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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

§ 5. Other Quaker Journals and Memoirs

John Gratton was another quaker of good education, brought up in the presbyterian faith in Derbyshire. Like many mystics, he was subject to deep inward exercises, frequently culminating in visions or other incursions from the deeper layers of personality; and his Journal, like that of George Fox, is of great interest to the student of religious psychology. He was, however, a man of sane and sober spirit, and there is no question as to his fundamental orthodoxy. He writes with ease and clearness, but lacks the crisp, pungent manner of Fox and Ellwood. Like most of his contemporaries, he is apt to be long-winded.

One of the liveliest and best written of these early autobiographies is that of Richard Davies, of Welshpool, who tells the story of his own “convincement” and sufferings, and of the first propagation of the “truth” in Wales.

The Memoir of John Roberts, of Cirencester (who died in 1683), was written by his son Daniel in 1725; yet it properly belongs to this period, since the notes from which it is compiled must have been, to a large extent, contemporary with the events described. For its brightness and unfailing humour, it well deserves a place in English literature. Oliver Wendell Holmes said of it:

  • It is as good as gold—better than gold—every page of it. It is comforting to meet, even in a book a man who is perfectly simple-hearted, clear-headed, and brave in all conditions. The story is admirably told too—dramatically, vividly.
  • The great mass of early quaker writings may be described as mystical, in the sense that they seek to set forth the reality of the experience of direct Divine communion, and the life of self-surrender and obedience as at once the condition and the fruit of that experience. But we may distinguish as mystical writings proper those of the works of the quakers which are not mainly autobiographical on the one hand, or controversial on the other.