Jones, John (1700-1770) (DNB00)

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JONES, JOHN (1700–1770), controversialist, was born, in all probability at Carmarthen, in 1700, and was admitted to Worcester College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1721. For a time he acted as chaplain of that society. From college he went to the curacy of King's Walden in Hertfordshire. In 1726 or thereabouts he became curate at Abbot's Ripton, Huntingdonshire, devoting his leisure to compiling for the London booksellers.

About 1741 he removed to the ‘poor and troublesome vicarage’ of Alconbury, near Huntingdon. There he ‘laboured both publicly and privately to preserve his parishioners steady to their protestant principles in the time of the rebellion (1745),’ but his difficulty in collecting the small tithes led him to relinquish the vicarage in 1750. In the same year he obtained the rectory of Bolnhurst in Bedfordshire, but complained that the locality did not suit his health, and ‘at Michaelmas 1757’ he accepted the curacy of Welwyn in Hertfordshire from Edward Young [q. v.], author of the ‘Night Thoughts.’ He remained at Welwyn until 1765, when Young died, and he acted as one of his executors, receiving a legacy of 200l. In the following year he wrote: ‘I am now (in the sixty-sixth year of my age, and after all my honest and best labours) unprovided of a proper retreat to go to.’ As a result of appeals to friends for assistance, Jones was in April 1767 inducted into the vicarage of Shephall or Sheephall, Hertfordshire, where he continued until his death on 8 Aug. 1770. He was unmarried. Jones is described as a plain, honest, well-read divine, of simple and retired manners. Nichols says of him that he was ‘diligent in his clerical functions and indefatigable in his studies, but not without affecting a mysterious secrecy even in trifles, and excessively cautious of giving offence to the higher powers.’

In 1749 Jones published anonymously ‘Free and Candid Disquisitions relating to the Church of England, and the means of advancing Religion therein.’ The book was a collection of short passages selected from the writings of eminent Anglican divines, all advocating the necessity or expediency of a trenchant revision of the liturgy, and suggesting amendments and alterations. A warm controversy ensued, but from an excess of timidity Jones preserved his anonymity (cf. his letters to Dr. Birch in Sloane MSS. Brit. Mus. 4049, 4311). It was long believed that the ‘Free and Candid Disquisitions’ was the composition of Archdeacon Blackburne, who was a friend of Jones, and had perused the greater part of the work in manuscript; Blackburne wrote a pamphlet in its defence. In 1750 Jones published ‘An Appeal to Common Reason and Candour, in behalf of a Review submitted to the Serious Consideration of all Unprejudiced Members of the Church of England.’ Shortly before leaving Welwyn Jones published ‘Catholic Faith and Practice: being Considerations of Present Use and Importance in point of Religion and Liberty’ (1755), and ‘A Letter to a Friend in the Country.’ He also made copious notes for a contemplated biography of Cranmer, but presented his notes to his friend Gilpin, who had conceived the idea of writing on the same subject. Early in 1783 much of Jones's correspondence with Birch and other papers of his were presented to Nichols the antiquary, who published many extracts in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and in the ‘Literary Anecdotes.’ But the greater portion of his manuscripts passed on his death into the hands of Dr. Thomas Dawson, a dissenting minister at Hackney; they are now in Dr. Williams's Library, London.

[Autobiography of the Rev. John Jones, preserved among the Jones MSS. at Dr. Williams's Library, B. 101; Last Will and Testament of John Jones (ib.); Cat. of Oxford Graduates; Gent. Mag. 1811, pt. i. p. 510; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Urwick's Nonconformity in Herts, pp. 341, 590, 621; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 585–639, iii. 15, viii. 289–92; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. C. S.