“I remember about this time, some young gentleman from Lewes often walked in the evening to Southerham, and seeing me in the garden at work would talk to me and give me tracts, ect., that produced sometimes solemn thoughts about death and eternity, and finding I was willing to listen, his visits were more frequent than was agreeable to my father, who said he was likely some one learning to be a parson, so he busied himself with talking to others; but as for boys who had living to get, he could not see the good of their reading or being religious.”Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey, pg 5
This attitude of the anonymous man in the memories of Mockford was an extremely common one that came from many of the working class in regards to reading and writing. With literary being a skill that few possessed along with the high prices of paper, ink, and postage, and time consuming methods were enough to turn many away from learning to write or sending letters. With it being common that only the educated upperclass people were able to read, and few able to write, the distribution of books was not a common trade, therefore those who wished to read and expand knowledge on unknown subjects were not able to, and those who did read were sometimes judged for trying to better themselves by those who couldn’t. However, Mockford did not allow these barriers stand in the way of his spiritual education as he recalls being given different books by another anonymous man that eventually guided him to his spiritual awakening.
When I was between sixteen and seventeen years of age, some unknown person came upon the Downs, and addressing me, said, ‘Well, my lad, do you like reading?’. I replied, ‘Yes’. ‘Then’, said he, ‘I will leave this tract with you, and when I come again I shall know how you like it’. I put it into my pocket, and though I am not going to read that religious book; he might keep his book for aught I cared, but this thought came, ‘Well, you have better look at it, or you won’t know what reply to give when he comes again.’Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey, pg 7
Similar to that of Mockford, is one of the other writing lives authors, A. Gordon James. Writing of the importance of reading and writing in the working class or lay people, Francis writes, “Lay people also played an important part in Methodist church practise in early twentieth-century Wesleyan Methodism. According to Dale A. Johnson, ‘supplementary’ ministers from the congregation would be trained alongside full-time vocational ministers, and there would be lay people who sat in ‘Conference’ (Church History, 1982, pg 305). This dynamic would mean a more varied circulation of ideas and reading within its ministry, as we have seen James display in his work.” With Mockford’s lack of formal education, his own interest in reading and writing allow him to education himself in matters and interests that he has a passion for and eventually is able to spread word about in his clergy, further educating those who listen to him.
Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey.
Francis Foulkes (29 March 2021) A. Gordon James (b.1885): Reading and Writing, Available at: http://www.writinglives.org/reading-and-writing/james-a-gordon-b-1885-reading-and-writing (Accessed: 4th May 2021).
Johnson, D. (1982). The Methodist Quest for an Educated Ministry. Church History, 51(3).