Robert Stodhart (1779-1846)
|If any person has reason to complain of Mr. Smith I have, for he is come directly into my neighbourhood; but when I see what is going on, and when I remember what Mr. Davies has told me, of the efforts of that man Crosby, (a member of the Port of London Society), to ruin him, when he almost broke up the whole concern here, and deserted the Mariners' House, and closed the shop when Mr S. was in the country - when I saw, that two years ago he was enabled to STRUGGLE THROUGH ALL HIS IMMENSE DIFFICULTIES, AND EVEN TO ADVANCE CONTINUALLY - and when I consider, that I have been for years urging persons to form a day-school in this neighbourhood, and could not succeed, and yet that Mr. S. has come here, and in a few months raised up day-schools for about 300 children, and taken our school-rooms, next to our chapel in Pell-street, at 40l. per annum - and when I look at the events of the Brunswick Theatre, in which he has been so remarkably concerned, I am constrained to believe and acknowledge, THAT GOD HAS RAISED HIM FOR A GREAT WORK AMONG SEAMEN; and whatever, therefore, were my former objections, I am obliged to fall under this conviction, and yield to the appointment of the Almighty.|
In the 1830s Stodhart was involved in a curious affair. A 'classic' work of 1700 by Christopher Ness (1621-1705), An antidote against Arminianism, had been edited - removing the quotations in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and making the language more accessible - by the Rev J.A. Jones, who accused Stodhart of complicity in pirating his work and breaching his copyright - a charge which Stodhart, who had the book on sale in the vestry of Mulberry Gardens Chapel, appears to have admitted. Here is the angry postscript that Jones added to the preface to the fourth edition of his work:
And must I, before I close, refer to some painful matters? I am obliged to do so; but, it is most reluctantly. A gentleman holding high rank in society, and who ought to have acted very differently, has recently pirated an edition of my work, in which I have assuredly a legal Copyright; every page of it having undergone (25 years ago) more or less, by my hand, revision, correction, addition, and emendation. This said gentleman, when remonstrated by me, for his invasion of my property, replies, in an epistle smoother than oil - "Neither Mr. G. nor myself had the most distant idea but that this work was (with the exception of your notes, which we cautiously avoided inserting) the original writing of C. Ness. Now, dear Sir, it becomes a question, what is to be done in this case? If this work be your copyright, and I cannot for a moment doubt it is as you say; how is the present difficulty to be overcome?" The difficulty was overcome in this way, viz., by subsequently sending me the name of his legal adviser, whose instructions from him were, "simply to follow the course of the law!" His letter conveyed to me also the following notice, "It is my intention forthwith to publish one [i.e. Ness] from the original edition of 1700, &c. &c." But the Admiral found that a copy of the original was so rare, as not easily to be obtained; in short, it was, after much search (at that time) no where to be procured. To work goes wit; and so a very worthy man, Mr. Robert Stodhart, of Pell-street, employed doubtless for the purpose*, made me a friendly call, and craved the loan for a week (under a pretence of desire of perusal) of my old original copy; which he immediately took to a Printer, and had an edition surreptitiously printed from my own book!!! I have already told the public this sad dishonourable tale; and since Mr. Stodhart has, in print, confessed himself as guilty as I have ever accused him, I need make no further reply to him, but, submit to his abuse.
Subsequent to all this, Admiral Pearson has also published another edition; but which is now neither one thing nor the other. It is indeed a sad cut-up work now; and not a little craft has been resorted to also, by some mere verbal alteration, here and there, where it was not desirable to leave out my ideas exactly; and this doubtless to avoid a prosecution. However, I am too poor to wage war with an Admiral's pocket; I can only pocket the loss; and close by informing the reader, that all the copies of my work being sold; the first pirated edition being deficient of all my notes, &c. &c.; the second as I have described it; and Stodhart's, ill-gotten, 3s. volume!! of old Ness, not being perhaps readable by 99 persons out of every 100; because of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, strewed in every page; I have, at the earnest intreaty of many Christian friends, put forth this fourth edition, carefully revised throughout. And, overlooking pecuniary advantage, have directed it to be sold, in boards, with an excellent new portrait of Ness, engraved from the original, at the small price of fifteen pence!!!
* My letters and private correspondence with Admiral Pearson, were published by Mr. Stodhart. Query. How came he by these, if there was no combination between them?
The tables were
turned on Stodhart in an 1846 protest, in William Scott's Christian
that the 'London Society for Promoting Christianity among the
Jews', under the patronage of both Archbishops and 19 diocesan bishops,
had given life membership to Stodhart, who
we believe labours under what we used to consider a canonical
disability to 'life-membership' in a religious institution which
assumes to be of the Church of England: or, pro tanto, the Church of
England itself. The writer went on to object to donations from
schismatics and secessionists - and even Lutherans!
Stodhart had some devoted disciples. See here for a biography from the Gospel Herald of Ann Wells (1779-1856), and here for a memoir of James Sherman
(1796-1862) who had been a member of Stodhart's congregation and after
training at Cheshunt became a minister of the Connexion, but later
became a Congregationalist; a supporter of the LMS, he was a keen
abolitionist, and was one of the founders of Abney Park Cemetery.
He died in 1846, aged 67, four years after retiring from his ministry.
Dissenters & Nonconformists 3 | St Matthew Pell Street