Those of you who followed the Daybook here last year have tasted the writing of Elizabeth Bathurst (1655?-1685). Still, she likely needs some introduction, however belatedly.
Although described as a sickly young woman who died around age 30, Bathurst left us some of the clearest and most penetrating theological writing from the first generations of Quakers. Perhaps, had her health permitted, she may have had wider recognition as a consequence of traveling in free-gospel ministry rather than remaining largely confined. Her mind is quick, sharp, fearlessly aggressive, original – so much so that many of her critics insisted the author must have been a male writing under a nom de plume. Unlike the journals and tracts of many of the early women Public Friends, hers often delves squarely into logical argument about the foundations of Quaker belief, rather than exhorting piety or more faithful practice.
Even so, she is little known through much of Quaker history, perhaps in part because her work, like that of Isaac Penington, appeared as Friends were earning a kind of respectability after decades of persecution. Indeed, I came across her astonishing writing only after I’d finished the overviews of major Quaker thinkers I’ve previously posted on this blog. Maybe her quotations in the Daybook will make up for that oversight.
When I first thought of adding snippets from early Friends as a third part of each Daybook entry, I envisioned rotating Bathurst among a handful of others. Once I began examining her definitive volume, however, I realized she alone could carry this.
I tried not to match her lines to the day’s Biblical text nor to my own notes. Rather, I’ve trusted to a degree of serendipitous interplay, perhaps the way seeming unrelated vocal messages arising in Quaker meeting for worship often carry an unanticipated thread.
Originally published posthumously 1691, the volume we’ve consulted is:
TRUTH VINDICATED, By the Faithful TESTIMONY AND WRITINGS OF THE Innocent Servant and Hand-maid of the Lord, ELIZABETH BATHURST, DECEASED.
I’ve drawn from The Third Edition. LONDON: Printed and Sold by MARY HINDE, at No 2, in George-yard, Lombard-street, 1773.
Significantly, a woman printer.
Now, looking back through my notes, I find many fine quotations that weren’t used last year. You may anticipate seeing some of them posted as suites here in upcoming months.