Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Besse, Joseph

BESSE, JOSEPH (1683?1757), quaker controversialist, was born about 1683, and was resident at Colchester, where he was a writing master. He married, 9 Oct. 1716, in that town Hannah Dehorne, who died at Chelmsford, and after her decease he removed to Ratcliffe, where he died 25 Nov. 1757, and was buried in the Friends' burial-ground. He had a son of the same name, who emigrated to Pennsylvania. Besse was a convert from the Anglican church, and refused a church living of 400/. a year. He was a vigorous controversialist, and full details of his writings are given by Smith. Besides editing various works of Sewell, Claridge, Henton Brown, Isaac Penington, and Bownas, he wrote the following books and tracts: 1. 'Carmen Spirituale . . . olim a Richardo Claridge Anglice compositum et editum et nunc Latine versum ab J. B.' London, 1728. 2. ' A Cloud of Witnesses proving that the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry hath misrepresented the Quakers ' (signed J. B.), London, 1732. 3. 'A Defence^of Quakerism,' London, 1732. 4. ' Abstract of the Sufferings of the People call'd Quakers,' London, vol. i. 1733, vols. ii. and iii. 1738 (not an abridgment of the ' Sufferings ' mentioned later). 5. 'The Protestant Flail' (an anonymous book on baptism), London, 1735. 6. 'A Brief Account of many of the Prosecutions of the People call'd Quakers for Tithes, Church-rates, &c.' (anon.), London, 1736. 7. 'A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, for the Testimony of a Good Conscience, from 1650 to 1689,' London, 1753, 2 vols. folio. 8. ' The Universality of the Love of God to Mankind,' London, 1755. 9. * Some Scriptural Observations on (1) the Spirituality of Gospel-worship ; (2) the Nature of true Christian Prayer ; (3) Our Saviour's Direction concerning Fasting,' London, 1756; and various pamphlets.

His most important work is the ' Sufferings of the Quakers,' a laborious compilation. The cases of persecution &c. are arranged under the several counties, followed by New England, Barbadoes, Nevis, Bermudas, Antigua, Maryland, Jamaica, Europe and Asia, Isle of Malta, Hungaria and Austria, Dantzig, Hamburg, Germany, Ireland and Scotland. The use of the work is further facilitated by copious though somewhat peculiar indexes.

[Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books, 1867.]

W. E. A. A.