Burrough, Edward (DNB00)

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BURROUGH, EDWARD (1634–1663), quaker, was born in 1634 at Underbarrow, near Kendal, and from an early age was so remarkable for his gravity and piety that Howgill, in his ‘Testimony’ to him, says that ‘grey hairs were upon him when he was but a youth, for he was clothed with wisdom from his infancy.’ His parents, who were people of some importance in the neighbourhood, were episcopalians; but even as a lad he was dissatisfied with the religious teaching of the Anglican church, and restlessly tried all the various forms of worship the district afforded. At length he joined the presbyterians, ‘who had,’ we are told, ‘more that seemed like life among them’ than the others. Before long his mind became unsettled again, and when, in 1652, George Fox was preaching in Westmoreland, and Burrough went to hear him, he was predisposed to quakerism, although he was one of a number of persons who disputed with Fox, and he was, as he allows, ‘the more stubborn as he desired to defend himself from the acknowledgment of error.’ He, however, decided to become a Friend, and, although only seventeen, offered himself as a minister, and was accepted. On account of this step he was disowned by his family, who declined his offer to remain with them as a hired servant. Burrough at once began to travel as a quaker minister, and both in Scotland and the northern counties of England had to endure much suffering. His earliest companion appears to have been John Audland. In 1653 he was imprisoned for a short time (for writing a letter remonstrating with a person who was living in gross licentiousness), and while in prison beguiled his time by writing several tractates. From Thomas Camm's account of his father, John Camm, we learn that he and Burrough were for some time fellow-travellers, and that in 1654 Burrough came to London, where he at once addressed himself to spreading quaker principles. Burrough went to a wrestling match, and when a stout fellow challenged all comers, he stepped into the ring, but instead of wrestling preached against the practice of such games. In the same year he and Howgill went to Bristol, where immediately after their arrival they were arrested as disturbers of the public peace, but were discharged and directed to leave the city. After a short time he returned to London, and for some months was engaged in writing controversial tracts. About 1656 he went to Ireland, where he speedily got into collision with the authorities, and was forcibly transhipped to England. During the latter part of this year he was imprisoned for a few weeks for refusing to take the oath of abjuration. John Bunyan, in his ‘Gospel Truths opened,’ &c., misrepresented the doctrines and practices of the Friends. Burrough wrote a violent reply. In 1657 Bunyan published a ‘Vindication’ of his work, and a few months later Burrough assisted George Fox to write a further reply, ‘The Mystery of the Great Whore unfolded.’ Burrough also brought himself into notice by his addresses to Cromwell, calling his attention to his unfulfilled promises of toleration. The letters are powerfully written, but their tone is neither cordial nor courteous. In the following year (1658) Burrough took part in a public dispute between several quakers and a jesuit, which was held at the house of the Earl of Newport; an amusing account of this debate is to be found in George Fox's ‘Journal.’ During this year he was defendant in a suit for defamation of character, brought by the vicar of Kingston-on-Thames. He demurred to a cause of ‘spiritual dependency’ being tried in a common law court; but the objection was overruled, and he was condemned to pay 100l. damages. Owing apparently to some technical flaw, judgment was not sealed, and he was not required to pay. Upon the death of Oliver Cromwell, Burrough made an effort to obtain some relief for the quakers from his successor, but Richard seems to have been neither able nor willing to grant it. Towards the end of 1659 Burrough felt ‘moved’ to visit Dunkirk, where he had numerous disputes with priests and jesuits, in which, according to quaker authorities, he invariably had the best of the argument. While in 1659–60 the puritans of New England were persecuting the Friends with terrible severity, Burrough had two interviews with Charles II, who seems to have had a genuine regard for him, and he told the king that ‘there was a vein of innocent blood opened in his dominions;’ to which the king replied, ‘But I will stop that vein,’ and forthwith directed that all American quakers who contravened the laws of the colonies should be sent to England for trial. The next two years of Burrough's life were uneventful, and, with the exception of the time during which he exerted himself to disassociate the quakers from any participation in the rising of the Fifth-monarchy men, he seems to have been chiefly occupied in writing tractates. In 1662 he went to Bristol to assist in reconstructing the quaker society there, which had been severely injured by the folly of Naylor and the persecution of adversaries; but he had only been there a very brief time when he called the Friends together, and took a solemn leave of them, saying he should never see them again, for he ‘was going to lay down his life in London for the gospel, and to suffer among the Friends at that place.’ Unhappily this foreboding proved only too true. He was arrested at a meeting, and violently dragged through the streets to Newgate, to which prison he was committed for the offence of holding an illegal meeting. At the subsequent trial he was condemned to pay a heavy fine, and, being neither able nor willing to comply, he was directed to be kept a ‘close’ prisoner. He was thrust into the felons' dungeon, which was so crowded that some of the prisoners died from suffocation, while the remainder became seriously ill. Burrough was one of those who sickened. The Friends procured an order for his liberation from Charles II, but, on one pretence or another, the city authorities evaded complying with it, and Burrough died in Newgate on 14 Feb. 1662–3 (Ellwood's Autob.) He was buried in the burial-ground, Bunhill Fields. In his ‘Testimony’ Howgill says of Burrough that ‘in his natural disposition he was bold and manly, dexterous and fervent, and what he took in hand he did it with his might, loving, kind, and courteous, merciful and flexible, and easy to be entreated;’ and, without making too much allowance for the partiality of a lifelong friend, this seems to be a fair summary of his character. Burrough's works exceed ninety in number, but they are usually very brief. For a long time his writings were held in high esteem by the quakers, but of late years they have fallen out of notice. What he had to say is both more concisely stated and more thoughtful than was usually the case with early quaker authors, and this in great measure arose from the fact that he was a fairly educated man; but much of his writing is spoilt by a bitter controversial spirit, which he does not seem to have exhibited either in his life or his sermons.

The following is a list of some of the most important of his works: 1. ‘A Warning from the Lord to the Inhabitants of Underbarrow, and so to all the Inhabitants in England,’ 1654. 2. ‘A Trumpet of the Lord sounded out of Sion, which sounds forth the Controversies of the Lord of Hosts, and gives a certain sound in the cases of all Nations,’ 1656. 3. ‘A Description of the State and Condition of all Mankinde upon the Face of the Whole Earth,’ 1656. 4. ‘The True Faith of the Gospel of Peace contended for in the Spirit of Meekness,’ &c., 1656. 5. ‘A Measure of the Times, and a full and clear Description of the Signes of the Times and of the Changing of the Times,’ &c., 1657. 6. ‘Truth (the Strongest of all) witnessed forth in the Spirit of Truth against all Deceit,’ &c., 1657. 7. ‘Many Strong Reasons confounded which would hinder any Reasonable Man from becoming a Quaker,’ 1657. 8. ‘A Declaration to all the World of our Faith, and what we believe,’ 1657. 9. ‘A Standard lifted up, and an Ensigne held forth to all Nations,’ &c., 1658. 10. ‘The True State of Christianity truly described and also disaver'd unto all People,’ 1658. 11. ‘A Visitation and Warning proclaimed, and an Alarm sounded in the Pope's Borders, in the Name and Authority of the Lord Almighty and the Lamb,’ &c., 1659. 12. ‘Good Counsel and Advice rejected by Disobedient Men, and the Dayes of Oliver Cromwell's Visitation passed over, and also of Richard Cromwell his Son, late Protector of these Nations’ (part by George Fox), 1659. 13. ‘A Testimony concerning the Book of Common Prayer (so called),’ 1660. 14. ‘A Presentation of Wholesome Informations unto the King of England,’ &c., 1660. 15. ‘The Everlasting Gospel of Repentance and Remission of Sins,’ &c., no date. 16. ‘A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecutions and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New England, for the Worshipping of God,’ 1660. 17. ‘A Just and Righteous Plea, presented unto the King of England and his Council,’ &c., 1661. 18. ‘Persecution impeached as a Traytor against God, His Laws and Government,’ &c., 1661. 19. ‘A Discovery of Divine Mysteries, wherein is unfolded Secret Things of the Kingdom of God,’ 1661. 20. ‘Antichrist's Government justly detected of Unrighteousness, Injustice, Unreasonableness, Oppression, and Cruelty throughout the Kingdomes of this World,’ 1661. 21. ‘The Case of the People called Quakers (once more) stated and published to the World,’ &c., no date. 22. ‘A True Description of my Manner of Life, of what I have been in my Profession of Religion,’ &c., 1663. In 1672 the most important of Burrough's writings were published under the title of ‘The Memorable Works of a Son of Thunder and Consolation, namely, that True Prophet and Faithful Servant of God and Sufferer for the Testimony of Jesus, Edward Burrough,’ &c.

[Brief biographies of Burrough are to be found in Tuke's Biographical Notices of Members of the Society of Friends, vol. ii., and in vol. ii. of the Friends' Library (W. & T. Evans, Philadelphia), and a considerable amount of interesting information may be gleaned from the Swarthmore MSS. preserved at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate.]

A. C. B.