In November 2017, I attended a presentation by Shawn Eyer at the Detroit Masonic Temple. During the presentation, he referenced several Masonic authors from the 18th century. I learned that one of the earliest known essays written by a Mason concerning Freemasonry was by Robert Samber. Robert Samber was an English Freemason, author, and translator.
Samber was born in 1682 around Lymington, Hampshire, England. He faced many disadvantages as he was a younger son in a Catholic family when Protestantism had taken hold of England which limited his career choices. After considering joining the clergy, he began a literary career. Samber authored several documents and include "Treaties on the Plague" which gives instructions on how to prevent and mitigate the spread of the plague. This document was dedicated to the Duke of Montague who was the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge (the Moderns).
Samber also wrote under the pseudonym "Eugenius Philalethes" which was also used by alchemist Thomas Vaughan. It is debated as to whether he was a Rosicrucian or not, but using this pseudonym as a homage to Thomas Vaughan, himself a famous alchemist and Rosicrucian, seems to support the possibility. Long Livers, a compilation of the gathered knowledge of the time, was written by Harouet de Longeville and was translated, with a preface, by Robert Samber using his pseudonym. This preface was a dedication to the Grand Master and brethren of England and Ireland. Samber made some very bold pronouncements about Freemasonry and its lineage in this preface. In one instance he stated that Freemasonry belonged to "an uninterrupted Tradition" and that Masons are "a chosen Generation, a royal Priesthood." I was fascinated to learn that he is also the first known author to use the term "living stones" in regards to Freemasons which is still used in our ritual today and is one of my favorite orations in Freemasonry.
Among his non-Masonic translations is Charles Perrault's "Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals", which later became known as "Tales of Mother Goose" which contain tales such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Cinderella," "Puss in Boots," and other children's stories.
For the most part, men and Masons alike saw him as an honorable man. One paper I read about him was not a fan as he was described as a "rogue Catholic" and a "rogue Freemason" who used his connections for his own profit.
1. Armitage, E. (1898). Robert Samber. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, 11, 103-108.
2. Blom, J., & Blom, F. (n.d.). Samber, Robert. Retrieved from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-69872
3. Brother Eugenius Philalethes sendeth greeting. (2007, May 31). Retrieved from The Burning Taper: http://burningtaper.blogspot.com/2007/05/brother-eugenius-philalethes-sendeth.html
4. Eyer, S. (2017). Wisdom of the Founding Brethren. Retrieved from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/35121020/Wisdom_of_the_Founding_Brethren_Light_from_the_Earliest_Lodge_Writings_and_Orations
5. Eyer, S. (n.d.). The Essential Secrets of Masonry. Retrieved from Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/35111939/A_Dissertation_upon_Masonry_1734_with_Commentary_and_Notes
6. Gould, R. (1884). The History of Freemasonry. London.
7. History of the Philalethes Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Philalethes Society: http://freemasonry.org/history.php
8. Loiselle, K. (2017, May). From Enlightenment to Revolution. Retrieved from The California Freemason: https://californiafreemason.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2019/04/17-MOC-056_CFM_MayJune.pdf