Willem Sewel (1653-1720) was a translator, journalist, poet and editor. He was multi-lingual (Dutch, English, Latin, Greek, French and German), translating A Large Dictionary of English-Dutch; A Compendious Guide to the Low Dutch Language; New Voyage Round the World; and Histoire du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament, among many other works. He wrote regularly for the Amsterdam Courant.
Sewel was a member of Amsterdam (Netherlands) Meeting. He was the first Quaker historian, his History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People called Quakers being published in 1717. Among other sources, the book was based on Quaker correspondence and Fox’s Journal. He translated several English Friend’s writings into Dutch, including William Penn’s No Cross, No Crown; Good Advice; and Further Account of… Pennsylvania; and Stephen Crisp’s Way to the Kingdom of Heaven. He also wrote Oratio in Luxum, a remonstrance against luxury. Sewel was a close friend of Penn, who invited him to head the Quaker school at Bristol. He translated for English Quakers when they visited the Netherlands. Unusually for early Friends, he allowed his portrait to be drawn by Gerhard Rademaker.
Dutch Friends began to gather in 1656 due to the missionary efforts of William Ames, William Caton and Stephen Crisp. Many were imprisoned, especially in Embden. Even so, several Quaker communities were founded and, with English Quakers, they spread Quakerism to Germany. By the mid-1700’s, because of persecution, most Dutch Friends had migrated to Pennsylvania. Friends gathered there again only in the 1920’s, with Netherlands Yearly Meeting now containing eight Meetings.
Harold Loukes (1921-1980) was a teacher and writer. He taught at the University of Delhi and administered Darjeeling’s New School. Later, he was Lecturer, then Reader-in-Education at Oxford University. He was also the editor of the magazine Living for Learning. His educational approach was nurturing and experiential, focusing especially on the reform of secondary schools. He wrote several works on education, including Teenage Morality and Secondary Modern. In addition, he was a Justice of the Peace and an Oxford City Education Committee member.
Loukes became a Friend while a student at Oxford University. After his return from India, he was active at Oxford Meeting. His particular concern was for Young Friends, by whom he was greatly loved. (He was Senior Member of the Oxford University Friends Society, that is, sponsor of the Young Friends group at the university). His ministry was eloquent, centering often on Meeting for Worship. As well, he served as Clerk of the Friends Home Service Committee from 1969 to 1973.
Loukes wrote extensively on Quakerism. His books included The Quaker Contribution, The Discovery of Quakerism, Friends and Their Children, and Seeking and Finding in the Society of Friends. He also delivered “The Castle and the Field”, the 1959 Swarthmore Lecture, and “Readiness for Religion”, the 1963 Rufus Jones Lecture. He contributed many articles to The Friend.
Harold Loukes brought me into Friends. I read The Quaker Contribution at Northern Illinois University in the early 1970’s. I was very moved by the book and began attending Meeting. (The Quaker Contribution remains the best short introduction to Friends I have ever encountered). Harold was known for bringing young people to Friends, as he did me. I am really sorry that I never met him.
“(Meeting for Worship is)….a living moment, a loving silence, the sound of the sea, the light behind the hills”.
The most bizarre Quaker art I have ever encountered appeared on Comedy Central’s Drunk History.
In the Drunk History episode “Mary Dyer”, a weeping, drunken woman told the story of Mary Dyer’s hanging in Boston in 1660. She recounted it in a slangy, obscenity-laced rant. The screen shifted back and forth between the woman and an actor playing Dyer. When the camera was focused on Dyer, she lip-synched the woman’s words. Her response to an on-looker horrified at her execution, for example: “That’s your problem, being a sick (blank)”.
Drunk History was created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner. It first appeared as a web series. People who are actually intoxicated tell little-known stories from history. In “Mary Dyer” Jen Kirkman, a comedian, is the drunken narrator; Winona Ryder is Dyer.
Initially I was appalled by “Mary Dyer”. The narrator seemed to be acting drunk and making fun of Dyer. After I learned she really was inebriated, I was mystified. I felt oddly moved by Kirkman’s genuine emotion and pain at Dyer’s death, finally. A strange little film. Very dark humor.
Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) was a painter and photographer. As a young woman, she fell in love with the mountains of western Canada. She became a remarkable figure: climbing glaciers; exploring caves; riding on top of boxcars through mountains.
Walcott focused on the Selkirk Mountains and the Canadian Rockies. She painted watercolors of their wild flowers and photographed their mountainscapes and glaciers. Four hundred of her watercolors were published in the five volume North American Wild Flowers. The books resulted in her being dubbed the “Audubon of Botany”. One of the first people to explore those mountains, she surveyed and photographed them extensively, and her research is still used to study climate change and land-shaping processes. (Mount Mary Vaux in Jasper National Park, near Alberta, was named for her). She was elected to the Academy of the Natural Sciences and belonged to the Photographic Society of Philadelphia and the Photo-Succession.
Walcott came from a wealthy Philadelphia family. Married to Charles Walcott, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, she became deeply involved in the Smithsonian and was also known as a prominent Washington DC hostess. She served on the Board of Indian Commissioners, which oversaw the Bureau of Indian Affairs, too. Because of her work in the mountains, she was called “the society woman in hobnailed boots”.
Walcott was descended from a long line of Philadelphia Quakers. She attended the Friends Select School and had planned to study at Bryn Mawr. She was a close friend of Lou Hoover, President Hoover’s wife. To provide the President and the First Lady with a place to worship, she helped found Florida Avenue Meeting and raised money to build the Meetinghouse. As well, she used the plain language throughout her life.
Walcott’s paintings of wild flowers were detailed and exquisite. Her photographs, especially of glaciers, were sometimes breathtaking.
Emmylou Harris (b. 1947) is a country musician known for her clear, poignant soprano. She has ranged widely, however, also playing rock-and-roll, folk, gospel and blues. Among others, her albums include Elite Hotel, Blue Kentucky Girl, Trio and Wrecking Ball. She has collaborated with and interpreted the songs of many musicians, such as Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and, most notably, Gram Parsons. She has been the recipient of 13 Grammys, seven #1 singles and 14 Top Ten albums as well as membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Harris attends Nashville Friends Meeting, along with Eugenia, her mother. She is active in the campaigns for landmine removal and for animal rights. She was instrumental in helping save the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.
I have always loved Emmylou Harris’ music, Live at the Ryman being a special favorite. It was delightful to discover her connection with Friends.
With the publication of the second edition of Quaker Artists, I have resumed writing monthly columns on Quaker art and artists. Here you will find pieces on Emmylou Harris, Mary Vaux Walcott, Drunk History, Harold Loukes, Willem Sewel, Quaker Dream Writings, Josiah Coale, Cecily Wood, Douglas Steere and John Perkin, Ann Docwra and Path to War. In May I will feature a piece on Sally Campbell, a New York City songwriter and musician.