A letter to Mary Harrison, 179917th February 2023
A letter from Mary Naftel, nee Higman (b. Cornwall, 1756-1820), to Mary Harrison, 1799. From The Friends' Miscellany, Volume 11. Mary was the wife of clockmaker and Quaker Nicholas Naftel (1762-1852), and travelled extensively in the ministry, including to America.
From Mary Naftel.
Guernsey, 22nd of 5th mo. 1799.
My beloved friend,—
An opportunity presenting for conveying a few lines, and not knowing but it may be the last ere thou leaves England, I was willing to embrace it; if only to send the remembrance of my dear love which has been often raised, and still lives in my heart for and towards thee, with desires for thy safe guidance through the intricate, winding, exercised path that I believe thou hast to tread in beyond many, and I suppose somewhat contrary to thy own views and expectations. But what of that? It's no matter how difficult the path may have been, or may now seem to be, if patience and perseverance are but afforded to keep therein the appointed season. I think, for my part, I generally feel most unity with those that are led a little out of the common line; not merely (I hope) from a liking of any thing of that kind, but because I think the state of the church requires it: and as we, as a society, come more and more out of formality and a dependance one upon another, it will I expect become more the case, that our exercises will be more apart, and perhaps in some respects different one from another.
As for myself, the comparison to an owl in the desert, or a sparrow upon the house-top, is most fitly mine: but I desire contentment, and am sometimes favoured with it to my own admiration, and to feel something of a calm or quietness of mind, which, at times, I am ready to fear I may too much rest in, like a cessation from exercise on account of others; except now and then occasional or apparently accidental opportunities occur. But to labour after a resigned mind seems all that is necessary, either to be or not to be employed in the Lord's work. I write in freedom to thee, my dear friend, having very few to commune with;no father or mother, in the spiritual import of the word; and I am ready to apprehend I may never see thee more. The visit of thy beloved countrywoman, Sarah Talbot, with her companions, was truly acceptable to us; and you both remain to be near and dear, even as epistles written on my heart, so that at seasons I think neither time nor distance will ever erase the impression. I continue to feel a solicitude on account of my beloved friends thus engaged in the work, who have gone as with their lives in their hands, and have been and are as pilgrims and strangers in the earth; not counting their lives dear unto themselves, that so like the good apostle they may finish their course with joy. I have no doubt, as there is a faithful continuance herein, that this will be your happy experience at last, whatever may yet be your allotted probations. I desire to be remembered by you in your solemn awful approaches before the invisible I AM, in secret as well as public. I partake, I think, in part with you now assembled at Yearly Meeting, trusting that Divine help is and will be near to favour you together with those streams of refreshment that come from his presence, in which
there truly is life, and a remnant who are sensible of it cannot but praise him therefor. These he will preserve, as they keep near unto him in lowliness of mind and in singleness of heart, both in heights and in depths; yea, though they may walk as in the valley and shadow of death, they shall see no evil. Ah! my beloveds, my heart is enlarged towards you in tender love. Look not out; fear not man; nor depend at all upon man whose breath is but in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? For so it is, when we look too much that way, it may be permitted that we may be the more tried in order to wean us from all outward dependance.
With endeared love, in which my husband joins, I conclude, and am thy truly affectionate friend, MARY NAFTEL.
Nicholas Naftel: https://journals.sas.ac.uk/fhs/article/download/3736/3687/
Carey, Edith, 'The beginnings of Quakerism in Guernsey', 1918.