As my research interests are nonconformists in Northamptonshire the pages of Rev John Newton’s diary might not seem the likely place for relevant source material. Reading a diary that was probably kept for the writer’s benefit as an aide-mémoire might not be expected to be an easy or satisfying read. The transcriber and editor Marylynn Rouse of the John Newton project however has done an excellent job of making this material available to a wider audience. This is the third volume of John Newton’s diaries that have been transcribed for the first time. Previous editions were for 1764 and 1765, from the commencement of John Newton’s ministry.
This 48-page A4 book is illustrated throughout in colour. What makes this word a delight are the comprehensive footnotes on each page expanding the obfuscated names typical of this material, explaining the places and the reasons for his travels and visits and who met with. The footnotes actually take a greater part of the text than the diary entries themselves. Rather than being skipped the footnotes need to be read carefully as they significantly add to the understanding of the text.
This book demonstrates the extensive network of like-minded clergy that Newton was prepared to engage and work with but also his regular contacts with the Baptist, Independent and Wesleyan ministers across a wide area of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.
This book is a useful resource to be read alongside one of the established John Newton biographies or D Bruce Hindmarsh’s ‘John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition: Between the Conversions of Wesley and Wilberforce’ which expands on the detail of John Newton’s common cause with Calvinistic Evangelicals from whatever denominational flavour.
John Newton’s Diary: 1766 is available from The John Newton Project www.johnnewton.org ISBN 978-0-9559635-3-7 £5.00
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