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Constructing Cromwell: Ceremony, Portrait, and Print 1645-1661 and The English Civil Wars in the Literary Imagination.

Laura Lunger Knoppers, Constructing Cromwell: Ceremony, Portrait, and Print 1645-1661

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. xii + 249 pp. $59.95. ISBN: 0-521-66261-3.

Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth, eds., The English Civil Wars in the Literary Imagination

Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1999. ix + 279 pp. $39.95. ISBN: 0-8262-1220-4.

Saint, regicide, sturdy soldier, would-be king and dynast, gentleman, hypocrite, friend of liberty, tyrant, equal-opportunity employer of military talent, dissembler, parliamentary stalwart, upstart -- these and others have been someone or another's vision of Oliver Cromwell. Laura Lunger Knoppers examines the early images of Cromwell as his star ascended, at his Protectoral apogee, and after his death. Focusing upon moments (and thus making no claims to comprehensiveness), she considers the implications of the endorsed (though not necessarily official) portraits as well as the scurrilous representations in pamphlets and satires, the public ceremonies of his two Protectoral investitures, and Oliver's state funeral along with the bizarre 1661 exhumation.

The result is a handsome volume, from its fashionable full-bleed dust-jacket to its generous black-and-white illustrations. And it is not merely a pretty book: Knoppers's frequent comments upon the rhetorical and political burden of prosody are impressive, her general methodology solid (apart from a serious stumble discussed below), her scholarship thorough but seldom ponderous. The second chapter, perhaps Knoppers's best, addresses "how the republic appropriated and revised monarchical forms of portraiture, panegyric, and ceremony" (31), shrewdly developing Cromwellian representation in its inevitable dialectic with images of Charles I. Working too with text, she bravely tackles Payne Fisher's Irenodia Gratulatoria in its original (and dense) neo-Latin, which she argues was noticeably less monarchical than its English translation.

Much more problematic is her first chapter, the central claim of which is that royalist satirists "created their own worst enemy" (31) in Cromwell, by making him "a public figure" (15, 194) both grander and more "populist" than the man was in his own milieu (18). Though Knoppers is informed enough to realize that her prime early source for this, John Cleveland's The Character of a London Diurnall (1645), did not emerge sui generis -- the newsbooks attacked by Cleveland (and the similar news separates) promoted Cromwell -- she never allows them their due. "Populism" may be too loaded a term, but "popularity" (more in its modern than its early modern sense) may not be. If Cromwell had not by deed, word, and mutual trust inspired loyalty and admiration (or, more cynically, had pro-parliament sources not represented Cromwell in such terms), what would have been the point of the deflation and debunking?

Knoppers also (chaps. 3 and 4) reviews the Protectoral displays, usually with an eye to the relative strength of "republican" and "monarchical" elements. To cast the issues in so stark a dialectic, however, is to miss a distinctive third possibility -- and actuality, for it is what occurred. In addition to the naked republican prospect and the English royal exemplum, there was the Augustan alternative. Cromwell could be imperator and princeps; those about him could call him Augustus, and he, with implausible deniability could insist upon his plainness and his refusal to be king. As desperately as royalists and assorted radicals sought to strip away the fig leaves of republican (and godly) virtue, just as determinedly did Cromwell and some of his publicists put them back. In 1657, Cromwell rejected the kingship, but did accept the right to nominate his successor (a point not remarked by Knoppers) -- if such sufficed for the Roman emperors, why not for a British Caesar? These caveats aside, few historians will fail to learn from Knoppers's artful study many students of literature will appreciate (or ought to) her grasp of fact and context, and her ability to stay "on message". Not the least of her achievements is to have found some space for herself beside the vast turf claimstaked by David Norbrook's Writing the English Republic (1999) and Kevin Sharpe's 1998 essay (pursuing a similar theme from a less republican perspective), "An Image-Doting Rabble Rabble': The Failure of Republican Culture in Seventeenth-Century England," in his and Steven Zwicker's collection, Refiguring Revolutions (1998).

The essays in The English Civil Wars in Literary Imagination allow for less homogeneous consideration. The sixteen contributions, in 270 pages of text and notes, vary considerably in length, purposefulness, and interest. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth, in their introduction, note the greatest common denominator is the essays' "historical ground[ing]" (3). Apart from this political turn, the contributions may share an "unexpected irenicism" (3), but with the hard edge of radicalism acknowledged to be absent from this collection (4), it is hardly surprising (and in the case of Milton, more than debatable). Graham Roebuck's lead-off contribution, simply titled "Cavalier," painstakingly examines the uses of the word in the early 1640s and seeks precursors in late Elizabethan usage; alas, he adds little but length to the OED account. Regrettably Roebuck does not remedy the OED's failure to have something to say about the word's career in the 1630s, when it was in both a revival and developmental phase.

Tom Cain's essay on the trimming Royalist Mildmay Fane amply fulfills its promise, as does Alan Rudrum's similarly focused look at Henry Vaughan's reflections on his Breconshire royalist neighbors. Jonathan Rogers usefully and sensitively examines Restoration royalism's approach to civil war apocalyptic: the sneers at the saints' hair-trigger millennialism] were contained by the writers' own Christian providentialism and the quasi-providentialism of their favored Augustan authors. Andrew Shifflett engages Robert Overton, whose reworkings of Donne and others already attracted the attention of David Norbrook, among others. Shifflett finds Overton, far from being a mere literary plunderer, capable of a extracting "a kind or moral or artistic victory" from his sorrowful cut-and-pastes.

Other royalist poets receive treatment. M. Thomas Hester examines "Herrick's Masque of Death," drawing on the work of Anne Coiro and Achsah Guibbory; Daniel Jaeckle briefly looks at John Cleveland's "The King's Disguise"; Erna Kelley wrestles with the politics she finds in Richard Lovelace's poems about "insects and other small creatures" (82); Jay Russell Curlin regards the 1655 and 1668 versions of Denham's Coopers Hill as appreciably less angry and more irenic than their 16412 predecessor (some will wonder if his work sees beyond that of those whose shoulders he stands on, John M. Wallace and Brendan O Herir). Gender issues are treated in Elizabeth Clarke's essay on "Women's Use of the Religious Lyric in the Civil War Period," which argues, once again, that seemingly private religious expression was also public and political, and in Diane Purkiss' wide-ranging and freewheeling "Dismembering and Remembering: The English Civil War and Male Identity." Two contributors with potentially strong essays derail the mselves. Hugh Jenkins is doubtless right to identify the tawny mowers in Marvell's Upon Appleton House as the Leveller/Digger menace, but bounds into self- and text-annihilation in claiming that "Marvell moved to self-parody... parodying his own poem" (155); Robert C. Evan's brief regard of Katherine Philips in the Interregnum insists ad nauseum how "complicated" and "complex" everything (including Philips) was, without saying much that Philips' verse did not say more elegantly and directly. M. L. Donnelly's study of Milton's "Revaluation of the Heroic Celebration of Military Virtue" rightly sees the mature Milton as neither a pacifist nor a militarist; but while usefully surveying the destructiveness of the civil war as motive for Milton's post-civil war loss of enthusiasm for military prowess, Donnelly crudely reduces anti-militarism to a supposed rejection of the "feudal" (206) values of "an outmoded aristocracy" (215). How, though, a committed republican could reject the citizen-soldier is a riddle that D onnelly does not permit to be entertained. The concluding and much the longest contribution, by Catherine Gimelli Martin, attempts to read Samson Agonistes in respect of a supposed "debate" Milton had with Thomas Hobbes on natural law.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:MENDLE, MICHAEL
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Words:1297
Previous Article:England in Conflict, 1603-1 660. Kingdom, Community, Commonwealth.
Next Article:(Re)visiting Delie: Maurice Sceve and Marian Poetry [*].
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