Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 21. Non-jurors: Ken, Kettlewell, Dodwell and Hickes

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

XII. Divines of the Church of England 1660–1700

§ 21. Non-jurors: Ken, Kettlewell, Dodwell and Hickes

Thomas Ken was one of those religious writers in whom a beautiful soul shines through the words which express the sincerity of their appeal. The motto of his writings might well be the words which he set at the head of all his letters—“All glory be to God.” He wrote only when he felt deeply. Ichabod tells of his disappointment with the church after the recovery of 1660. Of three sermons, the best is that for “the Funeral of the Right Hon. the Lady Margaret Mainard, at Little Easton, in Essex, June 30, 1682.” In it, he commemorated a “gracious woman” whose goodness he knew from an intimate acquaintance of twenty years, and through the confessional, as that of one who “never commited any one mortal sin.” Here, sorrow was chastened by the delightful memory of virtue: the charm of which he wrote gave a lightness to his style, and a felicity of touch, which greater writers might have envied. But all his writing, it is easy to see, was unstudied in form. His poetry, simple and flowing, came readily from his pen; his prose, which often embodies anxious thought, is still an excellent example of the prose which educated men naturally wrote in his day. And, if he could write tenderly, he could also write severely, as his letter to archbishop Tenison shows (written because, as he thought, the deathbed of queen Mary had not been made to bring her to repentance for her undutifulness towards her father). John Kettlewell, himself a saint, had a natural affinity with Ken: his work was essentially practical and devotional; almost all his books treat of Christian duty and privileges, sacrament and creeds, and their manner is of a piece with their matter. George Hickes, on the other hand, and Henry Dodwell, were scholars first and men of piety afterwards. The former was a student from his youth, a collector of manuscripts and antiquities: he learnt Hebrew that he might discuss rabbinical learning with the extraordinary duke of Lauderdale; and “Anglo-Saxon and Meso-Gothic,” it seems, for his own pleasure; and his Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archaeologicus is a marvel of erudition and industry. Hickes’s style is sharp in controversy; in general literature—concerned, chiefly, with the burning questions of nonconformity and of the oaths—it is coloured by the diversity of his learning; and he shows, like several of his friends among the non-jurors, the influence of the early liturgies in which he was thoroughly at home. If Hickes was the most learned clerk, Henry Dodwell was the most learned layman, among those who refused the oath to William and Mary. His friend Francis Brokesby preserved his memory in a Life published in 1715, in which the “Accomplishments and Attainments” of the “lay-dictator” are profusely eulogised in a style of crabbed pedantry from which the subject of the biography had quite escaped. Dodwell is not an easy writer; but, then, his subjects are not easy. He is mathematical and theological, eager to quote and overwhelm with authority. Were the literary work of the non-jurors, in both divisions—those who returned to communion with the national church and those who abstained—to be estimated by the writings of those we have named, its value to literature, apart from its services to learning, would be adjudged small.