Crook, John (DNB00)

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CROOK, JOHN (1617–1699), quaker, was born in 1617 in the north of England, probably in Lancashire, of parents of considerable wealth (see A Short History, by himself, 1706), and was educated in various schools in or near London till about seventeen years old, when he was ‘apprenticed’ to some ‘trade.’ About this time he joined one of the puritan congregations. A few years later he went to reside at Luton, where he possessed an estate and was placed on the commission of the peace for Bedfordshire. In 1653 he was recommended to the Protector as a fit person to serve as a knight of the shire for Bedfordshire (see ‘A Letter from the People of Bedfordshire,’ dated 13 May 1653, to Cromwell, in Original Letters, &c. of John Nickolls, jun., 1743). In 1654 he was ‘convinced’ by the preaching of William Dewsbury—Gough says of George Fox—and became a Friend, shortly after which his commission as justice of the peace was withdrawn. Crook states that he once held some public appointment. In 1655 he was visited by George Fox, and entertained a large number of the more important gentry of the district, who came to see the ‘first quaker,’ and later in the same year he held a theological dispute with a baptist at Warwick, where, together with George Fox and several others, he was arrested. Owing to want of evidence he was discharged on the following day; but the townsfolk stoned him out of the place, and during the following year he was imprisoned at Northampton for several months on account of his tenets. Somewhat later he became a recognised quaker minister, his district seeming to have comprised Bedfordshire and the adjoining counties. Two years later the yearly meeting of the Friends, which lasted three days, was held at his house, where Fox (Journal, p. 266, ed. 1765) computes that several thousand persons were present. In 1660 he was imprisoned with several others for refusing to take the oaths, and committed, as a ‘ringleader and dangerous person,’ to Huntingdon gaol, where he lay for several weeks after the others had been discharged. In 1661 he and seven others were apprehended at Culveston, near Stony Stratford, for attempting to hold an illegal meeting, and his conscience forbidding him to give security for good behaviour, he was detained for at least three months (see Gough, History of the Quakers, vol. iii., ed. 1789). Shortly after this he went to London, and while there was engaged in ministerial work. In the following year, after being imprisoned for six weeks, he was tried at the Old Bailey for refusing to take the oath of allegiance. His arguments against the legality of his imprisonment, which are given with some fulness by Gough, show him to have been a man of considerable legal attainments and much acuteness. During his trial one jury was discharged and another composed of picked men empanelled, nor was he permitted to speak, ‘but when he did an attendant stopped his mouth with a dirty cloth.’ The trial ended by his being subjected to the penalties of a præmunire and being remanded to prison. Crook immediately drew up a full statement of his case, and after the lapse of some four weeks was liberated, it is said, by the express order of the king. When, however, he had been at liberty three days, an attempt was made to rearrest him, which failed owing to his having left London. From this time he seems to have chiefly resided at Hertford, and to have been permitted to continue preaching without interference till 1669, when there is reason to believe he was again arrested at a meeting and imprisoned for some weeks. During his later years he was afflicted with a complication of painful disorders which materially interfered with his usefulness. He died at Hertford in 1699, aged 82, and was buried in the Friends' burial-ground at Sewel in Bedfordshire. Crook was a man of wider culture than most of the primitive quaker ministers, of an amiable genial nature, and possessed of considerable literary skill. He wrote largely, and several of his productions enjoyed a wide popularity during the whole of the last century. His chief works are: 1. ‘Unrighteousness no Plea for Truth, nor Ignorance a Lover of it,’ &c., 1659. 2. ‘The Case of Swearing (at all) Discussed,’ &c., 1660. 3. ‘An Epistle for Unity, to prevent the Wiles of the Enemy,’ &c., 1661. 4. ‘An Apology for the Quakers, wherein is shewed how they answer the chief Principles of the Law and Main Ends of Government,’ &c., 1662. 5. ‘The Cry of the Innocent for Justice; being a Relation of the Tryal of John Crook and others at … Old Bayley,’ &c., 1662. 6. ‘Truth's Principles, or those things about Doctrine and Worship which are most surely believed and received among the People of God called Quakers,’ &c., 1663. 7. ‘Truth's Progress, or a Short Relation of its first Appearance and Publication after the Apostacy,’ &c., 1667. 8. ‘The Counterfeit Convert Discovered,’ &c., 1676 (?). Crook's works were collected and published in 1701 under the title of ‘The Design of Christianity,’ &c. In 1706, a manuscript account of his life having been discovered, it was published as ‘A Short History of the Life of John Crook, containing some of his spiritual travels … written by his own hand,’ &c. [Gough's Hist. of the Quakers; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, &c., of the Quakers; Fox's Journal, ed. 1765; Friends' Library (Philadelphia), vol. xiii. ed. 1837; Besse's Sufferings, &c.; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books.]

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