Dewsbury, William (DNB00)

DEWSBURY, WILLIAM (1621–1688), an early quaker preacher and author, was born in 1621 at Allerthorpe, near Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Up to his thirteenth year he was a shepherd's boy, and afterwards served his apprenticeship to a cloth-weaver at Holbeck, Leeds. He was a pious youth, and used to take down in shorthand the sermons he heard. When the civil war broke out he joined the parliamentary army, because its partisans said they fought for the gospel. His comrades were not like-minded with himself, and, feeling conscious of a command to put away his sword, he left the army and returned to his former calling. He heard George Fox preach at Balby in Yorkshire, and at once was in accord with him in the doctrine of the ‘inward divine reproving for that which is evil.’ He became a zealous preacher and went through great sufferings. He was imprisoned for no less than nineteen years for the sake of his religion. The places of his confinement were York in 1654, 1658, and 1661, Derby in 1654, Northampton in 1654, Newgate in 1660, and Warwick in 1660, and again there from 1663 to 1671, and from 1678, at the time of the popish plot, to April 1685, when he was set at liberty on the general proclamation of James II. He was taken ill in May 1688 in London, whither he had come to attend the yearly meeting of Friends, but returned to Warwick and died on 17 June 1688. He was twice married, first in 1646, and a second time in 1667.

Between 1654 and 1686 he wrote and published many tracts, which were collected in 1689 under the title of ‘The Faithful Testimony of that Antient Servant of the Lord and Minister of the Everlasting Gospel, William Dewsbury, in his Books, Epistles, and Writings, collected and printed for future service,’ 4to. Two Dutch epistles to Friends in Holland have never been translated into English.

[Edward Smith's Life of W. Dewsbury, 1836; Sewel's Hist. of the Quakers, 1834, ii. 345; Jos. Smith's Cat. of Friends' Books, i. 523–8; Besse's Sufferings of the Quakers, i. 518, 763, ii. 496; Fox's Journal, 1836, i. 153.]

C. W. S.