Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Muggleton, Lodowicke
MUGGLETON, LODOWICKE (1609–1698), heresiarch, was born in Walnut Tree Yard (now New Street) off Bishopsgate Street Without, London, in July 1609, and baptised on 30 July at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, by Stephen Gosson [q. v.] His family came from Wilbarston, Northamptonshire, where the name still exists. His father, John Muggleton, was a farrier 'in great respect with the postmaster;' in October 1616, being then 'on the point of three score years,' he was admitted, on Gosson's recommendation, to Alleyn's Hospital at Dulwich, but removed in August 1617. His mother, Mary Muggleton, died in June 1612, aged thirty-five, when his father married again, and sent Lodowicke to be brought up 'with strangers in the country.' In 1624 Lodowicke was apprenticed to John Quick, a tailor in Walnut Tree Yard, who did a good business in livery gowns. In 1625 he had a touch of the plague which raged in that year, but soon recovered, and never had ' half a day's sickness since,' or spent 'sixpence in physic' in his life. In 1630 he was working under Richardson, a clothier and pawnbroker in Houndsditch, and became engaged to his daughter ; her mother made the match, and promised 1001. to set them up in business. But in 1631 he went as journeyman to his cousin, William Reeve, in St. Thomas Apostle's ; and Reeve, a strong puritan, convinced him of the unlawfulness of pawnbroking ; his religious scruples proved fatal to his marriage prospects. He became a zealous puritan, and so remained until puritanism began to remodel the conditions of church life. Refusing to join either the 'new discipline' of presbyterianism, or the 'close fellowships' of independency, he withdrew about 1647 from all worship, fell back on 'an honest and just natural life,' and adopted an agnostic position in regard to all theology.
In 1650, by which time he had been twice a widower, he was attracted by the declarations of two 'prophets,' John Robins [q. v.], a ranter, and Thomas Tany [q. v.], a predecessor of the Anglo-israelites. Their crude pantheism took some hold of him, and he read the current English translations of Jacob Boehme. From April 1651 to January 1652 he had inward revelations, opening to him the scriptures. His cousin John Reeve (1608-1658) [q. v.], caught the infection from him. At length Reeve announced that on 3, 4, and 5 Feb. 1652 he had received personal communications ' by voice of words ' from Jesus Christ, the only God, appointing Reeve the messenger of a new dispensation, and Muggleton as his 'mouth.' The two now came forward as prophets ; they identified themselves with the ' two witnesses ' (Rev. xi. 3), they were to declare a new system of faith, and had authority to pronounce on the eternal fate of individuals.
Reeve, a sensitive man in ailing health, who only survived his ' commission ' six years, contributed to the movement its element of spirituality. He distinguished between faith and reason, as respectively the divine and demoniac elements in man. A frank anthropomorphism as regards the divine being, which they shared with the contemporary English Socinians, is common to both ; so is the doctrine of the mortality of the soul, to be remedied by a physical resurrection ; but the harder outlines of the system, including the rejection of prayer, belong to Muggleton. His philosophy is epicurean ; having fixed the machinery of the world, and provided man with a conscience, the divine being takes, ordinarily, no notice of human affairs ; the last occasion of his interference, prior to the general judgment, being his message to Reeve. In the resulting system there is a singular mixture of rationalism and literalism. The devil is a human being, witchcraft a delusion, narratives of miracle are mostly parables. On the other hand, astronomy is confuted by scripture, the sun travels round the earth, and heaven, on Reeve's calculation, is six miles off. This, however, is a pious opinion. A modest hold of the ' six principles ' (formulated 1656) is enough for salvation [see Birch, James].
The ' two witnesses ' made some converts of position, and printed what is known as their ' commission book,' the 'Transcendent Spirituall Treatise,' 1652. On 15 Sept. 1653 they were brought up on a warrant charging them with blasphemy in denying the Trinity, were detained in Newgate fora month, tried before the lord mayor, John Fowke [q. v.], on 17 Oct. and committed to the Old Bridewell for six months. They gained their liberty in April 1654, and pursued their mission, but Reeve's death in July 1658 left the movement entirely in Muggleton's hands.
The first to dispute his supremacy was Laurence Claxton or Clarkson [q. v.l, who joined the movement about the time of Reeve's death, and aspired to become his successor. After endeavouring for a year to lead a revolt, he became Muggleton's submissive follower in 1661. Ten years later, when Muggleton was in hiding, a rebellion against his authority was led by William Medgate, a scrivener, Thomas Burton, a flaxman, Witall, a brewer, and a Scotsman named Walter Buchanan. They extracted from Muggleton's writings 'nine assertions,' which they alleged to be opposed alike to common sense and the views of Reeve. In a characteristic letter Muggleton defended the 'assertions' with vehemence, and ordered the exclusion of the ringleaders. He was at once obeyed ; his faithful henchman, John Saddington [q. v.],put matters right, and only Burton was allowed to return to the fold. No other schism occurred during his lifetime.
His chief controversies were with the quakers, for whom Muggleton (differing here from Reeve) had nothing but contempt. Their ' bodiless God ' was the antithesis of his own. On one of his missionary journeys he was arrested at Chesterfield, 1663, at the instance of John Coope, the vicar, on the charge of denying the Trinity. Coope had mistaken him for a quaker, and pronounced him, after examination, the ' soberest, wisest man of a fanatic that ever he talked with.' He was committed to Derby gaol, and after nine days' imprisonment was released on bail. At Derby he excited the curiosity of Gervase Bennet, a local magistrate, who had applied the term ' quaker ' to Fox and his following. Bennet engaged Muggleton in discussion, but, to the delight of his brother magistrate, met his match in him.
Muggleton's books were seized in London in 1670, but he evaded arrest. In 1675 he became executor to Deborah Brunt, widow of his friend John Brunt. In this capacity he brought an action of trespass against Sir John James in respect of house property in the Postern, London Wall. In the course of the suit he had to appear in the spiritual court, and was at once arrested on the charge of blasphemous writing. His trial took place at the Old Bailey on 17 Jan. 1677 before Sir Richard Rainsford [q. v.], chief justice of the king's bench, who pelted him with abuse, and Sir Robert Atkins, justice of the common pleas, who was more lenient. It was difficult to procure a verdict against him, for he had printed nothing since 1673, and thus came within the Act of Indemnity of 1674. But his ' Neck of the Quakers Broken ' bore the imprint ' Amsterdam . . . 1663 ; ' Amsterdam was certainly a false imprint, and it was argued (incorrectly) that the book had been antedated, and really printed in 1676. Sentence was passed by the recorder, George Jeffreys (1648-1689) [q. v.] Muggleton was amerced in 500l., and condemned to the pillory on three several' days, his books to be burned before his face. He was duly pilloried, and thrown into Newgate in default of the fine. At length, after finding 100l. and two sureties for good behaviour, he was released on 19 July 1677. The anniversary of this date (reckoned 30 July since the alteration of the calendar) has ever since been kept by Muggletonians as their ' little holiday ; ' the other annual festival, the ' great holiday,' being 14 Feb., in commemoration of the commission to Reeve.
The rest of his life was peaceful. He printed no more books, but prepared an autobiography, and wrote an abundance of letters, more or less doctrinal, afterwards printed as collected by Alexander Delarnaine [q. v.] and others. His correspondence is full of racy observations on human character, and his ethical instincts were clear and sound; he could turn a rude phrase, but was essentially a pure-minded man, of tough breed. He was a great match-maker, and ready on any emergency with shrewd and prudent counsel. No sort of approach to vice would he tolerate in his community. His puritanism lingered in his aversion to cards, which he classed with drunkenness. But he was no ascetic he enjoyed his pipe and glass. Nothing would stir him from English soil. Scotsmen he hated ; he never forgot Buchanan. In Ireland he had many followers, including Robert Phaire [q. v.], governor of Cork during the Commonwealth ; but not for ' ten thousand pounds ' would he ' come through that sea-gulf which lay between Dives in hell (Ireland) and Lazarus in heaven. He forbad the bearing of arms, except for self-defence against savages. Ready enough with his sentence of posthumous damnation, he was meanwhile for a universal tolerance ; 'I always,' he writes in 1668 to George Fox, 'loved the persecuted better than the persecutor.'
Swedenborg's accord with Muggleton in the primary article of the Godhead was noticed in 1800 by W. H. Reid (see White, Swedenborg, 1867, ii. 626). The coincidence extends to other points, and is the more remarkable as there is no reason to suppose that Swedenborg had any knowledge of the writer who has anticipated his treatment of several topics.
From the sacred canon Muggleton excluded (following Reeve) the writings assigned to Solomon. He added the 'Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,' which he knew in the version by Anthony Gilby [q. v.] He added also 'the books of Enoch,' though no book of Enoch was in his time known to be preserved. The translation in 1821 by Richard Laurence [q. v.] of the rediscovered ' Book of Enoch ' has completed the Muggletonian canon. For his own writings and those of Reeve he claims no verbal inspiration, yet an authority equal to that of scripture.
Muggleton died at his house in the Postern on 14 March 1698, in his 89th year, after a fortnight's illness. His body lay in state on 16 March at Loriners' Hall ; he was buried on 17 March in Bethlehem New churchyard ; the site is in Liverpool Street, opposite the station of the North London Railway. By his first wife, Sarah (1616-1639). whom he married in 1634 or 1635, he had three daughters ; Sarah, the eldest, was the first believer; she married John White; Elizabeth, the youngest, married Whitfield ; both survived him. By his second wife, Mary (1626-1647), whom he married in 1640 or 1641, he had two sons and a daughter; all died in infancy, the second son, a scrofulous boy, living till 1653. In 1663 he married his third wife, Mary (b. 1638, d. 1 July 1718), daughter of John Martin, a tanner, of East Mailing, Kent; with her he got some property.
Muggleton was a tall man, with aquiline nose, high cheek bones, hazel eyes, and long auburn hair. An oval portrait of him, painted in 1674, was presented to the British Museum on 26 Oct. 1758, and subsequently transferred to the National Portrait Gallery, London. A later portrait, full length, painted by William Wood, of Braintree, Essex, has belonged since 10 Dec. 1829 to the Muggletonian body, and hangs in their 'reading room,' New Street, Bishopsgate Street Without. They have also a cast of Muggleton's features, taken after death; from this a small copper-plate engraving by G. V. Caffeel was executed in 1669. An engraving by J. Kennerley, 1829, half length, is from Wood's painting.
The term Muggletonian, employed by Muggleton himself, is in use among his adherents, who generally prefer to call themselves 'believers in the third commission,' or 'believers in the commission of the Spirit.' As the usual exercises of public worship are excluded from their church meetings, they do not figure in the lists of the registrar-general. They have no preachers, but they keep in print the writings of their founders, and meet to read them aloud, and sing their 'spiritual songs.' His ablest follower was Thomas Tomkinson (1631-1710 ?) [q. v.] In Smith's 'Bibliotheca Anti-Quakeriana,' 1873, is a bibliography (revised by the present writer) of Muggleton's works. Below are enumerated the first editions, all 4to, and all (except No. 7) without publisher's or printer's name. By Reeve and Muggleton are: 1. ' A Transcendent Spirituall Treatise,' &c. 1652 (two editions same year). 2. 'A General Epistle from the Holy Spirit,' &c., 1653. 3. 'A Letter presented unto Alderman Fouke,' &c., 1653. 4. 'A Divine Looking-Glass,' &c., 1656 (a revised edition, with omissions, was issued by Muggleton, 1661; both editions have been reprinted). Posthumous were : 5. 'A Volume of Spiritual Epistles,' &c. 1755 (written 1653-91). 6. 'A Stream from the Tree of Life,' &c. 1758 (written 1654-82). 7. 'A Supplement to the Book of Letters,' &c. 1831 (written 1656-1688). By Muggleton alone are: 8. 'A True Interpretation of the Eleventh Chapter of the Revelation,' &c. 1662. 9. 'The Neck of the Quakers Broken,' &c. 1663 (Fox replied in 1667). 10. 'A Letter sent to Thomas Taylor, Quaker,' &c. 1665. 11. 'A True Interpretation of ... the whole Book of the Revelation,' &c. 1665. 12. 'A Looking-Glass for George Fox,' &c. 1668. 13. 'A True Interpretation of the Witch of Endor,' &c. 1669. 14. 'The Answer to William Penn, Quaker,' c. 1673 (in reply to Penn's 'The New Witnesses proved Old Heretics,' &c. in 1672, 4to). Posthumous were : 15. 'The Acts of the Witnesses of the Spirit,' &c. 1699 (written 1677). 16. 'An Answer to Isaac Pennington,' &c. 1719 (written 1669). A few early issues of separate letters, included in the above, are not here specified.
[Muggleton's Acts of the Witnesses, 1699, is an autobiography to 1677; his later history may be traced in his letters. A modest Account of the wicked Life of . . . Muggleton, 1676, [i.e. 1677], reprinted in Harleian Miscellany, 1744, vol. i. 1810, vol. viii.; also in M. Aikin's (i.e. Edward Pugh's) Religious Imposters (sic), 1821, is worthless. Nathaniel Powell's True Account of the Trial, written in 1677 and printed in 1808, deserves note. See for an account of the literature of the subject, by the present writer, The Origin of the Muggletonians, and Ancient and Modern Muggletonians, in Transactions of Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, 1869 and 1870. In the Nineteenth Century, August 1884, is a paper on the Prophet of Walnut Tree Yard, by the Rev. Augustus Jessopp, D.D. The allusions to Muggleton by Scott and Macaulay are misleading; cf. Turner's Quakers, 1889, pp. 178-9.]