Serle, Ambrose (DNB00)

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SERLE, AMBROSE (1742–1812), Calvinistic writer, was born on 30 Aug. 1742, and entered the navy, in which by 1795 he had attained the rank of captain (Ann. Reg.) When William Legge, second earl of Dartmouth [q. v.], became secretary of state for the colonies in 1772, Serle was appointed one of his under-secretaries, and in January 1776 he was made clerk of reports. He went to America in 1774, accompanied the British army from 1776 to 1778, and during part of that time had control of the press in New York. His knowledge of American affairs was considerable, and his letters throw much light upon the course of events (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. App. x. passim). On returning from America in 1780 he settled at Heckfield, Hampshire. In 1795 the latter was a commissioner of ‘the transport service and the care of prisoners of war,’ and was reappointed in 1803 and 1809. He died on 1 Aug. 1812, and was buried in the churchyard at Broadwater, near Worthing. He was married, and a daughter Jane (1780–1792) was Mrs. Romaine's goddaughter.

In 1764, while living in or near London, Serle became a friend of William Romaine [q. v.] Other friends were John Thornton, John Newton, Toplady, and Legh Richmond. Soon after 1780 he published his ‘Horæ Solitariæ’ (2nd edit. 1787) and the ‘Christian Remembrancer’ (1787). A series of letters from Romaine (Works, vol. viii.) shows the deep affection and entire accord in religious matters which subsisted between him and Serle. Nowhere does the conviction of the vital importance of Calvinism as of the essence of the gospel appear more strongly than in Serle's books. The ‘Horæ Solitariæ’ and the ‘Christian Remembrancer’ passed through many editions. Romaine circulated them broadcast. Other works by Serle are: 1. ‘Christian Husbandry,’ 1789. 2. ‘The Christian Parent,’ 1793, often reprinted. 3. ‘Charis,’ 1803. 4. ‘The Secret Thoughts of a departed Friend,’ written while the author was suffering from paralysis in 1812, and designed for posthumous publication, 1813. 5. ‘The Church of God,’ 1814.

[Gent. Mag. 1812, ii. 193; Life of Hannah More, 1835, passim; Serle's Works; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

H. L. B.