Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hopton, Susanna

HOPTON, SUSANNA (1627–1709), devotional writer, whose maiden name was Harvey, belonged on the father's side to an ancient family in Staffordshire, and on the mother's to the family of Wiseman of Torrell's Hall in Essex. She did not receive a learned education, but read much by herself. She married Richard Hopton of Kington in Herefordshire, a barrister, who was afterwards one of the Welsh judges in the reigns of Charles II and James II. In her early years she was drawn over to the church of Rome through the influence of Father Turberville, a Roman priest. In writing to Father Turberville after her return to the church of England in 1661, she ascribes her conversion to ‘the Eclipse of the Church of England, and my own youth.’ Her husband, whom, she says, ‘I confess I love truly and passionately,’ did his best to bring her back to the church of her baptism; but she thought the matter out for herself, studying carefully all the arguments of the great English divines, especially Laud, Thomas Morton, and Chillingworth, and the result was that she came back more attached to the church of England than ever, and remained a member of that communion to the close of her long life. Her husband died in 1696, leaving his widow, by whom he had no issue, in affluent circumstances. She continued to live at Kington ‘divers years after his death, in great esteem with her neighbours, among whom she did a great deal of good, both by her example and by her extensive charity.’ She rose at 4 A.M. every morning, and set apart five different times every day for religious worship. She was a constant observer of the fasts and festivals of the church, and was particularly kind to the clergy, especially those who were suffering from poverty. Her two most intimate friends among that class were the nonjurors George Hickes [q. v.] and Nathaniel Spinckes [q. v.] . Both have published short but interesting accounts of her life. Before her last illness she removed from Kington to Hereford, where she died of a fever on 12 July 1709, in the eighty-second year of her age. She was buried at Bishops-Frome, near her husband. Her literary works were all of a devotional character, and were for the most part published anonymously. They include: 1. ‘Daily Devotions, consisting of Thanksgiving, Confessions, and Prayers, by an Humble Penitent,’ 1673. 2. ‘Devotions in the Antient Way of Offices,’ 1701. It was published by Dr. Hickes, who revised it and prefixed a preface. As the title implies, the work was not original. ‘It had,’ says Dr. Hickes, ‘four editions reformed from Roman Catholics, five as it was reformed by Dorrington, while this is a second in a new reform.’ The work contains psalms, hymns, and prayers for every day in the week, and for every holy day in the year. 3. ‘A Hexameron, or Meditations on the Six Days of Creation.’ After each day's meditations there are verses upon it of some poetical merit. 4. ‘Meditations and Devotions on the Life of Jesus Christ.’ The last two, together with the ‘Daily Devotions,’ were published after her death in one volume by her friend Nathaniel Spinckes, under the title of ‘A Collection of Meditations and Devotions, in Three Parts,’ 1717. 5. The ‘Letter’ to Father Turberville above noticed was copied by Dr. Hickes at Mrs. Hopton's own house, and published by him with her full consent ‘forty-nine years after it was written,’ that is, in 1710, in his second volume of ‘Controversial Letters.’ She is said to have left several poems on various subjects in manuscript, but these were never published.

[Ballard's Memoirs of British Ladies; Hickes's Second Collection of Controversial Letters relating to the Church of England and the Church of Rome; Hickes's Preface to Devotions in the Antient Way of Offices; Spinckes's Preface to a Collection of Meditations, 1717.]

J. H. O.