Elizabeth Coltman, [near Leicester,] to Anne Steele Tomkins, [Westwood, near Southampton,] [Tuesday] 25 April 18.
April 25th 18[paper torn]
My dr Madm,
The painful the trying scene to [which] you have been recently called, renders all apology unnec[essary]. Most sincerely do I sympathize with you, & can at [least] imagine what the feelings of a tender mother must [be] when called to resign her beloved offspring, whose delicacy has occasioned unusual solicitude, & whose sufferings have heightened parental tenderness. But even here the Volume of inspiration affords consolation, & comfort. How soothing, how cheering is that voice, “Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” We who believe in the atonement of the Saviour, can have no doubt, of the happiness of departed infants; & when we take a review of life, examine the recesses of our own hearts, & consider the conflicts that [must] be endured, the temptations that must be resisted, the sorrows that must be passed through, well may we rejoice over those who are spared all this, & through infinite mercy, & redeeming love, made everlastingly happy, without being made perfect through sufferings. I lately read the letter of a pious mother, who had been agonizing over her infant, her only boy in convulsions; when the scene was closed, she writes to this effect, “I have often devoted my child to God, & since he is pleased to accept of him as a sacrifice rather than as a servant, I have nothing to say, but “Thy will be done”!
Miss Steele’s continued indisposition [must] occasion you much concern, it is a trying & I hope I trust a salutary state for her; when [we] are assured that unerring wisdom, & infinite love scourgeth every son whom he receiveth, how willing should we be to endure that discipline, without which we cannot be sons. – I was indeed much concerned & surprized to see F– M–tt’s name in the list of B–ts! I hope Mrs Evans’s property & Miss M–’s was not involved. I knew not that the latter was married, I hope it is to one who is likely to contribute to her comfort, where are they settled?
Sincerely do I wish that Miss Taylors lines were found more characteristic, & appropriate than the others; if nothing better is offered, I will try to condense the ideas in a narrower compass; at present I am with a sick friend in a village 10 miles from L–, & have them not with me. Nothing that I can write will come up to my wishes, or fully express my ideas of the character. Miss R– says in her last letter, “I have moments of more exquisite & delightful feeling in thinking over the virtues of our dear dear friend, than in associating with any living one.”
Never, no never shall we again meet with one whose character will not shrink from a comparison with hers. This sentiment I fully feel, & you I doubt not will enter into. I know not that I shall fill my paper with any thing better than the involuntary effusion of my heart in one of those moments when I have been ruminating on her character, & my own irreparable loss. Miss R– alone has seen them. These are only for the few.
Pardon the imperfections of this written amidst the constant interruption of a sick room
Text: STE 6/3/iv; for an annotated edition of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 3, pp. 386-87. Paper is torn at date, obscuring some other words in brackets; no address page. Date is ascertained by year of Frederick Mullett’s bankruptcy. Elizabeth Coltman demonstrates in this letter her familiarity with Mary Steele’s friends, in this instance, the Mulletts and Evanses of London. Apparently, Elizabeth Coltman was collecting verses in honor of Mary Steele from various family members and friends, possibly for a small chapbook. Among the poems was one from Mary Ann Taylor, Mary Scott’s daughter, who visited Mary Steele in 1812, and possibly one from Mary Reid. No copies of this publication, however, exist at the present time, if the publication ever came to fruition at all.