Joseph Jeffries Evans

Joseph Jeffries Evans (1768-1812) was the son of Caleb Evans (1737-91), Baptist minister at Broadmead in Bristol and President of the Bristol Baptist Academy, 1781-91.  He spent his youth working for his uncle, Thomas Mullett (1745-1814), in London as a clerk, choosing not to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by studying for the ministry. Mullett was an American agent and during his travels to America would leave the care of his family and many aspects of his business in the hands of his young nephew. After working for a time in the early 1790s for another uncle, Lemuel Thomas (1761-1825). By 1795, Mullett’s business had grown to the point that he asked J. J. Evans to be his partner and the following year their merger was confirmed by the marriage of J. J. Evans to Mullett’s daughter, Mary Anne (1776-1857). By the end of 1799, Mullett and Evans had met William Godwin and a young Crabb Robinson, appearing often in their diaries; they also met Mary Hays and many others moving in a Dissenting circle in London composed of many former Baptists now become Unitarians. About this same time J. J. Evans met Coleridge and later corresponded with Crabb Robinson about Wordsworth. Evans’s sister-in-law, Jane (1782-1837), married James Webbe Tobin (1767-1814) of Bristol, brother of the Romantic playwright, John Tobin (1770-1804). J. J. Evans died in 1812, an event Robinson recorded with much regret in his diary on 22 December 1812. Robinson continued to maintain an interest in the Evans family into the 1850s. Mary Anne Evans, along with several children and her sister-in-law, Sarah Evans (1765-1845), moved in 1815 to Melksham, followed by a extended stay in Bristol before returning in her later years to London once again. Robinson also knew her cousin, Sarah Norton Biggs (1768-1834), who operated a school for girls in Peckham between 1804 and 1825, where J. J. Evans’s daughters attended.  Among the children of J. J. and Mary Anne Evans, two are of particular importance.  Frederick Mullett Evans (1804-1870) married Maria Moule (1804-50) in 1830. Within a few years, he partnered with William Bradbury (1799-1869) to form one of London’s premier printing firms, Bradbury and Evans, publishing several of Charles Dickens’s early novels as well as his magazine, Household Words, and novels by Wilkie Collins and William Thackeray. Frederick’s daughter, Elisabeth Matilda Moule Evans (1841-1909), married Dicken’s son, Charley (1837-96), in 1861. Mary Mullett Evans (1801-1877)married the evangelical Anglican minister, Henry Moule (1801-80), in 1824.  Among their many sons, one would be a lifelong friend of Thomas Hardy, one the Bishop of Durham, one a classical tutor and President of Corpus Christi College, one the Arch-Deacon of the Anglican Church in Mid-China, and another the Bishop of Mid-China, whose grandson, Charles Francis Digby Moule (1908-2007), served as Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity at Cambridge between 1951 and 1976.