Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Letchworth, Thomas

LETCHWORTH, THOMAS (1739–1784), quaker, third son of Robert and Elizabeth Letchworth, was a descendant of Robert Letchworth, one of the first quakers imprisoned at Cambridge in 1660 (Crisp MSS., Devonshire House). He was born at Woodbridge, Suffolk, in 1739, but his parents soon removed to Norwich, and afterwards to Waltham Abbey. At seven years old he delivered harangues on life and immortality from a tombstone in Norwich. After having been taught by Joseph Dancer, a schoolmaster at Hertford, Letchworth was apprenticed to a shopkeeper at Epping. His master's efforts to induce him to join the established church were unsuccessful, his appreciation of silent worship being so sincere that he sometimes kept the meeting at Epping alone. He soon moved to London and took a shop in Spitalfields, where he began preaching at the age of nineteen. He afterwards married and settled in Tooley Street, Southwark. In 1765 he published some small volumes of verse. In 1773 he commenced publishing ‘The Monthly Ledger, or Literary Repository,’ to which he contributed many articles himself. It was entirely unsectarian. It was discontinued after the third year.

In 1775 Letchworth published the ‘Life and Writings of John Woolman’ [q. v.], whom he calls ‘The Christian Socrates.’ He died, after a prolonged illness, at the house of Joseph Rand, Newbury, Berkshire, 7 Nov. 1784, and was buried in the Friends' burial-ground at Reading.

His sermons, preached at the Park, Southwark, were taken down in shorthand, and published in London in 1787. An American edition was published at Salem in 1794. According to a note at the end of the preface, the first sermon had been incorrectly printed in Ireland under the name of Samuel Fothergill [q. v.] Letchworth's ‘Brief Account of Fothergill,’ published in the ‘Monthly Ledger,’ was also printed separately, London, 1774.

Letchworth married, 21 March 1759, at the Savoy Meeting-house, Sarah Burge. His only son died in youth.

[Life and Character of Thomas Letchworth, by William Matthews, Bath, 1786; Letchworth's Twelve Discourses, London, 1787; Gent. Mag. 1784, pt. ii. p. 878; Smith's Catalogue; Friends' Registers, Devonshire House; Crisp and his Correspondents, 1892, p. 79.]

C. F. S.