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Jeremy Collier

Jeremy Collier (23 September 1650 – 26 April 1726) was an English theatre critic, non-juror bishop and theologian.



Born in Cambridgeshire, Collier was educated at the University of Cambridge, receiving the BA (1673) and MA (1676). A supporter of James II, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution. In 1713 he was consecrated a non-juror bishop by George Hickes and two Scottish bishops, Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar.


Collier was the primus of the nonjuring line and a strong supporter of the four usages. In the years following the Revolution he wrote a series of tracts questioning the legitimacy of the new monarchs and the deprival of the Non-juror bishops. He was well known for his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, 1708-1714, which was attacked for its tendentious political and theological comments, but nevertheless widely used. His Reasons for restoring some prayers and directions, as they stand in the communion-service of the first English reform’d liturgy, 1717 was the first salvo in the usages debate. His Essays were popular in his own day but are now little read.

Collier Controversy

In the history of English drama, Collier is known for his attack on the comedy of the 1690s in his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), which draws for its ammunition mostly on the plays of William Congreve and John Vanbrugh. During the English Interregnum, the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, had control of most of the English government. They placed heavy restrictions on entertainment and entertainment venues that were perceived as being pagan or immoral. Most plays were considered immoral and thus theaters were shut down all over England. In the English Restoration (1660), playwrights reacted against the Puritanical restrictions with much more decadent plays. The plays produced in the Restoration drew comparisons to the great Elizabethan dramas by critics of the day. Collier's pamphlets sought to stem the spread of vice but turned out to be the sparks that kindled a controversial flame between like-minded Puritans and Restoration dramatists.

Collier devotes nearly 300 pages to decrying what he perceived as profanity and moral degeneration in the stage productions of the era. This ranged from general attacks on the morality of Restoration theater to very specific indictments of playwrights of the day. Collier argued that a venue as influential as the theater--it was believed then that the theater should be providing moral instruction--should not have content that is morally detrimental. Many of the playwrights responded with equally vehement attacks, but some were so deeply affected, they withdrew from theater permanently, William Congreve amongst them.

Collier's copious writings included The Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary, published in 1688, with a second edition in 1701. This was a precursor to later encyclopedic works, such as that of Ephraim Chambers.


  • Eric Salmon, "Collier, Jeremy," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2005).
  • Jeremy Collier (ed. Kaneko, Yuji ) "A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English stage." (London: Routledge, 1996; first published 1698).
  • R.D. Cornwall, Visible and Apostolic: The Constitution of the Church in High Church Anglican and Non-Juror Thought, (University of Delaware Press, 1993).

External links;jsessionid=LqpLTvTdn52Br9w1vdZl9dkLTG2xmqWnFHD8c7t2QThFnLT585zv!-858446050!765996161?docId=5001897419



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jeremy Collier (1650 – 1726) was an English bishop and theatre critic.


  • This is brave Bear-Garden language!
    • Source: A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, p 232. (1698)
      • Note: See John Ray for explanation of Bear Garden.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JEREMY COLLIER (1650-1726), English nonjuring divine, was born at Stow-with-Quy, Cambridgeshire, on the 23rd of September 1650. He was educated at Ipswich free school, over which his father presided, and at Caius College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1673 and M.A. in 1676. He acted for a short time as a private chaplain, but was appointed in 1679 to the small rectory of Ampton, near Bury St Edmunds, and in 1685 he was made lecturer of Gray's Inn.

At the Revolution he was committed to Newgate for writing in favour of James II. a tract entitled The Desertion discuss'd in a Letter to a Country Gentleman (1688), in answer to Bishop Burnet's defence of King William's position. He was released after some months of imprisonment, without trial, by the intervention of his friends. In the two following years he continued to harass the government by his publications: and in 1692 he was again in prison under suspicion of treasonable correspondence with James. His scruples forbade him to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court by accepting bail, but he was soon released. But in 1696 for his boldness in granting absolution on the scaffold to Sir John Friend and Sir William Parkyns, who had attempted the assassination of William, he was obliged to flee, and for the rest of his life continued under sentence of outlawry.

When the storm had blown over he returned to London, and employed his leisure in works which were less political in their tone. In 1697 appeared the first volume of his Essays on Several Moral Subjects, to which a second was added in 1705, and a third in 1709. The first series contained six essays, the most notable being that "On the office of a Chaplain," which throws much light on the position of a large section of the clergy at that time. Collier deprecated the extent of the authority assumed by the patron and the servility of the poorer clergy.

In 1698 Collier produced his famous Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage... . He dealt with the immodesty of the contemporary stage, supporting his contentions by a long series of references attesting the comparative decency of Latin and Greek drama; with the profane language indulged in by the players; the abuse of the clergy common in the drama; the encouragement of vice by representing the vicious characters as admirable and successful; and finally he supported his general position by the analysis of particular plays, Dryden's Amphitryon, Vanbrugh's Relapse and D'Urfey's Don Quixote. The Book abounds in hypercriticism, particularly in the imputation of profanity; and in a useless display of learning, neither intrinsically valuable nor conducive to the argument. He had no artistic appreciation of the subject he discussed, and he mistook cause for effect in asserting that the decline in public morality was due to the flagrant indecency of the stage. Yet, in the words of Macaulay, who gives an admirable account of the discussion in his essay on the comic dramatists of the Restoration, "when all deductions have been made, great merit must be allowed to the work." Dryden acknowledged, in the preface to his Fables, the justice of Collier's strictures, though he protested against the manner of the onslaught; 1 but Congreve made an angry reply; Vanbrugh and others followed. Collier was prepared to meet any number of antagonists, and defended himself in numerous tracts. The Short View was followed by a Defence (1699), a Second Defence (1700), and Mr Collier's Dissuasive from the Playhouse, in a Letter to a Person of Quality (1703), and a Further Vindication (1708). The fight lasted in all some ten years; but Collier had right on his side, and triumphed; his position was, moreover, strengthened by the fact that he was known as a Troy and high churchman, and that his attack could not, therefore, be assigned to Puritan rancour against the stage.

From 1701 to 17 21 Collier was employed on his Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary, founded on, and partly translated from, Louis Moreri's Dictionnaire historique, and in the compilation and issue of the two volumes folio of his own Ecclesiastical History of Great Britian from the first planting of Christianity to the end of the reign of Charles II. 1 "He is too much given to horse-play in his raillery, and comes to battle like a dictator from the plough. I will not say, ` the zeal of God's house has eaten him up '; but I am sure it has devoured some part of his good manners and civility" (Dryden, Works, ed. Scott, xi. 239).

(1708-1714). The latter work was attacked by Burnet and others, but the author showed himself as keen a controversialist as ever. Many attempts were made to shake his fidelity to the lost cause of the Stuarts, but he continued indomitable to the end. In 1712 George Hickes was the only survivor of the nonjuring bishops, and in the next year Collier was consecrated. He had a share in an attempt made towards union with the Greek Church. He had a long correspondence with the Eastern authorities, his last letters on the subject being written in 1725. Collier preferred the version of the Book of Common Prayer issued in 1549, and regretted that certain practices and petitions there enjoined were omitted in later editions. His first tract on the subject, Reasons for Restoring some Prayers (1717), was followed by others. In 1718 was published a new Communion Office taken partly from Primitive Liturgies and partly from the first English Reformed Common Prayer Book,.. . which embodied the changes desired by Collier. The controversy that ensued made a split in the nonjuring communion. His last work was a volume of Practical Discourses, published in 1725. He died on the 26th of April 1726.


There is an excellent account of Collier in A. Kippis's Biographia Britannica, vol. iv. (1789), where some sensible observations by the editor are added to the original biography. A full list of Collier's writings is given by the Rev. Wm. Hunt in the article in the Dictionary of National Biography. For particulars of Collier's history as a nonjuring bishop, see Thomas Lathbury, A History of the Nonjurors . (1845). There is an excellent account of the Short View and the controversy arising from it in A. Beljame's Le Public et les hommes de lettres en Angleterre au X VIII' siecle (2nd ed., 1 897), PP. 244-263.

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