Edmund Calamy

Birth Location:
Burial Site:
Churches Served:
  • Vicar, St Mary's, Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire (1626)
  • Lecturer, St Mary's?, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk (1627)
  • Rector, Rochford, Rochford, Essex (1636)
  • Perpetual curate, St Mary, Aldermanbury, London (1639)
  • Mulitple roles, Sion College, London, London (1644)
  • Examiner, Parliamentary appointment, London, London (1644)
  • Trier, Parliamentary appointment, London, London (1645)
  • Committee service, Council of State, London, London (1654)
  • Chaplain-in-ordinary, Charles II, London, London (1660)
Years in the Assembly:
County Represented
Standing Committee:
Other Committees:

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources - Biographical

Biography   ▼

CALAMY, EDMUND, the elder (1600–1666), one of the authors of ‘Smectymnuus,’ was born in February 1600, the only son of a tradesman in Walbrook. His father came from Guernsey, and the family tradition is that he was an exiled Huguenot from the coast of Normandy. Calamy was admitted, on 4 July 1616, to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1619, B.D. in 1632. His aversion to Arminianism is said to have stood in the way of his obtaining a fellowship, but he was made ‘tanquam socius’ on 22 March 1626. This office (peculiar to Pembroke) was tenable for three years; but Calamy could have held it but a very short time if it be true that Nicholas Felton, bishop of Ely, who took him into his house as chaplain, presented him to the vicarage of St. Mary, Swaffham Prior.

After Felton’s death (5 Oct. 1626) he was chosen lecturer at Bury St. Edmunds, and resigned his vicarage in favour of one Eldred, whom the parishioners desired. The Swaffham living lapsed to the lord keeper, who would not present Eldred, but allowed him to officiate till he found him another living, and then (24 Aug. 1633) presented Jonathan Jephcot. There are somewhat conflicting accounts of Calamy’s attitude at this period towards the ceremonies. He was not the uncompromising nonconformist which his colleague, Jeremiah Burroughes [q. v.], proved himself. Wood and Walker make the most of the statements of an anonymous pamphleteer, followed by Henry Burton [q. v.], from which it may appear that Calamy wore the surplice and bowed at the name of Jesus. He admits that ‘in some few things’ he did conform, but strenuously asserts his noncompliance on other points, and especially as regards reading ‘that wicked book of sports.’ And, in the impeachment of Bishop Wren, Calamy is mentioned as one of the divines whom the enforcement of Wren’s articles of 1636 drove away from the district. When he left Bury he preached a retractation sermon, in which he took his farewell of all ceremonial compliance. Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick, a leader of the puritan party, is said to have presented him to the valuable rectory of Rochford, Essex, on the death (‘about 1640,’ Wood) of William Fenner, B.D. Probably, however, he was only lecturer at Rochford. The Essex climate had an unfortunate effect upon Calamy’s constitution. He fell into a quartan ague, which left him with a nervous affection of the head, permanently precluding him from mounting the pulpit, so that he ever afterwards preached from the reading-desk.

The death of John Stoughton, D.D. (buried 9 May 1639), made an opening for Calamy in the perpetual curacy of St. Mary Aldermanbury, to which he was elected before 27 May 1639. In July of that year he was incorporated B.D. at Oxford. At this period the controversy on episcopacy became acute. The elder Edward Bagshaw [q. v.] had attacked as a lawyer the political rights of the bishops, and been silenced. At Laud’s desire, and with his assistance. Bishop Hall defended their sacred claims. His ‘Episcopacie by Divine Right asserted ‘ was published in 1640, and was followed early next year by his tract called ‘An Humble Remonstrance’ (anon.), addressed to the parliament. Soon appeared ‘An Answer to a Booke entituled An Humble Remonstrance, . . . Written by Smectymnuus,’ 1641, 4to. This nom de plume was framed of the initials of five contributors to the authorship of the quarto, Marshall, Calamy, Young, Newcomen, and Spurstowe. It was the first publication in which Calamy had any share. The position of ‘Smectymnuus’ was really one of conciliation. Denying the apostolic origin of liturgies, and the divine right of the episcopacy, its writers were ready to bear with bishops if reduced to a primitive simplicity, and with a liturgy if reformed by a consultation of divines. But they defeated their aim by galling allusions to historic displays of the prelatic spirit. These are in a postscript, which Masson, reiving on internal evidence, assigns to John Milton. Hall, a controversialist of admirable skill and power, in a ‘Defence’ (also anon.), complained of his opponents’ case as ‘frivolous and false;’ and when Smectymnuus issued a ‘Vindication,’ pronounced it ‘tedious,’ and contented himself with a ‘Short Answer.’ Milton had now put forth an ‘Apology for Smectymnuus’ and ‘Animadversions on Hall’s ‘Defence.’ Meanwhile two of the Smectymnuans, Marshall and Calamy, were invited to take part in the consultations promoted by the lords’ committee for innovations in March 1641 [see Burges, Cornelius]. This was in fact carrying out their own proposal. Here (according to Neal) they met Hall ; and had the suggestions for accommodation agreed upon within the Jerusalem Chamber been accepted by parties outside, the approaching overthrow of episcopacy might nave been averted. All the Smectymnuans were nominated in the ordinance of 12 June 1643 as members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. Calamy, as an assembly man, took the covenant witli the rest. During the doctrinal debates he showed himself ‘liberal and cautious’ (Mitchell) in his holding of the Augustinian or Calvinistic theology. In this respect, as well as in his original views of church government, he followed Ussher in taking a mean betwixt extremes. But in the rapid progress of events Calamy was led to find the mean in presbyterianism. He was confirmed in this view by observing, even in his own parish, the disintegrating tendency of Congregationalism. Henry Burton was permitted to hold a ‘catechisticall lecture’ on alternate Tuesdays at St. Mary Aldermanbury. On 23 Sept. 1645 he launched out at this lecture in favour of ‘his congregational way.’ A somewhat acrimomous interchange of pamphlets between Burton and Calamy ensued. On 9 June 1646 parliament required the ordinance of the previous year establishing presbyterianism to be carried out in the London province, and on 19 June the London ministers agreed, with certain cautions, to obey the ordinance. Calamy’s parish was included in the sixth London classis. His name appears, as one of the assessors, at the foot of the ‘Vindication of the Presbyteriall-Govemment,’ &c. 1650, 4to, drawn up by the London provincial assembly on 2 Nov. 1649. He had a hand also in the ‘Jus Divinum Ministeni Evangelici,’ &c., published by the same assembly in 1654. He took part m presbyterian ordinations.

During the civil war Calamy found himself more than once in a difficult position. His speech at the Guildhall, on 6 Oct. 1643, to promote the city loan for subsidising the Scots army, ‘in order to the preservation of the Gospel,’ has often been quoted. Echard says he acted as an army chaplain, but this is incorrect. He remained constant to the duties of his own parish, where his week-day lecture had for twenty years an imprecedented following, ‘seldom were so few as sixty coaches’ at the doors. His preaching, so far as it touched upon the questions of the day, held up the ideal of constitutional freedom as against arbitrary acts, whether of the king or of his opponents. Yet it is too much to say, with his grandson, that in his utterances there was ‘nothing tending to inflame.’ In the pulpit Calamy’s frankness of heart sometimes got the better of his caution. Though he was ‘a bitter enemy to all mobbs,’ and a resolute opponent of the rising sectaries, his expressions on public affairs were quotod as countenancing ‘incendiary’ measures. The trial and execution of Charles he did what he could to oppose: his name is attached to the ‘Vindication’ of the London ministers’ conduct in this affair, drawn up by Cornelius Burges. Under the Protectorate he ‘kept himself as private as he could.’ There is a remarkable story of his interview with Cromwell, in which ne told him that nine in ten of the nation were opposed to his assumption of supreme power. The restoration of the monarchy he eagerly promoted (respecting the story to the contrary, quoted in ‘Biographia Britannica,’ 1784, iii. 134, note K, see Calamy, Contin. 1727, ii. 910), preaching before the commons on the day when the vote was taken on the question, and Joining the deputation to Charles at Breda. In June 1660 he was sworn chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, but only once preached in that capacity. His grandson says he ‘soon saw whither things were tending,’ and mentions an anecdote that, having Monk as his auditor on a sacrament day, he emphasised the remark, ‘Some men will betray three kingdoms for filthy lucre’s sake,’ by flinging towards the general’s pew ‘his handkerchief, which he usually wav’d up and down while he was preaching.’ Nevertheless, he hesitated a considerable time before refusing the bishopric of Coventry and Lichfield, which was kept open for him. We have it on Tillotson’s authority that Calamy was sensible of ‘the great inconvenience of the presbyterian parity of ministers;’ but Mrs. Calamy ‘over-ruled her husband, and so the matter went off.’ At the Savoy conference (April–July 1661) Calamy took a moderate part, and there were great hopes of his conforming; but his preface to the ‘Reply’ to the bishops’ ‘Answer’ to the nonconformists’ ‘Exceptions’ shows that by this time his position was such as to make his nonconformity inevitable. While the conference was sitting he had been returned with Baxter by the city ministers, on 2 May, as one of their nominees for convocation. Bishop Sheldon, however, in the exercise of his power of selection, had passed them over. There was yet one measure by which Calamy might have been induced to conform, namely, the ratification by law of the provisions of the king’s declaration of 25 Oct. 1660. To gain this Calamy used all the interest at his command. He was prevented by illness from waiting upon the king with the presenters of the petition for such ratification. On the failure of this last hope, and the passing of the Uniformity Act, he suffered ejection, preaching his farewell sermon (from 2 Samuel xxiv. 14) on 17 Aug. 1662. On 27 Aug. Calamy, at the head of the London ejected ministers, presented a brief petition to the king in dignified and pathetic terms. Charles gave them hopes of an indulgence; but at the privy council next day the arguments of Sheldon prevailed.

Calamy continued to attend the parish church from which he had been ejected. On 28 Dec. he was present as usual, and the appointed preacher did not appear. Prevailed upon by ‘the importunity of the people,’ he went into the desk and preached with some warmth. He was committed to Newgate under the lord mayor’s warrant on 6 Jan. 1663, being the first of the nonconformists who got into trouble for disobeying the Uniformity Act. Newgate Street was blocked by the coaches of his visitors. ‘A certain popish lady’ (apparently the king’s mistress), detained on her way through the city by the throng, represented to the king the disturbed state of popular feeling. Calamy was set free by the king’s express order, but it was stated that the act had not provided for his longer restraint. The commons on 19 Feb. referred it to a committee to inquire into this defect, and addressed the king against toleration. With this incident, which was made the subject of verses by Robert Wilde, D.D., the presbyterian humorist and poet, Calamy’s public life closes. He survived to see ‘London in ashes’ after the great fire. Driven through the ruins in a coach to Enfield, the sight broke his heart. He kept his room, rapidly sank, and died on 29 Oct. 1666. The register of St. Mary Aldermanbury records, under ‘Burials since the dreadfull fire Sep. 2. 66,’ that of ‘Mr. Edmond Calamy late pastor—Nov. 6.’ Henry Newcome’s diary says he was buried in the ruins of his church, ‘as near to the place where his pulpit had stood as they could guess.’ Granger mentions five prints of Calamy; a sixth, and the best, is the engraving by Mackenzie, in the second edition of Palmer; they are all from one original painting, now in private hands. Calamy was twice married: first to Mary, daughter of Robert Snelling, portman of Ipswich, probably of the same family to which belonged Joane Snelling, the mother of William Ames, D.D. (Browne, p. 66); secondly to Anne Leaver, of the Lancashire Leavers. By his first wife he had Edmund [q. v.], Jeremy (b. November 1638), and a daughter (Mrs. Bayly). By his second wife he had Benjamin [q. v.], James, John (who was born 2 Aug. 1658, was educated at Cambridge, was twice married, and left a son, who died without issue, and a daughter, living in 1731), and four daughters, all well married.

Calamy published chiefly sermons: 1. ‘England’s Looking-glasse,’ &c. 1642, 4to (fast sermon before the commons, 22 Dec. 1641). For preaching this sermon Calamy received a massive almsdish, bearing his arms and the inscription, ‘This is the Gift of the House of Commons to Edmund Calamy, B.D., 1641.’ It is now in the possession of Michael Pope, Thurlow Towers, Streatham. 2. ‘God’s Free Mercy to England,’ &c. 1642, 4to (ditto, 23 Feb.). 3. ‘The Nobleman’s Patterne of Thankfulnesse,’ &c. 1643, 4to (thanksgiving sermon before the lords, 15 June). 4. ‘England’s Antidote against the Plague of Civil Warre,’ &c. 1644, 4to (fast sermon before the commons, 22 Oct.). 5. ‘An Indictment against England because of her Selfe-murdering Divisions,’ &c. 1645, 4to (fast sermon before the lords, 25 Dec. 1644). 6. ‘The Door of Trvth opened,’ &c. 1645, 4to (anon., issued ‘in the name and with the consent of the whole church of Aldermanburie,’ in reply to Henry Burton’s ‘Truth shut out of doores’), 7. ‘The Great Danger of Covenant-refusing,’ &c. 1646, 4to (sermon before the lord mayor, 14 Jan.) 8. ‘A just and necessary Apology,’ &c. 1646, 4to (against an attack in Henry Burton’s ‘Truth still Truth,’ &c.) 9. ‘The Saints’ Rest,’ &c. 1651, 4to (sermon). 10. ‘The Monster of sinful Self-seeking anatomised,’ &c. 1665, 4to (sermon before the lord mayor, 10 Dec. 1654). 11. ‘The Doctrine of the Bodies Fragility,’ &c. 1655, 4to (funeral sermon for Dr. Samuel Bolton). 12. ‘ The Godly Man’s Ark,’ &c. 1657, 12mo, 8th edit. 1683, reprinted 1865, 12mo (five sermons). 13. ‘A ‘atteme for all,’ &c. 1658, 4to funeral sermon for Robert, earl of Warwick). 14. ‘A Sermon … at the Funeral of the Lady Anne Waller, … 31 Oct. 1661,’ 1662, 8vo. 15. ‘The Fixed Saint, a Farewell Sermon,’ &c. 1662, 4to (printed also in the volume of ‘Farewell Sermons’ by London ministers). 16. ‘ A Sermon … at Aldermanberry-Church, Dec. 28, 1662,’ &c. Oxford, 1663, 4to.

Posthumous were: 17. ‘The Art of Divine Meditation,’ &c. 1667, 8vo (printed from a hearer’s notes). 18. Sermon on the resurrection of the dead in ‘Morning Exercises at St. Giles’s, Cripplegate,’ 1676, 4to. Wood mentions also: 19. ‘A Leading Case,’ &c, and says Calamy had a hand in ‘ Saints’ Memorials,’ 1674, 8vo. An epistle by Calamy is prefixed to Fenner’s ‘ The Soul’s Looking-Glasse,’ &c. 1651, 4to. [Wood’s Athenæ Oxon. 1691-2, i. 898, ii. 377; Calamy’s Abridgement, 1713, pp. 169, 176; Calamy’s Account, 1713, pp. 4, 388; Calamy’s Contin., 1727, pp. 7, 149; Calamy’s Historical Account of my own Life, 2nd edit. 1830, pp. 62 seq.; Palmer’s Nonconf. Memorial, 2nd edit. 1802, i. 76; Birch’s Life of Tillotson, 2nd edit. 1763, p. 888; Neal’s Hist. of the Puritans, Dublin, 1769, ii. 369, iii. 269 seq.; Biog. Brit. 1784, iii. 131 (article by Dr. John Campbell, a few addenda by Kippis); Monthly Repository, 1817, p. 692; Granger’s Biog. Hist, of Eng., 6th edit. 1824, ii. 363, V. 364; Masson’s Milton, 1871, ii. 260; Marsden’s Later Puritans, 3rd edit. 1872, p. 121; Hook’s Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (Laud), 1876, xi. 311; Browne’s Hist. of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, 1877, p. 88; Mitchell’s Westminster Assembly, 1883, p. 121; extracts from Pembroke College books, per the master of Pembroke, from the register of St. James, Bury St. Edmunds, per Rev. W. T. Harrison, and from the registers and vestry book of St. Mary Aldermanbury, per Rev. C. C. Collins.]

Last updated April 24, 2023