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Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone World$

Kathleen Lynch

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199643936

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199643936.001.0001

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Beyond the lives of particular men

Beyond the lives of particular men

(p.233) 5 Beyond the lives of particular men
Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone World

Kathleen Lynch

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Richard Baxter’s Reliquiae Baxterianae was published posthumously. As edited by Matthew Sylvester and Edward Calamy, it became an important model for history writing from an eyewitness perspective in the early eighteenth century. Baxter failed to achieve religious comprehension, but as one of the cornerstones of the collection of Dr. Williams’s Library in London, his manuscripts were a unifying factor for a nonconformist community that achieved toleration after the abdication of James II. Reliquiae Baxterianae is best understood as a refusal to identify a single determinative moment of change in a life. Baxter was labeled a political and religious extremist by Sir Roger L’Estrange, for A Holy Commonwealth (1659) which seemed to celebrate Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate. Baxter’s printed repudiation of this work stands as a singular event in his long public life and prolific writings, many published by Nevill Simmons. It is the axis around which his copious autobiographical materials revolve.

Keywords:   Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, A Holy Commonwealth, Dr. Williams’s Library, Sir Roger L’Estrange, Nevill Simmons, religious comprehension, toleration

You know what Changes of the Government we have lately seen, since things were taken into your hands: such as I never read of before. Our old Constitution was King, Lords and Commons, which we were sworn, and sworn, and sworn again to be faithfull to, and to defend: The King withdrawing, the Lords and Commons ruled alone, though they attempted not the change of the Species of Government. Next this we had the Minor part of the House of Commons in the exercise of Sovereign Power, the corrupt Majority, as you called them, being cast out: and by them we had the Government changed, Regality and a House of Lords being cast off. Next this we had nothing visible, but a Generall and an Army. Next this we had all the whole Constitution and Liberties of the Commonwealth at once subverted: Certain men being called by the name of a Parliament, and the Sovereign Power pretended to be given them, and exercised by them, that never were chosen by the People, but by we know not whom (such a fact as I never heard or read that any King in England was guilty of, since Parliaments were known). Next this, we had a Protector governing according to an Instrument, made by God knows who. After this we had a Protector Governing according to the Humble Petition and advice: (and sworn to both.) And now we are wheel’d about again. And would you have had all the Nation sworn or engaged to all these various forms, and that so suddenly, before they can feel well where they stand? Should you have desired us all to engage to that which you now disclaim yourselves, and to have followed you so farre in that which you now Repent of as your sinne? The case is weighty! Incomperably [sic] beyond the Estates or Lives of particular men. Should we change so rashly, and continue in it six years impenitently, and then come off again, and say, We followed the Imaginations of our own hearts, what would you judge of us for our sinne, and for our lying in it so long? And what a miserable Nation would so guilty a Nation be? Verily if you believe that there is such a thing as Godliness and Conscience in us, you cannot expect in such quick and frequent turns as these, that all that love their souls should follow you. Especially when you are publishing your long mistakes; which should make you fearfull of forcing us to follow (p.234) you again, and us to be your hasty followers. They that have been deceived, and so deceived, and so long deceived, and so confident in it, and so angry with them that told them of it, may be deceived again for ought we know. Should we be called to as frequent Engagements as you have made mutations in the Government, were it not the way to banish conscience out of the Land, and to teach men to swallow any thing that is offered, and to sinne till they believe that nothing is a sinne?

Richard Baxter, A Holy Commonwealth (1659), ‘Preface to all those in the Army or elsewhere that have caused our many and great Eclipses since 1646’ (7–8).

Here is Richard Baxter, the ‘Puritan Man of Letters’, in full throttle.1 Taken from the preface to A Holy Commonwealth, this incautiously frank and contentiously direct address shows Baxter immediately caught up in the ever changing governance of his nation. Baxter drives on his argument with the simple devices of repetition and amplification, fighting against a dreadful apprehension that history might just be one damn thing after another, after all, and that all moral compass may be lost in the dizzying pace of change. Here also is a rare contemporary printed commentary on the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Richard Cromwell. Baxter wrote before the Restoration (when ‘few Men saw any probability of [the king’s] Restitution’, RB 1.118), the Exclusion Crisis, the coronation and then abdication by James, the coming in of William of Orange—before, that is, what we think of as the full circle of the political history of the English civil wars and revolutions, a story with the once improbable end of England welcoming a foreign king in order to maintain a Protestant ascendancy.

Addressed to the army and their allies among the religious Independents, Baxter’s shocked response to the downfall of Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate is racked with the anxiety of what the repeated deceptions and manipulations behind such upheavals in governance might mean for personal identity and choice. Here is an awakening, indeed, for ‘all that love their souls’. It is an axial moment with immediate consequences political and personal alike. What hope for ‘ipseity’ here? What hope for morality? Suddenly, Baxter saw all too clearly the minute changes and compromises that could lead inexorably from a liberty of conscience to libertinism. His particular hopes for Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate were dashed, too. Baxter had seen potential in Cromwell, where few others did, whether contemporaries or later historians. According to (p.235) William Lamont, Cromwell had the virtue for Baxter of being a blank slate, less culpable than his father for some of the ‘deceptions’ alluded to in the preface (HC, Introduction, xi). As the head of the de facto government, Cromwell seemed to Baxter to be as good as any other bulwark for the re-establishment of a national church. In undertaking to write A Holy Commonwealth on Cromwell’s accession, Baxter was actively correlating the ‘History of those Times’ and ‘The Passages of my own Life’. The two phrases and concepts comprise the subtitle of the posthumously published Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696), and they mark its bifurcated objectives (RB, 1.40).2 The frame of reference for Baxter’s autobiographical narrative is thus far broader, and explicitly so, than the personal, individuating, and indeed obsessively interior frame of Bunyan’s Grace Abounding.

Baxter’s life mission was to reconstitute the established church on more inclusive (the contemporary code was comprehensive) grounds. Increasingly, and to the same extent he saw his influence wane, he came to understand his role as a historical witness. In the context of the developing modes of first-person testimony that Protestant Autobiography has been tracing, Reliquiae Baxterianae is as notable for its lack of a determinative moment of personal assurance of election as for its open-endedness. Baxter’s ongoing autobiographical project stands in vivid contrast to the singular retraction of A Holy Commonwealth that came more than a decade after its publication, however. Contrasting as they are as statements of identity and belief, Reliquiae Baxterianae and A Holy Commonwealth highlight Baxter’s ambiguous position in the fraying Protestant communion. Paradoxically, this most public of pastors did not have a church to call his own after the 1660 ‘Act for Confirming Ministers’ restored George Dance to the living at Kidderminster. Somewhat reluctantly, Baxter found himself in the then aggregating party of dissent. But Baxter was no separatist, and he even chafed at being restricted to membership in the Presbyterian party—the party to which most contemporaries and historians alike have assigned him. Fitting to these anomalous circumstances, with an author refusing any religious identity more restrictive than his own very particular notion of ‘mere Christianity’, Reliquiae Baxterianae is a distinct mode of autobiographical writing. Reliquiae Baxterianae is not an unfinished or insufficiently shaped conversion narrative, only lacking the decisive and unwavering axial moment of salvific insight. It is a refusal to write that story, though it is a refusal that comes from within the large and still diffuse body of Protestant nonconformity. Reliquiae Baxterianae opens autobiographical writing to the writing of history, and in its first-person (p.236) eyewitnessing of cyclical returns of the same crises, it also challenges the propensity of subsequent histories of the period to designate axial moments in a linear process of change.

All this is in a work of first-person historical witness that Baxter worked on intermittently for the last three decades of his life and that recapitulates much of the history that is the contextual frame of the present study. Baxter was well aware that he was not writing the personal experience his readers expected from him. Early in Reliquiae Baxterianae, which he began writing in his retreat from (one phase of) public affairs in 1664, he addressed the expectations that others may have had about the shape and purpose of his autobiographical narrative:

Because it is Soul-Experiments which those that urge me to this kind of Writing, do expect that I should especially communicate to others, and I have said little of God’s dealing with my Soul since the time of my younger Years, I shall only give the Reader so much Satisfaction, as to acquaint him truly what Change God hath made upon my Mind and Heart since those unriper times, and wherein I now differ in Judgment and Disposition from my self: And for any more particular Account of Heart-Occurrences, and God’s Operations on me, I think it somewhat unsavory to recite them; seeing God’s Dealings are much what the same with all his Servants in the main, and the Points wherein he varieth are usually so small, that I think not such fit to be repeated: Nor have I any thing extraordinary to glory in, which is not common to the rest of my Brethren, who have the same Spirit, and are Servants of the same Lord. And the true Reason why I do adventure so far upon the Censure of the World, as to tell them wherein the Case is altered with me, is that I may take off young unexperienced Christians from being over confident in their first Apprehensions, or overvaluing their first degrees of Grace, or too much applauding and following unfurnished unexperienced Men; but may somewhat be directed what Mind and Course of Life to prefer, by the Judgment of one that hath tryed both before them (RB, 1.124).

This is a manifesto of autobiographical writing. Baxter’s conception of his devotional life was anything but a single fixed point of revelation from which emanated a sense of election and religious separation—and for which political dissent was a necessary corollary.3 Even so, the fierce polarization of religious and social identities would hold Baxter for the rest of his life to the political republicanism that the publication of A Holy Commonwealth in 1659 was taken to indicate. Baxter was far more committed to the ‘Holy’ than the ‘Commonwealth’ of the title. Nevertheless, he was easily (p.237) stigmatized as an enemy of the monarchy by virtue of this publication, even though he worked ceaselessly for the next several decades to secure religious comprehension and to negotiate the terms of what he variously called ‘mere Christianity’ or a ‘Catholic Christian’ identity. The evolution of his autobiographical writing is very much a process of its engagement with and response to the essentializing pressures of hierarchical stasis and extremism in political and religious affiliations.

Take it as non-scriptum

Baxter’s early public ministry had a difficult start. He was invited to Kidderminster as a lecturer in 1641, but he left when royalists targeted him as a source of iconoclastic activity in the parish. However, on his return five years later and after preaching to the parliamentarian garrison in Coventry and the regiment of Edward Whalley, his ministry in Kidderminster flourished in the late 1640s and on into the years of the Commonwealth and Protectorate. He spearheaded an association of ministers in Worcestershire and neighboring counties. Their articles of agreement, influenced by the Westminster Assembly, were printed as Christian Concord in 1653, the year that has figured so largely in this study as presenting new opportunities for ecclesiology. Baxter’s association was widely influential as an alternative to Episcopalian government and a counter to the more radical Independent model. Baxter’s opinions on church governance were well enough respected that he was given several prominent forums in the interregnum. He had several private meetings with Oliver Cromwell and preached a sermon against church division before Cromwell. He preached before the Lord Mayor at St. Paul’s Cathedral. By invitation from Lord Broghill, he served on a committee to contribute suggestions on church governance to the Protectorate’s Instrument of Governance.4 Baxter never completely trusted Cromwell (and he left a dark assessment in Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1.98–100). Neither did he trust the leader of the Independent movement, John Owen (and one has to look to the unpublished manuscripts of Reliquiae Baxterianae to find his unvarnished assessment of Owen).5 Still, looking back on these years, Baxter wrote that he enjoyed a good deal of ministerial liberty and that he found to his surprise that Cromwell was a tolerant governor.

Baxter later wrote of the interregnum that it was a time when ‘every self-conceited Fellow was ready to offer his Model for a new Form of govern (p.238) ment’ (RB, 1.118). A Holy Commonwealth was his own offering. It was issued with two imprints, one for the pair of London booksellers, Thomas Underhill and Francis Tyton, with whom Baxter had been working for nearly a decade, and another for Nevill Simmons, a bookseller in Kidderminster. Underhill and Tyton were members of the Stationers’ Company, each having been freed in the 1640s and each playing some role in the convergences of politics and trade. In the 1650s, for instance, Tyton had connections with the Council of State and began to move up the ladder of preferment in the company. At least initially, both had good relations with Baxter, with each paying Baxter £10 per edition of Saints Everlasting Rest, Baxter’s early runaway bestseller.6 As early as 1654, Nevill Simmons had also begun wholesaling Baxter’s books in Kidderminster. But some of Baxter’s titles would be published by Simmons alone, first with a wholesaler’s name in London and later out of his own shop in London. Simmons published Baxter’s other far-and-away bestseller, A Call to the Unconverted (1658).7

By any measure, Richard Baxter was a prolific author. The list of his titles and editions in the Wing catalogue of books printed from 1641 to 1700 extends over ten pages. No fewer than six of those titles make the sampler of bestsellers in Ian Green’s comprehensive survey of Print and Protestantism (as measured by five or more editions in thirty years).8 Fittingly, the various catalogues and checklists of his writings are multiple, customized, and elaborately cross-referenced, as well.9 Indeed, Baxter himself inaugurated the bibliography of his works; he was a nearly obsessive compiler of lists of his published works, and he invariably divided them into works of controversy and pastoral care.10 The enumerations of published volumes cannot begin to account for the habits of writing and rewriting that this output marks, however. Nor can the numbers access the nature of the traces these writings (p.239) leave of Baxter’s thinking, arguing, reading, soliciting, counseling, answering, cajoling, appeasing, restating, or demanding. Baxter’s writings are Baxter in proxy, always in development, always in draft, and always (with the exception of A Holy Commonwealth) in addition. ‘I have but a little while to live, and therefore must work while it is day. Time will not stay’, he wrote in the introduction to A Christian Directory (1673, A4v).

Judging by sales, A Holy Commonwealth was not one of Baxter’s great successes. Its initial editions (one with the London imprint, the other with the Kidderminster imprint) were the only ones printed in the seventeenth century. Neither did its vision of the proper form of government and the rights of subjects prevail. A Holy Commonwealth may well be the minor work of political theory William Lamont deemed it to be. But its very existence testifies to the jockeying for influence and the practical aspirations of system-builders of all sorts, including clergymen. Like Harrington, Hobbes, or Vane, Baxter was not theorizing the state; he was trying to describe a way forward for his riven society. Each in his own way was defining the proper relations of a subject, a church, and a state. Hobbes most famously identified the individual subject as the very source of political power—as an entity freely bestowing sovereignty on an absolute ruler out of self-interest. For Baxter, subject and sovereign alike were bound ‘under God the Universal Monarch’ (RB, 1.119).

Baxter’s ideal state would have a strong clergy, agreed on the fundamental terms of Protestant religion, functioning under an equally strong sovereign with full civic powers. This is the very alliance of church and state, the very doubling of authorities, that so exercised Hobbes. Baxter dismissed Hobbes’s work as utterly impious (HC, 135).11 But he did not bother to refute Hobbes directly; he considered Hobbes to have been sufficiently controverted by George Lawson. Baxter argued against Harrington’s secularism, perhaps as he was a nearer target with a more immediate market currency.12 Baxter also countered Vane’s republican argument that power resides in the people and that the secular magistrate should not have any role in the oversight of religion. Characteristically, Baxter found himself in a middle ground, arguing against two extremes. For he was also vehemently opposed to the idea that the godly had any particular privileges as subjects of the Commonwealth (HC, 14). Lamont’s succinct statement of Baxter’s political theory is as follows:

His choice, consistently, is the sovereign imperial power of the Christian Magistrate, which he considers the best as well as the true, historical, English (p.240) form. He supported the Parliament in the Civil War because he thought that Irish Papists with the real (or forged) consent of Charles I were determined on the destruction of the Protestant Kingdom; he opposed Oliver as a regicide and a usurper; he supported Richard’s Protectorate as a kind of revival of the ‘holy commonwealth’ ideal; and he initially supported the Restoration because it then offered the only hope of bringing back the true, English, imperial government.13

The scene of composition of this idealized state was quickly overtaken by events, however, so quickly that the abrupt change in political circumstances made for an abrupt finis to A Holy Commonwealth. Baxter left the book essentially unfinished, and he sandwiched the text between two passionate paratextual statements—the first, an angry preface ‘To all those in the Army or elsewhere, that have caused our many and great Eclipses since 1646’ (from which I quoted at the beginning of the chapter); the second, a concluding apologia ‘of the late Warres’, which was a highly personal account of his reasons for supporting parliament in the civil wars, with a final coda of prayer.

These late additions change the direction and energy of the book with an immediacy of engagement in the national crisis. More than either statement alone, it was the juxtaposition of the two that revealed the conflicted nature of identity and allegiance at the time. In the one, Baxter left an incriminating statement of his allegiance with parliament in the 1640s. Baxter’s later protestations of support of the restored monarchy mitigated neither his tepid backing of a limited monarchy (HC, 10) in the body of the work nor his acceptance of the ‘withdrawal’ of the king as one of the extreme circumstances under which a sovereign may be resisted.

The horror (for him) of events unfolding—surely an unfolding he sensed also as an end—focused his attention on the beginning of that chain of events. The apologia looks back to the iconoclastic Acts of parliament that disestablished the Episcopal structure and first sent Baxter to Kidderminster. Baxter also rehearsed the Catholic threat as enacted in the Irish rebellion as a contributory cause to war. Was the parliamentary cause justified, after all, pragmatically as well as theoretically? It was a far more open question for Baxter in 1659 than it had been in 1643. What was his own culpability? ‘I have called me oft to search my heart, and try my wayes by the Word of God, whether I did lawfully engage in that Warre or not? (which I was confident then was the greatest outward service that ever I performed to God:) And whether I lawfully encouraged so many thousands to it?’ (HC, 486). Despite his inner turmoil over a (p.241) dream gone so wrong, and his deliberate evasion of naming a starting point to the war (and so assigning blame to one political party or another for starting it), Baxter incautiously offers that he ‘would as gladly make a public Recantation, as I would eat or drink’, if he could be convinced of the wrongness of his action (HC, 486; on causes of the war, see also 457, 490).

By accepting these polarizing terms of personal accountability, he should not have been surprised that the work and these self-incriminating statements haunted him after the Restoration. A Holy Commonwealth was the prime source of the enduring grudge Sir Roger L’Estrange carried against Baxter. After the reimposition of the Print Act in 1662, L’Estrange was appointed Surveyor of the Press. The appointment was an effective sign that the government had lost all faith in the Stationers’ Company’s willingness to regulate itself in matters of censorship. L’Estrange announced his ambitions for the position in Considerations and Proposals in order to the Regulation of the Press (1663). The work was amply illustrated with specific examples of recently printed ‘Books, Libels, and Positions, which are to be Supprest’ (running head). Baxter is the most frequently named offender, for A Holy Commonwealth. But so were its publisher Tyton and even its printer Robert White rebuked in the margins.14 After all, statutes governing the press routinely contained articles that held the printer responsible in law as if he were the author of the work, and L’Estrange was earning his reputation as the watchdog of the book trade.

L’Estrange’s implacable hatred notwithstanding, Baxter had enough stature as a popular preacher, and the royalists felt (at least initially) that they had to bring Presbyterians back into the fold, for him to maintain some clerical influence, as in the interregnum. He was appointed Chaplain to Charles II, and delivered a sermon at court. He participated in Worcestershire House deliberations, served on the Savoy Conference to propose revisions to the Book of Common Prayer, and was even offered the bishopric of Hereford.15 But Charles II’s Cavalier Parliament was driven by a strong desire for an unyielding Anglican settlement; Charles II’s court was ambivalent; Charles himself was as interested in self-preservation as any good Hobbesian.

The opportunity for rapprochement with the established church, if it ever existed, was over by 1663—when Clarendon gave up on Presbyterians, and was especially upset with Baxter for the obstreperousness with (p.242) which Baxter was frequently charged. Baxter, too, later interpreted the invitation to him to participate in the negotiations over a religious settlement in the early years of the Restoration as expedient and politique only:

That you may the better understand these Letters, and many other such Passages, you must know that the great Reason why my self, and some of my Brethren were made the King’s Chaplains (in Title) was, that the People might think that such Men as we were favoured and advanced, and consequently that all that were like us should be favoured, and so might think their Condition happy. And though we our selves made no doubt but that this was the use that was to be made of us, and that afterward we should be silenced with the rest in time, yet we thought that it was not meet to deny their Offer (RB, 2.297).

People in London knew the game; those further afield (like his correspondent John Eliot in New England) thought the discussions between the bishops and nonconformists were cause for great celebration. This is one of many instances of Baxter’s acute awareness of the need to calibrate message, audience, and media. He was also characteristically alert to the interceptions, misrepresentations, and abrogations of an argument or a negotiating position.

Baxter would never get over the taint of association with the religious party (Presbyterians) blamed for the start of the civil wars, and he could never explain to any royalist’s satisfaction his choice of the word ‘Commonwealth’ to describe the ideal form of government. He had essentially lost the right to set the meaning for this otherwise neutral term with a distinguished pedigree. Baxter himself reported that during the lengthy negotiations of the Savoy conference:

Among all the Bishops there was none who had so promising a Face as Dr. Sterne the Bishop of Carlisle: He look’d so honestly, and gravely, and soberly, that I scarce thought such a Face could have deceived me; and when I was intreating them not to cast out so many of their Brethren through the Nation, as scrupled a Ceremony which they confess’d indifferent, he turn’d to the rest of the Reverend Bishops, and noted me for saying [in the Nation:] He will not say [in the Kingdom] saith he, [lest he own a King] (RB, 2.338).

It mattered not a whit that Baxter’s disingenuous explanation was that the holy nation of Israel was a Commonwealth. It did not matter much, either, that there was at least officially a policy of religious toleration in the Declaration of Breda and the offer of political reintegration in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. As Baxter was to learn, memories were long—and the social identities to which individuals were held were inflexible. It did not help, either, that Baxter’s milder form of English Presbyterianism (p.243) was taken as fully consonant with the stricter Scottish brand.16 Throughout the Restoration, many English men and women held the Presbyterians responsible for the regicide. Copies of the Solemn League and Covenant—the statement of allegiance to which the Scottish Kirk had secured Charles I’s consent in turn for their military support—were burned publicly and often.

After a decade’s worth of damage to his reputation and standing on the basis of its taint of anti-monarchicalism, Baxter finally did repudiate A Holy Commonwealth. Baxter had so often turned to print for polemic and to proselytize. Now he would have to defend himself against his own words in print. His enemies were only too happy to take print as an authoritative witness to the truth about Baxter’s own personal beliefs—and the presumed fixity of print could be construed as confirmation of the fixity of Baxter’s stand. Baxter’s repudiation of A Holy Commonwealth was technically only an appeal for an understanding of changed circumstances. Nevertheless, that appeal had to be made in a public form that was at least equal to the lasting public form of the offending treatise. It had to be made in print. Baxter’s first repudiation came in the second edition of The Life of Faith (1670). Strategically enough, that was a second edition of a sermon Baxter preached ‘contractedly’ before the king at Whitehall in 1660, after he had been appointed one of the royal chaplains in ordinary. The first edition of the sermon had been published, shortly after its delivery, by Francis Tyton and Jane Underhill, Thomas’s widow, with a separate title page announcing its availability through Nevill Simmons in Kidderminster. One of a flurry of Baxter’s publications after the Restoration, The Life of Faith trumpeted its printing by his Majesty’s special command.

The second edition was published by Simmons alone, a decade later. He was by then operating out of a shop at the ‘Three Crowns over against Holborn Conduit’, just outside the city walls. The 1670 edition supplemented the sermon first published under that title with two other treatises; it kept the announcement of the original publication by the king’s command; and it introduced an elaborately engraved title page and a frontispiece portrait. The images were recut from the 1658 edition of Saints Everlasting Rest. That is, Baxter’s repudiation of anything that so much as appeared to be antimonarchical came couched in a reassertion of (p.244) his bona fide status as monarchist and with the flourish of an engraved title page (see Illus. 5.1). In 1670 the established church was offering another carrot to comprehension in partnership with the stick of the Conventicle Act. Baxter was even offered the backhanded compliment of a bishopric in Scotland (in fact, any position he wanted there). For the second time, Baxter turned down this preferment in Charles II’s church.

His recantation of A Holy Commonwealth in 1670 is a strategic move, then, a statement of allegiance under duress. But its placement within the printed text allows another interpretation. Nevill Simmons may have inadvertently provoked the repudiation. The revocation takes place in a signed note following a printed catalogue of Simmons’s books for sale at the very end of the work. It is conceivable that the repudiation (at this time and in this way) is spurred as much by the highly inconvenient inclusion of the title in the promotional list of his available titles as by any particular diplomatic pressure exerted on Baxter in 1670. As the catalogue of books begins on the verso of the last gathering of the text, it is possible that Simmons thought of this as an opportunity to use up the free space on the sheet with a promotion of titles available. But the fact that the list was not contained in that available sheet, but crossed over into a new gathering, also made it more difficult to simply extract it if the author objected to its inclusion, as I am suggesting may have happened.17

The list includes books published by Tyton and Underhill as well as by Simmons. But other than several more editions of Saints Everlasting Rest, Tyton was finished with Baxter. Was Baxter becoming too hot to handle for a stationer advancing in the company? Within two years, Tyton would pay a fine in lieu of serving as renter warden.18 Or was Baxter just not a money-maker anymore, especially after the widespread losses in the book trade of the great fire in 1666? Baxter’s financial arrangements with Tyton had apparently undergone a change in later years: ‘They never gave me nor offered me a Farthing for any Impression after [1666], nor so much as one of the Books, but I was fain, out of my own Purse, to buy all that I gave to any Friend or poor Person that asked it’ (RB, Appendix 7, 117).

‘This loosening me from Mr Tyton’ (ibid.), Baxter went on to work more closely with Simmons. There is no need to choose between the contributory causes of political expedience, regulatory pressure, and the economics of print publication. But Baxter’s repudiation of A Holy (p.245)

                   Beyond the lives of particular men

Illustration 5.1 Richard Baxter, The Life of Faith (1670), engraved title page

By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

(p.246) Commonwealth may mark an embarrassing failure of accord between Baxter and his booksellers, with the booksellers eager to market their (possibly large) back stock and Baxter suddenly nervous about the promotion of this polarizing and easily misunderstood title. His recantation is ambivalent at best (see Illus. 5.2). Baxter’s language is worth noting—‘I do hereby recall the said Book, and profess my Repentance, that ever I published it’, he writes. He calls it a ‘Revocation’ and a ‘Recantation’ only with some significant provisos. He concludes that ‘I hereby under my hand, as much as in me lyeth, reverse the Book, and desire the World to take it as non-Scriptum.

But how can speech be reversed, let alone speech that is caught in print? What powers can un-write that which has been written, un-think that which has been thought, or erase from memory that which has transpired? Baxter is clearly struggling for a formulation that will hit the appropriate (if inevitably discordant) notes of acknowledging the damage done to his credibility as a spokesman for reconciliation while still registering his ‘protest against the judgement of Posterity, and all others, that were not of the same TIME, and PLACE, as to the (mental) censure, either of the BOOK or the REVOCATION; as being ignorant of the true reasons of them both’.

There is no unequivocal repentance here. This is not the language of conversion. If anything, it is an angry rejection of the essentializing pressures of the religious identities of his day. Baxter would not bring himself to say he was wrong. He was not sorry for producing that work in those circumstances. He invoked historical perspective. He emphasized that his main point was that ALL human affairs are under divine authority—and that we cannot understand the ways of God. But he was sorry that his effectiveness as a negotiator had been hampered by the availability of such seemingly transparent statements of inconvenient political allegiance. His overarching goal was to negotiate a reconstitution of the national church. He was determined to separate religious nonconformity from political opposition. He wanted to get the book out of the way. In addition to the appended statement, a separate broadside was printed with the same signed and dated statement, presumably to be pasted up in his booksellers’ shops and coffee shops.19

As embarrassing an example of public apology as this repudiation is, it also represents an important refusal in conceptualizing the self. Baxter would not be forced by polemics into the radically religious conversion mode—or its opposite, apostacy. Baxter’s conception of the self was as (p.247)

                   Beyond the lives of particular men

Illustration 5.2 Richard Baxter, The Life of Faith (1670), retraction

By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

(p.248) organic and evolving, enmeshed in the circumstances of its political, social, and ecclesiastical world. But the polemics of the time nevertheless opened up that space in which virtually every public figure who lived long enough or through enough political reversals was exposed. Baxter was vulnerable to the polarizing forces that insisted that religious belief must be ecclesiastical in formation, internal in apprehension, and absolutely consistent through political change.

Even after the reluctant repudiation of A Holy Commonwealth, the book remained available as an easy target through further political reversals and crises. Another decade or so on, in 1683, Tories organized celebrations and thanks for the king’s deliverance, as Charles II reasserted control of his government in the aftermath of the Popish Plot, the Exclusion Crisis, and finally the Rye House plot in which Whig leaders overextended themselves. The very day of William, Lord Russell’s execution, the University of Oxford issued a decree condemning a number of ‘pernicious books and damnable doctrines’.20 As at the beginning of the reign, so at the end: among these pernicious books, chiefly, was Richard Baxter’s unfortunately named and still apparently available or at the very least well-remembered A Holy Commonwealth. The offensive doctrines that Baxter was said to propagate included the assertions that sovereignty was shared in three estates in England, that a lawful governor who turned tyrant forfeited his right to rule and was rightly resisted, and that King Charles had first made war upon his parliament, and thus fell into that category of rulers turned tyrant. A Holy Commonwealth was ordered to be burned publicly in all the school courts at Oxford along with offensive tomes by Milton, Hobbes, Knox, Buchanan, Goodwin, and others.

What would seem to be Baxter’s final statement on the matter of A Holy Commonwealth may, in fact, have been his earliest recorded comment. His assessment comes in a meandering catalogue of his books that ends the segment of autobiographical writing that was to become Part One of Reliquiae Baxterianae. This catalogue was presumably begun in 1664 (and lightly added to and revised in 1665). In it, Baxter calls A Holy Commonwealth ‘the Book which hath furnished my Enemies with matter of Reviling (which none must dare to answer)’ (RB, 1.118). Surely, this refers to L’Estrange’s then recent attacks on the work in 1663. Yet, the comment retained its currency throughout Baxter’s life. It is such veiled hints and marks of self-censorship that led Lamont to characterize Baxter as a disingenuously schizophrenic writer, with his franker assessments in (p.249) manuscript always providing a counterweight to the compromised printed materials.21

With another perspective on the seeming disjunctions of Baxter’s work, Sharon Achinstein has explored the relationship of his almost wholly overlooked literary efforts with his practical divinity. She has demonstrated that literature provided Baxter a way out of the mire of topicality. In his late Poetical Fragments (1681), for instance, Baxter had recourse to typology in explaining the causes of the civil war. His own actions therefore became less a matter of personal choice and more a matter of preordained necessity.22 Baxter’s fraught relationship with A Holy Commonwealth highlights another aspect of the dilemma of personal choice and accountability—the competition of memory with oblivion, a dilemma engaged at the personal as well as the national level. Speaking on this point, N. H. Keeble has noted that:

there was, after 1660, scarcely a publication by Baxter which did not meet at the very least criticism and ridicule: more usually, it evoked malicious slander and personal libel…Late in life he remarked sadly that he had hoped “All this…the Act of Oblivion had forgiven: For the King forgave Generall Monke & his Army, & many others, who were fighting for the usurpers while I was writing against them”.23

In the midst of so much busynes…

Baxter may have been writing against the king’s enemies. But he was also writing against the king’s friends. Baxter was, simply, always writing, and in that writing, continually rewriting the godly self. We need not agree with the unkind assessment of Henry Stubbe (the younger) that Baxter wrote as if he were voiding, to note an organic quality to Baxter’s writing.24 His writing is driven by the processes of invention and generation. It illustrates copiousness, and it therefore also illustrates the flux of life in a way not often seen in English letters before then. This approach (p.250) was certainly out of step with the then predominating mode of spiritual experience.

Such copiousness in the period is more often associated with the practices of diary-keeping and commonplacing. Baxter’s preserved manuscripts and the published record are perhaps the tip of an unpreserved iceberg of his daily writing. Three volumes of his commonplace books survive at Dr. Williams’s Library, partly in shorthand and largely unexamined. There is no Baxter diary that we know of (and it is hard to know how he would have found time to keep one), though he does recommend the practice. His wife seems to have kept a diary, judging by passages excerpted in the Breviate Baxter wrote of her life.25 It might be useful to think of his published writing as functioning in lieu of diary-keeping, as the public, ministerial counterpart of private efforts of the laity. Along these lines, Baxter’s writing could even be seen to function as an early modern blog.

Always under revision or dusted off and reframed for a new audience or a new circumstance, Baxter’s publications make best sense if we see them as engaged with the other tools of his ministry—catechizing, preaching, letter-writing, and committee work of various kinds. Peter Ince, a fellow dissenting minister, encouraged Baxter to think of his publications as so embedded in a life of active ministry, when he wrote in 1652 that ‘by writinges you may be preachinge to the worlds end’ (CCB 1. 88, item 103; DWL MS. 59, iv. 181). Hundreds of other correspondents wrote letters to Baxter, some as august as John Eliot and Robert Boyle. Many others sought to continue on a more personal level the conversation they felt had begun in the course of hearing a sermon or reading one of Baxter’s books. In the summer of 1658, for instance, Baxter heard from two London apprentices. ‘If you will be pleased for to bestowe your benevolence in giving a few directions it will be a deede of Charity unto my pore soule’, wrote George Maynard, with the added report that he had followed Baxter’s directions in A Call to the Unconverted and sought the counsel of ‘Some ministere’. But the one he consulted ‘gave me very little Councel at all, nether [sic] bid me Come unto him an other time, and was very backward to talke with me, whether he thought I was to young or no I cannot tell, soe that I am disheartened’ (CCB 1. 325, item 474; DWL MS. 59, iv. 263). Baxter wrote back ‘in the midst of so much busynes, yt hardly gave me leave for this much’ with a protestation that he had ‘no better Directions to give you in the worke [of conversion] than those that I have printed’. But he proceeded to summarize his advice in eight pithy (p.251) sentences, enumerate a list of godly ministers in the vicinity of Cheapside, and conclude with a request that Maynard pass along the letter to John Brand (by name) ‘who wrote to me so much of ye very same case & desires with yor owne, yt I conjecture you are acquainted with each others case’ (CCB 1. 336, item 488; DWL MS. 59. iv. 264). Maynard and Brand were also presumably acquainted with Nevill Simmons. Maynard had asked that Baxter’s response be directed ‘unto the three Crowns in Cheapside right over against the Connduct bookseller’, in other words, to Simmons’s shop.

Baxter’s proselytizing method included, then, detailed directives, unstinting encouragement, and advice tailored to the individual’s station and community. His published writing was inseparably embedded in a social network of correspondence, print publication, private devotion, and public sermonizing. What does this copiousness of correspondence tell us about Baxter’s conception of writing? Or, to push the point further: is it not so much his conception of his ministry as his conception of himself that is at stake in his writing? As Nuttall quotes from William Bates’s funeral sermon, Baxter rebuffed personal commendations with the assertion ‘I was but a Pen in God’s hand, and what praise is due to a Pen?’26 If we think about his view of the instrumentality of the pen, can we not learn more about the kind of instrument he took himself to be? Books and sermons were the tools of his trade, but their efficacy remained a mystery to him:

In ascribing this regeneration to [the Spirit] [sic] I do not intend to exclude the work; yet I cannot allow it to be properly the Instrumental cause of any Physical operation of God on the soul, but onely of the Moral. Were it an instrument in this sense, the Energy or Influx of the principal Efficient must be by it conveyed to the soul; but that is an impossibility in Nature: The voice of the Preachers, or Letters of the Book, are not subjects capable of receiving spiritual Life to convey to us (Saints Rest, [1652], 159–60).

The instrumentality of books and preachers was a cognitive puzzle, but ultimately, for Baxter, it was a puzzle best left unresolved. He seems not to have thought about the prosthetic functions of the written text. He was more concerned that a skepticism about the moral operations of reading could be taken to the logical conclusion of ‘that Sectary, who when he had burnt all his other Books as humane inventions, at last burnt the Bible, when he grew Learned enough to understand, that the translation of that was Humane too’ (A Christian Directory, [a]r). The jest deflects the problem of the human authorship of the Bible. Baxter’s cavalier sense that something can as easily be granted status as unwritten if it offends is in (p.252) accord with his pragmatic sense that people will read for what they need. That which does not work for whatever reason, he urges his reader to ‘neglect and cast away; But that which is truly Instructing and Helpful,…diligently Digest and Practice’ (A Christian Directory, [av].

Though he did not himself pursue the question, such an orientation to his readers’ needs had its effects on Baxter’s own self-definition. Against the exclusionary grain of polemics, Baxter was open to his auditors and readers in a way few others were at the time. Baxter credited Archbishop Ussher for fostering a particularizing view of his congregation.27 Baxter mapped the multiple and sometimes contradictory aspects of a life’s journey onto his congregation. He was conscious of addressing disparate audiences at various stages of a devotional life, from complete reprobation to committed godliness. Polemicists preach to the converted. Baxter famously preached to the unconverted, as well. Through the offices of John Eliot, Baxter even addressed Massachusetts natives in their own language, Alquonquian. His A Call to the Unconverted, translated into Alquonquian, was one of the earliest books printed in North America.

Baxter commented on the diversity of his audience in a preface to the first book he wrote, The Saints Everlasting Rest.28 But how could he, how could anyone, address all interests and factions in that fractious time? Baxter modeled several ways in his publications. One was to multiply the individual titles, so that one work is specifically addressed to one audience (A Call to the Unconverted, for instance), another work to another audience. Such was his elaborate scheme of Directories, which was only partially realized. Another method was to lump audiences together, while still calling attention to their distinctions. One of the prefaces to the second part of The Saints Everlasting Rest, for instance, is addressed ‘1. To Unbelievers and Anti-Scripturists, 2. To Papists, 3. And to the Orthodox’ (1652, P7r).

(p.253) What subset of readers is this, we may well ask? In a way, it is everyone BUT nonconformists, and so it reveals something of where he thought the fault lines were (at least at that particular time of writing). However, this could by no means describe any larger association of interests that any of the parties he placed in it would avow. Essentially, he is tipping his hand here, by lumping conformists with papists and painting them all extremists by association with unbelievers and ‘anti-Scripturists’, whomever they may be. It is an unfortunately awkward categorization, but nevertheless indicative of his determination, put in practice in Kidderminster and advocated by the Worcestershire Association, to meet with all comers at whatever stage of belief or unbelief he found them. In Kidderminster, he catechized and conversed of godly things with every family in the parish in ongoing rounds.

How could Baxter address all interests and bring them together for a reunification of the national church on common grounds of understanding and core beliefs? By doing what every good negotiator does—keeping the conversation going. Baxter was an inveterate rewriter, reviser, and elaborator of any and all points of doctrinal contention. The beginning of the list of his titles in the Wing catalogue is indicative of the approach—‘Answers’, ‘Additions’, and ‘Admonitions’ abound. Even within individual works, the last word is never said; the ‘finis’ is always provisional.

When it comes to that, the ‘incipit’ is equally provisional. We can turn again to The Saints Everlasting Rest for illustration. The Saints Everlasting Rest was the first book Baxter wrote, but it was not his first book published. Aphorisms of Justification, which was initially conceived as an appendix to Saints Rest, was printed first, in 1649. Saints Rest followed into print in 1650. Neither was the order of composition of the four parts of Saints Rest reflected in the published order of the parts (RB, 1:108). Baxter’s free-flowing compositional habits have not made significant inroads into the scholarship on Baxter—let alone informed our understanding of autobiographical writing in the period. But those compositional habits do illustrate something crucial about the way Baxter conceptualized writing as extemporaneous, as a transcript of thought in action, and of a subject in formation. He increasingly saw the utility of written recollection as a link in human history extending personal experience forward into a notion of posterity.

The second edition of A Holy Commonwealth was not the only time that an occasion for republication exposed Baxter’s struggle for a consistency of belief and identity even through revisions, emendations, and clarifications. Saints Everlasting Rest illustrates the point. Saints Rest went through nearly fifteen editions by the end of the century. Histories of the English civil wars and revolutions are sprinkled with examples of the strategic insertion (p.254) of a once topical argument into other historical circumstances, with the republication itself establishing analogies. Baxter handled his own published oeuvre in such a way as to illustrate this principle repeatedly. The effect also, however, tested the resourcefulness of his stationers—and bibliographers.

The first edition of Saints Rest had 1649 on the imprint. By the next year, Tyton and Underhill had issued a second edition.29 There is evidence that the booksellers simply printed a supplemental introduction in 1650 for those who had purchased the first edition and wanted to bring their copy up to date.30 For those purchasing the work for the first time, however, that new introduction was given a different gathering signature and was accompanied by numerous minor additions and revisions to the text, including a new set of prefaces, marginal notes, and even an entire chapter, ‘the ninth, in the second Part, which being promised in the beginning, in the Method propounded, was forgotten’ (SER [1652], [B7r]).

Of the insufficiencies of method and vagaries of editorial practice to which such revision attests, Baxter appealed to the example of ‘great Austin’. Who is Baxter to worry about the shame of confessing defects if Augustine ‘so frequently and passionately confesseth so much by himself’ (SER [1652], [B7v])? Does change (of belief, of argument, of self) become error? These were highly charged questions, frequently resolved with coercion and persecution. In singular fashion, Baxter flagged the textual changes, at least initially. Was it naïvety or principle at work? In any event, he also called attention to his changed conclusions with typographical markers within the body of the book. As early as the third edition (1652), for instance, a disclaimer interrupted Baxter’s elaborate explication of a definition of the people of God. This most sensitive of definitions concludes the first part of the book. That had been one long rehearsal of the rewards of heaven, a meditation he only reluctantly concluded in order to address the practical—and highly contentious—question: who will enjoy those rewards?

The definition of the people of God is stated succinctly enough in Chapter Eight, marking a move from the consideration of the rewards of the elect to a definition of those people of God. Succinct as it may be, however, within one tight paragraph, the definition is enriched with no fewer than twenty-six superscript numerals (see Illus. 5.3). These superscript Arabic numerals mark the terms that are to be explicated in turn, (p.255)

                   Beyond the lives of particular men

Illustration 5.3 Richard Baxter, Saints Everlasting Rest, third edn. (1652), p. 154

By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

with corresponding numerals in the margins tracking the task. It is not encouraging that numerals 1 and 2 are out of order. There is a logical reason for this: grammatically, the less critical noun ‘part’ preceded the all-important qualifier ‘externally called’. So he begins his explication with #1, the externally called, even though the reader has encountered #2, part, first (SER [1652], 154).

(p.256) It is utterly characteristic of Baxter’s writing style that he gets no further than numeral 3 before another organizational scheme has interrupted and superseded the first such scheme. An example of the kind of digression he follows until he has nearly lost his original train of thought is the ensuing consideration of what it means for the ‘poor Indians’ and others in ‘those dark parts of the world’ that they do not have the same external aids to faith such as the gospel (SER [1652], 156). Nevertheless, he perseveres to an explication of the third term ‘Regeneration by the Spirit of Christ’, only to be derailed again. For in the course of puzzling out the rationale of predestination and the stages of one’s calling to election, Baxter had originally argued that the gift of sanctification preceded individual faith.

Baxter was addressing the much disputed doctrine of justification, the distinctions between moral and physical efficacy, and the differences between efficient and final causes. In accepting certain arguments on these highly controverted doctrines, however, Baxter was also reaching different conclusions from the then dominant Independents. Therefore, in response to the backlash of objections to his understanding of the sequences of assurance, justification, and sanctification in the first edition of Saints Rest, Baxter added a disclaimer to the second edition. He avowed his acceptance of ‘the common doctrine of the Reformed Churches’, namely, ‘making the Spirit to work by the word as its Instrument in producing faith, and other Graces: and making Repentance and Faith (wrought in Vocation) to go before other Graces given in Sanctification, &’.31

There is a faint amusement to be had in that dangling ampersand. Does it represent Baxter’s exhaustion? Or capitulation? Beyond gesturing to other sources of doctrinal disagreement, the episode also reveals attitudes towards revision and the integrity and stability of print. The resolution in the second edition is Baxter’s idea: mark the place of revision, but leave the original thought. By the ninth edition of 1662, Baxter’s thinking had changed about how best to accommodate in print his own evolving doctrinal beliefs. Beginning with the exasperated ‘It is a wonder to me that such a multitude of Learned Divines should so long proceed in that palpable mistake’ and concluding with an affirmative nod to Arminians, the offending passages were silently deleted (SER [1662], 129).32 By 1662 Baxter had also deleted from the text another source of antagonistic scorn—his incautious naming of several contemporary divines as ‘surely’ among the elect.33

(p.257) At the same time that he was surgically deleting passages from the text, Baxter was also still adding to Saints Rest. After some eight hundred pages of exhortation to a godly life and his assurance that ‘Thus, Reader, I have given thee my best advice, for the attaining and maintaining an heavenly Conversation’ (SER [1662], 809), after all that, several new pieces were added in 1662, including a seven-page ‘Addition to the 11th Chapter of the 3d part’ and, with Baxter still ‘loth to leave thee under any mistake of my meaning in this point’, another seven pages of propositions and staged dialogue on the distinction between common and special grace (SER [1662], 830).34 He fully realized that in pursuing these controverted doctrines, he was testing the patience of at least some portion of his readership. Baxter concluded his tome, therefore, by entreating the impatient reader, several times over, ‘rather lay this by, or tear it out of the Book, then it should be any stumbling block in thy way, or hinder thee from profiting by what thou readest’ (SER [1662], 836).

Why not leave it out altogether, then, one might well ask. Especially given that these particular accretions were in answer to some animadversions of Baxter’s Aphorisms of Justification. But in 1662 Aphorisms was not being reprinted; Saints Rest was. And that foray into the press provided an occasion as good as any to restate his position and rebut his critics. In terms of compositional style, we are not all that far from Laurence Sterne’s parodic inability to make any narrative progress in Tristram Shandy or from Montaigne’s embrace of the flux ‘Of Experience’—though Baxter would claim kinship with neither. For an example closer at hand, we might find affinities with Robert Burton’s compositional style. Additionally, renewed critical interest in literary manuscripts, such as we have seen in the case of John Donne’s texts, has reoriented editorial theory and practice away from the selection of a single determinative copy text towards a more inclusive embrace of multiple textual witnesses. The point I want to pursue here is that while writing has a prosthetic relationship to the self, it is neither a simple nor a stable relationship. Baxter’s textual canon speaks of a recursive reworking of a set of principles, beliefs, and practices. His writing and rewriting of books was also a writing and rewriting of self.

(p.258) ‘I am no Nonconformist in Law-Sence, (and my Conscience hath no Judge but God)’ (RB, 3.193)

As a body of work, then, Baxter’s writing amply illustrates the processes whereby the self may be written and rewritten outside the conventions of the conversion narrative—even without an ostensibly autobiographical narrative. But for Baxter, there is Reliquiae Baxterianae to contend with. Reliquiae Baxterianae is the hagiographical title given the work by Baxter’s editors. As the first eighteen pages of the manuscript are missing, it is not clear what Baxter considered its title to be. But the subtitle, ‘Mr Baxter’s Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times’, corresponds with a phrase early in the narrative, and it may be supposed that such was the objective, if not necessarily the title, under which Baxter wrote (RB, 1.40).

As published, the work is in three parts, and again it may be supposed that those three parts correspond roughly to three separate periods of writing. The first was undertaken in 1664, in Baxter’s imposed retirement to Acton after the ejection of nonconformist ministers. The second was begun in 1665 after he fled the plague in Acton for retreat at a friend’s home in Buckinghamshire. The third was begun in 1670, after the renewal of the Conventicle Act, with the last entries made in early 1685. But the work is not linear, even within sections. Part One revolves around the restoration, touching also on his sequestration from Kidderminster, and looking back to Cromwell’s death and character, the overthrow of Richard Cromwell, and Monk’s character. It anticipates or makes reference to the second part at the end, indicating that some revisions were made to the first part after the second part was written.

Part Two does not pick up the story at the chronological point where Baxter left Part One. Instead, it takes another stab at some of the same material, making another recursive turn around the same obsessions, the same sudden and unforeseen turning points of events—chiefly, on this go-round, the dissolution of Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate and the restoration of the monarch. Part Two makes a new beginning, then:

In the Time of the late unhappy Wars in these Kingdoms, the Controversies about Church Government were in most Mens mouths, and made the greatest Noise, being hotly agitated by States-men and Divines, by Words and Writings: which made it necessary to me, to set my self to the most serious study of those Points: The result of which was, this confident and setled [sic] Judgment, that of the four contending Parties, (the Erastian, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Independant) each one had some Truths in (p.259) Peculiar, which the other overlookt [sic], or took little notice of, and each one had their proper Mistakes which gave advantage to their Adversaries; though all of them had so much truth in common among them, as would have made these Kingdoms happy, if it had been unanimously and soberly reduced to practice, by prudent and charitable Men (RB, 2.139).

In the entire oeuvre of this most prolix of authors, there is hardly a more succinct and matter-of-fact statement of the problem he set as his life’s work to solve. But because it was a life’s work, with incremental progress made and temporary alliances forged through the turning wheel of political revolutions, there was no single moment of lasting change discernable. Part Three, written for the most part in 1670, according to Sylvester’s headline, also includes passages into the next decade. Not for the first time, Baxter is bowed by ‘the torrent of late matter here’ as he briefly addresses such issues as the Exclusion Crisis, the expiration of the Licensing Act, and his arrest, imprisonment, impoverishment, and increasing physical ailments.

Reliquiae Baxterianae has confounded editors and readers ever since Baxter left his unpublished manuscripts to the care of Matthew Sylvester.35 Roger Morrice’s amanuensis recommended in a note that it was ‘well worth the cost and time’ to publish the intermittently attended autobiographical narrative, and others of a designated council of advisors obviously agreed.36 Sylvester labored heroically to edit a volume, with the assistance of Edmund Calamy. The folio Reliquiae Baxterianae was published by a syndicate of booksellers led by Thomas Parkhurst in 1696, five years after Baxter’s death.

The scope of the posthumously published work was virtually the whole of Baxter’s long life, from his youth, ordination, and early ministry in the years leading up to the civil war, all the way through more than forty years of public service and ceaseless machinations to reunite the Church of England on terms of comprehension, reaching to the Exclusion Crisis and beyond to James’s succession. Given that he never saw the Holy Commonwealth instituted that was his life’s pursuit and that he never put finis to any work willingly, can it be any wonder that he never pulled his autobiographical narrative together, never identified a single moment of absolute change (either personally or politically), never wrote a premature conclusion, but continually recorded the flux?

Sylvester’s despair is palpable in his prefatory remarks about the state of the manuscript, or, as Sylvester put it, ‘rather a Rhapsody than one (p.260) continued Work’ (RB, sig. b2r).37 Sylvester was fiercely loyal to the elderly neighbor who, in his last years, had assisted Sylvester in his ministry at Rutland House. He praised Baxter as an Elijah in his funeral sermon, which he appended to Reliquiae Baxterianae. But Sylvester still allowed himself to say that ‘I cannot deny but it would have been of great advantage to the acceptableness and usefulness of this Book, had it’s [sic] Reverend Author himself revised, compleated [sic], and corrected it, and published it himself’ (RB, sig. b3r).

Sylvester alluded to a report from Baxter’s bookseller that Baxter hoped to publish the work; and Sylvester himself believed that Baxter intended ‘to have made further Progress in this History, but that other Things diverted him therefrom, till his Death at last made that impossible’ (RB, sig. C3v). Today’s readers have disagreed. Lamont argued that Baxter deliberately withheld the manuscript from the press and so from censorship, thus allowing himself freer reign for unvarnished views of the history of his times.38 Keeble described Reliquiae Baxterianae as deeply invested in the controversies of its time—drawing vituperative responses even in its posthumous publication.39 Geoffrey Nuttall found evidence of suppression of passages in the manuscript.40

A layering of pragmatic and politicized motivations may well have kept the manuscript out of print. But surely, we must also understand that the conceptual horizon of the writing was always the author’s own death, and that Baxter’s autobiographical jottings really were something more like the diary-keeping of others, a set of papers returned to and added to over time. As early as the Savoy Conference, Baxter was collecting documents. He had also clearly determined to leave these papers for posterity. This, too, would have been characteristic of someone whose first published book was conceived as a deathbed valediction to his parishioners. In imagining a future readership for his first-person narrative, Baxter was appealing to the judgment of historical successors. Remarkably, one later reader validated that approach in marginalia. Known for keeping extensive notes in the books he read, Coleridge enthused of his reading of Reliquiae Baxterianae that it was the ‘noblest kind of Imaginative Power in your soul, that of Living in past ages’.41

(p.261) The nature of that appeal—and the means of establishing his credibility—evolved over time. There is a pronounced shift in Part Three, for instance. It is more fragmentary by far than the first two, resembling a chronicle. The subheading (in Baxter’s hand in the manuscript) reads ‘Additions of the Years 1675, 1676, 1677, 1678, &c’ (RB, 3.177; Illus. 5.4). By the logic of the sequence, the ampersand gestures towards the 1680s, a decade into which Baxter’s public life very much extended. In fact, there are entries from the 1680s, to the very eve of James’s accession—without quite being signaled as such. But something shifts in Baxter’s approach to history writing in this last section. The shift can also be read into the ampersand, as exhaustion in the extension, repetition, and return of familiar conflicts.

Indeed, Baxter’s last years were filled with déjà vu moments, as he endured a series of trials and renewed antagonisms that elicited from him a new historical vision of analogies and cyclical returns. We can see one example of his shifting historical perspective in his report of his arrest and trial in the fall of 1682. Constables executed warrants to distrain goods to the value of £195 in fines for preaching in violation of the Conventicle Act. All his books and possessions were seized in lieu of the fines, forcing Baxter ‘utterly to forsake my House and Goods’ (while still having to pay the rent, RB, 3.192). He was kept out of prison only because influential friends intervened and argued he would not survive imprisonment. But he was not given to know the charges, and neither was he given a hearing. ‘And I had never the least notice of any accusation, or who were the Accusers or Witnesses, much less did I receive any Summons to appear, or answer for my self, or ever saw the Justices or Accusers’ (RB, 3.191).

This harassment was part of the royalist backlash against the exclusion parliaments, part of Charles’s renewal of persecution and coercion, his challenging of guilds and corporations with quo warranto proceedings, his shifting attention to the courts in the aftermath of the collapse of the Licensing Act. Baxter was surely well informed of the particulars of that crisis. He chronicled in the last pages of his manuscript the Oates affair and the parliamentary vote of exclusion. But he downplayed contemporary events. It became more important for him to frame them in relation to historical memory. He noted, for instance, that one of the public sermons that precipitated the event was delivered on the twentieth anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day ejection of ministers who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy.42

Given that he did not have his day in court, the pages of Reliquiae Baxterianae also became a forum, the only public forum (which would (p.262)

                   Beyond the lives of particular men

Illustration 5.4 Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, DWL MS. 59, xiii. 22–38

By permission of Dr. Williams’s Library, London

(p.263) clearly be a belated forum), for him to state ‘The Case of R.B.’ (RB, 3.192). This is the legal case he would have made, had he been given the chance. That case appeals to the customized wording of the license he had secured from the bishop of London more than two decades and many dispensations earlier to preach occasionally in the city. The case records the ‘Judgment of Lawyers, even of the present Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Pollexsen’ that the license remained valid, though those judgments were themselves a decade old.43 The case specified that Baxter had ‘Episcopal Ordination, and judge it gross Sacriledge to forsake my Calling’.44 The real hinge of the case, however, was Baxter’s firm assertion separating the powers of the law from those of religion: I am no Nonconformist in Law-Sence, (and my Conscience hath no Judge but God)’ (RB, 3.193).

That is, Baxter refused to recognize the civil court’s jurisdiction over his religious practices. Conscience was not theirs to adjudicate. But he was also tacitly conceding comprehension and appealing to legal toleration. In the manuscript, this vignette concludes at the bottom of a recto, the verso of which is left blank. It is a potential conclusion to the work, therefore, an ending made all the more persuasive by the catalogue of deaths of his contemporaries that immediately preceded the report of his arrest. The most poignant of these deaths, that of his wife, is left out of the published volume, perhaps as an instance of the ‘private concerns’ Morrice’s amanuensis reported the manuscript to be ‘full enough’ of or the things ‘too mean’ that Calamy argued should be expunged.45

The sense of at least a provisional conclusion to narrative and life alike is reinforced by yet another new beginning in the section that follows: ‘While I continue night and day under constant pain, and often strong, and under the sentence of approaching death by an uncurable disease which age and great debility yields to …’ (RB, 3.196). There were other provisional beginnings and endings. In the last section, it is as if each entry were potentially the last. For instance, shortly after reporting on the ‘extraordinary’ exclusion vote of the House of Commons in May 1679, he broke off:

But my unfitness, and the Torrent of late Matter here, stops me from proceeding to insert the History of this Age: It is done, and like to be done so copiously by others, that these shreds will be of small signification: Every year of late hath afforded matter for a Volume of Lamentations. Only (p.264) that Posterity may not be deluded by Credulity, I shall truly tell them, That Lying most Impudently in Print, against the most notorious Evidence of Truth, in the vending of cruel Malice against Men of Conscience, and the fear of God, is become so ordinary a Trade, as that its like, with Men of Experience, ere long to pass for a good Conclusion. [Dictum vel scriptum est (a Malignus) Ergo falsum est.] Many of the Malignant Clergy and Laity, especially Le Strange the Observator, and such others do with so great Confidence publish the most Notorious Falshoods, that I must confess it hath greatly depressed my Esteem of most History, and of Humane Nature. If other Historians be like some of these Times, their Assertions, when-ever they speak of such as they distaste, are to be Read as Hebrew, backward; and are so far from signifying Truth, that many for one are downright Lies. It’s no wonder Perjury is grown so common, when the most Impudent Lying hath so prepared the way (RB, 3.187).

That ‘torrent of late matter’ takes Baxter right up to James’s accession. He comments guardedly and sometimes obliquely on current events, as when he places an event after the ‘earl of Shaftsbury was broken and gone’ (RB, 3.196). But in the final pages, he is most interested in driving home a historical point and providing a prophetic view of the events of his own time and culture: ‘I saw what I long foresaw, each extreme party growing more extreme’ (RB, 3.197). Increasingly, he saw, too, the hand of papists in fostering divisions in English society. With the renewed antagonisms, Baxter’s target of blame for religious, political, and social woes was also honed. In particular, his assessment of papist threats to the Protestant unity he so advocated darkened, extending even to, and fixating on, Charles I’s support of the Irish rebellion in 1641.

The Protestant Deliverance

When he wrote A Holy Commonwealth, Baxter had had no direct access to reports of the Irish rebellion in 1641. He had merely passed along the scare mongering numbers from published accounts of 200,000 people killed. By the end of the century, though, people in Baxter’s circle did have more direct experience or at least had opened channels of news. Roger Morrice routinely reported on news from Ireland. Another of Baxter’s confidants, Daniel Williams, also played a central role in the heightened antagonisms between dissenters and Irish Catholics during James II’s brief reign. Williams was a valued councilor on Irish affairs to the king. How did he come by that expertise? His tale of unexpected pathways to a settled religious identity is quickly told and by now familiar in its contours. Williams’s ministerial training is obscure (and possibly Independent in (p.265) origin). He went to Ireland in 1664 as a chaplain to the countess of Meath.46 He ministered successively to mixed Independent and Presbyterian congregations in Drogheda and in Wood St., Dublin. He married two wealthy widows (successively). As chaplain to the countess, he was already admitted to the world of the godly landed aristocrat. With his first marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Meredith and widow of Thomas Juxon, he gained further entrée to the circle of influential landowners and civic administrators.47 When Williams went to Ireland, the Independents had already lost a lot of ground to Baptists and Scots Presbyterians. Yet, the three made common cause against the greater threats of Catholicism and the established church. As Phil Kilroy has argued, Independents and Presbyterians ‘could not afford to entertain public disputes in Ireland’.48

But Williams fled Dublin in 1687, in the aftermath of the program of Catholicization advanced by James II and his newly appointed lord deputy Tyrconnell.49 Ireland rapidly destablilized after James’s accession, and the re-exposed faultlines were anxiously watched and debated throughout the three kingdoms. Williams became more strongly partisan, more strongly identified with Presbyterian interests back in England (as Kilroy reports many Irish nonconformist refugees did). In 1689 Williams stoked the anti-Catholic fires with thanksgiving sermons that pointedly drew historic parallels with 1641. In The Protestant Deliverance, for instance, he praised God for saving the ‘Protestant interest’ from the rebellion begun in Ireland in 1641. He passed on the inflated number of 200,000 lives taken then. He reminded his auditors that ‘while a Protestant Interest was supported in Ireland, there could be no Nursery of Instruments raised to set up Popery and Slavery among you’ (The Protestant Deliverance, 19).

The fact that a Catholic monarch had so recently succeeded to the throne—or the failure to exclude such an event—only certified the blame for social unrest on the Irish rebellion of 1641. Those few scholars who have examined the editorial changes made to the manuscript of Reliquiae Baxterianae have noted that blame for Catholics and 1641 was heightened (p.266) by Calamy. The flames of antagonism were fanned, as I have just described, by Williams, as well. But Calamy and Williams were only picking up on—and further spinning—the historical analogies and cyclical returns that Baxter saw as fundamental to the course of human events.

In the last pages of his personal witness to history, Baxter took a magisterial view of persecutions. He placed his own sufferings in the context of the ‘many excellent persons [who] die in Common jails’ (RB, 3.199), the Huguenot refugees crowding English and Irish cities, the need for Bibles and other pastoral books to be distributed in Wales and countries abroad (RB, 3.190), the Scottish Presbyterians threatened with banishment as slaves, and Hungarian ministers actually suffering that fate (RB, 3.184 [misprinted 180]). His personal fate and current events fall away, then, with another distancing conclusion:

As to the present State of England, the Plots, the Execution of Men High and Low, the Publick Counsels and Designs, the Quality and Practice of Judges, and Bishops,…the Reader must expect none of this sort of History from me; no doubt but there will be many Volumes of it, by others transmitted to posterity; who may do it more fully than I can now do’ (RB, 3.200).

With that final farewell, Baxter left his own last great public act in medias res. He had earlier mentioned his A Paraphrase on the New Testament (undertaken in 1684, published in 1685), ‘like to be the last of my Life’ (RB, 3.198). The work began as a commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. It was also part of Baxter’s stepped-up program of print publication after the lapse of the Licensing Act. For Baxter and L’Estrange, the commentary brought them both directly back to the flashpoint of political systems, their relations with religious systems, and the nature of the subject who inhabits them both.

Romans 13 begins, ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God’. In his general head note to the Epistle, Baxter pushed some old hot buttons. He described the Jewish nation as a Holy Commonwealth, under divine law, ‘their Princes being but Executioners, and not having Power of Legislation, to add, abrogate, or diminish’. ‘This Law’, he continued, ‘was wholly Political; that is, the Rule of the Subjects Obedience, and the Rewards and Punishments, to be exercised by God as Supreme, and by Magistrates as his Officers, in the Government of that People as a Holy Commonwealth’ (Paraphrase, 3Av).

Strikingly, Baxter’s biblical commentary was worked into the body of the text, not relegated to the shoulders or the foot of the page. Further, all Baxter’s protestations that the Paraphrase was not controversial, but easy (p.267) and written in plain and conciliatory language, could not possibly wash with L’Estrange. Baxter seemed to recognize as much in a letter he wrote to L’Estrange, hoping to forestall an attack in L’Estrange’s paper, The Observator. ‘No Law forbad me printing’, he noted (CCB 2. 268, item 1148; DWL MS. 59, v. 38). Though the work may ‘asserteth non-resistance even of heathish Gouvernors’ (ibid.), it also raised the topic of the relations between political systems and religious belief. This old grudge was very personal for Baxter and L’Estrange. In another letter to L’Estrange, following some reports in The Observator that Baxter had stolen a medal from a royalist soldier in the civil war, Baxter chided:

God hath not put the decision of all politicall controversies among the Articles of our faith. Christ himselfe avoided the decision of the rightfullnes [sic] of some of Caesars claims, which became the occasion of his false accusers charge against him. Paul would not determine whether Caesar or the senate was the higher power. You cannot but know that God hath left severall formes of Government & degrees of power, lawfull: And he that would know the measures of his obedience in Moscovie, Constantinople, Rome, Venice, Holland, France, England &c. must goe for resolution to humane Contracts & Lawes & not the Bible only (CCB 2. 250–1, item 1113; DWL MS. 59, ii. 122).

Baxter had a precisian’s interest in ‘humane Contracts & Lawes’. Yet the biblical nation of Israel remained his touchstone of godly nationhood, a Holy Commonwealth. L’Estrange struck again after the publication of the Paraphrase. Marshals laid siege to Baxter’s home; he was arrested; he was bound for £400. Again, there was no clear charge: ‘they told me it was for no fault, but to secure the Government in evil Times’ (RB, 3.199). Too infirm to walk, Baxter was carried to the sessions-house, where in the absence of some of the more sympathetic justices, the bond was continued (and continued again in January 1685).50 At that time, as Baxter reported on the last page of the printed Reliquiae Baxterianae:

one justice, Sir --- --- Deerham said that it’s like that these persons solicited so for my liberty that they might come to hear me in Conventicles: and on that they bound me again in Four hundred pound bond, for above a Quarter of a year (and so it’s like it will be till I die, or worse; Tho’ no one ever accused me for any Conventicle or Preaching since they took all my Books and Goods above two years ago, and I for the most part keep my bed (RB, 3:200).

In his autobiographical manuscript, Baxter does not report what followed next.51 But his implicit plan of writing these personal reflections and (p.268) experiences into a historical network of similar acts of eyewitnessing was being realized even before the publication of Reliquiae Baxterianae. For Roger Morrice did report what followed next. His ‘Entring Book’ contains a shorthand account taken from the courtroom of the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. Baxter had been arrested for sedition again and sent to the King’s Bench jail in late February 1685, at the time of James’s accession. Henry Ashurst, son of his old friend, provided physical support when Baxter appeared at the bar. Morrice reports that Jeffreys repeatedly chastised Baxter and refused to give him voice in the courtroom: ‘Richard, Richard, dost thou think we will incur the danger of being at a Conventicle to hear thee preach?’ (EBRM 3, 10–2) Jeffreys’s behavior shocked John Tillotson, who had shared Baxter’s hopes for religious comprehension, and spearheaded what was to be the last, unsuccessful attempt to achieve it as William III’s archbishop. After Baxter’s death, Tillotson wrote to Sylvester with encouragement to publish the memoirs, and reminisced, ‘Nothing more honourable than when the Reverend Baxter stood at bay, berogued, abused, despised—Never more great than then’ (CCB 2. 330, item 330; DWL MS. 59, ii. 76).

Baxter’s trial followed Titus Oates’s in Jeffrey’s courtroom. The pair were ‘two of the greatest Rogues and Rascalls in the Kingdome’, according to Jeffreys (EBRM 3, 6), and he dealt them a symmetrical dispensation of justice—addressing threats from both extremes, and making of Baxter an icon of extremism. In celebrations of James’s accession, effigies of Baxter and Oates were burned. Baxter’s iconic status as extremist was thus endorsed on the streets (EBRM 3, 41).52

William Lamont has insisted that Baxter is not a hero of personal liberty, but rather a victim of political oppression.53 But if Baxter embraced the role of exemplary victim of religious persecution, he gave as good as he got. Paradoxically, in his unending search for a communion of Protestants, he never tired of lecturing any and all parties on their variances from doctrines and practices of perfect comity. Increasingly, he constructed his identity as a product of actions not taken (another compulsively compiled list). He did not take the Commonwealth’s Oath of Engagement; nor did he take the restored monarchy’s Oath of Loyalty; he did not accept a bishopric (twice); he did not take payment for his itinerant preaching from parishioners (who were already tithed); he did not declare a sectarian allegiance in registering for a license to preach in 1672; he did not take payment for his books from his booksellers, or if he did so, he funded the distribution of those books to the poor.

(p.269) Above all, and as I have been arguing here, Baxter would not take a partisan identity—whether as conformist or nonconformist, subject of a Commonwealth or a monarchy. By those very refusals, he was less sharply defined. In so far as he was available to and open to the converted and the unconverted alike, he could be ‘a mighty Don of a mighty party’ (as Jeffreys accused him of being in his courtroom). Yet it was a thin layer of support. Increasingly and in compensation, Baxter developed a historical consciousness, a sense of the significance of his writing as a first-person witness to history. He had a keen awareness of the impact events may have ‘beyond the lives of particular men’, as he had written when horrified at the sudden coup of Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate. The corollary to this principle is that individual lives have resonances, too, beyond their corporal limits. As Baxter returned to his manuscript ‘Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times’, at various stages in his life, he was thinking about the extension of communal identity in a diachronic dimension. He wrote with an understanding that aspects of identity are transpersonal; they survive the individual life.

There is, then, a new explanation for the shapelessness of Reliquiae Baxterianae. We can find a new perspective on Baxter’s rhetoric of incompletion. It is not that he did not recognize axial moments in his personal life or the history of the nation. But he increasingly saw them as cyclical returns to critical issues. On principle, he would not choose any single turning point as the axial moment of identity formation. Rather, he sought an alternative way of writing about and conceptualizing the self-in-process.

Early on, in a ‘personal’ anecdote in Reliquiae Baxterianae, Baxter wrote of his father’s piety and the early influence of Bunny’s Resolution. But he demurred, ‘Yet whether sincere Conversion began now, or before, or after, I was never able to this day to know’ (RB, 1.3). A few pages further on, he wrote:

And yet after all, I was glad of Probabilities instead of full undoubted Certainties; and to this very day, though I have no such degree of Doubtfulness as is any great trouble to my Soul, or procureth any great disquieting Fears, yet cannot I say that I have such a certainty of my own sincerity in Grace, as excludeth all Doubts and Fears of the contrary (RB, 1.9).

Pastorally, he could not endorse experiential Calvinism unconditionally. Conceptually, he articulated experience as a principle of mutability. He did so as a challenge to the then predominant discursive conventions that modeled a decisive turning point in a life, marked by an awareness of election and so proclaiming that election. Therefore, pace Sylvester and all the generations of readers who have wished for a more fully shaped (p.270) narrative, it was never to be. Even if Baxter had continued his autobiographical narrative, it could not possibly have been to change course or change conception or quickly shape it up neatly packaged and oriented around a single moment of determinative change—in self or state. That is not the writer he was; that is not the self he was. Reliquiae Baxterianae ends—as it was almost preordained to do—on a properly Baxterian note of continued accretions and first-person historical witnessing. It ends, too, on a characteristically Baxterian lack of control of the niceties of order. There is no final punctuation of a period to bring to a close the more than eight hundred folio pages of print.

Identity, Baxter well knew, was a mutable thing, and reputation was in the hands of others. Near the end of Reliquiae Baxterianae, Baxter reported a number of stories circulating about him, including one that he stole a medal from a wounded Royalist soldier in the civil war, another that he beat to death a noisy tinker (and this when he was well into his old age), and even a final disclaimer that he was not the Richard Baxter, a Sabbatarian Anabaptist, who was sent to jail for refusing the Oath of Allegiance (RB, 3.200). Indeed not. He was rather the Richard Baxter whose disordered piles of manuscripts were shaped into print by a designated cadre of advisors, whose sober image was affixed to the posthumous folio, and whose store of first-person witnessing of the means to establish a Holy Commonwealth was offered for the good of the reader who had not lived through those times.


(1) N. H. Keeble, Richard Baxter, Puritan Man of Letters (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982).

(2) Geoffrey F. Nuttall notes suggestively that the term ‘Passages’ is borrowed from Quaker practice: ‘The MS. of Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696)’, JEH 6 (1955), 76, n. 1.

(3) See, however, Lamont, Puritanism and Historical Controversy (London: UCL Press, 1996), 47–8; and Tim Cooper, Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: Richard Baxter and Antinomianism (Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate, 2001), 96–7, on Baxter’s singular use of the language of conversion.

(4) ODNB, s.v. Baxter, Richard (1615–91).

(5) Nuttall, ‘The MS.’, 77–9; Cooper, Fear and Polemic, 156–7.

(6) RB, Appendix VII, 117.

(7) As early as True Christianity (1655), Simmons was appearing on the title pages of Baxter’s works as the publisher. Simmons entered copy for A Call to the Unconverted in the SR on 5 December 1657 (SR 2.159). There is no record of Simmons having come into the company, though he would not be allowed to enter copy in the Stationers’ Register if he were not a member, and references in the 1675 Journals of the House of Commons seem to indicate he might have been acting on behalf of the company in a raid on an MP’s house (CCD 2: 92, 96).

(8) Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 335. Baxter’s two bestsellers by far were The Saints Everlasting Rest (1650) and A Call to the Unconverted (1658), with nearly thirty editions of the latter printed in English before the end of the seventeenth century. On ‘The Fertility of the Press’, see Keeble, Puritan Man, 1–3, 8.

(9) Keeble appended a chronological bibliography of primary sources to Puritan Man of Letters, and cross-referenced it to the categories of anticipated readership that Baxter catalogued (156–69). See also ‘Checklist of Baxter’s Printed Works’ in CCB 1. xxi–xxiv.

(10) As in his letter to Katherine Gell, 2 September 1658 (CCB 1. 338–40, item 490; DWL MS. 59, v. 9); RB 1.106–124, 3.61–72.

(11) See also letter to Thomas Hill (CCB 1: 74–5, item 80; DWL MS. 59 iii. 266).

(12) Harrington is only dealt with superficially (HC Introduction, xiii–iv).

(13) Lamont, Richard Baxter and the Millennium, 119.

(14) Sir Roger L’Estrange, Considerations and Proposals in order to the Regulation of the Press (London, 1663), pp. 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 22.

(15) I. M. Green, The Re-establishment of the Church of England 1660–1663 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 83–90.

(16) Geoffrey F. Nuttall, ‘Relations between Presbyterians and Congregationalists in England’, Studies in the Puritan Tradition, A Joint Supplement of the Congregational Historical Society Transactions and the Presbyterian Historical Society Journal (December 1964), 1–7. See also Robert Armstrong, Protestant War: The ‘British’ of Ireland and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006). I thank Armstrong for conversation on the point that these now separate traditions were perhaps not so fully separated in the seventeenth century.

(17) Unlike the book list, the leaf with Baxter’s retraction was extractable, and is bound in the front of the book, between the end of the preface on b2, and the beginning of the text on B1 in the FSL copy.

(18) Tyton would eventually rise in the company to become an upper warden (1682–3) and then a member of the Court, from which he resigned in 1684 under the duress of the monarchy’s quo warranto proceedings against the company.

(19) B1298A, unique broadside, at PRO SP 29/274; HC xxiii.

(20) The Judgment and decree of the University of Oxford, [21 July] 1683, tp.

(21) See, for instance, Lamont, Puritanism and Historical Controversy, 114 and, on Baxter’s views on the Irish rebellion as a primary cause of the English civil war, William Lamont, Richard Baxter and the Millennium (London: Croom Helm, 1979), 76–123. Certain of Sylvester’s editorial decisions exacerbate the discrepancies between the manuscript and print versions of RB. See Nuttall, ‘The MS.’, 77–8.

(22) Sharon Achinstein, Literature and Dissent in Milton’s England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 94–101. In calling critical attention to this overlooked poem, Achinstein also supports Lamont’s argument that Baxter was obsessed with the origins of the English civil war.

(23) Keeble, Puritan Man, 18.

(24) Keeble, Puritan Man, 2.

(25) Keeble, Puritan Man, 132–40.

(26) Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Richard Baxter (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965), 131.

(27) Baxter liked to claim Ussher as a clerical forefather. See Nuttall, Richard Baxter, 80. It is not entirely clear that Ussher had the same view. The two met once, in London in 1654. Baxter had been nominated to serve on a committee to determine religious orthodoxy, after Ussher had declined the offer from Cromwell’s Protectorate. According to Baxter’s report in RB, Ussher encouraged him in his pastoral work. But when Baxter had consulted him through an intermediary for advice on the Worcestershire Association Proposals, Ussher endorsed the wording of an article on the Trinity. But he also sent word back that ‘hee would never refuse his best advice to any for peace & unity, but that hee thought it not fit to appeare much for any new Models’. CCB 1. 92–4, items 109 and 111 (DWL MS. 59, vi. 94, 79); RB, 2.206.

(28) Isabel Rivers, ‘Dissenting and Methodist Books of Practical Divinity’, in Isabel Rivers (ed.), Books and their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982), 139–45; Green, Print and Protestantism, 335–8.

(29) Tyton continued to publish the work through the eleventh edition (1677). After Underhill’s death, his widow Jane joined Tyton as publisher for the ninth and tenth editions (1662 and 1669).

(30) W B 1180B.

(31) SER [1652], Or-v. Three unnumbered pages are printed in significantly larger type and inserted between pages 160 and 161.

(32) See for comparison pp. 157–60 (1652).

(33) Keeble, Puritan Man, 187–8, n. 52; Keeble, Loving and Free Converse: Richard Baxter in his Letters (London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 1991), 9.

(34) Richard Baxter’s Confession of his Faith (1655), W B 1231, also included the addition to the eleventh chapter of the third part of the Saints Rest (sig. Aaaa) ‘for them that have not the Last Edition of that Book’ (Table of Contents, [f4r]).

(35) On the distribution of Baxter’s library, see EBRM 1, 339–41 (Appx. 4).

(36) BT, item 255, p. 24.

(37) The lack of order (and some lax oversight) allowed for certain portions of the manuscript to go home with a curator and subsequently be sold in an auction of his books. Those sections are now at the BL. Other sections have gone missing. The bulk is still housed at Dr. Williams’s Library.

(38) Lamont, Richard Baxter and the Millenium, Chap. 2, 76–123.

(39) Keeble, ‘The Autobiographer as Apologist: Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696)’, Prose Studies 9 (1986).

(40) Nuttall, ‘The MS.’, 77–9.

(41) BL Ashley 4772. (1.), flyleaf.

(42) Similarly, he had marked his resumption of preaching after the Declaration of Indulgence as the tenth anniversary of the 1662 Ejection of nonconformist ministers.

(43) See BT, p. 15, item 130 for evidence that Saunders’s judgment was inaccurately printed in RB.

(44) This may be the only evidence, such as it is, that Baxter was ordained.

(45) BT, item 255, p. 24; Nuttall, ‘The MS.’, 77.

(46) Mary, d. 1685, daughter of Calcot Chambre of Denbigh, wife of Edward, 2nd earl (he died in 1675); PRO PROB 11/349/122.

(47) I thank Jane Ohlmeyer for her advice in personal correspondence on tracking Williams’s Irish connections.

(48) Phil Kilroy, Protestant Dissent and Controversy in Ireland 1660–1714 (Cork: Cork University Press, 1994), 74–5. Richard Greaves adds the relative shortage of clergy as a factor mitigating sectarian division, God’s Other Children: Protestant Nonconformists and the Emergence of Denominational Churches in Ireland, 1660–1700 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 160–2.

(49) Tim Harris, Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720 (London: Penguin Books, 2007) Chapter Three, 101–43.

(50) ‘I was told that they did all by instructions from, &c. -------and that the main end was to restrain me from writing’ (RB, 3.199).

(51) Nuttall, Richard Baxter, 110–11.

(52) Harris, Revolution, 94–5.

(53) Lamont, Puritanism and Historical Controversy, 81.