1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ellwood, Thomas

13232361911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Ellwood, Thomas

ELLWOOD, THOMAS (1639–1714), English author, was born at Crowell, in Oxfordshire, in 1639. He is chiefly celebrated for his connexion with Milton, and the principal facts of his life are related in a very interesting autobiography, which contains much information as to his intercourse with the poet. While he was still young his father removed to London, where Thomas became acquainted with a Quaker family named Pennington, and was led to join the Society of Friends, a connexion which subjected him to much persecution. It was through the Penningtons that he was introduced in 1662 to Milton in the capacity of Latin reader. He spent nearly every afternoon in the poet’s house in Jewin Street, until the intercourse was interrupted by an illness which compelled him to go to the country. After a period of imprisonment in the old Bridewell prison and in Newgate for Quakerism, Ellwood resumed his visits to Milton, who was now residing at a house his friend had taken for him at Chalfont St Giles. In 1665 Ellwood was again arrested and imprisoned in Aylesbury gaol. When he visited Milton after his release the poet gave him the manuscript of the Paradise Lost to read. On returning the manuscript Ellwood said, “Thou hast said much here of Paradise lost; but what hast thou to say of Paradise found?” and when Milton long afterwards in London showed him Paradise Regained, it was with the remark, “This is owing to you, for you put it into my head at Chalfont.” Ellwood was the friend of Fox and Penn, and was the author of several polemical works in defence of the Quaker position, of which Forgery no Christianity (1674) and The Foundation of Tithes Shaken (1678) deserve mention. His Sacred Histories of the Old and New Testaments appeared in 1705 and 1709. He also published some volumes of poems, among them a Davideis in five books. He died on the 1st of March 1714.

The History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood: written by his own hand (1714) has been many times reprinted.