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ENTHUSIASM AND MADNESS: ANTI-QUAKERISM IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY Charles L. Cherry* Born in a period ofreligious anarchy, when sects were spawned on marginal differences ofrite or rule, Quakerism not only survived but prospered so that by 1661 its estimated strength was around 40,000 members. Its survival was the result of a strong corporate Meeting structure and an equally strong support system among individual members. Religious aberrations were controlled by a loving system of restraint as Quakers, while remaining religious enthusiasts, sought social legitimacy. This tradition of internal discipline, loving restraint, and sensitivity to public mores would operate as well when Quakers became involved in institutional care ofthe mentally ill. The purpose of this article is to show how Friends were consistently attacked for their religious enthusiasm, how they were sensitive to and responded to such attacks, and, by implication, how such sensitivity would ultimately shape their approach to mental illness. The purpose is not to give the early history of a religious sect, but rather to show how that history would incline Quakers toward a fruitful and influential concern for mental illness. It is here in the seventeenth century that we find the roots of Quaker concern for the mentally ill. George Fox and the Mentally III It is illustrative that Francis Bugg, that vigilant ex-Quaker who wrote a series of anti-Quaker books and pamphlets at the end of the seventeenth century, traces the origins ofQuakerism to the imprisonment of John Fretwell in 1650 by Justice Bennet at Derby for disturbing public worship. ' Bugg sees here the seeds of disorder and anarchy (or "quaking") that would mark this religious movement. A more common date for the genesis of Quakerism is 1652 when George Fox had a vision on Pendle Hill—a dramatic but not quite accurate supposition since by 1646-48 there were meetings of Friends in Nottingham, Clawson, Eaton and Leicestershire.2 *Charles L. Cherry is Assistant Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Villanova University. 1 . Francis Bugg, The Quakers Set in Their True Light (London, 1696), p. 4. 2.Hugh Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven, 1964), p. 36. 2 Quaker History Since early Quakerism cannot be discussed separately from the personality ofGeorge Fox, and since what has accrued around Fox's personality touches so directly upon my central concerns—questions ofmadness and enthusiasm, medical treatment and miracles, religion and magic—one must spend some time on this central figure. Inevitably this means considering Fox's Journal. This work, written in 1675, was not published until 1694, so that the official version homogenized by Thomas Ellwood, Fox's literary executor, according to the Quaker custom ofpeer review ofpublications, is revealing both for what is edited out and what remains. As Nuttall says, despite the deletions Fox still manages to "speak through."3 Quaker concern for the mentally ill dates back to George Fox's activities described in his Journal where he encounters and heals several individuals who are "distracted" or "moping" or "troubled." The first mention of such encounters in the Journal takes place in 1649 at Skegby at the home of Elizabeth Hooton, Fox's first convert. It concerns a "woman possessed two and thirty years" who had been bothering Friends at a meeting. Fox expresses concern over such intrusions: At that time our meetings were disturbed by wild people, and both they and the professors and priests said that we were false prophets and deceivers, and that there was witchcraft amongst us. The poor woman would make such a noise in roaring, and sometimes lying upon her belly upon the ground with her spirit and roaring and voice, that it would set all Friends in a heat and sweat. And I said, "All Friends, keep to your own, lest that which is in her get into you," and so she affrightened the world from our meetings. Then they said ifthat were cast out of her while she were with us, and were made well, then they would say that we were of God. This said the world, and I had said before that she should be set free.J Friends then prayed with her and she was healed: She rose...


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