John never did settle down. Richard Alsop, the writer who had converted John’s journal into the narrative, is reported to have said later: “(I) had done John more harm than good, for he became unsettled in his habits by his wandering life in selling the books.”*
He continued as an itinerant bookseller and actor for the next four years or so until his death in Hartford on January 7, 1821 at the age of 38. Right up until the end John was reported to have been seen in one city or another “with his wheelbarrow of books.” It is not certain how he died, but he is known to have complained of severe headaches likely caused by his wound.
There are five known letters between John and Hester from 1815-1817 that tell of his efforts to sell his book and his sentiments towards his wife and children. They were handed down to Frank H. Jewitt, a cousin of our grandfather, Homer Moore Jewitt. In 1975 our Dad acquired this letter written from Philadelphia on January 30, 1817. In it, John says: “I hope my dear that with God’s will you and my little children are well and I wish you all a happy new year.”
Frank Jewitt had also provided our grandfather with a detailed genealogy. In it, he recounts that John R. was buried in the oldest cemetery in Hartford; however no grave marker has ever been located. It is possible Hester couldn’t afford to have a headstone made for him. The genealogy states “she had a hard time to keep her family together and get enough to feed and clothe them.”
John had the admirable traits of being a daring adventurer as well as a perceptive observer who managed to keep his wits about him, and had the presence of mind to record his experiences in a journal. From his early days in Hull, he rejected conventional ambitions and sought to travel the world. He gave up a distinguished apprenticeship in the medical profession to follow his desire to learn his father’s blacksmithing trade. In doing what he loved, he quickly achieved success as a skilled craftsman and was positioned in the right place and time to be invited on the voyage that would define his life. His inclination towards acting and performing was an important thread that ran through it all. Although he may have regretfully sacrificed home and family for the sake of his aspirations, it took dedication and courage to live the life he chose.
Links to Related Sites
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Rod Collins - Lincolnshire Thro' History, Life, Lens and Words
The Old Palace Lincoln - Elegant Bed and Breakfast
National Portrait Gallery - London
College of Arms
The Jewett Family of America
History and Geneaology of the Jewitts of America
Marvinas Bay Lodge
First Peoples of Canada