"HE FOUND ME IN A WASTE, HOWLING WILDERNESS—IN THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE—THE COAST OF GUINEA": FIRST EDITION OF THE CHRISTIAN CORRESPONDENT, 1790
NEWTON, John. The Christian Correspondent; or A Series of Religious Letters, Written by The Rev. John Newton… to Captain Alexr. Clunie, From the Year 1761, to the Death of the Latter in 1770. Hull: Printed by George Prince, 1790. Octavo, modern half olive cloth, black morocco spine labels. $1200.
First edition of the collected 18th-century letters between John Newton, a slaveship master and born-again Christian, to Alexander Clunie, a fellow slaveship captain and Newton's Christian mentor.
The Rev. John Newton was born into a sailing family. His father was a shipmaster in the Mediterranean. While Newton's mother raised him as a Christian, she died when he was just six years old. Newton spent a few years in boarding school before joining his father at sea. While Newton was slated to become a slave master at a Jamaican sugar plantation, he was forced into naval service. After attempting to desert and surviving a brutal court marshal, Newton went to work in the slave trade. While he found Christianity in 1748 after nearly dying in a storm at sea, he remained an active slave shipmaster. "In the summer of 1750 Newton began another slaving expedition, this time as master of the Duke of Argyle… Throughout this voyage and the next, as master of the African, Newton felt no scruples about slave trading, seeing it as the work marked out for him by Providence, though he admits to his horror at slavery's brutal accoutrements and his prayer that in God's own time he would receive a more humane calling, one that would keep him in regular communion with other Christians, perhaps a reflection of his new friendship with Alexander Clunie, whom he met when the African called at St. Kitts. Clunie, a fellow ship master and believer, convinced Newton of the importance of the fellowship of believers and of his security in the covenant of grace. In 1790 their long-term friendship ultimately resulted in the publication of The Christian Correspondent, a collection of letters they exchanged over the years," mainly dealing with Christianity and family life (Encyclopedia of Christian Literature, 489). In the time between the writing and publication of these letters, a great deal changed in Newton's life. Following a series of strokes in 1854 that forced him to leave the seafaring life, Newton reconsidered his association with slavery. He acknowledged the damage that it wreaked on a person's humanity and began to view it as fundamentally opposed to Christian beliefs. In the final years of his life, he became an ardent abolitionist. He wrote extensively on the subject—as he had on all subjects throughout his life—and counted Wilberforce among his closest friends. ESTC T18631. Contemporary owner signature.
Scattered soiling to interior, binding fine. A near-fine copy.