George Mockford (1826-1899): Purpose and Audience

Privately published by his widow in 1901, a few years after his death, George Mockford’s memoir begins without a dedication from by the author himself, therefore allowing the readers to assume that there was an unclear purpose and audience for his memoir. In Mockford’s biographical entry, the publisher personally thanks Mockford’s great grand daughter, Mrs. R.A. Barker for allowing access to the early pages of Mockford’s work. This acknowledgement suggests that these pieces of writing were private to Mockford, and could even possibly be noted as being diary entries or writing without the intent to ever publish. However, with the confidence and charisma that Mockford uses to describe his spiritual journey and spiritual grace, there is a strong argument that Mockford was writing with a clear purpose and with a specific audience in mind.

“I was soon noticed as one paying great attention to my instructors, who I remember excited my wonder as to how they knew so much, and I had a great wish to be as wise as they: therefore I drank in very eagerly all they told me; and by their instruction the church and her ministers, ordinances, and ceremonies were soon looked upon by me as having something mysteriously angelic or heavenly about them; and being naturally very credulous, particularly of anything that had some mystery about it, I could easily be made to believe the statements of the mysterious, learned men, the clergy or church ministers.”


Spiritual autobiography is a genre of non-fiction prose that dominated Protestant writing during the seventeenth century, particularly in England among dissenters. Typically the narrative follows the believer from a state of damnation to a state of grace. The most famous example is perhaps John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding (1666).

Because so many autobiographies were written, they began to fall into a predictable pattern. The “formula” began with a sinful youth, “followed by a gradual awakening of spiritual feelings and a sense of anxiety about the prospects for one’s soul.” The person would repent, fall again into sin, repent, and sin again; such cycles could last for years. The Bible was often a source of comfort or fear during this time. Finally, the person had a conversion experience, an “epiphany, often of an emotionally shattering character, by which individuals came to realise that they had been singled out by God for salvation.” Life was not necessarily easy after this, but it was a good deal less traumatic. These overarching narratives were seen to be not only relevant to human life, but also to human history. Those who practiced this type of spiritual autobiography believed that “history repeats itself not only in man’s outward, group existence, but in the spiritual life of individuals.”

‘Even in this very personal, subjective, and supposedly egocentric genre, the “I” is minimised and even depersonalised.’

(Hackett, Nan. ‘A Different Form of “Self”: Narrative Style in British Nineteenth-Century Working-class Autobiography’. 12.3 (1989):
208-226, 210) 

Falling under Gagnier’s category of ” therapeutically-motivated self-examinations” and also evident from this quote by Nan Hackett, Mockford’s memoir is extremely similar to other working class ones who share a lack of the “I” throughout. Appearing to be somewhat afraid to seem egotistical throughout his work, he emphasises the help and support he received from those around him throughout his life. Mockford pays such attention to this that he suggests that his spiritual journey may not have even been possible if it wasn’t for the chance encounters he had with motivational and righteous individuals throughout as he credits them fully.


Works Cited

Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey.

The Literary Encyclopaedia.  English Writing and Culture of the Seventeenth Century, 1625-1688, V1.2.1.04.

John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding (1666).

(Hackett, Nan. ‘A Different Form of “Self”: Narrative Style in British Nineteenth-Century Working-class Autobiography’. 12.3 (1989): 208-226, 210) 

Images Cited

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