From Mathilda MacMann in Donaghadee, County Down, Ireland, to [Mary Tooth]. Last November Tooth kindly replied to a letter that McMann had written enquiring about the Methodist work in Madeley. It was most gratifying to think that the influence of those holy people [John and Mary Fletcher] should continue to be felt. When MacMann reads the memoirs of Mary Fletcher, and sees the conclusion written by Tooth, she can to a small degree share Tooth’s feelings when losing such a friend.
Tooth’s letter would have been answered before now but MacMann has been unwell and she has also been in several different places. Tooth’s letter has been carried over parts of three Irish counties . One of her friends would read it and then sent it to another ‘to proclaim the glad tidings that the work of God was prospering in Madeley’.
MacMann is at present re-reading [John?] Fletcher’s life. She is very interested in Mr Joshua[? See note below]. Is he still alive?
MacMann would second the wishes of [John] Fletcher’s nephew that Tooth add another chapter to [Mary] Fletcher’s life. Even though that lady is dead, yet she speaks. MacMann often thinks of the Madeley parsonage.
[Much of the rest of the letter is virtually unreadable], although reference is made to a recent journey through England and to letters between John Fletcher and [an unreadable name]. Reference is also made to [James] Ireland.
Although they have never met and probably never will, nevertheless MacMann feels that she is writing to an old friend.
- Possible reference to Joshua Gilpin (d.1828), an Anglican minister who was closely associated with John Fletcher during the early stages of his ministry. He spent a few months staying with Fletcher before his ordination and this made a deep and lasting impression. Gilpin served as Vicar of Wrockwardine in Shropshire between 1782 and 1828. Gilpin's published works included an improved edition of Pilgrim's Progress, an hymnal and a popular memorial to his son who died at a tragically early age. He also wrote a biographical account of Fletcher in his translation from the French of Fletcher's The Portrait of St Paul; or, the true Model for Christians and Pastors (Shrewsbury 1790). Gilpin collaborated with James Ireland and Mary Fletcher in a proposed biography of Fletcher that was never in fact published. Source: Wesley's Designated Successor by Luke Tyerman (London 1882) and the Victoria County History of Shropshire, volume 11, 319
- James Ireland (1724-1814) was born in Beaminster, Dorset. He was a wealthy shipowner and sugar merchant whose business was centred in Bristol. Ireland served as a magistrate and High Sheriff of Somerset. He lived for much of his life in Brislington Hall where he provided hospitality for many of the leading figures of the Revival. He was a particularly close friend of John Fletcher. Ireland maintained a neutral position in the ideological disputes which plagued Methodism and was generous in his support of Methodist and Anglican causes. He was instrumental in the founding of the Bristol Clerical Education Society in 1795. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)