Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Abbot, Robert (1588?-1662?)

ABBOT, ROBERT (1588?–1662?), divine, has been strangely confused with others, e.g. with Robert Abbot, bishop of Salisbury, and with one of the humble ‘ejected’ of 1662 (Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. ii. 218); he has also been at different times erroneously separated into a Robert Abbot of Cranbrook, Kent; another of Southwick, Hants; a third of St. Austin's, London (the last being further described as a presbyterian, and as joining in the rebellion); while these were only the successive livings of the same Robert Abbot. He is also usually described as of the archbishop's or Guildford Abbots, whereas he was in no way related to them, albeit he acknowledges gratefully, in an epistle dedicatory of ‘A Hand of Fellowship to Helpe Keepe Ovt Sinne and Antichrist’ (1623, 4to), that it was from the archbishop he had ‘received all his worldly maintenance,’ as well as ‘best earthly countenance’ and ‘fatherly encouragements.’ The ‘worldly maintenance’ was the presentation to the vicarage of Cranbrook, of which the archbishop was patron. This was in 1616. He had received his education at Cambridge, where he proceeded M.A., and was afterwards ‘incorporated’ at Oxford. His college remains unknown.

In 1639, in the epistle to the reader of his ‘Triall of our Church Forsakers,’ he writes: ‘I have lived now by God's gratious dispensation above fifty years, and in the place of my allotment two and twenty full.’ The former date carries us back to 1588–9, or probably 1587–8, as his birth-year; the latter to 1616–7, the year of his settlement at Cranbrook.

In his ‘Bee Thankfull London and her Sisters’ (1626), he describes himself as formerly ‘assistant to a reverend diuine . . . now with God;’ and the name on the margin is ‘Master Haiward of Wool Church’ (Dorset). This must have preceded his going to Cranbrook. He was also the author of ‘Milk for Babes, or a Mother's Catechism for her Children,’ 1646; and of ‘A Christian Family builded by God, or Directions for Governors of Families,’ 1653. Puritan though he was in his deepest convictions and mildly Calvinistic in his creed, he waged a prolonged warfare against the Brownists, and sought to cover their saintliest men and women with undeserved opprobrium.

He remained at Cranbrook till 1643, and in that year, having been called upon by the Parliament ‘rules’ to choose between two benefices, so as not to come under the ban of being a pluralist, he selected the far inferior living of Southwick, Hants. Later he succeeded the extruded Udall, of St. Austin's, London, where he continued ‘until a ripe old age.’ In 1657, in ‘Evangelical Peace,’ he is described as ‘pastor of St. Austine's, London.’ He disappears silently between 1657–8 and 1662. His books are terse and vivid, and fetch high prices on their rare occurrence.

[Brook's Puritans, iii. 182, 183; Abbot's MSS. as under Abbot, George (1603–1648); Walker's Sufferings, part ii. 183; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 323; Bodleian and Dr. Williams's Library Catal.; article in Encyc. Brit. (9th ed.) by present author, partly reproduced by permission of Messrs. A. & C. Black.]

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