To Miss Reid with Theodosia's Poems, 1807, after her presenting me with Marmion &c

Oh for a Minstrel’s Aid to sing

Not feats of Arms, of blood and strife,

Which honor and destruction bring,

But finer deeds of peaceful life.

O Friendship that delights to strew

My Evening path with Spring’s sweet flowers,

Of many a variegated hue,

Pluck’d from Parnassus’s loftiest Bowers.

But Ah no Minstrel’s Lyre is found,

No Muse amidst these valleys strays,

Yet many a sweet and solemn sound

Their echoes leant in former days.

Oh breathe again that hallowed strain,

Waft it to Leicester’s fruitful plain,

And add, tho’ genius hence is flown,

Feeling and gratitude remain.

Text: STE 5/3; also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, p. 162. The works mentioned here are Anne Steele’s Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, 2 vols (London: J. Buckland, 1760) which was reprinted in Bristol in 1780, along with a third volume, Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose. Anne Steele’s poems were republished in Boston in 1808, but given the date of the poem, that would not have been the edition given to Reid. Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion, a six-canto poem about the Battle of Flodden (1513), first appeared in Edinburgh early in 1808. Steele may have written the poem late in 1807, dating it in anticipation of receiving the volume from Mary Reid. It is more likely that the first copies of Marmion were released at the end of 1807, though bearing the date of 1808 on the title page. Reid’s gift reflects both her wealth and her appreciation of Mary Steele, for this first edition copy of Marmion (of which 2000 were printed) sold for 1½ guineas, a considerable sum at that time for a book. Mary Reid (1769-1839) was the daughter of Matthew and Mary Atchison Reid of Leicester. One brother, also named Matthew, was a merchant in Leicester; another brother, John (1766-1822), a physician and Unitarian, settled in London and was an acquaintance of Henry Crabb Robinson and Dr. Richard Pulteney (1730-1801). Like Coltman, Mary Reid also joined the congregation at Harvey Lane during Robert Hall’s ministry in Leicester. She never married, rejecting numerous suitors, including the poet James Graham. After the death of her brother, she inherited a considerable amount of property, both in Leicester and Glasgow, where her father had originated. According to the Glasgow historian, Robert Reid, ‘Miss Mary Reid was a literary lady, and was spoken of as a blue stocking in my early days’. She was a close friend of Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Benger, even spending three weeks in the Lake District in 1802 with the latter. ‘She was also’, Reid adds, ‘a keen politician, of the Foxite school’, all of this would have placed her in good company with Mary Steele and their mutual friend, Elizabeth Coltman. As to Reid’s appreciation for Steele, she left these words in a letter to Coltman after Steele’s death: ‘I have moments of more exquisite & delightful feeling in thinking over the virtues of our dear dear friend, than in associating with any living one’ (see below, letter 136). See Robert Reid [Senex], Old Glasgow and its Environs (Glasgow: David Robertson; London: Longman, 1864), p. 55; Leicestershire Record Office, especially 15D57/63, 15D57/226; and Journal of Samuel Coltman, Leicestershire Record Office, 15D56/449.