Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”
THE Journal of Hugh Bourne at the time we have reached is much more a daily business record than the intimate journal of a student or devotee. You do not often catch him feeling his spiritual pulse or taking his temperature. He tells of the progress of the work of God—the journeys he took, the visits he paid, the projects he was meditating. Such matters as these, and not the record of his frames and feelings, form the staple of the entries he makes. But now and again we do find him expressing his emotions and longings, or writing down a reflection. So he was engaged just a hundred years ago. We look over his shoulder and we read:
“Saturday, April 3rd, 1813.—To-day, I believe, I am forty-one years of age. I believe this is my birth-day, though I was once told I was born April 2nd. Well, so far I have passed through this troublesome world, and, excepting religion, there is not one pleasure in it which I wish to taste. The forenoon I chiefly spent in reading the first volume of Wesley’s Life by Benson. I trust I shall have cause to thank God to all eternity for reading in this book to-day.”
Now this reference to Benson’s Life of Wesley rather puzzles us; for, at the time Hugh Bourne wrote these words, only three Lives of Wesley had been published, and of these only two ran into more than one volume. The first was by J. Hampson, jun., Rector of Sunderland, a son of one of Wesley’s early preachers. This book was published in 1791, in three small volumes, and had been got ready so that it might be put on the market as soon as Wesley’s death should be announced. But this was not a book to say grace over or return thanks for, since it was a prejudiced production and bitter in tone, The only other “Life” of Wesley in two volumes that Hugh Bourne could have been reading that April morning was that by Dr. Whitehead, the physician and friend of Wesley, which was published in 1796. But there is perhaps another explanation. Benson, though he was not the biographer of Wesley, had been entrusted with the task of editing his complete works in fourteen volumes (1804), which, of course, included the famous “Journal” —one of the best of “Lives” — and which, in the new Standard Edition, many of us are now reading with a zest and thankfulness such as a century ago prompted Hugh Bourne to write of it as he did. On the whole, we are inclined to think we have here the key to the puzzle.
There are other interesting queries relating to this same time awaiting their answer. Thomas Bateman was, in April 1813, in his fourteenth year. He was, we are told, a shy, quiet, delicate lad, and some thought, and he was inclined to agree with them, that he would never “make old bones.” But there was a good old man at Nantwich who used to say encouragingly to the lad:— “Thou’ll be a mon, and open somebody’s een when I’m dead and forgotten.” The good man’s name was Capper. Now, was this man of prophetic insight the father or the uncle of that Joseph Capper of Tunstall who was imprisoned for Chartism? It could not be the man himself, for in 1813 Capper was but eleven years older than Thomas Bateman, and, moreover, he is said to have gone to Tunstall when young. There may be no connection between the two Cappers. But then again there may.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/256