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Volume 14, No. 1 Spring, 1925 Bulletin of Friends' Historical Association SOME STAGE QUAKERS. A paper by President William W. Comfort, of Haverford College, read at the Annual Meeting of Friends' Historical Association, n mo. 24, 1924. The Quaker on the stage was originally not there of his own choice. He was placed in that strange and incongruous position by others, sometimes friends of his religious society, more often enemies or scoffers. I think I came upon my first specimen of the stage Quaker many years ago in Alfred deVigny's well-known tragedy of Chatterton (1834). Since then, having kept my eyes open for others, I have now in hand notes on some fifteen English and American plays in which a rĂ´le is taken by a Quaker. The dates of these plays range from 1677 to 1919, though most of them are of the eighteenth century. So far as I am aware, nothing has been published on the stage Quaker in general, though valuable information on the earlier period may be found in Ezra K. Maxfield 's unpublished doctoral dissertation which I have consulted with profit in manuscript form in the Harvard Library, "Quakerism and English Literature, 1650-1750." The present notes are of course not exhaustive, but will give some idea of the Quakers as they appeared to worldly playwrights, and may serve as an inspiration to someone to carry the investigation further. I know of no play dating from the early period of persecution. The earliest I have discovered was written by John Leanerd, licensed in 1677 and dedicated to Sir Francis Hinchman. A copy is in the Jenks collection in the Haverford College Library. Its title is "The Country Innocence or the Chambermaid Turned Quaker." Miserable comedy as it is, without any saving trait, one wonders who could ever have printed such filthy trash. Not until the fifth act do we meet the Quaker note, which is here, as often elsewhere, confused with Puritan in general. A bawd named Bab and Rash, her lover, are here shown metamorphosed. 2 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. Bab banters him thus: "Ah, consider what a vile trade you follow, how you cheated this, that and t'other Friend, and all for want of the true light, which now is plentifully bestowed upon thee." When threatened by a drunken pal with death if he does not drink, Rash says: "No, I will first turn martyr, and take my affliction patiently, 'tis the oath of the Brethren. . . . But strike, I am armed with spiritual armour." Friends are referred to as 'the faithful' and 'the Brethren.' Bab, in speaking to her former mistress of having been the latter's 'creature,' says: "In the phrase of the world 'twas so, but I am now my own; verily I do err, for no wife is her own disposer, verily none, for we, to affirm sincerely, are but members of our head, the man our spouse and our superior." She adds that she has decided to " put off our vain and superfluous colours, and to walk as becometh the zealously metamorphosed." Her whining cant causes a bystander to inquire: "How comes she to speak in the nose so?," and another observer informs that it is "the tone of the Brethren." There is in this play no motivation for the chamberwench to turn Quaker. The episode is probably introduced for comic effect by the author, who knew a little of the Quaker plainness and manner of speech. "The Mock Marriage," by Thomas Scott, was a comedy acted at the theatre in Dorset Garden by His Majesty's servants and printed in London in 1696. In it there are two Quaker women who are only incidental persons taking part in an effort to prevent a certain marriage. Sarah, whose daughter has been wronged, complains to the world's people of the injury which has been done her family and inquires of them : "Where is that man of sin, that vessel of uncleanness . . . whose carnal mind, sated with the heavenly manna, longs for the Aegyptian flesh-pots. . . . Yea, verily, that Son of Perdition, who having won to his embraces the daughter of my bosom, promises to take...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 1-13
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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