Trosse, George (DNB00)

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TROSSE, GEORGE (1631–1713), nonconformist divine, younger son of Henry Trosse, counsellor-at-law, was born at Exeter on 25 Oct. 1631. His mother was Rebekah, daughter of Walter Burrow, a prosperous merchant, twice mayor of Exeter. His family had no puritan leanings; his uncle Roger Trosse (1595–1674), rector (1618) of Rose Ash, Devonshire, was one of the sequestered clergy (Walker, ii. 377). Trosse was intended for the law; his father, dying early, left him his law library; but on leaving the Exeter grammar school in his fifteenth year, his own inclination and his mother's wishes turned him to trade. In 1646 he was ‘consigned to an English merchant’ at Morlaix in Lower Brittany, who placed him for a year with Ramet, a Huguenot pastor at Pontivy, to learn French. Returning to Exeter in 1648, he was sent to a brother-in-law in London for introduction to a Portugal merchant. He mentions that in London he attended a church ‘where the common prayer was constantly read,’ though contrary to law. Having been made free of the ‘woollen-drapers company,’ he sailed for Oporto (a three weeks' passage), remained there two years and a half, and, after spending three months at Lisbon, took ship for London. Driven by storm to Plymouth, he reached Exeter early in 1651.

Since leaving school he had led a life of precocious frivolity, and, having plenty of money, he let business give way to self-indulgence. His own narrative of his earlier years is one of the strangest pieces of realism in the language, entering into vicious details with extraordinary frankness. It would be hard to find a more vivid picture of the experiences of delirium tremens. Three times his friends placed him under restraint with a physician at Glastonbury. Between his outbreaks he listened to presbyterian preaching, became a communicant, and was especially drawn to Thomas Ford (1598–1674) [q. v.] After two relapses and an attempt at suicide, he came at length to his senses. On a visit to Oxford with a young relative, he met a former boon companion who had taken to study, and was bitten by his example. Provided by his mother with a handsome allowance, he entered Pembroke College as a gentleman commoner at the end of May 1657. His tutor was Thomas Cheeseman, a blind scholar. Among his contemporaries at Oxford was his kinsman, Denis Grenville [q. v.] He matriculated on 9 Aug. 1658, spent ‘seven full years’ at Oxford, read diligently, and acquired a fair amount of Greek and Hebrew, but took no degree in consequence of the subscription. His account of the discipline at Oxford and of the changes introduced at the Restoration is full of interest. Meaning to enter the ministry, he studied the question of conformity; his views were formed under the moderating influence of Henry Hickman [q. v.]

Returning to Exeter in 1664, he attended church with his mother, but began to preach privately out of church hours. Robert Atkins (1626–1685), ejected from St. John's, Exeter, pressed him to receive ordination. He was ordained in Somerset (1666) by Joseph Alleine [q. v.] of Taunton, and five others, including Atkins. During the year (1672–3) of Charles II's indulgence, he preached publicly in a licensed house. For conventicle preaching he was arrested with others on 5 Oct. 1685 and imprisoned for six months. He declined to avail himself (1687) of James II's declaration for liberty of conscience, though the Exeter dissenters built a meeting-house (James's Meeting) in that year for Joseph Hallett primus [q. v.]

On Hallett's death (14 March 1688–9) Trosse succeeded him, and from the passing of the Toleration Act conducted services in church hours and took a stipend which (save in the year of indulgence) he had hitherto declined. His assistant was Joseph Hallett secundus [q. v.] He took part in the formation (1691) of the union of Devonshire ministers on the London model [see Howe, John, (1630–1705)]. Isaac Gilling [q. v.] gives an elaborate and valuable account of his methodical life and laborious ministry, full of curious details of early dissenting usage. He rose at four, prayed seven times a day, preached eight times a week, his services never lasting less than two and a half hours; once a month he publicly recited the Apostles' creed and the decalogue. In dealing with religious difficulties he showed good feeling and good sense; his charities were open-handed and unsectarian, and he was fearless in visiting during dangerous epidemics. He maintained his activity to the close of a long life; though failing, he preached as usual on the morning of Sunday, 11 Jan. 1712–13, and died soon after reaching home. He was buried on 13 Jan. in St. Bartholomew's churchyard, Exeter; his funeral sermon was repeated to thronging audiences. He married (1680) Susanna, daughter of Richard White, an Exeter merchant, who survived him, without issue. His portrait, painted by I. Mortimer, was engraved (1714) by Vertue.

He published, besides a sermon (1693) before the united ministers at Taunton:

  1. ‘The Lord's Day Vindicated,’ 1682, 8vo (in reply to Francis Bampfield [q. v.]; answered by Joseph Nott and by Edmund Elys [q. v.], and defended in ‘The Sauciness of a Seducer Rebuked,’ 1693, 4to).
  2. ‘A Discourse of Schism,’ 1701, 4to.
  3. ‘A Defence of … Discourse of Schism,’ Exeter, 1702, 4to.
  4. ‘Mr. Trosse's Vindication … from … Aspersions,’ Exeter, 1709, 8vo.

The ‘Exposition of the Assembly's Catechism,’ 1693, by John Flavel (1630?–1691) [q. v.], was finished and edited by Trosse. In 1719, during the Exeter controversy [see Peirce, James], a catechism and sermon by Trosse were published in a pamphlet, answered by Thomas Emlyn [q. v.] Trosse's autobiography to 1689 (finished 15 Feb. 1692–3) was published (1714) in accordance with his instructions to his widow in his will; a preface by Hallett, his assistant, defends the publication, which is now very rare. It is abridged in the ‘Life’ by Gilling, who made use also of ‘a large manuscript discover'd since the former narrative was printed,’ and of Trosse's correspondence.

[Funeral Sermon, by Hallett, 1713; Life … written by himself, 1714 (abridged in Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in West of Engl. 1835, pp. 416 sq.); Life, by Gilling, 1715 (abridged in Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 383 sq.; a larger abridgment is published by the Religious Tract Society); Noble's Continuation of Granger, 1806, i. 126; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1512.]

A. G.