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John Webster

(1611—1682) schoolmaster and polemicist


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John Webster was born in Thornton-in-Craven, Yorkshire on 3 February 1610 and died in Clitheroe, Lancashire on 18 June 1682. Little is known of Webster's early years, or of how and where he received his education. He writes of Cambridge as if he knew it, but there are no official records to suggest that he was ever a student there. He somehow acquired a knowledge of medicine and chemistry, was ordained around 1632 or 1633, and became curate of Kildwick-in-Craven in 1634. In 1643 he was master of the free Grammar School at Clitheroe in Lancashire, but he left the school to become chaplain and physician to the Parliamentary Army during the civil war. Around this time he left the Church of England, and denounced the system of livings supported by tithes as un-Christian and corrupt – like many extreme Protestants, he felt that a Christian minister should support himself in some suitable profession. Towards the end of the civil war he was placed by the local authorities in the vicarage of Mitton in Yorkshire. In the mid-1650s he became a popular preacher at All Hallows, Lombard Street in London – his early publications consist of reprints of these sermons. In 1657 he was back in Clitheroe, making a living as a physician, with his interests turning from theology towards medicine, alchemy and metallurgy.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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