12 February 1812

Mary Steele Dunscombe, Broughton, to Mary Ann Taylor, Bevis Hill, [Wednesday] 12 February 1812.

Bevis Hill, Feb. 12, 1812.

Never, my dear Miss Taylor, did I wish so much to be young again as when conversing with you¾but alas such wishes are vain…. Oh my dear Mary Ann I could not tell you then, nor can I now, how much your beloved Mother lived again in you Your Letter was anxiously expected, but it made amends for its delay when it did arrive. I will not deny that I wish to be loved by you…. To have appeared not wholly unworthy of having been your Mother’s Friend is enough to satisfy my Ambition; & that I have been permitted once to [see] the Child of her Affection & the Inheritor of her Talents & her Virtues will ever be reflected upon with soothing satisfaction while Memory holds her Seat, though Providence in its “Mysterious Wisdom” chose so awful a Moment for the fulfilment of my Wishes.

… I have passed many languid, melancholy hours since you cease “to steal me from myself away,” but am rather better than I have been. Tell Mr. Scott that I have often regretted that the paths of Life have so divided us, & that though my Home is now rendered desolate it would give me much pleasure to see him there…. Farewell my dear Miss Taylor. My heart forms many a fond Wish for your future happiness & to hear of their fulfilment will ever afford sincere pleasure to Your Affectionate,

M. Dunscombe

Text: Scott and Scott, A Family Biography, p. 115 (ellipses are from that text). For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 382-83. Mary Ann Taylor, Mary Scott’s grown daughter of twenty-two, has been visiting the Tomkinses, now living at Bevis Hill, near Southampton. This is the last known letter by Mary Steele. She died on 14 November 1813 at Broughton House. The following obituary (possibly written by Anne Steele Tomkins) appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal on Monday, 22 November 1813, p. 4. The last sentence is a paraphrase of lines 61-62 from Mary Steele’s ‘Lines on the Death of Anne Steele’ (see above, poem 5):

Same day died, in the 61st year of her age, at her house at Broughton, in this county, Mrs. Mary Dunscombe, widow of the late Rev. Thomas Dunscombe, and eldest daughter of the late William Steele, Esq. of that place. The worth of this excellent woman consisted not merely in her intellectual attainments, in the ardour and constancy of her friendships, in her general benevolence and compassionate attentions to the poor, but in her near approach to the perfection of the christian character, in the humility and purity of her heart. She endured a painful illness with that patience and resignation which dignified her life, and she peacefully expiated, confident (to use her own emphatic words) that her "torture would be changed to ease – her faith to sight – and in her hope to be absorbed in full felicity."