Today’s lockdown reading is unique. It’s never been published before (apart from being posted on this blog about four years ago) but I think you’ll agree is very special indeed.

Fuller details are on that post, so to prevent undue repetition, you can follow up there. But this is one of those Antiques Roadshow finds made by my wife, Rachel, as she was going through a box of old family documents and photographs, and she came across a modernish envelope simply marked:

"letter from William Wilberforce to Grandmother, Priscilla Buxton"

She opened it and, sure enough, that’s precisely what it was!


Priscilla Buxton soon after her marriage to Andrew Johnston MP.
Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton MP (by JH Robinson)

Can you imagine writing a letter like this today? For starters, we would assume that the language was far too complex for a mere teenager. We might allude to poetry and bible verses, but I doubt we would assume our recipient would be sufficiently well-read not to need the references. Above all, few would ever be so bold as to write a pastoral letter today in terms of such confidence in the Lord’s gracious providence.

But in these strange days of uncertainty, anxiety and social distancing, there is so much to learn from this. We too ought to set our hopes on that time and place where ‘the sky is unsullied by clouds.’

Benjamin Robert Haydon: The 1840 Anti-Slavery Society Convention, listening to the veteran campaigner Thomas Clarkson. Buxton is top left, the second row down at the left end.
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