Thursday, July 01, 2010

Jackson I. Cope, Seventeenth Century Quaker Style

Jackson I. Cope, Seventeenth-Century Quaker Style, PMLA, September 1956, Volume LXXI, Number 4, Part 1, pp. 725-754.

The early Quakers, who liked to call themselves the First Publishers of Truth, swept from the north of England across the nations roughly between 1650 and 1675. And during this same quarter century what we have dubiously labeled “plain” style manifestly supplanted the highly-ornate, rhetorical tradition of English prose. (725)

The rise of the new “plain” prose has been attributed to the heightened philosophical interest in skepticism, with its pragmatic theories of action; to the intensified interest in empirical science which centered in the Royal Society; and to the rise of a semi-educated bourgeoisie. But these decades in England’s story were characterized most widely by continuous theological debate and exhortation. So it would seem probable, granting the convergence of several streams of cause, that the peak swell on which the new prose tradition rode to dominance can most intelligibly be traced to an ultimately theological tide. The literature of early Quakerism is of unparalleled value in testing and illustrating this hypothesis because—with the incalculable human distance between George Fox and William Penn—this evangelistic group cut across all social and educational distinctions, even dimmed the dualism in the roles of the sexes. (725)

“For the Lord showed me that though the people of the world have mouths full of deceit…my words should be few and savoury, seasoned with grace; and that I might not eat and drink to make myself wanton but for health…” The confidence of George Fox in this passage from the beginning of the Journal is characteristic; the imagery is not. With their inner ear hearing David’s injunction, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), many a Puritan enthusiast expressed his realization of a better world as a taste of manna. However, for Fox, although the universe of spirit might smell of heavenly flowers, or might glisten with holy light, spiritual food was no staple of his religious imagery. Invited to look carefully at this passage, then, because of its unexpecteness, one sees that Fox, in “seasoning” his “savoury” speech with grace when his actual practice of eating and drinking is in the front of his mind, is evidencing a tendency to break down the boundary between literalness and metaphor, between conceptions and things. … And it is an illustration in little not only of the most embracing literary characteristic of Fox’s Journal, but of the relationship of language to experience in the early Quaker mind. (726)

In the Journal one finds the distinction between metaphoric and literal expression wholly obliterated on occasion, as in Fox’s description of his first sight of the rugged, thistled Scottish glens and downs: “when first I set my horse’s feet a-top of the Scottish ground I felt the Seed of God to sparkle about me like innumerable sparks of fire, though there is abundance of thick, cloddy earth of hypocrisy and falseness that is a-top, and a briary, brambly nature which is to be burnt up with God’s word” (p. 331) (726)

And this habit of sliding literalness and metaphor inot one another informs the total structure of Fox’s Journal as well as such individual passages. Let us listen for a moment to Bunyan describing a crucial event in his spiritual development: “one day, as I was betwixt Elstow and Bedford the temptation was hot upon me, to try if I had Faith, by doing some Miracle; which Miracle, at that time, was this; I must say to the Puddles that were in the Horse-pads, Be dry; and to the dry places, Be you the puddles…” The passage is typical of Clavinistic spiritual biographies in its immediacy of detail. … Bunyan thus dresses to the life a hundred times. Fox, on the other hand, records much history, but he depicts less… (727)

The physical scene is not England, but the image of his spiritual struggle: “I fasted much, and walked abroad in solitary places many days, and often took my Bible and went and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places till night came on; and frequently in the night walked mournfully about by myself” (p. 9) (728)

Again, it is not that the night is lacking in reality, it is that reality for long stretches of the narrative seems to consist only in Fox, and in the sweep of day and darkness; and that the day and darkness of the journey seem so irresistibly to mirror the spiritual state of Fox, that they become charged with spiritual content even as they alternate over an interminable history. Perhaps this peculiar merging of realism and spiritual symbolism, with the timeless dimension which creates, are most succinctly conveyed by a single brief passage: “from Major Brousfield’s I came to Richard Robinson’s; and as I was passing along the way I asked a man, which was Richard Robinson’s; he asked me from whence I came and I told him, ‘From the Lord’” (p. 106). And perhaps Fox was not entirely unaware of the peculiar effect, for he had said that in the Lord’s day, “all things are seen, visile and invisible, by the divine light of Christ” (. 29). But it was not only Fox’s effect, it was the essential quality of seventeenth-century Quaker expression manifesting itself in several guises. Before looking at these stylistic habits, however, it will be profitable to examine the idea which was even more important to Quaker theology than the Light Within, the conception of the “Name.” (729)

Isaac Penington saw that “the end of words is to bring men to a knowledge of things beyond what words can utter.’ It was an ideal to which Fox attained at least once, an experience he described apocalyptically: “I saw into that which was without end, and things which cannot be uttered, and of the greatness and infiniteness of the love of God, which cannot be expressed by words” (Journal, p. 21). But a few months after his insight into the inexpressible nature of God, Fox saw the obverse of the coin: the perfect expression of God’s nature in the universe. Again it is related in terms of language: “being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, … I was come up to the state of Adam which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me, and it was showed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue” (p. 27). /
For the Quakers, the root of this conception of language as a key to the essence of proper reality lay in the Johannine Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … All things were made by him. … In him was life; and the life was the light of men. … That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world… to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1: 1-12). No amount of repetition seemed able to dry the spiritual marrow out of these verses for the early Quakers, who adapt them to every circumstance: (729)

The passage clearly shows the important implications of the Johannine prologue for Quaker thought. The “power of the Lord” is perhaps the most insistent single phrase in Fox’s Journal, but here, in company with the “Light”, it is subsumed under the concept of the “Name”—that name which was in the beginning the Word. As Fox proceeds, he brings his rejection of dependence upon Scripture into the net of subordinations to the “Name” by warning that there is no nourishment for protestants in “the Tongues, which makes their Divines, the beginning of which was Babel.” Rather than master the ancient Scriptures with such care, he pleads, “feed upon the Milk of the Word, that was before tongues; and when you are redeemed form Tongues, and see the ceasing of Tongues, and the beginning of Tongues, Babel, … thou must go before Babel and Babylon was… up into the Word Chirst, whose Name is called the Word of God” (pp. 11-12). (730-731)

It was not only Fox, but early Quakers in general who were fascinated by the “Name,” and by the problem of the relation between language and being. (731)

John Crook, fearing lip-service literalism, explains: “we do not belive that the outward letters & syllables are that Name, that are to be bowed to by the outward knee, … but that Name which saves, … the Power of God that then saves, is that Grace that comes from the fullness of Christ the Saviour. And without this vertue, Christ and Jesus are but empty names. …” In sound alone there is no salvation; and yet the process of salvation involves the naming of the Name. (731)

Fox’s fellow warrior Stephen Crisp saw the change coming even in 1666. In An Epistle to Friends Concerning the Present and Succeeding Times, he chides a new and restless liberty. Quakers do not live so carefully as once they had done, and this is an evil; but the really corrosive decline began in language, not morality: “Actions [are] sometimes blameworthy, the Words and Speech again corrupted, and run into the old Channel of the World, like them again, and the pure Language, learned in the Light, in the time of their Poverty and Simplicity, almost lost and forgotten, and so the work of God which he wrought, in a manner laid waste.” (732)

In an era when Puritan and Anglican preachers, when Christian virtuiosi and secular essayists, were proudly boasting that their imaginative heat had been enough stifled to allow them to write a “plain” prose, the Quakers were yet known as the people of plain speech—Fox, indeed, described the whole spirit of Quakerism as being “plain and low as a meadow.” Yet his exhortation to salvation in the “Name,” with its long alternately periodic and additive, repetitive structure, its Scriptural, somewhat exotic vocabulary, does not strike us as “plain” prose in the immediate way that Dryden, Tillotson, or Bunyan, different as they are, appear to write a “plain” style. Still, the passage from Fox is typical of early Quaker style. That it seemed “plain” to Friends is implied in a defense of Quaker language by Thomas Lawson, one of the most learned of the Early Publishers of Truth, when he writes: “[Quaker language] is the only and heavenly Eloquence and Rhetorick… though Plain, Simple, and [though it] be accounted Rude, Clownish and Babbling by the VVorldly VVise.” “Babbling” is the adjective which an unfriendly critic might apply to Fox’s treatment of the “Name”; indeed, Anglican Joseph Glanvill came close when he disgustedly called enthusiastic talk of “closing with Christ, getting into Christ, rolling upon Christ, relying upon Christ” mere “Gibberish.” /

But remembering the Quaker attention to the “Name,” one is prepared to give this aspect of Quaker style a less pejorative and more adequately descriptive term. A critic once made the pregnant suggestion that “Both the corporate and the individual message of Friends has, perhaps, been characterized less by variety than by religion.” This quality is epitomized in what I should like to call the Quakers’ “incantatory” style. Its central characteristic, so clearly displayed in the quotation from Fox, is an incredible repetition, a combining and recombining of a cluster of words and phrases drawn from Scripture. In itself, this repetition is highly reminiscent of the “witty” Anglican sermons made popular by Bishop Andrewes in the age of the first James, and revived self-consciously in some Establishment pulpits after the Restoration. (732-733)

Andrewes has a carefully controlled divisioning and logically-developed examination of the terms he is treating of; it is the method of the philologist turned rhetorician: he anatomizes his terms until he can relate the nerves giving each life, then proceeds to relate them with a variety of modes of rhetorical balance, assonance and other sound patterning. In Fox’s passage, on the other hand, there is no varying of stance, no moving about the object to exhaust all of its facets of meaning; the idea is logically static throughout all of its repetitions. /

Further, and this is not usual in such passages, as Fox breasts forward on the sound waves of his exhortation, he loses sight of the grammatical structure which usually offers even the most strenuously turgid seventeenth-century author assurance of being comprehended. … Fox…a time-conquering stasis of Christian perfection. What had begun as warning, instruction, or exhortation becomes, through the hypnotic utterance of the divine names, a vision of human beatification for the Children of Light. (734)

The incarnation of the “Name” has undercut the progression implicit in a grammar because it has revealed the heart of a world above time. / It has been common to attribute such passages in Fox’s writings to his social and educational deficiencies, a view fathered by William Penn, who apologizes that though Fox’s expression of ideas “might sound uncouth and unfashionable to nice ears,” and that “abruptly and brokenly as sometimes his sentences would fall from him about divine things, it is well known that they were often as texts to many fairer declarations.” But to rebut this inferences that Fox’s “incantatory” passages merely reflect his social status, we need only turn to other early Quakers who joined the Children of Light from a more sophisticated world. Margaret Fell, eventually to be Fox’s wife, was in 1660 the mistress of Swarthmore Hall, the educated daughter of a gentleman, and the wife of a former Parliament member and Assize Judge. … As with Fox, there is no logical progression, but working the word “faith” into a texture of Scripture phrases, Margaret Fell’s grammatical structure progressively disintegrates into shorter and shorter sentence members linked by tenuous, sound-dictated conjunctions, until her final fragmentary quotation turns St. Paul’s logic (Rom. 12:16-20) into mere ejaculation. (734-735)

But the essential aspect of this mode of Quaker expression is not agrammaticism, nor the typical Quaker vocabulary. John Swinton was a converted Scottish Calvinist lawyer who, say contemporaries, “had received as good an education as any man in Scotland,” … Swinton does not abandon grammar, and he uses simple language interspersed with Biblical phrases which are not commonplace in Quaker tracts. He is a man absorbing the Scripture for himself, with a personal eye; but he is learning it in that logically unprogressive, repetitive concentration upon the “word,” which is the central mode of knowing the high moments of spiritual experience for the Quaker. Untypical as are his phrases and form among Quaker tracts in externals, they reflect as clearly as Fox’s writings the epistemology of verbal incantation. / This “incantatory” style is ubiquitous in early Quakerdom. (735-736)

[Note 32: Circumstances which we shall later examine converged to cool the evangelistic optimism which the First Publishers brought to the founding of Quakerism and, as a corollary, to curb the “incantatory” outbursts of the earlier prose. Yet the old mode helped on sometimes when writers of the second generation were “moved” to intense exhortation, and one find occasional vestiges even in such an unlikely author as the courtly William Penn. A passage in his Advice to Children (Everyman ed., pp. 96-97) is the most interesting, because Penn is there writing with a conscious rhetorical structure. Having explained the Light and Spirit logically, he launches into an “incantatory” passage of exhortation, then drops back into an explanation of Grace, after which he again adapts the “incantatory” style to an exhortation to “love the grace.” It is a late example (publ. posthumously 1726, composition date indeterminate) of the style which shows its adaptation to a larger rhetorical pattern. Penn, apparently unaware of the aim of such passages in early Quaker literature and meetings (as his remarks on Fox’s “broken” style indicate), simply utilizes it as a sort of imagination-stirring purple passage which is common in his religious tradition.] (737)

For the seventeenth-century Quaker, as observant of decorum in styles as were his contemporaries, reserves this mode of perception through repetition for those times at which he is exhorting and encouraging fellow saints towards eternity. But he lived in this world, too, and no one sought a place in it more energetically. So that when Peter Hardcastle addresses the secular authorities for toleration and liberty from court oaths, he writes in series of sorites, without an image of the whole; … Margaret Fell, whose “incantatory” style we have sampled, defends women preaching in short paragraphs of short, limpid sentences without resort to metaphor, … (737-8)

But we are not the first to identify the habit of incantation. It seemed the very essence of Quaker style to the subtle and elegant English-born Franciscan apologist John Vincent Canes, who described it without comprehending it in 1661: / ‘The Quaker… books [are] spiritual enough to one of our vulgar readers, unto whose judgement they be well proportioned; for good words are put together there to promote solid and sincere honesty, … But these words are so strangely jumbled together, that every line has good sens in it, but all together none… I have never seen any thing that for the stile and context of the speech doth more nearly resembled Mahomets Alcoran than a good Quakers book, for in both be handsom words, som dreaming conceits interlarded with undeniable truths, … endless tautologies, and no connexion…’ (738)

And it seems probable that Henry More was on the right track in implying a connection between Boehme’s conception of “natural language” and that of the Quakers. Yet the theory, although it explains the “incantatory” style, would not necessarily imply that style as a corollary. Boehme, with a theory of language practically identical, lived in a different world from that of Fox and the First Publishers. His insistence upon the essential language of nature leads him to explicate Genesis by moving even farther away from the Scripture itself, moving out through psychological allegorization into the systematic re-imaging of even that in terms of Paraclesian alchemy. His constant effort is to conceptualize the literal into system. The Quaker understanding of how one reaches the spiritual truths locked in the magic of words, on the other hand, demands an ever closer attention to the words “syllabatim” until one is drawn physically into the special literalness in which alone words can give up their secrets. So it seems improbable that Boehms’s theory of the relation between language and being played any part in developing the form of Quaker “incantatory” style, although it contributed to the motivating conception of essential “names.” (740)

The form itself was likely based to some degree on sheer imitation. The Johannine writings, the Gospel, the Revelation and the Epistle alike, were the very heart of the Scriptures for the seventeenth-century Quaker. (740)

But if John’s epistle was an important source, imitation alone does not account for the omnipresence of the style in early Quaker writings. To understand not only where it originated, but why it was in such constant prominence, we must turn to the wider Puritan context of “spiritual perception” which will explain how a theory influence by Boehme and a style out of the New Testament came to interact. (741)

This Puritan insistence upon the perception of spiritual truths being analogous to and intimately dependent upon physical perception is the tradition which ultimately forms the framework for the Quaker theory of the function of words and their utilization in passages of “incantatory” repetition. Since a word, properly grasped, reveals the essential quality of a datum sub specie aeternitatis, an idea remains static throughout its repetitions, as we have noticed. It cannot be explained by man, but only understood. The Quaker is constantly exhorted to “wait” … (742)

This was, of course, the rationale of the “silent” worship for which Quakers were so notorious. One did not speak out with the voice of human piety, as did the Puritan preacher, but waited until some Friend became the instrument of the Lord, and felt the Light of Christ Within answer to the Light of the Lord’s Day without. When the answer came, it came as an immediate grasp of spiritual reality; and when it was spoken out to the meeting, it was the voice of God which sounded the deeps of divine significance in the words. In the Presbyterian theory the Word of God could become immediate and “saving” only through the words of man. The Quaker theory pressed to the apotheosis: the Word of God spoke its unveiled mysteries immediately to the ears of the saints. But the very fact of the demand for silence until the Spirit moved one implied clearly enough that even the saints who knew the Lord’s Day to be upon them could sometimes be cold and unreceptive. What better stimulus to the whole understanding of mind and heart, then, while it waits upon its awakening to an immediate, God-spoken conception, than an incantation by which the word, the name, which is that conception, permeates the mind and the senses through the echoing and re-echoing voice of God? (742-743)

The Puritans, with their Augustinian heritage, wrote and wrote again the Confessiones in the seventeenth century, climaxing the tradition with Bunyan’s Grace Abounding. Alert to catch the call to their election, and to discipline all of their psychic powers to renewed efforts in response to this call, they searched every detail of their daily life for reflection of their spiritual standing, and recorded much of it in laboriously conscientious diariest, lest any premonitory sign should pass without giving sufficient warning. The spiritual autobiographies, the collections of preachers’ lives, tell of the unceasing self-analysis… The result was a ubiquitous sense of person dominating, and giving its peculiar character to, Puritan religious writing. … /

But there were men of another mind in the seventeenth century, men like John Everard, who could say, “all that thou callest I, all that selfness, all that propriety that thou hast taken to thyself, whatsoever creates in us Iness and selfness, must be brought to nothing.” [Some Gospel Treasures opened (London, 1653), p. 230.] And it was among these saints that the Quakers moved at ease. For what was the individual in oneself but an accident and a tool, a thing to be used only for its own annihilation in that glorious moment when the Inner Light of Christ broke forth the same in every man, to blend with the blazing truth of the Day of the Lord? (743)

Therefore, when the Quaker records his long travel from Babylon to Bethel he exhibits none of the Calvinist Puritan’s minutely-details psychological percipience, none of his circumstantial narrative framework of names and dates and scenes, none of his careful recording of Scripture verse and chapter for each meditation. … Stephen Crisp… What first strikes one is that Crisp conveys almost nothing personal or even concrete in trying to tell his own history—a history which, as the mention of perils and travels and spiritual struggle suggest, must have been stirring. There is only the vaguest localization in the “North or England.” The personality of the spiritual adventurer is suppressed under the consistent passivity: he was “drawn out” to make his journey, “the Vertue of Life” sprang up within him. And other personalities are made even more thoroughly passive ornaments of the Lord as “tender Plants of my Heavenly Father,” as the “Garden of God.” By insisting upon the spiritual experience, Crisp almost denies existence to the physical experience, reducing it to the one clause, “and my Love and Tenderness of Heart towards them, made all Travel and Labour, the Perils easie,” which acknowledges the activities of the traveler only that they can be simultaneously subordinated to the activities of the spirit working without him. But perhaps most suggestive of all, we cannot judge even roughly how long the experience took, … (744)

In the Quaker records, on the other hand, personal histories are made so vague that they seem almost to lose reality. [For general discussion of Quaker spiritual lives see Wright, Literary Life of Early Friends, pp. 155-198; Howard H. Brinton, “Stages in Spiritual Development as Recorded in Quaker Journals,” in Children of Light, ed. Brinton (New York, 1938), pp. 381-406; Owen Watkins, “Quaker Spiritual Biographies,” JFHS, XLV (1953). Both Wright (p. 158) and Brinton (p. 384) insist upon the “dual characteristic of the writers’ motives, merging with those of the group” (Wright). (745)

Fox’s Journal was earlier characterized as a vast symbol of his spiritual mission, in which the figures of people and the sight of places are lost and merged. And yet, since Fox’s intention was largely to preserve the actual history of Quaker origins, it is tru also that the Journal embraces a considerably greater amount of historical detail than is usual in Quaker accounts. A typical passage, I believe, can reconcile the descriptions: /
‘And as I traveled through markets, fairs, and diverse places, I saw death and darkness in all people, where the power of the Lord God had not shaken them. And as I was passing on in Leicestershire I came to Twycross, where there were excise-men, and I was moved of the Lord to go to them and warn them to take heed of oppressing the poor, and people were much afflicted with it. Now there was in that town a great man, that had long lain sick and was given over by the physicians; and some Friends in the town desired me to go to see him. And I went up to him and was moved to pray by him; spoke to him in his bed, and the power of the Lord entered him that he was loving and tender.’ (p.49) (745-746)

Let us look now at the continuation of the letter Richard Sale wrote to Fox. If the lion’s roaring was metaphoric, what follows is all too literal: “But those that did stand afar off me, I was made to hold up my left hand over the multitude, and to show them their figure. For I was made by thy command to take a leathern girdle, and to bid the sackcloth to my loins, and to take some sweet flower in my left hand, and ashes strowed upon my head, bare footed and bare legged, which did astonish all that were out of the life.” Even the literally reported is—as in Fox’s implied healing of the “great man”—scriptura rediviva. [Sale here demonstrates one of the most notorious Quaker practices by which Scripture was made to live anew in a naïve sense. Going in sackcloth and ashes, carrying candles at midday, walking naked in the streets were common behavior among Quakers who wished to give “sign” warning to the “world’s” people. It embraced both sexes and all classes—even Robert Barclay once felt called upon so to humiliate himself. (746)

Indeed, all man’s spiritual experience can only be a continuous reiteration of what has gone before, and before the temporal point of view. So when Fox says of a “false accuser,” “I called him Judas,… told him again that he was Juda and that it was the word of the Lord and of Christ to him, and Judas’s end should be his … [and] this Judas went away and hanged himself shortly,” it is not that there are certain analogies to be observed between the accuser and the Scriptual betrayer, but that the man’s experience is Judas’ experience, just as the Christ Within makes Fox able to say so bluntly of his own prophecy, “it was the word of the Lord and of Christ to him.” … As Quakerdom passed on into the third quarter of the seventeenth century, this mode of viewing life as scriptura rediviva, like the “incantatory” style, withered and disappeared. (749)

Much commoner in all later-century Quaker writing, is a self-conscious analogizing through Scripture imagery which sounds only a faint echo of the immediacy of the same phrases on the tongues of the early Publishers of Truth. Robert Barclay is typical when he writes in the Apology: “For in our Day, God hath raised up Witnesses for himself, as he did Fisher-men of old; … And Barclay’s theory of the usefulness of Scriptural history corresponds to his diluted imagery: “herein we should, as in a Looking-Glass, see the Conditions and Experiences of the Saints of old; that finding our Experience answer to theirs, we might therein be the more confirmed and comforted and our Hope strengthened of obtaining the same end” (p.84). The eternal epic of mankind, spoken by God and re-enacted by his saints forever, had dwindled to a speculum mentis for fallen man. (749-750)

The cause of this decline in spiritual ardency and expressive vigor lay in the theological and social history of the Society. The evangelizing energy of the First Publishers had put them rapidly in “the vanguard of the enthusiastic movement” which was climbing mercurially to its peak in the Commonwealth England of the forties and fifties. … Having built to a membership of forty thousand within a dozen or so years of their beginnings [Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, p. 512]… 1659. Sir Henry Vane and other Army partisans in that year of confusion petitioned the Quakers to submit lists of dependable local commissioners, justices, and other officers, and even to themselves participate in government directly (one symptom being the offer of a colonelcy to Fox). Fox, to whom the Quaker meeting naturally turned for decision, wrestled in his soul for ten weeks, then rejected the proposals. The opportunity was past. And the aggressive, surging evangelism rising from the same sense of an immediate inward millennium that fostered the stylistic traits of early Quakerism had laid its own boundaries. (750)

…within a dozen years more than half of those who had seen with the eyes of their own souls the first brilliance of the new Day of the Lord were gone. And the new generation of leaders had been bron into a world immeasurably different form that of the dying First Publishers. It was the Restoration world of Penn, a world of “reasonable” temper whose aim was clarity and polish, whose hobby was natural science, and whose chief fear and detestation was the enthusiasm which had been the badge of prophecy to the early Quakers. From this later viewpoint it was as the Anglican critic Charles Leslie said: “the Ingenious Mr: Penn has of late refin’d some of their gross Notions,… has made them speak Sense and English, of both which George Fox (their first and Great Apostle) was totally Ignorant” (750-751)

Fox was no Calvinist. Optimistic in his conception of man, he assumed the human will to be free to choose or to reject God, and he envisaged the possibility of salvation for every man. And yet, as has been recently demonstrated, there was an undercurrent of Calvinism even in Fox. … This undercurrent obviously contains the germ of an attitude which could temper the evangelical optimism that drove Fox and his followers tirelessly over England, across America, to Turkey, into Rome itself. (751)

And like later Calvinism, Barclay sought assurance of election in tangible works… The anti-evangelical force of this rising Calvinism within the Society, merging with the natural anti-enthusiasm of men like Penn, was the ideational cause for the disappearance of the vivid stylistic traits we have seen in the earlier prose of Quakerism. Bu the new ideas and ideals culminated in a single act which greatly hastened the total change in character which distinguishes Quaker writing of the middle from that at the end of the century. This was the establishment of the Second-Day’s Morning Meeting in 1673. … It was soon apparent that the leaders were determined to stamp out everything which smacked of “enthusiasm”: there are numerous records of their rejections and wholesale alterations of manuscripts. Ellwood’s version of Fox’s Journal—an editorial task assigned by the Morning Meeting—bears faint resemblance to the manuscript version made at Fox’s dictation, and Fox’s whole corpus was minutely smoothed out, theologically and stylistically, for republishing. (753)

The Meeting particularly repressed Jeremiads (in which the “incantatory” style had been so prominent), apocalyptic papers, and anything chaotic in expression (as certainly the “incantatory” style must have seemed to a later generation). The age of plainness had come, and Quaker style henceforth was to be distinguished only by a few pathetic anachronisms of diction. And when the Morning Meeting listened to the ancient voices of the First Publishers of Truth, they heard only an “abrupt and broken” uncouthness where once God had spoken, and strong hearts had quaked in the glory of the sound. (754)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home