My father’s name was Richard (the son of Richard) Baxter: his habitation and estate at a village called Eaton Constantine, a mile from the Wrekin Hill, and above half a mile from Severn River and five miles from Shrewsbury in Shropshire; a village most pleasantly and healthfully situate.  My mother’s name was Beatrice, the daughter of Richard Adeney of Rowton, a village near High Ercall, the Lord Newport’s seat, in the same county.  There I was born A. D. 1615, on the 12th of November, being the Lord’s-day, in the morning at the time of divine worship, and baptised at High Ercall the 19th day following.  And there I lived from my parents and my grandfather till I was near ten years of age, and then was taken home.

My father had only the competent estate of a freeholder, free from the temptations of poverty and riches; but having been addicted to gaming in his youth, and his father before him, it was so entangled by debts that it occasioned some excess of worldly cares before it was freed.

We lived in a country that had but little preaching at all.  In the village where I was born there were four readers successively in six years time, ignorant men, and two of them immoral in their lives, who were all my schoolmasters.  In the village where my father lived there was a reader of about eighty years of age that never preached, and had two churches about twenty miles distant.  His eyesight failing him, he said Common Prayer without book; but for the reading of the psalms and chapters he got a common thresher and day-labourer one year, and a tailor another year (for the clerk could not read well); and at last he had a kinsman of his own (the excellentest stage-player in all the country, and a good gamester and good fellow) that got Orders and supplied one of his places…

From: The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, abridged by J. M. Lloyd Thomas; edited, with an introduction, by N. H. Keeble (London: Dent/Totowa: Rowman & Littlefield, 1974), pp. 3-4.  Originally published in 1696.

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