Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fletcher, Joseph (1784-1843)

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FLETCHER, JOSEPH, D.D. (1784–1843), theological writer, was born 3 Dec. 1784 at Chester, where his father was a goldsmith. In his boyhood he was deeply impressed by the gospel, and after attending the grammar school of his native city, prepared for the ministry in the independent church by studying, first at Hoxton and then at the university of Glasgow, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1807. Receiving a call from the congregational church of Blackburn, Lancashire, he began his ministry the same year, and continued there till 1823, when he became minister of Stepney meeting, in the metropolis. In 1816 he added to his duties that of theological tutor in the Blackburn college for training ministers. While discharging the duties both of the congregation and the chair, with marked ability and success, Fletcher was also a voluminous writer. The ‘Eclectic Review’ had just begun its career, and Fletcher was one of its regular contributors. His papers gave proof of ample stores of information, and of a scholarly and powerful pen. On particular subjects Fletcher published tracts and treatises that won considerable fame. His lectures on the ‘Principles and Institutions of the Roman Catholic Religion’ (1817) won great appreciation, Dr. Pye Smith, Robert Hall, and others expressing a very high opinion of them. A discourse on ‘Personal Election and Divine Sovereignty’ (1825) was also much commended. A volume of poems (1846) was the joint production of himself and his sister, Mary Fletcher. In 1830 the senatus of the university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of D.D. He was chairman of the Congregational Union in 1837. Without reaching the first rank, he showed a combination of reasoning power and emotional fervour which made him an instructive preacher. As a writer who gave birth to all his literary offspring amid the whirl of constant practical work and endless engagements he did little more than show what he might have done with leisure and other facilities for literary work. He died 8 June 1843.

Joseph Fletcher the younger (1816–1876), congregational minister, Dr. Fletcher's fourth son by his wife Mary France, was born at Blackburn 7 Jan. 1816; was educated at Ham grammar school, near Richmond, Surrey; went from a Manchester counting-house in 1833 to study at Coward College; was called to the congregational church of Hanley in 1839; was transferred to Christchurch, Hampshire, in 1849, in succession to Daniel Gunn [q. v.]; resigned his charge owing to paralysis at the close of 1873, and died at Christchurch 2 June 1876. He kept a school for a time at Christchurch, but the death by drowning of seven of his pupils in May 1868 caused him to close his establishment. He published, besides the memoirs of his father in 1846, ‘Six Views of Infidelity,’ a series of lectures given at Hanley in 1843; ‘History of Independency,’ an important work in 4 vols. 1847–9, reissued 1853; and ‘Life of Constantine the Great,’ 1852 (Congregational Year-Book, 1877). He is also credited with the libretto of an oratorio entitled ‘Paradise,’ by John Fawcett the younger [q. v.]

[Memoirs of the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, D.D., by his son, 1846; Waddington's Congregational Hist.]

W. G. B.