From Mrs Willis’ house at Stroud to Mary Fletcher in Madeley. Fletcher’s letter reached Bristol about a month after Ritchie had left that place. It was forwarded to her here and has ‘proved a word in season’ Spiritual matters are discussed in detail with particular regard to Ritchie’s own spiritual state.
Before she left Bristol she wrote to dear Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] about a lodging that would have suited her, but though she had mentioned last year the possibility of visiting Bristol, her reply seemed undetermined. The painting of Lady Mary’s London home turned her thoughts once more to visiting Madeley and perhaps that would be for the best as the poor in Madeley would certainly miss her Ladyship’s annual assistance.
Mr [Thomas Tregenna] Biddulph has been ill since February. He had carried on preaching since the death of Mr Shrapnal his father-in-law, but the exertion of preaching the funeral sermon etc had its effect. Dr Frazer ordered him to desist from preaching for two months and he has been spending time in the country hoping to recover. ‘They have had Mr [Charles] Simeon from Cambridge and expect Mr [William Bromley] Cadogan to assist [William] Tandy as he is but weak and cannot bear much. Our friends who do not like to attend at the new chapel [Guinea Street] have, with the help of others, established an evening lecture at St Werburgh’s [Anglican] Church [the evangelical William Tandy was the minister here] on a Sunday evening at 6 o’clock. Mr Biddulph is their lecturer. It is well-attended but our preachers are much hurt at it and, I have heard, intend to take it up seriously. If so, they will drive many of our friends there out of the society. My mind has been not a little pained at some steps which have been taken since I left Bristol.’ [Reference to the continuing tension arising from the Portland Street Chapel dispute – see earlier correspondence.]
Did Fletcher know Brother Stock Coulsons Pardoe? He has now ‘gone home’ [died] but left a blessed testimony behind. He had been ill about a week and when his son asked him how he was, replied that he was no worse but as he did not know the Lord’s intentions, he would like to give instructions for his funeral arrangements. He took a loving leave of his family and stated that while he was unaware of any offence that he had committed, he nevertheless trusted in Christ alone for his salvation. Those were his last words and he died five minutes after.
Ritchie is now with a much-afflicted friend Mrs Freebury who has long been in the ‘anti-chamber of death.’ Ritchie intends to stay with her Stroud friends until August and then hopes to spend some time with Mrs [Ann] Conybeare [better known as Ann Bolton], but does not know when she will be heading Fletcher’s way. She thinks that she may be called to Wiltshire in September and she will have to remain a little while in both Bath and Bristol, so she cannot make many firm plans at the moment.
The D’Oliers [of Dublin] were very pleased with Fletcher’s invitation, but he [either Isaac or Richard D’Olier] is so great an invalid now that he does not think he can accept. He has now gone to Ireland accompanied by his oldest daughter [Maria] as nurse in order to settle his affairs before returning to live in Gloucester. His wife, son and daughter are staying in Gloucester with his wife’s elderly aunt until the autumn. When Ritchie last saw them in Bristol, he intended going by ‘long sea’ but she has since heard that the high number of passengers caused him to change his mind and he left from Park Gate near Chester instead. If so, they would have passed very close to Madeley and Ritchie is sure that Maria would have called on Fletcher if she had been able.
Ritchie will see about Han [Hannah?] Southcote when she goes to Bristol – as long as she has her 5 shillings per week she is just about able to manage, but they have talked much lately in the [class] leaders meetings of withholding part of it as their finances are running very low.
Ritchie’s love should be passed to Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] if she is with Fletcher.
- Thomas Tregenna Biddulph (1763-1838) was born in Worcestershire, the son of the Anglican clergyman and writer Thomas Biddulph (1735-1790). He was educated at Truro and at Queen’s College Oxford. After ordination, Biddulph served several curacies including one to his father at Padstow. From 1793 to 1803 he was incumbent at Bengeworth and in 1799 was appointed Perpetual Curate of Bristol St James. Biddulph was prominent in evangelical circles. He set up a Sunday School, introduced a Visiting Society, and was a pioneer of both the Bristol Female Penitentiary Society and the Church of England Tract Society. He was also an early member of the Church Missionary Society, a founder of the Bristol Church Missionary Association and the first treasurer and secretary of the Bristol Clerical Education Society. Biddulph was a prolific writer and played a leading role in the 1815 baptismal controversy. He was a strong churchman and was opposed to Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Charles Simeon (1759-1836) was the son of Richard Simeon of Reading, Berkshire. His elder brother was Sir John Simeon, Master in Chancery and First Baronet (1756-1824). Simeon was educated at Eton and King's College Cambridge where he was converted. He was ordained deacon in 1782 and shortly afterwards made the acquaintance of John Venn the evangelical clergyman and associate of the Wesleys. Simeon at first worked as a curate at St Edward's, Cambridge and was then appointed Vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge. After much initial opposition because of his reputation for piety, Simeon won over the parishioners through his unflagging energy and benevolence. He was three times Dean of King's College and vice-provost from 1790 to 1792. Simeon is best known for his promotion of Anglican missionary work in India. A close friend of Charles Grant, a director of the East India Company, Simeon was his confidential advisor with regard to the appointment of chaplains. He persuaded some of his own curates, such as Henry Martyn, to offer for work overseas. He was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society in 1797 and a supporter of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Source: Dictionary of National Biography
- William Bromley Cadogan (1751-1797) was born in London, the second son of the Earl of Cadogan. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church Oxford, graduating in 1773. After ordination into the Anglican ministry, Cadogan was appointed to the wealthy living of St Giles, Reading. He added a second parish in 1775 with his appointment to the family living of St Luke’s, Chelsea. In the early years of his ministry, Cadogan appears to have been hostile to the evangelical movement and he dismissed a curate of that persuasion from Reading. Such an action was in keeping with Cadogan’s personality – he was said to be abrupt and autocratic. He was nevertheless an active parish priest, closely involved in sick visiting, distributing bibles and in generosity to the poor. After a serious illness in 1782, Cadogan adopted evangelical views. He divided his time between his two parishes and employed the well-known evengelical Erasmus Middleton as his curate in Chelsea. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Ann Bolton (1743-1822) was the daughter of a baker from Witney in Oxfordshire. She 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)