Joshua Kirby’s son William was born in 1743. The Kirby’s lived in Ipswich, Suffolk, but moved to London around 1755. While in Ipswich, William had attended Ipswich Grammar school and in London he went to Westminster. In 1759, then aged 15 or 16, William was sent back to Ipswich to study under Kirby’s friend, Thomas Gainsborough. The following letter was written by Joshua to his son in Suffolk and shows KIrby’s deep-felt religious concern for his family.
Aug. 12, 1759.
Your letter came to hand yesterday, when I went to London, and it pleases me very much, particularly that part of it which promises an industrious application to your studies, and the proof you have given of being in earnest, by beginning the next day after your arrival at Ipswich.
It is now a time of life with you, which is, if any, the most critical ; and therefore it should be watched with the utmost care and attention. For now is commencing a season when temptations of Vice and Folly will use every bewitching art to allure you from the practice of Religion and Virtue. It is therefore my indispensable duty to watch every step you take, to guide your growing understanding, and to point out the way to true and lasting happiness, and some of the most dangerous shoals and quicksands, which are placed in the way to it ; that you may be always upon your guard, acquire a constant rectitude of behaviour, and may obtain the most invaluable of all blessings, the favour of God, and the esteem of good and wise men. ·
Thus you see, my son, I have undertaken a very arduous task, for your own thoughts will suggest what an extensive field may be opened on this occasion ; and they will likewise, in some measure, anticipate the subject of my next letter; in which I shall endeavour to form in your mind true and just conceptions of the supreme Being; in hopes of striking such deep impressions of reverence, love, and fear towards Him, as may never be effaced.
I am your affectionate Father,
JOSHUA KIRBY .
Quoted in Some account of the Life and Writings of Mrs. Trimmer, 3e, 1825.