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disposed to find fault with the liberties he took with the Liturgy, and as he did not openly teach Unitarianism, many of them were probably unaware of the great change which had taken place in the opinions of their pastor. The church was never better attended than during the services of this heterodox minister. The Hugheses were induced to examine the new religious opinions of their friendly pastor with great care, and the consequence was that they were led to adopt them with a full conviction of their truth. Mary Hughes, then about eighteen years of age, was absent from home during the whole time that this important change was going on. On her return, she was not only surprised, but grieved and shocked, at the new and strange opinions adopted by her mother and sisters. Like them, she too entered on a course of inquiry into the scriptural evidence of the doctrines which she had hitherto undoubtingly held as “ orthodox," and with a similar result. She embraced the doctrine of the Divine Unity with ardour, and during a not short life made it her untiring aim to promote it amongst others.
Fortunately for his peace of mind and religious consistency, Mr. Harries was soon rescued, by a letter of remonstrance from his Bishop, from a situation so perilous to religious integrity as the clerical office in a Trinitarian Church must ever be to a Unitarian. He had previously resigned the living at Cleobury; he now parted with the advowson of Hanwood. Previously to his retirement from the Church, he explained to his parishioners what his new opinions were. He afterwards kept up a religious service on Unitarian principles at his own house, which was attended by several of his neighbours, and amongst them by the family of Mrs. Hughes. Preaching in the High-Street chapel, Shrewsbury, a few months before his death, he said, “ There have been many excellent books written by great and good men, with the best design, to reduce Christianity to the belief and worship of the One True God; but the plainest book on this subject is the New Testament.” He bore to the last a consistent religious profession, and during his last illness he exhibited the consolatory and elevating ten. dency of his religious views. He died February 1, 1812, and the virtues of his exemplary life were recorded in a brief but faithful Memoir by Mary Hughes, than whom no one had been more deeply and beneficially influenced by his opinion and example.
The formation of the Christian Tract Society was the occasion both of her becoming an authoress and of her forming an acquaintance with its Secretary, so soon to ripen into friendship. Mrs. Hughes was upwards of fifty years of age when she composed “ William's Return," the first of the long series of tracts with which she enriched the early volumes of the Society's publications.* Its instant success chiefly de
* Their titles are, 1. “William's Return, or Good News for Cottagers." 2. “The Twin Brothers, or Good Luck and Good Conduct.” 3. “Henry Goodwin, or the Contented Man.” 4. “An Affectionate Address to the Poor." 6. “Friendly Advice to the Unlearned.” 6. “The Sick Man's Friend." 7--12.
Village Dialogues,” Parts I.--VI. 13. “Advice to Female Servants.” 14. “A True Friend, or the Two Nurse-maids.” 15. “Sick-Room Dialogues." 16. "The Sunday Scholar." 17. “The Good Grandmother.” 18, 19. “ Family Dialogues, or the Sunday Well-spent,” Parts I. and II. 20. “Address to Sundayschool Teachers."
lighted her because it opened to her an untrodden walk of useful benevolence. From that time, composition was one of her greatest pleasures, and beguiled many hours of weariness and suffering. The judgment which Mr. Aspland formed of her tracts has been confirmed by that of thousands of readers, in both England and America. They are “as profitable to the instructor of the poor as to the poor themselves; they display an intimate acquaintance with the human heart, and a peculiar knowledge of the wants and feelings of persons in humble life.”
The following letter is valuable from the biographical particulars which it contains, and is a fair specimen of the writer's head and heart. Mrs. Mary Hughes to Rev. Robert Aspland.
“Hanwood, January 23, 1812. “Dear Sir,—I know not how sufficiently to thank you for the many kind and flattering expressions of regard contained in your last letter. Your approbation of what I have done to advance the benevolent views of the Society has continually incited me to proceed; and if the simple productions of my pen, which have multiplied under your fostering hand, have improved or instructed any, it is to you the obligation should be acknowledged. Had I been fortunate enough to possess such a friend earlier in life, I might have hoped to attain a higher degree of usefulness; but I am most thankful to be able to contribute something towards the furtherance of the best and noblest of all causes.
“My father and only brother were ministers of the Established Church; but my mother, who had the most sensible and candid of all minds, together with my two elder sisters and myself, were convinced how absurd and unscriptural her doctrines were, by · Lindsey's Apology’and a few other books which were put into our hands hy our much-esteemed friend and neighbour, Mr. Harries, of whose secession from the Church, many years ago, you have probably heard. From that time we have attended him on Sundays at his own house, or that of another of our neighbours who held the same opinions; but our little congregation never increased. Mr. Harries studiously avoiding all doctrinal subjects, the few who occasionally dropped in, had no chance of having their prejudices in any degree shaken. Thus I have lived the greater part of my life without having any opportunities of conversing with zealous and well-informed persons who thought as I did. Indeed, I never had the least knowledge of one of that description, except Mr. Rowe, the present minister of the chapel in Lewin's Mead, Bristol, whom during his residence in Shrewsbury I saw now and then, but in such circles as prevented my gaining any thing from him. It is, however, to him that I owe the pleasure I now feel in addressing you; for nearly five years ago, when he made a short visit in this neighbourhood, he mentioned the Monthly Repository, which we had before never heard of; and that most interesting work opened the Unitarian world to my view, and has ever since been such a source of pleasure and instruction to me, that I have only pictured my own feelings in describing those of Henry Goodwin with respect to it.
“ You see, dear Sir, how much I presume upon your friendship, by my venturing to say so much of myself. I need not say how much I rejoice to be assured of your recovered health, or how much I thank you for your kind wishes respecting my own. I have long been an invalid, and had last year a long fit of illness, but am at present better than I had been for many months previous to its commencement, except that it has left a weakness and a degree of inflammation in my eyes, which I regret chiefly as a check upon my favourite avocations of reading and writing, making the little I could otherwise do still less.
“I lament, with you, the coldness and worldly-mindedness of believers, a stronger proof of which could not be given than a diminution in
the sale of the Repository. To view our Maker as he is, all goodness and benevolence, does not seem to excite a degree of love and gratitude sufficient to animate them to exertion; the base principle of fear appears to have a more powerful influence on the generality of people than the brightest and most glorious hopes and expectations. This,' Hannah More would triumphantly say, 'clearly proves the deep corruption of our nature.' But we shall not be forward to join her in throwing our crimes and follies on our first frail progenitor, or rather in believing that an infinitely just God formed a weak, fallible creature, and to punish his transgression caused all his successors of the human race to be born with hearts desperately wicked' and inclined to evil continually. You will guess that I have been reading * Practical Piety,' a work which, though much that is good is taught in the course of it, as far as I have gone, leaves a gloomy, disagreeable impression upon my mind, unfavourable to a love of our Creator, or a cheerful performance of the duties he requires from us.
* I received a letter a few weeks ago from an entire stranger, dated Cradley, near Stourbridge, who, after expressing much approbation of my small publications, tells me that she lives in a very populous neighbourhood, that the people are both depraved and ignorant in an uncommon degree, and that in her frequent visits to their sick rooms she feels herself much in want of a proper book, as they often request her to read to them. This deficiency she thinks I can supply; and though I have little hope of succeeding, I have promised to make the attempt. Such a work, well executed, would certainly be very useful, but I do not feel at all equal to the undertaking. I fear Í cannot write with sufficient force and plainness to reach the hearts of such a description of people. When I have made a trial, I shall turn with pleasure to the subject you propose, which may perhaps be introduced in a work on the proper observance of the Lord's-day, which is a matter of high importance to all, but little considered with respect to themselves by the higher classes. With this, Mr. Rees will receive another short essay, which I have been encouraged to write by the favourable reception of the first. It is like the first, but I fear hardly so good. The kind partiality which you express for what I write, gives me an additional motive for wishing them more worthy of your approbation : but have the goodness to remember that I shall feel highly obliged by your pointing out any faults.
“I think you have already published a small work similar to the one which you now mention having in hand, and I hope to have the pleasure of reading it soon after you receive this. Nothing can be more desirable than publications of that kind; for the best hope we can entertain for the reformation of mankind must arise from a more careful and enlightened attention to their early impressions.
"I am very particularly gratified by Mrs. Aspland's kind notice and approbation; be pleased to present my best thanks and affectionate regards to her. My sisters and Mrs. Price beg to unite in the same to you, with, dear Sir, your much obliged friend,
M. HUGHES. “I enclose a five-pound note,—one guinea as an annual subscription from Mrs. Warten, of Cruch Mede, near Shrewsbury, and three guineas as the commencement of an annual subscription from my eldest sister, Mrs. Hughes, both for the Unitarian Fund. You will have the goodness to acknowledge both in the Repository; and the remaining sixteen shillings will remain with you till I send something for the new Academy, for the commencement of which I look with some impatience.
“ You will be so good as to add my sister's name to the list as an annual subscriber of two guineas, and mine for a donation of ten; and both will be ready when called for.
"I will take an early opportunity of sending the packet to Mr. Case. He is a most worthy and amiable man, but has not always exerted his talents as he might have done. He thinks nothing less than a miracle could animate his congregation, or fill the empty seats in his chapel.”
It was with no common pleasure that Mr. Aspland, in the year following the date of this letter, visited his amiable correspondent. All his expectations were fulfilled.* Though she was feeble in health, her conversation evinced a vigorous mind and zeal in behalf of pure
Christianity, not less ardent than his own. He was deeply struck with her disinterested benevolence. Although gifted with talents that rendered her society attractive to the most intelligent, she appeared to think she was never so worthily employed as when, by the efforts of her pen or by familiar conversation, she was imparting knowledge to children, or to those who had arrived at mature years without the blessings of education.
Some extracts from two letters written shortly after his first visit to Hanwood, will best shew the exhilarating effect on his mind of the society of the amiable circle. Rev. R. Aspland to Mrs. Aspland.
“ Chester, Sept. 13, 1813. “My dearest Sara,—To-day you are to write to me; and though I should like to have your letter before I give you one, yet I cannot any longer delay the delightful task of assuring you that I am well, and as happy as I can be away from you and the dear little ones. I am with friend Lyons.
“My journey to Evesham was as pleasant as such a journey could be, and left me so little fatigued that I kept up and awake all the Tuesday, walked about the town, dined and supped in parties, preached with sufficient animation to a large congregation, and did not go to bed till near midnight. I was entertained very hospitably at the house of Mr. New.
"Next morning, Wednesday, I was up by half-past three, and off at four in a chaise for Worcester, where I arrived in time for the Shrewsbury coach. I rode to Kidderminster outside, but was there driven inside by the rain. My companions were a clergyman, his wife and niece; the husband a meek, religious, benevolent man,—the wife, travelled, accomplished, spirited, shrewd, and generally very reasonable,—the niece, mild, good and communicative. From my conversation, they concluded me to be a young priest of their own sect, and treated me with marked kindness, which subdued me so, that I did not open myself upon them when they praised the present ministry and lifted up their hands at ihe horrid Socinians. The coach reached Salop so late, that I judged it best not to go on to Hanwood that night; and so took up my rest, in the company of my pleasing coach party, at a comfortable inn.
“I walked on Thursday morning, before breakfast, to the village of our correspondents ; the distance four miles, the walk most interesting, the Welsh mountains directly in front. Is it one of my peculiarities that I took heavy and reluctant steps to Hanwood ? I was really embarrassed in prospect of the interview, fearing that on both sides there might not be the personal liking that both must desire. However, on I went, and passed along a very small rural village, to a neat laurel-encircled house, beside a little church with a rustic appearance, and a churchyard crowded with ancient yew-trees. The face of the servant who opened the door, and her quick step after I had been put into a parlour opening upon a garden, with a pretty wood rising behind it
, sufficiently indicated that I was not an unexpected or an unwelcome visitor. Presently came in a lady who, with a face suffused with a deep blush, told me she was my correspondent; with her was a little one, Mary Ann, whose instantly apparent fondness broke the awkwardness of the interview. After a short interval, Mrs. Isabel Hughes, the eldest sister and mistress of the house, appeared; after another, Mrs. Price; and lastly, her mother, the grandmother.
* See Christian Reformer (First Series), Vol. XI. p. 36.
Breakfast was prepared for me, theirs being over; and a quiet, cool, respectfully tender conversation commenced. I was not, or fancied I was not, quite well. I could not talk with spirit. A walk to two beautiful spots close by roused me a little, and brought us nearer together. Our familiarity increased at a neat, orderly, frugal, but hospitable and cheerful dinner-table; but I sunk completely in the tea-parlour, and the fear of being dull made me stupid. Supper, however, and a pipe brought me about, and now we began to know each other, and the time passed away delightfully unheeded till one o'clock in the morning, when we separated after a short prayer, or rather thanksgiving, to our Almighty Friend who had brought us together. I slept, as I told my happy knot of friends, in the lap of peace. Conversation was renewed with our meeting at the breakfast-table, and was running on pleasantly, till, alas! I was snatched away by a letter from Mr. Lyons, whom I was to meet by appointment in a few hours at a distance of thirty miles ! I must resume this subject in two or three days, for I am summoned to dinner, and at Chester dinner is a serious thing.
“I met Mr. Lyons in Wales on Friday night, and arrived at Chester on Saturday morning. I preached twice yesterday, when a collection was made for the Fund. To-morrow we start again for Wales. My return will be gladdened by the expectation of your letter.
Farewell, my very dear wife; make my love to Sara and Brook and the rest, and assure Anna of my warm affection. I am, Sara, your
“ Friday, Sept. 17, 1813. “ My dear Sara,– I am just returned from our Welsh excursion, and hare been refreshed by your welcome letter. Thanks to a good Providence that you are all well, and that all is comfortable at Hackney! My letter met yours on the road, and I am pleased to reflect that for once I have been better than I promised, and have given you an agreeable surprise. I have you now a little in my debt, and I am so happy under the new character of your creditor in an epistolary account, that I am using my pen on a large sheei with a view to the post to-morrow : to-day it is not open.
“You want portraits of the Hanwood group. Alas! you know I am no painter: I cannot distinguish colours, nor have I a recollection of faces: but will describe the happy circle as well as I can.
“ Mary Hughes is rather a small woman, not handsome nor elegant, but of a soft and expressive physiognomy: I think of a fair complexion and light hair. Her eye I call to mind with pleasure: the tones of her voice are plaintive. She may be about the size of my mother : as I guess, she is about fortyeight years of age. Her conversation is exactly in the style of her writing even, sensible, pleasant and benevolent.
“Mrs. Hughes (Isabel) is a large woman, with a strong-featured face, once I suppose handsome, a gentlewoman in her manners, but plain, bordering on bluntness, frank, and evidently kind-hearted, and giving indications of very strong sense. She is the mistress of the house—feels herself such-and is so treated by the family; though there is no appearance on her part of conscious superiority in conversation, but the contrary. She and the others take pleasure in Mary's reputation.
“ Mrs. A. Hughes (the mother and grandmother) reminded me of Mrs. Wakefield, in her person (though somewhat larger) and manners. She is a widow. I should think she has more spirit than either of her sisters : at first reserved, she soon grows animated in conversation, and she fully keeps up the character of the family for sense.
They fully intend, i. e. Mrs. H. and Mrs. Mary, to visit us in the spring, and they are most positive that you shall spend some of the next summer at Hanwood, with Sara or another or others of your children.
"I found the family quite eager about our A-, and I wish she would rite, and that you would adopt a plan of regular correspondence.
When I arrived here, I was so filled with the remembrance of Hanwood,