From M[rs] [Edward] Smyth at 7 Granby Row, Dublin, to Mary Fletcher at Madeley. She had started to write a letter to Fletcher, hoping to send it with a friend who was passing through Shrewsbury, as she was unwilling to put Fletcher to the expense of a shilling for the postage, but she was taken ill and was unable to finish the letter in time.
Smyth has now recovered and is anxious to have the pleasure of hearing from her dear friend Fletcher, and also to hear whether dear [Melville] Horne has decided to embark on his dangerous mission, [Mission to Sierra Leone where he was chaplain 1792-3] ‘which surely is a wonderful labour of love considering how he is circumstanced with a sickly wife and only child to leave behind, and what a loss must the parish of Madeley have of him, for to me it would seem a difficult matter to find one qualified to come after him there. But the Lord who so unexpectedly brought such a one to succeed dear Mr Fletcher, doubtless can raise up another in his room.’
Mrs Singleton wrote with much pleasure of her visit to Madeley and would have been very pleased to have been able to accept Fletcher’s kind invitation to have spent two or three days with her. Singleton is truly desirous after ‘the best things and her delight in the children of God…’ Does Fletcher not think that there is cause for good hopes with regard to Mr Singleton and their son? This is notwithstanding the fact that he is apparently a great intimate of the Prince of Wales, [The future King George IV] ‘which would seem must be a great snare to him’. Yet when he was in Dublin, Smyth has heard that Singleton was deeply affected by sermons and religious conversation.
She hopes that Fletcher will not mind, but Smyth has taken the liberty of asking Lord and Lady Belvidere to call on Fletcher on their way to Bath. She is afraid that Lord Belvidere is not now as much ‘in earnest’ as he appeared to be about two years ago, yet at times he seems ‘a little stirred up’ and as long as he ‘uses the means of grace’, one must not despair for him and it would be beneficial if Fletcher could converse with him. Mr Mann is also effective when he speaks from the pulpit, but his chief talent lies there rather than in conversation. Smyth thinks that Fletcher will find Lord and Lady Belvidere to be very affable and easy to approach, especially her Ladyship. She has heard that Belvidere was once reckoned to be a very ‘proud man’, and if so, grace has done a great deal for him, for now, in Smyth’s opinion, considering his station in life, Belvidere is remarkably humble. She does not know if Lady Belvidere could yet be said to be in an awakened state, but Fletcher is a better judge of that. She attends worship at Bethesda [Bethesda Wesleyan Chapel in Dublin where Edward Smyth was minister] and reads many spiritual authors. If they do decide to call on Fletcher, Smyth will provide them with a letter of introduction, but as that document must be unsealed, she is sending these few additional details ahead.
Smyth would be grateful if Fletcher could inform her of the ‘terms of Mrs Micklewright’s school’ as a friend here is considering sending his daughter, principally on account of the spiritual values of the establishment. Smyth seems to recall that the price of board and tuition was eight guineas a year, but does not recollect the details of any additional charges such as the entrance fee, laundry etc. The girl’s father is a young surgeon, not well known here so that his means are as yet quite slender, having no fortune of his own until his father dies. His wife is a niece of [Edward] Smyth and her marriage portion represents their main source of income at present. Their daughter is by a previous marriage.
She has heard lately that Mr [Nathaniel?] Gilbert has been in London and preaching for Mr [Richard] Cecil during his illness – he has now recovered his health. Smyth does not know if Gilbert has accepted the offer made to him of a chapel near Manchester, or whether he will remain at Budworth. ‘I wish the Lord would incline his heart to come over to pay us a visit. One possessed of his zeal and true piety we want much here, as I am sorry to see, in zeal, I fear Mr Mann is rather wanting, though excellent in the pulpit, and I think unblameable in his moral conduct…. He and I have had some little rubs of late, particularly for his dropping his a little meeting which I believe I mentioned to you, being held at our house, for prayer etc, reading a chapter and speaking on a text of scripture, which both Mr Smyth and I found very profitable to us. It was to be sure latterly very badly attended, but no wonder, for so many objections were made to people that would have come, and those that might not, asked, which I reminded him of, and begged he would only wait patiently. That we had our Lord’s promise that "where only two or three were met together in his name, then there He would be in the midst of them.” [Mathew 18:20] But being a great [unreadable word] (when it serves his turn) he was pleased (for that time) to put together another interpretation upon that scripture. Often my dear madam, I am ready to think if I had more spiritual people about me, that it would be better with me than it is. But alas does not fault lie in my own vile unbelieving heart. Though your prayers for me and good advice, I thought helped me for some time, I have now the same sad complaint to make of myself. I tried for some time after to follow your advice… but not finding as speedy an answer as I hoped, fear I grew rather negligent in persevering in the use of the means you advised…’ Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
In a postscript, she mentions that dear Mrs [Theodosia] Blachford has been very ill, but now is much better
- Edward Smyth (1749-1825) was the nephew of Arthur Smyth, Archbishop of Dublin, 1766-1772. A clergyman of the Church of Ireland, Smyth was ejected from his curacy for supporting the Methodists. Expelled from the Established Church he laboured as an itinerant and was introduced to John Wesley in the Isle of Man in 1777. In 1779 Smyth moved to Bath in Somerset for the sake of his wife's health and was invited to preach at the Methodist Chapel. This caused a dispute between Wesley and the preacher Alexander McNab that resulted in McNab's temporary expulsion from the Connexion. Smyth returned to Ireland and in 1782 became one of Wesley's clerical assistants in London. In 1786 he was appointed minister of the Bethesda Chapel in Dublin, where he caused a division in the Methodist Society. He later moved to Manchester where he was curate of the churches of St Luke's and St Clement's. Smyth died at Chorlton Hall, (Salford) in Manchester, England on February 6th, 1825, aged 76. Source: Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of John Wesley volume 3 (1872), 303-313 and Smyth genealogical information on the internet.
- Melville Horne (c.1761-c.1841) was the son of an Antiguan barrister and planter and the nephew of Nathaniel Gilbert (c.1721-1774) the pioneer of West Indian Methodism. Horne entered the Wesleyan itinerancy in 1784 and was ordained into the Anglican ministry a short time after on John Wesley's recommendation. In 1786 he succeeded to the curacy at John Fletcher's old parish of Madeley, but retained his connection with Methodism and was appointed Superintendent of the new Wolverhampton circuit in 1787. In 1792 Horne became chaplain of Sierra Leone in West Africa where he joined his second cousin Nathaniel Gilbert junior. He was however unable to adapt to the climate and returned to England in 1793 and published his Letters on Missions a year later. Horne served as Vicar of Olney from 1796 to 1799 and then succeeded the evangelical minister David Simpson at Christ Church Macclesfield. Horne enjoyed a close friendship with Jabez Bunting but this turned to coldness on both sides which culminated in Horne's final break with Methodism in 1809. He later served Anglican parishes in Essex, Cornwall and Salford. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvidere, was the son of Robert Rochfort (1708-74). He served as Sheriff of Westmeath in 1762 and as a Member of Parliament for two Irish constituencies before entering the House of Lords. He was a strong supporter of the government and in 1776 was awarded an annual pension of £800 for his services. Rochfort was married twice, first to Dorothea Bloomfield (d.1803) and then to Jane MacKay (d.1836). Neither of the marriages appear to have produced children. Rochfort and his first wife had some evangelical sympathies and appear to have visited the female evangelist Mary Fletcher in early 1792. Source: The Complete Peerage, ed. Vicary Gibbs (1912) and MCA: MAM/FL /6/10/17
- 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)
- Richard Cecil (1748-1810) was born in London, the son of a gentleman involved in the East India Company. Prevented by ill health from pursuing a business career, Cecil entered Queen’s College Oxford in 1772 to prepare for Anglican ordination. He was ordained deacon in 1776 and priest in 1777. Cecil held a curacy in Lincolnshire and also had temporary charge of three parishes in Leicestershire. From 1777 to 1798 he held the living of Lewes in Sussex, but the damp air caused him to take up residence in Islington, London, where he obtained several lectureships and was thereby enabled to exercise a preaching ministry. From 1780 to 1808 he was the minister of St John’s in Bedford Row, the largest proprietary chapel in London. Cecil suffered from poor health throughout his life and his condition progressively worsened after 1798. He suffered from strokes in 1807 and 1808 and these contributed to his death on 15 August 1810. Cecil was considered to be one of the most intellectually gifted of the Anglican evangelicals. A great bibliophile, he was also a talented artist and musician. Cecil was a highly regarded preacher; many of his sermons were published and received lavish praise for their originality, insight and erudition. He also published biographies of John Newton and John Bacon and was a member of the first committee of the Church Missionary Society. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Theodosia Blachford (1744-1817) was the daughter of William Tighe and his wife Mary, eldest daughter of the Earl of Darnley. Theodosia married Reverend William Blachford, an Anglican clergyman of considerable private means and the Librarian of St Patrick’s Library in Dublin. Theodosia’s husband died ‘of a malignant fever’ at an early age, leaving her with a son and daughter to raise. Blachford was a devout member of the Dublin Methodist Society and was described by John Wesley in a letter of 1788 as ‘one of our jewels. I love her much.’ She spent little on her herself, and after ensuring that her own children’s needs were provided for, spent much of what was left on helping the poor. Blachford also spent several hours each day attending to the education of twelve poor girls. She was a friend of John and Mary Fletcher and was particularly close to the Wesleyan minister Henry Moore and his wife Mary Ann, periodically visiting them in England. Blachford’s daughter Mary Tighe (she was married to her cousin Henry Tighe) was a poetess of considerable reputation. Her most famous work was Pysche or the Legend of Love. Theodosia Blachford died in Dublin on 7 November 1817. Source: Dictionary of National Biography (under Mary Tighe), Gentleman’s Magazine 122: 1817, 567-568, MAM/FL/5/5/1 (MCA), The Life of the Rev. Henry Moore by Mrs Richard Smith (London, 1844) and Burke’s Landed Gentry 1853, 2:1396.