Written during a Visit to the New Works near Leicester, the Residence of Miss Coltman

When first within these venerable Walls

I entered, a delighted wandering Guest,

The lofty Arch, the spacious antique Halls,

With many a Day Dream held my Soul possess’d.

Where am I borne! from Ages vanish’d long

What Hand withdraws the Veil which Time hath spread?

In Scenes like these were heard the Minstrel’s song,

In Scenes like these abode the mighty Dead.

The Tales of other Times my Fancy fire

As aw’d the massy Staircase I ascend.

The steel clad Hero, the Enchanter dire,

Seem almost at her bidding to attend.

Dare I proceed – should yonder Doors unfold,

What Scenes of Wonder may they not disclose –

Perhaps some Form of more than mental mold

Or some fair Lady lock’d in long Repose!

My Dreams are realized – these Walls contain

A fair Enchantress, whose resistless Sway

Full many a Courteous Knight has mourn’d in vain,

To all the “Witcheries of Love” a Prey.

Nor they alone – Enchantment reigns around,

More powerful Spell than those of old I find;

They only in a forced Subjection bound,

Here Kindness Captivates the willing Mind.

Text: MS, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, STE 5/3; 5/1 (transcribed by Mary Steele Tomkins); also Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 143-44. Elizabeth Coltman of Newarke (1761-1838) was a Leicester socialite and writer, known for her great beauty and wit and for rejecting a number of suitors (she never married). At the time of the above poem she was living with her parents in their impressive three-story home in the Newarke, a section of Leicester dating from the fourteenth century and forming what was once the South Field of the town. The Coltmans were members of the Great Meeting (Presbyterian) in Leicester, but after the arrival of Robert Hall in Leicester in 1807, Elizabeth moved her membership to the Baptist church in Harvey Lane. She was a friend (but not a direct relation) of Elizabeth Coltman Heyrick (1769-1831), also of Leicester, who became one of England’s leading abolitionist writers in the 1820s. The occasion of Mary Steele’s visit was most likely the illness and subsequent death in 1788 of Anne Coltman Cooper (1753-88), who attended boarding school in Stoke Newington in the mid-1760s, at the same time that Mary Steele was attending school at Mrs. King’s establishment in nearby Hackney. Mrs. King and her scholars attended the Independent meeting in Mare Street, Hackney, and it may be that some of the young ladies at the school in Stoke Newington attended by Anne Coltman also attended at Mare Street. Whatever the case, at some point the two girls met and became friends. Steele had met Elizabeth Coltman prior to the occasion of the above poem (Coltman first appears in the Steele correspondence in a letter by Jane Attwater to Mary Steele in 1785), but their friendship flourished in the late 1780s and steadily grew thereafter. In many respects, Coltman became Mary Scott’s replacement in Mary Steele’s life, providing the kind of literary stimulation that Scott, after her marriage, was unable to sustain. For more on Coltman, see Skillington, ‘The Coltmans’, pp. 3-40; for the published and unpublished poetry and prose of Elizabeth Coltman, see Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 3, pp. 383-88; vol. 4, pp. 215-57; vol. 7, pp. 14-22, 275-326.