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Libels, Literature, Liberty, and Politics in Early Stuart England.

Literature, Satire and the Early Stuart State. By Andrew McRae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. x + 250 pages.

The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives. Edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies. Ashgate: Aldershot, 2003. xii + 213 pages.

King James VI and I: Selected Writings. Edited by Neil Rhodes, Jennifer Richards, and Joseph Marshall. Ashgate: Aldershot, xiv + 413 pages.

These three books are fine contributions to modern scholarship on the borderland between Renaissance English literature, and the political, intellectual, and cultural history of early modern England. The volume of essays edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies came out in time for Andrew McRae to use, and it is not surprising that there is some overlap in the themes that these two books discuss. In their introduction, Clucas and Davies trace the beginnings of a "public sphere" of literate, informed, and politically aware opinion in England to the 1610s and 1620s (5), and Michelle O'Callahan's essay is entitled "'Now thou may'st speak freely': Entering the Public Sphere in 1614" (63). McRae has a great deal to say on the same subject. Like some of the contributors to The Crisis of 1614, he stresses the importance of scribal publication as well as print in the early seventeenth century. He is especially concerned with the circulation of verse (and more rarely prose) libels--unauthorized and controversial texts on a person or topical issue.

The libels were often scurrilous and sometimes obscene. Many of them have never been published, but this situation is being remedied electronically, and McRae tells us that he and Alastair Bellany are preparing an online edition of "Early Modern Libels" to be published in Early Modern Literary Studies at html (McRae, viii). As yet the libels do not seem to be there, but a number of them can be found at http://www, ex. ac. uk/Projects/libels/. The edition will contain some 350 poems, of which roughly two hundred have never been published before (except scribally). McRae does not confine his attention to manuscript libels, but also discusses printed satire in poetry and prose. He notes the argument that the Bishops' Ban of 1599 drove satire underground where it was transmuted into libels, but rejects it on the grounds that the ban was only briefly enforced. He argues that libels became popular--and more formal and decorous verse satires grew less fashionable--because of court scandals, troubled parliaments, and "ongoing problems of corruption in the government," all of which "fuelled increasing anxieties about the nation" (29). This is not to say that all libels were opposed to the king or his chief advisors. Commonly, McRae argues, collections of libels contain poems of a variety of political perspectives (43). Moreover, libels often favored royal policies, and were sometimes written by courtiers (34, 31). McRae interestingly and plausibly suggests that there was a two-way relationship between libels and increasing political conflict. Libels became popular because people grew more interested in, and worried about, politics. But by their very nature libels themselves encouraged people to question authority and established ideas. The "culture of libeling was impelled by a prevailing spirit of destabilization and interrogation" (49) and the libels themselves furthered the process. The play of irony in political poems could become "a powerfully anarchic force, which carries the potential to erode the structures on which even the authority of the monarch was erected" (48). Libeling, though "not a concerted movement of opposition," "contributed to a fundamental reassessment of English politics" (50). Though not all those who wrote libels were political radicals, "the libel emerged as a pivotal textual site for the development of radical politics" (52).

It is difficult to prove (or disprove) this general thesis, though skeptics may doubt that 350 licentious poems did as much to foment political conflict as did printed pamphlets, puritan and other sermons, and contentious royal policies. McRae argues (following Alastair Bellany) that it was the circulation of libels against the Duke of Buckingham which ensured that his death was popularly welcomed in 1628 and that his assassin was widely regarded as a hero (51, 82). We cannot, of course, know how people would have felt about Buckingham's death if no libels had been spread against him. But we can surmise that people liked reading libels on him, and welcomed his death, because they thought he was a corrupt and incompetent politician who had been promoted only for his good looks and manners, and that he was pursuing dangerously popish, Arminian, and absolutist policies.

In addition to analyzing manuscript libels, McRae also surveys printed satires and satirical materials, including pamphlets of the 1620s by the Puritans Thomas Scott and Alexander Leighton. He convincingly argues that religion played a larger part in radicalizing politics than is sometimes recognized. He also cogently suggests that by 1628 "a process of polarization" had taken place in the politics of writers of libels and satire. Criticism of royal policy became more trenchant, and defenders of the crown's actions grew more outspoken. Ideological divisions crystallized in the 1620s (179), and a royalist literary tradition consolidated in the 1630s. Its most notable satirist was Richard Corbett, whose poems were more consistently represented in the verse miscellanies of the period than those of any writer except John Donne (41). While earlier poets had hoped for political harmony, Corbett accepted division, and exuberantly attacked religious and political dissenters (156).

McRae interestingly notes the frequency with which libelers dwelled on the physical peculiarities of their targets--the verbal equivalent, perhaps, of the political cartoon. For example, they drew an analogy between the hunchback Richard III and the similarly afflicted Earl of Salisbury (59). The King himself was usually insulated against libelous attacks, but McRae mentions one exception--the anonymous Catholic Corona Regia of 1615 (75)--and gives a detailed discussion of another, "The Five Senses," a poem probably by William Drummond (75-82). The poet prays God to deliver each of the King's five senses from various evils (including Italian salads) and especially from "the Ganimede"--Buckingham, of course--who has usurped royal power and "Whose skillesse and unsteadie hand" threatens to ruin the state (78, 77). The author asks God to give James a taste "Of what his Subjects undergoe / Give him a Feelinge of there woes" (79). McRae reads this passage as shifting "attention from the sinful splendour of the court to the 'woes' endured daily by lower members of the body politic" (82). But Drummond's point is not that the court is sinfully splendid nor that the lower orders deserve a better deal, but that the wrong people--Buckingham and papists--are in power at court. Another poem on Buckingham talks about how a ship founders when it is steered by an incompetent amateur while the master pilot sleeps, and concludes "Soe fares it with a great and wealthie state, / Not govern'd by the master, but the mate" (142). McRae detects "a discourse of sodomy" (143) in these lines, on the grounds that a mate can mean a wife or sexual partner. But, of course, master and mate are conventional naval terms, perfectly appropriate to a description of the ship of state (though perhaps naval terminology too could be seen as hinting at sodomy). Another satire on Buckingham represents him as disdainfully urging the House of Commons to deal only with "'common matters'" "since 'Coblers their latchets ought not to transcend'" (136). McRae detects in the reference to cobblers overtones of "class struggle." Perhaps so, though in the original of the saying--Pliny's Natural History, book 35, section 85--there are no class connotations. It is also worth observing that James I did in fact use just this proverb (in Latin--not really the language of the lower orders) in 1621 when he angrily demanded that the Commons cease debating foreign policy and the Spanish Match (James VI and I, Political Writings, ed. Johann P. Sommerville, Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1994, 259).

McRae refers to "John Hayward's Tacitean history-play, Henry IIII." It is a prose history, not a play. He asserts that the date of the lively political pamphlet Tom Tell Troath "is uncertain" and says that "it refers to events in 1626" (101n59). But the pamphlet talks about James I as still alive (Tom Tell Troath, n.p., n.d., STC 23868, for example, 29), and though it does print what purports to be a letter of Pope Gregory XV dated 1626 (19), the date is manifestly wrong, since Gregory died in 1623. 1624 looks like the correct date for this pamphlet. McRae speculates that a story about a Count of Holland who executed a bailiff for the theft of a mere cow might be about Henry Rich, first Earl of Holland (137). It is really about Willem III (the Good) Count of Holland and Hainault in the early 1300s.

These are negligible slips, however, and mostly this is a very well-researched and convincingly argued book about an important branch of literature on which remarkably little has been written. Given limited space, some topics had necessarily to be discussed rather cursorily. More could have been said, for example, on Jacobean anti-Catholic satires including Donne's Conclave Ignatii (Ignatius his conclave) (1610 or 1611)--and, indeed, on Catholic libels against Protestants. One of the most entertaining of the latter was Pruritanus (1609) (here the sodomitical allusion most definitely was intended), a collection of scandalous anecdotes about leading post-Reformation figures which almost caused a diplomatic breach between England and Venice in 1609, as copies of it were found at the Venetian embassy in London.

Though McRae and the contributors to Clucas and Davies's collection are in general sensitive to historical context, there are a couple of broad points on which historians might want to take issue with some of what they say. Firstly, McRae's book and a few--though by no means all--of the essays argue that members of the House of Commons in the Jacobean period believed that the central purpose of parliament was to give counsel to the king. Only later, so the case runs, did parliament come to see its role as including a wider range of functions. In the 1620s, McRae informs us, members of parliament were "finding new ways to target court policies" by "experimenting with impeachment," a practice which "unquestionably marked a departure from the theory that parliament was merely a body of counsel" (134-35). He notes that in the course of impeachment debates John Pym described members "as 'law-makers, as counsellors, and as judges'" (135n76). In the Addled Parliament of 1614, says McRae, the debates had still "concentrated on the language of counsel," and to prove the point he cites David Colclough's contribution to Clucas and Davies's collection (91). By 1628, McRae argues, "several writers" were beginning to see parliament as something that had "a coherent and enduring institutional identity, as opposed to being merely an irregular event called by the monarch" (137). Here McRae takes issue with Conrad Russell's Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629 (1979), which affirms that "a Parliament was an event and not an institution" as late as the 1620s (3).

Perhaps Russell intended to underline the fact that parliaments met only occasionally in the early seventeenth century. This is perfectly true. But it is also true that long before 1600 parliament was a very well established institution, with many powers that extended far beyond counseling the king. Sir Thomas Smith's De Republica Anglorum was perhaps the most commonly used guide to the English constitution in early Stuart England. It went through ten editions between 1583 and 1640 (Smith, De Republica Anglorum, ed. Mary Dewar, Cambridge UP, 1982, 145-48). "The most high and absolute power of the realme of England," said Smith, "is in the Parliament." He went on to itemize some of the things a parliament could do: "The Parliament abrogateth old lawes, maketh newe ... changeth rightes, and possessions of private men" and "establisheth formes of religion." It also authorized taxation, and acted as the country's "highest court" (78). Clearly, members of parliament were recognized to be lawmakers and judges, as well as counselors, long before the impeachment debates of the 1620s. Impeachment was revived but not invented in 1621: it was a medieval practice, dating back to 1376. It is hard to find evidence that any member of parliament in 1614--or at any other time in James's reign--believed that parliament was merely "a body of counsel." David Colclough (Clucas and Davies, 56) rightly notes that in 1614 John Hoskyns declared that the parliament had been "'called to give counsel not to give money,'" since the writ of summons did not mention taxation. (This was a somewhat pedantic point on Hoskyns's part, as the writ was a standardized medieval formula, and everyone knew that in fact monarchs usually called parliament because they wanted cash.) But Hoskyns certainly did not think that giving counsel was parliament's only function.

The idea that parliament's role in taxation and legislation was merely consultative was voiced not by members of parliament but by the Civil lawyer John Cowell, who was savagely attacked for his views by the House of Commons in 1610--with Hoskyns leading the charge (Commons Journals, 1:399). The issue that most sharply divided the king from the Commons in 1614 was impositions, which struck not at parliament's counseling function but at its control over taxation--and at its role in legislation. Impositions were extra-parliamentary royal levies on exports and imports. Sir Edwin Sandys expressed a widespread view when he said that they threatened to reduce free Englishmen to the status of bondmen, and that the reasoning which underlay them would also enable the king to "make laws without parliament" (Proceedings in Parliament 1614 [House of Commons], ed. Maija Jansson [Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1988], 147.) Parliament did expand its powers in the early Stuart period, but at no point did its members see their functions as purely advisory.

Secondly, McRae and some of the contributors to The Crisis of 1614 at times speak about "the state" and "the government" in early Stuart England as though these were clear and easily definable terms, and they occasionally tend to equate criticism of particular courtiers, or of corruption and flattery at court, with opposition to the state. Again, demands for free speech, and requests that the king listen to good counsel, are typically connected with parliamentary opposition to royal policy. The reader can easily gain the impression that James I wanted to silence everyone on political questions, with the exception of a few chosen courtiers, while the House of Commons would have introduced the First Amendment if only the king had permitted it. There are problems with all of this. The state was a fluctuating entity, with powerful factions vying for control. Leading courtiers accused each other of corruption, and sometimes wrote or commissioned libels against their rivals. This does not necessarily mean that they opposed the king or that they advocated major institutional reforms, intended to push the country in a republican direction. The ideas that courtiers should avoid flattery, and that they should be honest rather than corrupt, were commonplaces that James himself heartily endorsed. He warned his son to appoint to high office only "men of knowen wisedome, honestie, and good conscience" and especially those who were "free of that filthie vice of Flatterie, the pest of all Princes, and wracke of Republicks." The court, he declared, should "bee a patterne of godlinesse and all honest virtues." Courtiers, he said, should be scrupulously law-abiding, and if they broke the law they should be punished more severely than other people (Political Writings, 37).

It is not easy to show that James took all that much action to suppress political libels. McRae quotes an anecdote about how the king was brought "a very abusive Satire in Verse" but was pleased by its witty ending--it prayed that God preserve the king, queen, and peers, and that the author could keep his ears. James "broke into laughter" and said he could keep them, for "thou art a bitter, but thou art a witty Knave" (McRae, 87-88). McRae affirms that "in theory the great men and women of the state enjoyed their status on account of inherent virtue" (52). But James was prepared to admit that even the greatest might be incompetent, for instance referring to his predecessor Henry VI as "a sillie weake King," and advising people not to follow precedents relating to royal power from the reigns of such feeble monarchs (Notes of the Debates in the House of Lords officially taken by Robert Bowyer and Henry Elsing, clerks of the Parliaments, A. D. 1621, 1625, 1628, ed. Frances Helen Relf [London, Offices of the Royal Historical Society 1929], 42:14.) The implication is that kings may be fools, and that subjects can and should distinguish such monarchs from their more able counterparts (like himself).

Members of parliament believed that one function of that institution was to counsel the king. James agreed, informing parliament in 1605 that its members were "sworne Councellours to their King, to giue their best aduise" on all matters "which may tend to the good of the Common-wealth" (Political Writings, 156-57). True, he claimed there were some topics that ought not to be discussed in parliament without the king's permission, and these included foreign policy and royal marriages. But he justified silencing parliament on these questions not on the grounds that censorship is intrinsically a good thing, nor that subjects ought to be mutely obedient whatever the king does, but because parliamentary interference was likely to disrupt delicate diplomatic negotiations:
   These are unfit things to be handled in Parliament, except your
   King should require it of you; For who can haue wisedome to
   iudge of things of that nature, but such as are daily acquainted
   with the particulars of Treaties, and of the variable or fixed
   connexion of affaires of State, together with the knowledge of the
   secret wayes, ends, and intentions of Princes in their seuerall
   negotiations; otherwise a small mistaking in matters of this
   nature, may produce more effects then can be imagined. (Political
   Writings, 259)

If James was by no means an avowed and unbending enemy of free speech, the Commons were only partially its friends. The freedom in which they were most interested was that of agreeing with the majority viewpoint in the House. People who voiced unusual opinions could be silenced or worse. In 1621 Thomas Shepherd spoke slightingly of a bill against abuses of the Sabbath, and was expelled from the House. In 1624 Sir George Chaworth argued against war with Spain, and not long afterwards the Commons decided that he had not been properly elected and expelled him (these and other examples are discussed in Johann P. Sommerville, "Parliament, Privilege, and the Liberties of the Subject" in Parliament and Liberty from the Reign of Elizabeth to the English Civil War, ed. J. H. Hexter [Stanford: Stanford UP, 1992], 56-84, 75). Perhaps the best known attack by the Commons on free speech occurred in the case of Edward Floyd, who was accused in 1621 of welcoming the defeat of James's son-in-law Frederick by Catholics, and of denying Frederick's right to the crown of Bohemia. For these heinous offenses the House sentenced him to be pilloried three times and to pay a fine of 1000 [pounds sterling] (S. R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War 1603-1642, 10 vols. [London, 1883], 4:119-21). In 1628 parliament impeached the clergyman Roger Maynwaring for the political views he expressed in some sermons.

Clucas and Davies's The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament is a fine collection of well-researched papers on historical and literary themes connected with the parliament of 1614. Russell's essay provides much interesting information on the legislation which members of parliament were planning before the crisis over impositions disrupted the session. Andrew Thrush's important contribution sets the Addled Parliament in the context of English factional politics and international diplomacy, and provides new information on both topics. From 1612, James was in negotiations for a marriage between his son--first Henry, and then, after Henry's death, Charles--and the French Princess Christine. James hoped that the marriage would bring a large enough dowry for him to be able to rule without summoning parliament. However, most Privy Councillors opposed the French Match, partly because they feared it would increase the power of the Scots on the Council, and especially of Lennox, who was one of the scheme's warmest supporters. Opponents of the Match included both the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Suffolk, and these two advocated the calling of parliament. That Suffolk--a leading member of the pro-Spanish and pro-Catholic Howard clan--joined with the vigorously Protestant and anti-Spanish Pembroke in recommending a new parliament is important, for historians have usually assumed that the Howards were uniformly hostile to the Addled Parliament. Thrush argues that the political situation in France early in 1614--when civil war loomed--was decisive in making impossible a swift and successful conclusion of the marriage negotiations, and so in persuading James to call the Addled Parliament. John Cramsie interestingly argues that one legacy of the parliament was that the king instituted fiscal reforms in 1617-21, and that these so impressed the Commons that they did not contest impositions in 1621 or 1624. Arguably another legacy of 1614 was that the Commons had learned that to attack impositions was to invite speedy dissolution.

Alan Stewart's essay on Bacon, Northampton, and the anti-duelling campaign of 1613-14 sheds light on the factional politics of the period. Joad Raymond provides a useful survey of printing and the book trade in 1614, showing that rather less was published then than in the adjacent years. The cleric John Andrewes produced a religious treatise named Christ his Crosse in which he quoted Shakespeare on mercy at length and without acknowledgement (Andrewes did make the occasional "improvement": "The quantity of mercy is not strange," 106). Of more political interest are William Browne's The Shepheards Pipe, and Christopher Brooke's The Ghost of Richard the Third. According to Raymond, both of these books "can be read as highly indirect commentaries on matters of royal prerogative" (105-06) that were being debated in the Addled Parliament at the time. A rather different account of these texts is presented in Michelle O'Callaghan's contribution, which argues that Browne, Brooke, George Wither, and John Davies of Hereford all published works in 1614-15 which characterized "1614 as a year in which England descended into tyranny" (63). She sees Brooke's Ghost of Richard the Third as "a study of court tyranny" and links it to events in the Addled Parliament, noting that Brooke was a member of it, and that he there opposed claims that the king had absolute power which authorized him to levy impositions. In the Ghost of Richard the Third, she contends, Brooke portrayed "monarchical absolutism" as tyrannical (74-75). These are interesting ideas, but some of them are difficult to prove. Much of Brooke's material seems to be specific to Richard III--who kills Henry VI, for example, and (of course) the Princes in the Tower. Brooke's Richard is a Machiavellian villain, whom people obey through fear rather than love (The Ghost of Richard the Third [London, 1614], sig. K2a). He ignores the laws of God and man (sig. H3a) and follows his own will rather than the rule of reason (sig. I2a). The poem does not mention "prerogative," nor "absolute power." But the attitudes that it attributes to Richard are certainly not those expressed in the political writings of such absolutists as James I or Jean Bodin. They held that kings ought to respect the laws of God and man, and follow reason, though their subjects could not compel them to abide by the law, and though in emergencies they could rule outside the law of the land. Of course, it is possible that Brooke believed that despite what the King said, James did in fact willfully flout law, govern arbitrarily, and perhaps even commit murder. However, more textual warrant for this would be welcome.

Brooke does take what looks like a swipe at the merchant community of early Stuart London. Referring to the pliability of London's trading elite in the time of Richard, he asserts that "These notable, Wise-wealthy Magistrates; (Such they were then, what euer they are now), Did onely see with th'Eyes of higher states, And what these thought (though bad) they would allow" (sig. F3a). The subject of Davies's essay is the merchant community and the background to Alderman Cockayne's Project of 1614. Richard Hakluyt is well known as the author of the Principal Navigations (1598). He was also a pensioner of the Clothworkers' Company. This was not accidental, for there was a connection between his ideology and their interests. Hakluyt advocated the export from England not of raw materials or partially completed industrial goods, but of fully finished products. He also promoted the development of long-range trade routes to new and distant markets. The bulk of English cloth was in fact exported unfinished by the Merchant Adventurers' Company to the Low Countries and Germany. This was contrary to the interests of the Clothworkers, since if the cloth had been fully finished in England, it would have given them more work. Fully finished cloth would also have been more expensive, and the customs duties on it would have been higher. Financial motives led James to summon the Addled Parliament and also to cancel the Merchant Adventurers monopoly in 1614.

Anna Beer's contribution analyzes Sir Walter Ralegh's Dialogue betweene a Counsellor of State and a Justice of Peace, locating it in the context of the aftermath of the Addled Parliament, and putting forward the interesting suggestion that it was written for the rising faction of George Villiers, soon to become Earl of Buckingham. James Knowles surveys sexual politics and court masques in 1613-14, detecting sodomitical discourse in a number of them. Jonathan Gibson discusses Sir Arthur Gorges's translation of Lucan's Pharsalia, which was published in 1614. Gibson argues that the book was probably written for Prince Henry, and links it to a Neostoic movement at Henry's court. He notes that a number of passages in Lucan's poem would have had troubling resonances in 1614, but also observes that Gorges distorted some passages in favor of Julius Caesar and against the republican Pompey. Stephen Clucas discusses Sir Robert Cotton's A Short View of the Life of Henry the Third, which was first published in 1627 and has sometimes been discussed in connection with opposition to Buckingham in the 1620s. The book was written in 1614, and Clucas lucidly and convincingly argues that it was intended to point to important parallels between politics in the 1200s and in 1610-14. He plausibly contends that Cotton wrote the work for the Earl of Northampton.

David Colclough deals with debates on freedom of speech in the Addled Parliament, concentrating especially on five speeches (or sets of speeches) which the king or the Commons thought scandalous. He persuasively concludes that James differed profoundly in his political attitudes from many members of the Commons. While the king believed that parliament should first discuss the topics he thought most important--like taxation--a number of members of the Commons claimed that they were, and should be, free to set their own agenda. "In the Commons' near-desperate attempts to retain their freedom of counsel," Colclough argues, "we can perceive, I think, the serious concern with the possibility of becoming enslaved that Quentin Skinner has recently identified." Following Skinner, Colclough claims that at this period members of parliament were turning away from "the language of the common law," which contrasted free Englishmen with bondmen or villains, and towards "descriptions of freedom and unfreedom as offered in Roman law--drawing on the Digest, and also on Cicero, Livy and Sallust" (56). Roman law contrasted freedom with servitude or slavery. According to Skinner, a key text on slavery is in Justinian's Digest: "There we learn that slavery can be defined as 'an institution of the ius gentium by which someone is, contrary to nature, subjected to the dominion of someone else.'" From this definition, Skinner proceeds, "it follows that what it means for someone to lack the status of a free subject must be for that person not to be sui iuris but instead to be sub potestate, under the power or subject to the will of someone else (Quentin Skinner, "Classical liberty, Renaissance translation and the English civil war," in Visions of Politics, Vol. 2: Renaissance Virtues [Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2004], 308-43, at 313; quoting from Digest I. V. 4. 35). The medieval English villein was not in the same condition as a slave, says Skinner, for "it is only his property, not his person, which is sub potestate domini" (309-10).

There are several problems with this account. Firstly, some members in 1614 argued that the king's claims to be able to levy extra-parliamentary impositions effectively reduced free subjects to the status of villeins or bondsmen (Commons Journal, 1:472, 493), but no one seems to have drawn on Cicero, Livy, or Sallust on liberty (or on anything much). Secondly, and more importantly, the Digest's definition of servitude was well known to the English common law because it was precisely Henry de Bracton's definition of servitude--or villeinage, or serfdom: "Servitude is an institution of the jus gentium, by which, contrary to nature, one person is subjected to the dominion of another" (Henry de Bracton, De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, book 1, chapter 6; edition of London 1640, f. 4b; translation from Samuel Thorne's edition, 2:30, online at http://hlsl. law. harvard, edu/bracton/Framed/mframe.htm). Bracton used the terms "servus" (the word for a Roman slave) and "villanus" (or villein) interchangeably. Thirdly, the villein's person emphatically was under the dominion of his lord. "In relation to his lord," say Frederick Pollock and Frederic Maitland, "the general rule makes him [the villein] rightless." "The lord," they continue, "may beat or imprison his serf" and the state will intervene only for "the preservation of life and limb." In justifying state intervention in such extreme circumstances, they say, Bracton could "fall back on" the Roman law principle "that no one shall make an ill use of his property" and they observe that "modern statutes which prohibit cruelty to animals do not give rights to dogs and horses" (Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2nd ed., 2 vols. [Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1968], 1:415-16). Plainly, there are difficulties with drawing an overly rigid distinction between an English and a Roman conception of liberty.

McRae and several contributors to The Crisis of 1614 persuasively argue that a "public sphere" developed in the early seventeenth century. They intimate that this took place against the will of the kings. But arguably James I helped to promote the public sphere by his writings, which assumed--and encouraged--a literate, politically engaged audience interested in the king's actions and attitudes. Famously, James maintained that he was accountable to God alone. However, he also clearly enjoyed explaining his policies to his subjects. As he remarked to parliament in 1610, he held it "a necessitie of honour in a iust and wise King, though not to giue an account to his people, yet clearely to deliuer his heart and intention vnto them vpon euery occasion" (Political Writings, 181). As the introduction to King James VI and I. Selected Writings notes, James manifestly took pleasure in communicating his views to the public. He published a large amount, in prose and verse, on a wide range of issues, including the smoking of tobacco, witchcraft, politics, and divinity. The editors of the Selected Writings aim "to bring together in a single volume James's more significant works in order to demonstrate the diversity of his interests and achievements as a writer" (xi). In addition to the royal texts themselves, the book contains a useful twenty-page introduction, short but helpful occasional footnotes illuminating the king's words, a glossary of difficult terms, a fairly brief select bibliography, and six illustrations.

Though James's Selected Writings runs to over four hundred pages, the editors have inevitably had to omit a good deal of what the King wrote. One of his main literary concerns in England was to refute the theory of the papal deposing power, as expressed by Cardinal Bellarmine and other notable Catholics. His collected Workes (1616-17) included three lengthy treatises on the deposing power and church-state relations. None of the three is present in Selected Writings, and this is perhaps the book's major omission. Also absent are such items as the King's Discourse on the Gunpowder Plot, and his Declaration against Conrad Vorstius, a professor at Leiden whose theological views James found deeply objectionable. Much of the King's poetry is published here, including the very interesting political poem "His Majesties Answere unto a Libell," written in 1622-23 at the time of the Spanish Match, and sharply reprimanding libelers who ignorantly criticized his policies. In total, the poems take up about a third of the book. The Daemonologie is present as are Basilicon Doron, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, and A Meditation Upon the 27. 28. 29. Verses of the XXVII. Chapter of Saint Matthew. The speeches to parliament that were included in the Workes are reproduced here, except for the speech of 9 November 1605, given just after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. One later speech--to the House of Lords in 1621--is also here. Selected Writings prints The Book of Sports of 1617, which encouraged dancing, archery, and other recreations on Sundays, much to the consternation of Puritans, and the Directions for Preachers of 1622, which discouraged clergy from preaching politics. It omits the King's important speech in Star Chamber in 1616, dealing with Sir Edward Coke and his ideas.

Overall, the editors triumphantly attain their goal of presenting in a single volume a collection of James's writings that demonstrates the diversity of his interests. It is a pity, though, that nothing by him on church-state relations is included. The editors' notes, though brief, are usually helpful. There are occasional slips. The speech of 1621 to the House of Lords is listed in the contents as a speech to parliament, and the introduction (18) likewise treats this as an address to both Houses, detecting in it a change of attitude on the King's part, and claiming that he had now become "defensive, conciliatory, even apologetic" (18). However, the change of tone may in part be attributable to a change of audience: James never confused the Lords with the Commons. The editors say that "Parliament found offensive" several definitions in John Cowell's Interpreter (326n6). Again, it was the Commons but not the Lords that did this. One note says that "Venice was the only significant example of non-monarchical government in Europe at the time James was writing" (272n15), which is wildly inaccurate as the Dutch Republic was a republic. But these are minor blemishes. This book, like McRae's Literature, Satire and the Early Stuart State, and Clucas and Davies's Crisis of 1614, is a most valuable contribution to early modern literary and historical studies.

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Title Annotation:The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives; King James VI and I: Selected Writings
Author:Sommerville, Johann
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2005
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