Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble (b. 1939) is a British novelist, short story writer, playwright, biographer drabbleimage3and critic. Her novels depict English women who struggle with the choices they make in their lives. The political, social and economic times during which the characters live also figure prominently. The novels include A Summer Bird-Cage; the Needle’s Eye; The Ice Age; The Witch of Exmoor; and The Peppered Moth.   A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is a collection of short stories. Her biographies include Arnold Bennett: A Biography and Angus Wilson:  A Biography. Her critical works include Wordsworth; The Genius of Thomas Hardy; Writer’s Britain: Landscape and Literature and, as editor, two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws is a memoir. Drabble has been awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize; the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the St. Louis Literary Award; and the Golden PEN Award. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and later promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The University of Cambridge has awarded her an honorary Doctorate in Letters.

Drabble is not a Friend. She says, however, “I remain very impressed by Quaker faith and behavior”. Her father was a Quaker, and she was raised with an emphasis on integrity and service. She attended Mount in York, a Friends school for girls, where her classmates included her sister, the novelist A.S. Byatt, and the actor Judi Dench. (She noted that she appeared in A Midsummer’s Night Dream where “Judi played Titania and I played a fairy”). Her mother also taught at the school. Drabble remembers the evening Meeting for Worship there as “a meditation – a “medi” – a silence to reflect on your day”.  Friendly testimonies, like the Inner Light, are an influence in her books. She has been active in feminist and peace causes.

I had been unfamiliar with Margaret Drabble’s work. I am reading The Peppered Moth now, a novel about Bessie Bawtry, a Yorkshire woman, and Faro, her granddaughter, both in their times trying to escape their upbringing. It is light, allusive writing with great power. A very good read.

September 2017

Rufus Jones

Rufus Jones (1863-1948) was the most influential Friend in 20th century rufuspicQuakerism. Due to his many accomplishments, at a World Conference on Religion, he was referred to as” the Quaker Pope”. 
Jones was born into an old Quaker family in Maine and attended Providence Friends School and Haverford College. For 41 years he was a Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Haverford College. With Henry Cadbury, he co-founded the American Friends Service Committee. As the editor and co-author of the Rowntree Series, several books detailing the story of Quakerism, he provided a ground-breaking summary of Friends history. Jones also helped establish Five Years Meeting, the precursor to Friends United Meeting. A main concern for him was the reunification of the various branches of Quakerism, for which he laid the groundwork. As well, he encouraged Friends to drop the plain language and dress. His main legacy for Friends was his revival of the testimony of the Inner Light, a belief among early Quakers. With that in mind, he popularized the George Fox quote that there is “that of God” in everyone. (It should be noted, however, that his emphasis on the Inner Light, to the exclusion of the Bible, is criticized by some Friends).
Jones wrote extensively on theology, mysticism and history. His books included The Abundant Life; The Luminous Trail; The Inner Life; The Eternal Gospel; The Faith and Practice of Quakerism; and Some Exponents of Mystical Religion. His Rowntree Series contributions included Studies in Mystical Religion; The Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries; The Quakers in the American Colonies; and The Later Periods of Quakerism. He was also the editor of the magazine Friends’ Review.
Rufus Jones touched my life in several ways. I first encountered Friends through a photo of an American Friends Service Committee peace vigil held in front of the White House. His writings, especially the histories of the Rowntree Series, greatly influenced my view of Quakers. And the testimony of the Inner Light remains a central guide in my life.
A quote:
“If we are to prove that Fox really struck a jet of living water, we ourselves must tap that same fountain”.
August 2017