24 August 1791

Mary Steele, Broughton, to Martha Steele, Abingdon, [Wednesday] 24 August 1791.

August 24 1791

My Dear Martha need not wish for greater powers of pleasing than she possesses, the Emotions with which I read her kind her admirable Letter are were such as can be felt only not describ’d. I do not flatter in the Epithet ^I have us’d^ for independent of that affection it evinces & which to me is more ^valuable^ than the most brilliant Sallies of Genius – it is a Letter which must please & entertain let it have been written by whom it would (at least as far as I can judge) let not my Dear Martha therefore think so meanly of her own powers – she has only to permit ^them^ to be call’d into Exertion to enliven & delight her Friends & increase Our own enjoyments – the most vigorous faculties if suffered to lie dormant will seem after a time feeble to their possessor but ^it is^ the languor of disease only not native imbecility – Could I by flatter myself I could be of any little use in this way to my Dear Sister it might perhaps be of ^rouze me a^ little use to myself but but I fear my Mind is contracted almost beyond the possibility of Recovery – & this repeated Blow that has made so many many mourners have almost overwhelm’d me. What a Treasure has this World lost in our Hond Friend what an Example of virtue & what a Source of Truth! – I knew I lov’d & rever’d Him but how much I knew not till now – May we all recall & imitate his/his sound Instructions & imitate tho’ at a humble distance His Sublime Piety his diffusive Benevolence. Dear Mrs & Mr J. Evans – May that Being support them who alone can! Mr Steadman I suppose will see them. He set out on his Journey Monday & was to spend this week at Bristol – You will be pleas’d to hear that on Sunday he accepted the invitation of the People & I suppose will be ordain’d soon after his return, but Alas His Hond Tutor our Revered Friend will not brighten the Solemnity ^with his presence^ nor address to us his admirable Exhortations! how naturally do the Idea of those we love & lament blend itself with everything. Oh my Dear Sister I can enter into ^those^ feelings you so particularly describe – I trust the gentle but peaceful influence of Heaven will extract the thorn in time from her yr Breast & convert her yr Sorrow into that tender grateful Remembrance which she you would ever wish to cherish – Mr T tells me he hopes you are better which is a great Comfort, but I was sorry to hear yr looks were not much amended, however if we can but attain the Reality we will not trouble ourselves about the Appearance of Health. – I begin to wish for your return & to think your absence long but we have not yet fixed on any plan nor is there any necessity of yr returning on Account of Business for nothing is yet done about Pritchard my patience is almost worn out.

We drank tea yesterday with Miss Etheridge. Her Brother has bought the Estate & intends selling it again it was to prevent Mr Collins from having it. Have you heard that His Sister Mrs Holden is no more? What a remarkable devastation hath Death made in a short space in that family. I have the pleasure to tell you I think our Dear Nancy is really better on the whole – Miss Nesbit has been poorly these 2 Days & Lucy is very unwell & very low as usual. Miss G much as she us’d to be. Poor Mrs Lodge is very ill it is thought she cannot continue long. Mother Kent rather better at present & Father Kent “Toler’blish” – I tell you all the little Howdyes of the neighbourhood. Mr Kent often enquires how poor Patty is now. He is as well as usual. You must bring us a full & true Account of a certain Mouse – but shall I whisper in yr Ear only my Dear that I think some people would arrange their own Affairs better if they had no body to assist them A Delicate Generous Mind & such is a certain Gent’m in a high degree can but endear itself to a Generous Delicate Mind if left to follow its own native impulse.

Mr D has made a sort of Peace with Our Sister – & he & I parted without Resentment but I hope to be able to prevent his future visits but am afraid it is not yet effectually done. There are some Circumstances that extenuate his Conduct. He is quite hurt at yr not visiting him & pleaded very hard that I would permit it. Nancy thinks I ought ^not^ to oppose it. I cannot say I much relish it but I believe I must ^be^ neuter & leave My Dr Martha to follow her own Inclinations as Convenience may suit. Every one begs their Love. My respectful & affectionate Regards to all the family particulary Mr T – I should almost envy you seeing Mrs Palmer &c did not a certain circumstance place me in a ridiculous light to her I fear (but dont mention this).

Farewell my Dear Sister we are to drink your health at a Quarter before 3 Friday – May many many Returns of that Day be yours – & may it ^ever^ be reflected upon with Complacency Pleasure & Gratitude – by yourself as well as your Friends again Farewell

M Steele

We send to Stockbridge this Afternoon in hope of hearing from you

Text: STE 5/12/iii. Postmark: Stockbridge, 26 August. Address: Miss Martha Steele / Jos: Tomkins, Esqr / Abingdon / Berks. For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 334-36. Martha is visiting the Tomkinses at Abingdon; Anne is at Broughton with Mary, awaiting her marriage that December to Joseph Tomkins. All the sisters are in mourning at this time over the death of Mrs. Steele.