Pennyman, John (DNB00)

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PENNYMAN, JOHN (1628–1706), pseudo-quaker, was fourth son of Sir James Pennyman (d. 1655) of Ormesby, Yorkshire, by his second wife, Joan Smith (d. 1657) of London. His half-brother, Sir James Pennyman (1609–1679), was knighted by Charles I at Durham in 1642, raised a troop of horse for the king's service at his own expense, and was created a baronet by Charles II on 22 Feb. 1664 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663, 1664, pp. 475, 492).

John, born at Ormesby on 14 Aug. 1628, entered the king's service at fifteen as ensign in the foot regiment of which Sir James was colonel. Upon the defeat of the royalist army, John and two brothers took refuge abroad until their father and eldest brother had made their composition with the parliament. John was apprenticed on 8 Feb. 1647 to a Mr. Fabian, a wool-draper in London, also a zealous royalist. In 1651 he attended the fifth-monarchy services of Christopher Feake [q. v.] at Christ Church, Newgate Street, but about 1658, after Feake's committal to Windsor Castle, he joined the quakers. He was one of the 164 who, in 1659, offered ‘to lie body for body’ for those in prison. Within some two years he grew dissatisfied with them, and held meetings on his own account in the fields and woods two or three miles from London, although still attending the business meetings of the quakers, and ‘standing by them in their sufferings.’ He was successful in business, and owned houses and shops ‘at the west end of St. Pauls,’ which he congratulated himself on having demolished shortly before the great fire. His wife and family resided at Kentish Town. On 1 Sept. 1666 he saw the fire break out, and removed ‘almost all his goods and some of his neighbours.’

Pennyman's religious opinions took a very mystical turn, and caused George Fox and his saner followers much anxiety. He claimed a special portion of ‘the inner light’ which directed the smallest details of his life. He saw visions, fasted for days together, and more than once went to meeting to experience a kind of euthanasia—standing on a form with ‘his breath and sences taken from him for about half or quarter of an hour’ (Autobiography). He printed and distributed protests against the Friends, at Devonshire House, Wheeler Street, Horselydown, Bull and Mouth, Ratcliff, and other meetings. His eccentricities reached a climax on 28 July 1670, when the quaker books which he had collected ‘began to be an oppression.’ Carrying them to the Royal Exchange, he set them on fire, and a constable thereupon carried him before Sir Thomas Bludworth (lord mayor in 1666). He was committed to Bishopsgate prison, and later to Newgate. The next day, 29 July, George Whitehead [q. v.] wrote to him that ‘by his mad and wicked action he had brought a great reproach upon Friends, the devil having instigated him to burn their books.’ He defended himself in a letter to his brother, which was printed and given away at the Exchange. On 10 Aug. the quakers issued a paper declaring that they had no longer union or fellowship with Pennyman, whom they considered ‘in a measure broken and discomposed in his mind and understanding.’ This Pennyman caused to be reprinted in red with a broad black border, and he distributed it widely. Through the influence of his brother and nephew he was soon released.

Pennyman's first wife, Elizabeth, had died, aged 24, at Aldersgate Street, on 24 Feb. 1667–8, of fever, and was buried in the Friends' burial-ground at Chequer Alley. She left five children. His second wife, Dinah, daughter of Nicholas Bond of Pall Mall, St. James's, died on 23 Aug. 1669 at her father's house, and was also buried at Chequer Alley. After her death Pennyman took her sister Mary (b. 1631), widow of Henry Boreman, to his house in Aldersgate on 10 Oct. 1671. Boreman was a quaker who had died in Newgate prison, 17 Oct. 1662 (Besse, Sufferings, i. 389). Mrs. Boreman, who had been living since at Tottenham with other widows, had dissociated herself from the quakers, and held views resembling those of the Philadelphians [see under Lead, Mrs. Jane]. Immediately after she had taken up her quarters at his house, Pennyman engaged Merchant Taylors' Hall, and, in obedience to a ‘command,’ invited all sects, and prepared food and drink for 250 persons, not to celebrate, but to announce his so-called marriage with the widow. William Penn protested that such proceedings were not ‘plain, public, and orderly, such as are owned and practised by the people called quakers’ (Works, ed. 1726, ii. 223). A scurrilous ballad, ‘Ye Quaker's Wedding,’ was sung in the streets (letter from Rebecca Travers to Margaret Fell, 5 Nov. 1671, Swarthmore MSS.) Pennyman and his new wife visited Essex and Hertfordshire on foot together during the winter of 1672–3, in obedience ‘to special motions.’ In January 1691–1692 he and his family went to live with John Barkstead, his son-in-law, at St. Helen's, Bishopsgate; but in October 1695 he was so ill that he gave directions for his burial, and wrote his epitaph (Inscriptions on Tombs, &c., at Bunhill Fields, 1717, p. 13). He recovered and moved to the country, where writings of Sir Matthew Hale [q. v.] fell into his hands, from which he had extracts printed, and distributed twenty thousand copies. Mrs. Boreman died, after some years of sickness, on 14 Jan. 1701. Shortly after he published ‘Some of the Letters and Papers which were written by Mrs. Mary Pennyman, relating to an Holy and Heavenly Conversation, in which she lived to her Dying Day,’ London, 10 March 1701–2. In August 1703 he finished ‘A Short Account of the Life of Mr. John Pennyman, which, with some of his writings (relating to Religious and Divine Matters), are to be made Publik for the Weal and Benefit of all Mankind,’ London, 1703. A second edition appeared, with an appendix also by him, dated 31 Oct., and ‘More Mementoes,’ 8 Dec. 1705. Some more letters and papers, with an account of his death, which took place on 2 July 1706, were added by another hand. He was buried at Bunhill Fields on 9 July 1706. Pennyman wrote a great number of small tracts, broadsides, and papers against the quakers, which he copiously distributed. The chief are: ‘The Quakers challenged [of Solomon Eccles, q. v.] answered by a stripling of the Lamb's Army,’ London, 1680–1. ‘The Quakers unmasked. Their double dealing and false-heartedness discovered,’ 1682, reprinted 1693: ‘a General Epistle of Love and Goodwill to all Professors of Christianity.’

With Mary Boreman he wrote: 1. ‘The Ark is begun to be opened (the waters being somewhat abated) which, with some Papers and Passages given forth by the Lord's Servants, I am thus to Publish. Who am made a Living Witness of the Spirit's Teaching; which worship is so Pure that I may not endeavour to gather any Proselites thereto,’ &c., London, 1671. 2. ‘John Pennyman's Instruction to his Children,’ London, 1674. 3. ‘The Quakers Rejected’ [1676].

[Autobiography, London, 1703; Penn's Works, ed. 1825, i. 43; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1661–2 pp. 569, 570, 1664–5 p. 120; Foster's Pedigrees, Yorkshire, vol. ii., Pennymans of Ormesby; Registers at Devonshire House; Smith's Cat. ii. 365–72.]

C. F. S.