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George Fox, the writer of this Journal, was born in 1624, at Drayton in the Clay, in Leicestershire. His father was a weaver; a circumstance not to be passed over lightly; for the breed is as specially noted in the Calendar of Saints, as in the Calendar at Newmarket; and the weavers were always a righteous generation ;* and Fox himself assures us that in this one " there was a seed of God.” His name was Christopher, but by his familiars, he was called “Righteous Christer." “ My mother," he adds,
was an upright woman; her maiden name, Mary Lago, of the family of the Lago's (as most people would have supposed without this special notice; we conclude, therefore, the Lago’s were in the roll of Battle Abbey] and of the stock of the martyrs.”
George, in his youth, was a dull, heavy boy, or, as he pleases to phrase it, “ had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit, not usual in children.” In religious knowledge he was somewhat precocious, for he claims, at eleven years of age, to have "known pureness and righteousness.”. In other things his dullness continued; for, though his relations thought to have made him a priest, it was more judiciously determined to make him a shoemaker. We conclude his dullness continued, and that his friends acted judiciously, for the utmost literary pretensions, made for this “man of God," as Penn calls him, in after life, by his most affectionate disciples, were that“ he could read pretty well, and write-though not quickly—so much as would serve him afterwards to signify his meaning to others.”
It cannot be denied,” says Sewel," he was no good speller, but his characters being tolerable, his writing was legible.” Now it was not till long after his friends had determined to bind him to the “gentle craft,” that the Lord opened to Fox,“that being bred at Oxford and Cambridge was not enough to fit and qualify men to be ministers of Christ;" or, that he stumbled on the words of the Apostle, “ that they needed no man to teach them;" and, therefore, his friends, naturally enough, imagined that some spice of learning was essential to the ministry ; and George not taking kindly to writing, reading, and the earlier mysteries of education, they, in their human and fallible judgment, recommended boot-closing. George, indeed, could not but thank them; for we infer, from many passages, that in early life he looked on what he called “Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and the Seven
* There is an admirable description of a puritan weaver in Chapman's Monsieur D'Olive. It is too intimately interwoven with the scene to admit of being extracted.
Arts,” as cabalistical, and damnable; that learning was
cobweb of the brain,
Profane, erroneous, and vain. Did not, he asks triumphantly, “the languages begin at Babel? and did not St. John the divine, say that the beast and the whore had power over tongues ?" No doubt of it; but it was unkind of George to include his mother-tongue; especially as the lady was of“ the family of the Lago's.
Right or wrong, George was apprenticed to a shoemaker; but his master dealing also in wool and cattle, and George taking more delight in sheep than shoe-making, his disciples call him a shepherd, “a just emblem,” they say, "of his after ministry and service.” George was certainly no “ Perkin Revelour;" for he did acquit him so diligently in his business, and minded it so well, that his 'master was successful in his trade, whilst George continued with him ;" while I was with him," he observes, “ he was blest, but after I left him, he broke, and came to nothing."
With this master George continued, very much in the ordinary course of ordinary people, until he was nineteen; when being at a fair, he met with a cousin and another friend, both “professors," and they agreed to drink together. These “professors,” however, were not so easily satisfied as their companion; "they began to drink healths, and called for more drink, agreeing together, that he that would not drink should
pay This grieved me," says George,“ very much, having never had such a thing put to me before, by any sort of people.' Wherefore I rose up, and putting my hand into my pocket, took out a groat, and laid it upon the table before them, saying, “ If it be so, I will leave you ;” and he did leave them. This is a circumstance of no importance in itself, but great in its consequence; it was the occasion of the first divine communication. “I went away,” he continues, "and when I had done my business, returned home; but I did not go to bed that night, nor could I sleep; but sometimes walked up and down, and sometimes prayed, and cried to the Lord,” who said unto me, “ Thou seest how young people go together into vanity, and old people into the earth; thou must forsake all, young and old, keep out of all, and be a stranger unto all.” George understood this literally, left his relations and his master, and wandered over the country, inclining towards London, though without any apparent intention of going there, until he reached Barnet ; there
was tempted almost to despair ;” and notwithstanding what he calls “the command of God,” given on “the ninth of the seventh month," before alluded to, he questioned if he hadạnot
done amiss in forsaking his relations. Eventually his scruples were overcome, and he ventured into the great city.
Here, however, he met with little satisfaction. “I looked,” says he,“ on the great professors, and saw all was dark, and under the chain of darkness.' “ Some tender people would have had me staid, but I was fearful, and returned homeward into Leicestershire, having a regard upon my mind to my parents and relations, lest I should grieve them ; who, I understood, were troubled at my absence.” At home he continued not long; and, indeed, for many years after, it is questionable whether he was most unsettled in mind or body. Whatever extravagancies Fox may have committed, it is just towards him to acknowledge thus early, that he was, from the first, a sincere seeker of truth, and, afterwards, a firm believer in what he professed and taught. But at this time, and for some years after, he was, with all his sincerity, a downright bedlamite, wandering over the country without a resting place or a home ; sleeping for weeks together in the open fields; and going for days together without food or nourishment. In his own melancholy record he observes,“ my troubles continued, and I was often under great temptations. I fasted much, walked abroad in solitary places many days, and often took my Bible, and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places until night came on; and, frequently, in the night, walked mournfully about by myself : for I was a man of sorrows in the first workings of the Lord in me.”. Upon another occasion, he says, “about this time I was in a fast for about ten days, my spirit being greatly exercised on truth's behalf.”
With all his after-confidence, Fox had, early in life, some natural misgivings, and he endeavoured to find help and relief from others. The dreadful state to which he was at times reduced, we may collect from what follows. After this, I went to one Macham, a priest, in high account. He would needs give me some physic, and I was to have been let blood; but they could not get one drop of blood from me, either in arms or head, though they endeavoured it, my body being, as it were, dried
with sorrows, griefs, and troubles, which were so great upon me, that I could have wished I had never been born, or that I had been born blind, that I might never have seen wickedness nor vanity; and deaf, that I might never have heard vain and wicked words, or the Lord's name blasphemed." We should not do justice to Fox without extracting what follows. In all his fearful agonies, and with all his desperate determination to separate himself from human society, some touch of humanity, some gentle sympathy with the sufferings of others, is always discoverable ; as in his fears, when in London, lest his parents should be unhappy, and in the following account of his
keeping Christmas, when in the very height of his suffering. “ When the time called Christmas came, while others were feasting and sporting themselves, I looked out poor widows from house to house, and gave them some money. When I was invited to marriages I went to none at all, but the next day, or soon after, I would go and visit them, and if they were poor I gave them some money.”
In his seeking for consolation from the “high professors, Fox records some extraordinary, and some ridiculous adventures. “I heard of one,” he says, “ called Doctor Cradock, of Coventry, and went to him; I asked him the ground of temptation and despair, and how troubles came to be wrought in man? -As we were walking together in his garden, the alley being narrow, I chanced, in turning, to set my foot on the side of a bed ; at which he raged as if his house had been on fire.” Again, “I went to another ancient priest, at Mansetter, in Warwickshire, and reasoned with him about the grounds of despair and temptations; but he was ignorant of my condition : he bid me take tobacco, and sing psalms. Fox simply observes on this, “ Tobacco was a thing I did not love, and psalms I was not in a state to sing ; I could not sing.” Nor, indeed, do we remember his ever making the attempt, until some years after, when in prison at Carlisle, where the jailor having, with brutal violence, beaten him, Fox says he was "so filled with joy, that he began to sing.” This seems strange to us, and favours the opinion of Hudibras.
or inflict. By the bye, we may here notice that Fox having once "tuned his voice,” very soon gave proof of extraordinary power; for the jailor thinking to annoy him, fetched a fiddler; but the man no sooner began to play, than Fox“ sang a hymn so loud, that with his voice he drowned the sound of the fiddle, and thereby so confounded the player, that he was forced to give over and go his ways.” If this does not remind the reader of the contention between the lute player and the nightingale, in Strada and Ford, it may of the similar despair of a fiddler, though from a different cause, in that most beautiful of ballads, The Lord's Marie, now said to be written by Allan Cunningham.
At this time, and for the remainder of his life, Fox, of course, had dreams, and visions, and heard voices from heaven, and was, on innumerable occasions, specially instructed by the Lord; and as the coming of Jesus was preceded and foretold by John, therefore it was, we presume, that one Brown, says Sewel, “ upon his death-bed spoke, by way of prophecy, many notable things concerning George Fox, and, among the rest, that he should be made instrumental by the Lord to the conversion of the people.” This prophecy seems to have decided the question ; for " when this man was buried,” says Fox,“ a great work of the Lord fell upon me, to the admiration of many
who thought I had been dead; and many came to see me for about fourteen days. I was very much altered in countenance and person, as if my body had been new moulded or changed. While I was in this condition, I had a sense and discerning given me by the Lord.—I saw into that which was without end, things which cannot be uttered, and of the greatness and infiniteness of the love of God, which cannot
be expressed by words. For I had been brought through the very ocean of darkness and death, and through and over the power of Satan, by the eternal glorious power of Christ; even through that darkness was I brought which covered over all the world, which chained down all, and shut up all in the death.—Then could I
say, I had been in spiritual Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and the grave; but by the eternal power of God I was come out of it, was brought over it, and the power of it, into the power of Christ.-A report went abroad of me, that I was a young man who had a discerning spirit, whereupon many came from far and near, professors, priests, and people. The Lord's power 'broke forth, and I had great openings and prophecies, and spoke unto them of the things of God, which they heard with atten'tion and silence, and went away and spread the fame thereof." After the success of this first display, there was no more selfquestioning; he braced up his leather-breeches, and proceeded forthwith to meetings of priests and professors, and expounded texts, much to the satisfaction of the more sober.”
Fox's life had now a determinate purpose, and his mind became, in consequence, somewhat quieted; the fever was a little subdued, and his madness had more of method. Away he
goes to meetings and steeple-houses ; takes to prophecying and performing miracles ;-it were better, we think, to have followed the advice of the priest of Mansetter, and taken to psalm-singing, and tobacco ;-and proceeds right onwards, till he had founded a sect, and established his authority over it.However, this was a work of time and labour. But hereafter he lives more in the world's eye; his history is less personal ; he avows doctrines, denounces errors, and finds followers; and before we enter into the particulars of his after life, we must