Some Memoirs of the life of Thomas Tryon
It must be very rare to enjoy an opportunity to review a set of memoirs written by a relative who died in 1705, almost 300 years ago! To think that the author was born 298 years before the reviewer is mind boggling to this reviewer.
It is with interest and confidence over the advantage of living so much later, in an age when a lot more education is available to help generate new skills, that the author dares to comment.
A sense of humility is one of the key points to learn from Thomas Tryon, and I hope that the comments reflect it.
A review of this book
by Richard R. Tryon
It is, of course, extraordinary that any man has an opportunity to review the writings of an ancestor who was born virtually 300 years earlier. To be writing about such a person as a relative is, of necessity, an exercise that must reflect not only one’s bias, but also one’s significant advantages of perspective.
Although I can identify with any ‘self-made’ man who had to find a way to gain his education on his own as a result of my own personal experience, I never had to consider personal development with quite as many difficulties as did Thomas. It took me 40 jobs to help me work may way through college, but Thomas had to work very long hours and years before he even had a chance to learn to read or write! He surely had less sleep than I did, even when I worked the ‘grave-yard’ shift from 11p.m. to 7 a.m. and then went to class after driving a school bus on the way home!
That Thomas managed to walk to London with his life savings of about 3£ and then found a way to work, learn and eventually to branch out into a very prosperous career is an amazing story. Unfortunately, he gives little insight into his business career. One can only surmise that his travel to Barbadoes, as is was spelled in Britain even today, led him to a career in trade that was very profitable. It allowed him the chance to learn and to write about many early days of such sciences as we now call astronomy, physics, and chemistry.
He also apparently suffered from periods of living apart from the laws of conduct that he repeats incessantly in his memoirs. He may have been something of an alcoholic in his time but he spent the better part of his life living via a very strict code and a diet of mainly bread and water! He was the champion of a school of vegetarianism known as Tryonism and counted among his devotees even our own Benjamin Franklin.
While he was by today’s standards a very high handed and imperious ‘chauvinist’, he did come to regret his early behavior towards his wife. Yet, he assumed that in an age when women were to be sheltered from dirty work; and as much as possible be cultivated to care for the young, while putting the bread and water on the table, he obviously gave his wife no credit for having any brain power of her own! His writing on the care and feeding of infants and how to teach them shows that he assumed that it was his responsibility to do so.
The fact that his memoirs were completed by one or more friends after he died a painful death probably from kidney stones, shows that he was writing at age 69- one year past my current age! I hope that my review is not as repetitive as were his words that must have given the typesetter moments of anguish sufficient to drive the poor man to drink! Thomas was no doubt appreciated with awe by many and found to be insufferable by others capable of meeting the man’s Quixotic and overwhelming position of certainty!
His friends must have written the Epetaph poem with ‘tongue in cheek’, as we might say now. For the man was rich enough to speak with authority, well enough learned to find few to challenge him, and bold enough thanks to his religious and other life experiences to express himself with great conviction So, we can dismiss his musings as being those of an incompetent old man; or we can wonder if he did not find out a few of life’s lessons (many of which he learned the had way) to share with us.
I personally regret that he did not tell us more about his own family history that apparently became lost in one or more plagues of the island after he left Bibury. He names his parents as William and Rebeccah. From Wes Tryon’s work it appears that Thomas and our first William in America were possibly brothers. I suspect that we have too many Williams and Rebeccahs or Rebeccas to sort out which ones are connected in each generation.
While Wes wrote that Thomas went to London and apprenticed himself as a ‘hatter’, the Memoirs state otherwise, unless a ‘castor’ maker and a ‘hatter’ were old words for the same thing! Unfortunately Thomas tells us that he worked against a piece rate or daily quota that he made with ease, he tells nothing about the work itself! I will now conclude that he made some sort of metal castor that was needed in industry as he says nothing about using his job as an opportunity to meet anyone save those that came to him via his joining his Masters Anabaptist church.
Those of us who want to honor the Tryon name have an advantage of having had one of us who was able to think and write so long ago about the meaning and purpose of life. With the advantage of 366 years of global history since the time when Thomas was born, I have added footnotes as it seems appropriate to do so. Others are invited to read, inwardly digest and comment as well. Other reviews can be added to this family data base.
The Appendix or section on Laws for living and governing is most interesting. But rather than compose more here, it is interesting to note that my notes taken from a reading in the British museum were rather close to being adequate to provide a working assessment of what is now more clearly seen via closer study. Here is the 1997 report with several comments added in CAPS:
To: The Tryon Family
Sept. 19, 2000 to revise this memo with new data supplied in CAPS and inserted.
Re:Geneology and the 1705 book by Thomas Tryon entitled: "Memoirs of Thomas Tryon, Esq. Late of London"
This book review is not the ordinary type since it was read in an usual manner. I was allowed to spend several hours in the British Museum in London this past September so that I could read and take notes in the only way allowed - pencil and paper! My lap-top computer was not allowed as the keys make a slight noise!NOW I HAVE A MICROFILM COPY THAT I KEYBOARDED TO THE COMPUTER TO STUDY, ETC.
My main reason for reading the book was to try to learn more about the family origins in Bibury from whence came William to Weathersfield, Conn. in 1662, I believe. Wesley Tryon failed to gain any real input about Bibury, so I have enjoyed visiting the town on two occasions, the first in 1983. It hasn't changed much since the time of Thomas and William in the mid 17th century. They were probably cousins, although they could have been brothers.THIS MATTER IS STILL NOT CLEAR AS THE MEMOIRS ARE SILENT ON HIS FAMILY.
Thomas reveals in his memoirs that he was the son of a slatter or a "Tyler & Plasterer". William, if he bought 1400 acres in Conn. on the river South of Hartford, had to be a man of considerable financial means. So it would seem that the Bibury Tryons in the 100 years following the arrival of the first William of Bibury must have grown in such a fashion that different branches of the family enjoyed different economic stations in life.
Thomas says that he was one of a large family, but I don't recall that he said how many. NO, HE ONLY SAID THAT HIS FATHER HAD MANY CHILDREN. He didn't list names and birth dates of others and I don't even have a note to show that his mother's name made it into his memoirs.IT DID AND HIS MOTHER WAS A REBECCAH.PERHAPS THE ONE FOUND IN THE RECORDS, BUT THAT DOES NOT COMPUTE UNLESS SHE WAS BORN A TRYON!
Rather, it seems that he only remembered reaching the age of six and going to work full time at spinning and carding wool. He probably lived in the buildings now known as Arlington Row, built of stone as are all the buildings of Bibury. Even the roofs are of stone. He seemed to take an early sense of pride in his work and at age 8 could spin 4 pounds of wool a day - a good day's work. By the time he was 10-11 he was tending sheep for another lad on Sundays so as to make an extra pence or two per week. After 2-3 years of this, he was allowed to have two sheep of his own. He traded one to another boy who could teach him to write. He taught himself to read.
By the time he was 14, Thomas was known as one of the best of the sheep herders, but by the time he was 18 he was anxious to leave the humble but pleasant surroundings of Bibury. He traded his two older sheep for two young ones and convinced his father that the young ones were going to last longer than the old ones that his father had originally provided. So, feeling that he had satisfied his obligation to his father, and having accumulated and added to his savings from the last trade, he set off for London on foot with three pounds- his entire fortune!
In London he apprenticed himself to a castor maker at Bridewel- Dock near Fleet Street. His Master was an Anabaptist, so Thomas became one also two years later and stayed with it for three more years. Although he didn't seem to write much about the transition of his economic life, unless it was in parts of the book that I read over too fast, it seems that his early developed trading skills must have had something to do with his escape from the life of a caster maker as well as an Anabaptist.
He found time to study physics and astrology, rather unusual for anyone at that time. Especially since he had a sincere and honest desire to do it in a scientific way. He states, for example, "By Astrology therefore, I mean not the fraudulent way of telling Fortunes, etc., but the Method of God's Government in Nature and Administration of the World; tho I deny not but much may be discovered by a Scheme of any Persons Nativity, when the true time of birth is obtained, duly confirmed by Accidents, as our own Nativity prefixed hereto will evince." Yes, he was more garrulous than this writer, and perhaps even harder to understand!
Thomas apparently achieved early success in business of some kind and found not only time to read so intently, but also to let his success get the better of him. He allowed that for about six months he took to eating meat and strong drink. He doesn't explain much about the next transition, but it appears that he turned to Chemistry and something called Regeneration (perhaps it is related to Alchemy) about the same time as he took a wife and rather soon left for Barbadoes, for reasons not explained. My guess is that he found opportunity in the islands for a lot of things for about a year. He then returned briefly to London and then proceeded to Holland and back to Barbadoes for four more years. I don't remember his writing anything about his wife's position during this period. She must have been living with family until he finally returned and "settled down" to father two sons and three daughters very much convinced that he had a lot of sins to repent.
About midway in his memoirs he confesses his propensity to fall into sin and notes..."But, alas how common is it for men to spend the most part of their lives in vain, either being Idle, or doing what amounts to nothing, or is worse than nothing. Most men are so ignorant and so blind that they know not how an Evening or a Day, when they are out of their ordinary employment, but in some game, play or Diversion; or in Company in an Ale-house, Coffee house or Tavern, uttering false or uncertain News, censuring their superiors, telling stories, or in some frothy, if not lewd discourse: And what is worse, they give not themselves time to recollect or look about them and weigh those foolish methods in the Ballance of the Sancturary, the Ballance of Wisdom. Thus strangely do most men spend their Lives; sometimes they are in a hurry, and know not what to do for want of time; anon they know not how to pass the time away without some Diversion or Company; such a burden to them is time, which flies away with winged speed, and when once gone, is irretrieveable." He then praises his wife as the greatest focal advantage for life. "This knowledge of a man's Self is never the subject of Discourse in a Publick House"..."and by turning the mind Inwards and living temperately, Innocently and Abstemiously, obeying the Voice of Wisdom, thou wilt obtain that Rich Treasure which is accompanied with incomprehensible Satisfaction."
He took to writing at age 48. He claimed that he was responding to a Lordly call to share his Wisdom. He gave us his memoirs rather than expect someone else to try to collect same 18 months after his death. He took no chance of someone not finding his memoirs, so he wrote them and all but the date of death (21st of August 1703, "of the Strangury or Retention of Urine; aged 69 years, wanting 16 days. His death was very slow and painful and was known as distemper. "The phisitian coudn't discover any symptom save the retention of urine. He was of middle stature, a little stooped or incurvated; slender, but well compacted, active and nimble, his eyes small, a little sinking into his head"...etc. I did not notice any footnote or other indication to describe that the above verbiage describing his death had to be written by someone else as he had no way of predicting what happened. Apparently kidney stones blocked his urinary tract and he slowly poisoned himself to death. His diet of simple food, virtually limited to bread,water and vegetables probably contributed to his ultimate demise. I have read parts of several other books that he wrote including passages on vegetarianism. Benjamin Franklin, according to Wesley Tryon, was at one point in his life a "Tryonist" or follower of the principles of vegetarianism.
Towards the end of the book, Thomas gets around to including a section that deals with.."some certain Principles, Maxims and Laws which ought to be imbraced and observed by all such as have the Government either of families, or Societies, and would Train them up in Temperance, Cleanness, Order and Innocency of life." A Creed follows in prayer form. Some of the major numbered points included: 1. Belief in God the Creator and Maker of Order in the Universe. 7.Man is the true image and likeness of the Creator. 14. Forgive the trespasses of our neighbors. 15. Know thyself most important knowledge. Laws: 1. Don't kill any creature; 2. Don't eat any. 3. Don't eat with those that do or even use utensils of their use. 4. Don't drink any alcohol. Only water. No smoking, chewing, of tobacco or opium. 5. Don't even use the skins of creatures for shoes, gloves, etc. or sleep on feather beds. 7. Don't marry after 60 or 49 if female, nor take a second wife who has 4 (or more) children living. No woman with 2 children shall marry in less than 2 years after losing her husband. 9. Third marriages never. 10. All orphans shall be married off by 12 years of age, but not "be suffered to Cohabit nor bed together till the man be 21 and the woman 17 " to prevent a thousand Evils that attend undue and inconsiderate Marriages." 12. If you die childless- give 10% to poor and balance to relatives depending upon circumstances. 14. Cut off thieves that don't repent with twice the amount stolen. Provide for arbitration by panel of three. 16. Public registry of large transactions to prove debt. 17. Mortgages etc. on record. 18. 6th of September to meet and select new Governors. None to last more than 1 year. No pay or profit. 19. Vote without spoken words - just marks. 20. Keep the Sabbath. 21. No Interpretation or Commentary (Sermons) on the readings. Each must do it alone in silence for at least 30 minutes. 24. Speak no evil. 25. No lies or forgeries. Penalty seven days of bread and water. 26. Swearing gets you 41 days of silence, bread and water. 27. One price and set of terms per transaction. No more than they will take." 28. 9 hours is a work day. 29. Eat 8-9 am and 4-5 pm. Sing 30 minutes Praise to God before and after. 30. Silence 3 minutes before blessing of food. Again after." So you can see that Thomas was a pretty tough minded individual who had strong ideas about almost everything. Although he never went to school, he was certainly well educated for his time, if not for all time.
When he turned to special laws for women, he was just as much ready to speak or write with great conviction. Their chief laws: 1. Temperance and cleanliness. 2. No passion while Impregnation. 3. Listen for Wife and Friendly discources. 4. Adorn bedroom with pictures of children. 5. Don't bind up children- diseases are caused by same (ie. no diapers!) 6. Don't hold them close so as to heat part of them. 7. When children are near one, do not handle or lead them to help them to go, but let them tumble about at their pleasure in a clean room, wherby they will be so much strengthened, that they will go much sooner than if they be led. 8. Watch your tongue within hearing of children. 9. Speak softly. 10. Teach children to speak one at a time. 11. At age 1 1/2 show them their letters, "not in the Vulgar way, with asking them what is this letter; but instead thereof, make frequent Repetitions in their hearing, putting the Letters in their sight." They will soon recognize all 24 letters. Show them how to hold a pen and they will write by 3-5 years. 14. Teach the advantages of learning.
Forgive me for not having had time to copy all of the laws and for having used my own ideas as to which ones were the most significant for one reason or another. I may have missed one or more thoughts that the author would have judged to have been most important. If you want to find out for yourself, you can find a copy in the University of Illinois Library Northern campus at Dekalb, or in the British Museum in London. I suppose other copies are existing, but I don't know of them. I tried to copy spellings and capitalizations as printed.Five years after this was written: I now have a copy from microfilm and an effort is underway in 1997 to keyboard it to a computer.AS SO CLEARLY SHOWN NOW, THAT MICROFILM WAS PRINTED OUT AND I HAVE KEYED IT ALL INTO THE FILE FOUND NOW ON THE WEB at
By the time that I walked out of the museum at closing time, I wondered whether I should have arranged to have the book copied for a fee. I came to the conclusion, right or wrong, that Thomas didn't have all that much to say (in terms of ideas not known or embraced by us already), although he wrote with great conviction and obviously felt that the world needed to read his words. Considering that so few people in his time had the time, the energy, the convictions and the resources to do as he did, one can allow that he did have a duty to write.CURRENT STUDY OF THE MANUSCRIPT CHANGES NOT MY EARLIER PERCEPTION.
By current standards and ideas about morality, most of us are still in step with Thomas. About the role of the sexes, most today must find Thomas to be excessively vain, pompous, haughty, and supercilious. World affluence has denied our living on bread and water and learning to like it. Without much guidance, Thomas learned how to live without self-control and found it wanting. Yet, he did repent his sins and tried to lead a new life, in a way consistent with what he perceived to be consistent with God's Laws. As a product of his time, I find that he wrote with a passion that is forgivable and an arrogance that is understandable. I am glad that I had the chance to read the words of this ancestor. I may yet get around to reading the writing of the later Thomas, whose father was the only remaining Tryon still living in Weathersfield in 1985, but I think I'll first try to read the work of my father, Richard Sr.
Footnote: I have now read and written the last chapter to my father’s work. More on this will be available and reported here.
Update of Sept. 20, 2000
On this date 47 years ago I met my wife Anne Colwell Tryon. It it interesting to note that if I were to start now to write my own memoirs, I would clearly want the emphasis to be put on family as the most meaningful part of my own sincere interest and concern for the same topics that were paramount in the mind of Thomas Tryon. However, I have already entered many details of the lives of our children and even our grand-children in the pages of the geneaology of the Tryon family found at this web site in the Wes Tryon book's updating. Confusing such information in one's one reflections about life in general and specific guidelines that deal with same, with details of the younger lives of family is somewhat inappropriate. So, I tend to forgive Thomas for not having told us more about his family in his memoirs, but I wish he had included, or others could have for him, a brief summary about such at the end of what they did produce in his memory. Perhaps they had no access to such information! For all we know, his children may have perished in a plague, fire, or other natural disaster of that age.
My writing and my life’s work show that I have a keen interest in history, political science, economics, and religion. The formulating of a social theory was clearly part of the intent of Thomas, and I would have to allow that my completion of my father’s book, “You Can’t Escape God” qualifies me and him for having the same sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
To be sure, in my case, I felt a strong attachment to the many people that I helped find employment- first during the years of my work in what was called Personnel and later became “Human Resource Management”- and later, during the years (1958-2000)of building and even starting new enterprises.
Throughout these years it has been clear to me that most people spend little time and make little effort to make major life decisions in any clearly organized way. How often I asked people the question: “What do you want to do?” and heard the response, “It doesn’t matter. What do you have to offer?”
Many of these same people picked their spouses in much the same way! All of this lead me to conclude that God certainly allows for such a casual approach and I fear that I see more of it now than I did fifty years ago.
Loyalty to an enterprise is a two way street, just as it in the partnership called marriage. I see less evidence of such an attitude at the turn of the century than I believe I perceived fifty years ago.Paternalism is dead and marital fidelity is badly damaged by open living of couples of same or opposite sex outside of any Sacramental ties. To my thinking, the reason for it relates closely to the social struggles of the period. It has been a time when socialism or communism gained its chance to demonstrate how superior its concepts could be. Clearly, the big lie of its ability to lead the world in productivity has been revealed and perhaps modern communication will make it impossible for any other dictatorial approach to gain the position of controlling thinking via censorship, and threat against those bold enough to speak out.More importantly, the loss of personal freedom required by a controlling state puts people into a condition called ‘slavery’, unless you are a white American and think it is a good trade-off to lose freedom in exchange for a government that looks like it is determined to “save us from ourselves”.
But, we have lost in the same time, a simple sense of religious faith that had its genesis in the history of ignorance of the masses under the leadership of the clerics. Clearly, God has not been able, even by sending his Son to deliver the New Testament, to solve the problem of providing people with the reason for faith in a way that does not destroy “free-will”.
The once uneducated masses that followed the commands of the Pope and his clergy are now failing to provide the new sons to join the inner circle of those who in the past were thought to live on a higher moral and intellectual plane than other mere mortals.
If Christ were to come again here on Earth in the way attributed to him 2,000 years ago, but only understood and accepted by a small percentage of the world’s population, we would have no problem with global recognition! With CNN and all other networks of radio, TV and the internet monitoring the presence of the Lord, all Earthly activity would be somewhat paralyzed while we all learned what God wanted us to do! Monitoring of miracles and acts to prove His divinity would overpower all questions of mankind. Obviously God wants us to accept him on an individual basis, not via mass communication and global conversion of the instant type offered above.
This means that we must work together in an evolutionary way to help people come to their own reasoned sense of faith. It is my hope that some of the people, who can’t accept the Christian message will find a way through my father’s book “You Can’t Escape God” to sense a more scientific approach as the factor that helps make the leap of faith needed for a reasoned approach to the style of living needed here on Earth.
So, I too, would write something of what Thomas tried to do with his code of Laws to live by and his instructions on how to raise children, albeit from a perspective that shows that few things are subject to the many absolute dictates that Thomas found and wrote about in several of his books.
His set of Laws to manage behavior and to support a community with a secular government, albeit connected to the state religion, as was found in his time in a nation where the King and the Church dominated the people, was a reasonable one. Simple, direct, and connected to the people.You will not find it hard to accept most of his words in this section.
When he turns to the equally important matter of rearing and educating children, he certainly applied his own experiences to his thinking. Obviously no woman today could like his words for they reek with his obvious male bias and absolute scorn of the ability of any female to think!
The age of civil liberties has allowed adequate time to dispel most of the ancient bias that wanted to assume that any and all minority groups were racially inferior and incapable of holding any responsible position. Blacks at the time of WWII finally had a chance to start showing that they were just as competent as others, not only in learning skills, but in taking responsibility and leadership positions. That question is now buried. Thomas had no way to learn this truth.
When Thomas writes of ways to train children, his words are not without merit, but he loses any modern reader because of his lack of knowledge about so much now known about child development and training. Yet, we are still learning how to teach the basic skill of reading, and I am proud to be involved in an effort to add a new dimension in the creation of the computer based learning system called “See-a-Sound”, invented by an English lady named Lillian Malt who lives today within 25 miles of where Thomas lived so long ago. Her work as a skills analyst has permitter her to conceive of a better way to teach keyboarding skills and even a better way to layout a keyboard that is both ergonomically right for the body and the mind!
An Englishman named Stephen Hobday actually turned her ideas into a reality that has helped hundreds of people suffering from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) or carpal tunnel syndrome as it is called in the U.S. He also lives in the greater London area, and has helped me design a new version of the Maltron keyboard that will be less costly to build and because it will be portable and able to communicate with all computers, it will allow young people especially to learn the improved key layout pattern to achieve the keying of the same information with 90% less finger travel!
It would not surprise me to find that Thomas, if he could return, would applaud such improvements to the tools needed to increase the ability of man and women to communicate and contribute to an improved social order.
It is, of course, my prayer that these two tools, the keyboard, including a version with the computer inside of it, and the reading program will provide a legacy for another Tryon to review perhaps in less than the next 300 years.