Yesterday evening [3 May], they sailed down from Gravesend [the first stage of his journey to Sierra Leone] with a very gentle wind and anchored at 11pm. They weighed anchor with the morning’s tide and have come down as far as they dare but have been compelled to anchor again and lose a fine wind as the tide has ebbed and there is insufficient water to get over the flats. They must therefore remain here until morning. As the wind and sea are pretty strong, Horne fears that he will not be able to hold his pen for much longer. They are however in good health and spirits and have slept well and have not been sea sick, having gradually grown accustomed to the motion of the vessel. His Nelly [wife?] is a good companion and he has much to praise God for on that point.
His friend [Joseph] Hardcastle has been very kind and they have spent much time together, travelling into London in the morning and returning in the evening, or staying a day as he wishes. Messrs [Henry] Thornton, Wolfe [George Wolff?] and [unreadable name] are his main friends although Hardcastle as the man with the greatest leisure has been the most attentive. Hardcastle took Horne’s wife aside, as they were leaving, and promised that if Horne were to die abroad, he would take care of their son [Edward].
He must lay down his pen at this point as his head will not permit him to write any longer.
Having emptied his stomach, he will now resume, while his wife lies on the bed.
Horne must refer Fletcher to his letter to Mr Yate, which will also go with this letter, for anything which he does not refer to here. He must ask her to send [his son] Edward’s little bedstead to Horne’s mother as soon as possible.
There are two in this cabin who are not as agreeable as he would wish - one is Captain Wallace, lately a captain in service in Africa, but now going out as a commercial agent. He is a man of sense and information, has a tolerable good nature but no religion, although he has some evangelical theory and is a good conversationalist. Wallace also drinks quantities of grog [A mixture of rum and water] from morning to night and although he is not absolutely drunk, yet he feels the effect of the liquor and begins to dispute against vital religion and so displays his ungodliness. The first mate is equally fond of grog, weaker in his head and gayer in his character. He professes to Christianity, but is evidently a disciple of Voltaire. Each of his cabin mates brings out the worst in the other, although Horne is inclined to think that they would be better if the captain was onboard, which he will be tomorrow. The sober party on the ship will also be reinforced by the arrival of the physician Dr [Thomas Masterman] Winterbottom and the schoolmaster Mr Field - he hears also that Mr Field has a wife and hopes that it may be so as it will be an advantage for his wife to have another female in her cabin. There are two white women in steerage [Lowest class of accommodation onboard] and both are well gone with child. The husband of one is a pious Methodist and the ship’s steward is also a Methodist. The second mate and the captain are both God-fearing, so while things are not perfect, they are as good as they might have reason to expect. Horne asks for Fletcher’s prayers and those of his flock [in Madeley]. Spiritual matters are discussed.
They had a stormy night and a strong motion, which made them all completely sick. This morning, the ship would have proceeded to the Downs, but partly owing to a defective windlass, the strength of the wind and the weakness of the crew, they could get no hold on the anchor. They are therefore like to remain here for another rough night, trusting to their anchor and cable for safety. If they fail, the ship will probably ground on the sands which surround them. Nelly has been on her bed most of the day but is now feeling much better. Horne is now over his sea sickness, hopefully for good. However, the ship’s motion again compels him to lay down his pen.
Monday May 7
Saturday night was dreadful. The wind was very strong and the ship rolled most violently, with the anchor cable giving them little comfort. They expected the cable to part and the ship to be on the sands within minutes, where they would have been forced to take to the boats. Spiritual matters are discussed.
On Sunday morning, the gale was as fierce as ever and there was a threat in the sky of still greater storms. With the assistance of the ebb tide, they weighed anchor and sailed down to Leigh Road [off the Essex coast] where they were able to ride out the storm with comparative ease and safety. They shall sail for the Downs as soon as the weather permits. His wife has been very brave and resigned to her sea sickness, although she has not been as bad as some of the other women.
Spiritual matters are discussed in detail, with particular regard to the inspiration he has received from considering the life of the great St Francis Xavier.
Horne’s call becomes clearer with every day and the fact that his place at Madeley has now been supplied, is an ease to his mind.
Wednesday May 9
They are now under sail off Margate and hope to be in the Downs this evening. This vessel is not fast, but her size means that she does not have as violent a motion as some others. She measures no less than one hundred and fifty feet in length.
He shall now conclude so as to have the letter ready to leave by the first available boat which puts off at Deal.
In a postscript, he mentions that during the time of their greatest danger on Sunday night, Horne read some of the Church prayers and preached on the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink etc.
- Joseph Hardcastle (1752-1819) was born in Leeds. He moved to London at the age of fifteen and joined his uncle in business. A member of the Bury Street Independent Chapel, he was very involved in evangelical causes as a director of the Sierra Leone Company from 1791 and treasurer of the LMS. In 1802 he accompanied William Wilberforce to Paris with a mind to starting evangelistic work there and as a result, became involved in the British and Foreign Bible Society. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- George Wolff (1736-1828) was the Danish Consul in England and an intimate friend of John Wesley. Wolff was a worshipper at City Road Chapel and a generous contributor to Methodist causes. In the closing years of his life, Wesley was a regular visitor to Wolff's home in Balham, London, and appointed Wolff to be an executor of his will. Wolff was married to the widow of Captain John Cheesement, a trustee of City Road. Source: Wesleyan Methodist Magazine 1828 and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)
- Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom (1766-1859) was born in South Shields. He studied medicine at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and in 1792 joined the staff of the Sierra Leone Company as physician to the colony. He returned from Africa in 1796 and took over his father’s practice in South Shields. Winterbottom retained his interest in missions and was well-known locally for his philanthropy and love of books. In 1822 he was married to Barbara Wardle. At the time of his death, Winterbottom was the oldest doctor in Britain. In 1803, he published a highly regarded work on the Native peoples of West Africa, which is unusual for its time in its sympathetic reporting of native customs. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995 )