Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tomkinson, Thomas

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TOMKINSON, THOMAS (1631–1710?), Muggletonian, son of Richard and Ann Tomkinson of Sladehouse, parish of Ilam, Staffordshire, was born there in 1631. He came of a substantial family of tenant-farmers long settled in the parishes of Ilam and Blore Ray. His mother was a zealous puritan. He had not much education, but was a great reader from his youth, and especially fond of church history. His namesake, Thomas Thomkinson (buried at Blore Ray on 25 Dec. 1640), was locally reckoned a great scholar; it was probably from his representatives that Tomkinson ‘procured a library of presbyterian books.’ Other theological works he borrowed from his landlord, Thomas Cromwell, earl of Ardglass, at Throwley Hall. On his mother's death his father made over his affairs to him, boarding with him as a lodger.

In 1661 he fell in with a tract written as a Muggletonian by Laurence Claxton or Clarkson [q. v.], probably his ‘Look about you,’ 1659. Just before his marriage he went up to London to see Lodowicke Muggleton [q. v.], arriving on May day 1662. His family did not favour his new views. Till 1674 he went occasionally to church ‘to please an old father and a young wife,’ but he made over twenty converts, who met at each other's houses. After 1674 he was harassed for recusancy, and at length excommunicated. By the good offices of Archdeacon Cook, who had heard him confute a quaker at the Dog Inn, Lichfield, he was absolved on payment of a fine, and thought it ‘cheap enough to escape their hell and to gain their heaven for twenty shillings.’ He made frequent visits to London, and finally settled there some time after 1680. He was the ablest of Muggleton's adherents and their best writer. Imperfect education shows itself in some extravagant literary blunders, and his orthography is a system by itself, yet he often writes with power. His ‘no whither else will we go, if we perish, we perish’ (Truth's Triumph, 1823, p. 76) anticipates a well-known phrase of John Stuart Mill. He seems to have brought under Muggleton's notice (in 1674) the ‘Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,’ which is one of the sacred books in the Muggletonian canon. He was living in 1704, and probably died about 1710. He had a son Thomas and a daughter Anne.

He published: 1. ‘The Muggletonians Principles Prevailing,’ 1695, 4to; reprinted, Deal, 1822, 4to (by T. T., wrongly assigned to Thomas Taylor in Bodleian and British Museum Catalogues; in reply to ‘True Representation of the … Muggletonians,’ 1694, 4to, by John Williams (1634–1709) [q. v.], bishop of Chichester). Posthumous were: 2. ‘Truth's Triumph … pt. viii.’ 1721, 4to; pt. vii. 1724, 4to; the whole (8 parts), 1823, 4to (written 1676, revised 1690). 3. ‘A System of Religion,’ 1729, 8vo; reprinted 1857, 4to. 4. ‘The Harmony of the Three Commissions,’ 1757, 8vo (written 1692). 5. ‘A Practical Discourse upon … Jude,’ 1823, 8vo (written 1704). Still in manuscript among the Muggletonian archives in New Street, Bishopsgate Street Without, are: 6. ‘A Brief Concordance of … all the Writings of John Reeve and some of … Muggleton,’ 1664–5 (copy by William Cheir). 7. ‘Zion's Sonnes,’ 1679 (autograph). 8. ‘The Soul's Struggle,’ 1681 (copy by Arden Bonell). 9. ‘The Christian Convarte, or Christianytie Revived,’ 1692 (copy by Arden Bonell; this is an unfinished autobiography). 10. ‘The White Diuel uncased,’ 1704 (autograph; two recensions). 11. ‘Joyful Newes … the Jews are called,’ n.d. (in verse; copy by Arden Bonell).

[Tomkinson's works, printed and in the Muggletonian archives; Reeve and Muggleton's Volume of Spiritual Epistles, 1755 (letters from Muggleton to Tomkinson); Smith's Bibliotheca Antiquakeriana, 1873, pp. 322 seq. (bibliography revised by the present writer); Ancient and Modern Muggletonians, in Transactions of Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Soc. 1870.]

A. G.