1757 (undated) (4)

Anne Steele, [Broughton], to Mary Wakeford, [Andover], [undated [1757].

Your kind compliance my Dear Amira has much oblig’d me. I have now gain’d one point as your Letter affords a new & full proof of my assertion that you can write agreeably – but you must not imagine that I shall be satisfy’d ’till my wish is accomplish’d, which is to engage you in this kind of correspondence ’till it is no longer such a hard task, and your can’t & wou’d–if-I–cou’ds are all demolish’d – Suppose your blind person has not irrecoverably lost his sight but has only a film over his eyes which proper application and care may remove and restore him to a capacity of again enjoying the pleasureable prospect which for a time has been really lost to him – is not this nearer to the case before us – Minds capable of those who are of serious reflection have their gloomy seasons & consequently must even in their more lucid hours be capable susceptible of sympathy & pity, & a person recoverd from long weakness who begins to enjoy a little strength and activity is ready to recommend to a weak friend the same restoratives which himself has found beneficial There is in Mind as well as Body great beneft to be obtain’d by exercise – I think I have found it so the incapacity you complain of appears not in your manner of writing, the difficulty will I believe wear of with use & the task become a pleasure, if I did not think so it wou’d be unreasonable to desire you to take so much pains merely to oblige me There is as you observe, great difference in Minds, but when and as the God of Nature ^& of Grace^ has given ^you^ a capacity so far superior to tho’tless unreflecting multitude Many it ought to be improv’d the disclaiming it is like a rich man looking up his money and endeavouring to perswade people that he is poor

Your little Boys inference was very good. I believe Children are more capable of reasoning than of expressing their thoughts, & I think it must be as pleasant to a Parent to mark the growth of their understandings as of their stature – we are Children, and don’t you think our Heavenly Father takes pleasure in our improvement? He gives us many advantages, but there is much frowardness in our dispositions, and we are too apt to forget our duty and interest, but when we arrive at that happy place to which my wishes rise with your all imperfection will be forever banished

Then shall we see, and hear and know

All we desir’d & wish’d below

And every Power find sweet employ

In that Eternal World of Joy – Watts

Your reflections on cleansing the House are solemn and striking I feel their force – and yet as you describe the lethargic person am entirely helpless – but Blessed be God there is an Almighty Friend who is able to save to the uttermost &c – I now return to my Gardening former Subject – In the evening walk which I mention’d in my last I tho’t of that verse of M.r Watts

We are a Garden wall’d around

Chosen and made peculiar grond

A little spot enclos’d by Grace

Out of the Worlds wide Wilderness

I think a striking useful Lesson is contain’d in these Lines A Garden separated from the wild barren waste by some great Man for a pleasurable retreat, defended by a strong enclosure, and planted with the choicest fruit and fairest flowers; one wou’d think must appear a little Paradise, and the more charming for the contrast but how wou’d it look, if after all the advantages which wealth and art cou’d bestow, it produced nothing but health & weeds & wretched Shrubs, and in all respects except the shape of a Garden still retain’d the likeness of the wild Desart from which it was taken? Should we not pronounce it a barren worthless piece of ground, unworthy the notice of the Owner and fit for nothing but to be left to its native wildness?—and is not this too much like the unfruitful Christian? But O the boundless wonders of Almighty Goodness! How weak our Comparisons, how narrow our tho’ts on the infinite Subject! Our Great, our Gracious Owner leaves not thus the ungrateful spot which his Sov’reign good Pleasure has once distinguished! plow’d with the furrows of Affliction the obdurate Soil begins to soften, chasten’d by the Winter of Adversity the spreading weeds lose their native strength & gradually decline, blest with the cheering Sun-beams of Pardoning Mercy and enliven’d and nourished with springs of Divine consolation flowing from the Sacred Word, those precious plants which before discover’d hardly any appearance of Life and had only just the root remaining, rise to new Life and Verdure, bud and blossom, and afford a promising view of future fruit for the Great Owners use May we my dear Sister experience these Divine Influences and happy Effects – wishes your affectionate Silviana

Look Sov’reign Mercy with reviving Smile

On this cold barren lifeless heart of Mine

See how incroaching weeds oer run the Soil

While Heav’nly Graces wither and decline

O root these vile intruders from my heart

With potent hand their noxious pow’r destroy

To dying Hope thy vital Beams impart

And bid each Grace arise to Life & Joy

Leave not thy work to languish & decay

Thy Hand alone cou’d plant, thy Hand can raise

Shine Sov’reign Mercy with reviving ray

So shall the grateful Soil proclaim thy Praise.

Text: STE 3/13/xi, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford. No address page. For an annotated version of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, gen. ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 2, ed. Julia B. Griffin, pp. 291-301. The letter is a reply to a letter from her half-sister, Mary Steele Wakeford. Poetic lines from a hymnn and psalm by Isaac Watts.