Wrote in the Beginning of a Pockett Book for 1769

What! shall I venture once again

On Pockett to use my Pen? –

Why not? – what tho’ the last was dull

This may of Incidents be full!

The other always makes me blush 5

That does not signifie a Rush;

This year may furnish something bright –

In hopes of that once more I write.

I had begun I find to rhyme

And keep my Journal in wrong time, 10

When ev’ry subject quite was gone

In which I might with ease have shone.

But then I’de nothing that was fit,

No Scandalwhich is always Wit,

At least fine Ladies think it so, 15

Or from their Lips it would not flow.

Ill nature’s not the cause ’tis sure

In Hearts so gentle, soft, and pure,

So free from Envy, baleful Passion,

Yet Scandal always is in Fashion. 20

But now my difficulties I’ll count

And estimate the just amount.

No Love Affair to write about!

And what’s a Pockett Book without

No sprightly Strephon then to meet, ) 25

No Damon’s Letters soft and sweet, )

No Thyrsis sighing at my Feet. )

No strange Adventures like Romances,

No tender squeezes, am’rous glances,

No Errant Knights or Trusty Squires, 30

No Rival Mothers, cruel Sires,

No close confinement, Bolts and Bars,

No Lover banish’d to the Wars,

No midnight assignation made,

No Confidante by whom betray’d 35

No Poetry of Flames and Darts

Beaming from Eyes or Piercing Hearts.

How common ev’ry thing and stupid

Without thy Aid, Oh Gentle Cupid!

Apollo’s self and all the Muses, 40

To whom I make my best excuses,

As Secretaries only write

While you oh God of Love Indite.

How weakly burns the Poet’s fires

Unless the powerfull God inspires. 45

These difficulties all I met

And much I fear shall meet them yet.

My last was dedicated ’tis true,

Oh Dullness, awfull Queen to you,

But I your pardon must implore 50

If I should ne’re address you more.

If Cupid or Apollo chuse

Or any kind good-natured Muse

To patronize my weak Essays,

They’re very wellcome to the praise. 55

Let one Inspire and t’other Write,

Their works I’m sure must give delight

And I shall allways grateful own

Those Favors that by them are shewn.

If notI even must dispense 60

With ev’ry thing butCommon Sense.


Text: Box 28, Reeves Collection, Bodleian Library; Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, pp. 168-69. Pocket book diaries were immensely popular in the eighteenth century. They were small bound booklets, designed to fit into one’s ‘pocket’, containing a page for each week of the year, divided into sections for each day of the week, with just enough space to make brief notations and, in some cases, a column to record monetary transactions. Several loose pages from pocket books belonging to Mary Steele, dating from 1770 to 1789, can be found in STE 5/16, in which she records where she went on a particular day, who visited her, letters written and received, sermon texts on Sunday, and even portions of poems she was working on at that time.