2 February 1804

Mary Steele Dunscombe, Broughton, to Martha Steele, London, [Thursday] 2 February 1804.

Dear Sister

We received the Parcel on Saturday for which Lucy & I are both much obliged – My Ribbon I think very handsome & the Lace good neat ^& pretty^ & will answer my purpose extremely well; you know there is an old Fable of the Boy that would not say it for fear she should also be made to say B & C &c. You have not acted on this principle or you would not so kindly have offered to do anything for us in Town. We are dispos’d therefore to take you at your word. Lucy has me say “she shall be much obliged if you will purchase her a Gown. She will trust to your Choice, & you will ^she hopes^ trust ^her^ she hopes till she can pay you” – my Dear Sister if you can really do it without inconvenience (which is not I know always the case in London) I should be much obliged to you to purchase me a Bonnet. I will trust to your Choice, I do not care what it is so that it is a useful Bonnet that I can wear at anytime. I care not whether it is Velvet Straw Citriss Silk ^or^ Beaver or any thing else that is manufactured into Coverings for the Head – but I see no prospect of my going any where to purchase one & have nothing fit to be seen but that little Bonnet which ^was meant^ only to serve instead of a Cap – if it is black I think I would rather have it all black or if there is any Coloured Ribbon on it, will ^it should be^ something that will do with the lining of my pelisse & with my Green Gown. You know what I want, it is to wear to Meeting or anywhere else that I may chance to go. The size of ^my^ noddle is half a Yard & half a quarter (but I don’t know that this will be any use) as I am sure My Dear Martha you must be so too & now if it occasion you any trouble you must think no more of my Bonnett.

Lucy begs her Love & is much obliged for the Hore Hound & your kind Letter &c I am sorry to say her health is still in a very indifferent State she has ^had^ several violent attacks in her Stomach unlike her usual Complaint & her Cough still remains very troublesome – but it is a satisfaction to me that she still sleeps here, her Companion not being returned – I hope you & your Dear Little Fellow Traveller are now arrived safe in Town – I was very glad to hear your Headachs were better, wish the Smoky City may not bring them on again.

We have sent for Halls Sermon. I am told that tho it has passages of great beauty & eloquence yet that it discovers but too plainly, his apostasy from the course of freedom & even goes so far as to recommend passive obedience & nonresistance – I am a little impatient to see it – Should you meet with any Muslin Hanks you like I will thank you to buy 2 or 3 for me & some with Lucys Gown. I think the best Conveyance will be by Whitemarsh’s Waggon directed to be left at the Warehouse in Stockbridge. I do not know where it Inns in Town & I fear I may by all this give you trouble – if so, pray omit it. I shall not be hurt except in the former case – Mr D begs his love. We go on much in the old way, rise & eat, sleep & rise again. Should you see Mary after this reaches you give my love & my kind remembrances to her Governess. To Miss Evans you will I hope remember me most affectionately – & present my Compts to Miss Reynolds in ^all^ which Mr D joins.

Richard Marsh whom you may perhaps recollect had a paralytic Seizure is dead.

Forgive My Dear Martha this wretched Scrawl. You will be so kind as to favor me with a line should you send the Box that it may not lie at Stockbridge. Wishing that your Excursion may prove a pleasant one I am my Dr Sister

Affectly yours

We have just heard that there [is a] probability of poor Mr D – fds soon attaining his liberty

PS Do you think Mrs Talbots Essays would be a proper Book to give Miss Barton? She has got an Assistant but I know not as yet whether she is to be paid.

Feb 2d 1804

Text: STE 5/12/x. Postmark: Stockbridge, 3 February 1807. Address: To / Miss Steele / Mr Reynolds No 44 Barbican / London. For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 358-60. Robert Hall published two political sermons on the war with France, Reflections on War (1802) and Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis (1803). Steele is referring to the latter sermon. For conservative supporters of the government’s effort to dethrone Bonaparte, Hall’s sermon reflected the powerful rhetoric and embellished style they relished in Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). To those like Mary Steele, Thomas Mullett, Caleb Evans, and Benjamin Flower in Cambridge who had joined with Hall in the early 1780s and early 1790s in supporting the American and French revolutions, parliamentary reform in England, and the abolition of the slave trade, Hall’s rhetoric sounded like that of a political apostate. See below, n. 797. Also mentioned in this letter is Sarah ("Sally") Evans, eldest daughter of Caleb Evans and sister to J. J. Evans of London. She never married, living most of her life with the family of her brother, J. J. Evans, in London and, after his death in 1812, with his widow and children in Melksham (see Evans, Family Chronicle, p. 11, 22, 37); and Catherine Talbot's Essays on Various Subjects (London, 1772).