( the elder )
From SOCINIANISM IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND, 1951 by John McLachlan
Of the three Socinian groups reported to
be meeting in London in 1676, according to a Government informer, one
met 'at the house of Mrs. Stutsky, a Polander's wife'. She is said to be
entertaining 'young Crellius and his wife and other Socinians, and has
meetings there upon set dayes'.1
The regular meeting fourteen years after the death of John Bidle is a
fact to be noted, even though the report, typical of its kind, is
garbled and unreliable in regard to detail. Mrs. 'Stutsky' was indeed no
'Polander's wife' but an Englishwoman and, not improbably, the widow of Hugh
Stuckey, a merchant-tailor of St. Sepulchre, London, whose will was
proved in 1665.2 Her only connexion
with Poland was her friendship with Christopher Crell, son of the famous
Socinian theologian, John Crell, whose [i.e. Christopher's] eldest son
and daughter she adopted in 1668.3
A letter of Henry Hedworth, 5 June 1662, to which reference has
already been made,4 shows that
Christopher Crell, senior, visited England in that year. Hedworth planned to
take him to Oxford to meet Knowles, Cooper, and Merret, 'friends of the
Archi-catholick5 faith', as Hedworth
called them, no doubt also to show him that city and some of the contents of
its libraries. This meeting, as we know, did not take place, but
Hedworth was instrumental in introducing his Polish friend to other Socinians
in London, notably Thomas Firmin, who immediately set to work to arrange
collection in aid of the Polish Socinian refugees. In a letter written
from London on 28 July 1662 to a friend in Holland Crell mentions Bidle
and his followers, whom he calls Bidellians, several times,
reports his arrest in June, and is fully of the 'subsidy for the exiled
Polish brethren' for which Oxford and Cambridge, town and country, were
being laid under contribution.
In 1666 Christopher Crell was again in England. This time, if not
before, he made the acquaintance in London of Mrs. Alice Stuckey, an
influential member of John Bidle's old congregation, who only shortly
before had lost her son, Nathaniel, a promising youth who had been a pupil
of her old pastor. Luckily, an account of his father's travels written
years after by Samuel Crell, the
second son of Christopher, senior, has been preserved. From this we
learn that Mrs. Stuckey persuaded her Polish co-religionist, an exile and
in poverty, to bring over two of his four children to England where she
undertook to act as their foster-parent. Two years later (in 1668)
their father made the journey with his eldest son, also named Christopher,
and his daughter, and left them in Mrs. Stuckey's care. It is this
brother and sister who are meant by the reference to 'young Crellius and
his wife' in the report already quoted. The two young people were e
evidently educated at the good lady's expense, not perhaps without
experiencing the bounty also of that generous-hearted philanthropist,
Christopher Crell, junior, later studied medicine at Leyden,
graduating M.D. on 6 July 1682, and
being admitted Licentiate of the College of Physicians on 2 April
1683. He made his home in England,
practising medicine and well known to men like Thomas Sydenham and John
Locke. Some verses of his were prefixed to a posthumously published
medical treatise of the former in
1695. indicating not only his connexion with the great physician but also
his own standing
in the contemporary world. He had dedicated his thesis in 1682, amongst
others, 'to Mrs. Alice Stuckey, who brought him up ; Mr. Henry Hedworth;
and Mr. Thomas Firmin'. To these London friends he evidently wished to
repay a debt of gratitude for past kindness to himself and his Socinian
compatriots in their need. This young man's tribute reveals the close
association and friendship which grew up in these years between English
and foreign Socinians, a fact which did not pass unnoticed by
contemporaries. Dr. John Edwards of Cambridge, for example, a bitter opponent of
Locke, declared in his Socinian Creed (1697), 'We are not sure
that some of those who go under the name of English Socinians are not
foreigners. Is not Crellius' 's stock somewhere harbour'd among
them?' The remark was somewhat stale in
application, but contained a modicum of truth. (pp. 288-90)
Of the active Socinian circle in London Mrs. Stuckey was
evidently a prominent member. In one of Hedworth's letters to Knowles
written in the autumn of 1662, shortly after the death of
Bidle, occur some veiled allusions to
contemporaries. Hedworth writes of the departure for Holland of his friend 'Mr.
Spinoste' (i.e. Christopher Crell, senior, who evidently adopted the
name Spinowski, though his son dropped it, as appears from the roll of
the Royal College of Physicians).
He then continues: 'Thither your friend Pil. was going this very week
and should have put out to sea this day if Mrs. Style had not hindered
her Husband, his companion, by her extream importunity. There is nothing
els hinders and if yt can be
overcome they wil be gone next week, for they are fully resolved upon it.'
On the face of its this passage tells us that a certain lady of strong
character had prevented two worthy gentlemen from travelling to Holland
land. To the recipient of the letter, however, there would be no
mystery about the persons concerned. Hedworth's letters to Knowles
invariably contained initials and contractions for friends and acquaintances
and were signed only by initials and monograms, a cautious practice
deemed necessary at a time when meetings of dissenters were proscribed and
Socinians in particular were regarded as beyond the pale of Christian
society. Thus he used the letters H. H., H. Hed., He P., H. P., H. H. P. What
the P. denoted it is hard to say, but that P. and 'Pil.' are the same
person is a fair conjecture. When Hedworth says that 'your friend Pil.'
had planned to go to Holland, it is plain that he is speaking of himself,
for he did in fact go very shortly aferwards. His companion, we may
safely infer, was to have
been Mr. Stuckey whose good lady Hedworth indicated under the perhaps
not inappropriate pseudonym of 'Mrs. Style'. Hedworth and the Stuckeys
must have been on terms of intimacy, and we may assume that Hedworth,
the foreign traveller, first introduced Christopher Crell, senior, to
Mrs. Stuckey in 1666. Behind this introduction and its consequences, the
adoption of Christopher junior and is sister by Mrs. Stuckey, may lie
the tragic circumstance of a double bereavement, for she appears to have
lost both husband and only son in the previous year, the year of the
Plague. Possibly both were victims of the same malady.
Nathaniel Stuckey died on 27 September 1665, at the early age of sixteen. According to Wood's information, he had been a pupil of Bidle in grammar and logic. He must also have been a very accomplished Latin scholar, since the year before he died he translated his master's Twofold Catechism into Latin, possibly with Thomas Firmin's encouragement, in order to give it wider currency abroad. The longer Catechism is dated 1664, the shorter has its own title page and is dated 1665. To these were added a sixteen-page essay on the passion and death of Christ and a Latin letter from Jeremiah Felbinger to Bidle, to which reverence has already been made.
Bibliographic ( University of California http://melvyl.cdlib.org )
Author Biddle, John, 1615-1662.
Title Duae catecheses [microform] : quarum prior simpliciter vocari potest catechesis scripturalis posterior, brevis catechesis scripturalis pro parvulis ... / primum quidem a' Johanne Biddello ... ; in Latinam linguam translatŠ per Nathanaelem Stuckey, 1664.
Publisher [London : s.n.], 1664.
Description 214,  p.
Series Early English books, 1641-1700 ;808:16.
Note Reproduction of original in Cambridge University Library.
Errata p.