Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whiting, John

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WHITING, JOHN (1656–1722), quaker, son of John Whiting of Nailsea, near Bristol, where his yeoman ancestors had long owned a small estate, was born there in 1656. His mother Mary, daughter of John Evans of the same parish, and his father were converted to quakerism in 1654 by John Audland and John Camm [q. v.] At their house were held the first meetings in Somerset. Whiting's father died in 1658. His mother in December 1660 was sent with two hundred others to Ilchester gaol for refusing the oath of allegiance. Released at the spring assizes at Chard, she married in 1661 Moses Bryant of Nailsea; by him she had three sons, and died in November 1666.

Whiting was educated at a grammar school, but was brought up as a quaker. At his stepfather's death in 1672 he went to live with his new guardian, Edmond Beaks, at Portishead, and met there Charles Marshall (1637–1698) [q. v.] His sister Mary, born in 1654, was now a quaker preacher, and in August 1675 set out on a preaching journey towards London. In November he joined her in Buckinghamshire. They visited quakers in Reading gaol, and reached London in December. Thence he returned home, while she travelled northward. On 1 April 1676 he rejoined her at Norton, Durham, and found her ill; she died there on 8 April 1676, aged twenty-two. Some time after, while in prison, he wrote ‘Early Piety exemplified in the Life and Death of Mary Whiting, with two of her Epistles’ (1684?, 4to; 2nd edit. 1711, 12mo).

Soon after his return to Nailsea, Whiting was cited to appear in the bishop's court at Wells (28 May 1678) for not paying tithes. He was, however, appointed overseer of his parish, and was unmolested through the winter, but on 28 Jan. 1679 he was arrested and carried to Ilchester gaol. After eighteen months he was removed to the Old Friary, allowed to walk out, and sometimes to visit Nailsea. Many other quakers were prisoners, and on Sundays they held meetings, which outsiders attended, in the great hall or in the walled orchard. Whiting was in frequent correspondence with London Friends, who sent him books. He wrote much, and read the works of Boehme, Sir Walter Ralegh, and other authors. On James II's accession Whiting vainly tried to obtain his release. ‘Liberty of conscience was in the press,’ he says, ‘for it was so long in coming out.’

When Monmouth arrived in Taunton, Whiting and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Scott, interviewed him. Considering the state of the country, Whiting thought best to surrender himself at Ilchester. There he was speedily thrust into irons among Monmouth's men, and spent six weeks chained to John Hipsley, another quaker. He was allowed to go to his own room after thirteen weeks, in time to be an eye-witness of some of the atrocities of the ‘Bloody assize’ (Some Memoirs, pp. 152–3). He remained a close prisoner until the king's proclamation about the end of March 1686.

Whiting married Sarah Hurd on 20 May 1686, and two years after moved to a shop at Wrington. There Penn often visited him, and held meetings. Whiting's autobiography ends in 1696. The remainder of his life was largely spent travelling in various counties in the south of England and in London, where he died in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, on 12 Nov. 1722. He was buried in the now vanished quaker burial-ground in Hanover Street, Long Acre, on the 16th.

Many of Whiting's manuscripts remained unpublished. His ‘Catalogue of Friends' Books’ (London, 1708, 8vo), the first attempt at quaker bibliography, and his ‘Persecution Exposed, in some Memoirs of the Sufferings’ (London, 1715, 4to; reprinted 1791, 8vo), hold important places in quaker annals. He also wrote, besides smaller works: 1. ‘An Abstract of the Lives, Precepts, and Sayings of Ancient Fathers,’ London, 1684, 4to. 2. ‘Judas, and the Chief Priests,’ London, 1701, 4to (this was in answer to George Keith). 3. ‘Truth and Innocency defended,’ London, 1702, 8vo (in answer to aspersions on the quakers in Cotton Mather's ‘History’). 4. ‘Memoirs of Sarah Scott’ (his niece), London, 1703, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1711, 8vo. 5. ‘The Admonishers admonished,’ London, 1765, 4to. 6. ‘Truth, the strongest of all,’ London [1706], 4to; 2nd edit. 1709, 4to. 7. ‘The Rector corrected, or Forgery dissected,’ London, 1708, 8vo. 8. ‘Christ Jesus owned as he is God and Man,’ London, 1709, 8vo. He also edited ‘Strength in Weakness,’ memoirs of his fellow prisoner, Elizabeth Stirredge (London, 1711, 12mo; other editions, 1746, 1772, 1795; reprinted in the ‘Friends' Library,’ vol. ii. Philadelphia, 1838); and the ‘Journal of John Gratton,’ (London, 1720, 8vo; 1779, 1795, and Stockport, 1823; republished in the ‘Friends' Library,’ 1845, vol. ix.)

[Memoirs above named; Besse's Sufferings, i. 611, 612, 613, 641, 644, 647, 648; Smith's Cat. ii. 917–22.]

C. F. S.