‘H.N.’ and the Family of Love: multiple memories

This manuscript contains a biography of ‘H.N.’: Hendrick Niclaes [1502-c. 1580], a Dutch mystic whose writings formed the basis for the movement or ‘fellowship’ known as the Family of Love. Detailing his close and direct relationship with God, ‘H.N.’ is presented in this text as a prophet and visionary. Niclaes gained followers in Germany, the Low Countries, France, and England, but Familists were attacked and condemned by both Catholics and Protestants. Yet research on the Family of Love in England has shown that these ‘heretics’ largely lived peacefully alongside their more orthodox neighbours. This manuscript, which was copied from a 1656 printed translation of this sixteenth-century account of H.N., was presumably the work of one such English Familist.

The Reformation can all too easily be told as the story of clashes of magisterial Protestant and Catholic Churches. Yet, as this manuscript and the reverence for H.N. demonstrates, this narrative is itself the product of acts of deliberate forgetting. There were many different Reformations, each with their own celebrated people and histories. CL

‘Mirabilia opera dei: Certaine Wonderfull workes of God which happened to H.N. even from his youth’, seventeenth century.

CUL: MS Dd.vi.54, fo. 3v

Further Reading

This manuscript is a copy of Mirabilia opera dei: certaine wonderfull works of God which hapned to H.N. even from his youth: and how the God of heaven hath united himself with him, and raised up his gracious word in him, and how he hath chosen and sent him to be a minister of his gracious word, published by Tobias a fellow elder with H.N. in the houshold of love. Translated out of Base Almain [London, 1656?].

Alistair Hamilton, The Family of Love (Cambridge, 1981).

Christopher Marsh, The Family of Love in English Society, 1550–1630 (Cambridge, 1994).

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