CHAPTER 8
EARLY LITERATURE

THE "Publishers of Truth" used the press for spreading their message as well as the spoken word. They contributed their full share to the vast output of apologetic and controversial writings, in which the religious, intellectual and political ferment of the Commonwealth period found literary expression.1 This activity was favored by Cromwell's efforts for religious toleration and by the lack of a vigorous and effective censorship of the press.2 In spite of some arrests for owning, circulating or selling Quaker publications, and in a few cases the seizure or destruction of offending presses, there was a large output of printed matter. In the seven decades after 1653 there were 440 Quaker writers, who published 2,678 separate publications, varying from a single page tract to folios of nearly a thousand pages.3 Fox exercised an unofficial censorship over Friends' publications which purported to represent the Society, because the custom grew up of submitting all such compositions to him in advance of printing.4

The Quaker leaders were naturally their first writers.5 Through the press they reached wider audiences both at home and beyond the seas. They stated their principles in brief proclamations, epistles and addresses. They replied

____________________
1
Above chap. 2, "The England of George Fox", p. 12.
2
For the laws against unlicensed printing see BBQ, 303, 304.
3
Wright, Lit. Life, p. 8.
4
BBQ, 134.
5
Wright, op. cit., p. 41.

-79-

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