From Bristol [postmark] to Mary Fletcher. March has been asked by her sister [Mrs Berkin] to inform Fletcher of the death of [the sister’s] husband on 14 January. ‘My sister acted the Christian & Divine bore the burden of his soul, carried him in faith and prayer to the Lord – greatly assisted him in prayer in his last moments and commended his soul in the act of departure to God – in short her conduct and yours was very similar…she considers widowhood as a sacred calling, the highest in the Church.’
March’ sister has ‘gone thro very uncommon scenes, and severe trials this last six months been indeed cast into a furnace, heated seven times more than it is want to be, & is coming forth as gold.’
A week before Mr ‘B’s [Berkin] death, March’s sister read him a few portions of scripture. Spiritual matters are discussed with specific regard to ‘B’s spiritual state before he died. He was ill for a long time, about three years before his death, and for the last twelve months he was in a state of great disability of limbs and faculties. His mental state was very poor although he had a few lucid moments. He did however recover his senses just before he died.
[Elizabeth] Ritchie sends her love and asks that Fletcher write to her when convenient.
March herself has been ill with a fever for the last three weeks, which has affected her nervous system. She had a blessed meeting with [Elizabeth] Johnson last Saturday 'and she seemed once more to admit me into the number of the living.' Today March is to go to call on her sister and see her brother-in-law's corpse.
'I can give you but a little account of the church, only the people go on well in general but the chaple is so let out for hire, that it blocks out those, who are not free to take tickets - and I think the letting out a place of worship for hire and making a traffick of the House of God, a wicked thing. At least an ill-judged one…'
Mrs Johnson thinks that Mr [William] Tandey is 'given of the Lord to feed the church now wondring in the wilderness - he preaches under much divine influence - and a blessing accompanies the word'.
Miss Ritchie is afraid that Fletcher's silence indicates that she is unwell.
- Elizabeth Johnson (1720-98) was the daughter of a West India Merchant resident in Bristol. Disinherited by her father when she joined the Methodists, she lived on an annuity bequeathed to her by her uncle. Johnson was described by the Wesleyan minister John Valton as one of the three most pious women in Methodism. Her home in Hilgrove Street was a centre of the movement in the city of Bristol and she was a described by John Wesley as ‘deep in grace, and lives like an angel here below.’ Johnson was one of the conservative wing of Methodism opposed to separation from the Church of England. Her memoir was published in 1799 as An Account of Mrs Elizabeth Johnson. Source: A Biographical Dictionary of 18th century Methodism by Samuel Rogal (Edwin Mellen Press 1997).
- William Tandey (1750-1832) was born in Bristol and spent his childhood at the nearby village of Brislington. He was educated at St Edmund Hall Oxford and was ordained deacon in 1773 and priest a year later. He served as Curate of St Mary-le-Port in Bristol between 1784 and 1799 and then as Rector of St Werburgh, Bristol until 1803. Tandey's ministry was strongly evangelical and was very popular. He appears to have been a particular favorite of the strong Church-Methodist party within Bristol Methodism. Source: MAM/FL/5/2/4-5 and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995).