St John's College MS O.77 (James 566)

A narrative of the early life of the reverend John Farrent. English, 1806-13.


'A narrative of the early life of the reverend John Farrent (who was born 15 Dec. 1783) written by himself 11 May 1806, and continued in the form of a diary to 12 Oct. 1813, the time of his settlement as pastor of the church at Isleham.'

Pasted to the front flyleaf is a memoir of John Farrent (1783-1832) by William Henry Black, extracted from the Gentleman's Magazine for Nov. 1832. Born at Palgrave in Suffolk, Farrent studied medicine and then theology. He served as a Wesleyan preacher until 1812 when he became a Baptist, subsequently settling as pastor of a small church at Isleham. In 1817 he moved to London to take up the pastorship of a Trinitarian chapel in Southwark. Farrent was an accomplished sportsman and died following an accident whilst firing a gun. He was twice married and had five children. His library was sold by Sotheby’s in November 1832.


  1. Farrent's narrative of his early life. Covers his schooling, his father's death, his love of books and prayer, his leaving his mother at the age of eleven to live with Samuel Roper of Palgrave, his reading of English literature ('that brothel-bred nonsense of Sterne'), his learning to swear in French, his falling into bad company, his apprenticeship with a blacksmith, his reading Milton, his joining the singers at the Independent chapel in Wattisfield, his turning towards God, the completion of his apprenticeship and his search for work, his recovery from illness, his joining the Methodists, and his courtship with Elizabeth Flowerdew. (pp. 3-24)
  2. Farrent's journal, running from June 1806 to 12 Oct. 1813. Begins: 'Here endeth what I wrote on the 11th of May 1806 since which time I have kept a kind of journal, though I have there omitted many things through a shame of inserting them but from which what follows shall be taken.’ (pp. 25-629)
  3. 'Remarkables.' An index of interesting passages in the journal arranged alphabetically. (pp. 630-1)
  4. A note of the birth of Farrent's first two daughters. (p. 636)
  5. A note of the death and character of Farrent's first wife, Sophia. (pp. 638-41)
  6. An account of Farrent's visit to the library of Prince Augustus Frederick, duke of Sussex, on 17 Apr. 1822, during which he saw the duke's Bibles and discussed Biblical matters ('I cannot help wishing that all clergymen were as well acquainted with h scripture as is his royal highness the duke of Sussex'), politics, legislation, and Catholicism. (pp. 642-4, 647-53)
  7. 'Preservations.' A note of two occasions on which Farrent escaped death or injury in 1805 and 1807. (p. 646)
  8. 'Removals.' A brief note of Farrent's travels 1811-3. (pp. 654, 658)
  9. Printed indenture of Farrent's apprenticeship to James Parker, blacksmith of Wattisfield, dated 7 March 1800. (p. 661)
Manuscript extra information

200 x 130mm. 661 pages. Paper. In Farrent's neat and legible hand throughout. Early 19th-century binding of calf with gold-tooled double fillet border over boards; rebacked; paper label on spine reads 'John Farrent's Life & Diary 1783-1813'.

This manuscript was once in the possession of the antiquary William Henry Black (1808-72), whose name, with date 13 Nov. 1832, appears on the title page. Black's note of 'Appendices to this journal or diary' appears on p. 2 dated 9 Dec. 1832. A note on the flyleaf reads 'Sotheby & Co. 30/7/73 No. 948'. Given to St John's College Library by the administrator of J.E.B. Mayor (1825-1910) (book label, 1910). College bookplate inside front board.