This is a rather extraordinary little book I just found, about a man born at Hotwells in Bristol into a well to do family of London physicians who lost their wealth so he was forced to become a sailor. He became involved in the slave trade, and in the West Indies survived a violent captain, hurricanes, pirates and a whole range of murders and mistreatment. He later followed several trades such as teacher and accountant before becoming the first teacher at John Wesley’s Foundery School and as a chaplain to the felons awaiting execution at the infamous Newgate Prison. For over 20 years he accompanied convicted felons to the ‘fatal tree’ at Tyburn, witnessing the wrongful execution of Mary Edmondson for murder she did not commit, a highway robber, a man who died for demanding 6 pence, and the infamous Elizabeth Brownrigg who flogged her girl apprentice to death.
But it is a book of two parts, the first being an adventure story of his early life, but slows down a lot when he finds religion and concentrates more on the spiritual events. He was twice married but his wives and children barely rate a mention, with his second spouse not even given a name. It has a short note ‘to the serious and candid reader’ by John Wesley. It is a very valuable piece of social and nautical history, but the later part is too heavily loaded with his piety to be of much use beyond the narrow events it describes.