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George Fox

1624-1691. Founder of the Society of Friends. Born in Leicestershire and apprenticed to a shoemaker, he apparently had no formal schooling. In 1643 he parted from family and friends and traveled in search of enlightenment. After long, painful struggles he came in 1646 to rely on the “Inner Light of the Living Christ.” He forsook church attendance, dismissed contemporary religious controversies as trivial, and in 1647 began to preach that truth is to be found in God's voice speaking to the soul-hence, “Friends of Truth,” later abbreviated to “Friends.” In 1649 he was jailed for interrupting a Nottingham church service with an impassioned appeal from the Scriptures to the Holy Spirit as the authority and guide. In 1650 at Derby he was imprisoned as a blasphemer, and there a judge nicknamed the group “Quakers,” after Fox had exhorted the magistrates to “tremble at the word of the Lord.”

The prospect of a new government more sympathetic to his views did not attract Fox, for he declined a captaincy in the parliamentary army. NW England he found specially responsive, and it was there at Swarthmore Hall, near Ulverston, that he established his headquarters. His irenic spirit was more highly developed than that of many of his associates, and his discipline of religious silence had a sobering influence. Fox spent six years in different prisons, sometimes under terrible conditions. He campaigned against the latter and against other social evils. His later years were spent in the London area, working to the end in helping others, promoting schools, and campaigning for greater toleration-and all this despite poor health caused by prision severities. His famous journal was published posthumously in 1694.

See also Friends, Society of.

J. Smith (ed.), Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books (1867); T. Hodgkin, George Fox (1896); A.N. Brayshaw, The Personality of George Fox (3rd ed., 1933); H.J. Cadbury, George Fox's Book of Miracles (1948); editions of Fox's Journal by N. Penney (1911) and J.L. Nickalls (1952).