One Anglican view of Dissent
The Rev. William Cole, the subject of yesterday’s post, was not too atypical of many Anglican ministers in the eighteenth century: he was not overly interested in his parish, and he had no love for Dissent. As he told Horace Walpole in 1780: “It is a matter of astonishment to me in this enlightened age to observe the intolerant spirit of the Dissenters. I am sure we want no proof that if the Catholics are bigots, the fanatics [i.e. the Dissenters] of this island are on a par with them…” (Letter to Horace Walpole, July 2, 1780 in Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with The Rev. William Cole, ed. W.S. Lewis and A. Doyle Wallace [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1937], II, 226).
He did know some Dissenting ministers first-hand. Robert Robinson (1735–1790), the well-known Baptist minister of Cambridge, called upon him in December 1777. Cole later described Robinson as “an ingenious man, as his publications prove” (Letter to Horace Walpole, March 29, 1778 in Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with The Rev. William Cole, ed. Lewis and Wallace, II, 71–72). Robinson’s ingenuity, however, could not have been striking enough to change Cole’s opinion of Dissenters!
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