Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, William (d.1673)

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SMITH, WILLIAM (d. 1673), quaker, a native of Besthorpe, Nottinghamshire, was son of a yeoman of good estate. He was well educated, served for several years as chief constable, and became an independent pastor. In 1658 he joined the quakers, and in the same year he replied to the anabaptist Enoch Howitt's ‘The Doctrine of the Light within … examined,’ in ‘The Lying Spirit in the Mouth of the False Prophet,’ London, 1658, 4to. Howitt retaliated with ‘The Beast that was and is not, and yet is,’ London, 1659, 4to. Smith also suffered in 1658 imprisonment for nine weeks for non-payment of tithes. On the Restoration Smith wrote ‘An Alarum beat in the Holy Mountain,’ an address to Charles II, which is printed in ‘The Copies of several Letters which were delivered to the King,’ London, 1660, 4to. He was arrested while preaching at Worcester in March 1661, and for refusing the oath of allegiance was detained some time in prison, where he wrote at least five of his books. Others were written in Nottingham gaol, where he was many times confined between 1661 and 1665. Smith published his account of his imprisonment for nonpayment of tithe, at the instance of William Pocklington of North Collington, in ‘The Standing Truth,’ 1663, 8vo (reprinted in Cropper's ‘Sufferings of the Quakers in Notts,’ 1891). He died on 9 Jan. 1673. He was twice married. By his first wife, Anne (d. 1659), he had seven children. Elizabeth Newton of Nottingham, his second wife, whom he married on 11 March 1666, survived him.

Smith was a voluminous writer. His chief works are: 1. ‘The Faithful Witness, or a Hand of Love reached forth,’ 1659, 4to; part in answer to Jonathan Johnson, a baptist of Lincolnshire. 2. ‘The Morning Watch, or a Spiritual Glass opened,’ 1660, 4to. 3. ‘The New Creation brought forth in the Holy Order of Life,’ 1661, 4to. 4. ‘Universal Love’ [separate addresses to persons in every class of life], 1663, 8vo; reprinted 1668. 5. ‘A New Primmer,’ 1663, 8vo; reprinted 1665, with ‘Something of Truth,’ &c.; both reprinted 1668, 8vo. 6. ‘A Briefe Answer’ to ‘Shetinah [sic],’ in which John Stillingfleet attacked the quakers, 1664, 4to. 7. ‘A New Catechism,’ 1665; another edition 1667. 8. ‘The Baptists Sophistry discovered,’ 1672–3, 4to, in answer to ‘The Quakers Subterfuge’ by Ralph James, baptist, of Willingham, Lincolnshire. Smith's collected works were published in 1675, folio, under the title of ‘Balm from Gilead,’ with a dedicatory epistle from Ellis Hookes, the first recording clerk of the society. The pagination of the volume is irregular, owing to the book being printed in different places (see note at end of contents). Some extracts were published by George Richardson (1773–1862) [q. v.], Newcastle, 1835.

Another William Smith (fl. 1660), successively of Sileby and Market Harborough, Leicestershire, was author of ‘The Wisdom of the Earthly Wise confounded,’ 1679, 4to; an answer to Thomas Wilson, rector of Arrow, Warwickshire, who wrote against the quakers (Smith, Bibl. Anti-Quakeriana, p. 453). At his house at Sileby George Fox held great meetings in 1655 and 1677 (Journal, i. 251, ii. 259).

[Balm from Gilead, 1675; Besse's Sufferings, i. 552; Fox's Journal, ii. 81; Cropper's Sufferings of the Quakers in Nottinghamshire, xv; Smith's Cat. Friends' Books, ii. 601–12; Registers at Devonshire House, Bishopsgate Street.]

C. F. S.