Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gouge, Thomas (1609-1681)
GOUGE, THOMAS (1609–1681), nonconformist divine and philanthropist, eldest son of William Gouge [q. v.], was born in London on 29 Sept. 1609. He was educated at Eton, and was admitted scholar at King's College, Cambridge, on 16 Aug. 1625 (entry of his admission). He graduated B.A. and M.A., and was admitted fellow on 16 Aug. 1628. Between Lady day and midsummer 1634 he took orders. He left Cambridge in 1635, and shortly afterwards was presented to the rectory of Coulsdon, Surrey, which he held till 1638, when he became vicar of St. Sepulchre's, London (admitted 6 Oct.). He took no part in public movements; but his name is attached to both the manifestoes of January 1649 against the trial of the king. He does not seem to have been noted as a preacher; his catechetical classes, which he held ‘every morning,’ were attended by persons of all ages. To encourage the attendance of the aged poor, he distributed money among them once a week, carefully varying the day, so as to secure their constant presence. He was alive to the evils of indiscriminate almsgiving, and employed the able-bodied poor in flax and hemp spinning, furnishing the raw material and paying his workers for their yarn, which he got woven into cloth, and disposed of as best he could, bearing the loss himself. This parochial scheme suggested the larger enterprise worked out in after years by Thomas Firmin [q. v.], at whose table (after 1655) Gouge was a frequent guest.
Gouge's systematic labours among the poor ceased when the Uniformity Act (1662) compelled him to resign his living. He made no attempt to form a nonconformist congregation, and withdrew to Hammersmith. He intended to take the Oxford oath of 1665, engaging to make no endeavour to alter the existing government of church or state; but Manton, whom he consulted, led him to change his mind. He took out no indulgence in 1672, the year of the presbyterian separation. But in conjunction with two or three other ministers he raised a considerable annual sum, out of which provision was made for the more needy of the London ejected clergy. His own means had been ample, but he lost largely in the great fire (1666). After giving portions to his children he was left with an income of 150l. He lived on a third of this, devoting the rest to charity.
Early in 1672 a passage (p. 33) in the ‘Life’ of Joseph Alleine [q. v.] led Gouge, now a widower, to pursue Alleine's design of evangelising Wales. On his first journey into the borders of South Wales he inquired in each town how many were willing that their children should learn to read and write English, and to repeat the catechism. He engaged teachers for both sexes, paying them at the rate of 1d. or 2d. a week per scholar. He preached wherever he could gain admittance in pursuit of his errand. A patriotic Welsh nonconformist, Stephen Hughes [q. v.], in the preface to his edition (1672) of ‘Ganwyll y Cymry’ (‘Welshman's Candle’), wrote fiercely against drawing Welsh children into English schools. Francis Davies [q. v.], bishop of Llandaff, cited Gouge as an unlicensed preacher. He called on the bishop, and exhibited his university license, which was good for the whole kingdom. Davies was friendly, but nevertheless, on Gouge's failure to appear to the citation, issued a decree of excommunication. Gouge hurried back to Wales, promised to preach no more, and made his peace. At a later period, however, he obtained a license to preach from the Welsh bishops (Tillotson).
It quickly became a part of Gouge's plan to circulate religious books in the Welsh language. Welsh bibles were not to be obtained: a search in London and Oxford produced less than thirty copies. The New Testament printed at London with the Psalms in 1672, 8vo (not 1671), is said by Rees to have been undertaken at the expense of Gouge and Hughes. The ‘Whole Duty of Man,’ translated into Welsh by John Langford, was printed in 1672, 8vo, at Gouge's sole cost. To carry on his design he obtained contributions in Wales and London. By midsummer 1674 a trust was organised for the purpose. The first printed report, to Lady day 1675, is attested by Tillotson, Whichcote, Simon Ford [q. v.], William Durham [q. v.], Stillingfleet, John Meriton, Gouge, Matthew Poole, and Thomas Firmin (Calamy). Prior to the formation of the trust Gouge had five hundred Welsh children at school; there were now 1,850, including 538 educated by Welsh bounty. Ultimately over three hundred schools were set up. In 1675 a Welsh version of the ‘Practice of Piety,’ by Lewis Bayly [q. v.], was printed. In 1677 an octavo edition of the Welsh bible, consisting of eight thousand copies, was edited by Hughes (REES). One thousand copies were given to the poor, and the remainder sold at 4s. apiece, bound and clasped, ‘which was much cheaper than any similar English bible’ (Tillotson). A like edition of the ‘Book of Common Prayer,’ in Welsh, was printed next year. Gouge issued also an edition of the ‘Church Catechism’ in Welsh, with a practical exposition.
He continued to visit South Wales, usually twice a year; and once at least was induced to extend his journey to North Wales. When at home he employed himself in catechising the children at Christ's Hospital, to which he was probably introduced by Firmin. Firmin was no doubt the ‘intimate friend’ to whom he said ‘he had two livings which he would not exchange for two of the greatest in England,’ namely, Wales and Christ's Hospital (ib.) His health was good, and his habits unusually vigorous for a septuagenarian. He was ‘hardly ever merry, but never melancholy.’ Baxter says he ‘never heard any one person of what rank, sort or sect soever, speak one word to his dishonour.’ He died, without previous illness, in his sleep, on 29 Oct. 1681, and was buried in his father's vault at St. Anne's, Blackfriars. The funeral sermon was preached on Friday, 4 Nov., by Tillotson, then dean of St. Paul's. His portrait, painted by I. Riley, has been engraved by R. White (1683), Van Hove, Van der Gucht, and Collyer. It shows a noble countenance, full of dignity and benevolence. Brook wrongly makes him the subject of Watts's elegy on Thomas Gouge [q. v.], who was the son of Robert Gouge. He married, in 1639, Anne (d. 3 Dec. 1671, aged 55), daughter of Sir Robert Darcy. William, his eldest son, died 13 Oct. 1706, aged 64, leaving an only child, Meliora, married to William Prestley of Wild Hill, Hertfordshire.
His Welsh schools appear to have ceased at his death; but the distribution of Welsh books went on for some time, Firmin acting as treasurer of the trust. His accounts show that Tillotson, after Gouge's death, contributed 50l. In Wynne's edition of Powell's ‘History of Wales,’ 1697 (cited by Rees), Tillotson is attacked for his remarks on the religious destitution of Wales, and for calling Gouge an ‘apostolical man.’ Wynne thinks the main result of Gouge's travels was the growth of ‘presbytery,’ meaning dissent. His ‘Works’ were collected in 1706, 8vo. Among the contents are: 1. ‘The Christian Householder,’ &c., 1663, 4to. 2. ‘Christian Directions,’ &c., 1664, 8vo; translated into Welsh by Richard Jones, 1675. 3. ‘The Principles of Christian Religion,’ &c., 1676, 4to; translated (1676) into Welsh by W. Jones, who also translated (1684) Gouge's ‘Rest in Christ,’ &c. 4. ‘A Word to Sinners and a Word to Saints,’ 1672, 8vo. 5. ‘The Surest and Safest Way of Thriving,’ &c., 1673, 4to. 6. ‘How Alms may be acceptable to God,’ &c., 1677, 4to. At a later period several of Gouge's tracts were reproduced in Welsh, with some modifications, by James Owen.[Funeral Sermon by Tillotson, 1682, also prefixed to Works, 1706; Life by Samuel Clarke, in Lives of Eminent Persons, 1683, i. 202 sq.; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 8; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 12; Birch's Life of Tillotson, 1753, pp. 88 sq.; Middleton's Biographia Evangelica, 1784, iii. 450 sq.; Life of Firmin, 1791, p. 43; Wilson's Diss. Churches of London, 1810, iii. 555; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 169; Granger's Biog. Hist. of Eng. 1823, v. 68; Rees's Hist. Prot. Nonconformity in Wales, 1883, pp. 196 sq., 203 sq.; Rowlands's Cambrian Bibliography; extract from admission book, per the Provost of King's.]