Anne Steele, [Broughton], to Mary Wakeford, [Andover], undated.
Sure Amira shou’d have considered a little, before she charge’d so compliant a person as her Sister with incivility – Suppose you are walking thro’ an extensive Field in a fine even path alone, enjoying the still evening in a contemplative humour, and you meet a Person who has a mind to walk in a Meadow just by (tho’I don’t know whether a thorny Coppice wou’d not be a better Simile) and he insists on your leaving your path to go with him because forsooth he likes your Company – You make him a Curt’sie – No Sir – I like my own path better – I chuse to be alone – doubtless you may meet with others who wou’d be glad of your company – I beg you wou’d not importune me – adieu Sir – pray wou’d this be unmannerly?—well, suppose he is loth to depart, and tiezes you, and holds out his hand again till it akes as you say – wou’d you not rather of the two, that his hand aked than your heart?—Charity begins at home you know – and so my dear I thank you for your good wishes but chuse the last of your IF’s – but seriously the afores.d Swain is a Good and worthy Man
I rank him among my Friends and I sincerely wish him happy—
Mother claims half the merit of Fathers Visit because she perswaded him to it so you may keep t’other half of your thanks till you see her – Your acknowledgments to me I return and own my self fully paid by your long and agreeably free Letter – I wish writing was less difficult to you that I might oftener have the pleasure you have now given me, there is a mournful pleasure in sympathizing when a Friend complains, but there is something in your manner of complaining now which makes me hope that you are less gloomy than in time past. May that Heavenly Friend in whose hand are all our concerns and who orders every thing for his Children in Infinite Wisdom & Goodness give you those lesser Comforts you desire, or supply the want of them by his Gracious Presence!—You say your nearest Friend now and then – may I venture to write my Mind?—why do I ask it?—He is Good & Generous tho’ a little hasty – he is my Bror and my Friend – my wishes for him cannot terminate in Earthly Prosperity – May his Soul prosper and may every Christian Virtue and Heavenly Grace shine in his Life with diffusive lustre!—I wish for his sake as well as yours there cou’d be more freedom and frequency in religious Conversation, I think I know by experience something of its influence on the heart and the disadvantage which attends the neglect of it – we look on Prayer, Meditation, and attending on publick worship when in our power as indispensible Duty’s as well as valuable Priviledges, and don’t you think that Religious Conversation may be consider’d in nearly the same light what else is the meaning of the exhortation to provoke one another to love & to good works? Why else is that endearing notice which God takes of those who speak often one to another, and why that honourable distinction which such are encouraged to hope for Mal 3. 16 & 17th? — Let me ask you my dear Amira (a free question) is not your friends friend too backward?—Well-timed, repeated efforts might produce that freedom and frequency of Religious Converse which I suppose each of you think profitable and pleasing – how inestimable the Blessing (and sure it ought to be improv’d) that our dearest Relatives are such as love the Lord Jesus Christ Let us not then neglect this proof of our Love to him and to each other
I think my Friends grow still nearer to my heart, I sympathize in their cares, I rejoice in their comforts, and especially in the delightful Hope that we are all traveling to that blissful Place where Friendship, refin’d exalted Friendship fills every happy Mind, without the least tincture of displicency or shade of Imperfection, no cause of complaint without, nor grief within – every thing amiable in each Individual, the same their Sentiments, their Employments and their Joys the same; Universal Benevolence overflows, Universal Harmony reigns Forever!—But O what Idea’s can we form of their Happiness who dwell in the Glorious Presence of the Infinite Source of all Perfection, under the full Beams of his Life-renewing, Joy-inspiring Smile!
Ah my dear Amira, can we think of this happy happy State, and not ardently desire, & diligently seek every thing which may be conducive to our preparation for it? And would not frequent Contemplation on this Subject, reflecting on our utter unworthiness, and on that Infinite Mercy which gives us a little, little Hope of being at last join’d to that blessed Society, would it not be the Remedy we want? If blest with Divine Influences, it must warm our cold, our thankless hearts to Gratitude and Praise.—Tho’ it is not in our power to attain a thankful temper, it is our duty to use the appointed means and to look up with hope and humble expectation to that Gracious Power who has said, “Ask, and ye shall receive[”] – I think we lose a great deal of comfort in not meditating more constantly & seriously on the mercies we enjoy one Evening, after a Day pass’d in a sort of inactive tranquillity I sat down to reflect, and found that I had been neither elated nor depress’d, griev’d nor delighted, but if the pleasure & pain of the Day were put in the Scales the first would preponderate. This led me to a farther retrospection, to compare the pleasing with the painful of my whole Life or in other words, my Mercies with my Afflictions; but O how amazing the Contrast!—Contrast?—no – for perhaps those Afflictions ought to be consider’d as Mercies too; some of them I hope I have found to be so in their effects – from hence then I may conclude, that my whole Life has been a Series of successive Favours from the Kind Hand of my Almighty Benefactor! and I have nothing to complain of, nothing to regret, but my ingratitude and misimprovement!—here indeed is ample room for complaint, abundant cause of painful sensations, how can I reflect on the returns I have made for the continual, innumerable, and all-unmerited Favours of Unweary’d Goodness without deep remorse, low humiliation, and heart-affecting Penitence? O for a Contrite and a Thankful Heart!
I am particularly obliged to you my dear Sister for the last part of your 2nd page. The Hero of my verse is a delightful epithet — O let me glory in my choice and look with pity on those Ladder (or rather Babel) builders you mention, since I hope I have found the Ladder erected by Infinite Wisdom which will certainly and safely convey all who venture on it to Eternal Felicity!—If my Lord was despis’d and condemn’d shall I think it hard?—No—let me cheerfully take up the Cross & follow him.—I think it an honour if I am enabled to contribute to the benefit or entertainment of any of his Servants.
Your note by Harry was very kind—my want of Health renders me sometimes unfit for the businesses or enjoyments of Life, but I hope not discontented, I have abundance of Mercies, and tho’ perfect Health is deny’d me, I am favour’d with long intervals of ease O that I could improve them as I ought!—my late indisposition was I believe the effect of a Cold I am now better—far from being vex’d, I was pleas’d and diverted with your lively banter, restrain not your pleasantry in writing to me, I love to see you cheerful in your Letters, and wish to see you so in person, and to talk to you more than I write, which however I believe you will think enough for the present from your
This fragment I pick’d up among my old papers perhaps it may suit you – I don’t remember that you have it
Since ev’ry State of Life is doom’d to care,
Why shou’d I murmur at so small a share?
What num’rous Blessings underserv’d are mine!
Ah why shou’d this ungrateful heart repine?
What tho’ I meet with some vexatious thorns,
Yet many a pleasing flow’r my path adorns:
Tho’ gloomy clouds sometimes o’erspread the Skies,
Clouds will disperse & Sunshine cheer my eyes:
The gloom may clear which darkens now the Scene
And all the lovely prospect be serene.
Then calm and cheerful let me keep my way, )
With patience wait if darkness hide my Day, )
And thankful hail the sweet returning ray. )
‘Till thro’ these changing Scenes of Day and Night,
I reach the confines of Celestial Light:
Transporting thought! O could my Spirit rise
A moment to those ever-shining Skies,
And hope an int’rest there without a fear!
Life’s little grief’s at once would disappear.
That blissful hope would all my cares controul
And calm each painful passion of my Soul.
Text: STE 3/10/ii. 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. 308-11. This appears to be a second reply to her sister’s letter.