Joseph Gurney Bevan.

Extracts from the letters and other writings of the late Joseph Gurney Bevan ; preceded by a short memoir of his life online

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George fard, Lombard Strut.


The E XT n acts contalnedin this little volume
hare been principally selected from the papers of
Joseph Gurney Bevan^ or from his letters to
his friends, which they have Mndly furnished for
the purpose. They are published under a belief
that the writer himself would not have objected
to their being printed, if, in the judgment of his
surviving friends, (and to the inspection of some of
these they have been subynitted,) they were calcu-
lated to promote the religious welfare of a Society
which he loved, and whose prosperity was an object
of his earnest solicitude.


South gate,

5 mo. 1821.

16424 4



Notice of the early Life of J. G. Bevan ; and of

some circumstances in his private and public

character * 1


Letters on various subjects, written between the
years 1783 and 1800 34


Letters from the year 1800 to 1805 58


Letters written in the years 1805, 1806, 1807 . . 84


Letters written in the years 1808 and 1809 125


Letters written in the years 1810 and 1811 150



Letters written from 1812 to 1814; with some

account of the last illness and death of

J. G. Bevan , 185


A short account of Mary Bevan 206

Detached Pieces, selected from some Manuscripts
which J. G. Bevan left at the time of his
decease, or extracted from some of his printed
works ...213

Poetical Essays by J. G. Bevan 253

A List of the principal Publications of J. G, Bevan . 269


Notice of the early Life of J, G, Bevan; and
of some circumstances in his private and
public character.

Joseph gurney bevan was the son

of Timothy and Hannah Bevan of London,
members of the religious Society of Friends ;
and was born in that City, the 18th of the
2d month, 1753.

In his youth he discovered a lively, affec-
tionate disposition, and by his kind and
sprightly behaviour, gained the love of those
under whose care he was placed to receive a
part of his education ; and being possessed of

a quick, intelligent mind, he readily acquired
a knowledge of the different branches of useful
learning. He derived much information from
the society of an uncle, who was both a na-
turalist and an artist. His literary studies
were for some years pursued under a physician,
a classical scholar, who had a taste for poetry,
and under whose tuition he became familiarly
acquainted w ith some of the Latin poets.

A love of poetry contributed to impress on
the retentive memory of the subject of these
remarks, expressions and sentiments learned
from these writers : some of which, being of a
licentious kind, he would in his maturer years
gladly have forgotten. Nevertheless, he recom-
mended a knowledge of the Grreek and Roman
languages, under due restriction ; and from a
desire to read the New Testament in the
original, he applied diligently, when fifty years
of age, to the study of Greek, and was amply
rewarded by the pleasure which the success of
his application afforded him,

From his own account, and that of an inti-
mate friend in early life, it appears that as he
advanced towards manhood, his lively spirits,

his cultivated mind, and delight in wit and
mirth, caused his company to be much sought
by many of his cotemporaries, and exposed
him to great temptation. He has acknow-
ledged that, on recurring to this period, he
believed that the kind and affectionate care of
his parents to render his home agreeable to
him, and by thus studying his comfort there
with a view to shield him from the snares of
vice, had, in no small degree, been a means of
his preservation.

Even then, however, though he at times
indulged in an undue levity of conduct, he was
a lover of good men ; and would extend a
friendly care over some of his companions with
whom he had influence, to guard them from
the extremes of levity and dissipation. His
desire at that time to put on gay apparel, or
rather to have his apparel made in conformity
to the fashion of the day, was so strong, that
he twice made an alteration in his dress; which,
however, he immediately laid aside, on per-
ceiving that it was an occasion of grief to his
mother. For her he had a truly filial regard,
founded on a sense of her tender, parental,
watchful care : this affection is expressively

conveyed by him in the following short memo-
randum : — *' 1784. 3 mo : 28. Hodie mater
mea optima^ Jlentem marilum^ Jlentem Jilium
reliquitJ''' — This day my excellent mother left
a weeping husband, and a weeping son.

In a book which belonged to him when a
boy, and in which he had written " J. G. B.
May 3, 1765/' the following memorandum,
immediately succeeding the above name and
date, has been discovered since his decease : —

" Then about twelve years old. About five
years afterwards, namely in 1770, having been
under serious impressions of mind, one of the
first things I thought it my duty to make a
change in, was the heathen names of months."

He was favoured with " the serious impres-
sions of mind" to which he alludes, during his
confinement to the house, in consequence of an
illness. It appears to have been a powerful
visitation of divine love, which produced a
gradual change of character, and probably laid
the foundation of that decided attachment to
religion and virtue, for which he was after-
wards so conspicuous.

The resources, from which information can
be drawn respecting this interesting period of
liis life, are few. The intimate friend, to whom
allusion has already been made, remarks that
" many a low and solitary hour ev inced in him
a consciousness of the slippery path in which
he trod;" and there is ample reason to be-
lieve, that he was enabled so to walk in the
path of self-denial, as to shew that his love
and fidelity to Him who had mercifully called
liim into that path, were both stedfast and

The following extracts from two of his
letters, afford specimens of his turn of thought
about that time : —

" 1774, 5 mo. 10. — I was pleased at receiv-
ing thy letter yesterday, and soon set about
answering it, which I readily did in one that co-
vered the whole sheet, and one page of another.
I folded it up and sealed it, but considering
further about it, I thought some parts of it
had the appearance of blameable levity, and
all that I could plead in the court of con-
science in its favour, was not sufficient to
save it.

^' I find sometimes a mighty desire to be
witty; and when a thought strikes me that
I conceive to be so, I am too apt to utter it,
without considering whether it has any other
good quality, or whether it has not bad ones to
eclipse its brilliancy to a discerning eye. This
desire, if encouraged, often leads us into folly,
and sometimes what deserves a harsher name.
An intention to make thee laugh, brought my
poor letter of yesterday to an untimely end.
I was not however much disappointed at de-
stroying it, for while I was writing, I had the
pleasure of conversation with one I had a
regard foP; and I have the satisfaction of
thinking I did right to burn it.

" I thank thee for thy invitation. It seems
to come from thy heart; and if I could con-
veniently accept it, I would endeavour to con-
vince you, that the pleasure I should have at
being amongst you, came from mine. It is
certainly now a titne when the country has a
thousand charms. I enjoyed them ten days
ago in Hertfordshire. Indeed, I believe that
I, who in this city am immersed to the ears in
the works of art, enjoy rural scenes more than
those who are every day conversant with them.

When I am in the country, when ' all things
smile/ when ^ with fragrance and with joy my
heart o'erflows,' I am ready to wish I might
always abide amid so much delight. But I
correct the wish ; it would soon grow familiar;
and when the novelty was no more, the cares
which the novelty had veiled, would appear
again, and tell me, what verbal and written
instruction has lold me twenty times before,
that happiness is not local."

^' 1775y 2 mo. 23.— To begin with thy letter
at the end, I must take notice of thy compari-
son between a mind highly susceptible of
pleasure and of pain, and one almost callous to
either. Melancholy men, who love to suppose
that this life produces more evil than good, will
say that the man of sensibility will be the least
happy, because there is more distress than joy
for him to feel. I cannot quite be of this
opinion. The sensible soul, among all its
affliction, finds a kind of superiority and eleva-
tion of nature, that gratifies it. Perhaps pride
may be in part the cause, but the effect is

" It may also be questioned, if all the evils


with which this vale of tears abounds, are the
natural and necessary productions of it. Are
not many of our bringing on, and conse-
quently in our own power to avoid ? And, as
good understanding and sensibility generally
go together, is not the man of feeling best
qualified to avert those ills that, not inter-
woven with human nature, are introduced by
human folly ? In short, the same argument
that prefers the unfeeling man to him who
feels every thing, would prefer a stone to both :
a notion most highly absurd, if not impious,
as it tends to degrade the highest work of the
creation beneath the lowest ; and thereby
change that subordination of creatures (by
which I mean any thing created), which Wis-
dom's self has appointed.

" As to feeling the prosperity of other?,
any joy is acceptable to the mind; and those
who have felt the misery of others, know that
in this there is a gratification not to be parted
with. If any earthly passion can bear a faint
resemblance to that superior nature, which we
ought to think of with reverence, and speak of
with trembling, surely it is Compassion. Of
this the insensible man knows nothino- ; and to

feel it, is a joy worth purchasing, even at the
expense of our quiet. Insensibility, therefore,
must forego its claim to happiness. It is an
eloquent wish in the first transports of afflic-
tion ; but does not at all become the mouth of

In the year 177G, J. G. Bevan married
Mary Plumstead, a young woman of genuine
piety and circumspect conduct. About this
time, his Father gave him a share in his own
business, that of a Chemist and Druggist, in
Plough Court, Lombard Street.

In his dealings in trade, he endeavoured to
maintain an unblemished character for inte-
grity of conduct. He had an undeviating
regard for Truth, and an utter abhorrence of
deceit under any shape. The fear of violating,
in his intercourse with the world, any of the
precepts of the Gospel, or of acting contrary to
its spirit, either for the sake of gain, or to
procure outward enjoyment, early subjected
him to much thoughtfulness, and led him into
some practices which others, of uprightness ot
heart, did not see it necessary for them to
adopt. Tie exceeded most men in carrying


into the daily habits of life, the sentiment
that he ought to avoid being in any way ac-
cessary to that in another, which he was not
satisfied to perform himself. These sentiments
did not, however, arise from ostentation : he
neither courted nor shunned the character of
singularity. He steadily kept in view, and
faithfully endeavoured to walk by the rule,
that a Christian ought to act upon principle,
and not to be deterred from doing right by any
apprehension of consequences.

The following memorandum was probably
occasioned by the conviction that, in his own
character, there were singularities which, to a
superficial observer, might appear objection-
able :-^


" If rightly to know one's self is so great

an acquisition, how difficult must it be truly to
know others ! How necessary, then, not rashly
to censure them ; or to reject a man for diffi-
culties in his character, which we, who yet,
perhaps, know not ourselves, are unable to

During his residence in London, he was


chosen to act as Constable in the ward in which
he lived. As he felt restrained from hiring a
substitute, because, by so doing;, he would be
the means of another person's taking an oath,
he served the office himself; and, so far as his
religious principles would admit, fulfilled the
duties of it with scrupulous attention. During
the year of its continuance, he was in the
practice of attending every fifth night to take
his rounds, and see that order was preserved
in the streets ; and to preside in the watch-
house, as he was required to do, until four or
five o'clock in the morning. And he did not
flinch from the performance of other painful
and humiliating duties.

In the year 17M he retired from business,
Hot, as is often the case, with an increase of
property, but with some considerable diminu-
tion of it. This, in part, arose from his con-
scientious scruples, which operated in a variety
of ways against the acquisition of wealth : they
prevented him from supplying armed vessels
with drugs, and from employing any one to
take an oath for him, in order to the obtaining
of drawbacks : and when persons abroad be-
came considerably indebted to him, he scrupled


to employ the usual means for doing himself
justice. His mind was fixed upon hig^her
objects ti an the things of time and sense,
even upon durable riches and righteousness.
When the circumstances just alluded to, the
habits of his early life, and the circle of friends
amongst whom he moved, are fully taken into
consideration, it may be said that his income
was not at that time, nor for many years after-
wards, an ample one. He was liberal to the
poor, and to those of limited pecuniar}' means ;
but he carefully avoided making any display of
benevolence. Although his associates in early
life had been amongst those who might be con-
sidered as above mediocrity in worldly posses-
sions, he was ready, perhaps it may be said that
he was peculiarly prompt, to acknowledge and
to encourage piety and virtue in persons in ob-
scure stations, or low circumstances in life.

In thus adverting to some parts of his pri-
vate conduct, the attempt has been rather to
delineate the character, than to hold them ail
up for imitation. Peculiar religious scruples
may sometimes be intended for individual
benefit, to promote the subjection of the will,
and the resignation of the heart. Here, how-


ever, great care is necessary (and such care
often possessed the mind of our deceased
friend) to be well satisfied of the purity of
our motives, and in fear and diffidence to
examine whether the adoption of such scruples
is really a divine requiring. Where this cau-
tion prevails, we shall be careful not to
obtrude our views upon others, not to judge
them if they do not see it to be their place to
walk in the same path ; but by modesty and
humility to prove the uprightness of our own

His outward demeanour was at times re-
served; nevertheless it may be said, that those
who knew him best, loved him most : to these
he was endeared, not only by the high sense
thej entertained of his uprightness and worth,
but by his kind and affectionate exercise of a
genuine Christian friendship. This reserve
may, in part, be attributed to that inward
conflict of mind, to which, from early life, he
was no stranger; in part, to a principle of
integrity, which led him to fear that he might
be improperly gratified by the approbation of
others; and, in part, to something of natural
hauteur : but if, in the occasional prevalence of


this weakness, he apprehended that his conduct
towards others had not accorded with true
humility, he was ready, and even anxious, to
confess the error.

It is no disparagement to the worth of
great and good men, to acknowledge that they
have had their failings. Indeed, when it ap-
pears that they have themselves been sensible
of their existence, and have diligently sought
for strength from the Almighty to overcome
them, this becomes a fresh motive for our
esteem and love; and when, in addition to
this, we see that these efforts are attended
with the divine blessing, we may be instructed
and animated to pursue the same course, in
the hope that we also may be strengthened to
overcome that which most easily besets us.

He possessed a strong mind, and was a man
of quick perceptions ; his thoughts were rapid,
and the connexion and succession of ideas
unusually quick, so that his conclusions on
subjects that came before him sometimes ap-
peared to be almost intuitive. His time and
talents were for many years so devoted to the
service of the Society of which he was a mem-


her, that he allowed hiraself but little relax-
ation in the literary pursuits of his early life.
It is, however, obvious, tliat his style in
writing was correct, concise, and energetic ;
qualities which, no doubt, were much improved
by an early acquaintance with good writers,
and by a natural relish for the beauties of

He kept a Journal for a short period, from
which the following extracts are made. They
are introduced as exhibiting a specimen of that
self-examination, so conducive to the advance-
ment of the Christian traveller.

" 1791. — 9 mo. 14. Disturbed bj hearing
of the death of a man by boxing, on account of
a fear that I saw the tumult in the morning,
and was unwilling to interfere.

13. Learned the man was not killed ; saw
him, to my great relief.

18. Morning meeting, roving thought:
afternoon, some of it appeared like rest to the

19. Much care in the mornings rather
abated at meeting.


20. But a poor day : encumbered and

26. Awoke in a calmer frame of mind
than sometimes, and got through the day with
more satisfaction than some others.

28. Hoped the meeting was beginning to
grow better, when it was broken up. Con-
demned myself in the evening, for recurring to
a loose passage, for proof of the Latinity of
what I had w ritten on a sacred subject.

10 mo. 5. At the monthly meeting; pretty
calm, and mind close to the concerns of it.
Felt spiritual pride : still the first sitting
ended w ith tenderness of spirit, and the latter
with calmness. Went out, after I had gone up
for bed, to speak to a person about lying.

6. Let temper rise in the morning, which
occasioned repentance.

8. Nothing remarkable till evening, when
made work for repentance by speaking hastily
to a poor person.

9. Two very poor meetings : the circum-
stance above-mentioned seemed to becloud.
Acknowledged the matter to the said poor

10. The quarterly meeting". Felt uneasy
at refusing an appointment, for sinister reasons,
the business of which, the committee being
open, I may probably attend.

18. Something of the love towards our
neighbour seemed to operate this day.

14. A gleam of tenderness in the evening,
on considering the situation of a poor family.

16. Quickened in the street, at a consta-
ble's having overturned a poor woman's basket
of fruit, which occasioned in my mind some-
thing like an intercession for her; not only
that she might be cared for as poor, but brought
to saving knowledge.

19. From a gentle intimation, went rather
late to the Peel monthly meeting, yet could
scarcely be said to be gathered in the previous
sitting [or meeting for worship] . In the other,
the mind seemed attentive to its concerns, and
pretty quiet,

1791. 10 mo. 21. A day far from perfect
resignation, yet I hope not Christless.

22. Hurried in the morning with what
looked like Charity.



23. Meeting not very lively, yet thought
it right at the breaking up, to recommend
publicly a care against entering into unneces-
sary talk.

24. Kept up some watch against impa-
tience and anger.

f8. Some exercise, and some resignation.

11 mo. 1. Much troubled and cast down,
for fear of a difficult service, and want of

2. The same in degree, attended with a
wish for an opportunity of discharging what
was duty.

3. More trouble on a different account,
which pushed aside the former.

4. A pretty even day; a slight degree of
unity with the spirit of Thomas EUwood, who
says, " I found no centre but the Lord," or
something like it,

5. Much occupied in the morning with
talking to a child about obedience ; previous
to which had been thinking about my own.

13, A favoured day. Relief at meeting,
and felt thankful for my youthful visitation.

17. Much exercised, with some remission.

18. Exercise continued : relief towards

20. A dull day, and some concern for it.

22. Exceeding* great exercise, with some
desire after resignation, producing even a
vocal cry for being kept from erring; after
which, an abatement of trouble.

12 mo. 1. A calm in the evening, under
this consideration, '^ And as ye stand, praying,
forgive, if ye have ought against any." On
which, examined; but found no hardness to
prevail against any : may I say, " The Lord be

4. Tlie forenoon meeting to me low ; the
afternoon, better.

7. In the afternoon attended the close of
poor Hannah Birkbeck,* whereat, I apprehend
my nature bent more to affection than to

8. In talking about Hannah's death,
this comfortably occurred, though not then

♦ His wife's sister, who had been long in a very infirm
state of health.

e 2


expressed — " Gathered to the just of all g^e-

9. Impatient on provocation.

11. Particularly low at the afternoon
meeting ; but towards the close rather cleared

14. Very low part of the meeting ; better
towards the close. ^

16. To me, a comfortable meeting at the
burial, from reljpf through exercise in silence.

19. Increased needless trouble in the
eyening, by unwatchfulness.

24. Refreshed in mind, in the evening, in
consequence of attending to a poor person.

25. Wandering at meeting ; and troubled
in the evening, for having spoken w^ith too
little caution.

28. Better off than sometimes at meeting,
in which there appeared some united exercise.
The rest of the day very much tried and cast
down, with some cries in secret for help, and
some interval of hope.

1792.— 1 mo. 13. Went to Meeting for


Sufferings, and Committee on the Slave-trade :
felt unfit to say much, and, in degree, sub-
mitted to it.

15. Driven by mental trouble to look to
the Great Helper. A various day, with some
calm, but not much comfort.

17. More resignation, and more calm than

2 mo. 14, A day of fatigue, and some
hurry, body and mind : eagerness fof spirit to
be avoided more. Thomas Cash drank tea
here ; apparently a calm, sweet-spirited man,
shewing me some of what I want,

15. An exercised day in mind, on my own

S mo. 12. Let warmth arise in conversa-
tion, apparently on the side of right ; which
gave occasion to repentance,

4 mo. 3. Affected on various accounts.
Prospect of, at least, a temporary continu-
ance of the ravages of the Slave-trade.

6. Uncomfortable for want of patience :
an expected storm averted hy condescension.

J7. A day of some dejection, through
unwatchfulness and unworthiness.

27. At School-meeting, Meeting for Suf-
ferings, and a Committee. Deeply exercised,
with some submission ; which, though small,
was, I hope, not unacceptable.

5 mo. 26. The joint meeting of the Yearly
Meeting's Committee, and Meeting for Suffer-
ings, closed with sweetness.*

SO. An exercised mind at meeting ; but
comforted through some lively communica-

6 mo. 20. Suifered much, and did wrong,
through impatience.

7 mo. 11. Comforted in the morning, on
reading " None shall be able to pluck them
out of my hand."

17. Not apparently a very useful day.

8 mo. 8. At meeting, and Monthly Meet-
ing, with some calm impression of the saying —

* This Meeting had been for some days employed in
preparing an Appendix to the Book of Extracts ; or " Extracts
from the Minutes and Advices of the Yearly Meeting."


'*' We are unprofitable servants ;'* yet, after-
wards, overshot my mark by saying too much
at a time.

24. Went to 's, shoemaker, who

reminded me of having reproved and reasoned
with him, when a boy, for swearing. Sent
him ^ Turford's Grounds.'

9 mo. 7. I heard very unexpectedly of the
death of Richard Shackleton, of Ballitore,

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