Yeardley, John, 1786—1858
by Benjamin Colbert
John Yeardley was born on 3 January 1786 at Orgrave near Rotherham, the son of Joel Yeardley and Frances Yeardley, small dairy farmers. He was brought up as an Anglican but joined the Society of Friends at the age of 18. In 1809, he married his first wife, Elizabeth Dunn (d. 1821).
Yeardley joined the ministry at Barnsley, South Yorkshire, around 1815. When his wife died in 1821 he was living at Bentham, Lancashire, but moved to London intending to visit Germany. By 1824 he was on the continent promoting the gospel and while there met and made common cause with Martha Savory (1781-1851). Together they visited Germany, Switzerland, and France, returning to England, where they married in December 1825.
They made a second tour through Germany and Switzerland in 1827-28, continuing their work establishing schools and meetings. On their return, they travelled through England and Wales in 1828 to 1833, settling for a time at Scarborough. Their third Continental journey from 1833 to 1834, this time to Greece, was followed by their joint publication of Extracts from the Letters (1835). A fourth (1842-43) and fifth (1843-50) tour to France, Germany, and Switzerland followed.
Besides Extracts, Yeardley published jointly with his wife A Brief Memoir of Mary Anne Calame (1835) and Eastern Customs; Illustrative of Scripture Passages: with Some Observations on the Character, Manners, &c. of the Greeks (1842). Martha Yeardley, also a published poet, was the driving force of the literary partnership, and when she died in 1851, he published no more during his lifetime (his only solely authored work, Sketch of the Life and Character of Gerhard Tersteegen (1865), was published posthumously).
John Yeardley did, however, continue his private diary (also published posthumously) and continued his travels. After a visit to Ireland, he travelled through Germany and Norway in 1852, accompanied by Peter Bedford (1780-1864), the 'Spitalfields philanthropist'. From July to September 1853, he visited St Petersburg, Moscow, and the Crimea with William Rasche, returning by Constantinople. In 1858, he resumed his missionary work in Asia Minor, until illness brought him home in 1860. On 9 August 1860, within days of his return, he died.
Fell-Smith, Charlotte, and H. C. G. Matthew. 'Yeardley, John (1786–1858), missionary'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 30 Nov. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/30205
Memoir and Diary of John Yeardley, Minister of the Gospel. Ed. Charles Tylor. Philadelphia: Henry Longstreeth, 1860. Print.
Tallack, William. Peter Bedford, the Spitalfields Philanthropist. London: S. W. Partridge, 1865. Print.
‘Yeardley, John, 1786-1858’. [MS catalogue biographical note]. Library of the Society of Friends. London.
|Extracts from the Letters of John and Martha Yeardley||1835|