CHAPTER 25
THE GURNEY INFLUENCE AMONG FRIENDS

THE Gurney family of Norwich, England, exercised a remarkable influence on the character and course of Quaker history. John Gurney, the father of Elizabeth Gurney Fry and Joseph John Gurney, and uncle of Hannah Chapman (Gurney) Backhouse, was a merchant and banker of Norwich who leased the neighboring estate of Earlham in 1786.1 Although he was attached to the Society of Friends, he and his family were "gay" rather than "plain" Friends.2 His family of eleven children were quite worldly, fond of

____________________
1
Although Earlham Hall remained in the hands of the Gurney family for over a century, they never actually owned it. See Lubbock, Earlham, p. 46.
2
In spite of the earnest exhortation of travelling ministers and the disciplinary efforts of monthly meetings, there were large numbers of members in England who did not conform to Friends' customs in "dress and address" and in other ways. When their lives were otherwise exemplary, they were not disowned. They attended the meetings for worship but were not usually admitted to business meetings nor appointed on committees nor chosen to serve as elders or overseers. Such Friends were called "gay" Friends. The term does not seem to have been used in America although the attitude existed. See Job Scott, Jour., II, 357, 358. JLPQ, I, 427. The first rise of the name that I have found is in Thos. Scattergood, Jour., p. 286: "I have to tell some of the company that they were wearing linsey-woolsey garments, sowing their fields with diverse sorts of grain, and plowing with an ox and ass, etc., and my labor was close indeed. Today a Friend told me that there is a young man who is convinced, and comes to this meeting, whose mother threatened him much if he thou'd etc., which he believed it was his duty to do. She went to some of the 'gay' Friends belonging here to make her complaint, and said to them, she wished, if her son must go to the meeting that he might be such a Quaker as they were, who could attend meetings, and yet say you and use the world's language in other respects."

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