JANE ADAMS HOUSEMAN
Jane Adams Houseman (1768-1837), a friend of both Coltman families of Leicester (see entries above on Elizabeth Coltman and Elizabeth Coltman Heyrick), was the former Jane Adams of Langton. She was the second wife to the Revd Robert Houseman (1759-1838), evangelical Anglican (and staunchly Calvinist) minister at St. Anne’s Church, Lancaster, from 1796 to 1836. He had known Elizabeth Coltman for some time prior to the date of the excursion to the Lakes. Houseman met his first wife, a Miss Audley, while a student at St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1783 (he took his B.A. in 1784). The Audleys were staunch dissenters (Independents), but like Houseman, they were also evangelical Calvinists. Houseman and Miss Audley were married in January 1785 but later that year she died while giving birth to a son, also named Robert. For most of 1785 Houseman served as a minister in Lancaster, and on two occasions he and his wife paid visits to Elizabeth Coltman (1761-1838) at Leicester. How the Housemans came to know Coltman is not known, but through their friendship Coltman was introduced to Jane Houseman’s brother, John Audley (1750-1827), a prosperous woolstapler (and later solicitor) in Cambridge, who eventually made a proposal of marriage to Coltman sometime in 1785 or 1786. Audley was rejected by Coltman and never married; he retired from his his business in 1790 and spent the remainder of his life working as a solicitor and conducting lay preaching in and around Cambridge. He also authored several short works, mostly of a religious nature. Audley maintained connections with the Houseman’s thereafter; unfortunately, his nephew, Revd Houseman’s only son by his first wife, would later be hung for commit forgery on Audley’s name in 1815.
After the death of his first wife, Houseman ministered for a number of years to Anglican congregations in and near Langton, where he met and eventually married Miss Adams in 1788. She had been attendant in an Evangelical Methodist chapel, and her mother was a close friend and godchild of the Countess of Huntingdon and a follower of George Whitefield. Like Elizabeth Coltman, Jane Houseman would later write a popular tract for the Religious Tract Society (according to the Liverpool edition, undated, this was No. 127 in the catalogue of tracts published under the banner of the Religious Tract Society), Religion without Learning: or, The History of Susan Ward, which went through more than twenty editions by the late 1820s; unfortunately, no library or database in the world lists the title under her name. The minister in the story, as well as some of the incidents in the plot, was patterned after her husband and his work at Langton in the late 1780s and early 1790s. During his years of ministry at Langton after 1787 and upon his return to Lancaster in 1795, Revd Houseman had continued his friendship with Coltman, a friendship that now included a close relationship with his second wife.
For a more complete biographical sketch of Jane Houseman and the text of her important tract, Religion Without Learning, see Timothy Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 7, pp. 327-37. See also Robert Fletcher Houseman, The Life and Remains of the Revd Robert Houseman, A.B. (New York: Robert Carter, 1846); obituary for John Audley, Congregational Magazine, 10, New Series (August 1827), 401-09; Audley Papers, 132/B.73, 74, 76, Cambridgeshire Record Office, Cambridge; Thomas Stamford Raffles, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Ministry of the Rev. Thomas Raffles, D.D., LL.D. (London: Jackson, Walford, and Hodder, 1864), 133-34.