From Otley to Mary Fletcher in Madeley. An awful providence has been the reason why Ritchie has returned home. Ritchie returned to Bristol about the 11th. Lady Mary [Fitzgerald’s] imminent arrival obliged Ritchie to leave Stroud sooner than she would have done otherwise, but it was to meet with a heavy stroke. ‘On the 18th July I had an uncommon depression of spirits: it seemed as if a storm hung over my head…this continued in a mAnnr I could not account for and on the 21st I had a letter from Otley which informed me they [the Ritchie family] were all well. Still my mind was solemn as death…on the 23rd I received a letter from Otley informing me that my dear, my only, my beloved brother [John] was no more an inhabitant of time. He had been a journey on business and was so poorly as to be obliged to take a chaise home (this was Thursday the 18th) Friday he was poorly [and] not able to do much but sit in a great chair and sometimes give orders to others. In the evening he seemed much better and about 2 o’clock told my sister [in-law] he was better and thought his complaint had taken a favourable turn. At five he drank two cups of tea and begged my sister [in-law] would do something out of the room. She went out but hearing him pray fervently returned and asked him how he was? He replied “middling”. She went out again but could not stay and on returning found him dying. Before the children could get into the room, he had joined our elder brethren…’ No-one had any idea that he fatally ill and the apothecary says that it was a spasm that took him.
Ritchie is comforted by the fact that her brother had been a steady Christian for twenty-nine years and that lately he had been more serious than ever. She is however very upset – spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
Ritchie has a terrible dilemma – her own affairs call her back to Bristol but her sister-in-law and her relations expect her to remain in Otley. Her dear brother [John] died without leaving a will and although she understands that he left a reasonable fortune, his business interests were extensive and lack of money in-hand has left his widow financially embarrassed for the moment. Their oldest son [John] is aged 15 [John, son of John Ritchie, was christened at Otley in Yorkshire on 20 October 1784] and is a fine boy able to keep the account books. There is a girl aged seventeen and boys aged seven and four. Also, Ritchie’s mother is still alive and needs financial help as previously. When Ritchie is in Bristol, she is able to give her mother assistance but ‘when here, it oppresses me. There, Mrs Ford’s is a comfortable home, from which I have full liberty to go and come and spend my time as the providence of God opens. Here, constant burden of fatigue casts upon me. I am expected to do what neither body, mind, nor circumstances can reach…My mother wishes me back again at Bristol, because she says “If I stay here, my health will suffer and if I am taken away too, she will be desolate indeed.” I have been very poorly since I came home.’
Spiritual matters are discussed.
Ritchie’s sister-in-law intends to carry on her husband’s business until her son John is aged 21 and can take over the concern. Ritchie has received a very kind and affectionate letter from Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] – she has recovered her strength very well and has visited Bristol. Mrs Ford is also much better.
Has Fletcher seen the account of Mrs Thornton’s death – it is being sold by the Methodist Bookroom. [An Account of the Death of Mrs Ann Thornton (London: Printed for G. Whitfield,1799) ]
‘Mrs [Ann] Conybeare’s income proves £120 besides half the furniture and half the house they lived in. His brother will not have her as a partner: the business was not left to anyone in particular but she has no right in it, except what having half the house left to her in which it is carried on.’
- Ann Conybeare (1743-1822) is better known to Methodists under her maiden name of Bolton. She was the daughter of a baker from Witney in Oxfordshire and was one of John Wesley's closest friends from the time of their first correspondence in 1768 until Wesley's death. He referred to her as 'the sister of my choice.' Bolton was a devoted Methodist and acted as a class leader for many years. She was married in 1792 to George Conybeare, merchant of Gloucester. Her brother Edward (1747-1818) was a well-known local preacher and companion of John Wesley. Source: Wesleyan Methodist Magazine 1822, p.482, The Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford, and 'Nancy, Nancy' by John Banks (1984)