Letter from Wilkins to Fox 1785
LITTLE RISINGTON, Dec. 29, 1785.
DEAR SIR-It is not my indifference or indolence that prevents my making a better report to you of the Sunday School scheme in this neighbourhood; there are few resident clergy, and few others to be found in the different parishes around us, I may say scarcely any who will patronize, encourage, countenance, or enforce the plan, there are few parishes that can furnish a person competent to the task of teaching, such is the state of the lowest class, and without compulsion they would have very few scholars who could and would teach. What can a single individual do in such a complication of obstacles " Sigh and pray he may and does, but that faith which shall remove mountains, who can find?
Your printed letter, &c., which I have circulated: among the most respectable clergy, &c., around this – neighbourhood, affords me a fresh and good opportunity to make an attempt at an humble imitation of your society. I shall try to bring them, if possible to make Stow the centre of a society which shall hold forth encouragement to all the neighbouring villages -: to promote religious knowledge, and a reformation of manners among them. No other scheme seems feasible to me for various ... reasons. Such a society, if respectable, would have influence, ability, and weight; parish officers, without = . whom nothing can be done for the purpose around us, would be influenced to exert themselves, the clergy and the gentry would feel themselves engaged to countenance in this case, and without some such plan there is languor, listlessness, &c., to say the least of it, which will defeat and murder the intention.
Should the plan take place, you will probably hear of it, and till the issue of my attempts to accomplish it be known, I do not think it worth while to trouble your society with any application for assistance in any particular village, though I could well dispense it in this place where I live, under my own inspection if afforded. The circulation of your plans, &c., through the kingdom, is, I think, an excellent effect of your institution, in itself considered, and that especially as it holds forth to the whole world, a specimen of liberality of mind of the present race of church men and dissenters, and may be a means of disseminating and perpetuating this desirable and amiable spirit far and wide, to allow each other to think and judge for ourselves and to agree to act together, so far as practicable for the glory of God, and the good of mankind, is the spirit and glory of true Christianity, and I envy the happiness of that man who has realized a wish or a thought to promote it.
I must confess I have no clear ideas after all, of what your society will be willing to do for any particular place, or how they mean to do it, or whether assistance is to be asked upon a formed plan, or direction and assistance sought for together, if there be any such rule limiting the number of books to be given, &c., if they mean entirely or only partially to support a school in any given place, leaving the terms to the parties applying, &c., but I will not tease you with more of my impertinences, as I doubt not the mail coaches will be charged with them as plentifully as they are with hares and partridges at this season of the year.
With warmest respect, I remain,
Dear sir, yours,