The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus

Overview

In October 1656 James Nayler, a prominent Quaker leader - second only to George Fox in the nascent movement - rode into Bristol surrounded by followers singing hosannas in deliberate imitation of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. In Leo Damrosch's trenchant reading this incident and the extraordinary outrage it ignited shed new light on Cromwell's England and on religious thought and spirituality in a turbulent period. Damrosch gives a clear picture of the origins and early development of the Quaker movement, ...
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Overview

In October 1656 James Nayler, a prominent Quaker leader - second only to George Fox in the nascent movement - rode into Bristol surrounded by followers singing hosannas in deliberate imitation of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. In Leo Damrosch's trenchant reading this incident and the extraordinary outrage it ignited shed new light on Cromwell's England and on religious thought and spirituality in a turbulent period. Damrosch gives a clear picture of the origins and early development of the Quaker movement, elucidating the intellectual foundations of Quaker theology. A number of central issues come into sharp relief, including gender symbolism and the role of women, belief in miraculous cures, and - particularly in relation to the meaning of the entry into Bristol - "signs of the indwelling spirit." Damrosch's account of the trial and savage punishment of Nayler for blasphemy exposes the politics of the Puritan response, the limits to Cromwellian religious liberalism. The Sorrows of the Quaker Jesus is at once a study of antinomian religious thought, of an exemplary individualist movement that suddenly found itself obliged to impose order, and of the ways in which religious and political ideas become intertwined in a period of crisis. It is also a vivid portrait of a fascinating man.
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Editorial Reviews

Douglas A. Sweeney
...[A]s Damrosch illustrates so vividly in this superbly crafted book, there is a very real (and dangerous) sense in which all power does corrupt....[T]he effort to flesh out God's earthly kingdom in ways that endure and prove reliable may well be worth the risk of a bit too much Christian bureaucracy.
Books & Culture: A Christian Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674821439
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Leo Damrosch

Leo Damrosch is Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University.

Biography

Leo Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University. He has written widely on 18th-century writers.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Damrosch:

"I love sports, and my high point as an athlete was at the University of Virginia, when I was 40, and our English Department intramural softball team beat the basketball team for the championship. I was the pitcher, and got their seven-foot-tall star to pop up four times. Nowadays, I'm confined to watching sports on TV, an interest that my family finds inexplicable. I still play pool, and juggle."

"I've developed a big lecture course at Harvard called "Wit and Humor" that combines films with literature and tries to combine serious inquiry into why we laugh with a good deal of actual laughing."

"I live with a cockatiel who regards himself as the head of the family but condescends to groom my beard."

"Ever since college I've had a passion for geology; I pay attention to rocks wherever I go, and I especially admire the big glacial erratics that litter New England and furnished the material for thousands of miles of stone walls."

"I've loved photography ever since my teens; I recently went digital, and some of my pictures of places Rousseau lived are in the biography."

"I love to travel. My family and I have had memorable stays in a little village in Provence, and also on the islands of St. John and Guadeloupe. Basking in a tropical ocean is my idea of perfection."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Leopold Damrosch, Jr.
    2. Hometown:
      Newton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 14, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Manila, Philippines
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1963; M.A. Cambridge University, 1966; Ph.D., Princeton University, 1968

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
A Note on Quotations
Introduction: Receding Echoes of a Cause Celebre 1
1 The Quaker Menace 15
Puritans, Seekers, and Quakers 15
Quaking and Solemnity 33
Itinerants and Hireling Priests 37
Forms, Hats, and Pronouns 52
The Apolitical Apocalypse 62
2 God in Man: Theology and Life 69
Doctrine, Prophecy, Truth 69
Words, Silence, and the Word 78
Christ Within 92
Sin and Perfection 97
The Abolition of Self 107
3 Nayler's Sign and Its Meanings 115
Leadership and Charisma 115
Turbulent Women and the Erotics of Belief 120
Exeter Jail and the Breach with Fox 134
The Entrance into Bristol 146
What Did It Mean? 163
4 Trial and Crucifixion 177
The Politics of Toleration and Repression 177
The Committee Report 186
Parallel Languages: The Example of Catholic Penalties 192
Horrid Blasphemy 196
Sentencing 213
Crucifixion 222
5 Aftermath 230
The Rise of Quakerism and the Reinvention of Nayler 230
Nayler's "Repentance" and His Afterlife 248
Notes 275
Index 315
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