No. 5


13 April 1786


My dear Sir


I shall always be glad and thankful to execute any commissions you may favour me with – Only as the proper objects of your kindness, would stand in need of immediate attention, I could not always be so speedy in my enquiries, as I should wish; for my time is frequently so forestalled, as to afford me no opportunity of going out of my track, for several days together.  In such cases, Mrs Newton offers you her service, if you will employ her as my deputy, when she is pretty well.  And indeed she has more address and sagacity, for making proper enquiries and observations than myself.


We were just setting down to tea, when Mr Cragg called.  When that business was finished she set off for Grub-street.  She asked of two or three persons, with[?] whom she knows, who live near the spot, but could get no information.  The house itself No. 34 had so unpromising an appearance, that instead of going to it herself she chose to send a gentleman, a friend of ours, to negotiate for her.  It is a very petty broker’s shop.  He saw a woman, and asked her many questions.  She said that Mr Gwinn[e] and his wife lodged there, but were at present both a few miles out of town, some charitable person having invited them.  She expected them home soon.  She said Mr Gwinne was a clergyman, had five children, one lately dead – that he was very poor, and glad to make prayers for 2 or 3 shillings when he could be employed.  All this may be very true, though it depends only on the evidence of the house, which is not indeed the most creditable.  What Mr Gwinne’s character is we have not been able to learn but that there is such a person, and in necessitous circumstances, I am inclined to believe.  There are many indigent clergymen in this city, whose precarious and penurious subsistence depends upon their being occasionally engaged to read prayers, to bury or christen pro tempore, for which purpose they leave their names in offices of intelligence, to which they are sent for when wanted and employed in rotation.  So that it is as easy to procure one, as a hackney-coach, and upon almost as short notice.  Some out of these many I believe are not undeserving persons, and it is a hard life, for a man who has been bred in the University.  But others of them, are of the lowest and most contemptible characters.


If you think proper to relieve Mr Gwinne, upon this representation, and will please to let me know the sum, Mrs Newton will be glad to go again, and she will take care not to part with the money, without some tolerable evidence, that the case is real.  It is not 5 minutes’ walk from our new habitation.


I began to remove my study furniture today.  We hope to quit this house the beginning of next week.  It will probable take us one week to get settled in the other.  When we are a little to rights, I will take care to inform you.  My mouth waters for a bit of your mutton tomorrow, according to your kind invitation (though it is a fast day).  Or rather I long to be with you, as often as I can.  But my mind, like my house, is a little unsettled, and as you will dine later, and I am to preach again in the evening, I thought I it would be better to decline the pleasure I always find in waiting upon you, for once.  I shall be glad if my friend Foster can have that pleasure.  But he likewise, I suppose, will have to preach twice, and when he has, I know he seldom chooses to go from home.


I wish you a comfortable visit at Stock, and take the liberty to beg you to mention our love to Mr and Mrs Unwin.  May the Lord favour you with his gracious presence there and wherever you are.


I am Dear Sir very respectfully

Your obedient and obliged servant

John Newton


Hoxton ye 13 April [1786] 9 in ye evening


[Thjs page concludes with a note added in another hand:]

"The woman’s account, that Mr G a few miles out of town false."



Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Wilberforce c.49 fol. 5



Wilberforce described Mr Craggs [sic] as “a sort of secretary” [Pollock p 118]. [return]

Grub Street (renamed Milton Street, near Moorgate) was renowned for its low-rent lodgings. Samuel Johnson described it in his Dictionary as "the name of a street in London much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grub Street." [return]

Wilberforce spent Easter 1786 with William Cowper’s friend, William Cawthorne Unwin, the rector of Stock in Essex. He took his first communion there on Good Friday. [return]