Elizabeth Catlett (1769–1834) was born at Chatham, Kent, England to George (1742-1774), and Sarah Catlett. George was a brother of Mary Catlett, John Newton’s wife. Elizabeth's mother Sarah died, then George died in 1774, at which time she was adopted by John and Mary Newton, who still lived in Olney.
"In December , Mrs. Newton lost by death her brother, Mr.George Catlett. This rendered a journey to London necessary. They stopped at Whetstone for the night, 'and,' says Mr. Newton, 'had an agreeable family meeting. Expounded the 23rd Psalm, and prayed with the master and mistress of the inn.'"
"'My brother,' says Mr. Newton, 'has left a sweet orphan girl about five years old (her mother died two years ago), which we now, in dependence upon the Lord, and the clear call of His providence, cheerfully adopt for our own. Oh, may He by His grace adopt her into His chosen family!'"
In the fall of 1776 Elizabeth was committed to the care of Mrs. Martha Trinder’s Girl’s Boarding School in Northampton. John Newton wrote letters to her which became the first part of the “twenty-one letters” (1779-1781).
"On the 3rd of August, Mr. Newton committed his little orphan niece, Miss Catlett, to the care of his friend Mrs. Trinder of Northampton, and he expresses his earnest desire that she may be an early partaker of spiritual blessings."
"In September, Mr. and Mrs. Newton paid their annual visit to Northampton. 'Preached the four mornings of my stay, and on Friday evening, when there was as large a company as the house would hold. The Lord puts great honour upon Mrs. Trinder in owning her prayers and discourses to the awakening of many of her scholars. Oh may my child share the blessing.'"
In 1781, Elizabeth was transferred to the Highgate School, which became the second part of the twenty-one letters (1881–1883).
Twenty-One Letters to Elizabeth Catlett (coming soon!)