From Bristol to Mary Fletcher. It has taken March a long time to respond to Fletcher’s last. ‘My pen has been much out of use all the winter and my way dark and thorny – through much discouragment within and without.’ Fletcher’s letter of 23 August  did not actually reach March until October – the post is quicker than private hands and it is an expense that March never grudges as intercourse by letter is often better even then conversation. She is now reading through [John] Fletcher’s [printed] letters and is particularly interested because of her acquaintance with many of the people and incidents mentioned in them. One of Fletcher’s old friends and nurses has recently died, and as Fletcher might not have received information concerning her decease, March encloses the following detailed account. She is sure that Fletcher would be interested in a person who ministered to John Fletcher during his last sickness.
Mrs Jane Thornton died on 9 March. [Although the letter was written in Bristol, it is clear from internal evidence that Jane Thornton’s death occurred in London, as did Melville Horne’s preaching to the Methodist societies just prior to his departure for Sierra Leone.] ‘She was chanting Hallelujahs in the morning, at noon taken with insensible convulsions that softened the stronger graps of dissolution, and she had a very singular evening; To see her Maker face to face, Paradisical bloom, lightsome images, or rather realities, agreeable intercourses…’
Mrs Ray writes ‘about four years since Mrs Thornton was taken suddenly with convulsions, fits which rendered her insensible while they lasted, and of which she seldom recoverd of several days, these returned once 3.4.5. or 6 months, until her decease, in one of which her spirit flew to God, the first of these seized on a Sunday at dinner, after hearing Mr [John] Richardson preach from these words “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous flee unto it…’
Thornton enjoyed the consolation offered by the above words and ‘sat down to dinner rejoicing in such a hiding place, and while in the fit frequently repeated sweet Jesus; the return of these fits during the four years proved a source of exquisite trial to her mind, she was assaulted in various ways by the grand enemy of our peace, he often persuaded her it was such a strange disorder, that no-one ever had the like; then her unfaithfulness in times past, present uselessness, great trouble she gave her friends etc etc created frequent distress, nevertheless tho cast down she did not sink…Jesus was near, sat by her in the furnace…then kissed her fears away…she was purged, purified, made white till by the course of the wise and good process , she obtained what she often prayd and longd for, a closer walk with God…this she frequently testified to in the midst of all her complaints…she suffered much in the dread of her fits coming on, for she had previous symptoms of their approach, but a month or two before her death, that dread was removed, and she yielded herself fully up into the hands of her heavenly father. Six months before her dissolution at a prayer meeting at Mrs Greenwood’s, she was kneeling close by me and praying vocally, when she sank suddenly, down on one side, senseless. She was carried upstairs, put to bed, when Dr [John] Whitehead came, he found she had wholly lost her right side by a paralytick stroke, her speech was also gone, but after a few weeks the Lord graciously restored that, and she was inabled to converse with frds [friends] – sat up every day and eat her food very well, but never recoverd her leg & arm, had several fits during the last six months, in each of which they expected her spirit would take its flight…’. Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail with regard to Thornton’s state in the months before her death.
‘The monody[?] wrote on Mr Wesley in the magazines as one of her [Thornton’s] last works, do I think, her honour.’
Fletcher has probably heard that [Melville] Horne is preaching to the Methodists here before he leaves England [for Sierra Leone]. ‘He is a scribe well-instructed, full of matter, and preaches to our edification.’
On 4 June they had a pleasing sight – ‘450 children walking [up the] street in procession, neatly clothed with their school [mistress] following each school, of which there is 14 [and] to bring in the rear came 24 girls, who are gone out of the [school] to [domestic] service, a pole with a board, with this inscription, was [carried] before them “we return to give thanks” - a gown from the charity was given them & if they stay, a twelve-month in their places, they are promised a cloak next year – these benevolent schools in this parish is supported by voluntary contributions, are of three years standing, the children are taught to work, knit, read and instructed in righteousness – on the anniversary they have a dinner of meat & pudding – to each school there is of gentlefolks 2 governors, 3 governesses – who visit the schools mannage the whole with great attention & exertion, and to whom the school mistress is quite subservient, it is certainly a noble charity.’
As for March’s own condition, she could enter onto a long list of desires. These include ‘a door of faith and hope set before me, liberty given me by the Lord to enter the Holiest thro the blood of Jesus…’ Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
March’s brother [Thomas March-Phillipps], wife [Susan] and two daughters [Susan and Sophia] have been to visit, which was a great pleasure.
She has heard that Fletcher has been ill – ‘full of the hopes of joining your friends in light I suppose.’ How is dear Mrs [Sarah] Crosby? March has very little communication with Mrs Pine [Almost certainly the wife of the prominent Bristol Methodist and printer William Pine.] who is very busy with family matters. Mrs Ewer and Mrs Mills are March’s most intimate friends.
‘I was exercised in April by Mrs Miles taking a lodging close to me – her apartment looking full on my bedchamber. I feared her molesting me with altercations, solicitations etc in my going in & out, & that she came with crafty designs, & that providence let her take that step to be a scourge to me. My prayer was “Give me not over to the will of my enemies” – it has been answered. She keeps quiet & rather out of my sight, keeps a school & seems to find friends and a living.’
- John Richardson (1734-92) was the son of an ale-house keeper from Kirkleathlen in Cleveland. He was educated at Scorton School and St John's College Cambridge, graduating in 1756. He was ordained into the Anglican Church and served several curacies, before being expelled from his parish for evangelical preaching. He joined the Methodists in 1762 and was appointed by John Wesley to be an assistant in London. He later served as one of the readers at City Road Chapel and officiated at John Wesley's funeral. Richardson suffered from severe asthma for a number of years and died from its affects at Camberwell in February 1792. He was buried in Wesley’s grave. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974), George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial (1872), 370 and 375 and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Dr John Whitehead (1740-1804) was a physician at the Bethlehem Hospital in London and for a short time an itinerant preacher. He was one of John Wesley's favorite doctors and attended both John and Charles Wesley during their last illness. Whitehead also preached John Wesley's funeral sermon in City Road Chapel. As an executor of John Wesley's will, Whitehead had access to his papers and was appointed to write the official biography of Wesley, which appeared in two volumes between 1793 and 1796. He also published the earliest biography of Charles Wesley. Whitehead was interred in Wesley's vault at City Road. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial (1872), .377-378
- Melville Horne (c.1761-c.1841) was the son of an Antiguan barrister and planter and the nephew of Nathaniel Gilbert (c.1721-1774) the pioneer of West Indian Methodism. Horne entered the Wesleyan itinerancy in 1784 and was ordained into the Anglican ministry a short time after on John Wesley's recommendation. In 1786 he succeeded to the curacy at John Fletcher's old parish of Madeley, but retained his connection with Methodism and was appointed Superintendent of the new Wolverhampton circuit in 1787. In 1792 Horne became chaplain of Sierra Leone in West Africa where he joined his second cousin Nathaniel Gilbert junior. He was however unable to adapt to the climate and returned to England in 1793 and published his Letters on Missions a year later. Horne served as Vicar of Olney from 1796 to 1799 and then succeeded the evangelical minister David Simpson at Christ Church Macclesfield. Horne enjoyed a close friendship with Jabez Bunting but this turned to coldness on both sides which culminated in Horne's final break with Methodism in 1809. He later served Anglican parishes in Essex, Cornwall and Salford. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Sarah Crosby (1729-1804) was born in Leeds, Yorkshire. She inclined toward Calvinism as a young woman but joined the Methodists after hearing Wesley preach. She moved to London in 1757 after her husband deserted her and was appointed a class leader at the Foundery. In 1761 Crosby moved to Derby and became one of the first female preachers in Methodism. With Wesley's encouragement, she traveled extensively on preaching tours between London and Yorkshire for many years before retiring to her birthplace. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995) and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)
- Mrs Ewer (d.1824) was a resident of Bristol. She was converted at the age of fifteen and two years later was appointed a class leader by John Wesley. She served the Bristol society as a class leader for over fifty years. Ewer died on 15 August 1824. Source: Arminian Magazine 1824, 647