote ^if its^ ever so triffling I cannot help communicating to Miss Steele & hope her partiality will excuse this I sometimes think my foible – Her advice in every vicissitude of Life is truely grateful to ye heart of yr Myrtilla together with yt of my dear & hond Phylander, Theodosia & Maria – I long to see you wn may I hope for yt pleasure how much joy it wd afford me. – Especially as I want now so much to converse with you on various subjects. – I fear I shall get into a too pensive mood to rightly enjoy or improve ye blessings I am now favoured with. I wd desire to avoid it but ye above mentioned intelligence has tended I believe to bring on this depression of spirits. My sister does not say anything of her own Health but I hope she is tolerable as she wrote two letters together and told me she was very busily employ’d in quilting work wch I think quite unfit for her.
Now we recd a letter from Bror W– since they left us wch acquainted us of their safe arrival at Bratton & also yt ye night my Bror was with us his house was surrounded by 2 men who came about 10: oclock & continued about ye house peeping in at ye Windows till 5 in ye morn – they came to ye door about 2 and in imitation of ye voice of Robert a silly fellow who works for Mr Whitaker asked for ye keys of ye barn. The maid spoke to ym but they wd not answer. They did not open ye door & very fortunately yt Evening ^one^ of ye Girls admirers were there to see ym. He did not happen to be gone wn first they came so continued with ye Girls all night. About 5 they got ammunition & he went out in ye yard, saw ye fellow, and ^yn^ fired. They then made off & has not been since hd of – we conjecture yt it must be some persons who are well acquainted with ye house &c as they came the night my Bror was out & they must be acquainted with ye work men.
I have much to say to my Beloved Friend could I but see her. Can you tell wn you shall come to Sarum? I hope you will let me know if you can. I suppose you will soon have ye pleasure of Miss Frowds company. You mentioned in yr last yt you had sent Hannahs verses but I could not find ym. I fancy you must have forgot to put ym up. My heart gratefully owns yr & Miss Scotts favour, to her I have been very remiss in not answering my dr Myras last favour yet but my [time] has been so busily employ’d yt I may with truth say I have not had a convenient opportunity. Our Afecte good wishes await yr dear Aunt & is she still ye same? Wt an amazing series of Affliction has she gone thro’. Happy indeed is it yt ye same hand yt afflicts so kindly supports – wt did yr aunt say about ye Maid? I don’t know whether ye account I gave of her was Intelligible or not. We unite in affecte commendations to my dear Silvia & if they are return’d you will please to make ye same acceptable to Mr & Mrs Steele – my love to Lucinda Clarissa & ye lovely prattlers.
Adieu my ever dear Friend. Amidst all ye vicissitudes of this transient Life I hope my heart will ever feel ye same Friendship for my ever [paper torn] Silvia as JA now feels & yt she will still retain an Affection for her
Mrs B–d just come I am sorry sorry &c
Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.2.(h.). No postmark. Address: ‘Miss Steele’. Note from Attwater on address page reads: ‘beg leave to keep Lady Russels Letters a little longer, Novr 13 1775’; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 270-72. Reference is to The Letters of Lady Rachel Russell (London: E. and C. Dilly, 1773); Lady Russell appeared in Mary Scott’s The Female Advocate.