Jeremy Collier (23 September 1650 – 26 April 1726) was an English theatre critic, non-juror bishop and theologian.
Born in Stow cum Quy, Cambridgeshire, Collier was educated at Caius College, University of Cambridge, receiving the BA (1673) and MA (1676). A supporter of James II, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution. In 1713 he was consecrated a non-juror bishop by George Hickes and two Scottish bishops, Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar.
Collier was the primus of the nonjuring line and a strong supporter of the four usages. In the years following the Revolution he wrote a series of tracts questioning the legitimacy of the new monarchs and the deprival of the Non-juror bishops. He was well known for his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, 1708–1714, which was attacked for its tendentious political and theological comments, but nevertheless widely used. His Reasons for restoring some prayers and directions, as they stand in the communion-service of the first English reform’d liturgy, 1717 was the first salvo in the usages debate. His Essays were popular in his own day but are now little read.
In the history of English drama, Collier is known for his attack on the comedy of the 1690s in his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), which draws for its ammunition mostly on the plays of William Congreve and John Vanbrugh. During the English Interregnum, the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, had control of most of the English government. They placed heavy restrictions on entertainment and entertainment venues that were perceived as being pagan or immoral. Most plays were considered immoral and thus theaters were shut down all over England. In the English Restoration (1660), playwrights reacted against the Puritanical restrictions with much more decadent plays. The plays produced in the Restoration drew comparisons to the great Elizabethan dramas by critics of the day. Collier's pamphlets sought to stem the spread of vice but turned out to be the sparks that kindled a controversial flame between like-minded Puritans and Restoration dramatists.
Collier devotes nearly 300 pages to decry what he perceived as profanity and moral degeneration in the stage productions of the era. This ranged from general attacks on the morality of Restoration theater to very specific indictments of playwrights of the day. Collier argued that a venue as influential as the theater—it was believed then that the theater should be providing moral instruction—should not have content that is morally detrimental. Many of the playwrights responded with equally vehement attacks, but some were so deeply affected, they withdrew from theater permanently, William Congreve amongst them.
Collier's copious writings included The Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary, published in 1688, with a second edition in 1701. This was a precursor to later encyclopedic works, such as that of Ephraim Chambers.
- Collier, Jeremy (1996) . In Yuji, Kaneko. A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English stage. London: Routledge.
- Cornwall, R.D. (1993). Visible and Apostolic: The Constitution of the Church in High Church Anglican and Non-Juror Thought. University of Delaware Press.
- Salmon, Eric (2004). "Collier, Jeremy (1650–1726)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5917. (subscription required)
- Sutton, Charles William (1887). "Collier, Jeremy". In Leslie Stephen. Dictionary of National Biography 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 341–347.
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