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at Bristol ; but whether they are actually united, is not in my power to ascertain. I know at present but of one, who has disregarded his atfinity, by taking to himself his sister's daughter. Should I by inquiry find out any others equally culpable, I shall deem it my duty to trouble you again upon the subject. I am, Rev. Sir, yours respectfully,
Extracts from the Letter of the Rev. W. B. C. to the Rev. S. T. Wylde.
Dec. 14, 1812. I should have acknowledged the receipt of your kind note, with the letter annexed, sooner, but that I am anxious to give you every assistance to corroborate the facts relative to the illegal proceedings practised in the parish churches in the vicinity of Bristol ; and conceiving that the revision and amendment of the Marriage Acts will not be brought forward immediately, I wish to gain every information, and every substantial document, that may tend to the accomplishment of the laudable and humane cause you have so generously engaged in.
That you may not think I have lost sight of this iniportant matter, I beg leave to say, that on Thursday last my friend and worthy Vicar, the Rev. J. R-h-ds, Curate of St. M-h--l's, Bath, called on me at Wedmore, and I took the opportunity of putting into his hands the letter on the subject alluded to.
After perusing it, he was struck with astonishment at the purport of it, and immediately observed, “I hope your friend has transmitted one of his letters to the Bishop”and then added, “I do not doubt but what Mr. Wylde has mentioned respecting similar acts being practised in other large and populous places or cities, may have been incautiously done in Bath." —And adds, “I wish you had two or three, or more, of these letters in your possession, that I might distribute them to the Archdeacon, who is my Rector, and other parochial priests in Bath, and its neighbourhood."
After this, I could not hesitate in desiring he would accept the one I had received from you; at the same time telling him, that I was not afraid of incurring your displeasure at parting with it, and that I trusted I should be able to procure more for him, and all our true, religious, well-disposed brethren in and out of Bath, who must see the fatal consequence to society, if a stop is not put to such monstrous and abominable practices.
I remain with due respect,
W. B. C.
The Rev. J. Y. to the Rev. S. T. Wylde.
Dec. 19, 1812. I most heartily wish success to your cause. I have had too many persons of my parish married at Bristol, but the only illegal marriage I have to furnish you with, is that of a reputable farmer's widow, of this parish, going to Bristol, soon after her sister's death, with her brother-in-law, of Lympsham, and marrying him, although he had a family by her sister living at the time.
They live now at Lympsham, and have had a child, which, according to a late decision of Sir W. Scott, is a bastard.
Mr. S-v-1-n, of Lympsham, will, I apprehend, represent the same case, when you will attach the case either to my parish, or his, as you choose. May God bless you and yours. I am, dear Wylde, yours faithfully,
Extracts from the Letter of the Rev. J. V. to the Rev. S. T. Wylde.
Dec. 1, 1812. I sincerely hope you will succeed in the important object you have in view, an object with which the peace of families, and the morality of our neighbourhood are most intimately concerned. I am happy not to have witnessed cases of equal enormity to those you mention in your letter; but yet I can refer to several instances, which have led me most seriously to deprecate the evil which you are seeking to prevent. Upon calling on one of my farmers some years ago, he, with some agitation, told me, that the church bells had just, for the first time, informed him, that bis son had been married two days before in Bristol. The daughter of my clerk chose this clandestine mode of marriage also, and though a girl of virtuous character, yet, from ignorance, made a brothel her home for many days. A man and woman, of the rank of farmers, lived together in this parish for some years, when it was generally thought they were not married. They at length produced a marriage certificate from a Bristol register, but its date was subsequent to the time when it is supposed their cohabitation began. An instance not very dissimilar to this has occurred here within the last few months. I need not trouble you with the inferences from these facts. They are obvious to every mind, and they certainly show, that your present undertaking has a very strong foundation.
In addition to the above-mentioned instances, I should say that on coming to this parish, I found the miller had two wives. I could never ascertain the precise circumstances of the two marriages, but I have always thought, if the banns had been published in the parish of each woman respectively, that the man could never have perpetrated this crime.
I have the honor to remain, Rev. Sir,
The Rev. J. H. to the Rev. S. T. Wylde.
Dec. 23, 1812. I was favored with your kind letter, Monday last, and highly pleased with the sentiments you have so nobly introduced on the subject of an increasing evil, that seems to require the immediate interference of Parliament; and doubt not but your exertions on the occasion will at least call forth the thanks both of the Clergy and Laity. It has for many years been the custom of the lower order in this parish to visit Bedminster, or Bristol, for marriage, without any legal residence previous to publication, which practice I at first attributed to the neglect of duty which could not be avoided, in consequence of the number of years it took in rebuilding the church, but on inquiry I found it to be the general system of the surrounding parishes. It is at present going farther, not barely confined to the laboring poor, but the children of respectable tradesmen and farmers, have taken the same course, and that at so early an age as 17 or . 18, which has occasioned great distress of mind to parents, and a prospect of unhappiness to themselves, as well as want and misery tu posterity. I have generally in the course of the year, in my parish, one marriage, seldom a second, which in a parish so large and populous, I apprehend, if all were consummated at home, might amount at least to eight or ten. The method, Sir, you have laid down, appears the most suitable to prevent improprieties of this nature in future, and that it may have this effect, and the friend of the rising generation a PROPER REWARD, is the hearty wish of, Dear Sir, your obedient servant,
The Rev. W. L. to the Rev. S. T. Wylde.
My Dear Sir,
Jan. 5, 1813. I have received your circular letter, and beg to add my tribute of thanks for having taken up a subject, which more or less must create an interest in every parish in this neighbourhood. The complaint of a general diminution of home marriages, is, I believe, universal. Couples appear without any account how or where they were united.
This, as you observe, may “ draw a veil over the guilt of many, who cohabit as man and wife, without submitting to the ceremony;" and may tend to the subversion of religious and moral institutions, as well as to the fatal increase of vice and depravity. I can only assure you, that in my own parish, the population of which, during the last 14 years, has increased one-third, the number of marriages has decreased from about 10 to 4.
Although the multiplying of oaths is perhaps not desirable, yet it appears, that some such plan as you suggest, on applications for banns, might prevent the complete evasion of residence, which the situation of every large parish may at present afford.
I shall be ready to concur in any further step to this purpose, and am, Dear Sir, yours most sincerely,