Stevens 1886-07-31

Text, letter

Visited Benjamin Aris, who was not at home. Also visited Richard Austin at Sibford Ferris. I found him in bed, apparently having all his clothes on, suffering from dropsy. The place looked extremely dirty and uncared for. He belongs to the old small yeoman class, but has had losses, I suppose, and is probably very poor. I think he was never married, but his sister, who died 9 or 10 years ago, was married to a labourer named Coles, who with their daughter, now a woman of 40 or more, lived with him. The daughter is given to drink and sells, in order to gratify her craving, everything she can possibly turn into money. She is a dreadfully untidy creature and never comes to church except perhaps occasionally to a funeral.

Richard Austin himself seems a highly moral and in some sense a religious man; but he never comes to church and when I talk to him on religious topics he resents what he is pleased to call formalism. I spoke to him about the Sacraments today, but he had, as he thought, an argument against everything I had to say, and when he felt that all his own arguments were futile, he lay back on his pillow and seemed about to faint, but soon roused himself and said he was so weak, I must excuse his talking any longer. But he immediately began the talk again. However, I did not wish to stay any longer, so I told him to pray to God to enlighten his understanding with wisdom from above, when he replied to the effect that what he could do would be of no use at all, and that God could and would do it without his praying to him. I answered suitably and left him. Downstairs I saw the niece and spoke to her about never going to a place of worship. She had nothing to say, but escaped from me with the excuse that she must take her uncle some beef tea.