Skipton 1907

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Skipton, H. P. K. The Life and Times of Nicholas Ferrar. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1907.

Robert Ferrar, great-uncle to Nicholas Ferrar, killed in Marian persecutions

  • story told in Foxe (14)

as a child, Ferrar read and memorized Scriptures and passages from the Book of Martyrs each day (25)

  • could read and repeat Biblical chapters by age 5

traveled with the Princess Elizabeth

  • Francis Quarles, author of Pious Emblems, may have been on board the same ship (36)
  • traveled with his own concordance and the New Testament (45)

involvement in the Virginia Company

  • William Crashaw (father to Richard Crashaw) was an early supporter of the plantations (61)

extrication of family from problems of Virginia Company, commemorated with a prayer of thanksgiving, read every year at Little Gidding until September 1657, possibly longer (81)

"Wonderful indeed hath been Thy goodness towards us: while the wise have been disappointed in their counsels, while the full of friends have been left desolate, while the men whose hands were mighty have found nothing, while the strong on every side have fallen, we, O Lord, have been by Thy power raised up, by Thine arm have we been strengthened, guided by Thy counsels, and relieved by the favour of Thy mercies. and that we might know that it was Thy doing, by those ways and means which we thought not of, Thou hast brought us into a wealthy place, and to the many comforts which we now enjoy." (for better edited version from the MS, see [Maycock 1938] 108

intention to found Little Gidding; announcement took the form of a solemn vow, formally recorded on parchment:

"That since God had so often heard his most humble petitions, and delivered him out of many dangers; and in many desperate calamities had extended His mercy to him; he would therefor now give himself up continually to serve God to the utmost of his power, in the office of a deacon, to be the Levite himself in his own house, and to make his own relations, which were many, his cure of souls." (85)

description of the church as the Ferrars rebuilt it

  • "fair island seat" set aside for Mrs. Ferrar and the women
  • description of furniture: green cloth for week days, rich blue cloth decoarded with lace and silver for festivals; new brass font and lectern (89)

layout of the house

  • one large room for family oratory, two smaller for night oratories for men and women respectively
  • each niece and nephew had separate rooms, with three more set aside for schoolmasters


  • large dovecote converted into a schoolhouse for neighboring children, educated without expense in reading, writing, arithmetic and Christianity
    • three schoolmasters: one to teach English to strangers, and English and Latin to the family; the second to teach good writing; the third to instruct in singing and playing music
  • women taught the same as men "except where the difference of sex made a different employment or recreation proper" (?) (94)
  • Ferrar himself taught the older children in religious studies
    • learning passages of the Bible by heart, including the entirety of the Book of Psalms
  • daily catechetical lectures, according to Anglican doctrine (9405)


  • children from surrounding parishes, encourages to memorize the Psalms
  • each was given a Psalter by the Ferrars
  • each went to Gidding every Sunday morning to repeat his psalm, until they could repeat the whole book
  • each received a penny for every psalm they could repeat perfectly, and their dinner (97)

Sunday service (97-8)

  • Psalm-children served by Mrs. Ferrar
  • family dined in the great dining-room
  • sang a hymn as dinner was being served
  • during dinner a younger person would read from a chapter in the bible; after that, a story from the Book of Martyrs or Ferrar's short histories

weekday routine (99-100)

  • Psalms said during the day, repeated at each hourly office
  • most-frequently sung hymn: "Angel's Hymn" from George Wither's Hymnes and Songs of the Church; accompanying melody by Orlando Gibbons (George Wither had been a protege of Princess Elizabeth, may have met Ferrar) (101)


  • a Cambridge bookbinder's daughter visited Little Gidding often, taught the whole family bookbinding, gilding, lettering and "what they call pasting-printing, by the use of the rolling-press" (102)
  • set aside the "Concordance Chamber" near the oratory, colored with green varnish
    • two large tables at the sides of the walls, two printed copies of the evangelists of the same edition, two large presses and a store of high-quality white paper
  • continued making Harmonies until the death of John Ferrar
  • Mary Collett the most skillful bookbinder

Little Academy (105-6)

  • family formed into a kind of collegiate institution, with a Founder, Guardian, Moderator and Visitor
  • seven daughters, junior parts of the society: the Chief, the Patient, the Chearful, the Affectionate, the Submiss, the Obedient, the Moderate
  • each sustained his/her character through exercises
  • notes taken on the proceedings and written out by Ferrar, who contributed 'twelve excellent discourses' for the Christmas festival of 1631
  • five large folio volumes of the proceedings exist in the British Museum

Ferrar and Herbert, publication of The Temple (Ferrar's title) (116)

Ferrar and Crashaw; Crashaw used to go to Gidding on Sundays (119)

  • Ferrar Collett set under Crashaw's charge at Peterhouse in 1636 (120)
  • The Temperate Man, a joint work of Ferrar and Herbert, prefixed with Crashaw's poem (120)
  • "Ode which was prefixed to a little Prayer-book givento a young gentlewoman" -- the young woman may be Mary Collett
  • "Description of a Religious House and Condition of Life" (122)

Ferrar, translation of Valdesso's Divine Considerations (117)

  • sent to Herbert, who annotated it and bid him to bpulish it
  • published in 1638, after Ferrar's death; appeared with Herbert's annotations

Lenton's letter (from spring 1634) (128), turned into Armenian Nunnery pamphlet (169)

May 13, 1633: King visits Little Gidding on his way to Scotland (131)

  • following summer, King requested to loan one of the Concordances, which was returned several months later with the King's annotation
  • King requested his own Harmony, which was completed in a year
    • bound by Mary Collett in crimson velvelt with designs in gilt
  • requested a second book done for Kings and the Chronicles
    • completed and delivered to the king around October 1637
    • bound in purple velvet
    • the king intended to have the book printed (133)
  • the prince wanted his own book after seeing his father's (157)

table to Mrs. Ferrar's memory, done in consultation with George Herbert and hung in the parlor (see text on 136)

Ferrar's death

  • asked his brother to burn all of his secular literature over the spot where he was to be buried (147)

prince requested his own Harmony; "Upon this hint the younger Nicholas, taking counsel of 'his beloved kinswomen, that were the handiwork mistresses of the former works, ... they laying their heads together, thought a concordance of four several languages would be most useful, and beneficial, and pleasant to the young prince's disposition, and this they proceeded to compile with their usual care and finish, under the title of Monotessaron." (157-8)

1642, King visits again

  • King and the Palsgrave going over Harmonies (the Palsgrave would become famous as the inventor of mezzotint engraving) (175)

Virginia Ferrar

  • experiments with silkworm (187)