William Walwyn
Get William Walwyn essential facts below. View Videos or join the William Walwyn discussion. Add William Walwyn to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
William Walwyn
William Walwyn

William Walwyn (bap. 1600-1681) was an English pamphleteer, a Leveller and a medical practitioner.[1][2]


Walwyn was a silkman in London who took the parliamentary side in the English Civil War. He advocated religious toleration and emerged as a leader of the Levellers in 1647, which led to his imprisonment in 1649.

In October 1645 Walwyn published England's Lamentable Slaverie, his famous rebuke to John Lilburne, in which he criticised his fellow Leveller for a misguided reliance on the Magna Carta of 1225 as the foundation for citizens' rights. He argued that Magna Carta was "more precious in your [Lilburne's] esteem than it deserveth", dismissing it as a small set of concessions "wrestled out of the pawes" of Norman conquerors and describing it as, "a messe of pottage" and, (in the following year), "but a beggerly thing containing many marks of intollerable bondage". Walwyn's critique of the appeal to Magna Carta was compelling and fundamentally accurate, and he proposed instead a fresh charter, a proto-social contract founded on equity and right reason, rather than on compromised accretions of the law.[3]

During 1646 he wrote five pamphlets in response to Thomas Edwards' Gangraena, in which Walwyn was described as "a Seeker, a dangerous man, a strong head". In 1649, while held in the Tower of London on a charge of Treason, he published "The Fountain of Slaunder Discovered" and "Walwyns Just Defence" to defend his character against the publication of "Walwyn's Wiles".[4][5] The pamphlet had seven authors who were the leading Baptist and Independent preachers in London at the time Arnald, Burnet, Foster, Kiffin, Lordall, Price, and Rosier, but was mainly drafted by John Price who had previously attacked Walwyn in print after four of the Leveller petitions were burnt by the common hangman in June 1647 (see "Gold Tried in the Fire"). In Price's opinion it was Walwyn, not Lilburne, who was the most dangerous of the Leveller leaders.[6] In 1653, when Lilburne was arrested having returned from exile in Bruges, Overton and Prince rallied support, Walwyn however was arrested and held in the tower until Lilburne's trial was concluded.[7]

William Walwyn died in 1681 and was buried in the New Churchyard, Bethlem, where John Lilburne and other members of the Walwyn family were also buried.[8]

Walwyn's Wiles

This pamphlet was written by seven of the leading London Independent and Baptist preachers and published whilst Walwyn and the other Leveller leaders were held in the tower. The full title was "Walwyn's Wiles, or the Manifestators manifested, ... declaring the subtle and crafy wiles, the atheistical, blasphemous soul-murdering principles and practices of Mr William Walwyn". Walwyn's Wiles was a response to the jointly signed Leveller pamphlet "A Manifestation" (April 14, 1649) which whilst it denied that they intended to level men's estates also stood firm on the principles outlined in The Agreement of the People.

In the ten pages of Wiles Walwyn is variously described as a Jesuit, a bigamist, of having persuaded a woman to commit suicide, and that he would "destroy all government", that he had said "that it would never be well until all things were common", and that he had also said that there would be "no need for judges ... take any other tradesman that is an honest and just man and let him hear the case".

In response Walwyn published two pamphlets "The Fountain of Slaunder Discovered" in which he defended his morality, and which had written a year before but held back from publication. The second pamphlet was a direct response to Wiles as its full title "Walwyns Just Defence against the Aspertions Cast upon him, in a Late Un-Christian Pamphlet Entitled, Walwyns Wiles" makes clear. The Just Defence contains a great deal of detail of the Leveller movement and the Independents from 1646 onwards.


Political and Religious Writing

Medical Writing

  • Spirits Moderated 1654
  • Healths New Store-House Opened 1661
  • A Touch-Stone for Physick 1667
  • A Physick for Families 1669


  1. ^ David Plant, William Walwyn, Leveller, c. 1600-81 , British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website, Retrieved 8 July 2009
  2. ^ Barbara Taft, "Walwyn, William (bap. 1600, d. 1681)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 accessed 8 July 2009
  3. ^ Foxley, Rachel. "'More Precious in Your Esteem than It Deserveth'?: Magna Carta and Seventeenth-Century Politics." Magna Carta: History, Context and Influence, edited by Lawrence Goldman, University of London Press, London, 2018, pp. 61-78, pp.72-73. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv5136sc.12. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.
  4. ^ Lee, Sidney (1903), Dictionary of National Biography Index and Epitome, p. 1364 (also main entry lix 284)
  5. ^ Walwym is sometimes confused with William Walwyn who was appointed canon of St. Paul's, London, in 1660, but is not the same man. (Lee, Dictionary of National Biography Index and Epitome (1903))
  6. ^ William Walwyn; Jack R. McMichael; Barbara Taft (1989). The Writings of William Walwyn. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-1017-6. Retrieved 2012.
  7. ^ Henry Noël Brailsford (1961). The Levellers and the English Revolution. Stanford University Press. p. 616. ISBN 978-0-8047-0095-5. Retrieved 2012.
  8. ^ Robert Hartle, with Niamh Carty, Michael Henderson, Elizabeth L Knox and Don Walker The New Churchyard: from Moorfields marsh to Bethlem burial ground, Brokers Row and Liverpool Street London: Crossrail (2017) p.39

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Sidney, ed. (1903). "Walwyn, William". Index and Epitome. Dictionary of National Biography. Cambridge University Press. p. 1364.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes