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A Note on Anne Dutton, Eighteenth-Century Evangelical

  • Stephen J. Stein (a1)

Extract

Anonymity, forced or voluntary, has frequently cloaked the contributions of women to the life and thought of religious movements. Such was the case with Anne Dutton (1692–1765), an English evangelical, a “gentlewoman” who appears fleetingly in the records of the eighteenth century and only momentarily in later annals of pious women. In spite of some efforts to seek her out early in this century, Dutton has remained a relatively unknown figure in the history of English evangelicalism. In fact she was a prolific though elusive writer, credited by one source with nearly fifty distinct publications—religious pieces of diverse size and character. Anne Dutton became the friend, confidant and correspondent of many evangelical leaders and on more than one occasion directly assisted them in their pastoral activities. She was also the spirited opponent of others. This obscure, talented author defied powerful social conventions in her effort to rise above the backstage role commonly assigned to and accepted by women in the religious world of the eighteenth century.

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1. See Whitebrook, John Cudworth, Ann Dutton: A Life and Bibliography (London, 1921), and Wallington, Arthur, “Wesley and Anne Dutton,” Proceedings of The Wesley Historical Society 11, pt. 2 (1917): 4348. See also Notes and Queries, 12th ser., 2 (1916): 147, 197, 215–216, 275, 338, 471–473 for a series of exchanges about Dutton initiated by Whitebrook.

2. Whitebrook, , Ann Dutton, pp. 1520. Most of Dutton's works are very rare today, many existing in only one known copy and some not located at all. In America several of those located in research libraries are still catalogued anonymously.

3. Prince, Thomas Jr, ed., The Christian History, 2 vols. (Boston, 17441745), 1: 344.

4. “George Whitefield on Slavery: Some New Evidence” Church History 42 (1973): 243256.

5. A Brief Account of the Gracious Dealings of God, with a Poor, Sinful, Unworthy Creature, Relating to The Work of Divine Grace on the Heart, in a saving Conversion to Christ, and to some Establishment in Him. By A. D. (London, 1743), pp. 68, 11. This is part 1 of a work written over a period of years as described in the British Museum General Catalogue of Books.

6. Ibid., pp. 34–35.

7. Burder, Samuel, ed., Memoirs of Eminently Pious Women (Philadelphia, 1836), p. 380. This work, the composite endeavor of Burder and two editors who preceded him, mistakenly assumes that Dutton died shortly after her first marriage.

8. A Brief Account of the Gracious Dealings of God, with a Poor, Sinful, Unworthy Creature, Relating to a Train of special Providences attending Life, by which the Work of Faith was carried on with Power, Part II. By A. D. (London, 1743), pp. 1011.

9. Ibid., pp. 113–114.

10. See Benjamin Dutton's autobiography signed “B. D.”, The Superaboundings of the, Exceeding Riches of God's Free Grace, towards the Chief of Sinners. &c. (n. p., n. d). He wrote of his wife, “The first Time I was in her Company with other Friends, I was much taken with her Christian Discourse. and had this Thought pass'd through my Mind, that she would make a brave Minister's Wife” (pp. 128–129).

11. Dutton, , Brief Account, Part II, pp. 147148. Dutton was also plagued by ill health. See pp. 120, 133.

12. Ibid., p. 161.

13. See Whitebrook, , Ann Dutton, pp. 1520.

14. Ibid., p. 8. The work in question is A Narration of the Wonders of Grace (London, 1734).

15. Dutton, , A Discourse Concerning the New-Birth: To which are added, Sixty-four Hymns; Compos'd on Several Subjects (London, 1743), p. 3.

16. Prince, , Christian History, 2: 64.

17. Quoted in Wallington, , “Wesley and Dutton,” p. 47.

18. Burder, , Memoirs, p. 380.

19. Cited in Whitebrook, , Ann Dutton, p. 17.

20. Prince, , Christian History, 2: 6264.

21. Dutton, , Brief Account, Part II, p. 163.

22. Some of their letters to each other are extant; others probably have been lost. See The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, 6 vols. (London, 17711772), 12. Heresafter cited as Works. In the 1950s a letter book containing ninety-two previously unknown letters by Whitefield was discovered. See Christie, John W., ed., “Newly Discovered Letters of George Whitefield, 1745–46,” Journal of The Presbyterian Historical Society 32 (1954): 6990, 159186, 241270. With respect to Dutton's letters, J. A. Jones is quoted by Wallington, , “Wesley and Dutton,” p. 44, as follows: “Her epistolary correspondence was most extensive, throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Holland, America, &c; so that after her death several sacks, full of letters, were found, which were all burnt.”

23. Whitebrook, John Cudworth, “Mrs. Anne Dutton,” Notes and Queries, 12th ser., 2 (1916): 471; and Wallington, , “Wesley and Dutton,” p. 48. See The Weekly History: or, An Account of the most Remarkable Particulars relating to the present Progress of the Gospel. By the Encouragement of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield (London, 17411742), no. 44, p. 4; no. 49, p. 4. Concerning this early religious newspaper, see Austin, Roland, “The Weekly History,” Proceedings of The Wesley Historical Society 11, pt. 2 (1917): 3943.

24. Works, 1:277.

25. Ibid., p. 280.

26. Ibid., p. 250. Whitefield singled out the influence of Dutton's, A Discourse upon Walking with God: Together with Some Thoughts upon Joseph's Blessing, Deut. xxxiii. 13 &c. as also A short Account how the Author was brought into Gospel-Liberty, in a Letter to a Friend (London, 1735).

27. Works, 1:250.

28. Ibid., p. 450. In October 1743 Whitefield apologized for “the many obligations” laid on Dutton (ibid., 2:40). But Dutton pressed him at times, for in March of the next year he began a letter to her as follows: “SHALL I promise and not perform? GOD forbid! This comes in answer to your commands…” (ibid., p. 58).

29. Dutton, , Brief Account, Part II, p. 162.

30. Dutton, , Brief Account, Part I, p. 3.

31. Works, 1:277278.

32. For more information on Bryan, his family, and their relationship with Whitefield, see my earlier essay “Whitefield on Slavery,” pp. 248–252.

33. Gillies, John, Memoirs of the Life of the Reverend George Whitefield, M. A. (Salem, 1801), p. 68. Later that year in August Whitefield wrote to Bryan expressing joy that he had “so many christian negroes” and hope that they were “only the first-fruits of a more glorious harvest” (Works, 1:425).

34. Dutton, , Letter to the Negroes, p. 1.

35. For example, see Dutton's, The Hurt that Sin doth to Believers (London, 1743), and her letter in Prince, , Christian History, 1:344348.

36. See above, note 11. Benjamin Dutton noted his wife's ill health in the years preceding their arrival in Great Gransden. He recorded in his autobiography that because the area of Wisbich “was a Fenny Country, the Air did not suit my Wife's Constitution, she being a weakly Person; but brought on her such great Illness, that oblig'd us to return to Wellingborough.” See Superaboundings of God's Free-Grace, p. 130.

37. For example, see Dutton's, Discourse Concerning the New-Birth and A Discourse upon Justification: Shewing The Matter, Manner, Time and Effects of it. To which are added Three Poems (London, 1743).

38. Whitebrook's biography failed to evaluate Dutton's career and publications in the light of eighteenth-century evangelical standards, and as a result he dismissed them as strange, curious and worthless, a mere “object-lesson” useful for “persons who have to combat the dangers of ill-regulated enthusiasm.” See Whitebrook, , Ann Dutton, p. 3.

39. Speaking of the “kind letters” he received from Dutton, Whitefield wrote to her, “They increased that love, which I had before to the writer of them” (Works, 1: 449).

40. Brief Account, Part II, p. 4.

41. For example, see Dutton, , Letters To the Reverend Mr. John Wesley against Perfection As not attainable in this Life (London, 1743), and A Letter to the Reverend Mr. John Wesley: In Vindication of the Doctrines of Absolute, unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Special Vocation, and Final Perseverance (London, 1743). In the latter Dutton speaks on behalf of Whitefield against Wesley (p. 3). See also Wallington, “Wesley and Dutton,” and Curnock, Nehemiah, ed., The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A. M., 8 vols. (New York, 1909), 2:299, 359, 378, 405, 409, 414, 430.

42. Works, 1: 328.

43. Ibid., 2: 444.

44. Ibid., p. 213.

45. See Stein, , “Whitefield on Slavery,” p. 256. For additional corroboration see Whitefield's retrospective letter of March 22, 1751 (Works, 2: 404405).

46. A systematic search for more letters by Dutton remains to be carried out in the archives of Great Britain and the United States.

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Church History
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