‘BOOK OF HIMSELFE’ - a Country Clergyman’s Unpublished Autobiography of Hypochondria and Illness

Samuel Jackson
An 18th century country clergyman’s narrative of hypochondria, illness and death: Jackson’s life-writing being continued and completed decades af… Read more
Published in 1758 by Unpublished.

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‘BOOK OF HIMSELFE’ - a Country Clergyman’s Unpublished Autobiography of Hypochondria and Illness by Samuel Jackson

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An 18th century country clergyman’s narrative of hypochondria, illness and death: Jackson’s life-writing being continued and completed decades after his death by his sons.

Small quarto (17x20cm) bound in full contemporary sheepskin, rebacked; new endpapers and a few paper repairs. In addition to the manuscript book there are several inserts including draft family memorials etc. Paper stock has horizontal chainlines; ‘GR’ with armorial above for watermark. The manuscript is written from both ends, [pp] 44 (Jackson senior’s text written on rectos only) and his son Samuel’s transcription of his poem, ‘The Paralytick’ followed by about a dozen blanks and [pp] 26 from the other end of the manuscript, mostly in the hand of John Jackson, son of Samuel, beginning with an enumeration and analysis of the Bills of Mortality in his Essex parish of Stisted.

Samuel Jackson, senior (1708-1792) began this manuscript autobiography in 1758 from fear of his own imminent demise, calling it an ‘Account of himself & Family by the Rev.d Sam.l Jackson Rector of Stisted in Essex’. Jackson states that he was writing for his children, as ‘my precarious State of Health, give me very natural & convincing reasons to apprehend yt I shall not live to see them of Age and Understanding to regard & remember anything’ - in fact the manuscript reveals that Jackson lived to the age of 84, though he did indeed spend his final decades largely paralysed. In fact Jackson senior’s last direct contribution to the manuscript, only 9 years later, was to dictate a mournful poem on his reduced state to his son: ‘The Paralytick’ which includes the reflection: ‘My wife and children pensive stand/ To see my doleful State;/ My faithful Servants near at Hand/ My dissolution wait.’ At the end of which his son noted: ‘My Papa dictated these in Dec.r 1767 - Samuel Jackson’. In a long postscript to this written by John Jackson in the 1790s, the younger son recalls his father’s decades-long decline when he made regular use of ‘his Garden-chair, & of his Chariot, in which he constantly took his Airing… tho’ for the last 20 or near 25 Years, his whole Frame was so totally relaxed, that he cd scarcely move Hand or Foot without Help, cd neither feed himself or turn himself in his Bed.’

Jackson senior seems to have been haunted by the possibility of his own mortality and his vulnerability to illness. In 1757 he describes dodging the horrors of smallpox when he sat with a ‘sick Neighbour, not know-g what her Illness was: but ye Small-pox was then broke out upon her. And my Stay in ye Room was very Short, yet so human Judgm.t I must have been in great Danger of catch.g that fatal Distemper; possibly ye Danger might be ye greater from ye unhappy Fears w.ch I am too apt to have to it. But it is now more an Fortnight ago & I find no Symptoms of ye infection…’ His first wife was less lucky, despite the fact that ‘We lived together in ye most perfect Harmony and affection above 6 years… My Wife seemd Several times under ye Approach of Death, before that Illness w.ch provd to be her last. She has no Child born alive, but Suffered 5 Miscarriages’. His son Samuel (later transcriber of his father’s verse) had another close shave: ‘And on Saturday June 21. 1760. My dear Child Sam, was rode over in my own yard. And it was a large clumsy horse on ye Gallop, and his Foot caught betwixt ye Childs Arm & Body. So as to drag him several Paces, & put him in ye utmost Danger of being kill’d… I was in ye Garden very near, & heard his Crys, and ran to take him from ye Man yt pickt him up. His nose bled profusely; and ye Anguish & Distress in his Countenance when he lookt upon me affected me with deepest Woe.’ (p26)

Jackson senior began the manuscript with an account of his Whitchurch forebears and arrival in indolent mid-century Oxford, ‘raw in ye Latin Tongue and much more’ and benefitting very little at Brasenose College from the tuition ‘of one Mr Pigot, a very good-natured learned indolent Man who took very little Pains to improve his Pupils.’ Despite this Jackson took his degree and was elected to ‘One of those Fellowships wch are founded in Brasenose College for ye Benefit of Cheshire Men’ and tutored in rural Oxfordshire at Garsington where he fell in love with Molly Wickham, He was ordained in June 1734 by John Potter, Bishop of Oxford (a friend of his mother in law ‘as their Houses at Cuddesden & Garsington were but abt a mile distant’) only to quit his curacy at Farthingstone, Northants as ‘I was then under some Anxiety and Concern how to Station myself...’ subsequently rescued by (now) Archbishop Potter ‘with such Expedition yt I was inducted into ye Ch.h of Stisted in ye County of Essex October 7. 1742 within little more yn a Fortnight after ye Death of Mr Wagener my Predecessor.’ Jackson was married in Lambeth Chapel with Potter, now Archbishop of Canterbyry ‘ye ABp [Archbishop of Canterbury], his Grace himself condescend.g to act as Fa[the]r to ye Bride.’

A second marriage followed the death of his first wife when ‘After 2 years of Widowhood ye Irksomness of Solitude’ led him to Jane Blencowe at Marston, whom he married in October 1752 at St Anne’s Westminster - ‘my first Marriage was after a very long Courtship; my Second after a Short one’ which marriage produced Samuel in 1753 and John in 1757. It was John who returned to his father’s manuscript in August 1793 when ‘I have amused myself in continuing the Account, which my dear Father has given in this Book of himself’, describing his father’s decline and inserting short biographies of the servants who helped his father as well as describing the impact of the long illness on his mother who ‘being happily of a tranquil domestic Disposition, was able to bear the Confinement & Anxiety which a strict attention to my Father under his severe afflictions render’d unavoidable, with comfortable Requiescence’.

Full details

Added under Manuscript
Publisher Unpublished
Date published 1758
Subject 1 Manuscript
First edition Yes
Signed Yes
Product code 7939

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