Life writing (and laugh writing) for a Christian Prince: Sir John Harington's Supplie or Addicion to the Catalogue of Bishops (1608).
In his own time, Harington might well have been expected to continue Godwin's mandate, described by Godwin himself as 'a memoriall of the liues and actions of the most memorable and famous learned men, that our countrey from time to time hath brought foorth'. (2) He might also have humbly conceded the limits of his research, as Godwin had done before him, declaring that his catalogue 'can adde nothing unto that large and painefull worke of Master Foxe'. (3) But Harington forewent traditional 'memorialising' even as he downplayed the 'painefull' bulk of John Foxe s Acts and Monuments in friendly and direct words to Prince Henry:
My Author [throughout Harington refers to Godwin thus] directs his Reader to Mr. Foxes booke of Martirs for a more full relation of his doings but that ys so full (though I doubt not, verie faithfull) that I feare your highness will finde it over tedious to reade. (4)
Instead, Harington affirmed his own credibility in terms of free speech, healthy disinterest, personal contact with some of his subjects, and direct advice to the prince. Harington identified these attributes as 'some advauntage' over Godwin's authority, because, as Harington rather slyly confided, 'he wrytes to the world publiquely and I but privately to your highnes' (44). In this way, Harington directed his biographical Supplie to Prince Henry personally in a single, customised manuscript copy. The document then went missing from scholarly consideration for some fifty years, until it was resurrected from another manuscript and published under a different title for different political purposes. Such non-circulation of the manuscript clearly repressed any wider significance the text might have had within Prince Henry's own limited lifetime, or later.
In fact, the only version of Harington's Supplie to reach public attention in the seventeenth century did not appear until 1653, two generations after the authors death. Edited and expurgated by Harington's own grandson, John Chetwind, a Presbyterian minister, the book was misleadingly titled A Briefe View of the State of the Church of England. With this edition, Chetwind attempted to present Harington's work as a puritanical argument against the power of bishops within the English Church. (5) This, of course, was not a part of Harington's complicated motivation for writing as he did. Indeed, as Harington's modern editor, R. H. Miller, observes:
It is a little shocking to know that the conservative Sir John Harington, an Anglican with Catholic proclivities, would ultimately have his anti-Puritan history brought to the public by a Presbyterian grandson, and this knowledge has affected the judgment that has been made of the Supplie ever since. (6)
Or at least, it has affected such judgement as has been made in the over four hundred years of disregard and misappropriation (that would have horrified such a self-consciously royalist courtier) Harington's work has endured.
Alan Pritchard makes mention of Harington's work only in relation to the un-researched, personal nature of Thomas Fullers 1662 Worthies of England, simply mentioning Fuller's own observation that 'Sir John Harington's wit was so sharp that an attendant feared he would make an epigram on her'. (7) Previously, Donald Stauffer's pioneering work on seventeenth-century English biography, overlooked Harington altogether while merely providing a bibliographical entry for Godwins 1601 Catalogue. Of course, Stauffer was focused strictly on conventional large-scale biography, dismissing what he called Fuller's 'life-sketches' as altogether too brief and whimsical for consideration. (8) Yet, Fuller was fully aware, if rather uninformed, about the political nature of Harington's Supplie, and he was rather critical of it: 'A posthume book of his is come forth as an addition to Bishop Godwins Catalogue of Bishops; wherein (besides mistakes) some tart reflections in uxoratos episcopos might well have been spared.' (9) When it comes to 'tart reflections', however, Harington demonstrated mastery of technique and direct applicability in shaping his biographical stories as advice to a young prince on the verge of independent executive power. As a humorously self-conscious writer with an eye for salacious detail, Harington could indeed be annoying to conventional biographical writers, such as Fuller or Stauffer. But, as I will show, he could also be very informative.
Recently, Kevin Sharpe and Steven Zwicker have noted that the very term 'biography' was only just emerging in the late seventeenth century. Furthermore, although acknowledging the exemplary lives found in the genres of Catholic hagiography and Reformation narratives, they describe early English life writing in terms of newly emergent national forms and in especially social terms:
For all the scholarly attention to self-fashioning, to the celebration of the individual, the most common forms of early modern life writing caution us that individuality itself is fashioned out of collectives, typologies, and exemplars. (10)
Harington certainly followed a specific collectivity of Reformation English bishops, but he also focused on reporting firsthand the personal idiosyncrasies, quirks of expression, and self-conscious word use of his subjects, along with humorous anecdotes, that were relied upon by later documentary biographer s, even though they were impossible to verify independently. Throughout, Harington seems to have been opposed, or oblivious, to anything resembling a master narrative or grand structural through line of reportage. He was a 'life' writer, even a brief life writer, an updater, a supplemental contributor to Godwin's massive catalogue. Bishops represented and conveyed a new national importance within the English Church and politics--but also within reported cultural behaviour. Marcus Harmes has observed that:
bishops interacted not only with a broader landscape of political demands (notably their role in the House of Lords) but with a much broader world of continental reforms, where non-episcopal and episcopal reformed churches provided the substance of both attack against and defence of bishops. (11)
Fully conscious of broader landscapes of attack and defence, Harington focused on the personal, morally complicated nature of his subjects, but he seldom moralised. The bishops that Harington reported on get married, get unmarried, get in fights over religious policy and real property, crack jokes, annoy monarchs, and generally enter into a contested landscape of English culture within the recent Elizabethan, and later Stuart, monarchies. When it came to matters Elizabethan, Harington was there. On matters Stuart, Harington had importantly informative but also entertainingly pleasing advice to share. Prince Henry represented a future national government, at one remove from the bishops with whom his father personally debated matters of policy. Within that future, Harington represented himself as proxy, intervening to provide new and important, and updated information suitable for the purposes of a newly national and theologically disinterested prince. In this way, Harington self-identified as a reporter aiming to please. He certainly was not a hagiographer or even a historian; he operated as something of a self-ingratiating gossip. But then gossip is always new and seldom requires footnotes, even though it does require judgement. Indeed, as 'reporter', Harington stressed the sort of incisive details and persuasive generalities that would later merge into news forms and networking, identified loosely by Joad Raymond as 'a congeries of words that intersect and overlap, and that have different force in different contexts: news, communication, information, intelligence, rumour, gossip, talk, opinion, licence'. (12) Moreover, at the Stuart Court, such conveyance of information was always necessary and sometimes even rewarded.
Throughout the Supplie, Harington s focus is idiosyncratic but also quite revealing. The opening paragraph, for example, surveys almost a hundred years of struggle concerning the reformed Church of England, reaching all the way back to the apostles of the primitive Church and their defiance of various Caesars, before narrowing down closely to squelch some fifty years of vicious rumour about Archbishop Cranmer transporting his wife around in a trunk.
Catholic propagandists had retailed the story with glee. According to them, Cranmer, abashed about his secret marriage, was said to have kept his wife out of the public eye in a large wooden chest. He drilled holes in it so that Mrs Cranmer could breathe. This embarrassing, though certainly apocryphal, story had begun to circulate sometime after Cranmers execution in 1548. It was still active in 1603, when Jesuit propagandist Robert Parsons updated the myth in print, adding a new twist about the trunk--containing Cranmers beloved wife--being stored upside down:
It happened that at Gravesend, where the Bishop lay one night, his chests were brought a land and put in a gallery. And this among other being much recommended to the shipmen, as containing precious stuff belonging to my Lord's Grace, they severed it from the rest and put it up end long against the wall in my Lord's chamber, with the woman's head downward, which putting her in jeopardy to break her neck she was forced at length 12 to cry out. And so the chamberlains, perceiving the error, took her forth foully disfigured and as good as half dead. This is a most certain story and testified at this day by Cranmer's son's widow, yet living, to divers gentlemen, her friends, from whom myself had it. (13)
Harington was moved to protest. He himself disapproved of sexually active, married clergy, but this was personal: Cranmer's sons widow was a distant cousin of Haringtons own wife.
After making some particular enquiries, Harington was able to report specifically, near the beginning of his Supplie, that:
I can truly affirme that this is a meer fiction, for I have examined the gentlewoman herself (being of kin to my wife and a Rogers by name) and she hath sworne to me she never reported nor ever her self heard of anie such misfortune (35).
Only Harington would have intervened in quite so literalistic a way to set the record straight for posterity. Of course, he was also constantly intent on 'straightening' records for his own personal purposes. In this regard, his approach differs little from the usual motives of self-interest and career advancement of early modern English courtiers. Unlike other courtiers, however, Harington recorded his material through researched information, and maintained a written tone of intimacy connected always to self-reflection and creativity, as well as to external oral testimony and eyewitness accounts.
I will approach Harington s Supplie in his own narrative and anecdotal way, mindful always of his linking of ideas to personal experience and advice. This approach seems appropriate because, like contemporary life writing, Haringtons own reportage involves telling multiple stories, developing mutual consciousness with reader and audience, and connecting biography to culture in complex and compelling ways. Moreover, he clearly enjoyed doing so even as he informs, entertains, and insinuates himself with Henry, Prince ofWales. Many courtiers might have relished this position; Harington certainly did. But, more generally, he foregrounds personal humour and self-deprecating irony to shape information throughout his unusual early contribution to English life writing. Through this procedure, Harington effectively connects genres of memory, narrative, and information that typically involve the mutual interaction of writer, subject matter, and reader/audience. (14)
Harington presented his work in manuscript to King James's oldest son Prince Henry in an obvious attempt to curry favour with the heir apparent, but it also served as a work of advice in reaction to anti-episcopal politics. In his ' Occasion why'--the supplemental information to his work of supplemental information--Harington explains that he had heard an alarming rhyme--unintentionally promulgated from a pulpit, it had become popular on the London streets--which made direct reference to Prince Henry's future ecclesiastical policy: 'Henry the 8. pulld down Abbeys and Cells | But Henry the 9. shall pull down Bishops and bells' (191). Somewhat annoyed at such reckless populism, Harington the mature courtier presents Henry the young prince with what he hopes will be an informative and balanced historical update to Godwin's Catalogue of Bishops. In it, he discredits the above-quoted 'reckles ryme' as the local, topical, and contestable political slogan it most surely was. Aware of its destabilising possibilities for Church and Court, however, Harington pleasantly asserts his own conversational counter-authority on matters ecclesiastical, social, personal, literary, historical, and popular making his material less dry and serious. In Haringtons own words to the prince:
For, my purpose from the beginning, though it were chiefly to enforme your knowledge, with a faithfull report of some things passed in Queene Elizabeths tyme, overpassed by my author, yet was it also, to sawce it in such sort, with some varietie of matter not impertinent, to cheere your spirit, least a dull relation of the acts of grave graybeards to a young prince might grow fastidious (59).
Thus, Harington combines information and entertainment to convey biographical history in a new way. He de-emphasises the moral idealism of the Protestant sacred biography that had been reported popularly by those such as the martyrologist Foxe, or the bishop Godwin, even as he anticipates the exemplary lives (his own included) that would be reported later by writers such as Fuller and John Aubrey. He also purposefully 'sawces' his already often saucy work with personal creativity and a self-conscious sense of the ridiculous and the absurd. In a recent article, Harmes and Gillian Colclough elevate the above-quoted rhyme about bishops and bells to the status of timeless proverb. They argue that the Supplie 'simultaneously condemned and defended episcopacy', that the rhyme moved Harington morally 'to write a sequence of episcopal vitae which castigated the standard of current incumbents of English bishoprics'. (15) Harington certainly castigates instances of bad behaviour within his document, but always with a taste for comic irony, word play, and local effect, as opposed to institutional standard and moral idealism.
Alive and thriving within a new Stuart regime, Harington recalls the life and death struggles of the English Reformation, with blithe understatement, as 'those variable tymes of Henry the eight, King Edward, and Queene Mary' (34). Making general reference to the gaoled, executed, and banished bishops of the time, he merely quips about the 'many fights, many flights, and manie frights for their conscience sake' (34). In much the same way, he declares his specific resolve: 'my resolution being to wryte plainly without feare of favor of those I do write' (44). Such freedom of speech was relatively new but Harington exercises it with a refreshing lack of fear and a somewhat sporting look back at previous administrations. In a letter to his wife, written at the death of Elizabeth I, he wistfully recounted private remembrances of his godmother Queen, including 'her watchings over my youthe, her likinge to my free speech, and admiration of my little learninge and poesy, which I did so muche cultivate on her commande'. (16) Harington loved a good story and he freely told stories of himself and of others: this had been his ticket to influence since Elizabethan times. He extended such free speech, which included learning and poesy, into his cultivation of Prince Henry. As an inveterate wit, Harington knew that eliciting pleasure through laughter defuses fear, extends possibilities for exchange, and ensures the existence of an audience.
Many commentators tread lightly over Haringtons use of humour in the Supplie to emphasise his personal self-interest or his serious, if self-interested, scholarship. Harington certainly does present himself in his written work as an educated, innovative, and hard-working courtier. Somewhat surprisingly, recent commentators seem to take this self-representation almost as seriously. Jason Scott-Warren reads Haringtons works as gifts' with power and meaning, crediting extant presentation copies with complex social and literary possibilities. He focuses on the Supplie mostly as a plea for patronage, identifying the work simply as a 'gossipy history of the English episcopate', as a gift with implicit transactional significance that overlapped with Haringtons own remarkable application in 1605 for an archbishopric himself. (17) The failed application was remarkable and it adds a layer of irony to Harington's Supplie that Scott-Warren rather ignores. Likewise, Harmes is resolutely all-too-serious when it comes to Harington. He straightforwardly credits Harington as a theological and social critic, who located episcopal authority within contemporary English reform as opposed to the ancient history of the Apostolic Church. In so doing, Harmes stresses Harington's seriousness in enriching 'Prince Henry's knowledge of the history of the reformed English Church', even as he relegates Harington's sense of 'sawce' and 'cheere' to quotation within the footnotes. (18) However, Harington's contemporary 'sawce' and 'cheere' is what the Supplie is actually all about. Far from critical condemnation, sly misrepresentation, or even unedifying gossip, Harington's use of humour was calculated to both inform and entertain Prince Henry. It suggests that episcopal policy--perhaps all policy--should be taken seriously but not solemnly. His sense of comic repartee throughout the Supplie exceeds even the sort of psychological coping that Paul S. Smith and I argued was central to his remarkable Metamorphosis of Ajax of some ten years before. (19) Instead, the Supplie combines ingratiation with information, pitched always as entertainment in personal, innovative, and suggestively detailed ways that surpass the standard rhetorical tropes of theology and morality, and even those of Reformation dissent.
From the outset, Harington positions himself as a thoroughly dependable, Elizabethan--Stuart subject with specific historical (and even genetic) information. He links his own personal history to specific details about the hated Marian bishop, Stephen Gardiner, who had imprisoned Harington's father and imposed upon him a significant fine: 'My father, only for carrying of a letter to the Ladie Elizabeth, and professing to wish her well, he [Gardiner] kept him in the Tower twelve months and made him spend a thousand pownd ere he could be free of that trouble' (67). Harington's mother 'that then servd the said Lady Elizabeth' was likewise denounced by Gardiner as 'an Heretique'. Disowned by her own father, Harington's mother --in a horrible choice of the lesser of two evils--'was glad to sojourne with one Mr. Topclife', whose very name, by this time, had become a byword for incarceration and pain. The casual tone of this statement masks the horrid reality of state-sanctioned torture. Both parents endured Gardiner's administration, however, and Harington concludes with a pointed moral: 'so as I may say in some sort, this bishop persecuted me before I was borne' (67). Somewhat outrageously, but also as lived evidence, Harington positions himself as a martyr before-the-fact in relation to the Stuart regime.
He purposefully positions himself as liegeman from the first. His intention is to pledge fealty, to bind himself unto Prince Henry in a number of mutually reinforcing narrative ways. Somewhat breezily, he aligns himself with Stuart episcopalianism by defining Puritans quite simply as 'Protestants skard out of their witts' (38). To share such a quip, joke, or story so trimly and so secure of its receptivity with the prince is to share a perspective, a point of view, and an agreeable interpretation. Harington proceeds shamelessly to cultivate his association with the prince especially on such policy topics as that of married clergy, with all of its metaphorical possibilities for commitment and alliance, and implicit potential for salacious detail.
Having previously exploded the myth of Cranmer's wife within the travelling trunk, Harington goes on to describe the delicate situation between Queen Elizabeth and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, on the topic of marriage. As he puts it, 'though this Archbishop Parker dissembled not his mariadge, yet Queene Elizabeth would not dissemble her dislike of yt' (35). Parker had been long married by the time he feasted with Queen Elizabeth at Lambeth Palace, and Harington takes up the narrative at Elizabeth's official parting from the feast where she displayed an unusual uncertainty about proper forms of address. She offered a coldly disapproving expression of royal thanks:
the archbishop and his wife being together, she gave him very speciall thanks, with gratious and honorable tearms; and then looking on his wife, and you (saith she) Madam, I may not call you, and Mistris I am ashamed to call you, so as I know not how to call you but yet I do thanke you' (35).
Still in the know, Harington has more fun with Aylmer, a former Bishop of London, and the curious behaviour of his son-in-law, a young preacher named Adam Squire. Harington stresses the peculiarity of Squire as a 'very fantasticall man' continuing: 'I have herd he would needes preach at his own marriadge upon this text: It is not goodfor Adam to be alone' (49). Revelling in the salacious literalism of his own italics, Harington takes text and story further: 'This text he so persewd after he had bene some yeares married, that though his wife were away yet Adam would not be alone' (49). As Harington puts it, this activity bred 'Jelosy, Jarrs, and complaints', including Bishop Aylmer's reprehension of his son-in-law. But, posing as victim, the philandering soni-n-law concocted a secret correspondence between his wife and an unnamed knight, never thinking that the bishop would demand to interview the said knight. But the bishop did, thereby confirming his daughter's innocence and Adam's falsity, and revealing (through Harington's gleeful word-play) that 'there were treacherous tricks put on his daughter but no meretrix' (49).
Harington further ponders the meretricious nature of clerical marriage in his discussion of Bishop Thomas Cooper and his unfaithful wife. Adopting a tone at once lofty and subversive, Harington narrates that: 'He maryed a wife in Oxford for that speciall Just cause (I had almost said only cause) why Cleargie men should marry, viz. for avoiding of sinne' (78). In authoritative Latin, he quotes i Corinthians 7. 9--'It is better to marry than to burn'--with all of the solemn intonation of an Elizabethan bishop, but then a pun intervenes: 'she proved too light for his gravitie, many grayns' (78). Leaving aside the experience of her many putative ' grayns/groins ', the bishop consoled himself with a 'socraticall and Philosophicall pacience' (79). Finally unable to endure either his wife's continual misconduct or his own shame, the bishop had her 'Paramour' separated from her by a restraining order, a 'bond of a hundred pownd' which Harington, dissatisfied, insists should have been 'bolts of a hundred pownd' (79). Identifying Bishop Cooper as the innocent party, Church authorities offered up a legal divorce, but the saintly bishop refused. As Harington puts it: 'he knew his owne infirmitie that he might not live unmarried, and to divorce and marrie againe he would not charge his conscience with such a skandall' (80). Public scandal in this case was only just getting started, as Harington refers Prince Henry to the Martin Marprelate pamphlets and their satirical treatment of Cooper's misalliance in print. He even recommends one publication specifically: Hay any worke for Cooper (1589). (20) One can almost hear the mutual laughter following Harington's double-entendres. Historian Brett Usher challenges the popular image of misbehaved episcopal wives and of Queen Elizabeth's opposition to married bishops, blaming Harington and his witty stories for creating these impressions and bequeathing them to posterity. (21)
Focusing on issues of character and good judgement, Harington remains youthful in his zest for puns and humour even as he provides updated religious and historical information for the next-in-line to the English throne. He adduces Dr John Capon, incompetent former Bishop of Salisbury with the irresistible pun and risque comment: 'he is noted to be one of the first that made a Capon of his bishopric, and so guelded it that it will never be able to build either Church or Castle againe' (98). So much for his endowments. By contrast, his successor Bishop John Jewell, appointed in the year of Elizabeth's accession, proved 'a Jewell in deed as in name' (98). As public prelate, Jewell held forth in print and distinguished himself through many years of valuable service, but Harington is especially impressed by a significant feature of his private life: 'One thing I will specially commend him for, though I shall not be commended for it myself by some, and that is that whereas he defended the marriadge of Priests, no man better, yet he would never marry himself' (99). This pleasing restriction leads Harington to postulate that Jewell chose burial in Salisbury beside ancient Bishop Wivill because 'of his name he had taken a caveat to keepe himself without a wife' (100). The pun--Wivill/wive-ill (or even wife-ill)--is a bit of a stretch, but punsters such as Harington never know when to stop.
Nor does he stop punning in his dismissal of Jewells successor, Bishop Edmund Guest: 'Though Doctor Guest succeeded bishop Jewell and my author makes him a good wryter, yet he shall not be my guest in this discourse' (100). Guest dismissed, Harington proceeds to Bishop John Coldwell, a physician, reaching back to a previous pun: 'I touched before how this Church had surfeited of a Capon, which lying heavie in her stomacke yt may be thought she had some neede of a Phisition' (100). Harington intercedes at this point, within parentheses, to reference his own most recent publication on medical issues: 'Your highnes will pardon my phisick metaphors because I have latelie lookt over my Schola Salerni' (101). (22) And yet, as Harington reports, physician--bishop Coldwell was inadequate to the complexity of the medical task at hand; especially when dealing with the contemporary outbreak of Sir Walter Ralegh disease.
Ralegh's corrupt doings in the west-country and within the See of Salisbury were well known to Harington. Without mentioning him directly, Harington makes clear that it is Ralegh whom he criticises:
the knight that caryed the Spolia optima of this Bishopprick, having gotten Sherborne castle Park and Parsonage; he was in those dayes in so great favour with the Queene ... he mought have verie justly and without offence of Church or state have compassed a much better purchase (101).
But Ralegh did give offence to Church and state back in 1591. Moreover, Harington takes some pleasure in describing the knight as falling flat on his face in his greed for Sherborne Castle:
And once above the rest being talking of it, of the commodiousness of the place, of the strength of the seate and how easily it might be got from the Bishopprick, sodainly over and over came his horse, that his very face, which was then thought a verie good face, plowed up the earth where he fell (102).
Some saw his fall as a good omen; some saw it as a bad one. Harington takes the long view, noting Ralegh's current detention in the Tower, condemned to die and yet permitted privileges of books and visitation such that 'many that are at lybertie tast not greater comforts then he doth' (103). And what of the physician-bishop who refused to curb Ralegh's 'petty Larceny or rather playn sacriledge' (102)? Harington concludes with an anecdote about the digging of his grave, linking it to an identifying pun: 'In digging the grave, so great a spring brake into yt all with water and quite washed away the presage, so as the dead bishop was drownd before he could be buried, and according to his name laid in a Coldwell before he was coverd with the cold earth' (103). And --as Harington himself puts it, trimly and often within his text--so much for Bishop Coldwell.
Concerning ecclesiastical graft in general, Harington has great fun with the concept of 'godson'. Himself a significant godson of Elizabeth, Harington points to Elizabeth's choice of Henry Cotton as Bishop of Exeter: 'a speciall choyse of this her Chaplen being a gentleman of a worshipful house and her godson when she was lady Elsabeth' (104). Having blessed many godsons, Elizabeth joked that this one should bless her. Of the honour, Harington wryly comments, 'whether she were the better for his blessing I know not, but I am sure he was the better for hers' (104). And speaking of sons and godsons, Harington notes that Cotton was reputed to have '19 Children by one woman ... and most of them sonns'. A learned, understated satirical comment follows: 'A man that had three sonnes or more among the auncient Romans enjoyed thereby no small priviledges, though the latter Romans make it not a merit in a Bishop' (104). But all this tends toward the conclusion of the passage, a conclusion linking Harington and Prince Henry as virtual siblings: 'And thus much be said of my Godbrother, and (be it said without presumption your highness godbrother)' (105). Harington risks parentheses but links himself with Prince Henry (godbrother to Godbrother) who was also officially a godson of Elizabeth I as pronounced at his baptism in Stirling, August 1594.
Maintaining his focus on the west-country, Harington provides a pocket history of his own See, Bath and Wells. His home estate at Kelston was only a few miles downstream from Bath, on the river Avon. Active in local politics, Harington himself had provided funds and worked on maintenance and improvements at Bath Abbey. Unfortunately, certain Bishops of Bath and Wells historically had not been so devoted. Harington packages the neglected state of Bath within a telling precis: 'Bathe had the name but Wells had the game' (113). In bringing together a negative intersection of clerical marriage, ecclesiastical mismanagement, political graft, and personal reportage, he focuses on Bishop Thomas Godwin (father of Haringtons 'author' Francis Godwin). In this regard, and perhaps not surprisingly--although Harington does express regret at the association--Sir Walter Ralegh reappears in the narration of the declining prospects of the See from the time of the widowered bishop's remarriage:
A chief favorite of that tyme (whom I am sory to have occasion to name againe in this kynde) had labord to get the Mannor of Banwell from this bishopprick ... now hearing of this Intempestive mariadge tooke advantage thereof, causd it to be told to the Queene (knowing how much she mislyked such matches) and instantly pursewed the bishop with letters and Mandates for the Mannor of Banwell for 100 yeares (117).
Harington no doubt relished the ambiguity of his own rhetorical pointing; Ralegh's persistent suit probably felt like a hundred years to the bishop.
Miller notes that while there is some doubt as to the veracity of the Banwell appropriation story, 'the action on Ralegh's part would not be unusual' (117). Besides, and perhaps more importantly, the queens distaste for the bishop's marriage put Harington in the midst of things concerning power and character assassination at the Elizabethan court. Harington narrates that, as a result of Ralegh's information, the bishop 'indured many sharp messages from the Queene of which my selfe caryed him one, deliverd me by my lord of Leicester, who seemd to favor the bishop and mislike with the knight for molesting him' (118). Unfortunately, Ralegh and Leicester were soon agreed--'like Pilate and Herod' says Harington--in their mutual condemnation of Bishop Godwin. And the bishop's ill-conceived marriage centres the opprobrium of all. As Harington describes it:
Never was harmlesse man so traduced to his Soveraigne, that he had maryed a girle of 20 yeare old with a great portion, that he had convayd halfe the bishopprick to her, that (because he had the gowt) he could not stand to his marriadge, with such scoffs to make him ridiculous to the vulgar and odious to the Queene (118).
Harington remains the primary source for this oft-repeated series of associations, including the ironic follow-up, which he attributes to the Earl of Bedford, who 'said merily to the Queene after his dry manner: Madam, I know not how much the woman is above twenty, but I know a sonne of hers is but a little under forty' (118).
Harington repeats these things to the Prince within a curious mixture of pleasure and propriety. Mildly salacious details both capture attention and carry information on to Haringtons argumentative construction concerning three kinds of marriage--'of Gods making, of mans making, and of the Devills making'--in relation to Bishop Godwin and his old-young wife:
Of Gods making as when Adam and Eve two younge folke were coupled; of mans making when one is old and the other younge as Josephs marriadge; and of the Devills making when two old folks mary, not for comfort but for covetousness, and such they said was this (118).
Herein, Harington artfully advises the prince about proper associations and political compromise while also reconfirming his own rhetorical stance as trusted moral advisor.
Throughout, Harington is self-conscious about misrepresenting individual personalities, and his tendency to 'omit the good desarts of some, and to conceale and hide the demerits of others' (126). To combat this tendency, he proudly pleads an 'Invincible Ignorance' (126). And yet, he is not so ignorant regarding the political associations of kings, courtiers, and bishops, which he conveys to Prince Henry without equivocation: 'I know that next to kings Bishops are most sacred persons and as yt were Gods on earth, howbeit also some of them have the Imperfections of men' (127). As an example, Harington cites the brilliant but longwinded Bishop Herbert Westphaling and how on one occasion he was schooled in public speaking by Queen Elizabeth who 'sent twice to him to cut short his oracion' (134). This, Westphaling refused to do, for as one of his subordinates explained, 'he would not ... or could not put himselfe out of a set methodicall speache for fear he should have mard it all and perhaps confounded his memorie' (134). Consequently, Harington recounts with pride Elizabeth's demonstration of personal kindness, self-awareness, and effective public speaking on the following day:
I may not forget how the Queene in the midst of her oracion, casting her eye aside and seeing the old Lord Threasorer Burleigh standing on his lame feete for want of a stoole, she calld in all hast for a stoole for him; nor would she proceede in her speache till she saw him provided of one, then fell she to it againe as if there had bene no interruption. Upon which one that might be so bold with her told her after that she did it of purpose to shew that she could interrupt her speech and not be put out, although the bishop durst not adventure to do a lesse matter the daie before (134-35).
There is no 'Invincible Ignorance' here: Harington relates a personal parable to Henry on effective public interaction and the demonstration of resolve.
But teaching by bad example could be just as rewarding, as in the remarkable story, from a generation before, of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, and his tormentor, Sir Robert Stapleton. Harington artfully foregrounds his fabliau report in terms of a metaphorical sea voyage; that having passed Godwin sands in the Thames estuary could sail on successfully to Greenwich and the seat of central administrative power. That is, as Harington affirms, 'if I can as well passe over this Edwin Sands' (161). Harington gets personal in this story of rapacity and greed by complimenting Sandyss worthy and still living offspring, and noting that Prince Henry is himself acquainted with Stapleton, who in those days 'had skant an equall and (except Sir Phillip Sidney) no superior in England' (163). All overstatement aside, Stapleton had built for himself a palatial house modelled on Italian architectural styles, which he endeavoured to style 'Stapleton's Stay'. With great pride, he invited the Archbishop to see the house and bless it with the aforementioned name.
But, as Harington reports:
When the Archbishop had fully beheld yt, and in his Judgement found it fitter for a lord Treasorer of England then for a knight ofYorke-shire. He said to him, would you have me call this entended house Stapletons Stay. Nay rather let me say to you, Stay Stapleton (164).
Harington delights in such reversible word play even as he reports knowingly on Stapleton's extreme umbrage: 'How often a man looses a frend with a jeast, and how grievous it is for a mans vanity to be crost in the humor' (164). As a result of Sandyss slight, Stapleton's aggrieved revenge, long nurtured and long planned, eventuated in a complicated sting of the Archbishop involving sexual trickery, large-scale deceit, and lucrative extortion.
Harington continues the story by relating how the Archbishop, on his next visit to Doncaster, found the staff of his favourite hotel to be especially painstaking in their hospitality, little thinking that they were also in the employ of Sir Robert Stapleton. Surprisingly, the attractive mistress of the house slipped into the Archbishop's bed in the middle of the night. Just as surprisingly, her husband came into the room shortly afterwards. In great grief, jealousy, and indignation, he called upon the heavens to be his witnesses. The midnight clamour woke up the other guests, including an officer of the law, and even Sir Robert Stapleton who coincidentally was also staying at the hotel that night. Much to the Archbishop's relief, Stapleton rescued the situation by soothing and smoothing all concerned, admitting all witnesses to 'secrecie and scilence, and sending all to their lodgings without tumult' (165). In private, Stapleton further defused the situation by helpfully counselling Archbishop Sandys--'for the honor of the bishop and speciallie the Churche'--to pay off everyone involved.
With thanks for Stapleton's concern, the Archbishop quietly and willingly paid the bribes for a period of years. As Harington recounts, 'following his councell from time to time, gives the host a piece of money, the false officer a Farme, and the knight for his travaile manie frendlie recompences' (165). But when those 'frendlie recompences' stretched to the point of Stapleton's request for the Manor of Southwell, Sandys finally figured he had paid enough. According to Harington, Sandys made application to the Earl of Leicester who made a Star Chamber matter of the situation in the Archbishop's favour, including fines and imprisonment for some of the conspirators. Harington constructs a moral out of the whole business through brilliant metaphors of play and power where knights and bishops are strategically involved:
The Play of Chesse, a game (not devised for, or by fooles) may teach that the Bishops due place is nearest the king, and though some knight can leape better over the Pawnes heads, yet oft times he leaps short, where the bishops power yf you crosse it, reacheth the length of the whole Province (168).
Doubtless, Prince Henry--sportsman and politician--drew the appropriate moral concerning institutional powers, their limits, and their associated responsibilities.
Nearing the end of the Supplie, Harington provides compelling biographical updates for two clerics who were still living and much involved in the political landscape of England. Both bishops--Lancelot Andrewes, the Bishop of Winchester, and Tobie Matthew, Archbishop ofYork and personal friend of Haringtons--were at the time fully invested in the recent national and theological concerns but also politically involved from positions at once antagonistic but reconcilable.
About Andrewes, already well known as a figure of dignified national authority, Harington is proud, as he says, to play the blabb so far that your highness may know him better' (138). To know him better is for Prince Henry to understand Andrewes as a unifying figure for Church and State. Harington sets forth this knowledge by registering simple but significant biographical details: Andrewes is a London-born product of Mulcaster's Merchant Taylors' school, and a force drawn from the centre of English national life and consciousness. As such, his educated understanding raises him above the restrictions of tendentiousness and class. Harington reports that the staunchly Protestant Sir Francis Walsingham, as Andrewess patron, attempted to persuade Andrewes 'to maintaine certayn Statepoints of Puritanisme' (139). But Andrewes refused his patron on principle and thus avoided being used as Walsingham's political pawn. In Elizabethan times, such impolitic refusals usually ended any career advancement, but Andrewes was able to gain Walsingham's respect and continued to rise in influence. Peter McCullough, Andrewess biographer, calls him an 'avant-garde churchman', and quotes Harington's own words on Andrewes's distinctive, post-Confessional method for spiritual counsel: 'His manner was espetiallie in Lent time to walke duly at certaine howrs in one of the yles of the Church, that if anie came to him for spirituall advise and comfort, as some did though not many, he might impart it to them' (140). (23) Harington remains a primary source for Andrewes's public availability and integrity, and especially for Andrewes's reputation as an Elizabethan force for national pride, learned dignity, and non-partisan respect.
More importantly for Prince Henry, that is what Andrewes continued to be. Harington reports on Andrewes's effect on the king himself the previous November, in 1607, while preaching on the anniversary of the Gunpowder plot: 'I never saw his Majestie more sweetlie affected with any sermon then with that' (141). Andrewes could even sweeten a day that commemorated national treason and its distress. In conclusion, Harington expands on Andrewes's possibilities for creating an even greater, European religious unity stemming from within the Stuart regime:
I perswade my selfe that whensoever it shall please God to give the king means, with consent of his confederate Princes, to make that great Peace Which his blessed word Beati Pacifici seemeth to promise, I meane the ending of this great schism in the Church of God, procured as much by ambition as by superstition. This Reverent Prelate wilbe found one of the ablest, not of England only but of Europe, to set the course for composing the Controversies (141).
It was vital that Prince Henry know of these possibilities for international reconciliation and of the English bishop capable, in Haringtons view, of inducing negotiation towards such unity.
About Archbishop Tobie Matthew, Harington is unreserved in his praise and richly personal in his descriptions. Indeed, as Harington points out, Matthew enjoyed even the praise of his enemies, quoting as an example a pamphlet by Jesuit apologist Edmund Campion who credited Matthew one 'that now domyniers in your Pulpitts, whom for his good learning and seedes ofVirtue we esteemed' (176). Such was high praise indeed, and all the more so as an enemy of Campion's influence represented an enemy as well of the English Church and state. Further, by singling him out in this way, England's enemies also clearly identified Matthew as England's champion of reformed theology and political progress.
Harington acknowledges that Prince Henry was already acquainted with this remarkable northern cleric: 'But his Reading, learning, preacheing is so well knowne to your highness as I do but loose labour in recounting either generall or perticuler praises thereof' (176). Harington focuses on the personal, noting Matthew's birthplace in the city of Bristol and his proud status as a Somersetshire man, 'or to wryte it as he speaks it sportingly a Zomeretshyre man' (170): he wants Henry to grasp that even Matthew's provincial accent is a personal token of his authentic Englishness. Additionally, Matthew could overcome great distress as demonstrated in his youth by a severely broken leg; suffered perhaps, Harington postulates, because 'Sathan had forseene that he should one daie prove some excellent instrument of his Service that must bruise the Serpents head' (177). The break was multiple, involving 'his legge and ankle almost all to pieces'. 'But', Harington continues, 'if the strong man procured this harme a stronger granted the remedie, for he was soone after so soundly cured, as there remayned after no signe or skar no effect or defect either for sight or use of this rupture' (177). Like Andrewes, Matthew could knit things together perfectly; unlike Andrewes, he was especially physical and militant in his abilities.
He was also an extremely witty man and a pleasant social companion. Harington prefaces Matthew's numerous puns and distinctive turns of phrase by once again getting personal with the prince: 'And because I write only for your highness pleasure I will hazard my Lords displeasure to repeat one or two of his of one or two hundred' (178). As examples, Harington cites Matthews actions as Vice Chancellor at Oxford some years earlier. Confronted by an aggressive petitioner who demanded that his counsellor be heard, Matthew asked the name of the counsellor: 'Saith he, Mr. Leasted; alas said the Vicechancellor no man can stand you in less steede; no remedie saith the other, necessitie hath no law. Indeede (quoth he) no more hath your Councellor' (178). On another occasion, a petitioner named Cox demanded to be heard and Matthew clearly took pleasure in his punning, public ruling: 'make him room there, said he, let Cox-come in' (178). Neither joke is hilarious but Matthew was clearly given to inventive wordplay and good fellowship. While Harington reproves himself as a fellow drinker with a good memory, he also credits Matthew with being an especially good sport about drunkenness, memory, and necessary frivolity: 'he knows such nugacitie becomes not his place, and lament that nature and custome have so fram'd him that when he ceases to be pleasant at his meate he must cease to bee' (179). Harington agrees wholeheartedly and summarises his admiration in deeply personal terms:
For my part, I speake frankly, I will love this fault in him, if it be a fault, and be glad if I can follow it, having learnt an old rule of my mother in law: At meate be glad,for sin be sad. And I will saie hereafter for my selfe (179).
He thus implicitly shares this good grace and familial good fellowship with Prince Henry.
Archbishop Matthew, however, also had a sensitively contemplative side. Another story originating with Harington, and repeated by all subsequent biographers, involves Matthews sentimental journey home to Bristol for a final visit to his aging mother. On his return journey, he visited his alma mater, Oxford, where he had a telling experience, as Harington reports:
Comming neer the town with that troope of his retinew and fTends to a water, yt came into his minde how that time 40 yeare or more he past the same water as a younge poor scholler going to Oxford, and remembering Jacobs words, With my staffe I passed over this Jourdaine, and now I passe over againe with theis troops, he was so moved therewith that he allighted from his horse, and going apart with devout teares of joy and thankfulness, he kneeled down and used some like words (181).
More is the pity that this powerful, engaging, and sensitive man should have had a renegade son of the same name, then engaged in Catholic conspiracy, and at that time imprisoned in London. Prince Henry might have considered himself both informed and warned with regard to maintaining good relations with his own father and his own future kingdom.
Throughout the Supplie, Harington presents himself as a personable, friendly raconteur, a teller of significant stories, and a well-intentioned teacher. He clearly meant to advance himself by informing Prince Henry on recent English history, personal and public conduct, and self-improvement; as well as perhaps, by way of self-example, on the necessity for a light touch when relating the things of God and man and their inevitable political complexities. In this regard, Harington's form of life writing seldom looked back in solemnity on his subjects. Rather, he looked forward to his effect on the prince through his humorous observations and his gift for drawing unusual connections about people and events. He took pleasure in his biographical update on the bishops of England, and especially in their personal histories and idiosyncrasies, even as he rhetorically invaded his prose with idiosyncrasies of his own. Moreover, he clearly enjoyed doing so and used humour for special effect and emphasis on almost every page. In this regard, he set a new tone and approach for English life writing in his own time.
Harington's manuscript of 1608 was meant for an audience of one: a rapidly maturing Christian prince who might well enjoy the foibles of contemporary bishops as described by a courtier who knew them. In 1653, Harington's grandson, John Chetwind, repackaged and published the manuscript for a mass English audience not quite so readily amused. Doubtless, Chetwind considered himself as improving on the Supplie. But with its new title and expurgations, including a bluntly truncated final paragraph and the complete omission of Harington's ' Occasion why' concerning royalist assertions and unreserved statements of fealty, the Supplie had lost its political relevance. Responsibly edited, the entire manuscript finally saw print only in 1979, and has thus escaped the notice of most commentators on life writing and biography. But Harington's verve for alternative story telling, comical details, and development of ideas through artful narrative clearly anticipates the open-ended forms of life writing we know today.
Prince Henry had an expressive friend and supporter in Sir John Harington. Clearly, Harington had some curious ideas about biography and statecraft. Nevertheless, Harington's Supplie or Addicion to the Catalogue of Bishops to the Yeere 1608 added informative levity to the biographical record of the English national Church, at the same time as it informed and entertained a future king Henry, who never ultimately achieved the crown.
The University of Alberta
(1) The entire package is now BL, MS Royal 17. B. 22, still in its original royal binding. Jason Scott-Warren (Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 21, 219-30) describes the book within his richly informative argument for Harington's complicated material place as courtier and writer. The only modern edition of Harington's Supplie remains A Supplie or Addicion to the Catalogue of Bishops to theYeere 1608, ed. R. H. Miller (Potomac: Studia Humanitatis, 1979) (hereafter Harrington, Supplie).
(2) Francis Godwin, A Catalogue of the Bishops of England (London, 1601), sig. A2r.
(3) Godwin, Catalogue, sig. A3r.
(4) Harington, Supplie, pp. 64-65. All subsequent page references to this edition will be provided in the text.
(5) John Harington, A Briefe View of the State of the Church of England, ed. John Chetwind (London, 1653); see also R. H. Miller, 'Introduction', in Harington, Supplie, pp. 1-32 (pp. 3, 9). Miller identifies the only other autograph copy of Harington's Supplie as BL, MS Additional 46370, and suggests that Chetwind probably had access to it (or another copy) through his family connections.
(6) Miller, 'Introduction', p. 7.
(7) Allan Pritchard, English Biography in the Seventeenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), p. 150.
(8) Donald A. Stauffer, English Biography before 1700 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), p. 162.
(9) Thomas Fuller, The Worthies of England, ed. John Freeman (London: Allen & Unwin, 1952), p. 500.
(10) Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker, 'Introducing Lives', in Writing Lives: Biography and Textuality, Identity and Representation in Early Modern England, eds Sharpe and Zwicker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 1-26 (p. 4).
(11) Marcus K. Harmes, Bishops and Power in Early Modern England (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 119.
(12) Joad Raymond, 'Introduction: Networks, Communication, Practice', in News Networks in Seventeenth-Century Britain and Europe, ed. Raymond (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 1-17 (p. 2).
(13) Jasper Ridley, Thomas Cranmer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), p. 149.
(14) On theory and genre concerning life writing, see the Special Issue of Literature Compass, 8 (2011), especially Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly, 'Introduction: Life Writing and Critical Practice', pp. 875-77; Derek Neale, 'Writing and Remembering: Paradoxes of Memory, Imagination and Fiction in Stories about Lives', pp. 951-61; and Rachel Morley, 'Writing Intimate Lives: Meditations in Biographical Praxis', pp. 962-71. For specifically early modern context, see Danielle Clarke, 'Life Writing', in The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500-1640, ed. Andrew Hadfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 452-67; and Michael Ullyot, 'Early Modern Biography, New Historicism, and the Rhetoric of Anecdotes', Clio:A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History, 40 (2011), 307-29.
(15) See Marcus K. Harmes and Gillian Colclough, 'Henry Prince of Wales, Proverbs and the English Episcopate', Explorations in Renaissance Culture, 37.2 (2011), 97-115 (p. 98).
(16) Sir John Harington, Letters and Epigrams, ed. Norman Egbert McClure (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930), p. 97.
(17) Scott-Warren, Harington and the Book as Gift, p. 229.
(18) Marcus Harmes, 'Orthodox Puritans and Dissenting Bishops: The Reformation of the English Episcopate, ca. 1580-1610', Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 39 (2008), 199-218 (p. 203).
(19) Rick Bowers and Paul S. Smith, 'Wit, Humor, and Elizabethan Coping: Sir John Harington and The Metamorphosis of Ajax', Humor, 17 (2004), 181-218.
(20) Martin Marprelate, Hay any worke for Cooper (London, 1589).
(21) See Brett Usher, 'Queen Elizabeth and Mrs Bishop', in The Myth of Elizabeth, eds Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 200-20; see also Jason Scott-Warren, 'Harington's Gossip', in ibid., pp. 221-41.
(22) A year previously, Harington had indeed published his translation of the medieval medical poem Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum as The Englishmans Docter, or, the Schoole of Salerne (London, 1607).
(23) P E. McCullough, 'Andrewes, Lancelot', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), n, 103-13 (p. 105).
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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