Mary Wakeford, Andover, to Anne Steele, Broughton, 23 September 1749.
We know my Dear Sister that life is short & uncertain, in a few weeks, days or hours we may be hid in the silent Grave. happy were it could we wisely improve each flying hour lent us, but ah! how frail are mortals? I am thinking that were some little part of our time to be spent in freely writing our serious tho’ts to each other it might not be misimproved. well I know that I cannot express my sentiments in such a manner as to deserve your approbation or to gain my own, yet I think I will sometimes when I have time and inclination try to scribble, if it were but for my own amusement, tho’ perhaps when I am no more what I write however mean may not be intirely despised. but alas! ’tis seldom I can think (much less write) my heart & head are so deeply lock’d up in stupidity. when I awake to thought, sometimes indeed they croud thick upon me. how expressive is that line “How vain are all things here below?” The question implying that the emptyness of earthly things cannot be told! and does not our daily experience bear wittness [sic] to that truth? when bless’d with friends, with health, & affluence & every earthly good, can there be an unshaken peace & satisfaction of mind? does not some secret fear start up & plant a dagger in the breast? and a thousand little things (perhaps beneath our regard) by turns disquiet us. it is, it must be so, and is it not infinitely best it should? for if we injoy’d a settled peace & tranquility here, should we not rest satisfied without seeking a superiour happiness? for are not even true Christians generaly most secure & careless about Heavenly things when their earthly circumstances are most prosperous? surely every Christian may say it is good for me that I was afflicted. why then do the heart tremble at apprended sorrows? it is our weakness & sin that it does so, since we know that God is able to support, and he has promis’d that as our day is our strength shall be, and all, I am sure I have reason to trust in the Lord who has hithertoo sustaind me, who has deliver’d me from many sorrows, has preserv’d me from various afflictions beyond my hopes, and bountifully provided for me beyond my expectations! oftentimes do I take courrage & comfort in the rememberance of Gods goodness to me hithertoo. Though I too, too often sink in gloomy melancholy, yet I hope not distrustfull despondency.
I knew not what I was going to write nor am I solisitius [sic] for method or connection. I know you will excuse me write how I will & I hope favour me with some of your tho’ts on any subject, & we will not call what you or I write letters if you please, but do not write so well as with ease you can since that would discourage me, for I have (to my sorrow) a great deal of pride left yet, tho’ I have been so much mortified by so many peoples knowing me who considering me in a comparitive light must (if not absolutely despise me) think meanly of your affectionate
Sept 23 1749
Text: STE 3/10/i; for an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 2, ed. Julia B. Griffin, pp. 273-74. Mary Wakeford married Joseph Wakeford (1719-85) of Andover on 16 May 1749, not long after William Steele, her brother, married Mary Bullock (1713-62) of Yeovil, Somerset. Anne Steele had just spent two weeks at Andover in August. See Broome, A Bruised Reed, p. 119.