11. “Orator” Hunt and Hugh Bourne: A Contrast

Transcription of article in the series “one Hundred Years Ago” by H. Bickerstaffe Kendall

IN November, 1816, “Orator” Hunt, a born demagogue, fluent of tongue, with a front of brass and a voice of wonderful carrying-power, addressed a mass-meeting at Spa Fields. The crowd dispersed and the pillage of shops began. In a recently published “Tabular Views of Universal History,” the only domestic events for 1816 put down for Great Britain are “Rise of Popular Agitation — The Spa Fields Riots.” The compiler knew what he was about; for November, 1816, is an important date in our political and social history. The Riot had consequences. The Government made it the justification for passing drastic, repressive measures, and the prospects of Radical Reform were marred. Spa Fields, 1816, and “Peterloo,” 1819, mark the beginning and the end of a short period singularly foreshadowing the later Chartist movement.

It is a far cry from “Orator” Hunt to Hugh Bourne. As we look at the two men, both in their different ways representative men, the contrast could not well be greater. The force of that contrast tends to make us appreciate the more the quiet, unceasing work Hugh Bourne was doing this same November in distant Derbyshire. Thanks to his Journal we can pretty fully trace his movements from day to day. We can tell what societies he visited, the texts he preached from, the names of some of the people he met and conversed with. On Thursday, November 14th, he spoke at Belper, from “Repent ye and believe the Gospel. A prayer-meeting followed; “Mary Hunt prayed, and for a considerable time I have felt nothing like it; O Lord, establish her in Jesus Christ.” On Sunday and Monday he was at Derby and Chaddesden. At Normanton on the 20th he spoke from “the Scape Goat,” and at Ilkeston on the 22nd he had “a glorious time.” At Derby two days after he heard Mary Hawksley deliver “a masterly discourse.” Next day he was at Nottingham examining the case of J. Storey, “who has left the society.” On the 26th, retracing his steps, by Amberstone, Bolton, Derby, Ashbourne and Caldon Mill, he, on the 28th, reached Latheredge (Ladder Edge), a noted rest-house for the fathers of the Connexion. Then he turned homewards; but on the 30th he was back at Latheredge preparatory to another round. He notes that at Leek he put the letter for Nottingham he had written at Bemersley, “post-paid into the post-office,” and came to Ramsor and Boylestone.

By the help of observant Thomas Bateman, we can form a pretty accurate picture of the outward man of him whose journeyings we have followed. On Sunday, December 12th, 1819, young Bateman saw Hugh Bourne for the first time. “Many are looking out, and the stranger’s near arrival is anounced. In the distance is seen approaching, not ‘lolling in a chaise,’ or mounted on ‘a mettled steed,’ but a man on foot, awkward in his gait, some five feet nine inches high, rounded in the shoulders, having small eyes, looking from under somewhat lowering eye-brows, and a wrinkled forehead, a prominent part of his face intimating habits not very temperate (this witness, however, was soon found not to be true), and altogether unprepossessing in his appearance. Then, too, he presented no great set-off in his apparel. His hat, although it might have seen better days, had never been ‘rounded in dandy style.’ He had a blue coat, on which the winds of a former winter had possibly blown; velveteen small clothes, reaching but just below the knees, blue stockings, and a pair of low, rough, strong shoes. . . . It was clear enough he was not set on finery of apparel, ‘where in the drapery the man is lost.’ ”

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1916/794

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