[Spencer Perceval; Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church.] Autograph Copy of Letter from Spencer Perceval junior to Robert Baxter, denouncing his attack on his 'friend' in his book 'Irvingism, in its Rise, Progress and Present State'.

Author: 
Spencer Perceval (1795-1859), Member of Parliament, son of Prime Minister of same name [Robert Baxter of Doncaster; Edward Irving, Scottish preacher, founder of Catholic Apostolic Church (Irvingism)]
Publication details: 
[1836.]
£180.00
SKU: 21816

The author of this letter was the son of the British Prime Minister of the same name. After his father's assassination he became 'in Lord Teignmouth’s words “the spoiled child of the nation”: the benchers of Lincoln’s Inn provided him with a free legal training; Parliament granted him an annuity of £1,000; his appointment to a tellership of the Exchequer in February 1813 supplied further financial security' (History of Parliament). In 1818 – at the age of 22 – Perceval became a Member of Parliament, and three years later he married Anna Eliza Macleod, daughter of the chief of the clan Macleod, with whom he had eleven children. He left parliament in 1832, and the following year was created an apostle ('Angel') in the Irvingite Catholic Apostolic Church. He later served as a metropolitan lunacy commissioner. For the subject of the letter, the celebrated Scottish preacher and theologian Edward Irving (1792-1834), see his entry the Oxford DNB. For the recipient see Brian Barber's 2017 paper 'Robert Baxter of Doncaster and Westminster (1802–1889): Lawyer, Businessman, Tory and Millennialist'. See also the section on 'the one-time prophet' Baxter in David Malcolm Bennett, 'Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement' (2014). The present letter is a potent artefact of the millennialism fashionable in late-Georgian London society, a time at which, according to Irving's friend the historian Thomas Carlyle, 'Christian Religion was to be a truth again, not a paltry form, and to rule the world'. Irving was, Carlyle would state in his old age, 'on the whole, the best man I have ever, after trial enough, found in this world'. Carlyle's wife, who as Jane Welsh had been courted by Irving, opined 'There would have been no tongues, had Irving married me'. The present unsigned draft letter is 4pp, 4to, on a bifolium. It is aged and worn, with chipping and closed tears to the extremities, but with the text of 59 lines intact. The letter, written after the publication in 1836 of Baxter's denunciatory 'Irvingism, in its Rise, Progress and Present State', begins: 'My dear Mr. Baxter | Mrs. Perceval feels unable to recommend you to commit the care of yr children to Miss Hall.' (Bennett explains the reference: 'Mary Hall, the governess of the children of Spencer Perceval (a Member of Parliament and one of the Albury delegates), also spoke in tongues'.) Perceval continues: 'I never dreamt of stipulating that you should say any thing contrary to yr conviction if you came to visit us, but I did mean distinctly to guard myself & you from any violation of the sacredness of my hearth, through your being tempted to take the occasion of being under my roof, as an opportunity for strengthening & encouraging the heart of my wife in her present unhappy difference from me. I believe that half the conscientious religionists of our day would, through the utter ignorance which prevails of the ordinances of God, and of what is His mind concerning husband & wife, feel themselves in duty bound to embrace such an opporunity – and the more jealous & conscientious I believed them to be, the more I should expect them to act in such a way.' Since his last letter Perceval has seen Baxter's 'publication', and he feels compelled to state 'that that grief which I felt at merely hearing that you had been tempted to put yr self forward again in publish'd opposition to Gods blessed work, has been very greatly increased by reading what you have published that which I have felt most is the very unworthy tone of your observation introducing before your reader, a once honored & now departed friend – some delicacy & tenderness has been counted due to a dead enemy – that you should just announce Mr Irving as the “Lion of the fashionable world, & the wonder of the religious circles,” without a note that sounds his worth of character, & holy devotedness to the Service & name of His blessed Lord & Master, is I confess what I never should have expected at your hands'. He also takes exception to the imputation that Irving 'coveted & obtained his popularity by unworthy means'. Neither is it 'honorable' in Baxter to have insinuated 'against an individual what you could not have directly asserted'. He refers Baxter to 'his dedication to Basil Montagu in the 2d vol. Of his Sermons, beginning page 333', and to another citation. He asks Baxter whether 'earnest diligent faithful preaching & exposition of Gods word, as God opens it to him – is not the plain path &c & dwelling most earnestly on that which is most neglected & for the day most needed?' With reference to Luther's 'shaking Europe by incessant exposure of indulgences' he asks Baxter if he means 'to insinuate that Mr. Irving was a man neglecting the more homely & domestic duties of a shepherd of Xsts flock? if so indeed you greatly belie him'. He continues with denunciations of Baxter, before concluding: 'I am almost sure that if you will candidly read from the beginning of your pamphlet down to the end of that last sentence you will acknowledge that I do not do any injustice in saying that so far it is written in a mere spirit of depreciation & disparagement, but you are conscious of the work of the man & he was your friend.'