EVERY man is a man of his times, even though he be a stern critic of his times. Whatever singularity he possesses or may acquire, he is still in large measure the product of his environment. He is not indeed the passive effect of antecedent causes; for there is something in him, or of him, which discriminates, which selects, making him as impervious to some influences as he is receptive to others; but this process, unlike the artistic process which in principle it resembles, is in earliest formative years beyond his conscious control; it is something that happens to him rather than something that he does, or, more exactly, it is something to which he, being himself a cause as well as an effect, contributes unwittingly. We cannot form a true judgment of any man unless we see him in his historical context. Even so, since every human soul is a mystery penetrable only by omniscience, we cannot pretend to a full understanding or a final judgment.
In George Fox, as in all powerful personalities that have left a mark on the world, there is much to exasperate us as well as much to admire. He was a simple man, yet with a character full of apparent contradictions. He was gentle and contentious, humble and militant, noisy and serene, self- educated, uncultured, dominating, unselfseeking, and--after the religious crisis of his young manhood--utterly persuaded of being always right in everything he said and did. The Puritans of his time bitterly opposed and persecuted him; yet he himself, by the accident of birth and upbringing, was in practice, and partly in theory too, the sternest puritan of them