I’ve been reading a little about the early Quakers recently and came across these two descriptions of the lengths they’d go to demonstrate their belief that, whether finely or raggedly dressed, people underneath were just the same – including a willingness to go naked in public – described as a “dramatic way of calling people to repentance…[and] ‘a trenchant reminder to the ungodly'”.
Elizabeth Fletcher who ‘in obedience to ye Lord’, went naked through the streets of Oxford ‘as a sign against that hypocritical profession they then made there, being then Presbyterians and Independents, which profession she told them the Lord would strip them of, so that their nakedness should appear’.
And this, from Samuel Pepys about an incident in Westminster Hall in 1677,
when, a large crowd having assembled to hear the King speak, a Quaker ‘came naked through the hall, only very civilly tied about the privies to avoid scandal, and with a chafing-dish of fire and brimstone upon his head did pass through the hall, crying “Repent! Repent!”‘
So streaking wasn’t as new as we imagined back in the 70s.
I couldn’t help imagining the man with his chafing dish as a sort of seventeenth century as a sort of early Arthur Brown. Inaccurate of course – Brown always covered more than just his ‘privies’.