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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

IV. The Early Quakers

§ 14. Mary Mollineux’s Fruits of Retirement

The quakers, as is well known, gave to women an equal place with men in the ministries of the spiritual life; and perhaps the only approach to poetry in their literary output, beforethe days of Barton and Whittier, is to be found in a little volume of letters and poems entitled Fruits of Retirement, by Mary Mollineux (born Southworth), published shortly after her death in 1695. It includes the following Meditations in Trouble:

  • O Whither is he gone? Or where
  • Shall I go mourn, till he appear,
  • Who is my life, my love?
  • Alas, how shall I move
  • Him to return, that’s secretly retired
  • Like unto one displeased,
  • Who, till he be appeased,
  • My heart cannot be eased?
  • He is one lovely, and to be admired!
  • It might have been expected that the deep inward experiences of these quaker mystics would have found spontaneous expression in lyrical verse, but so it was not to be. Very early, their spiritual life became confined in bonds, and freedom and spontaneity were largely lost in a rigour of thought and life that left little scope for originality of inspired expression. With the eighteenth century, the glow of the first experience faded, and the third generation of the quakers while retaining much of the purity and unworldliness and spirituality of their predecessors, became, for the most part, the children of a tradition. Quietism settled down upon them, a quietism which, while it produced noble fruit in a John Woolman and an Elizabeth Fry, left the majority more concerned to maintain the discipline of a “peculiar people” than to make known a spiritual Gospel to the world.