[Priscilla Gurney, Quaker minister, sister of John Joseph Gurney, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, and others.] Two-volume manuscript ?Memoirs of Priscilla Gurney? by Rachel Gurney and other siblings, filled with correspondence and family information.

Priscilla Gurney (1785-1821) of Earlham, Quaker minister, sister of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), Daniel Gurney (1791-1880); Joseph John Gurney (1788-1847), and Samuel Gurney (1786-1856)
Publication details: 
The text covers her life in Earlham, Norfolk, from 1785-1821. The volume itself is written in the early part of the nineteenth century (1820s or 1830s).
SKU: 25719

A total of 416pp, 4to, in two volumes. Drophead title to vol. 1: ?Memoir of Priscilla Gurney. | 1st. Part.? Drophead title to vol.2: ?Memoir of P. G. | Part second.? Written in a close and neat hand. The volumes are paginated to 263 and 299, but taking into account blank pages they in fact contain 203 and 213pp of actual text respectively. Most of the main body of the text is written on the rectos, with additional material written in a closer hand lengthwise up the versos. While Rachel Gurney would appear to have been the main author of the recto text, the material on the versos carries not only more of her own letters, but also a patchwork of transcripts and quotations from other family members (for example ?T. G.?, ?A. M. V. D.?, ?T. F. B.?, ?R[ichend]a G[urney]?s Journal?, ?C. G.?s letter to A. F.?, notes by niece ?H. G. C.?). Hence the book appears to have been very much a family effort. Each of the volumes has a one-page table of contents (misleadingly headed ?Index?). The two volumes are in uniform morocco half-bindings with marbled boards and brown leather spines and corners, the spines blind stamped with decoration and divided into compartments, each spine carrying ?MEMOIR OF P. G. | VOL. I. [II.]? in gilt. Marbled endpapers. Laid down on each of the front pastedowns is a scan of the silhouette of Priscilla Gurney which faces p.40 of the first volume of Hare?s ?Gurneys of Earlham?, cut into an oval. The pages are discoloured and slightly worn at the extremities, but in fair condition, in tight, though worn, bindings, the second volume being rebacked. The Gurneys were, in the words of their chronicler Augustus Hare, ?a Quaker family, who - through their personal qualities and their self-devotion - played a more conspicuous part than any other set of brothers and sisters in the religious and philanthropic life of England during the first half of the nineteenth century? (?The Gurneys of Earlham?, 1895). Priscilla Gurney was one of the eleven surviving children of John and Catherine Gurney, no fewer than five of whom have entries in the Oxford DNB. They are: the celebrated prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), the antiquary Daniel Gurney (1791-1880); the religious writer and philanthropist Joseph John Gurney (1788-1847), who founded the ?Gurneyite? wing of Quakerism, the philanthropist Samuel Gurney (1786-1856) and the educationist and author Louisa Gurney Hoare (1784-1836). Gurneys was a prominent Norwich banking house, and Daniel, Joseph John and Samuel all followed their father into the business (their mother also came from a banking family, the Barclays), while another of the sister married the brewer and philanthropist Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845) of Cromer Hall, Norfolk, becoming Lady Hannah Buxton (1783-1872). As the present memoir - compiled by another sister, Rachel Gurney (1778-1827) - indicates, Priscilla was highly esteemed by her family and acquaintance. William Ball, in his memoir ?The Two Priscilla Gurneys? (in ?The British Friend?, 1 March 1876) recalled his youthful encounter with ?the exceeding beauty and superiority of this young herald of the cross?, and within a year of her death her close friend Amelia Opie had penned two poems about her: ?Priscilla?s Grave? (?There is a spot in life?s vain scene?) and the ninety-line ?Lines written on the Anniversary of the Funeral of a beloved Friend, April, 1822? (?In vain around me fair creations rise?). In 1856 Susanna Corder printed privately a ?Memoir of Priscilla Gurney?, with a reference to the present item as ?some reminiscences of the character of Priscilla Gurney, penned by her sister Rachel Gurney?, but Corder made scant use of these volumes, the greater part of whose material is unpublished. (Twenty years after Corder?s volume Bell would refer to ?Large volumes of her journals, &c., are in the possession of her family, but while portions have been in print the most part remain in MS. copies.?) Other copies appear to have been made, clearly for distribution to family members (Norfolk Record Office has a set, together with an odd Volume One), but the book is certainly highly uncommon. The provenance of the present copy is reasonably clear. Each of its front covers has pasted down on it a scrap of paper with the signature ?H. E. Gaussen?, and one carries a note regarding the provenance. According to this note they descended to Rev. Herbert Edward Gaussen (1865-1938) from his mother Letitia Maria Gaussen [n?e Chapman] (b.1826), who acquired them from (her aunt?) Ellen Chapman (1803-1888) of Woodford. Like the Gurneys the Chapmans were prominent East Anglian Quaker bankers, and the two families were connected by marriage: see the 1858 privately printed ?Extracts from the Journal and Letters? of Hannah Chapman Backhouse [n?e Gurney] (1787-1850), where she describes visiting ?my dear cousin Priscilla Gurney, in the last stage of consumption?. Laid down on the front free endpaper of the first volume is an Autograph Letter Signed to Gaussen from John Henry Buxton (1849-1934), son of Priscilla?s sister Rachel and Sir Thomas Folwell Buxton, another philanthropist whose cattle troughs are still to be found in London. The letter, dated 13 February 1928, on letterhead of Easneye, Ware, thanks Gaussen for lending him ?the Memoirs of Priscilla Gurney - my great aunt (sister of my grandmother Hannah Buxton) She was daughter of Catherine Bell whose portrait hangs in the hall here. / The account of the journey to Nice is most interesting, and the two books are a beautiful record of their life and occupations.? According to each ?Index? the contents are: [Part I] Sketch of the Earlham Family; Illness and death of their Father; Priscilla unites herself more closely to Friends & becomes a Minister; Illness of her Brother John & his death; Priscilla?s account of the death of Henry Gurney; Extracts from her letters to Maria Fox; French Journal; Extracts from letters from Nice with the account of the death of R. G.; Letters to Priscilla from F. Grenier; [Letters to Priscilla] from the Friends of Congenies; Priscilla?s return to Earlham, June 1817; Marriage of her Brother Joseph; Account of her religious visit into Cambridgeshire; Her determination to visit Ireland; Priscilla leaves home for London, in order to proceed on a religious visit into Ireland 19th. Jany. 1818; Reaches Dublin Febry. 19th.; Leaves Ireland May 12th.; Goes to Ipswich to meet S. G. and W. A. August 8th.; Publishes a volume of Hymns; [Part II] Priscilla returns home from Ipswich 10th. August 1818; Continuation of Extracts from Diary during her residence at home; Excursion to Runcton, Brampton &c.; She leaves home to attend the Yearly Meeting 10th May 1819; Taken ill at Upton 24th August 1819; Leaves Upton for the Isle of Wight 24th Sepr. 1819; Letter from P. G. to E. B. (dated Niton 12th. Mo. 1819.); Extracts from Diary to end of 1819; Extracts from papers & correspondence of P. G. from 1811 to 1816; Diary 1820; Letters written during the Summer of 1820; Last Extract from Diary; Letter to E. G. Cromer 8th. Mo. 1820; Extracts from the Journal of H. B. with additions from those of R. G. & L. H.; Letters written by P. G. after her arrival at Cromer Hall; Continuation of the Journal of H. B. &c.; Death of P. G. (March 25th. 1821) and Funeral; Letters from the Revd. C. S., the Revd. R. H. & the Revd. J. W C. on the death of P. G.; Sketch of the Character of P. G. by R. G.; Letter from T. F. B. to R. G. dated Cromer Hall, Octr. 22d. 1821; On Christian love and Family Harmony by P. G.; Extracts from a letter from P. G. to a Young Woman about to enter a Family as Governess. Among the transcripts of Priscilla?s letters is a long one headed ?To her Sister H. B. on her having become a Member of the Church of England?, and another ?To M. W. (Mistress of the Friends School established for the Education of Girls in the preceding Year)?, and yet another ?To the Revd. J-n C-n-m (on the death of his wife)?. The volume contains transcripts of numerous letters by and to her (including one from William Wilberforce), and examples of her writing. There are linking passages (presumably by Rachel) describing the different phases of her existence. Priscilla Gurney comes across as high-minded, serious and devout, regarding her duties as a Quaker minister as a sacred trust (witness the string of meetings on her 1818 trip to Ireland). Among the mass of principled piety there are occasional flashes of the mundane. Nearly one hundred pages are devoted to her trip to France, beginning: ?In the Autumn of 1816 Priscilla went to Nice, with her Cousins Jane and Rachel Gurney, and Agatha and Elizabeth Barclay. Her object in this journey was to assist in nursing Rachel, who left her home in a most alarming and almost hopeless state of illness, and who was committed by her tenderly attached parents to her sister?s and to Priscilla?s case, they being prevented accompanying her by other sources of anxiety in England. Elizabeth was also very ill, and was sent by her physicians to Nice for the benefit of the climate; she was attended by her Brother, who assiduously devoted himself to the two sufferers and who had a valuable helper in Rawlinson Barclay. Priscilla?s Journal of the nine months occupied by her stay at Nice and the journey thither and return home is interesting chiefly, as it exhibits the state of her mind under varying circumstances.? Of the passage from Brighton to France she writes: ?The approach to the French Coast very interesting. Past the village of St. Valerie. A melodious bell in the distance. Entered the harbour of Dieppe. Most striking and amusing scene. The Frenchmen jumped on board - one remarked on poor Rachel ?Elle n?est pas mal de la mer, elle a ete malade de long temps &c? Our patients were carried into the Sun, amongst a crowd of French people; chiefly woman with their high-crowned caps, & bright coloured handkerchiefs and petticoats.? The account that follows includes seventeen pages of transcripts of letters in French to Priscilla (who according to her sister Rachel ?spoke with much sweetness in the French language with little apparent difficulty?), from friends including Francis Grenier, Louis Majolier, Bellamy & Fran?oise Benezet, Jean Benoit and ?Magdelaine Benezet an old blind woman?. In 1818 she spends ?most of the Morning at Newgate - much engaged by the poor convicts left for execution the next day. - We sat some time with the two poor women - The scene was affecting - their relations and friends were taking leave of them. B- and I were I believe united in the prayer that ?Grace, Mercy, & Peace,? might be extended towards them, for I deeply felt that a preparation for death is a solemn and divine work. I trust there were some fruits of repentance &c. Our visit to the Men was a very close exercise of spirit.? Immediately after this she travels to Wales where she embarks for Ireland. ?The Dublin Meeting is large. The appearance of Friends different to those in England yet I hardly know where the difference exists.? On 22 February 1818: ?Left Dublin for Wicklow. The ride to Bray is interesting - the views of the Sea very beautiful. I was amused in passing many little Villages to watch the people. They have a wretched and low appearance. I long to have the opportunity of visiting them in their Cabins. Dined at Bray, and I gave the woman there a few books?. Her efforts in Ireland are tireless; she describes meetings at places including (her spelling) Belfast, Grange, Moyallen, Rich Hill, Rathangan, Mount Melick, Ballinurry (?We heard of a Priest at Ballinurry, who had ordered sixty Testaments to be burned - his Chapel was on the same or the next day burned down. The Priests cannot induce the people to part with their Irish Testaments?), Limerick, Cork, Garryoan, Clonmell. Also in 1818 she writes: ?We dined at the Wilberforces . . . . The glowing spirit of love and benevolence which is so conspicuous in him is very delightful and animating in its influence. The conversation was chiefly on Prisons, the Slave Trade &c.? There is also a long letter to Priscilla from William Wilberforce (?Mr. W-b-f-e to P. G.?), dated ?Kensington Gore 15th Febry. 1821?. The account of her life ends with an affecting description of her final illness and death, from her own letters and her siblings? and friends? letters and journals.