Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walwyn, William
WALWYN, WILLIAM (fl. 1649), pamphleteer, baptised on 17 Aug. 1600 at Newland in Worcestershire, was the son of Robert Walwyn of that place, by Elizabeth, daughter of Herbert Westfaling [q. v.], bishop of Hereford. Being a younger son, Walwyn was bound apprentice to a silkman in Paternoster Row, and, having served his time, was made free of the Merchant Adventurers' Company, and set up in trade on his own account. He lived first in the parish of St. James, Garlick Hill, and afterwards in Moorfields (The Charity of Churchmen, p. 10; Fountain of Slander, p. 2). Walwyn supported the cause of the parliament, and, being himself a freethinking puritan, though ‘never of any private congregation,’ became conspicuous by his advocacy of freedom of conscience (Charity of Churchmen, p. 11; A Whisper in the Ear of Mr. Edwards, pp. 3–5). In 1646 Thomas Edwards attacked him in the first part of ‘Gangræna,’ accusing him of contemning the Scriptures, and describing him as ‘a seeker, a dangerous man, a stronghead’ (ib. pp. 84, 96; cf. Masson, Life of Milton, iii. 153). Edwards amplified these charges in the second part of the same work, adding an enumeration of Walwyn's erroneous views in religion and politics (ii. 25–30). Walwyn published four or five pamphlets in answer, some serious arguments, others humorous attacks on Edwards.
In 1647 Walwyn connected himself with the rising party of the levellers, and was one of the promoters of the London petition of 11 Sept. 1647, which was burnt by order of the House of Commons (Fountain of Slander, p. 7). As one of the representatives of the London branch of that party, he attended the conferences between the officers of the army and the levellers which led to the drawing up of the second ‘agreement of the people’ (Lilburne, Legal Fundamental Liberties, 1649, p. 34; Clarke Papers, ii. 257, 262). When the council of officers refused to accept in its integrity the constitutional scheme of the levellers, Walwyn joined John Lilburne [q. v.] in attacking the heads of the army and calling upon the soldiers to revolt. On 28 March 1649 Walwyn was arrested and brought before the council of state, who committed him to the Tower (Fountain of Slander, p. 10; Lilburne, Picture of the Council of State, 1649, p. 2; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, p. 57). On 11 April 1649 parliament approved of the arrest, and ordered him to be prosecuted as one of the authors of the second part of ‘England's New Chains Discovered,’ though, according to Lilburne, Walwyn had not been present at any of the recent meetings of the levelling leaders (Lilburne, Picture of the Council of State, 1649, pp. 2, 14, 19; Commons' Journals, vi. 183). The levellers unsuccessfully petitioned for the release of Walwyn and his fellow prisoners, Lilburne, Overton, and Prince, and their confinement was made very strict (ib. vi. 189, 196, 208). They contrived nevertheless to publish ‘A Manifestation from Lieutenant-colonel John Lilburne, Mr. William Walwyn, &c., and others commonly though unjustly styled Levellers’ (14 April); ‘An Agreement of the Free People of England, tendered as a Peace-offering to this distracted Nation’ (1 May). These manifestoes were signed by all four prisoners: in the first they vindicated themselves from the charge of advocating communism, or seeking to abolish private property; in the second they set forth the nature of the constitution they demanded. All four prisoners were attacked by a government pamphleteer, supposed to be either John Canne or Walter Frost, in a tract called ‘The Discoverer’ (2 pts. 1649; see also Lilburne's Legal Fundamental Liberties, p. 53). This was answered in ‘The Craftsmens Craft, or the Wiles of the Discoverers,’ by H. B. Another author singled out Walwyn as being the subtlest intriguer and most dangerous writer of the four, accusing him of blasphemy, atheism, and immorality, and quoting a number of his sayings in support of the charges. It was alleged that he advocated suicide, justified the cause of the Irish rebels, recommended people to read Plutarch and Cicero on Sundays rather than go to sermons, and declared that there was more wit in Lucian's ‘Dialogues’ than in the Bible (Walwyn's Wiles, or the Manifestators Manifested, 1649. This was attributed either to John Price or William Kyffin). Walwyn defended himself in ‘The Fountain of Slander Discovered,’ explaining what his views really were, and giving some account of his life. He was also vindicated by a friend in ‘The Charity of Churchmen’ (‘by H. B. Med.’), and another answer was published by his fellow prisoner, Thomas Prince (‘The Silken Independents Snare Broken:’ all three pamphlets appeared in 1649).
In September 1649 Walwyn was allowed the liberty of the Tower, and on 8 Nov. following, after Lilburne had been tried and acquitted, his release was ordered by the council of state (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, pp. 299, 552). Of his subsequent history, excepting the fact that he published another pamphlet in 1651, nothing is known.
Besides the two tracts signed jointly by Lilburne, Prince, and Overton, Walwyn was the author of the following: 1. ‘An Antidote against Mr. Edwards his Old and New Poison,’ 1646. 2. ‘A Whisper in the Ear of Master Thomas Edwards,’ 1646. 3. ‘A Word more to Mr. Edwards,’ 1646. 4. ‘A Prediction of Mr. Edwards's Conversion,’ 1646. 5. ‘A Parable or Consultation of Physicians upon Mr. Edwards,’ 1646 (see Gangræna, iii. 292, and The Fountain of Slander Discovered, p. 7). 6. ‘The Fountain of Slaunder Discovered,’ 1649. 7. ‘Juries Justified, or a Word of Correction to Mr. Henry Robinson,’ 1651.
Walwyn mentions also two other tracts as written by himself, viz. ‘A Word in Season’ and ‘A Still and Soft Voice’ (Fountain of Slander Discovered, p. 7). There is also attributed to him ‘The Bloody Project’ (see The Discoverer, i. 17, ii. 54); and he is said to have had a hand in the production of the first tract published in favour of liberty of conscience, referring probably to ‘Liberty of Conscience, or the sole Means to obtain Peace and Truth,’ 1643 [see Robinson, Henry, (1605?–1664?)].
Walwyn the leveller should be distinguished from William Walwyn (1614–1671), fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, who was ejected by the visitors of the university in 1648, made canon of St. Paul's in 1660, and published in that year a sermon on the restoration of Charles II, entitled ‘God save the King,’ and a ‘Character of his Sacred Majesty’ (Wood, Fasti, ii. 61; Burrows, Register of the Visitors of the University of Oxford, p. 549).[Authorities given in the article; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. iv. 162.]