A Letter of WILLIAM SAVERY To His Wife, Respecting The Printing Of His Testimonies, Written about 6th month 13th, 1797
"William Savery's Letter to his Wife, Respecting the Printing of his Testimonies." The Friend, (Philadelphia) Vol. XXIV, No. 52 (Ninth month seventh, 1851,) page 415.

This is The Quaker Homiletic Online Anthology, Section 2: The 17th Century.

My Dear: --

I must not omit to mention to thee one circumstance, that has given me more exercise of mind, and caused me more loss of sleep than thee would imagine. When I was first in London, a person took down several of my testimonies. After my departure for the continent, he published, what he would make people believe, were three of them; which have been industriously spread about; perhaps some incautious young Friends not adverting to consequences, have given too much encouragement to it. I had a hint of it soon after arriving in London, but being almost constantly taken up during the Yearly Meeting, I did not see them; since which, finding them on the counter of a printer's shop, I examined what they were, and discovered in almost every page a crowd of errors, both in diction and doctrine; making me say in one place say, concerning the judgment of the council of elders at Jerusalem, that which never entered into my heart to conceive; and in the next page bringing in the name of Paine, which I did not then utter; and in divers places the matter expressed in a language devoid of common sense, and sometimes without any meaning at all. To be sure this was trying to bear. I took my friend Ady Bellamy along, and paid the scribe a visit; found him to be a very poor cobbler who had acquired some knowledge of short-hand writing; he seemed to be a religious man; said his principle motives were the spreading of Truth, which he was convinced they contained, though he did not profess with us. He was paid but little for his trouble; most of the profits went to the printer. I assured him of my total disapprobation of the business at large, even supposing he was capable of doing them correct; but we brought him to confession that they contained divers errors. Respecting the first I had mentioned about the decree of the Council of Elders, etc. he confessed he had omitted the words "not that," in their proper place, which gave it a sense the very reverse of what I intended; and as to Paine's name, that was put in by a man who had a great abhorrence to his deistical writings. He was sorry errors had crept into them; said it was not from design, but either through interruptions he met with in those large crowded meetings, or inadvertence in transcribing them into English; but from the sale they met with, a third edition had been printed last week.

I desired him not to promote the vending of any more of them, as it would greatly add to my affliction of mind. I did not charge the poor man with bad motives, but perceived he was very weak in understanding, wrote very bad English, and if he was capable of taking the substance of a testimony, he was not able to put it into common sense in his own language. He said he had sometimes taken down speeches in court, but then the speakers corrected his errors before they went to press; for errors, he said, were unavoidable; and he understood Friends were not free to correct them. As he had taken down several since I have been now here, both in and out of London, he handed me one in manuscript; I immediately showed him a number of errors, which Ady Bellamy well knew were such, as he had been present at the meeting. I saw him twice since, once with George Dillwyn, and once with Joseph Savory. In our conversation with him he manifested much weakness, but not wickedness. Friends took up the subject last Second-day morning meeting, and unanimously expressed their disapprobation, which is to be mentioned in the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings approaching, with desires that all Friends may discourage such a practice. George Dillwyn, who is for extracting good out of evil, hopes it will prove of service, by drawing forth something from concerned minds to spread the ground of our uneasiness on the subject more fully than has hitherto been done, and if possible, prove a preventative to the like abuse in the future.

There the matter rests; and I am in hopes the man will be prevailed on to publish no more, though I was surprised to find that he was employed in taking down the evening before last at Devonshire-House, after what was said to him. As I have some reason to suppose some of then have found their way to America through weakness of some Friends, I write this thus particular, and separated from my letter, with a request that thee would be so good as to let James Pemberton, David Bacon, Henry and John Drinker, and S. Smith see it, with such other of my beloved Friends as thou may think necessary, that I may not be charged by those I love, or by any, with being the publisher of false doctrine and nonsense, which would indeed, wound me more sensibly than the loss of world riches. I believe George Dillwyn also writes to John Cox on the subject.

The man has now by him a number of Thomas Scattergood's, David Sand's, Deborah Darby's, George Dillwyn's, Margaret Dudley's and my own, which he says he is strongly solicited to publish, but I believe will decline it. I am assured that in different parts of the nation, Friends have not only had their sermons taken down, but that their pictures also have been taken in the meeting. It is an age of curious things, so that we have need to mind both how we look, and what we say. If there are any in our country, I hope Friends out of kindness to me and the cause, will burn them. Dear Mary Ridgway and Phoebe Speakmen, finding some had got into Ireland, held up their testimony against their spreading, and told Friends they were confident they were not my words nor doctrines. With much desire I that I may be preserved upon a foundation which none of these things can move,

I am, as usual, thine,