|Company At Play from The Comforts of Bath by Rowlandson 1798|
In 1775, when she was 18, Priscilla went on an extended visit to her Norfolk relations and while she was there refused a marriage proposal from a young Quaker. This visit also brought into focus the spiritual dilemmas she was facing. For several years afterwards she was torn between the influence of her Quaker relations and that of her worldly friends in Bath, one of whom was zealous in urging Priscilla to convert to the Church of England. Eventually Priscilla, wanting to please her friend, was baptized and attended church services but was still unsatisfied. Her Quaker relations talked and wrote to her and gave her Quaker books to read. She tried to blot out the inner voice she heard saying "I must be a Quaker" by going to balls, concerts and plays in Bath, but the mental anguish of her spiritual struggle made her ill.
|Barclay's Apology title-page|
When Priscilla was 27 she turned down another proposal from a young Quaker to whom she had at first been attracted. He refused to accept her rejection, trying to hold her to an 'understanding' which she did not feel they had, and harassing her both personally and through his family and friends. This emotional pressure made her ill and she took to her bed where she was visited by several weighty Friends. Among them was Mary Davis of Minehead, who befriended Priscilla, introduced her to Richard Reynolds and his wife Rebecca and took her to visit them at their home in Coalbrookdale.
|Dale House, Coalbrookdale|
Priscilla, described by a friend as 'small in person, beautiful in countenance, elegant in manner', was the ideal person for her young cousin Elizabeth Gurney (later Fry) to be sent to visit in 1798 when she too was going through a spiritual struggle. Priscilla acted as a calm and sympathetic influence and introduced Elizabeth to Deborah Darby, who prophesied her future service.
|Mary Ann Schmmelpenninck|
In spite of Priscilla's misgivings about publishing her spiritual autobiography Memoirs of the Life and Religious Experience of Priscilla Hannah Gurney edited by S. Allen was issued in 1834, only six years after her death. Much of its interest lies in what it tells us about the struggles of one brought up both among Friends and 'in the world'. Priscilla Hannah is referred to by both her names because there was a contemporary Priscilla Gurney who was also a minister.