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Braithwaite, Joseph Bevan (1818–1905), barrister and Quaker minister, was born on 21 June 1818 in Highgate, Kendal; with his twin sister he was the youngest of the nine children of Isaac Braithwaite (1781–1861), dyestuff manufacturer and drysalter, and Anna Braithwaite, both parents being of long-standing Quaker families. His mother, Anna Braithwaite (1788–1859), Quaker minister, was born on 27 December 1788 at Birmingham, eleventh of the fourteen children of , banker, and Mary Lloyd, née Farmer (1751?–1821). It was a cultivated family circle. Anna married Isaac Braithwaite of Kendal in 1808, her sister Mary (1784–1822) having married his brother George (1777–1853) in 1806. Her brother and his wife settled at Brathay Lodge, near Ambleside in Westmorland, and her sister Priscilla married Christopher Wordsworth, master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1815 her meeting recorded its unity with her vocal ministry and, besides many journeys in Britain and Ireland throughout her life, she thrice visited America (1823–4, 1825, 1827–9), on the latter two occasions with her husband. Her theology was uncompromisingly evangelical and, like other English ministering Friends then visiting America, she vigorously opposed the ‘unsound’ part-mystical, part-rationalist teaching of Elias Hicks and his anti-authoritarian followers, who considered the visitors a major cause of the separations of 1827–8 which rent American Quakerism for over a century. In 1835 Isaac Crewdson, a near connection of her husband, published A Beacon to the Society of Friends, provoking widespread controversy and resulting, particularly in Manchester and Kendal meetings, in substantial secession from the society, including five of her seven surviving children. For some years Anna Braithwaite suffered from a spinal affliction and after 1851 she ventured little from home or the family's summer residence at Scotby, near Carlisle. She died at Kendal on 18 December 1859, and her body was interred in the Quaker burial-ground there.

Joseph Bevan Braithwaite, educated at the Friends' school, Stramongate, Kendal, thus grew up in an atmosphere charged with religious excitement and controversy. Indeed, he was about to resign his Quaker membership and was writing a pamphlet against the Friends when, with his cousin George Stacey Gibson, he attended the Britain yearly meeting of 1840. This experience determined him to cast in his lot with the society. For a career Braithwaite turned to the law and, after being articled (1834–40) to a Kendal solicitor, went to the London chambers of John Hodgkin. He was called to the bar in 1843 but, because of an impediment in his speech, did not practise in court. His pupils remembered gratefully the time and attention he gave them, though Edward Fry recalled him as ‘a very dry lawyer, who loved … even the ghost of dead questions, with a warm affection’ (A. Fry, Memoir of Sir Edward Fry, 1921, 46).

From 1840 until his death Braithwaite belonged to Westminster Friends' meeting, in which he soon started to speak: his gift in the ministry was acknowledged in 1844. He had in his teens studied not only Latin and New Testament Greek but also Hebrew, and in 1834 Joseph John Gurney made him a generous gift of books, the foundation of Braithwaite's substantial library and considerable reputation as a patristic scholar. After Gurney's death in 1847 the mantle of evangelical leadership among British Quakers fell increasingly on Braithwaite, whose first substantial work was the editing of Gurney's Memoirs (2 vols., 1854). A conservative biblical scholar, he was never a literalist; an evangelical, he was also a mystic; a stammerer, he was a frequent and eloquent minister. He married on 27 August 1851 Martha Gillett (1823–1895), also an acknowledged minister, the daughter of a Quaker banker of Banbury, Oxfordshire; they had nine children, including the stockbroker . After ten years at 65 Mornington Road, Regent's Park, London, the family moved in 1861 to 312 Camden Road, Martha's banker brother George Gillett and his family moving to 314. Braithwaite's legal practice enabled him to travel extensively among Friends in Britain, Ireland, and France (sometimes accompanied by his wife) and he five times visited America (1865, 1876, 1878, 1884, 1887). In return there was a constant stream of American and other visitors to the Braithwaite home. He thus became both well-known and influential on both sides of the Atlantic. His work for the Bible Society brought him into contact with central and southern Europe and the Middle East. He inherited his mother's aversion to the Hicksites and he was responsible for the declaration of faith adopted by the 1887 conference of American orthodox yearly meetings at Richmond, Indiana, and was grieved that British Friends declined to endorse it. In the 1850s he would ‘meet religious doubts and difficulties in a comprehending, sympathetic spirit’ (T. Hodgkin, The Friend, new ser., 45, 1905, 766), but from the later 1860s he was more defensive of religious orthodoxy and his family was discouraged, on raising some new point, to be told that ‘my views on all these subjects were settled more than sixty years ago’ (Thomas and others, 88).

In 1869 Braithwaite joined the committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society and made two journeys on its behalf to eastern Europe (1872, 1883–4). He had a wide range of friendships: poets and prelates, Anglicans and free churchmen—and, unusual for the time, Roman Catholics. John Bright, who once called him ‘the Quaker Bishop of Westminster’, noted his ministry appreciatively, mentioning ‘concluding passages eloquent and beautiful’ and a ‘sermon remarkable for brevity and force’ (J. T. Mills, John Bright and the Quakers, 2, 1935, 48–9). Braithwaite was clean-shaven and dignified in mien: his face emanated benign calm. He was an early riser and for much of his life would be in his study by five o'clock, inviting his children to join him. He enjoyed them and his grandchildren and it was far from a solemn household. He died at 312 Camden Road, London, on 15 November 1905, and his body was interred in the Quaker burial-ground at Winchmore Hill, London.

Edward H. Milligan

Sources  

A. L. Thomas and others, J. Bevan Braithwaite: a friend of the nineteenth century, by his children (1909) · J. B. Braithwaite, Memoirs of Anna Braithwaite (1905) · H. Lloyd, The Quaker Lloyds in the industrial revolution (1975), 220–33 · Annual Monitor (1906), 3–41 · The Friend, new ser., 45 (1905), 780, 814–17, 863–4 · The Friend, 18 (1860), 21 · digest registers of births, marriages, and burials, RS Friends, Lond.

Archives  

NL Scot., corresp. and papers · RS Friends, Lond., corresp., papers, memoranda, and commonplace books |  RS Friends, Lond., Lloyd MSS · RS Friends, Lond., Anna Braithwaite MSS · Wellcome L., corresp. with John Hodgkin


Likenesses  

C. A. Gandy, photograph, 1875, RS Friends, Lond. · J. Deane Hilton, photograph, 1883, RS Friends, Lond. · A. B. Durand, engraving (Anna Braithwaite; after W. Dunlop), RS Friends, Lond. · J. H. Hogg, photograph (Anna Braithwaite; after daguerreotype?), RS Friends, Lond.

Wealth at death  

£14,742 7s. 2d.: probate, 20 March 1906, CGPLA Eng. & Wales