Lawson, Thomas (1630-1691) (DNB00)

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LAWSON, THOMAS (1630–1691), quaker and botanist, born 10 Oct. 1630, was younger son of Sir Thomas and Ruth Lawson. He is said to have been educated at Cambridge, and became an excellent scholar in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He must have been presented very young to the living of Rampside in Lancashire, the inhabitants of which place prayed in 1649 to have a parish and a 'competent' minister settled there (Survey of Church Lands, 1649, ii. 76, Lambeth Palace Lib.) Fox visited him there in 1662, and was invited by him to preach in his church (Fox, Journal, ed. 1766, p. 72). He soon after became convinced of the unlawfulness of preaching for hire, and at twenty-three gave up his living to join the quakers. He wss not a preacher, though he was clerk to the monthly meetings for many years. He was frequently distrained upon for nonpayment of tithe, and possibly imprisoned (Besse, i. 176), and his means grew so scanty that he wrote to Mrs. Fell (Swarthmoor MSS.) for money out of the general fund to buy books. She employed him to teach her daughters botany and the use of herbs as medicine (Recipe Book, Swarthmoor MSS.) Croese says that he was the most noted herbalist in England. Lawson married, 24 March 1068, Frances Wilkinson, and settled at Great Strickland in Westmoreland, where he took pupils from the sons of the gentry round. He was an 'excellent schoolmaster and favourer of learning' (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. i. 233). Ray, with whom he was on intimate terms, speaks of him as a 'diligent, industrious, and skilful botanist.' from whom he received much assistance (Preface to Synopsis Stirpium). Lawson was asked to contribute to 'Synopsis Methodica Insectorum,' which Ray contemplated but did not live to complete (letter from Lawson in Richardson, Correspondence), and Robinson in his 'Essay towards a Natural History of Westmoreland and Cumberland' (Pulteney) used manuscripts supplied by Lawson's daughter. Several English plants were first noted by him, and Hier actum Lawsonu was named after him. His manuscript notes made on walking tours throughout England, riving localities of plants, and arranged under counties, are now in possession of a descendant, Mr. Lawson Thompson of Hitchin. Lawson died at Great Strickland 12 Nov. 1691. His will is in the registry of Carlisle. His wife died 23 Feb. 1691. A former pupil of Lawson erected a monument above the grave at Newby Head, in which were deposited the remains of husband, wife, and their only son, Jonah, a promising lad, who died, aged 14, on 23 Feb. 1684. An engraving of it after Birket Foster is in 'The Fells of Swarthmoor.' Of his three daughters the eldest, Ruth, whose letters in Latin are still extant, married without her father's knowledge Christopher Yeats, one of his pupils, who took holy orders; Lawson was rebuked by the Friends for his readiness in accepting the situation. To Yeats and his wife Lawson left most of his property, including all his manuscripts. Several of the latter are now at Devonshire House, and Ellwood [q. v.], in a letter (1 July 1698), which is among them, recommends the publication of many.

Lawson was kept by his strong common sense and lively humour from the extravagances of some of the early quakers. His writings are clear, pointed, and logical His style, orthography, and handwriting show him to have been a man of literary ability far in advance of most of his sect.

He published the following : 1. (with B, Nicholson and J. Harwood) 'A Brief Discovery of a Threefold Estate, &c.,' 1663. 2. (with John Slee) 'An untaught Teacher Witnessed against, &c, 1666 [see Caffin, Matthew] 3. 'The Lip of Truth opened against a Dawber with untempered Morter,' &c. Lond. 1666. 4. 'An Appeal to the Parliament concerning the Poor, that there may not be a Beggar in England,' 1660. 6. 'Eine Antwort auf ein Buch,' 1668. 6. 'Βοπτισμαλογια, or a Treatise concerning Baptisms; whereunto is added a Discourse concerning the Supper, Bread, and Wine called also Communion.' Lond. 1677-8. 7. 'Dagon's Fall before the Ark, or the Smoak of the Bottomless Pit scoured away by the breath of the Lord's Mouth, and by the Brightness of his Coming.' Lond. 1679. 8. 'A Mite into the Treasury, being a word to Artists, especially to Heptatechnists, the Professors or the Seven Liberal Arts, so-called Grammer, Logick, Rhetorick, Musick, Arithmetick, Geometry, Astronomy.' Lond. 1680. 9. 'A Treatise relating to the Call, Work, and Wages of the Ministers of Christ, as also to the Call, Work, and Wages of the Ministers of Antichrist.' 1680. The last four were reprinted in two volumes, under the title of 'Two Treatises of Thomas Lawson deceased,' &c., and 'Two Treatises more,' &c., in 1703. 10. 'A Serious Remembrancer to Live Well, written primarily to Children and Young People; secondarily to Parents, useful (I hope) for all.' 1684.

Among the manuscripts at the Friends' Institute, Devonshire House, are the following imprinted treatises by Lawson: 'The Foolish Virgin and the Wise, &c, in the way of Dialogue between a Professor and a Possessor;' 'Adam Anatomised, or a Glass wherein the Rise and Origin of many Inventions, Vain Traditions, and Unsavoury Customs may be seen;' 'Babylon's Fall, being a Testimony relating to the State of the Christian Church, its Purity, &c, and of its Cruel Sufferings under the Roman Emperors.'

[Fox's Autobiography; Croese's Gen. Hist of the Quakers, p. 49; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, &c, 1834, i. 73; Webb's Fells of Swarthmoor Hall.pp. 63-9, 371-9; Smith's Cat.; Swarthmoor MSS. and other manuscripts at Devonshire House; Besse's Sufferings; Richardson's Corr., Yarmouth, 1835, p. 5; Pulteney's Sketches of the Progress of Botany, London, 1790; Kay's Synopsis Stirpium; Westmoreland Note-Book, Kendal and Lond., 1888, &c, pp. 212, 231, 232, 346-60; information from descendants and from Mr. J. A. Martindale of Kendal.]

C. F. S.