Claridge, Richard (DNB00)

CLARIDGE, RICHARD (1649–1723), quaker, son of William Claridge of Farmborough, Warwickshire, was educated at the grammar school in that place. In 1666 he became a student at Balliol College, Oxford, removing two years later to St. Mary Hall. While at the university he gained the reputation of being an 'orator, philosopher, and Grecian.' He graduated B.A. in 1670, and in the same year was ordained a deacon, being licensed to the curacy of Wardington. Two years later he was ordained priest, and in the following year was presented to the living of Peopleton in Worcestershire, which he retained for nearly twenty years, during the greater part of the time keeping a grammar school. He describes his life during this period as having been a 'mixture of vice and virtue,' but in reality he seems to have been a quiet pious man. In 1689 a sermon of Richard Baxter's made him dissatisfied with episcopacy, and a visit to London, during which he attended the services of nonconformists and inquired into the origin of some church customs, increased this distaste; he, however, retained his living till 1691. Wood (Athenæ Oxon, iv. 476) states that 'he became an independent, and in 1692 opened a meeting-house in Oxford for persons of that denomination,' but this is denied by Besse, his biographer, who affirms that he at once became a baptist. In 1692 he was appointed preacher at the Bagnio, a baptist meeting-house in Newgate Street, London, and shortly afterwards opened a school in Clerkenwell. Two years later, becoming dissatisfied with baptist doctrines, he resigned his appointment, and in 1696 joined the Society of Friends, being accepted a minister during the following year. In 1702, while a schoolmaster at Barking, he opposed a church rate with such vigour that he was excused from paying it, but for the next collection his goods were distrained. In 1707 he removed to Tottenham and opened a school, shortly after which an ecclesiastical suit was commenced against him for keeping a school without being licensed. The prosecution was dropped, only to be recommenced a few years later (1708), when a verdict having been given against him for 600l., he appealed to the court of king's bench, and had the fine reduced to eighty shillings. During the same year his goods were distrained for tithes. In 1714, a bill being before parliament to prevent the growth of schism, but particularly intended to suppress the schools Kept by dissenters, Claridge actively opposed it, and also wrote several tracts to show that it would be oppressive. When the bill, however, became law, he was one of the first to make the declaration it required. From this time till his death, which took place on 28 April 1723, he was chiefly occupied with the affairs of the Society of Friends. He died of rapid decline, and was buried in the quaker burial-ground at Bunhill Fields. He was a man of considerable learning, of pure and simple life, and his writings, which from their easy flowing style and limpidness of expression may still be read with pleasure, show that he possessed wider views and a more charitable disposition than was common among the earlier quakers.

His chief works are: 1. 'A Defence of the present Government under King William and Queen Mary,' 1689. 2. 'A Second Defence of the present Government,' &c. 1689. 3. 'A Looking-glass for Religious Princes,' &c. 1691 . The foregoing were written while he was rector of Peopleton. 4. 'The Sandy Foundation of Infant Baptism shaken, or an answer to a Book entituled "Vindicæ Fœderis," ' &c. 1695. This was written while he was a baptist; the remainder belong to the period during which he was a quaker. 5. 'Mercy covering the Judgment-seat and Life and Light triumphing over Death and Darkness,' &c. 1700. 6. 'Lux Evangelica attestata, or a further Testimony to the sufficiency of the Light within,' &c. 1701. 7. 'Melius Inquirendum, or an answer to a Book of Edward Cockson. M.A., and Rector, as he styles himself of Westcot Barton,’ &c. 1706. 8. 'The Novelty and Nullity of Dissatisfaction, or the Solemn Affirmation defended,' &c. 1714 (reprinted with material alterations 1715). 9. 'Tractatus Hierographicus, or a Treatise of the Holy Scriptures,' &c. 1724. 10. ‘A Plea for Mechanick Preachers, shewing, first, that the following of a Secular Trade or Employment is consistent with the office of a gospel Minister; secondly, that Human Learning is no essential qualification for that service,' 1727. His posthumous works were collected and published with a memoir prefixed in 1726 under the title of 'The Life and Posthumous Works of Richard Claridge, being memoirs and manuscripts relating to his experiences and progress in religion: his changes of opinion and reasons for them.'

[Besse's Life. &c.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.(Bliss), iv. 475; Smith's Catalogue of Friends’ Books, i.]

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