Quaker Artists 3

Down to the Sea in Ships

Down to the Sea in Ships (1922) is a silent film about 19th century New Bedford whalers.  The plot centers arounddowntotheseainships Allan Dexter and Patience Morgan, who have fallen in love but are prevented from marrying by William Morgan, Patience’s father.  William Morgan objects because Allan is neither a whaler or a Quaker.  A subplot focuses on Siggs, a villain who also wants to marry Patience.  Much of the movie concerns Allan proving himself as a whaler.  Down to the Sea in Ships stars Marguerite Courtot, Raymond McKee, William Walcott, Jack Baston, James Turfler and Clara Bow.  Elmer Clifton directed, and John L.E. Pell wrote the screenplay.  A.G. Penrod and Paul H. Allen were the cameramen.

Quaker references abound in the film.  Patience and William Morgan are Friends.  Scenes were filmed at the Apponegansett Meetinghouse in Dartmouth.  The Meeting for Worship depicted there is accurate.  Women sit on the left; men sit on the right.  After a male Friend rises to give ministry, he removes his hat as do all other male Friends.  (Removing the hat while offering a message was a long Quaker tradition).  A visual joke should be noted, too.  During Meeting a Friend sits twiddling his thumbs, sign language for “Quaker”.  Title cards feature the plain language when it is used by Friends.

Down to the Sea in Ships is a well-made movie, if a bit melodramatic.  The whaling scenes are especially exciting.  (Clifton, the director, was an assistant to D.W. Griffith, and the Griffith influence is evident).  It was also Clara Bow’s second movie, and, as Dot, Patience’s younger sister, she lights up the screen.  The subplot is racist.  The villain is Chinese but is passing as Caucasian, and mention is made of his background repeatedly.  A film worth seeing.

A link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWs3zGueWDs&t=2443s

Gary Sandman

January 2019

Courageous Mr. Penn

Courageous Mr. Penn (1942) is a biographical film courageousmrpennabout William Penn. It portrays him as a vibrant, energetic leader. Scenes from Penn’s life depicted include his conversion to Quakerism; his trial for worshiping at a Friends Meeting; and his establishment of Pennsylvania. George Fox also makes a brief appearance. The movie stars Clifford Evans as Penn; Deborah Kerr as Gulielma Penn; James Harcourt as George Fox; and Dennis Arundell as King Charles II. A British National Films production, the movie was directed by Lance Comfort and produced by Richard Vernon. William Alwyn composed the soundtrack. Anatole de Grunwald wrote the screenplay, based on C.E. Vuillard’s novel William Penn.
Filmed during World War Two, Courageous Mr. Penn was made as propaganda to publicize British and American shared values. Its goal was to encourage American entry into the war. Penn’s commitment to freedom and democracy was therefore emphasized. His conversion to a non-state church was used to reflect his support of freedom of religion; his trial (and the innocent verdict) was used to confirm his belief in the right of a jury to make their own decision; and his establishment of the Pennsylvania legislature was used to show his commitment to democracy.
Courageous Mr. Penn is a mediocre film. Because the screenplay was hastily written, some of it is not accurate and its tone is melodramatic. Production values are minimal. The actors are very good, however. Clifford Evans makes a fine Penn. (Evans was a conscientious objector during the war). Deborah Kerr is radiant as Guli, his wife. And it is remarkable to see a movie about a pacifist leader in the middle of World War Two.
Gary Sandman
December 2018

Patsy & Tony Martin

Patsy and Tony Martin lead groups in chanting.  In 2000, at the Friends General Conference Gathering, they attended a chanting workshop facilitated by Beverly Shepard.  It was a transcendent experience for them.  When they returned home, they began organizing local groups.  Currently they host chanting at the Bower Center in Bedford and the Friends Meetinghouse in Roanoke.  Patsy is responsible for scheduling the groups and contacting people about the dates.  At the groups themselves Tony introduces the chants.  He uses chants from participants and well-known chanters as well as ones he has created himself.  The chanting begins, is interspersed and ends with silence.  The participants create the chant as they chant: listening to each other, following each other, leaving space between each other.  Occasionally rhythm instruments accompany the chanting.  Although there is certainly creativity involved, Patsy and Tony are reluctant to call the chanting they facilitate an art form.  To them, it is ministry and a form of worship.

Patsy and Tony are also active in community theater.  They actually met in a college play.  Patsy taught drama at Liberty High School, and Tony occasionally directed plays as the gifted resource teacher at Bedford Elementary School.  Nowadays they appear with the Little Town Players in Bedford.  Patsy takes photographs and does paper crafts, as well.  She loves to write a friend’s name in color over and over while holding them in the Light.

Patsy and Tony are long-time members of Roanoke (BYM) Meeting.  When they were serving in the Peace Corps in Malaysia, they were introduced to Quakerism. They returned to the United States and were active in Meetings in Salina, Kansas and Charlotte, North Carolina.  They became members of Roanoke Meeting after moving to Virginia in 1985.  Patsy worked for Friends General Conference for 13 years, serving in the role of Junior Gathering Coordinator.  Recently they began participating in the School of the Spirit’s “On Being a Spiritual Nurturer” program.

I know Patsy and Tony as great people and experienced Friends.  So it was a delight to attend one of their groups at the Meetinghouse and take part in their chanting.  I encourage you to join them sometime!

Gary Sandman


Charlie Brooker

Charlie Brooker (b. 1971) is an English satirist, critic, presenter and charliebrookerpicproducer.  He is known for his sharp and cynical observations.  His main subject is the effect of media (television, radio, print, video games, social media) on people.  Writing primarily for television, his shows have included TVGoHome; Dead Set; Screenwipe and, most notably, Black Mirror.  Brooker has also written for PC Zone and The Guardian.  His awards have included a BAFTA; a Royal Television Society Award; three British Comedy Awards; a British Press Award; and three Primetime Emmy Awards.

Brooker was raised a Friend at Wallingford (BrYM) Meeting.  His grandparents were Quaker missionaries.  His parents were actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  Brooker’s Quaker upbringing was very relaxed, however.  He says, “I wasn’t really aware they were a religious organization for quite some time….  No one tried to hammer the God nail into my forehead at an impressionable age.  In fact, the best thing about being a Quaker was the lack of God in my life. As a Quaker, I got to duck out of religious education lessons at my Church of England primary school. I sat outside the classroom with the offspring of other godless heathens, sketching comic strips….”  While he continues to call himself a Quaker, he has also identified as an atheist.

Brooker is a ferocious talent.  His Black Mirror, for example, is extraordinary.  A sort of darker Twilight Zone, it challenges people’s unquestioning acceptance of social media. “The Waldo Moment”, for example, eerily prophesizes the rise of President Trump.  Highly recommended.

Gary Sandman

October 2018

“Norman Morrison”

“Norman Morrison” is a poem about the Baltimore Quaker who burned himself to death at the Pentagon on November 2, 1965.  He did this in protest of the Vietnam War. Adrian Mitchell wrote the piece.  The poem comments on the consequences of Morrison’s act, rather than describing the act.  The piece’s tone nm newsletteris quiet and musing.  At the end the poem speaks about the fire changing Morrison’s pink skin to a Vietnamese’s gold skin.

Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) was an English poet, novelist, playwright and journalist.  His subjects varied widely, though he often wrote about politics. He used everyday language and images and, above all, humor.  As well, he was influenced by his love of music, especially rock-and-roll.  He was the first reporter to print an interview with the Beatles and later edited and contributed the foreword to Blackbird Singing, Paul McCartney’s collection of lyrics and poetry.  Mitchell’s works included Out Loud; Ride the Nightmare; Tyger: A Celebration Based on the Life and Works of William Blake; Love Songs of World War Three: Collected Stage Lyrics; and Adrian Mitchell’s Greatest Hits – The Top Forty.  He also co-wrote US, a play about the Vietnamese and American burnings, like Morrison’s.  He was honored with the Eric Gregory Award, the PEN Translation Prize and the Tokyo Festival Television Film Award.  A prominent pacifist and leftist, he often recited his poetry at political demonstrations.  Kenneth Tynan dubbed him “the British Mayakovsky”.

Norman Morrison was wrong and misguided.  We struggle for life, not death.  But his act continues to haunt me.

“Norman Morrison”, the poem, is heart-felt and heart-breaking.  Below is a link to Adrian Mitchell reciting it, starting at 1:35:


Gary Sandman

September 2018

Photographs of Dolley Madison

A handful of photographs of Dolley Madison exist. They depict her alone; with dm-picher niece, Annie Payne Cutts; and in a group portrait with President James Polk and others.   They were taken by Matthew Brady, with the exception of the last, which was taken by an anonymous photographer. In the group portrait her face is blurred because she has moved. (They are daguerreotypes, requiring the subjects to remain still for a period). Circa 1845, they show her in her later years.  Some paintings of Madison also exist, one of them done by Gilbert Stuart. As well, she wrote classical poetry and epigrams and was noted for her colorful dresses and trademark turbans.

Dolley Madison (1768-1849) was part of the Founding Generation of the American Republic. The wife of James Madison, the third Vice-President and fourth President of the United States, she was greatly influential in early American politics. In Washington DC, a brand new town in those days, American politicians largely did not know each other and related to each other with distrust and, sometimes, with violence. Women’s public role in politics was limited. Despite both these circumstances, with adroitness, Madison endeavored to create an attitude of conciliation and inclusiveness. Her salons and dinner parties in Washington DC were gathering places for elected officials to talk face-to-face and without rancor. Her tireless networking and letter-writing also supported this. Additionally, her political advice to James Madison and her influence on patronage were vital. Finally, Madison created the role of the First Lady. From hospitality to charity to fashion to decorating the White House, she established many of the parameters of the position. She was, in fact, the first Presidential wife to be called the First Lady.  Greatly loved by Americans, who called her, with affection, “Queen Dolley”, she was the most famous American woman of her day.

Dolley Madison was born in Cedar Creek, a North Carolina Quaker community, and grew up in Virginia and Pennsylvania Quaker Meetings. She worshipped at Pine Street Meeting in Philadelphia, where her parents were prominent members. She always chafed at the Society’s narrowness in the 18th century, however. A charming and lively young woman, she enjoyed the good things in life. (A Quaker elder once admonished her about her behavior. Madison smiled sweetly and then, as the elder went on, fell asleep). She married John Payne in 1790, and they were known as gay Quakers. (In those days this referred to Friends who enjoyed luxuries, not to sexual identity). After Payne’s death, she married James Madison and was disowned by Friends for marrying a non-Quaker. (She recalled, years later, after visiting Philadelphia, “(I) really felt an ancient terror of them (Friends) reviving to a great degree. The Religious Society used to control me entirely and debar me from so many advantages and pleasures. (Now I’m) so entirely out of their clutches”. She continued, on occasion, though, to use both the plain language and dress. As well, that reconciliation and inclusiveness she fostered in politics may have had roots in Friends. Madison did not follow some Friends beliefs, however. Tragically, she owned slaves. Despite James Madison’s will, in her impoverished old age, she even sold them. She also supported the War of 1812 wholeheartedly. After the burning of the White House by British soldiers, she stated that she wanted to consign them to the bottomless pit. In 1845, late in life, she was baptized into the Episcopalian Church.

It is remarkable to see photographs of Dolley Madison. They are the only photos we have of a leader of the Founding Generation.

August 2018

John Crook

John Crook (1617-91) was an early Quaker minister, Justice of the Peace and johncrookpicwriter. He was born into the gentry, probably in Lancashire, England. In 1654 he heard William Dewsbury, a Friends preacher, and was converted to Quakerism. He went on to become a noted Quaker minister, mostly active in Bedfordshire, and published a brief account of his life and numerous pamphlets. In 1658 one of the first sessions of Britain Yearly Meeting was held at Beckerings Park, his estate. Crook was also gagged, beaten, stoned and arrested several times for preaching Quakerism. In 1660, after one trial, he forfeited all of his property and money, though this was later rescinded by King Charles II. Based on his extensive legal knowledge and asserting his rights as an Englishman, he disputed all of his arrests. He was greatly loved by Friends.
“A Short History of the Life of John Crook” was his autobiography. His pamphlets included “Unrighteousness no Plea for Truth, nor Ignorance a Lover of it”; “The Case of Swearing (at all) Discussed”; “An Epistle for Unity, to prevent the Wiles of the Enemy”; “An Apology for the Quakers….”; “The Cry of the Innocent for Justice….”; and “Truth’s Principles….among the People of God called Quakers”. They offer explanations of Friends beliefs. His writings were widely popular with Friends in the 18th century.
“A Short History of the Life of John Crook” recounts the story of his experience with silent prayer. As an adolescent, he began a spiritual struggle to lead what he saw as a Godly life. He found nothing –not the Bible, sacraments, ministers, etc. -spoke to him spiritually, however. In despair, searching for a direct connection with the Spirit, he ended up finding a quiet place and praying silently. This then became his practice. On one occasion he heard an inner voice that said, “(I) will never leave thee nor forsake thee, saith I, the Lord, the mighty God”, and that gave him great peace. Years later, after his conversion to Quakerism, he noted that his early experiences with silent prayer suddenly made sense: “I came to see what it was that so long cried in me, upon every occasion, of serious inward retiring of my own spirit”.
The origins of Friends worship are unknown. One probable source was individuals like Crook with their experience of silent prayer. (George Fox was another example of this). Another possible source was people inspired by the ministry of the brothers Walter, Thomas and Bartholemew Legate, who preached about silent prayer. Those people gathered together in loose associations and called themselves the Seekers. Groups of them existed throughout England but especially in the cities of Bristol and London and the counties of Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmoreland and Yorkshire. They created a religious service of silent worship with spoken prayer. In 1652 the Sedburgh Seekers became the first group to join with George Fox.
John Crook was a remarkable individual. He was one of the early Quakers overshadowed by better known Friends, like George Fox and James Nayler.  His “A Short History of the Life of John Crook” is a lively, well-written piece. It also offers a rare glimpse into what may have been one source of the Quaker Meeting for Worship.
July 2018

“The Quaker Meeting” and “The Quakers’ Meeting”

“The Quaker Meeting” is a caricature of an anonymous Friends Meeting, c. 1810. rowlandson-quaker11It was drawn by Thomas Rowlandson. Friends sprawl or squat on the benches, some with heads bowed, some with hands to their foreheads. A few of them stand in the foreground. Curiously, despite contemporary Quaker custom, men and women are intermixed. An elderly woman stands, preaching.
“The Quakers’ Meeting” is a drawing of another anonymous Friends Meeting, 1809. It was rowlandson-quaker9etched by Thomas Rowlandson, based on a design by Augustus Charles Pugin and inspired by earlier pictures from John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sutherland, J. Hill, and Richard Bankes Harraden. Friends sit in orderly rows, women to the left, men to the right. Some Friends are visible in the balcony. Elders and ministers are stationed on the facing benches.
Several other Quaker drawings were created by Rowlandson. Among them were “Spiritual Love”; “The Quaker”; and “The Quaker and Commissioners of Excise”, the latter of which was a collaboration with George Moutard Woodward. Some of the pictures were bawdy or outright obscene: “Quaker in Love”; “The Unwelcome Visitor or the Quaker in a Quake”; and “Crimping a Quaker”. Two “Scene from a Farce Called ‘The Quaker’” drawings exist, both suggestive.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was an English caricaturist, noted for his political and social satire. His main subject was London street life. His most popular works were the “Tours of Dr. Syntax” series. He also illustrated many contemporary novels, including books by Goldsmith, Smollett and Sterne. As well, he produced numerous erotic drawings. Along with other English artists, he created the “John Bull” character, the personification of the United Kingdom.
Rowlandson occasionally worked with other artists. Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) was an Anglo-French artist, who worked mostly as an illustrator. George Moutard Woodward (1765-1809) was an English artist, sometimes credited with inventing the comic strip.
“The Quaker Meeting” is a plain, funny portrait of Friends. “The Quakers’ Meeting” is a gorgeous, reverent depiction of Friends. Two sides of the same coin.
Above is “The Quaker Meeting”; below it is “The Quakers’ Meeting”.
June 2018

Sarah Mapps Douglass

Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806-1882) was a writer, painter, teacher and activist. sarahdouglasspic2 Her prose and poetry were written under the pseudonym “Zillah” (and possibly “Sophonisba”) and published in the The Liberator, The Colored American, and the Anglo-African Magazine.  Her paintings, generally of flowers, were included in her letters.  She taught school in Philadelphia and New York City, among them the Institute for Colored Youth.  As an abolitionist, in 1833, Douglass helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and she was active at national anti-slavery conventions.  She lectured women on female hygiene and anatomy, based on her studies at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and the Ladies’ Institute of Pennsylvania Medical University.  She also founded the Female Literary Society to encourage women to learn to read and write.

Douglass was a third-generation Quaker.  She attended various Philadelphia Meetings, including North, Arch Street and Orange Street Meetings.  The Institute for Colored Youth, at which she taught, was a Quaker school.  She was a friend of Lucretia Mott and Sarah and Elizabeth Grimké.   Though she worshiped, spoke and dressed as a Friend, however, she never applied for membership.  (As neither had her grandparents and mother).  This was because Douglass was African-American, and racism was wide-spread among Friends.  Black Quakers were made to sit apart from white Friends on “black benches” and were denied membership.  (Though in advance of other parts of American society –Friends forbade slave ownership and supported African-American education –they retained other racist practices).  Douglass published a letter in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, refuting the belief that African-Americans preferred music and excitement in their religious services.  (She wrote, “I myself know some, whose hearts yearn for the quiet of your worshipping places, and who love the ‘still small voice’, better than harp or viol.”)  She also contributed stories about her painful experiences with Quakers to Sarah Grimké’s “Letter on the Subject of Prejudice against Colour amongst the Society of Friends in the United States”.

It was a shameful time among Quakers when they treated this Friend in that manner.

Above is a beautiful watercolor she included in one of her letters.

May 2018

Howard Brinton

Howard Brinton (1884-1973) was an author, theologian, professor and howardbrintonpicadministrator.  His books included Creative Worship; Guide to Quaker Practice; The Society of Friends; Friends for 300 Years; Prophetic Ministry; and Quaker Journals: Varieties of Religious Experiences Among Friends.  Brinton came from a long line of West Chester, Pennsylvania Quakers.  He graduated from Haverford College with a degree in mathematics and physics.  At Haverford he met Rufus Jones, who became his mentor.  He went on to teach at Olney, Pickering, Mills and Earlham.  In 1916 Brinton was appointed acting President of Guilford College, during which time he visited the conscientious objectors at Camp Jackson.   He performed relief work in Germany with the American Friends Service Committee after World War One.  In the 1930’s he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy, spent a year at Woodbrooke, and he and Anna, his wife, became Co-Directors at Pendle Hill.  In his later years he was involved in AFSC relief work in Japan, the formation of the World Council of Churches and the reunification of pastoral and unprogrammed Friends.  He is buried with his wife in the Oakland Friends Cemetery.

Brinton greatly influenced unprogrammed Friends through his writings.  His recommendations on Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, First Day School, service and vocal ministry were adopted by these Quakers.  His popularization of the term “testimonies” was broadly accepted.  Furthermore, his selection of certain testimonies –simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality, known by the acronym SPICE –was commonly used.  (Previously to Brinton, the word “testimonies” was almost never employed by Quakers.  Such topics were referred to as “advices” and dealt with numerous concerns).  Brinton’s belief that Friends is an experimental religion, grounded in experience, also appealed to these Quakers.  Above all, his conviction that the basis of Quakerism is mysticism as reflected in Meeting for Worship was generally shared.  (Friends from other branches of Quakerism, however, disputed this emphasis on mysticism).

I read most of Howard Brinton’s books when I first encountered Friends.  They are a clear, solid explanation of Friends principles as practiced by unprogrammed Friends.

April 2018