George Fox and Early Quaker Culture

George Fox and Early Quaker Culture

Hilary Hinds
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    George Fox and Early Quaker Culture
    Book Description:

    What was distinctive about the founding principles and practices of Quakerism? In George Fox and Early Quaker Culture, Hilary Hinds explores how the Light Within became the organizing principle of this seventeenth-century movement, inaugurating an influential dissolution of the boundary between the human and the divine. Taking an original perspective on this most enduring of radical religious groups, Hinds combines literary and historical approaches to produce a fresh study of Quaker cultural practice. Close readings of Fox’s Journal are put in dialogue with the voices of other early Friends and their critics to argue that the Light Within set the terms for the unique Quaker mode of embodying spirituality and inhabiting the world. In this important study of the cultural consequences of a bedrock belief, Hinds shows how the Quaker spiritual self was premised on a profound continuity between sinful subjects and godly omnipotence. These dimensions of Quaker life are explored through topics which range from rhetoric and confidence to slavery and itinerancy. Paying careful attention to the conventions and idioms of early modern writing, the book demonstrates how Quaker rhetoric reshaped understandings of temporality, spatiality, movement and gendered agency in the second half of the seventeenth century. This study will be of interest not only to scholars and students of seventeenth-century literature and history, but also to those concerned with the Quaker movement, spirituality and the changing meanings of religious practice in the early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-459-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. A note on references to Fox’s Journal
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Introduction: seamless subjects
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, are generally known today as an inclusive and tolerant movement, broadly Christian, committed to working for peace and consensus, socially activist, politically radical and culturally liberal. At the time of their inception in the 1650s, however, their reputation was less benign. Early Friends were seen by more orthodox believers as at best misguided and at worst evil. ‘[B] lasphemous heretical seducers . . . tumultuous, factious, impious and barbarous’, wrote the Anglican minister Francis Higginson in 1653, and, as George Fox, James Nayler and other founding Friends made their journeys through the...

  6. 1 ‘As the Light appeared, all appeared’: the Quaker culture of convincement
    (pp. 13-32)

    What was the cultural force of the core belief in the inward light for the rhetoric and practice of early Quakerism? In what ways, and to what ends, can the ramifications of this most insistent of theological tenets be tracked in the writings and practices of early Friends? To what extent were the movement’s characteristic forms, customary behaviours and habits of speech predicated on this founding perception of the divine? In other words, in what ways did Quaker practice, in the words of Samuel Fisher quoted above, ‘Preach out’ the ‘Performance’ of what Friends promised? The theological implications of adherence...

  7. 2 ‘Let your lives preach’: the embodied rhetoric of the early Quakers
    (pp. 33-55)

    In 1653, as George Fox and other early Friends continued their itinerant mission through northern England, transforming the nascent Quaker movement into an increasingly sizeable and potent force, Francis Higginson publishedThe Irreligion of the Northern Quakers, condemning this latest radical religious grouping. Higginson, a minister from Kirkby Stephen in Westmorland with first-hand knowledge of early Friends, was troubled by many aspects of Quaker doctrine and practice, and not least by the manner and circumstances of their public speaking.¹

    They have onely their own mode of speaking . . . which they do not call, but deny to be preaching;...

  8. 3 ‘And the Lord’s power was over all’: anxiety, confidence and masculinity in Fox’s Journal
    (pp. 56-81)

    Anxiety, it seems, was a pervasive early modern affective state. For Mark Breitenberg, it inheres within early modern masculinity to the extent that it forms, drives and defines it. Equally, in John Stachniewski and Anita Pacheco’s analysis, it sits at the heart of the dominant Calvinist-derived religious discourse of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. If anxiety is so fundamental to, so enmeshed within, and so structurally constitutive of, early modern discourses of both masculinity and religion, it comes as something of a surprise to find John Knott glossing George Fox’sJournalas defined by ‘an overwhelming confi dence’.³ Knott...

  9. 4 A technology of presence: genre and temporality in Fox’s Journal
    (pp. 82-99)

    Whatkindof a text is Fox’sJournal, in the most literal sense? Is it a journal, as Fox and his editors termed it? Or does its retrospective composition mean that it is better understood, as more recent critics have suggested, either as a spiritual autobiography or else as a history of the first years of the Quaker movement? This chapter re-examines the debates about the proper generic designation of the text, not in order to adjudicate between them but rather to propose that what these diverse designations have in common – namely, an emphasis on temporality – is key not only...

  10. 5 ‘Moved of the Lord’: the contingent itinerancy of early Friends
    (pp. 100-120)

    The early Quaker ministry was a travelling ministry, a movement set in motion by the endlessly mobile figure at its centre, George Fox. HisJournalis as much a travelogue as it is a spiritual memoir, a conversion narrative, a record of sufferings or the history of a dissenting sect. After the opening section sets out the fundamental tenets of the Quaker interpretation of Christianity, theJournal’s narrative is thereafter heavily weighted towards the detailing of Fox’s journeys, initially from the midlands into the north of England, then into London, the south and west, Wales and Scotland, and later to...

  11. 6 The limits of the light: silence and slavery in Quaker narratives of journeys to America and Barbados
    (pp. 121-145)

    From its inception, the Quaker travelling ministry was also a publishing ministry. In May 1652, when Fox descended Pendle Hill after his founding vision of ‘a great people’, his immediate response was to write a paper and see to its distribution.¹ From the early days of the movement, the activities of travelling and writing went hand in hand, and Fox set the pace in both regards. As he travelled through ‘the 1652 country’ and beyond, he composed and dictated letters, tracts and notebooks.² Fox and his followers were indeed ‘Publishersof Truth’ in both the broad and narrow senses of...

  12. Conclusion: singularity and doubleness
    (pp. 146-154)

    Early Quakers were both of their time and at odds with it. The advent of the movement in the early 1650s was of its moment, growing, as Geoffrey Nuttall suggested ‘out of the soil and climate of the time’.¹ It was a dynamic, vociferous and influential contributor to the great early modern Protestant conversation seen by some, such as Thomas Edwards, as a cacophonous, blasphemous Babel, and by others, such as Milton, as the sign of an intellectual rigour and spiritual maturity commensurate with England’s status as electnation.² Quakers spoke the same religious idiom as their interlocutors, of Christ as...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 155-195)
  14. References
    (pp. 196-210)
  15. Index
    (pp. 211-220)