24 May 1777

Revd John Taylor, Daventry, to Mary Scott, Milborne Port, Saturday, 24 May 1777.

Daventry, Saturday, May 24, 1777.

I suspect my dearest Miss Scott will not be greatly surprised when she receives another Letter from me, for I am persuaded she must be considerably surprised at my not mentioning some things of grt importance in my last. One is in regard to my coming down into Somersetshire at the Vacation, wch I hope she will give me leave to consider as certain, provided Providence spare the life & health of us both. ’Tis at Milborne Port I presume that I may hope to enjoy this pleasure, but wn she wd choose that I should come, I am at present ignorant, and wish to be informed as soon as she can with convenience. Our Vacation commences this Day 3 weeks (Saturday). And great as my pleasure has hitherto ever been, to set my face towds my Dear Friends in Lancashire, ’tis a pleasure I cannot think of enjoying, till my Dearest Creature, wm I hope always to consider as my dearest & nearest Relation, has blest me with her company in Somersetshire. Say then, my Love, have you any objection to my setting out directly for Somersetshire on Monday the 26th of June? after wch I may hope to arrive at Milborne P. some Day in the same week, which will depend entirely upon the mode of travelling, wch I am as yet uncertain about & shd be greatly obliged to you to tell me which you would have me take.

I dont know that I ever told you what a great walker I am. I hope you dont start with disgust, I will not walk except you should give me leave. And yet I must tell you that it is with me by far the most pleasant way of travelling—that it is infinitely less fatiguing & painful to me than riding on Horseback—that I should prefer it even to a chaise, because I am perfectly free & easy—can go on or stop—can choose my road, go out of my way if there be anything particularly curious to see, wch I have been hitherto particularly fond of, but now I suppose the object at the End of my Journey will in a great measure prevent my curiosity by the way. I can also travel wth mch, nay inconceivably less care, & almost as much expedition as if I had a horse to attend to. But you will be ashamed to think of my undertaking such a Journey on foot, and the appearance it will have in the Eyes of the world, for it wd be neither possible to keep it a secret, nor worth the while to attempt it. And tho’ I could rather wish that consideration might not influence my beloved, yet if that must be the Consequence I will come by London in the stage coaches, wch after all may perhaps be the best way of travelling; tho’ hardly in Midsummer. My great peculiarity in ye mode of travelling will hardly warrant the saying so much about it—But I hope this is the only article that needs settling.

You see, my dearest, I treat you as a friend. But you may perhaps think my freedom does not over well become me, till I have cleared up some doubts & surmises wch subsist between us. I was greatly alarmed & vexed at what you mentioned in your last Letter, that I had not been sufficiently upon my guard in talking of my attachment to you, or that you should hear of it again. I am also very much surprised. But I beg you will be easy on this head, for I have not said any thing to any body that I think can sink you in the least in their esteem. I thought I had been always aware of the Danger of letting the exultations of my own heart be manifest to any of my friends; however I have often checked myself in speaking of you, but tho’ it is I acknowledge very difficult to conceal the pleasing emotions & inward joys of the Soul, yet it is more difficult for those who are witnesses of them, or only suspect them, to withstand the Temptation wch such discoveries lay them under to scandalize & misrepresent the character & conduct of those in question—and that merely from a principle of Envy—because they enjoy not, or are not capable of enjoying, the same pleasures themselves; both, & especially the Latter, mortifying considerations, sufficient to set both wit & curiosity at work to find out or invent what they may turn into a laugh. So that on these accounts it’s scarce to be expected that any two persons should have a strong and ardent attachment to each other without feeling, or rather beholding, a few random shots of Envy; a little inconvenience, & that rather intended than real. ’Tis wt I should submit to wth the greatest cheerfulness for the pleasure & satisfaction which I experience from a knowledge of your affection. But [I] am so fully aware how different the Case must be [with] the Woman, especially one of your delicacy, that I promise you to be more upon my guard—tho’ I cannot tell any particular Instance wherein I have been imprudently communicative. But as those whom one least suspects may sometimes betray our secrets, I will endeavour to lay them under no temptation.

I have no great expectation that any material change in yr circumstances with your friends is likely to take place soon, & yet I am very unhappy in the thought of your living so very miserable a Life long. I suppose it were quite in vain to offer my Interposition, as being more likely to exasperate than produce any good effect. However I should be happy to know if there is anything that I could do, or any particular mode of behaviour wn at Milborne that will in any measure tend to the peace & comfort of my Dearer self. I should be very desirous yt yr poor grandfather might discover a better Temper, so near as he must be to an Eternal world. The world and violent passions shd not have such an ascendant in young persons, but it is shocking in those who are just going to leave all behind; soon there will be far other employment than Lawsuits, Contracts for gain, persecution & cruelty. But indeed the absolute tyrany [sic] wch passions, dispositions & habits contracted in youth, exert in old age, ought to make young persons particularly on their guard against them at first. Be so good as to comply with the Request I here make.

Assure yourself, my dearest, that there was nothing of Jealousy in my assigning you the young women as your particular province in ye random sketch I gave you. I had two other stronger & more just reasons. They were these—First, I feared if I assigned you a part in my Instructions of the Men, however well you may be qualified for the Task, or useful it may be, yet ye oddity of the thing wd surprise & disgust you–And then I am aware how difficult it is for Ministers to adopt any schemes of Improvement for the young women without incurring some little stain on one of their characters, especially at first—On this account, & a consequent habit of inattention to it, the young women in most societies are I think shamefully neglected—On wch account I was from the first extremely happy in having found one who can serve them, & more especially that she will consent to do it. Pray tell me how long time I may hope to stay with you—dont forget—Yours,

J. T.

Text: Scott and Scott, A Family Biography, pp. 58-62; for an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 4, pp. 272-74.