Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kershaw, James

KERSHAW, JAMES (1730?–1797), methodist preacher, a native of Halifax, was born about 1730. He joined a Socinian club in Halifax, whose members deputed him and another, in 1761, to attend a sermon to be delivered by Henry Venn [q. v.] at Huddersfield, in order 'to furnish matter of merriment for the nest meeting,' But Kershaw left the church after the sermon exclaiming, ' Surely God is in this place; there is no matter for laughter here,' He subsequently called on the preacher, was converted, and became one of Venn's constant correspondents (Life and letters of Henry Venn, 1836, passim).

Kershaw soon afterwards became known as an itinerant methodist preacher, and accompanied John Wesley on more than one occasion in his rapid journeys about the north of England. He settled down at Gainsborough about 1770, and waa famous in the neighbourhood for his quack medicines. He still continued to preach, but only at irregular intervals, and occupied his leisure in writing. He died at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1797.

Besides some tracts Kershaw wrote:

  1. 'An Essay on the Principal Parts of the Book of the Revelations, in a series of Dialogues between Didaskalos and Phylotheos,' Stockton, 1780, 2 vols. 12mo.
  2. 'The Methodist attempted in Plain Metre,' a sort of Wesleyan epic, published at Nottingham in 17S0, but not approved by Wesley, who feared it might deter the elect from perusing more edifying works, and determined henceforth to exercise a censorship over methodist publications.
  3. 'The Grand and Extensive Plan of Human Redemption, from the Ruins of the Fall … in twelve familiar Dialogues,' Louth, 1797. A note appended to this volume states that Kershaw died 'shortly after this work was put to press.'

Arthur Kershaw (fl. 1800), apparently James Kershaw's son, was educated at Wesley's school near Kingswood. He contributed to the 'Monthly Magazine, and was employed by London booksellers in the enlargement of Walker's 'Gazetteer' and similar work at the beginning of the present century.

[Atmon's Methodist Memorial, p. 128; Tyarman's Wesley, ii. 631, iii. 362; Creswell's Hist. of Printing in Nottingham, p. 37; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, p. 188; Kershaw's works in Brit. Mus. Library.]

T. S.