Mary Wakeford, [Andover], to Anne Steele [Broughton], 10 November 1757.
Very well, & so my dear Sisters gentle Swain made a bow I suppose to your curt’sie & drew back his gentle hand did he, alack a day how cou’d you be so uncivil? why we women folk often give our hand to be help’d over a stile tho’ we cou’d do better without, only for civility & custom sake, & why pray shouldn’t you conform to custom as well as other folk? but you have no mind to get over because you see thorns instead of f[l]owers on ’tother side, why don’t flowers grow on thorns at all times of the year? tho I fear it is not so in my meddow [sic], it doub[t]less wou’d in yours, tho’ I question whither your feet might not stick in the dirt a little and hinder your entertainment in those fine groves, yet if this gentle swain shou’d notwithstanding your curtsie & his bow, again softly intreat you to take his offer’d hand & hold it out till it akes, shou’d you not take pitty on him and consider – & consider of it till, you consent in a very stay’d manner to trudge along together on ’tother side the Hedge? If it shou’d end so I heartily wish you as pleasant a walk as the nature of the road will posibly admit of. If not I wish you well in your present path, & in your frequent journeys to those evergreen Groves.
You can’t think how much I am obliged to my Dear Father for comming to see me, it was so kind to come on purpose, but between the childrens perversnesses [sic] & one thing & ’tother I did not shew half glad & thankful enough while he was here, do you thank him very much for me. and I thank you very much too for writing to me agen tho I am so far from deserving it, indeed I doubt you must ever wait in vain for written thots from me, for tho’ I had a somewhat more lively & sensible interval a week or two ago, and rememberd I ought to write to you, I cou’d not nor can by any means put my serious tho’ts into words. it requires a great deal of time & plodding for me to write three lines in any manner and when I seem most in the humour to atempt writing I have scarce ever opportunity either I cannot be alone long enough or other employments demand my attention, there are innumerable things from without to hinder my writing & reading. tho’ more from or rather wanting within to render me incapable of it, you who write with ease I still affirm cannot conceive the difficulty it is to me, if it were not greater then can be overcome I shou’d have wrote you a little volume of late instead of talking, as I have between while wanted conversation exceedingly, this fortnight past espically for tho’ allas I hear too little serious or improving conversation in general, yet since I have had no one but our children to talk with I want even reasonable discourse, I have been us’d to converse in the family with persons of understanding superiour to myself, and how insipid & tiresome is empty tittle tattle for several days together, & it was not posible to have other in Mr Wakeds absence indeed one afternoon I was at Mrs Bred but tho’ with the aged there shou’d be wisdom it does not always appear to be so, in short the sence of my want of a friend here capable & willing to converse with me on sensible & serious subjects has occasion’d me many gloomy tho’ts of late, as often before tho’ it does not always prevail. I often think of the Psalmists words, refuge failed me no man cared for my soul. except now and then my nearest friend, there is no one here who has so much friendship for me as to seek to do my soul good by religious conversation or with whom I can freely & familiarly talk on worthy & interesting subjects, methinks I am an alline in a strange land, the ways & providences of God are unsearchable but if I am his what I know not now I shall hereafter know, he has acted wisely& graciously in, my want (in some respects) of earthly friends shou’d lead me to seek with greater diligence the favour & presence of a Heavenly Friend, but alas the fewer helps I have the less I am put in mind of religious things the more apt I am and perhaps others are to be cold & neglect it. this little may serve as a hint of some of my thots of late, for I cannot describe them fully, nor need I, since they generaly lead to end in a melancholy stupidity instead of exiting to diligence in the use of the means & mercies I am favour’d with, which are great & many, and for which I want a due thankfullness of heart, so may justly join in your complaint but can tell of no remedy within our own powr, indeed I lately heard Mrs Cumg say she tho’t it was in a person’s own pow’r to have thankfull temper, but I imagine she said so much on the same footing that somebody else says I can write, she is I believe of a thankfull temper herself & appears so easy that she can’t think but another might have it too if they wou’d. but what a strange deal of meddly have I writ & yet have taken no notice of part of your letter, but what can I say? your printing is to be sure a thing of serious importance but you have no reason to be at all uneasy about it. your flowers have fragrance for those who are serious & religious & have a taste for poetry by such it will be received with pleasure & profit, and that is all you can desire, the tast[e]less will not read it, nor those who dislike serious things, indeed those who dislike the sentiments that is the ladder builders will most likely snarll a little & affect to treat it with contempt as they well may since they contemn the hero of your poetry who said, if the world hated me it will also hate you. but as you do not write to please such, their censures will not I imagine give you concern.
Thro’ the kindness of providence Mr Wakeford & his Mor came safe home yesterday noon but they had not a pleasant journey Mrs W not being very well & some little accidents and inconveniences disorder’d Mr W too, but thro’ mercy we are all indifferant well now. Mr W safely deliver’d your papers to Mr F as I suppose his letter will aquaint you. if my Father or Brother does not come by & by please to give & accept my duty love as due & I am Dear Sister
your obliged & affectionate
Novr 10 1757
PS Mr Wd does not know of my writing, for the past two pages was writ before he came home I cou’d say as much to him but that, & writing it to my Brotn Friends are two things you know yet I hate to do any thing in private I believe I shall tell him I have writ after tis gone but lest I shou’d not please not to take any notice of my having wrote to you at this time.
Text: STE 3/10/xiii; for an annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 2, ed. Julia B. Griffin, pp. 305-07. AS had spent much of September with her sister at Andover. In October, she moved into her brother’s house (originally called Pigeon House and later Broughton House), just down the lane from Grandfathers, her father’s home. She would stay with William until the next April, most probably working on the finished draft of volume two of Poems, which would make their way to London in time for the publication of both volumes in December of that year. The subject of this letter connects it to a previous letter, and may enable us to place all of the undated letters of Anne Steele as c. 1756-1757. The identity of Steele's suitor is not revealed. Furneaux visited Broughton at this time, and he may have made overtures to her concerning marriage. See Broome, Bruised Reed, p. 136.