Sewell, William

, the historian of the Quakers, was the son of Jacob Williamson Sewell, a citizen of Amsterdam, and a surgeon, and appears to have been born therein 1650. His grandfather, William Sewell, was an Englishman, and had resided at Kidderminster; but being one of the sect of the Brownists, left his native country for the more free enjoyment of his principles in Holland, married a Dutch woman of Utrecht, and settled there. The parents of the subject of this article both died when he was young, but had instructed him in the principles of the Quakers, to which he steadily adhered during life. His education in other respects appears to have been the fruit of his own application; and the time he could spare from the business to which he was apprenticed (that of a weaver) he employed with good success in attaining a knowledge of the Greek, Latin, English, French, and High Dutch, languages. His natural abilities being good, his application unwearied, and his habits strictly temperate, he soon became noticed by some of the most respectable booksellers in Holland; and the translation of works of credit, chiefly from the Latin and English tongues, into Low Dutch, seems to have been one of the principal sources from which his moderate income was derived, in addition to the part he took, at different times, in several approved periodical publications. His modest, unassuming manners gained him the esteem of several literary men, whose productions, there is reason to believe, were not unfrequently revised and prepared for the press by him. His knowledge of his native tongue was profound: his “Dictionary,” “Grammar,” and other treatises on it, having left very little room for succeeding improvement: and he assisted materially in the compilation of Halma’s French and Dutch Dictionary. His “History of the people called Quakers,” written first in Low Dutch, and afterwards, by himself, in English (dedicated to George I.) was a very laborious | undertaking, as he was scrupulously nice in the selection of his materials, which he had been during many years engaged in collecting. Of the English edition, for it cannot properly be called a translation, it may be truly said, that as the production of a foreigner, who had spent only about ten months in England, and that above forty years before, the style is far superior to what could have been reasonably expected. One principal object with the author was, a desire to correct what he conceived to be gross misrepresentations in Gerard Croese’s “History of Quakerism.” The exact time of SewelPs death does not appear; but in, a note of the editor’s to the third edition of his “Dictionary,” in 1726, he is mentioned as being lately deceased. His “History of the Quakers” appears to have been first published in 1722, folio, and reprinted in 1725. 1


Gent Mag. vol. LXXXII. Preface to his History.