1776 October 15

Jane Attwater, Bodenham, to Caroline Whitaker, Bratton, [Tuesday], 15 October 1776.

Bodenham Octr 15 ‘76

I have long waited as I wrote last for a letter from my dear Sister but as I have been hitherto disappointed & your present Situation pleads an excuse I have determined to write to her as I long to tell you of my late tour &c – I rejoice to hear by Sister Head yt you are in good health & spirit, & hope yt ye same Blessing will be continued to you & yt my dear Sister will still keep in view her past preservation & yt her preserver is still ye same Almighty in power to preserve in every future time of need – I could wish Bror Whitaker wd write often particularly now as we shall be very anxious to hear from you till yt period is past wch now draws nigh – Mrs Drewett & ye rest of your family we hear is well may lively Gratitude to our Bountiful Benefactor tune our hearts in Cheerful praise & obedience to Him from whom our every blessing flows, I have the pleasure to say our dear & hond mama Head is & has been for this fortnight past quite pure this gives fresh spirits to yr affecte Myrtilla & fills my heart with joy & I hope with Gratitude when I take a survey of my past Life how numerous are my mercys how very few my afflictions I am ready to say for why has mercy smiled so much on me I hope I bless the kind Hand of providence in all its dispensations towards me whilst I view & am humbled (tho not enough) for my unworthyness ye least blessing of wch I possess so large a share of –

Sister Head informed us of the dear little boys being in danger of ye smallpox – asks our advice – we know not wt to say as to advising as you know it’s a tender point but we join in wishing the dear baby might be preserved wither he is Innoculated or not. – Your handkerchief I have at last got I fear you will think it dear but you told me I must have a good one I think was I in your place I should chuse to have it clear starch’d if you do let me know & I will remit & have it done at Sarum – your napkins I have calld several times for did ye last time I was at Sarum – Mr Freemantle told me they were not come nor he did not know wn they would for they ought to have arrived 5 or 6 months past –

Since I came home from Portsmouth Miss Goddard & Miss Patty Steele have paid their long talked of visit staid from Tuesday to Saturday with us Friday sennight Mrs Steele & Mrs Rawlings came to fetch ym staid with [us] till Saturday Afternoon we talk[ed] of my little sweet Nany O – & inquired much about her I long to see her I doubt not but she is greatly improved & I hope will soon write me a letter – honest trusty is her went to school yesterday to board how does my dear Billy & Tommy go on I hope well in their Learning play &c – nor must I forget my little cousin Mary who I hope is also good & does not fail to divert her mama with her ingaging prattle – my affecte Love & good wishes await all ye little enliveners – as it does their dear mama – I suppose Mr Philips calld on you I wd have wrote by him but could not conveniently send it to Sarum & wn I had Leasure to write we have been very busy making Cyder last week Sister Waters is now in ye midst of her Sessions – we are to finish making of Cyder this week.

What will you say if I send you a short sketch of our journey I was much delighted with it yt I know not how to resist ye Inclination I have to tell all my Friends of ye particulars without more apology I will begin provided hoping you will partially view it Let none but yourself see it &c –

An imperfect journal of Tour to Portsmouth Company whom you know

Sepr 23 Mrs Haynes Mrs Attwaters junr & Myrtilla arose about 5 oclock set out soon after in a post Chaise attended by Mr Gay Thos Attwater on horseback our guide & escortant – we had a delightful ride thro’ ye embowering woods the sun ascending ye Eastern sky streaked ye hemisphere with its beauteous rays just full in our view.—Here & there a Clay built Cottage with the neat cut hedges & ye Uniform box trees bespoke ye Inhabitants to be bless’d with content a treasure far superior to all yt grandeur in discord injoys – the first place of any notice is Redbridge the neatness of ye Buildings much pleased us here one of ye most beauteous parts of Creation first struck our astonished sight the Glassy sea whose smooth Surface & noble appearance filld us with pleasing wonder here were several Coliers small vessels wch they use for carrying of coal. –

About 9 or 10 oclock we arrived at Southhampton where we breakfasted & yn went on ye key there a fresh & more Extensive view of ye sea with numerous vessels charmd our astonished senses & wd you think instead of being afraid we long’d to be on ye beautiful ocean – but as ye fixed time for ye dory in wch we was to go was not ’till one or 2 oclock we was obliged to exercise our patience in waiting – ye meantime we walk’d about ye town saw ye Bathing houses ye Long Room &c – there is a showey Elegance in ye Rooms wch catches ye Eye more yn those of ye same kind at Bath but I must give ye preference to those in Somersetshire to those in Hampshire – but I am no judge of these matters only tell my simple opinions din’d at South[amp]ton & about 2 boarded ye Sloop calld ye Charlotte owner Capn Sidney with much tacking about got 5 miles from Southton came a dead calm & we not chuseing to sleep all night on board about 6 or 7 we got ye Captn to put us back wch was to our mortification because we wanted to be at Portsmouth to see ye wonders there we slept at Southton yt night.—

Sepr 24 arose early a delightful morning walk’d down again several times on ye key took a Survey of the ocean wish’d to be on it we at last found out yt Captn Weeks had a frigate yt was to set out at 10 clock went & breakfasted came down on ye key & boarded ye vessel Prosperous our sloops name may now with propriety be annexed to our voyage view us now my dear Sister out on Southton River where the smooth sea plays in gentle eddies[2] & ye tide helps us on our Glassy way – we had no reason to regret our coming back yesterday for ye weather being so very fine yt it is pleasant beyond discription view us therefore in good Spirits fearlessly commiting ourselves to him who rules ye waves viewing this wonder of creating skill with increasing delight Mrs Haynes Florio & ye amiable Fidelia each in turn viewing distant prospects I have but a bad knack at looking thro’ spy Glasses & can often see more clear with ye naked Eye & this gave me more leasure to write you must view your Myrtilla gazeing around with delightful wonder & sometimes writeing to my Beloved Silvia as follows – I am lost in pleasing admiration I don’t know weather I shall not like ye sea better yn ye Land but remember its conditional provided it was to continue as it is now I know little of ye blusterous Storms of Life & less of those at Sea – just past Netly Abbey curious for its antiquity we inspected with ye Glass but saw it rather indistinctly here magnificence in ruin lyes but even monarchs must submit to yt destroyer Time we have now a distant view of South’ton of Surrounding villages little hamlets scattered here & there on riseing hills intermingled Romantick woods several Gentm seats commanding as they pass us giving a Friendly Salute, this pleasing variety strikes ye sight exalts the mind in wonder & delight & with Thomson I join in saying “These are thy works Almighty Father these are but ye varied God” these are beautiful & surpasses our praise Thyself how glorious then! O thou great Maker surpassing wonder finite conception can’t conceive of Thee but in ye boundless ocean of eternal good is lost – this wonderful part of Creation fills me with astonishment & I am rejoiced to be a spectator of these works of my Creator, but as pleasure must be mixed with pain as our lives must have something to unsmooth our passage so in this our passage I was much shocked at our setting out to hear ye impious imprecations of ye poor wretches at ye key takeing ye name of the great Ruler of the Universe in a most Ireverant manner on ye most trivial occasion I began to think if our Ears was to be shocked with such dreadful sounds as these yt it must be a very unpleasant voyage but very happily for our Companions was of a different kind at least to us they behaved very civil & with more regard to themselves yn to use much of such approbrious Language – may God shew those poor creatures ye evil of their practices & keep ym fm it our passengers consisted of ye Captain his mate & boy a dealer in Cattle &c the Captain of a vessel one Mr Low a very good natured agreeable man an entertaining intelligent Companion was of great use in steering &c he inform’d us of ye particulars of ye surrounding scenes made us acquainted with ye sea terms &c in short behaved peculiarly friendly we had some wine cake & bread & cheese wch we desired him to pertake of & a little before we came to Calshot Castle we had a very agreeable repast.—I thought much of ye Company on Ship board of Old how happy must they be & free from every fear amidst surrounding tempests with such a passenger as Him who said to ye rough wind peace be still & to ye doubting mariner “Therefore didst thou doubt”? tho’ we are not now so highly favoured as they to behold his Blessed Friend veild in humane flesh with our Bodily Eyes – yet mentally we may behold him if by faith inabled so to do & cheerfully trust in his almighty power wch [is] still ye same to support us & bring us safe to Land.— < > Castle a place of defence against an approaching enemy a strong fort – put off Southampton River & becalmed a fine view of cows & Newport in ye Isle of White [Wight] I think ye Ocean much resembles yt of Life a perfect calm of prosperity will not waft us to our desired haven we shall stand still & rest in our journey mistakeing it for our home not before we shall see not only their utility but their necessity – we are still becalmed Fidelia & I have just been a fishing see how ye trifles of ye way takes up our attention they are good if not too much followed so much as to make us forget & we must not forget to imbrace every breeze or opportunity wch may tend to waft us to our desired haven. Our own powers are to be used tho’ as in ye ship we can do nothing unless a superior power a power Divine is exerted in our behalf – the Captn talks of casting Anchor – happy for us my dear Friend if we can cast ye Anchor of our hope thro’ all ye Vicissitudes of Life in yt rock of ages wch is sure & stedfast & wch can still ye soul & indue it with Iresistable Firmness. –

There is now a fresh breeze wch carries us down smoothly & rather swiftly to Spithead we have a fine view of seven man of war beside several transports the waves begin to roll in noble folds & a rougher Sea wafts < > in sight of Portsmouth Hospital a noble large pile of Buildings < > to ye Honour of our Legislative powers who has thus ordaind such [a] Receptacle for ye poor distressed seamen whose wounds has made ym their country’s care & commistration having bled in our service.[xiv] – A view of ye ships now claims my attention this being ye first time I ever beheld man of war you will excuse my admiration of this surprising invention – ’tis indeed a most noble sight I am struck with ye magnificence & grandeur of their appearance – & am amazed to think of ye Ingenuity of those who first found out ye surprising art of Navigation but him who made ye waves & caused the great space of ocean indued man with wisdom to fathom its depths & wonders.—Portsmouth now appears! Nobly Beautiful are all ye warlike stores it greatly surpasses discription your Ideas having never beheld anything of ye kind must be far more extensive yn mine to form any just notion of it.—I am astonished at this new part of Creation (new to me) – & whilst my Mind is exalted in wonder may my heart rise in Gratitude to my Courteous preserver – may Love & praise to God who has thus spared our Lives fill my soul to tune to thee my maker & my God a Song of Chearful Gratitude at thy Command the Roughling winds are still ye foaming billows cease to roll & gentle breezes wafts us to ye Shore.—(Ebenezar) be my motto be all my humble trust reposed in yt almighty power wch ever is ye same to guard in every danger in every future time of need.—O Thou great Sovereign my Maker & my God be thou my Constant Guide thro’ Lifes short voyage – & < > every Gale to fit & waft me to my home – & wn I pass the Gulph of Death be thou my pilot my support & comfort with Love & joy divine fill my triumphing soul & waft me to ye haven of eternal rest.—Suffer not waves of sorrow to overwhelm me – nor my conquerd Enemy to disturb my rest – with joy may I launch into that untried sea & find in Jesus a covert from every tempest thro’ him a free admittance to celestial Bliss. –

But we are now in ye harbour a boat is coming to convey us to Land I must no longer reflect on this pleasing Subject a fresh scene calls for my attention we are arrived at our port & must be now transient Inhabitants of Portsmouth adieu my beloved Friend till I have an opportunity of telling you of wt we see here I must say [the] same to my dear Sister thus far as nearly I wrote in ye Prosperous Sloop – I must leave ye rest of ye particulars of my Portsmouth journey till I write again – if you can read this & anyways approve of it & chuse to hear ye sequel you shall but if its dull & tedious to you be honest to say so & I will not puzzle yr patience to pick out ye rest of my journal – I must add yt I was never more delighted with a journey in my Life nor ever treated with more friendly Hospitality yn by ye good folks at Portsmouth –

Bror has a bad cold Sister Waters a stiffness in one of her Shoulders all ye rest quite well our united duty to Mrs Drewett – Love to you & Mr W– Love to dear little Tommy from Grandmama papa & mama & aunt Jane I hope Mr Ballard Senr is well & yt his Life will be long < > – My kind Love to Molly – adieu once more write soon & tell me you have forgave this scrawl – Let no one see it but sister Head wn she comes to be gossip & yn if she begins & you are well hope she will be calld of for Business of more importance & may it take up no more time yn reading of this Letter – more plainly speaking I earnestly wish my dear Sister a speedy & happy hour being blessed with every Blessing & am I must insist on it yt no body see this – Yours very affectedly

J Attwater

Text: Attwater Papers, acc. 76, II.B.3.(b.). Address: Mrs Caroline Whitaker | Bratton Farm | Near Westbury | Wilts. Postmark: Salisbury, no date; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 8, pp. 143-48. References here to the births of Thomas Whitaker and George Head, both in 1776; Anne (1768-79) and Mary Whitaker 1773-1800), two daughters of Caroline Whitaker; Thomas (1767-1818) and William (1772-1818), two sons of Gay Thomas Attwater; and Clarissa Goddard (1756-1840), niece of William Steele V who lived for some time at Broughton House.