From Elizabeth Gilbert [in London] to Mary Fletcher. She returned home yesterday after spending five weeks at her brother's [Nathaniel Gilbert, the Anglican incumbent in Bledlow] and had the pleasure of finding Fletcher's kind letter. It is a pleasure to do any favour for Fletcher, and she will therefore waste no time in getting the picture. Unfortunately as the person who will carry this letter leaves London tomorrow morning, she is unable to do it in time for this communication. Mrs Mortimer will however be going [to Madeley] shortly and Gilbert hopes to see her in a few days. Further details are discussed with regard to written communications and when and how it was intended that they were sent. Reference is made to a message for Gilbert contained in a letter from Fletcher to Mrs Mortimer.
I am very glad that Mr Yate is not averse to having extracts taken from the journal of my truly excellent & beloved sister. I acknowledge it would be highly gratifying to me to see an account of her printed, but as it will not be complete without extracts from her journal, I have done nothing to forward it appearing - so I think it dubious yet whether or not it will ever be done. She would be obliged if Fletcher could outline in her next letter what probability there is of it appearing. [Nathaniel Gilbert] says that he advised Mr [Yate] to ask [Joseph] Benson to prepare the account of her from the journals, but he objected. Gilbert could easily approach Benson if Yate wished. Reference is made to a copy of the inscription which Fletcher mentioned. Gilbert can honestly say that the loss of her dear sister has greatly upset her. Spiritual matters are discussed. Gilbert was reading this morning a letter of her sister's dated October 1800, eighteen months before her death - a spiritual passage is quoted. Gilbert has a large collection of her letters. She is very concerned for her sister's children and that distance prevents her from trying to make up for the loss of their mother. They will never however want for friends at Madeley ''& in you my dear Madam a kind instructor as well as friend'.
Spiritual matters are discussed in detail in relation to questions raised by Fletcher's last letter.
[Nathaniel Gilbert] seems keen to achieve conversions. He preached a 'very plain & faithful sermon' last Sunday and on the Sunday before gave great offence to some of his congregation 'by being so much in earnest with them'. Gilbert heard Mr Scott of the [unreadable two words] preach twice while she was in [Bledlow] and thinks that he a is a great preacher and an excellent man. [Peard?] Dickinson's life is to be published [his autobiography edited by Joseph Benson] and Gilbert will endeavour to transcribe his dying experience and send it to Fletcher by Mrs Mortimer. When Gilbert sees her [Mortimer], she will mention Fletcher's disappointment at not hearing from her.
Gilbert intends calling on [Joseph] Benson later in the week and will pass on Fletcher's message. Gilbert's love should be passed to Mr Yate and he should also be told that her brother [Nathaniel] requested [John] Horton to inform him of Mr Kirby's arrival - he is at present at Bath. Gilbert's sister and Euphemia send their love and her respects should also be passed to Mr Walter.
Reference is made to a parcel and to Mrs Parks. Her regards should be passed to Mrs Ferriday, Mrs Patrick, Miss Davis and Mrs Loyd etc, and also of course Miss Tooth.
- Elizabeth Gilbert (fl.1800) was the daughter of Nathaniel Gilbert senior (c.1721-74), the founder of West Indian Methodism and sister of the West African missionary Nathaniel Gilbert junior (1761-1807). She was born probably in the West Indies but moved to England before 1800 and lived first in London and then Buckingham. Little is known about her except that she was a close friend and correspondent of the female evangelist Mary Fletcher. Source: Fletcher-Tooth collection
- Joseph Benson (1748-1821) was born of farming stock at Mamerby in Cumberland. Intended by his father for the Anglican ministry, Benson received a sound classical education and became a teacher at the age of sixteen. Converted under the influence of a Methodist cousin, he was introduced to John Wesley and was appointed classics master at Kingswood School. In 1769 Benson entered St Edmund Hall Oxford but was denied Anglican orders because of his Methodist sympathies. Afer serving for a short time as headmaster of the Countess of Huntingdon's ministerial training college at Trevecca, he joined the Methodist itinerancy in 1771. Benson was a great favourite of John Wesley and the two often corresponded. He went on to become President of Conference in 1798 and 1810 and served as its secretary in 1805 and 1809. In 1803 Benson was appointed connexional editor and in this capacity was a major influence on the development of the Methodist Magazine. Despite his own experiences, Benson was a staunch supporter of the link with the Church of England and two of his own sons entered the Anglican priesthood. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Peard Dickinson (1758-1802) was born at Topsham, Devon, the son of a wealthy landowner. He was educated at Taunton School before moving to Bristol to commence a career in business. At Bristol he lodged with a Methodist family and was converted. Intent on entering the Anglican ministry, Dickinson proceeded to Oxford to read Classics. He was ordained in 1783. While at the university, he was visited by John Wesley and spent his vacations assisting at City Road Chapel and Methodist Societies elsewhere. Dickinson served for a short time as curate to Revd. Vincent Perronet, and in 1786 was invited by John Wesley, to be a resident Anglican clergyman at City Road Chapel in London. He was employed in preaching, administering the sacraments and attending prayer and class meetings. He also assisted Wesley in the ordination of several preachers. Dickinson was not apparently a gifted preacher but had a strong reputation for piety. He was appointed one of Wesley's executors. His wife was Elizabeth Briggs (1751-1822), granddaughter of Vincent Perronet. Dickinson's autobiography was edited after his death by Joseph Benson, and was published in Britain and the United States. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995) and George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial (1872), pp.396-397
- Nathaniel Gilbert junior (1761-1807) was the son of Nathaniel Gilbert (c.1721-1774) the pioneer of West Indian Methodism. He was born on the island of Antigua and was ordained into the Church of England as a young man. Like his cousin Melville Horne, he served as a curate to John Fletcher at Madeley and in 1792 was appointed as the first chaplain to the settlement of freed slaves in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He returned to England after a stay in Africa of less than two years and spent his remaining years as the Vicar of Bledlow in Buckinghamshire. The architect Sir George Gilbert Scott was Gilbert's great grandson. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- John Horton (d.1802) was a wealthy London merchant, who was active in both civic affairs and London Methodism. He was a good friend of the Wesleys and acted as one of the executors of John Wesley's will. Horton remained until the end of his life, a staunch supporter of the link with the Church of England. Source: Methodist Magazine 1803, p.211