3. The break in Hugh Bourne’s Journal, and what it means

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”

THE Spring of 1812 was personally a trying time to Hugh Bourne—a time of disillusionment and disappointment. True, Primitive Methodism was successfully launched, but some of his hopes had suffered shipwreck, and some persons of both sexes had belied his trust. The popular estimate of Hugh Bourne as he was up to 1812 wants considerably modifying. It is an entire mistake to suppose that he was so made as to be inaccessible to the usual tender sentiments, and that he was marked out by nature for celibacy. No one, as Dr. W. Antliff has observed, can read Hugh Bourne’s Journals, and note the significant connection of the shorthand entries there, and rest satisfied with this opinion. His heart was seated in the usual place, and was quite as tender and impressionable as the heart of other men. A young woman fair to look upon, and, above all, pious, intelligent, modest and circumspect in her demeanour, appealed to, and drew out, the best that was in him, as the fine letter to Miss Ward on Spiritual Atmosphere remains to testify.

At the time of which we write, Hugh Bourne had but just emerged from the trouble and confusion caused by the clever Mrs. Dunnell, when trouble of a still more personal kind befell him. Hannah Mountford was married to James Crawfoot. Wedgwood, the writer of “Staffordshire: Up and down the County,” gives an outside view of this event. “Bourne had rather a handsome servant at Bemersley, and while the missionary Crawfoot was winning converts, the servant won the missionary, and after a short courtship they were married.” The marriage was a blow from an unexpected quarter; for it had always been understood that the widower “Old Man of the Forest” lightly esteemed wedlock in comparison with the celibate state. But it was not because Crawfoot had married that the blow struck home, but because he had married Hannah Mountford, for whom Hugh Bourne had come to have a tender regard. There is reason to believe that it was to her he had proposed at the class meeting. Unskilled in the arts of courtship employed by “the children of this world,” Hugh Bourne had not pressed his suit, and now Hannah Mountford was lost to him for ever. The writer already named goes on to say, what is quite true, that this unforeseen event created an estrangement between the accepted and rejected suitor. Other causes came in to widen the regrettable breach, and in 1813 Crawfoot withdrew from the Connexion.

An unforced and interesting parallel might be drawn between: John Wesley and Hugh Bourne in their early affairs of the heart. If Miss Ward was Bourne’s  “Varanese,” and Mrs. Dunnell his sinister Mrs. Hawkins, then Hannah Mountford was his Sophia Christiana Hopkey. Only there was this great difference between them: Wesley put down in his secret Journal all that related to the course and tragic ending of his crossing in love, and we can read all about it in the first volume of the Standard edition of the Journal. But Bourne’s sensitive spirit shrank from making a confidant even of his Journal. As he could not write truly there, and make no mention of what meant so much to him, he would not write at all. This we believe is one of the chief reasons why we have the puzzling break from Feb. 13th, 1812, to Feb. 7th, 1813, in the carefully kept Journal of the most methodical of men. In that gap a romance is hidden.

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1912/188

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