Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - E for Ellis Hookes

Ellis Hookes was baptised at St Margaret's Westminster in 1630 into an upper class family. His father Thomas was a courtier, a Yeoman of the Woodyard and servant to the young Prince Charles, later Charles II. It was therefore a great shock to his family and their friends when Ellis became a Quaker.

Sir William Waller
He tells of going, in 1657, to deliver a letter to his mother while she was staying with Sir William Waller and his wife at Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire. Lady Waller decided to try to argue him out of his Quaker beliefs and so she told him to go into her chamber. Once there she took his hat off his head, locked the door, and shouted at him. Ellis remained silent until in exasperation he said unceremoniously, 'Woman, shew thyself a sober woman.' In a fury Lady Waller began beating him about the head and pulling his hair, saying that she had never been called Woman before. She commanded her servant and her son to stand before Ellis and keep him penned in a corner of the room, where she continued to beat him, and called for a stick, as her fists were sore.

After a time he said, 'Instead of showing thyself a sober woman, thou hast shown thyself more like a beast.' At this insult to his wife, Sir William Waller, who had hitherto taken no part in the affair struck the Quaker down with a blow on his head, and they all cried, 'Out of the doors with him.' He was turned out and sent off, bare-headed, and deaf for a week from the blows which he had received. His parents were urged to disown him, which they did, although later his father relented and left Ellis money in his will.

However Ellis Hookes was not destitute but was employed from 1657 as a public servant to Friends, acting as a secretary to several London Quaker committees and receiving a salary of £50 a year. He was the first in a long line of Recording Clerks, although he never used that title. He was responsible for collecting, collating and copying accounts of the persecution and sufferings of Friends sent in from all over the country and wrote out the first two manuscript volumes in his own neat handwriting. He also suffered himself, not only at the hands of Lady Waller but in Newgate prison.

The Great Books of Sufferings in Friends House Library
As well as acting as a clerk Ellis undertook a plethora of time-consuming administrative and financial tasks. He bought property on behalf of Friends and was much concerned with Quaker publications. From 1672 he was clerk of the Second Day Morning Meeting which read, corrected and approved (or disapproved) all Quaker writings. He wrote some historical and controversial works himself, collaborated with George Fox on A Primer and Catechism for Children and An Introduction for Right Spelling, and edited and published several collected works of Friends such as Edward Burrough and James Parnell after their deaths. On top of this Ellis wrote regularly to Margaret Fell at Swarthmore to let her know the news of Friends in London.

In spite of his tireless efforts on behalf of Friends there were some who resented Ellis's position at the heart of London Quakers and thought he wielded an undue influence for someone who was paid for his work. In 1679 the Meeting of Twelve, to whom he had given devoted service for twenty-two years, demanded that 'Ellis Hookes do give an account what work and service he doth once every quarter to the Meeting in writing, that it may appear whether his work deserves his yearly salary.' His friends knew his worth however and Francis Howgill encouraged him, 'Though some slight thee, heed not that, but do what thou can and be diligent.'

Bunhill Fields burial ground
Ellis Hookes had no home or family of his own but lived in lodgings. For the last twenty years of his life he lodged with a widow, Anne Travers of Southwark, of whom he says, 'for her tenderness and care over me, being a weak man, I am greatly engaged.' During the Plague in 1665 Ellis stayed in London. Three of Anne's family died within a month and Ellis expected to die too but he says, 'every morning I counted it a great mercy that the Lord gave me another day and I was made a strength and help to poor Anne.' The next year during the Great Fire of London Ellis made it his priority to save as many of the books and papers he had worked so hard on when the Quaker headquarters at Bull and Mouth was burned to the ground.

Ellis Hookes continued to serve the Society of Friends until the end of his life. He attended Meeting for Sufferings in September 1681 and died at Anne Travers' house just over a month later at the age of 50. He was buried among Friends at Bunhill Fields, 'a very serviceable and good man.'

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