13 March 1795

Mary Steele, Broughton, to the Revd Russell Scott, [Portsmouth], [Friday] 13 March 1795.


I must have appeared very negligent & unfriendly in not noticing the Message you sent me by Mrs. Howe concerning your much loved Sister’s Drawings. When Mr. Taylor first mentioned it to me I told him I should be greatly obliged for any single piece, but that I by no means wished to monopolize them all, as there were other Friends of my Dr Mrs T.’s to whom they would be equally valuable. He sent them however all … I wish I knew which you would prefer; if you recollect any you particularly wish to select, will you be so kind as to inform me? If not, as their chief value to us both arises from the Consciousness of the Dear Hand that formed them, I will divide them as equally as I can between us, & send them to your direction.… Oh sir, how inexplicable are the dispensations of Providence! – What a fate was Our Ever Beloved, ever Lamented Friend’s! How was her Genius depressed, her Virtues hidden, the generous, the exquisite sensibilities of her heart tortured! But why all this to you,¾pardon me¾it seems to soothe a heart, big with a thousand fond recollections, to be addressing one to whom she was equally dear. Oh, may my spirit be permitted to recognize her in that World of Bliss she now inhabits, whose Memory will be cherished & revered till the summons to follow her arrives.

I was very sorry that I was so unfortunate as to miss seeing you in Somersetshire, but I hope you & Mrs. Scott will favor me with a Visit at my solitary Abode. It would give me sincere pleasure to see you here; Summer has rendered it a little pleasanter. I hope Mr. T. will bring the Dr Children to see me. I cannot help flattering myself that Mary Ann at least will not inherit his Rigidity, though she should be bred a Quaker, yet I fear Mr. T.’s System must be peculiarly baneful to such a Mind as hers seemed to promise to be even at so early a period. Perhaps she may one Day thank us for preserving every little memorial of her Dear Mother.

I beg my respectful Compts to Mrs. Scott, & sincerely wishing you every personal & domestic felicity, am, Sir, Your Obliged Humble Servant,

M. Steele

Text: Isabella and Catherine Scott, ed., A Family Biography 1662 to 1908, drawn chiefly from Old Letters (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1908), pp. 70-71 (ellipses are from A Family Biography). For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 336-37. During this gap in the correspondence, Mary Steele’s close friend, Mary Scott, had married John Taylor, former tutor at Daventry Academy, in May 1788. They settled for a time at Ilminster, where he served as assistant minister to the Presbyterian congregation there. By this time both Scott and Taylor had become Unitarians. In 1791, however, Taylor resigned, having converted to Quakerism. He moved to Bristol in 1793, operating a small Quaker school there. Mary Taylor did not convert, but worshiped at the Unitarian meeting in Lewin’s Mead. She died during childbirth in June 1793. This letter, to Mary Scott’s younger brother, Russell (1760-1834), Unitarian minister at Portsmouth, concerns a collection of Mary Scott’s drawings that were given to Mary Steele by John Taylor after Mary Scott’s death. The whereabouts of these drawings today is unknown. In 1790 Russell Scott married Sophia Hawes (1761-1828), daughter of Dr. William Hawes of London, founder of the Humane Society.