Mary Wakeford, [Andover], to Anne Steele, [Broughton], 4 July [and 13 July] 1757.
It is indeed pity that lively & valuable ^thoughts^ should be lost, it is therefore very proper that Silviana shou’d write hers, but persons who have none cannot I think be said to loose [sic] them in any other sence [sic] then a blind person may be said to loose the pleasure of a fine prospect. it is I beleive [sic] natural for those capable of reflecting with pleasure & profit on serious things to think that others might so reflect too if they would as a strong healthy person wonders why his neighbour does not carry a heavy burden or preform [sic] any work of active labour as well as himself and is very apt to impute it to his lazeyness & want of will, while the true reason is weakness & utter incapacity, this I am sure is a common thing, and tho’ in judgeing of mind the case is different [sic], as it is charitable & generous to suppose a neighbours mind stronger & better than it is yet I am sure a superiour mind cannot form true ideas of the weakness and incapasity of an inferiour one, nor think wisdom & goodness so much beyond their reach as it realy is. how often am I ready to wonder at the simple folly of our children. why can they not give the colours their propper names or tell how many two & three are? why shou’d Sammy imagine (as he did) that God lived at the Earl of Portsmouths fine House? he had heard that God lived in a fine place, & that was the finest he had ever seen, in that I can guess at his reasonings but in general I cannot suppose what their ideas are or come down to the level of their weak understandings and there is certainly as much differance in the minds of grown persons as there is between theirs & mine. Mr Templeman us’d to say “when in Heaven I shall be as great a beauty as any of ’em.” Ah were I once there my mind I doubt not wou’d be more superiour to the minds of earthly infants of five or six foot then at present any of theirs are to mine. but while here I must be content with (to say the least) a too common sort of mind. your gardening reflections are not only good and suitable, but so natural &easy that while reading them I am almost ready to wonder why I cannot so think, & so express my tho’ts. if I could the rummaging our House to day on expecting some visitors likely to see every room might have afforded me similar hints. dust, cobwebs, litter in every room, nothing clean, nothing in order and as it shou’d be, and only a few hours time to endeavour to rectify it in! so is often the human heart when call’d by sickness & the approach of death to appear before God! the whole heart defiled with sin! the ensnareing cobwebs of the most venomous spider spread all around! all the passions & faculties of the soul confused, intirely out of order & unfit for the purposes for which they were given! and but a few hours, perhaps moments lent for the needfull preparation! such also is often the case (at least mine) when call’d to enter into the more imediate [sic] presence of God in solemn & important duties. but how differant is the House & the Heart? of how little consiquence the one. of how great the other? how easily is the one cleansd and set in order all over, and how difficult, how impossible rather, is it for a person to cleanse & rectify the least defilement the smalest disorder of the heart? there is indeed a Power superiour who can rectify the disorders of the heart, & he has promis’d to do it for those who sincerely seek his aid, but so great is the stupidity and folly of an earth born clod, he shall perhaps forget, neglect, or at best but faintly ask for that all pow’rfull aid, yet at the same time be solicitous to get his affairs of but triffling consiquence [sic] accomplish’d.
“If not so frequent wou’d not this be strange,
That ’tis so frequent this is stranger still!”
When a person has no disposition to seek their own happiness, when that guilty lethergy intirely prevails what can be done? the sweetest music, or even the alarming cry of fire will not I imagine arouse a lethergic person, he may perhaps hear, & have some notion the sound is pleasing or dreadfull, but he cannot awake so as to be delighted with the one or terrifyd with the other. and unless some able friend remove him from the danger he will be consumed in the flames for want of the pow’r to fly. so a lethergic [sic] soul needs an allmighty friend to save it from the impending danger, or it must be lost.
If you will be so kind as to call this forc’d scribble thoughts your desire is answer’d but tho it cannot deserve that name I beleive it has cost me more labour then Youngs Night Tho’ts did him or then it wou’d cost Silviana to write a volume of thoughts deserving the name. if I cou’d with any sort of ease to myself write serious tho’ts, nobody cou’d be more willing to return your favours in kind then your obliged & affectionate sister
As Roger goes I send this now, you might have had it last week when I was at Brotn but that I had not time to scrach it on clean paper & had a very hard matter to do it too day last week so busy & this so hot. pooh how does my dear Mother endure the extreem heat? I am afraid it will be too hard for her. if it continues so violent I can’t conceive how we shall go to Brotn saty how go to meeting or stay there I have not been cool night or day since last friday and am almost overset, but I hope it maybe more tolerable by saturday evening when I hope there will be somebody in the way to take our horse, if we can come. O dear I am quite fainty at near ten in the eveng with all the doors & windows open must go out in the garden for air good night
Text: STE 3/10/; for an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 2, ed. Julia B. Griffin, pp. 297-99. In 1757, Mary Wakeford’s son William was four and her son Samuel was three at this time; probably it was William who was beginning to reason.