The Journal of George Fox

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting


George Fox’s Journal was written later in his life with the benefit of hindsight, at a time when the Religious Society of Friends was struggling for acceptance. It was later edited after his death by Thomas Ellwood, under the direction of the Second-day Morning Meeting, and published in 1694. The Nickalls edition includes passages that were edited out when it was first published. Includes an introduction by Geoffrey Nuttall and an epilogue by Henry J. Cadbury.

From the Preface: "This new edition of George Fox's Journal is designed to replace for the general reader the text prepared by Thomas Ellwood, which was first published in 1694 and has been many times reprinted without substantial alterations, in England until 1902, and in America until 1892. . . . George Fox, through most of his life, did not keep a journal in the ordinary sense of a nearly contemporary day-to-day record. It was also Fox's habit to dictate, in preference to writing himself, if there was an amanuensis at hand. In 1675, or possibly beginning in 1674, Fox dictated to Thomas Lower, his stepson-in-law, an autobiography down to the year of writing. This is now called the Spence MS. . . . The Spence MS. has been published verbatim under the title The Journal of George Fox, by Cambridge University Press, 1911, 2 volumes, with an introduction by T. Edmund Harvey and full editorial notes by Norman Penney (currently out of print). It is referred to as the Cambridge Journal." The present text is a condensed version of the 1911 text, which is a collection of a number of documents, journals and letters.

Our Reviews

Kirk Wattles

George Fox, 1624-91, is sometimes called the "founder" of the Religious Society of Friends, a group that established itself in the 1650s. Early on, they called themselves Children of the Light and Friends of the Truth. As the group spread from the North of England into the south, they became known as Quakers, a name which stuck and is still used today. In the early years, Fox was one of several strong personalities most closely identified with the movement. Later, facing severe persecution and with the death of other early leaders, the Friends accepted Fox's institutional guidance, and he helped the movement to consolidate and survive through to an era of somewhat greater tolerance toward the end of his century.
Certainly Fox never set out to start another "religion." He hoped simply to open the hearts of everyone to the leading of the divine Spirit, without allowing the existing distinction of clergy and laity. His journal, composed years after most of the events covered, retains Fox's direct, down-to-earth form of ministry. The language is not flowery, yet it brings up deep and powerful spiritual ideas, with strong imagery that still sparkles in Quaker language.
"Now the Lord God opened to me by His invisible power that every man was enlightened by the divine Light of Christ, and I saw it shine through all; and that they that believed in it came out of condemnation to the Light of life, and became the children of it; but they that hated it, and did not believe in it, were condemned by it, though they made a profession of Christ. This I saw in the pure openings of the Light without the help of any man; neither did I then know where to find it in the Scriptures; though afterwards, searching the Scriptures, I found it."
This edition of Fox's Journal was abridged and edited by Rufus Jones in the early part of the last century, thus making it more accessible to a wider audience. However, some who dwell on the theological nuances and regard Fox as authoritative find this edition disappointing. (The John L. Nickalls edition of Fox's Journal is regarded as definitive.) Rufus Jones provides a helpful introduction, presenting briefly his own idea that Fox raised to a new level an already widespread movement of grassroots mysticism.