Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 40.djvu/137

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phen, where Francis Howgill was arrested, and the two were sent next day to Appleby. He was tried at the Appleby sessions in January 1653 by Anthony Pearson [q. v.], who became a quaker, and other justices, for the blasphemy of alleging that ‘Christ was in him,’ and remitted to prison for about twenty weeks. Margaret Fell ‘sent him 2l., he took but 5s.’ She also despatched (18 Feb. 1653) his tract, ‘Spiritual Wickednesse,’ with some others, to her husband in London, to be printed. This appears to be the first batch of quaker tracts that was sent to press. Regaining his liberty, Nayler resumed preaching in the north. He went to London early in 1655, and soon became famous for a fervid oratory, rich in pathos, and with more cohesion of matter than was common in quaker appeals at that period. In July 1655 he held a public disputation in one of the separatist meeting-houses (possibly that of Hanserd Knollys); in November he addressed ‘a meeting at the house of Lady Darcy,’ when several of the nobility and presbyterian clergy, and Sir Harry Vane, were present. Meanwhile he had been holding successful meetings with Fox in Derbyshire, and had engaged in a discussion at Chesterfield with John Coope the vicar.

He was idolised by the quaker women, and their enthusiasm turned his head. Quakerism had not yet emerged from its ranter stage; Fox's discipline was as yet only in course of gradual formation. Nayler was a man of striking appearance. The arrangement of his hair and beard aided the fancy of those who saw in his countenance a resemblance to the common portraits of Christ. Foremost among his devoted followers was Martha, sister of Giles Calvert, the well-known publisher, and wife of Thomas Simmons, or Simmonds, a printer. Early in 1656 she proposed (in his absence) that Nayler be set at the head of the London mission. The women's meetings were not yet established; but Martha Simmons and her friends rebelled against Edward Burrough [q. v.] and Howgill, and were rebuked for disturbing meetings. They went to Nayler with their grievance; he declined to support them against Burrough and Howgill, but was overcome by their passionate tears, and put himself into their hands.

Fox was at this time imprisoned in Launceston gaol, Cornwall. Nayler's connection with him had been very close. He was Fox's senior by about seven years. During the first three years (1653–5) of Fox's authorship Nayler had joined him in the production of tracts, and Fox had greatly encouraged Nayler's preaching and disputations. At this crisis Nayler set out for Launceston to see Fox. His ‘company’ went with him, making a sort of triumphal progress through the west of England. At Bristol they created a disturbance, and thence moved on to Exeter, where in June Nayler and others were thrown into gaol by the authorities.

Released from Launceston gaol (13 Sept. 1656), Fox made his way to Exeter, and on the Saturday night (20 Sept.) of his arrival visited Nayler. He at once perceived that Nayler ‘was out and wrong, and so was his company.’ Next day Fox held a meeting in the prison; Nayler did not attend it. On the Monday he saw Nayler again, and found him obstinate, but anxious to be friendly. Fox, however, refused his parting salutation. ‘After I had been warring with the world,’ he writes, ‘there was now a wicked spirit risen up among Friends to war against.’ He wrote two strong letters to Nayler, warning him ‘it will be harder for thee to set down thy rude company than it was to set them up.’ But a series of extravagant letters reached Nayler from London. John Stranger, a combmaker, wrote (17 Oct.), ‘Thy name is no more to be called James, but Jesus.’ Thomas Simmons styled him ‘the lamb of God.’ His followers came to Exeter in increasing numbers just before his discharge from gaol. Three women, Hannah Stranger (wife of John), Martha Simmons, and Dorcas Erbury of Bristol, widow of William Erbury [q. v.], kneeled before him in the prison and kissed his feet. Dorcas Erbury claimed that he had raised her from the dead; she had been two days dead, when he laid his hands on her head in Exeter gaol, saying, ‘Dorcas, arise.’ In ranter language this merely meant that he had revived her spirits. Vague charges of immorality with these women are made in the gossip of the period, but they rest on no evidence.

Set free from Exeter gaol, Nayler returned with his following to Bristol. At Glastonbury and Wells garments were strewed on the way. On 24 Oct. 1656, amid pouring rain, he rode into Bristol at the Redcliffe gate, Timothy Wedlock (Sewel calls him Thomas Woodcock), a Devonshire man, preceding him bareheaded, the women Simmons and Stranger leading his horse, and a concourse of adherents singing hosannas, and crying ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Israel.’ Julian Widgerley was the only quaker who remonstrated. They made for the White Hart in Broad Street. Nicholas Fox was the landlord, and it was the property of Dennis