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William Prynne

1600-1669. Puritan pamphleteer. Born in Somerset and educated at Bath Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford, he was called to the bar in 1628. In Lincoln's Inn he was influenced by the preaching of John Preston. He developed a strong opposition to Arminianism,* the attacking of which was the subject of his early books. Also he sought to reform the morals of his age, his lengthy Histriomastix (1632) being an exposure of the immorality of stage plays. For his outspoken criticisms, which were resented at court, he was imprisoned, fined, and pilloried, losing both his ears. Nothing, however, could stop the flow of pamphlets from his pen.

When the Long Parliament met in 1640, he was soon released from prison and restored to his membership of Lincoln's Inn. He defended the parliamentary cause and attacked prelacy, being especially active in preparing the case against Archbishop Laud.* From 1645 he turned his attention to defending Erastian principles and attacking Independency* and, later, the Commonwealth government. Remaining fairly quiet in the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell,* he returned to active political activity in 1659 and helped to restore Charles II* to the throne. He was a member of the Convention and Cavalier parliaments and therein argued the case of the Presbyterians and of the need to comprehend them within the Church of England. His books and pamphlets total about 200.

See W.L. Lamont, Marginal Prynne (1966).

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