Dissenting Education and the Legacy of John Jennings, c.1720-c.1729 (second edition, revised 2011), edited by Tessa Whitehouse

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), the esteemed dissenting tutor whose published works and personal activities did much to improve the reputation of dissenting learning in the mid-eighteenth century, always emphasised that his curriculum and teaching methods were based on those of his own tutor, John Jennings (1687/8-1723). From 1715, Jennings ran a dissenting academy in Kibworth, which moved to Hinckley in 1722 and closed following his death in 1723. Doddridge was one of the last pupils to complete Jennings’s course, and his correspondence contains a wealth of information about the reading and courses of study at Jennings’s academy. Jennings’s pedagogical method was scholarly and liberal, and students were encouraged to read widely in philosophy, theology and history as well as receiving a thorough and up-to-date training in classical, biblical, and modern languages, mathematics, physics and geography. From the mid-1720s, the matter of opening a new dissenting academy in the midlands became a pressing issue as the number of ministers available to serve congregations fell. At this time, Doddridge was living in Market Harborough and ministering to a rural community around Kibworth while he continued a self-directed course of further education, and he remained keenly interested in educational questions. Late in 1729, Philip Doddridge began taking a small group of students through a course of lectures based on those he had attended at John Jennings’s academy; these lectures formed the basis of his own academy lectures which were published after his death as A Course of Lectures on the Principal Subjects in Pneumatology, Ethics and Divinity (1763).

As part of the project to found a new academy, Doddridge spread knowledge of Jennings’s unusual and innovative educational methods and curriculum among other dissenters. His correspondents on the subject included the minister and educational writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748). This edition gathers transcriptions of materials relating to Jennings’s academy. Three of the items are published here for the first time, and the other two have been incompletely transcribed and misdated in previous publications. There is a summary of the problems of attribution and transcription that have affected these materials in the introduction to ‘An Account of Mr Jennings’s Method’. The items collected give a full picture of the subjects taught, the books studied, the rules followed and the extra-curricular activities permitted at Jennings’s academy, as well as Doddridge’s proposed changes to the course, and suggestions from Isaac Watts. The materials also offer social and cultural insights: a sketch by Doddridge of Jennings’s personality tells us much about memorial forms; and the selection offers insights into epistolary culture of the 1720s, the appropriate modes of exchange between generations, and the importance to both Watts and Doddridge of the idea of tutors as mentors.

Users of this edition should familiarise themselves with the bibliography, list of abbreviations and transcription policy before reading the materials.

Acknowledgements and Editorial Note

List of Abbreviations



  1. John Jennings’s description of his academy
  2. Philip Doddridge’s shorter description of Jennings’s academy
  3. Philip Doddridge’s ‘Account of Mr Jennings’s Method’
  4. Isaac Watts’s reply to Doddridge’s ‘Account’
  5. John Jennings’s academy timetable and book lists