Mary Steele, [Andover] to Anne Steele, [Broughton], [c. late 1787-early 1788].
Let not My Dear Sister be surprized at this early acknowledgement of her kind Letter – ye intelligence it contain’d has made an Alteration with regard to my return & fearing if I defer’d writing till Tuesday it might derange your Schemes I thought it best to trouble you with a Line now. As the Matter stands I think it will be much best for me to stay till the week after next. It will be a great disappointment to us all round if my Nancy is prevented paying our Retreat a visit – I hope it will not appear unfriendly to my Cousin for were I to return at the time first propos’d I should have you know but a single Day with her – And My Dear Myrtillas wish to have me stay till the following week is a sufficient Reason to assign for it – I leave it to my Mother to fix whatever Day is most convenient but I think it would be better not to defer it till Saturday – I should not have fix’d the Time yesterday but Mr L told me Miss W was to stay 5 or 6 weeks – I Pray present my Love to her & tell her I regret the loss of my share of her Company but hope another time it will happen more favourably – I shall hope to hear Tuesday when I may expect you.
And now having said the needful will you My Dr Sister excuse me if I chide her a little indeed I felt myself hurt at her unnecessary Apologies & Compliments at the beginning of her Epistle – but I confess the kind expressions of her Affection afterwards made me ample Amends. You know not my Nancy indeed you know not ye exquisite pleasure yr Letters gave me nor how inexpressibly soothing every proof of your Affection is to my heart –
Oh could I wake on this neglected Lyre
One strain besides its wanted Sounds of woe
My Much Lov’d Nancy would that Strain inspire!
And teach at once the artless Notes to flow.
The opening Beauties of her lively mind
Where every hour Affection’s watchful Eye
Some virtue unperceived before may find
Some Newborn Elegance or Grace descry.
Ye Storms that oft Alas destruction spread
A Flower so fragrant & so beauteous spare!
Ye smiling Heavens yr kindest influence shed
And crown with full Success a Parent’s care.
You enter most feelingly My Dear into my Sentiments when you speak of Friendship nor can I wish you a greater blessing in return than such a Friend as my Myrtilla. Tho’ mere Acquaintance may amuse us for a day but it is the Friend who [sic] Affection survives ye [...]
The remaining portion of the letter is on a half sheet of paper:
I have not heard of Mrs Crouch today suppose Charles will call. She had the Dr yesterday which I was glad to hear I feel for poor Maria – I don’t know whether Cousin Sally intends following yr Dear Fannys faded Form to its long Home or not, I fear it will be too painful for her as she is to be buried in the Church but I should like to very much & shall be pain’d ^if I do not.^ Her fate my Nancy I need say to you ispeaks in the most pathetic Language the importance of an early & constant attention to the one thing needful especially to those who like herself are in the Morning of Life –
Ye Dear Survivors while each bleeding heart
Hangs on her lov’d Idea may you know
The Heaven taught Lesson the Celestial Art
To gather Blessings in the Shades of Woe
Cousin Polly & Cousin Will are exceeding kind & attentive.
but Were it not for Recollection I should be very Comfortable here. The Library where I now write is my favorite Spot in all the House.
I have sent 2 Hanks I have nothing else I can send but Monday may ^send^ an odd thing or 2 more – Hope for a Line to know how you all are & my Dr Nancy in particular whom I must
hope will must request to distribute ^Duty^ Love &c to all around her & yet reserve a large share for herself from for I am certain it cannot exceed what is felt by her affectionate
Sister & Friend
Text: STE 5/11/iii. No address page. For an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 3, pp. 327-29. This letter was written prior to the departure of Revd Lewis (the "Mr L" of the letter) in 1788. Mary Steele appears to have composed the poetic lines specifically for this letter.