Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perrot, John (d.1671?)

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PERROT, JOHN (d. 1671?), quaker sectary, born in Ireland, was possibly descended, though not legitimately, from Sir John Perrot [q. v.], lord-deputy of Ireland. It is hardly likely that he was the John Perrot fined 2,000l. in the Star-chamber on 27 Jan. 1637, and arraigned before the court of high commission on 14 and 21 Nov. 1639 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1636–7 p. 398, 1639–40 pp. 271, 277).

Before 1656 Perrot joined the quakers, and was preaching in Limerick. The next year he started, with the full authority of the quaker body and at its expense, with one John Love, also an Irishman, on a mission to Italy, avowedly to convert the pope. Perrot passed through Lyons, and on 12 Aug. 1657 he was at Leghorn. There he wrote a treatise concerning the Jews, and both travellers were examined by the inquisition and dismissed. In September, diverging from their original route, they reached Athens, whence Perrot wrote an ‘Address to the People called Baptists in Ireland.’ A manuscript copy is in the library of Devonshire House. He also wrote an epistle to the Greeks from ‘Egripos,’ that is the island of Negroponte (now called Eubœa). Returning to Venice, he interviewed the doge in his palace, and presented him with books and an address, afterwards printed. A work dated from the Lazaretto in Venice indicates either that he had fallen ill or was in prison.

On arriving in Rome, probably in 1658, Perrot and Love commenced preaching against the Romish church, and were arrested. Love suffered the tortures of the inquisition and died under them. Perrot, whose zeal knew no bounds, was more appropriately sent to a madhouse, where he was allowed some liberty and wrote numerous books, addresses, and epistles. These he was suffered to send to England to be printed, and many of them appeared before his release. His detention excited much sympathy in England. Samuel Fisher (1605–1655) [q. v.], John Stubbs, and other Friends went to Rome in 1660 to procure his freedom. Two other Friends, Charles Bayley and Jane Stokes, also unsuccessfully attempted it, Bayley being imprisoned at Bordeaux on the way out. Some account of his experiences he contributed to Perrot's ‘Narrative,’ 1661.

In May 1661 Perrot was released; but on his return to London he was received with some coldness. He was accused of extravagant behaviour while abroad. Fox and others condemned the papers issued by him from Rome, one of which propounded that the removal of the hat during prayer in public was a formal superstition, incompatible with the spiritual religion professed by quakers. This notion gained ground rapidly, and was adopted for a time by Thomas Ellwood [q. v.] and Benjamin Furly [q. v.]; but Fox at once attacked it in a tract issued in 1661 (Journal, ed. 1765, p. 332). Perrot was unconvinced, although many of his friends soon forsook him. He was indefatigable in preaching his opinions in various parts of England or Ireland, and attracted large audiences. He was arrested, with Luke Howard (1621–1699) [q. v.], at a meeting at Canterbury on 28 Aug. 1661, and again at the Bull and Mouth, Aldersgate Street, on a Sunday in June 1662, when he was brought before Sir Richard Browne (d. 1669) [q. v.], lord mayor.

In the autumn of 1662 Perrot and some of his followers emigrated to Barbados, where his wife and children joined him later, and where he was appointed clerk to the magistrates. He seems to have still called himself a quaker, but gave great offence by wearing ‘a velvet coat, gaudy apparel, and a sword,’ while he was now as strict in exacting oaths as he had formerly been against them. Proceeding on a visit to Virginia, he induced many quakers there to dispense with the formality of assembling for worship, and otherwise to depart from the judicious rules laid down by Fox.

Perrot formed many projects for improving the trade of Barbados by tobacco plantations; he built himself a large house, surmounted by a reservoir of water brought from a distance of some miles; he was also presented with a sloop, to carry freight to Jamaica. But his schemes came to no practical result. He died, heavily in debt, in the island of Jamaica, some time before October 1671. His wife Elizabeth and at least two children survived him.

Perrot's ‘natural gifts’ were, says Sewel, ‘great,’ and he possessed a rare power of fascination. His following was at one time considerable; but the attempts made by John Pennyman [q. v.] and others to give it permanence failed. His unbalanced and rhapsodical mysticism caused Fox, with his horror of ‘ranters’ and the warning of James Naylor's case fresh in his mind, to treat him as a dangerous foe to order and system within the quaker ranks. A believer in perfection, Perrot held that an inspired man, such as himself, might even be commanded to commit carnal sin. According to Lodowicke Muggleton [q. v.], with whom Perrot had many talks, he had no personal God, but an indefinite Spirit (Neck of the Quakers Broken, p. 22). Martin Mason [q. v.], although he declined to accept his vagaries, celebrated his talents in some lines—‘In Memoriam’—published in the ‘Vision.’

Perrot's works were often signed ‘John, the servant of God,’ ‘John, called a Quaker,’ and ‘John, the prisoner of Christ.’ Some are in verse, a vehicle of expression objected to by Fox as frivolous and unbecoming. To this objection Perrot cautiously replied that ‘he believed he should have taken it dearly well had any friend (brother-like) whom they offended turned the sence of them into prose when he sent them from Rome.’

Besides a preface to the ‘Collection of Several Books and Writings of George Fox the Younger’ [see under Fox, George], London, 1662, 2nd edit. 1665, his chief tracts (with abbreviated titles) are: 1. ‘A Word to the World answering the Darkness thereof, concerning the Perfect Work of God to Salvation,’ London, 4to, 1658. 2. ‘A Visitation of Love and Gentle Greeting of the Turk,’ London, 4to, 1658. 3. ‘Immanuel the Salvation of Israel,’ London, 4to, 1658; reprinted with No. 2 in 1660. 4. (With George Fox and William Morris) ‘Severall Warnings to the Baptized People,’ 4to, 1659. 5. ‘To all Baptists everywhere, or to any other who are yet under the shadows and wat'ry ellement, and are not come to Christ the Substance,’ London, 4to, 1660; reprinted in ‘The Mistery of Baptism,’ &c., 1662. 6. ‘A Wren in the Burning Bush, Waving the Wings of Contraction, to the Congregated Clean Fowls of the Heavens, in the Ark of God, holy Host of the Eternal Power, Salutation,’ London, 4to, 1660. 7. ‘J. P., the follower of the Lamb, to the Shepheards Flock, Salutation, Grace,’ &c., London, 4to, 1660, 1661. 8. ‘John, to all God's Imprisoned People for his Names-Sake, wheresoever upon the Face of the Earth, Salutation,’ London, 4to, 1660. 9. ‘John, the Prisoner, to the Risen Seed of Immortal Love, most endeared Salutation,’ &c., London, 4to, 1660. 10. ‘A Primer for Children,’ 12mo, 1660, 1664. 11. ‘A Sea of the Seed's Sufferings, through which Runs a River of Rich Rejoycing. In Verse,’ London, 4to, 1661. 12. ‘To all People upon the Face of the Earth,’ London, 4to, 1661. 13. ‘Discoveries of the Day-dawning to the Jewes,’ London, 4to, 1661. 14. ‘An Epistle to the Greeks, especially to those in and about Corinth and Athens,’ London, 4to, 1661. 15. ‘To the Prince of Venice and all his Nobles,’ London, 4to, 1661. 16. ‘Blessed Openings of a Day of good Things to the Turks. Written to the Heads, Rulers, Ancients, and Elders of their Land, and whomsoever else it may concern,’ London, 4to, 1661. 17. ‘Beames of Eternal Brightness, or, Branches of Everlasting Blessings; Springing forth of the Stock of Salvation, to be spread over India, and all Nations of the Earth,’ &c., London, 4to, 1661. 18. ‘To the Suffering Seed of Royalty, wheresoever Tribulated upon the Face of the whole Earth, the Salutation of your Brother Under the oppressive Yoak of Bonds,’ London, 4to, 1661. 19. ‘A Narrative of some of the Sufferings of J. P. in the City of Rome,’ London, 4to, 1661. 20. ‘Two Epistles … The one Touching the Perfection of Humility. … The other Touching the Righteous Order of Judgement in Israel,’ London, 4to, 1661. 21. ‘Battering Rams against Rome; or, the Battel of John, the Follower of the Lamb, Fought with the Pope, and his Priests, whilst he was a Prisoner in the Inquisition Prison of Rome,’ London, small 8vo, 1661. 22. ‘Propositions to the Pope, for the proving his Power of Remitting Sins, and other Doctrines of his Church, as Principles destroying Soules in Darkness, and undeterminable Death. To Fabius Ghisius, Pope, at his Pallace in Monte Cavallo in Roma,’ broadside, June 1662. 23. ‘John Perrot's Answer to the Pope's feigned Nameless Helper; or, a Reply to the Tract Entituled, Perrott against the Pope,’ London, broadside, 1662. 24. ‘The Mistery of Baptism and the Lord's Supper,’ London, 4to, 1662. 25. ‘A Voice from the Close or Inner Prison, unto all the Upright in Heart, whether they are Bond or Free,’ London, 4to, 1662. 26. ‘To the Upright in Heart, and Faithful People of God: an Epistle written in Barbados,’ London, 4to, 1662. 27. ‘Glorious Glimmerings of the Life of Love, Unity, and pure Joy. Written in Rome … 1660, but conserved as in obscurity until my arrival at Barbados in the year 1662. From whence it is sent the second time to the Lord's Lambs by J. P.,’ London, 4to, 1663. 28. ‘To all Simple, Honest-intending, and Innocent People, without respect to Sects, Opinions, or distinguishing Names; who desire, &c. I send greeting,’ &c., London, 4to, 1664. 29. ‘The Vision of John Perrot, wherein is contained the Future State of Europe … as it was shewed him in the Island of Jamaica a little before his Death, and sent by him to a Friend in London, for a warning to his Native Country,’ London, 1682, 4to. A tract, ‘Some Prophecies and Revelations of God, concerning the Christian World,’ &c., 1672, translated from the Dutch of ‘John, a servant of God,’ is not Perrot's, but by a Fifth-monarchy man.

[Hidden Things brought to Light, &c., printed in 1678, a pamphlet containing letters by Perrot in defence of himself; Taylor's Loving and Friendly Invitation, &c., with a brief account of the latter part of the life of John Perrot and his end, 4to, 1683; Fox's Journal, ed. 1765, pp. 325, 332, 390; Rutty's Hist. of Friends in Ireland, p. 86; The Truth exalted in the Writings of John Burnyeat, 1691, pp. 32, 33, 50; Besse's Sufferings, i. 292, ii. 394, 395; Bowden's Hist. of Friends in America, i. 350; Storrs Turner's Quakers, 1889, p. 150; Beck and Ball's Hist. of Friends' Meetings, pp. 45, 88; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, &c., ed. 1799, i. 433, 489, 491; Smith's Catalogue, ii. 398–404; Ellwood's Autobiography, ed. 1791, pp. 220–3. Information about Perrot and his disciples is to be found in the manuscript collection of Penington's Works, ff. 58–62, at Devonshire House.]

C. F. S.