Letter

Scope and Content

From Elizabeth Ritchie in Bristol [postmark] to [Mary] Fletcher in Madeley. She would have responded to Fletcher’s letter before now had she not been attending to dear Mrs Ford who broke her leg six weeks ago and is confined to Mrs [William] Pine’s house. This event has kept her in Bristol and determined her path, which at the beginning of November was more uncertain than it has been for some years.

Two bones in Ford’s leg were broken and although the leg is healing quite well, she has suffered a great deal and this is the first day that she has been able to leave her bed.

Ritchie found their dear friend [Elizabeth] Johnson declining in health and has visited her once or twice most days, but in the last week or so, given Johnson’s extreme weakness, she has spent as much time as she has been able with their dear friend. Johnson asked her to write to her nephews and inform them that Ritchie was with her and would see to the necessary arrangements. She did not want them to come until she had actually died. ‘Her faithful Jenny was her kind, constant friend nurse and as a spiritual friend, our Lord inclined her heart to me. On Friday last she grew much worse; her bodily pains were great, but her resignation, patience, faith and love exceed far….’ On Monday evening, Johnson told Ritchie that God had removed her pain and she did not say much after that. ‘Only once said “What a thing the mind is? That mine should remain active after such agonies.” About three o’clock she said “I have fought”…about 4 she cried out “Come Lord come come.” A quarter of an hour after, “Lord” and entered into her master’s joy.’ Johnson often testified that she had no fear, only desire to be with God.

Johnson was born in 1721 and was ‘born again’ about fifty-three years ago next Christmas eve [1745]. She has left Mr Turner the £400 that he owed her, £50 to Mr Gee (a good local preacher), £100 to Jenny together with her clothes and most of her furniture. The rest of her estate was divided between her nephews. She is to be buried next Thursday about twenty miles away in Laycock where there is a family vault.

Johnson gave to Ritchie the papers relevant to her spiritual experience for the encouragement of others and her friends have asked that they may be published, together with her letters. What does Fletcher think?

Business matters are discussed in detail with specific regard to shares held in the [Kennet and Avon] Canal company by Fletcher and Mr Walters. They have commenced work about 10 miles at the Hungerford end and in about two months hope to get from Bradford to Bath. The other stretch up to Devizes will not be done until well into next year. Then they are hoping to have a reasonable trade going on along the waterway. It is as yet undetermined what they will do respecting the middle twenty miles. Sometimes they talk of waiting for the war with France to end and on other occasions of letting those subscribers who wish to continue, do so. They are also talking of carrying on with the tunnel – that will take three years to complete. The slowness of the tunnel work will not hold back the other part, which will take eighteen months to finish. The investors may receive some return the year after next, although work on the tunnel may swallow up any profit. Business matters are further discussed in detail.

Her love should be passed to Sally [Lawrance]