Mary Steele, Broughton, to Mary Scott, Milborne Port, Somerset, [Saturday] 14 January .
Your two Letters my Dear Friend reach’d me together on Monday—I am much indebted by all the Sympathetic kindness they breathe. I wd fain acknowledge it as I ought but my mind is averse to all kinds of Employment even to the melancholy relief of pouring out its Sorrows to the pitying Heart of Friendship—I want to creep into some Corner where none can be pain’d by witnessing my Grief “& weep the poor remains of Life away.” Ah my Fd my mind is in a very different State from what you suppose—Tho’ my prospects in this world are forever clos’d, yet no Gleam from a better one illumines the Darkness—I never felt my Soul so dead so unaffected when in Affliction by all that can support or cheer in such a Season—I know I believe these Divine Consolations which my Fd so often reminds me can support even in the utmost extremity but I feel not their influence—a perfect Stupor (as at present) or ye most heartrending Agonies divide my time
O how shall I ye load of Life sustain
Now lengthen’d years can be but lengthen’d pain
I shrink from the Idea of Existence here yet Conscience checks me with my unpreparedness for Eternity. I meant to have told you how I have been, how I am but indeed I scarcely know myself. Tho’ so often anticipated the awful Stroke befell me at a most unthought of unprepared Moment, but perhaps Mr Howe told you of my going to Andover of my return &c—Indeed I am astonish’d when I look back how I past thro’ the tender the tremendous Scene this I know that my Reason often nearly forsook me & once totally so yet spite of all—I was enabled to lie on My dr dr Fathers dying Pillow enabled to be with him to wipe the cold Damps of Death from his Dr Face & to hear his last blessing—& do I live to say all this!—Oh my Friend but to look at him seem’d the support of my Life & how can loath’d Life drag on without him? Never Never did I seem to have comprehended the Extent of his Affection for his Family Great as his every act of Parental Love evinced it to be till the parting hour arriv’d—At first a Lethargic slumber for a Day or two depriv’d us of his Instructions but his recollection fully return’d & ne’er after left him tho’ his Speech was greatly impair’d—His Love for us divided his Heart [from] Heaven—till that got the Ascendency & he told us (Oh only thought that affords one Ray of Joy for me) “I rise I am going to God rejoicing going to Heaven to rest to Happiness, to ye general Assembly & Church of ye firstborn” &c & repeat’d the whole verse—“my Dears” looking with inexpressible tenderness on his wretched wife & Children—“What can I do for you I have done nothing yet—but if I am permitted to work my Eyes will ever be upon you” while ye Tears stole down his dear faded Cheek—“It is hard parting at another time but we shall sing together” and shall I, shall I, ever best of men dearest of fathers, be permitted to be with You again? Oh no, no, the Harvest is past the Summer is ended & I am not Saved. So many religious privileges, so many pious Friends Living & Dying praying for me—now they are all gone I abus’d my mercies, this Hour of Calamity has shown that to talk of & to feel ye Reality of Religion are two things—but I wanted you to know tho’ I doubt I have not express’d it intelligently that the same Christian Dignity the same Humility ye same exquisite Affection markd ye closing Scene as had adorned the preceding part of my Dr Dr Fathers Life, but I have not told you half I cannot—Oh what humility—what an affecting Sense of unworthiness did he express—even almost at last—“Merit will never do.” No, his Hope his Trust in Life had been in Him who is able to save to ye uttermost & he found that he could do so in ye last awful Moments. When When Oh Lord how long were ye last Sounds I ever heard from that dear Voice that my Soul yearns in vain to hear—& oh must yearn in vain forever.
How Selfish is Grief you will want to know how Patty is. She is much better but reduced very low & it will be long before she can be releasd from her Chamber—but I hope in time she will be restor’d to her poor afflicted mother. Her Grief is deep but Silent & I fear when Patty is quite restor’d she will be worse yn ever as her anxiety for her necessarily engages some of her attention. Her Legs are very troublesome—I am inexpressibly obliged by yr wishing to be with me—but as Providence denies it do not make yrself uneasy. I know it is want of power not of will—I wish you may be able to read this it is not what I wish to send you. Our very kind Fd Mrs H does not propose having us yet—All yours in Affectionate remembrance with yr greatly distress’d but very affec.e
M S Jan 14th
[i]STE 5/14/iii. Postmark: Stockbridge. Address: Miss Scott / Milborne Port / Somerset. Letter is not dated, but given the references to Mary Steele’s still evident grief over her father’s death, the year is 1786. For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 314-16. Lines above are taken from Anne Steele’s Psalm XC, ("And weep their wretched lives away") in Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional (1780), vol. 2, p. 196, and in Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 1, p. ; also Mary Steele’s poem, ‘"Melancholy Effusions written after the Death of Dear Father" in Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 137.