JOHN ACKWORTH
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"There is certainly a revival in northern provincial literature.  The signs of fading fashion apparent a short time ago have disappeared, and the Lancashire sketch has put on new vigour.  The Lancashire man, at any rate, is assured of immortality, and will descend to posterity in his habit as he lived."

From the Manchester Guardian's review of
"Clog Shop Chronicles", 1st Dec., 1896.

"His young church people called him "Daddy Smith".  During his last illness at "Beckside", his new house in Burnley, his Sunday School scholars marched from their Field Day at Hollin Cross Farm to sing hymns beneath his window."

The Rev. Fred Smith, from "Clogshop Chronicles, a Victorian Best-seller,"
by Stanley Wood, The Dalesman, October 1979.

The driving power of life is desire, craving, ambition; we not only all have these things, but we all agree they are indispensable to success—that life cannot be life without them.  And yet they are of most bewildering variety; some good, some bad, some partly the one and partly the other, and some neither the one nor the other; and, as if these difficulties were not sufficient, they have all a family likeness, and the lower ones, taking advantage of that fact, have a dreadful trick of masquerading in the garments of the higher sons of Satan appearing as children of light.

Ackworth on worldliness . . . . from Life's Working Creed.

――――♦――――

REV. FREDERICK R. SMITH.
Taken at Manchester Road Wesleyan Church,
Burnley, 1914.
Photo: courtesy Burnley Reference Library.


BY the close of the 19th Century, it appears, there was no serious ecclesiastical objection to a Wesleyan Methodist minister writing novels, although adopting a pseudonym and a low public profile as an author of popular light fiction were probably considered prudent.  This, I think, accounts for the comparative dearth of information on the life of "JOHN ACKWORTH", the pen name of the REVEREND FREDERICK ROBERT SMITH (1854-1917), author of many delightful and, in their day, highly popular tales of Lancashire working-class folk.

 

An old lady in Burnley described him: "He was a little man with red hair and a little pointed beard.  You could just see him over the top of the pulpit.  He was a very good preacher".   He had "theatrical mannerisms," while preaching.  He would shout but lead to the shout with a kind of crooning sound (sounds like a siren song).

A description of Ackworth the preacher.


    What information I have been able to glean about Ackworth the man  (I suspect that the reverend gentleman would have preferred to be addressed by his nom de plume in a literary context) I have extracted in the main from several brief obituaries, from material supplied by the Burnley and Salford reference libraries and from a biographic sketch, "Clogshop Chronicles, a Victorian Best-seller", by Stanley Wood published in The Dalesman (October, 1979).

 

 

    "John Ackworth" was born at Snaith, Humberside, on 18th April 1854; as a writer he thus shares with Samuel Laycock the unusual distinction of being a Yorkshireman who became a notable author in the Lancashire dialect, then spoken in various flavours by working-class folk throughout the greater part of the county (the Liverpool area excepted) but now, together with the old industries and lifestyles, almost extinct.

    Coming from a family of preachers ― his great-grandfather, his two grandfathers, his father, and seven uncles were in the ministry, and at least one brother ― it was to the Wesleyan college at Headingley, Leeds, that Ackworth went to undertake his theological training from which he emerged in 1879 to commence his ministry in the Castletown circuit on the Isle of Man.  In 1882 Ackworth married Annie Bradley of Stockport; they were to have 4 sons and 3 Daughters.



    Ackworth's first essays in writing were in The Isle of Man Examiner, a fact he later acknowledged in The Methodist Magazine, but it was in 1896 that he achieved great success with his first book, "Clog Shop Chronicles", a collection of Methodist tales cast in a rural setting and featuring now long-forgotten scenes of Lancashire working-class life and dialect humour ―
 

He was the village knocker-up, and went his daily rounds with unfailing regularity every morning, except Sunday, between the hours of four and six.  Over his shoulder he carried a long, light pole, with wire prongs at the end, with which he used to rattle at the bedroom windows of the sleepy factory hands until he received some signal from within that he had been heard.

    Though employed and paid by the "hands," Jethro regarded himself as representing the masters' interests, and if a post was unoccupied or a loom "untented" when the engine started at six o'clock, Jethro felt that it was a reflection on his professional ability, and was ashamed and hurt.

    This doubtless accounted for the extraordinary zeal which the old man put into his work.  The knocker-up was expected to go and knock a second time a few minutes before six to stir up any drowsy one who might, peradventure, have fallen asleep again, and into this second round, which was to many the real signal for rising, Jethro put all his resources.  Not only the windows but the doors were assailed, and in addition he would give a word of exhortation in his thin piping voice―

    "Bob!  Dust ye'r?  It's five minutes to six!  Ger up, tha lazy haand (hound).  If tha dusn't ger up Aw'll come an poo' thi aat o' bed."

At the next call he would drop into a coaxing tone-

    "Lizer!  Jinny!  Come, wenches!  You'll ne'er ha' breet een (eyes) if yo' lie i' bed like that."

Beckside's 'Knocker-up' . . . . Clog Shop Chronicles.

__________

"GET UP!"


"
GET UP!" the caller calls, "Get up!"
    And in the dead of night,
To win the bairns their bite and sup,
    I rise a weary wight.

My flannel dudden donn'd, thrice o'er
    My birds are kiss'd, and then
I with a whistle shut the door
    I may not ope again.

By Joseph Skipsey


. . . Such everyday events — set in the mythical cotton-mill villages of Beckside, Scowcroft, Bramwell, etc., and painted by Ackworth in his charming idylls —  have long since followed the Lancashire cotton industry, the dialect, and Methodist chapel life into virtual oblivion.  Samuel Smiles, writing during the Victorian era (ca. 1860) on the history of our developing road system, suggests that improved communications — or lessening isolation — was an important factor in the disappearance of our local dialects and customs, such as those on which Ackworth's tales are based:


    "The imperfect communication existing between districts had the effect of perpetuating numerous local dialects, local prejudices, and local customs, which survive to a certain extent to this day; though they are rapidly disappearing, to the regret of many, under the influence of improved facilities for travelling.  Every village had its witches, sometimes of different sorts, and there was scarcely an old house but had its white lady or moaning old man with a long beard.  There were ghosts in the fens which walked on stilts, while the sprites of the hill country rode on flashes of fire.  But the village witches and local ghosts have long since disappeared, excepting perhaps in a few of the less penetrable districts, where they may still survive.

    It is curious to find that down even to the beginning of the seventeenth century, the inhabitants of the southern districts of the island regarded those of the north as a kind of ogres.  Lancashire was supposed to be almost impenetrable—as indeed it was to a considerable extent,—and inhabited by a half-savage race."


    But despite the social and economic changes that were taking place even as Ackworth was writing, his stories will surely continue to delight today's readers.  As the Birmingham Daily Gazette's critic put it when reviewing the 10th edition of "Clog Shop Chronicles" (still in print):


"The book is distinctly a work of genius, the author is not only saturated with his subject, but has the power to convey his impressions vividly and distinctly.  Humour, pathos, tragedy, abound. . . . From first to last presents feasts of good things."

 

There was a sob and a rustle at the door, and a pale, shamefaced factory girl stepped forward, unwrapping as she did so a bundle containing a five-weeks-old baby, and sobbing audibly the while.  "Look at it, Mestur," she cried, holding out her little one.  "It's as bonny as ony o' them 'at Jesus tewk in His arms," and then, pressing closer and almost forcing the baby upon him, she pleaded―"Tak' it, Mestur, tak' it.  Aw know Aw'm aat o' th' kingdom o' God, but Aw dunnot want mi babby to be."

    In a moment the student, with face all awork, had snatched the wee thing from its pleading mother, and was offering a simple prayer for it as he held it in his arms.  Then he sprinkled it in the "Blessed Names," and, still holding it, prayed again,—prayed for babe and mother too,—and then, as he handed the infant back, his eyes wet with tears, he stooped down and tenderly kissed it.

    "God bless yo' fur that" cried the agitated mother; "an' ha'iver lung yo' live, an' wheriver yo' goa, yo' con remember as there's wun poor woman as 'ull allis be prayin' for yo', if hoo is nowt but a nowty factory wench an' a woman as is a sinner."

The student does what ordained clergymen would not
― he christens an illegitimate child. . . . The Student.


    Readers unfamiliar with Victorian Lancashire dialect should not be deterred ― Ackworth employs the dialect in an economical way, using it to add vivid splashes of colour to his cameos while ensuring that the story-line is framed in sufficient plain English to enable the reader to "decode" the short dialogue passages without recourse to a glossary.  Despite the experience of W. E. Adams, one quickly picks it up . . . .


"Here, however, I could not qualify the conversation, for the reason that I had not then made the acquaintance of the Lancashire dialect, which, as I listened to it at Chorley, was as much like a foreign language to me as anything I had heard before.  Only a word dropped here and there, such as "bobbin" and "mill," led me to infer that the people, for part of the time, were talking about work at the factories."

W. E. Adams: from "Memoires of a Social Atom"



Jabez Longworth, autocratic proprietor of the clog shop, the focal point
of life in Ackworth's mythical Lancashire mill-village of Beckside.

 

Northern Echo, 3 Oct. 1899.

 

    During the next 11 years Ackworth built on the "Clog Shop's" immediate success with nine other titles, including two sequels to the "Clog Shop", "Beckside Lights" (1897) and "Doxie Dent" (1899), the heroine of the latter being an enterprising mill lass of the kind that Gracie Fields was later to immortalise on film.  Ackworth gathered together other of his Lancashire stories in the "Scowcroft Critics" (1898) and "The Mangle House" (1902).  "The Coming of the Preachers" (1901) is an attractive 18th century tale, which chronicles the rise of Methodism.  "The Minder" (1900), subtitled "The Story Of The Courtship, Call And Conflicts Of John Ledger, Minder And Minister", recounts the trails and tribulations of an impoverished young "minder" (a machine supervisor in a cotton-mill) who eventually becomes a Methodist minister and, after a tortuous courtship, marries the right girl.  Set in the fictional mill-town of Bramwell, the reader cannot help harking back to Beckside or Scrowcroft and to their loveable characters; thus The Birmingham Gazette — "Never have we seen a finer study of principle and passion, religious fervour and human love, than in the courtships and conflicts of John Ledger.  It is long since we read a finer novel".
 

The painter's shop was an institution in Bramwell; the new ministers as they arrived began by suspecting and disliking it, then they came to tolerate and fear it, and generally ended by accepting and making the best of it.  It was a sort of left wrist of the body ecclesiastical, where the pulse of the circuit might be felt.  It was also the best place to procure or at least to hear of supplies for vacant pulpits, and its proximity to the cattle market made it a convenient place for the leaving of parcels of circuit plans, magazines, and messages for country officials.  Superintendents, therefore, made use of it somewhat frequently, and all the more willingly, perhaps, because they could always pick up there the latest circuit gossip and the first mutterings of ecclesiastical thunderstorms, with the comfortable knowledge that the trouble, when it did come, would certainly not be worse than it had been represented at the paint shop.

The ecclesiastical parliament building of Bramwell . . . . "The Minder"


   "Old Wenyon's Will" (1904) takes as its principal theme the problems that stem from a bequest, by "Old Wenyon", of a profitable public house to his disliked nephew, an ardent Methodist teetotaller, on the condition that he and his family live there.  This otherwise charming story—a triumph for teetotalism and a sound defeat for cupidity—includes a vivid depiction of alcoholic Billy Stiff's attack of "cold turkey", which suggests that in his pastoral life Ackworth had encountered alcoholism in the raw; thus a convincing portrayal of that "rambling, raving lodger's" withdrawal symptoms . . . .
 

It took nearly an hour, and more than one weary chase, to get the drink-ridden man to the tollhouse, and once there the quiet little home became a sort of pandemonium.  Billy snatched at the wonderful cakes like a ravenous beast, and then spat the food out and yelled for drink.  Twice he had to be dragged from the door by main force, and twice he collapsed in hopeless tears.  He cursed the drink in language that made his keepers shudder, and then cursed them for keeping it from him.  He coaxed, and pleaded, and promised, and then laughed, and mocked, and swore.  He called Jeff all the tragedy names he could remember, and made slobbering, demented appeals to his wife as the "angel of the bower" . . . .  and a moment later Jeff experienced the greatest amazement of that amazing day, for he found a man clinging to his bare legs and sobbing, not with the whining, drunken bathos of other occasions, but in deep, solemnest earnestness, sobbing as only a man can sob.

The craving of alcoholic Billy Stiff. . . . from Old Wenyon's Will


    A popular preacher, "Life's Working Creed"― Ackworth's final title (so far as I've discovered) ― is a volume of his sermons "on the present day meaning of the Epistle of James" (1909), which among other things serve to provide the present day reader of Ackworth's tales with an insight into the preaching that the Wesleyan worshippers of Beckside, Scowcroft, Bramwell and elsewhere might well have heard . . . .
 

It is all very well for comfortably placed ministers, arm-chair philosophers, successful authors, and able editors to talk about the blessings of poverty—let them come and try it.  It is very beautiful to write on the 'simple life' from a carpeted study and a soft easy-chair; let them come and live in 71 Brick Street, and maintain a family on a pound a week, and then see where their moralizings will be. . . .

Now, in this twentieth century, we are experiencing both the blessedness of Socialism as an ideal, and its immense difficulty as a practical system.  The difficulty of all difficulties is how to render help to a poor man without injuring him in character . . . .

Man on earth is the son of God in his gymnasium, and that place of exercise has no value save what it derives from its relation to the student.  The gymnast does not spend his time in collecting and hoarding up gymnastic appliances, his success is not measured by the number of clubs, ladders, push-balls he accumulates, but by the state of his muscles and the degree to which these instruments have told upon his physical powers.  Most of us have mysterious appliances behind our bath-room doors, and Indian clubs and dumb-bells in our bedrooms; we take golf, tennis, cricket, walking exercise, bicycling, sea-side week-ends, and summer holidays, and yet we do not develop our muscles half so thoroughly as that rough lad who spends his days pulling trucks about on a pit bank.  So with life—the soul's the thing! What will benefit and develop—that is the question. . . . The soul is a young god, a glorious, undeveloped Hercules.  You don't feed giants on gingerbread and jam trifles; you don't wheel giants about in perambulators and coddle them in cotton-wool and muslin frills!  You cannot develop the sinews of a giant by teaching him to wave a fan.  Your Hercules must have the labours of Hercules if he would finally sit amongst the gods. . .

We believe in the preciousness of human life, we know the disgraceful details of infant mortality, the high death-rate in slums, the lack of commonest necessities amongst our fellows.  We cry over descriptions of them in the papers, we revel in luxurious pity under appeals at public meetings; but, for all our tears and all our sighs, if our faith carries us no further than that, it is dead faith.

Ackworth's preaching. . . . from Life's Working Creed.


The "clogger" being lectured by the irrepressible Doxie Dent ―
note Jabe's Lancashire clogs.

 

LANCASHIRE CLOGS: were everyday wear for many Lancashire working-class folk until (about) the 1920s.  Unlike wooden Dutch clogs, Lancashire clogs are a type of heavy boot or shoe with lace-up cowhide sides and uppers and, typically, thick wooden soles.  The soles were normally carved from alder (in wet places is extremely durable) or unseasoned sycamore; both are easily worked and resist splitting.  The finished clog is shod with "irons", an iron edging similar to a horse-shoe, designed   to protect the sole from wear.  It took a "clogger" about two hours to make the soles and a further two hours to make the uppers.

    Lancashire is also known for its "clog dancing", said to be derived from cotton-mill workers emulating the sound of their looms with their clogs.  Dancing,  or "neet" clogs, don't have irons and are lighter than the heavier working clogs. Ash is considered a good wood to use for dancing clogs due to it being light and springy, with plenty of bounce and a ringing tone (although the young lady pictured was wearing rubber soles to prevent slipping).  The cowhide uppers are sometimes highly tooled (decorated), coloured, and might also have bells attached of the type worn by Morris dancers—it's clogs similar to these that Jabe the clogger presents to his adored niece, Doxie Dent.

 

Before the close of the 19th century, Alcock's footwear shop, Chorley Road, Swinton (above), had been a clog shop owned by James Allen, a friend of the Rev. Fred Smith who at that time (1891-94) was minister of St. Paul's.  Fred would call at the shop for a chat every Monday morning ― as author "John Ackworth", he would later cast local scenes and characters such as these as the fictional Beckside clog shop and its acerbic (but kindly) proprietor, Jabez Longworth.  Beckside, incidentally, is thought to be modelled on Boothstown, Salford, although Stoneclough near Bolton is another candidate; in all probability Beckside is a composite drawn from a number of such places.

Photo: courtesy Chris Carson.


    It's interesting to compare Ackworth with two of the other authors listed in the website index: the Lancashire dialect author and poet, Edwin Waugh, and Isabella Fyvie Mayo ("Edward Garrett"), author of many moral stories and a splendid autobiography.

    Both Waugh and Ackworth portray ― even caricature ― the same types of people; artisans, tradesmen, working-class folk together with the occasional representative of the middle classes, such as the local parson or a member of the "squirearchy", all of whom are presented in a rural Lancashire setting.  In his short tales of Lancashire life (e.g. "Tufts of Heater" I. & II. and "Besom Ben"), Waugh makes much more extensive use of the dialect than Ackworth, and a lexicon is a useful companion for the uninitiated.  Slight differences in dialect crop up between the two, Waugh's being native to the Rochdale area while Ackworth's is that of Bolton.  A prominent difference in usage is in the form of female address; Waugh employs the more common and gentle "lass" while Ackworth's use of the much earthier "wench" takes some coming to terms with as a polite form of address.  This is Waugh writing about variations in the dialect . . . .


"And here it may be noticed that persons who know little or nothing of the dialect of Lancashire are apt to think of it as one in form and sound throughout the county, and expect it to assume one unvaried feature whenever it is represented in writing.  This is a mistake, for there often exist considerable shades of difference,—even in places not more than eight or ten miles apart,—in the expression, and in the form of words which mean the same thing; and sometimes the language of a very limited locality though bearing the same general characteristics as the dialect of the county in general, is rendered still more perceptibly distinctive in feature by idioms and proverbs peculiar to that particular spot."

Edwin Waugh: Preface to Sketches of Lancashire Life, 1855.


    But the most apparent differences lie in attitudes to religion and choice of setting: Waugh's tales are firmly secular whereas Ackworth's, while not overtly religious, adhere strictly to the beliefs, the dogmatism and the ways of life of a close-knit rural Methodist community.
 

There was probably not a shape in hats or a cut in coats, from the early years of the century to the very latest fashion, that was not represented in that procession.  Wide brims and brims that were mere rims, bell-shaped and "long-sleeved," chimneypots and bell-toppers, all were there; and an assortment of black coats, from Nat Scholes' sage-green cut-away to the newest and glossiest superfine frock, that would have completely equipped the nineteenth-century section of a sartorial museum.  Silently, sedately, with most obvious self-consciousness, they filed out, as though a wondering world were looking on.

    Poor souls!  . . . . there was nobody at all to behold all this pride and glory.  I beg pardon.  In almost every cottage door stood a perspiring and already exhausted mother, still en deshabille, and as little Tommy in his new velveteen suit and monster posy, or Jane in her gay frock or gayer hat, moved proudly past, there was a sudden glistening of motherly eyes, a sudden uplifting of weary faces, and the work and worry of many days seemed all too little for the sweet reward of that proud moment.

A Sunday school procession. . . .  The Mangle House.


    For instance, in Beckside, the scene of many of Ackworth's tales, "the law as to the marriage with unbelievers, which according to Beckside canons of interpretation meant all non-church members, was clear and uncompromising" ― transgressors are shunned.  Gamblers are considered to lie well beyond the pale ― "An' whoa wur it as ran a race fur brass yesterday amung bettors an' gamblers an' pidgin-flyers?" asks the scandalised Sunday school superintendent having received intelligence of such activity.  And while Beckside has a public house, the chapel-going villagers would regard it "sinful" to enter therein, let alone partake; and the reader isn't invited across its threshold either.  Instead, Beckside's teetotal clog shop replaces the village "pub" as the hub of information and governmental decision-taking, Jabez Longworth the "clogger" being its resident Speaker, while the chapel and its Sunday school, visiting preachers and the "super" (Methodist circuit superintendant) are called into play as occasion demands.  By comparison, Waugh often chooses the more worldly setting of the town-square "pub" or a wayside inn in which ale-fuelled conviviality is the order of the day.  The publican or one of his boozing cronies presides over the discussion, while an attendant "lass" hovers to ensure that our speakers' thirsts are adequately slaked during an oft-lengthy session . . . .


"Are we to sit dry-mouth, Bill, or how?"

"Nawe.  Here, Betty, bring us a quart an' a quiftin'-pot."

"Ay; be sharp, Betty; I'm as dry as soot."


(B
ETTY brings the drink.)


"Chalk it up, Betty; I haven't a hawp'ny about mi rags. . . . Trinel; buttle, an' let's sup."

"I will, my lad. . . . An' I say, Betty, put that dur to, an' let's ha' th' hole to ersels.  Theer!  Now then, Bill, wipe thi face, and tak howd!  We're as reet as a ribbin." (Ed.—well, until the unwelcome arrival on the scene of Bill's better half!)

Waugh, from Bitter-Sweet.

    . . . . or . . . .

"Heigh, Hal o' Nab's, an' Sam, an' Sue;
     Heigh, Jonathan, art thou theer too?
 We're o' alike,—there's nought to do;
     So bring a quart afore-us."

Waugh, from A Run up the Rhine.

 

"The next three days were the most tormenting in Jeff's life.  His wife had all a childless woman's passion for nursing anything and everything that came in her way, and all a nurse's unreasonable imperiousness.  Their only bed in the cot across the road was appropriated for this disreputable, spouting tramp; his wife occupied the long settle, and he had to stretch his long legs where he could.  His wife was inevitable and had to be endured, but why should he be tyrannised over by a rambling, raving lodger, a starvation footpad, simply because he 'hed sich grand eyes and quoted poetry'?"

A 'Shakesperian tramp' takes residence. . . . from Old Wenyon's Will


    But this doesn't mean that Waugh's tales are confined to inebriated antics ― his popular "Barrel Organ" is just one notable departure from the tap-room ― or that those of Ackworth are in any way stodgy or sanctimonious, a charge that can sometimes be laid at the door of Isabella Fyvie Mayo.  Whereas Ackworth's tales have an unmistakable Methodist flavour, but only that, Isabella's occasional lengthy bouts of Christian preaching suggest that she could have made a successful career for herself in the pulpit; indeed, strident sermonizing pervades some ― but thankfully not all ― of her stories, "By Still Waters" being an example of her religious beliefs running amok and "Rab Bethune's Double" of them being held in check.  Ackworth takes a much more subtle approach, contenting himself with relating episodes in the life of his small Methodist community and conveying his message by way of parable rather than sermon.
 

The natural reticence of the North-countryman leads him to avoid the use of "love" whenever possible; and in Lancashire, "loike," the weaker word, has come to be most commonly used about amatory matters, and expresses the strongest possible affection.  When, therefore, Mrs. Barber employed this term about her daughter's sentiments towards Luke Yates, there was no room for doubt as to what she meant by it.  And if there had been, [her] manner as she made the statement with which the last chapter closed removed any such possibility.

From . . . . "Leah's Love"


    Other than at Castletown and Worthing, Ackworth's ministry was served mostly in northern circuits, including Farnworth, Lytham, Sheffield, Shotley Bridge, York, St. Annes-on-Sea, St. Helens, Eccles (twice), Swinton, and Manchester.  His final posting was to Burnley in 1909 where, following his retirement in 1912, he became a supernumerary.
 

"You're come, Mr. Ledger, to one of the most famous towns in Lancashire," said Betty . . . .

    "Famous for what?" John asked, with an incredulous glance round at the long chimneys, the heavy smoke, and the dingy brick buildings.

    "Famous for ugliness, sir, pure unmitigated colossal ugliness; but never mind, it's the people that make the place, and they are 'gradely folk.'  We are jolly here, sir; some of us jolly bad . . . . but all jolly."

A typical Ackworth setting . . . ."The Minder".


    For some years Ackworth had been in indifferent health, his illness eventually becoming serious, and he died following an operation at the Victoria Hospital, Burnley, on November 13th. 1917, leaving a widow, four sons, and three daughters.  Three sons were at the time serving in the Army, two being at the front.  John Ackworth's funeral took place at Manchester Road Wesleyan Chapel, Burnley (now a block of flats), and he was buried in Burnley Cemetery (grave A1716).  Annie died at the home of a daughter at Heaton Chapel, Stockport, on 27th December, 1943, aged 88.
 

. . . . He was the village tripe-dresser, who did his business in a little wooden lock-up shop which stood in the open space opposite the big "Co-op. store." . . . . Talk was the breath of life to him, and as he posed as a sort of village oracle . . . . A little, emphatic, pugnacious individual, a bundle of angularities and a walking compendium of crabbèd Lancashire philosophy, he was, in spite of his trade, a vegetarian, a teetotaler, and an anti-vaccinator; and had a knobby, oversized head that was thatched with a coat of coarse, dark-red hair, and which he wore at all times and seasons, outdoor and in, uncovered.  He loved a wrangle as he loved nothing else in life, and he and the schoolmistress were soon on terms of the most intimate and delightful opposition.  All subjects were alike to him—and to her; neither ever gave way an inch, and he being a philosopher, and she a woman, they scorned the pettifogging limitations of logic and natural sequence, and skipped about from topic to topic with bewildering independence.  He lodged with his sister, Carrie's landlady, and soon learnt to know at what hour she was ready to accept the gage of battle; then, if it pleased him so to do, he would strut into the parlour, and, spreading himself before the fire, fling out a sentence incomprehensible to any third person unacquainted with the last discussion, but rousing and feather-raising to his eager lady disputant . . . . That his own respect for her acuteness led him to adopt her views and defend them against all comers, in spite of his fierce opposition of them with her, was a mere detail, and consistency was a virtue he most heartily despised.

A typical Ackworth character . . . . from Crooked Roots.


    As a preacher, Ackworth was described as "striking, original, fearless, thought-provoking, conscience-stirring, and not seldom attended with remarkable power;" as a pastor, "he carried light and cheer wherever he went."
 

. . . . preaching is a very serious business.  The power by whom he is commissioned, the nature of the truths he announces, the incalculable value of the souls to whom he is sent, and the tremendous issues at stake, make the vocation of the preacher positively oppressive in its responsibility.

Preaching, from . . . . Life's Working Creed.

"To preach was his passion; it was the delight of his life.  His earnest yet genial disposition lit up the church.  His preaching consumed him as fire consumes dry timber."

A description of Ackworth the preacher.


――――♦―――――

 
BIBLIOGRAPHY.

(ED.―Publication dates are the earlier of the dates in my copies or as appear in COPAC).

Clog Shop Chronicles (1896)

Beckside Lights: Tales (1897)

The Scowcroft Critics (1898)

Doxie Dent. A Clog-shop Chronicle. (1899)

The Making of the Million. Tales of the Twentieth Century [Methodist] Fund. (1899)

The Minder. The story of the courtship, call and conflicts of John Ledger, minder and minister. (1900)

The Coming of the Preachers. A Tale of the Rise of Methodism. (1901)

The Mangle House: a Lancashire Tale. (1902)

From Crooked Roots; a Novel. (1903)

Old Wenyon's Will. (1904)

The Partners. (1907)

Life's Working Creed. A Series of Sermons on the Present-day meaning of the Epistle of James. (1909)


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