Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon 1707-1791
Aristocratic Supporter of Evangelical Reveival
Born Lady Selina Shirley daughter of Washington Shirley, 2nd Earl Ferrers. She married Theophilus Hastings, 9th Earl of Huntingdon on 3 June 1728, and went to live at Donington Park; he died in 1746. She gave birth to seven children in the first ten years of the marriage.
In 1739, Lady Huntington joined the first Methodist society in Fetter Lane, London. After the death of her husband in 1746, she threw in her lot with John Wesley and George Whitefield in the work of the great revival. Whitefield became her personal chaplain, and, with his assistance, she founded the "Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion", a Calvinistic movement within the Methodism.
In the earlier part of her life the great hymn writers Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, and Augustus Montague Toplady were among her friends. Lady Anne Erskine (eldest daughter of the 10th Earl of Buchan), was her closest friend and companion for many years in the latter part of Lady Huntingdon's life.
She founded a ministers' training college at Trefeca in Mid Wales. George Whitefield preached at the opening ceremony. The college moved to Hertfordshire in 1792, and was renamed Cheshunt College.
It is said that expended £100,000 in the cause of religion.
She arranged for the aristocracy including the Earl Chesterfield, Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister as well as other leading men. She held large dinner parties at which Whitefield preached to the gathered dignitaries after they had eaten.
She was responsible for founding 64 chapels and contributed to the funding of others, insisting they should all subscribe to the doctrines of the Church of England and use only the Book of Common Prayer.
She appointed ministers to officiate in them, under the impression that as a peeress she had a right to employ as many chaplains as she pleased. In her chapel at Bath there was a curtained recess dubbed "Nicodemus' Corner" where bishops sat incognito to hear services.
Inevitably, as an eighteenth century aristocrat, she was a slave owner, though she later championed the writings and tours of ex-slaves.
She was forced to quit the Church of England and become a dissenter.
She fell out with several prominent preachers William Romaine and Henry Venn regarding her authority to appoint and remove preachers in her connexion.
In her will, she requested no biography of her should be written and none was attempted until 90 years after her death.
- Middle-age has its compensations. You feel no need to do what you do not like. You are no longer ashamed of yourself; you are reconciled to being what you are, and you do not much mind what people think of you.
- I am often tired of myself, and I have a notion that by travel I can add to my personality, and so change myself a little. I do not bring back from a journey quite the same self that I took.
- None know how to prize the Saviour, but such as are zealous in pious works for others.
- My work is done; I have nothing left to do but to go to my Father.