An Unusual Love Story in the Regency Era: Adoniram Judson and Ann Hasseltine ~ Guest Post by Regan Walker

At the dawn of the Regency era (the period between 1811 and 1820, when George, the Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent), many in London’s aristocracy enjoyed the pleasures afforded them. But in America, a brilliant young man named Adoniram Judson was preparing for a very different life.

Adoniram Judson
Adoniram Judson

In 1811, at the age of 23, Judson decided to become a missionary—at a time when America had yet to send anyone to the foreign mission field—and he set his eyes on India.

“It was during a solitary walk in the woods,” wrote Judson of his call to be a missionary, “while meditating and praying upon the subject, and feeling half inclined to give it up, that the command of Christ, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ was presented to my mind with such clearness and power, that I came to a full decision, and, though great difficulties appeared in my way, resolved to obey the command at all events.”

And Judson would soon take a wife.

Ann Hasseltine
Ann Hasseltine

Judson had met the beautiful Ann Hasseltine (who most people called “Nancy”) in 1810 at a dinner in her parents’ Massachusetts home. At 21, Ann was the youngest of four children (three girls and a boy) and the pet of the family. Judson was so taken by the beautiful vivacious girl he was struck speechless and spent most of the dinner staring at his plate.

Ann was not impressed. Where was the brilliant young man she had heard so much about?

By this time, Ann was already a Christian. At sixteen, she had picked up a book by Hannah Moore (one of the famed Clapham Sect in London to which William Wilberforce belonged), and read the words, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”

Of these words, Ann was later to say, “They struck me to the heart. I stood for a few moments amazed at the incident, and half inclined to think that some invisible agency had directed my eye to those words.” They were to change her life forever—from one of reckless gaiety to one of service for God.

The Courtship

A month after Judson met Ann, he declared his desire to be her suitor in a letter. She did not immediately reply but eventually told him he would have to obtain her father’s permission. So, Judson promptly wrote her father, John Hasseltine of Bradford, to ask for his daughter’s hand:

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.

Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?

Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

Adoniram & Ann Judson
Adoniram & Ann Judson

The letter must have shocked Ann’s father, but Mr. Hasseltine was unusual and so was his daughter. Though he had misgivings, amazingly, he left the decision to Ann, as did her mother. A courtship followed as Ann considered the costs of giving her life to foreign missions at a time when no American woman had gone to the foreign mission field.

Their courtship lasted a year while Judson solicited support for his mission to India.

On January 1, 1811, he wrote to Ann:

“It is with the utmost sincerity, and with my whole heart, that I wish you, my love, a happy new year.

May it be a year in which your walk will be close with God; your frame calm and serene; and the road that leads you to the Lamb marked with purer light. May it be a year in which you will have more largely the spirit of Christ, be raised above sublunary things, and be willing to be disposed of in this world just as God shall please.

As every moment of the year will bring you nearer the end of your pilgrimage, may it bring you nearer to God, and find you more prepared to hail the messenger of death as a deliverer and a friend.

And now, since I have begun to wish, I will go on.

May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take a final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean, and dwell on the other side of the world, among a heathen people.”

Can you imagine such a courtship? In the time of the Regency era when so many in London were pursuing pleasure, can you conceive of such an unselfish, sacrificial view of life? Ann must have been an amazing woman that she would proceed in the face of so many unknowns and so much danger. But she did proceed.

As the year wore on, Ann and Adoniram, now betrothed, became increasingly conscious of the fact they would soon be saying good-bye to all their friends and family and to all they had known. And as war with England seemed a certainty, Judson was eager to sail. God opened doors. Money and gifts rolled in and their needs were met.

 The Departure

On February 5, 1812, Adoniram and Ann were married in the very room in which they had first met. Seven days later, they set sail from Salem, Massachusetts for India. However, God had another destination in mind.

Sailing in 1812 from Salem_Harbor
Sailing in 1812 from Salem Harbor

The East India Company had concluded that the recent mutiny among Indian troops had its origin in religious antagonism to the presence and teaching of foreign missionaries.

So they denied the Judsons permission to remain in India. Instead, they were advised by the American Missionary Society to head toward Burma, which they did.

In July 1813, they landed in the city of Rangoon and were welcomed into the home of English missionaries.

Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma

When Adoniram and Ann arrived in Burma, there was not one known Christian in that land of millions. It was to be six, long heart-breaking years before they would see the first convert to Christ. Judson noted in his journal: “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.”

Converts were added slowly but they came. And much was achieved. But there was also much opposition. These lines from Judson’s letter to Ann in 1811 proved prophetic:

“We shall no more see our kind friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of the heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods.

We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.

We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die. And that time may soon come.”

In 1818, one disaster after another swept over the little mission in Burma.

Cholera raged in the city; the government persecuted the missionaries; it was said the foreigners were to be banished; and war’s alarm floated in the air.

One by one English ships weighed anchor and hastily left the harbor. In 1824, Judson was imprisoned in irons, accused of being a British spy. He spent 21 months in prison, condemned to die.

But in answer to prayers and Ann’s incessant pleadings to officials, Judson’s life was spared and British intervention freed him from imprisonment.

Ann, who had so faithfully ministered to him while he was in prison, died in 1826 at 37 after a long period of ill health. She had two children, a son, Roger Williams (born in 1815) and a daughter, Maria (born in 1825). Both died in infancy.

In 1850, at age 62, after a lifetime given to Burma and out-living two more wives, broken in health, Judson began his journey home to the United States, but he never reached its shores. He died on board ship on April 12, 1850.

Ann and Adoniram gave their lives for God and Burma, and their legacy was a great one.

Adoniram mastered the Burmese language (possibly the most difficult language to acquire, excepting Chinese), writing and speaking it with the familiarity of a native and the elegance of a cultured scholar, and by 1834, translated the entire Bible into Burmese. His biographers believe that his translation was “undoubtedly his greatest contribution to the people among whom he chose…to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake.”

To the Golden Shore coverAnn, too, learned Burmese (and Siamese), did translation work, taught Burmese girls, managed her household and cared for her husband. In 1822, when she was home in the United States briefly because of ill health, she wrote a history of the Burmese work titled American Baptist Mission to the Burman Empire. It was published in 1823.

Sometime after Adoniram’s death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians in Burma, one out of every fifty-eight! Such an amazing impact their lives had.

If you would like to read more of Adoniram Judson’s life, I recommend To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson, a work of nonfiction and very good.

Regan Walker profile pic 2014After years of practicing law in both the private sector and government, and traveling to over 40 countries, Regan has returned to her love of telling stories. She writes mainline Regency romances. To learn more about her stories, see her website:  http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com.

God in the Regency ~ Part 1 ~ Guest Post by Regan Walker

Regency Reflections is excited to welcome Regan Walker. Over the next three days we will be sharing a paper Regan wrote entitled “God in the Regency”. This three part series will give you a terrific overview of the religious environment and shifts in the Regency period. 

My initial purpose in writing this article was to dive beneath the form and ritual we often read about in the religious activities of Regency England, and get to the hearts of the men and women living at that time to explore their beliefs and the meaning of their faith to their lives. I found it a daunting task in the short time I had and finally decided that the only evidence I could provide of what was in their hearts was to look at the actions that resulted from their faith (or lack of it). I approach this issue as a person of faith myself, hence I am not looking to discredit, but rather to shed light on what was happening to the church that influenced the people of England, both rich and poor, in matters of faith during the Regency. To do so, however, I felt it necessary to review the century before this period and the time following the slim slice of history that was the Regency in order to understand the sweeping changes that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries that bracket the Regency.

It is not my intention in this effort to duplicate the wonderful contributions of others who have looked into this subject. I merely want to provide interesting background for authors of Regency historical novels who may want to know more. At the end of the article I’ve listed some of my sources and other books, articles and websites that might be of interest to you. My thanks to fellow Beau Monde member Nancy Mayer who gave me helpful suggestions that improved the article.

The 18th Century:

The early 18th century in England was an age of reason, and the churches, such as they were, lacked vitality, in part due to the action of the government. I speak in general terms, of course, as there have always been exceptions. However, from what I’ve read, there was little enthusiasm for spiritual matters, perhaps as a reaction to the excesses of the 17th century. People were content with things as they were and those few who attended church often did so out of habit or social custom. The aristocracy was expected to show a good example by attending church and some did, but perhaps only a few times a year on major church holidays. There were parishes where the poor had no church in which to worship and wanted for spiritual leadership.

John Wesley, 1703 - 1791

In the middle of the century, a change swept England. It began, as such revivals always do, with a few who desired to grow closer to God. In 1729, a small group of men at Oxford began gathering under the direction of John Wesley to observe the fasts and festivals of the church, take Communion, and visit the sick and prisoners. Wesley had made the love of God the central principle in his life. His efforts, and those of others, led to what is called The Great Awakening, a Christian movement that also swept Europe and the American colonies. It was to have great consequence.

The “Awakening” produced powerful preachers who gave listeners a sense of their need for a personal faith in God for salvation from sin. Pulling away from the ritual and ceremony that brought people to church out of habit or social custom, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.

John and his brother, Charles and George Whitefield, all ordained in the Anglican Church of England, had been missionaries in the new colony of Georgia, but returned home in 1738 after an unsuccessful mission, disillusioned and discouraged with their faith. They began attending prayer meetings on Aldersgate Street in London, searching for answers. During that time, all three had conversion experiences. (As John Wesley wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins.” –Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738.) With this newfound excitement and energy in spiritual matters, the brothers began to develop guidelines, or methods, in seeking spiritual renewal.

John Wesley Preaching
John Wesley Preaching

In 1739, John Wesley and George Whitefield began preaching the gospel outdoors to large gatherings. Wesley took the whole of England as his parish, preaching to as many as 20,000 at one time in London. Thousands, who had previously thought little of religion, were converted. Although not his intention, Wesley’s message led to a new movement that would ultimately separate from the Church of England called the Methodists. From the very start, the Methodists were concerned with personal holiness and emphasized the need for an experience of salvation and forgiveness of sin. Those who criticized the Methodists, such as the Duchess of Buckingham, complained of being held accountable for sin “as the common wretches.” John Wesley’s mission was to England’s poor, unlearned and neglected people. He had little time for the aristocratic rich, finding them idle, trivial, extravagant and lacking in social responsibility.

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

Despite the focus of the Methodists on the poor and working classes, one of the converts at this time was the Countess of Huntingdon, who for 40 years was deeply involved with the leaders of the Methodist movement. The countess was born into aristocracy as Selina Shirley, both sides of her family being descended from royalty. Selina married Theophilus Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon, in 1728. Notwithstanding her wealth and position, she found the typical social life of the aristocracy empty. Everything changed in 1739 when she was converted to the Christian faith and determined to use her energies, organizational skills and wealth for the cause of the gospel. Within a short time she was identifying herself with the Wesley brothers and other early Methodist preachers in the Church of England. This reflected great courage on her part, because these itinerant preachers were despised by most of the aristocracy.

To reach the aristocracy, the countess brought the leading preachers of the day into her home and invited her friends and acquaintances to hear them. A number of noble and influential people came to faith in this way. All of them were likely members of the Church of England even before their conversion. In 1746, the countess’s husband died, and at 39, she threw herself into her work with even greater zeal. When she was in London, she held services in her home inviting the evangelical preachers of her day to speak to her friends. She also leased properties in several strategic centres throughout the country and regularly held preaching services there. She built chapels, too, for “her preachers” including one in Bath. By her death in 1791, she had been largely responsible for the construction of 64 chapels all over Britain. In 1778, she once said that she was responsible for 116 “preaching places.”

It is interesting to note that in 1748, John Newton, slave trade ship captain and later the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, was converted during a storm at sea. After he left his career as a ship’s captain, he became an enthusiastic disciple of George Whitefield and then an evangelical lay preacher. In 1757, he applied to be an ordained priest in the Church of England, though it was seven years before that happened, owing to his lack of credentials. Meanwhile, in his frustration, he also applied to the Methodists, Presbyterians and Independents, which suggests he could have found a spiritual home with any of them. Newton’s newfound faith in God made a distinct difference in his life and the hymn for which he is famous testifies to his heart change (“I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see”).

Four years after John Wesley’s death in 1791, the Methodists broke with the Church of England, though it was never Wesley’s desire and he argued vehemently against it. Still, he is credited with the revival of personal religion in England and the Methodist movement.

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce

At the end of the 18th century, a group of wealthy Anglican Evangelicals came together, most of them living in the village of Clapham southwest of London, to campaign for an end to slavery and cruel sports, prison reform and foreign missions. Dubbed “the saints,” a name which likely amused them (since the Bible calls all believers “saints”), they included: Henry Venn, rector and founder of the group; John Venn, rector and the founder’s son; William Wilberforce, friend of both John Newton and Prime Minister William Pitt, and the statesman who successfully fought against slavery; Henry Thornton, the financier; Charles Simeon, rector at Cambridge; Granville Sharp, a lawyer and founder of the St. George’s Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra Leone Company; Zachary Macaulay, estate manager and Governor of Sierra Leone (established as a homeland for emancipated slaves); John Shore, Lord Teignmouth, formerly Governor-General of India; James Stephen, lawyer, Wilberforce’s brother-in-law and author of the Slave Trade Act of 1807; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; and Hannah More, poet and playwright, who produced tracts for the group.

What motivated them? William Wilberforce’s views here are helpful. In his book, “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity,” which was published in 1798, and by 1826 had gone through 15 editions in England alone, he speaks of a “true Christian” as one discharging a debt of gratitude to God for the grace he has received. Likely his views mirrored those of his fellow Clapham group members when he said,

They are not their own: their bodily and mental faculties, their natural and acquired endowments, their substance, their authority, their time, their influence, all these they consider. . .to be consecrated to the honor of God and employed in His service.

The Clapham group certainly put their faith into action. One of their primary concerns was foreign missions, taking seriously Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Among their achievements, were the Religious Tract Society in 1799, the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (now the Church Missionary Society) in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. The latter circulated the Bible in England and abroad. With funding from the Clapham group, Hannah More established twelve schools by 1800 where reading, the Bible and the catechism were taught to local children. She also wrote ethical books, some of them during the Regency.

The influence of the Clapham group continued during the Regency period. By the mid 19th century they were known as the Clapham Sect.

Sunday schools arose in the 1780s teaching Bible stories to children. It was the idea of Robert Raikes, the curate of Mary le Crypt Church in Gloucester. His purpose was to teach local children to read and write. The idea spread rapidly; by 1797, there were 1,086 schools in England teaching 69,000 children.

God in the Regency will continue with part 2 tomorrow.

After years of practicing law in both the private sector and government, and traveling to over 40 countries, Regan has returned to her love of telling stories. She writes mainlineRegency romances, her first is Racing With The Wind, set in London and Paris in1816, and features spies and intrigue as well as a smart, independent heroine and a handsome British lord–lots of adventure as well as love! It’s the first in her Agents of the Crown trilogy. For more, see her website:  http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com.