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Solomon Eagle striding through plague ridden London with burning coals on his head, trying to fumigate the air. Chalk drawing by Edward Matthew Ward, 1848

Solomon Eccles (1618–1683), also known as Solomon Eagle,[1] was an English composer who became a Quaker activist and distanced himself from church music.


Solomon Eagle was mentioned in Daniel Defoe's semi-fictional account of the plague of 1665 titled A Journal of the Plague Year. Defoe wrote:

I suppose the world has heard of the famous Solomon Eagle, an enthusiast. He, though not infected at all but in his head, went about denouncing of judgment upon the city in a frightful manner, sometimes quite naked, and with a pan of burning charcoal on his head. What he said, or pretended, indeed I could not learn.[2]

This event is corroborated in the 29 July 1667 entry of the Diary of Samuel Pepys (vol 13). Pepys confirms that the person described as such is a Quaker.

… a man, a Quaker, came naked through the [Westminster] Hall, only very civilly tied about the privates to avoid scandal, and with a chafing-dish of fire and brimstone burning upon his head… crying, "Repent! repent!"[3]

Eccles was a Quaker, a man prosecuted numerous times during the Restoration for civil disobedience. He would worship with other Quakers. The law that was passed in the early 1660s said that, if more than three people got together in a room for religious worship, this was a seditious, wicked activity. In May 1665, Eccles was arrested in Southwark, even though he probably lived in the middle of the City of London, and was put away in prison – probably in the Clink on the South Bank – for about two to three months.

Death and will

Eccles died on 2 January 1682 in Spitalfields. He made George Whitehead his executor, and left money to the Quakers Leonard Fell and James Lancaster.[4]


Few if any of his works are extant since, when he became a Quaker, he burned all his books and compositions so as to distance himself from church music. Believing music to be a sinful vanity, he initially sold the compositions and his instruments, before taking them back and burning them to prevent the purchaser falling into sin.[1] His repugnance for the organised church was reflected in the Quaker name for church buildings in his time: "steeple-houses".

He is credited as the author of the tract "A Musick-Lector" from 1667.[5]


Eccles had at least two children who were also composers, John and Henry.

Cultural references

Eccles, under the name Eagle, features as a major character in Harrison Ainsworth's novel Old St. Paul's, a fictional chronicle of the Great Plague and the Fire of London.

A song on Jamie T's 2016 album Trick is named after Solomon Eccles. The cover of the record shows an 1843 painting by Paul Falconer Poole depicting the scene reported above.

External links


  1. ^ a b Pulver, Jeffrey (1927). A Biographical Dictionary of Old English Music. Ayer Publishing. p. 162. ISBN cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Defoe, Daniel. A Journal of the Plague Year.
  3. ^ Pepys, Samuel (1895). The diary of Samuel Pepys, Volume 13. Brainard. p. 41.
  4. ^ Leachman, Caroline L. "Eccles, Solomon". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8438. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Quaker Heritage Press". Quaker Heritage Press: Online Texts. 2013-07-07. Retrieved 2014-06-11.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.