Reading English Renaissance Literature in Its Church Contexts.
Henley, Mary Ellen, and W. Speed Hill, eds. With the assistance of R. G. Siemens. Wrestling with God: Literature and Theology in the English Renaissance. Essays to Honour Paul Grant Stanwood. N.p., 2000. ISBN 0-9687195-0-3. Pp. 336. $50.00.
These two collections have significant things in common. In a sense, each essay included in them is trying to accomplish what George Herbert advised scholars to do: "Copie fair, what time hath blurr'd; / Redeem truth from his jawes." Both books are festschriften honoring recently retired and distinguished scholars of early seventeenth-century English literature--John Roberts, a bibliographer and much more, and Paul Grant Stanwood, an editor and much more. I am privileged to know each as a personal friend.
The collection edited by Eugene R. Cunnar and Jeffrey Johnson has a more deliberate focus, concentrating on the seventeenth-century religious lyric, more particularly an array of female or "minor" authors deemed to deserve more attention than they have been getting. The volume edited by Mary Ellen Henley and W. Speed Hill, first published electronically by the Journal of Early Modern Literary Studies, deals more generally with literature and theology in the English Renaissance, including seven essays on John Donne, but branches out at the end to include attention to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writings.
Both collections offer fresh approaches to the authors treated, inviting readers to go back to their works, or in some instances to explore them for the first time (as I did in some cases). In general, all these essays pay attention to the religious as well as the literary contexts of the works, but not all show equal awareness of recent developments in Tudor-Stuart church history. It happens that each volume has an essay on William Austin, and the differences between these two fine essays can serve to bring out the value of fresh approaches to the religious backgrounds, as well as to the literary texts themselves. I will begin with them and then proceed with essays in the Henley-Hill collection that deal with the seventeenth-century church and its theology, the area of my own specialization, before discussing other contributions to the two volumes.
In the last few decades historians have gained and made available important new insights into the nature of the late Tudor and early Stuart Church of England. While some commentators on religious literature of that time continue writing as if that had never happened, others are trying to take these significant developments in church history into serious account. Graham Parry's essay on Austin in Wrestling with God: Literature and Theology in the English Renaissance, while doing some excellent biographical contextualizing, gives little indication that the seventeenth-century Church of England was different from what the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century thought of it. True, Parry recognizes that Calvinism prevailed in the Elizabethan and early Jacobean church (70), but like a number of authors in the Henley-Hill collection, and unlike Kate Narveson who wrote the essay on Austin in the Cunnar-Johnson volume, Parry leaves out of account the nonpuritan Calvinists who participated in the leadership of the Elizabethan and Jacobean church.
Patrick Collinson in The Religion of Protestants (1982) and Kenneth Fincham in Prelate as Pastor: The Episcopate of James I (1990) have shown that, while a few other bishops such as Lancelot Andrewes also had influence at court, the Jacobean church leadership largely consisted of bishops who can be considered Calvinist. Anthony Milton in Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640 (1995) demonstrates in detail how religious viewpoints and accompanying polemics were changing in the English church, but he nevertheless supports the idea of a Jacobean Calvinist consensus that was challenged first by the "avant-garde" conformists and then by the Laudians (395-98).
The moderates present at the middle of Jacobean church leadership--both moderate puritans, including college heads, lecturers, and some beneficed clergy, and moderate Calvinist bishops and other church leaders--have often been ignored. Instead, writers historical and literary have tended to give all their attention to those unhappy with the Calvinist consensus: the more extreme puritans and those church leaders like Andrewes and William Laud who sought to change the church emphasis away from preaching and toward a greater accent on sacrament and formal liturgy. Peter Lake has shown that under James I there were moderate puritans willing to work with evangelical bishops, who in turn exercised some tolerance toward them. Too often it has been assumed that Calvinism was necessarily extreme and perhaps limited to predestinarianism. Instead, one should note that these moderate churchmen, in keeping with John Calvin's own teachings (well known in England), maintained a strongly biblical, evangelical emphasis with pastoral concerns.
In writing of Austin's place in the church, Parry uses the anachronistic terms "Anglican" "high church" and "Anglo-Catholic" (none current before 1633-34, when Austin died). Judith Maltby has shown, however, that many who favored common prayer and supported church polity were clearly Protestant and opposed to Laudian innovations. Maltby would likely disagree with Parry's claim that the Laudians and their precursors were "bringing about a warmer climate of devotion in the church" (71). The piety of non-Laudians at the moderate middle of that church was hardly "austere" as Parry suggests, but warm, joyous, and appreciative of the arts, if, as I maintain in Conforming to the Word: Herbert, Donne, and the English Church before Laud, Dr. Thomas Mountford--who was on the cathedral chapters at Westminster and St. Paul's, a friend of Donne, and the rector of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the Herbert family London church--is typical (52-54).
In a forthcoming essay I argue that it was Calvinist moderates like Donne more than the polemically inclined "avant-garde" including Andrewes (see Ferrell) who cared about the pastoral needs of their parishioners. Parry does effectively liken a few passages from Austin to the sermon style of Andrewes (71-72), but my own reading of Austin's prose suggests that such excerpts are not typical of the whole work, which reminds me more of Donne, someone he would have heard preach at Lincoln's Inn (68). Parry does not explain why the layman Austin would choose to write in a sermon style, nor does he draw any inferences from the fact that Austin (like Donne, incidentally) preferred to use the Geneva Bible.
Parry's is an accomplished and stimulating essay, but Narveson in the other collection helps readers to see Austin as part of a "third alternative," neither Puritan nor anti-Calvinist (140-41). Emphasizing connections with Donne (not Andrewes), Narveson brings out the nature of what she calls Austin's "committed conformity" to the English church, with a clearer anti-Roman stance than that of the Laudians, even while he felt comfortable in citing pre-Reformation and Roman Catholic writers and enjoyed church festivals and customs. His interest in lay sermon-like devotions "outside public worship" in "attempts to kindle a lively faith" (141) again sets Austin off from the anti-Calvinists and their emphasis on exclusively priestly functions (Milton 470-72).
In keeping with the aims of the Cunnar-Johnson volume, Narveson pays considerable attention to poetic details and imagination. While Parry makes only a brief comparison each to Richard Crashaw and George Herbert, Narveson repeatedly illuminates the nature of Austin's verse by reference to the writings of Herbert, Donne, and others such as Edmund Spenser. Parry rightly calls Austin's poetry "heartfelt, doctrinally rich" (76), but Narveson helps us to see it in the larger context of Protestant poetics, and as in some ways like Herbert's but with "the sense of Christian community found in Donne's sermons, if not in his religious lyrics" (155). Perhaps if Parry had recalled Barbara Kiefer Lewalski's excellent treatment of the biblical symbolic mode and biblical emblematics in Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric, he might not have failed to recognize the Austin monument's "Petra erat Christus" as simply quoting 1 Corinthians 10:4 (81).
The introductions to the two volumes also touch on the nature of the English church. Interestingly, one announced purpose of the Cunnar-Johnson collection is to provide a "correction to the hegemonic emphasis on Protestant/Puritan aesthetics and culture that has long [certainly not before Lewalski's 1979 book] dominated scholarship" (15). Cunnar and Johnson offer no evidence, and would not find it in the historians they cite, that the English church leadership was anything other than Protestant. However, they and their contributors are thoroughly justified in investigating other religious currents in English society. In view of Roberts' publishing interests, it is especially appropriate that Roman Catholics like Robert Southwell are included, but puritans can also be found among the lesser-known and female writers in the volume.
In the Stanwood festschrift Henley rightly pictures a "theological age" in which "human events were delineated against a background of divine providence, daily grace, eternal salvation, and inevitable mortality, with sin and its consequences universally assumed" (1). However, with Louis L. Martz she identifies Donne as part of a "slowly rising tide of anti-Calvinism" and, unlike Ted-Larry Pebworth in the same collection, claims that Donne "eschews" an attraction to Calvin's teachings (2, 4). But Donne cites Calvin, always with respect, one hundred times in his sermons (by contrast, Desiderius Erasmus twice and Richard Hooker not at all). When on one occasion he differs with Calvin, he does not name him, while anti-Calvinists would have made a point of doing so (Milton 427-28), and in the same context he acknowledges reprobation.
Martz's essay "Donne, Herbert, and the Worm of Controversy" oversimplifies the attacks Herbert saw on his church as Calvinist and predestinarian, whereas Milton, a specialist on the Laudians, regards them as "assaulting the Jacobean Reformed consensus" and attempting to "destroy the ideological cement of the English Church" (544, 546; see also Ferrell). Herbert, whose bishop John Davenant came under such attack, well knew what was going on. Also, disappointingly, Martz claims that church conflicts (rather than "many spiritual Conflicts [...] betwixt God and my Soul") are "at the center of Herbert's poems." Martz is at his best in repeatedly showing Herbert as moderate--knowledgeable, "caught in a cross-fire" (19), but avoiding extremes. However, to support his reading of the conclusion of "The Water-course," Martz claims that "nothing in the articles of the British Church" prevented the idea of predestination caused by God's foreknowledge (13). Article 13 does exactly that: works before grace do not "make men meet to receive grace."
I have had to adjust my ideas about English Calvinism after reading Milton's Catholic and Reformed. Others need to as well. Martz insists that the only true Calvinism is "strict" by which he appears to mean holding strong views on predestination, including reprobation (24, 12). Milton shows, however, that English Calvinism as he usefully defines it ranges over many doctrines, not just those of grace, and involves changing and shifting attitudes throughout the period from 1600 to 1640. It includes many whom Milton terms moderate episcopalians (395-426). And the English did not regard their church as Lutheran or close to it, except in being a church of the Reformation (384-95; cf. Martz 24).
Was Donne a Calvinist? Calvin himself objected to the label, and Donne who on a few occasions differs with the reformer praises Calvin's undogmatic attitudes. Donne perfectly fits Milton's definition of "Calvinist." His views were probably like those of George Hakewill, a royal chaplain linked to Donne and Archbishop Abbot by Jeanne Shami (8-9), who said that the English church respected Calvin as "a chief Captaine in the Lords battailes." The English regarded him as "a worthy man, but a man, and consequently subject to humane error, and frailtie. We maintaine nothing with him because he affirmes it, but because from infallible grounds [i.e., the Scriptures] he proues it" (qtd. in Doerksen, Conforming 18-19).
Scholars who use the term Calvinism regarding this period should be required to read more than shallowly in the works of Calvin, which were widely available and studied in England. The claim that predestinarian grace and sacramental grace are simply "antithetical" (Martz 13) is an overstatement that ignores the mystery of each of these doctrines, mysteries recognized by Calvin. Specifically, Calvin had a high view of the sacraments; and no serious church member in England, including the puritans, minimized their importance (see Hunt). Donne cites Calvin approvingly on the nature of the sacraments in a 1619 sermon. Seeking to follow Scripture, Calvin proclaims both kinds of grace, and so do the English Articles 17 and 25-30. Concerns about non-biblical elements of ritual should not be confused with a devaluation of Holy Communion.
Donne regarded the Thirty-Nine Articles as vital, and more important than any ceremonies unspecified in the Scriptures (Doerksen, Conforming 30-31), even while he approved some of the latter such as making the sign of the cross in baptism. Martz cites Donne's "The Crosse" to show that "the quarrel with the Puritans was not at its heart concerned with external matters of ceremony" (23), but Donne mentions the cross in baptism only twice (by my count) in all his sermons, and on one of these occasions, in 1628, he says that that sign is not "part of the Sacrament, or any piece of that armour, which we put on of spirituall strength."
Martz also claims that Donne attacked the Calvinist teaching regarding "marks of election" (20). Just the opposite. From early to late in his preaching career Donne repeatedly spoke positively about seeking the marks of election. As I show in my forthcoming essay, Donne is in agreement with Calvin on the right way to look for such marks. Donne's attacks as cited by Martz were against false applications of the doctrine of predestination, and know-it-all attitudes that Calvin too warns against. Those false applications and attitudes may well have been abundant in England but not in the Calvinist leadership with which Donne identified. Calvin, of course, agrees with Paul in Ephesians 1:4 that election is through and not apart from Christ.
Knowing where Donne fits into the picture of the English church helps make comprehensible the discovery by Ted-Larry Pebworth (also in the Stanwood festschrift) that Donne's translation of Lamentations is not only "for the most part according to Tremellius," as its title indicates, but is also significantly indebted to Christopher Fetherstone's prose translation of Tremellius's Lamentations and an anonymous verse translation accompanying the latter. Pebworth's thorough study of Donne's borrowings identifies Tremellius, Fetherstone, and presumably the anonymous versifier (possibly a woman) as Calvinist without drawing any implications from that fact. Since the Pebworth essay discounts the Authorized Version as a source, Donne's translation may be early or late, in either case opening up interesting possibilities for the study of Donne's Calvinism.
John E. Booty in the Henley-Hill collection with some justification asserts that the Book of Common Prayer was a "fundamental expression of and formative agent in Elizabethan religion" (45). His short essay reminds one of E. M. W. Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture in its relating world disorder/order to human sin and redemption, and it is not the worse for that. However, the brief treatment of Hooker and common prayer leaves one wishing for some evidence of modern scholarship, particularly church history. (By contrast, Ramie Targoff's Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion in Early Modern England gives such evidence.) Booty's cryptic and undocumented reference to a refuted "common assumption that God is the God of wrath" puzzles (51). Who made such an assumption, and where is the evidence? Both the Exhortation and the General Confession at Communion in the Book of Common Prayer, and the Scriptures to which that Book constantly alludes, assert "God's wrath" but subsume it, for believers, to God's love. So does Calvin. Donne frequently, in all volumes of his sermons, refers to God's anger
as well as, of course, His mercy.
The one essay in the Stanwood festschrift that specifically takes on "wrestling with God" even in its title, surprises by announcing, "Literal acceptance of God and the Scripture on which it is based disallows even the thought of 'wrestling' with God" (27). Since John T. Shawcross must know the story of Jacob's wrestling in Genesis 32:24-30, what is one to make of such a statement? What Shawcross seems to be getting at is that such conflicts are mainly a wrestling with self, but initially at least he overstates to the point of denying that God is a participant, something perhaps agreeable to the deist Edward Herbert but emphatically not to his brother George or to Donne. The essay takes up some good poems by Edward Herbert and Henry Vaughan, noting that they are not merely biographical and so involve what Shawcross identifies as "dissimulation." It is not clear why that usually pejorative term is preferable to "artistic distancing." The readings of poems emphasize the "virtue" and the "discipline" of the struggles.
In her essay on the Holy Sonnets, Diana Trevino Benet helpfully inquires how these poems were read by their first readers, and she demonstrates that they accepted "the voice of the poems as Donne's" but also regarded the poems themselves as his "emblem." Benet, also "inspired by the current reconsideration of biographical criticism" (161), takes "emblem" as an early modern counterpart to "mask" or "persona" in modern terminology (156). She argues that Donne negotiates the transition to his later poems by fashioning "a poetics of credibility whose linchpin is the mask of the Pauline striver," who combines a "great sense of sinfulness with an effortful spirituality based on fear." At the same time, "similarities of style, tone, and taste link the secular and divine poems" (164). Interestingly, Benet brings to her reading of the sonnets not only the Scriptures but also comparisons to Richard Baxter and John Bunyan (167-68), nonconformists who like the conformist Donne were members of a "religion-oriented society preoccupied with spiritual development" (173).
G. Richmond Bridge's essay, "Trumpet Vibrations: Theological Reflections on Donne's Doomsday Sonnet" is an old-fashioned close reading supported by numerous citations of generally older criticism (1986 or mostly earlier), as well as by much relevant material from the Sermons and other Donne writings. He usefully refers to Donne's legal training in discussing the word "pardon" (190). Unlike Benet, Bridge sees no mask here, only Donne, who takes the Bible's assertions at face value and is imaginatively inspired. Strangely, though, Bridges turns for ideas on theology in Donne's time not to church historians but to rather dated literary writings, and he implies that Calvinism emphasizes damnation and fosters passivity, whereas Donne's sermons reflect the assurance called for by both Calvin and Article 17 on predestination. Later Bridge refers, without documentation, to the "usual fanaticism" of Donne's age (188), but he views only positively Donne's biblical assertion of power in the blood of Christ (192).
Ken Simpson's essay on "The Rituals of Presence in Paradise Regained" gives definitions, refers to recent scholarship on ritual, and then proceeds to show that the Reformation did not so much abolish ritual as replace one kind with another. Building on the work of A. B. Chambers and Georgia Christopher, relying on De Doctrina Christiana, and rejecting the claim that John Milton forsook public worship altogether, Simpson associates Milton with the free church tradition and its emphasis on Word and Spirit in worship (220). Simpson maintains that Milton structured Paradise Regained as a rite of passage, with a focus on sacraments reinterpreted, songs, repetition of the Word, redeemed time, and "good works inspired by the Holy Spirit and revealed in free choice guided by Scripture and reason" (231).
The remaining essays in the Henley-Hill volume are less obviously concerned with theology or the church. Two essays relate Donne to specific major writers of his time. Claude J. Summers studies the recently rediscovered A Funeral Elegy, now attributed to William Shakespeare, in light of the "Donnean moment," Donne's "creation of a new form of English elegy" (53). First examining features of Donne's poems of mourning, especially the Anniversaries, Summers argues effectively that "W. S." knew at least the first of these, because the Funeral Elegy begins by asking the same question. However, the answers differ "tellingly," W. S. tending to "concretize and secularize what is abstract and spiritual in the Anniversaries" (58). Making careful distinctions, Summers maintains that W. S. is aware of Donne's "elegiac innovations" but "resolutely [...] distances himself" from them, embracing a "rhetoric of deeply personal grief" (61).
William Blissett examines the "parallel literary lives" of Donne and Ben Jonson, two "deeply learned" near contemporaries, focusing especially on the period 1597-1600 (99). In his polished essay Blissett assembles and considers known links between the two, including Jonson's admiration for yet critique of Donne for "not keeping of accent," their "outsider" status, and shared and contrasting elements in their satire. Finally Blissett invites us to read Satyre IV with Jonson and view Cynthia's Revels in the company of Donne.
Other essays on Donne in the same collection look at individual works. Wyman H. Herendeen offers an adventurous reinterpretation of The Progresse of the Soule as a palinode that marks a turning point in Donne's career. Looking past its bitter satire to the genres of metempsychosis and triumph, Herendeen stresses the poem's placement at the beginning of the 1633 edition just before "La Corona" and the Holy Sonnets. Noting the lines virtually repeated from Progresse in the second sonnet of "La Corona," he argues that we see Donne first "snaffling his rebellious muse" and then invoking his divine muse (138).
Biathanatos, R. G. Siemens posits, ought to be seen more clearly as "indicative of the personal condition of its author at the time it was written" (139). We should not ignore its "chief shaping element" of Donne's "deep melancholy" (140). While the work repays study as casuistical, and is written in a "form that gestured towards a [...] public audience" (152), its emphasis on personal control is one reason why Siemens sees it as deeply personal, though not the "ready suicide note" that John Carey suggests (139, 153).
Bryan N. S. Gooch is unusually well qualified to write on Benjamin Britten's settings of Donne's Holy Sonnets, with full credentials as Professor of English and as musical performer and scholar. Musical literacy (such as knowing what a "minor ninth" is) will be of advantage to readers of this essay, which features illustrations from the score. Noting Britten's ordering of his selection of the sonnets, Gooch discusses the composer's responsiveness and concludes that Britten's "wrestle, like Donne's, is with the problem of faith in a tortured world" (204).
In a rather philosophical essay Lee M. Johnson explores "copresences"--emblematic and symbolic allusions that go beyond mere reference to "suggest or evoke a presence" (235, 233), like that of Herbert in some Vaughan poems. A specialist in the Romantics, he considers evocations of writers such as Milton in some major poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. As George Steiner appeals to music in order to challenge the "nihilism and solipsism of much modern literary theory" (248), Johnson, following the perhaps surprising example of Wordsworth, similarly appeals to mathematics (237-38, 250).
The final essay in the Henley-Hill collection seems the least obviously related to the rest of the volume. Kathleen Grant Jaeger writes about nineteenth-century nonfictional and fictional portrayals of Elizabethan Roman Catholics. After a look at mid-Victorian attitudes toward Catholics and a sketch of Elizabethan treatments of recusants, she contrasts the pictures given of Elizabethan Catholics by historians John Lingard (a priest) and James A. Froude. Lingard wanted to correct errors in previous accounts but still "produce a history that Protestants would actually read" (256), and consequently offended many coreligionists by his balanced, even if critical, writings. Froude, by contrast, set out to reinforce popular anti-Catholic prejudices. For novelists Jaeger focuses on Charles Kingsley, brother-in-law to Froude, and Georgina Fullerton. The latter tried to "achieve through fiction what Lingard had through history: the establishment of a new view of the Elizabethan Catholics in the Protestant mind" (273).
The Cunnar-Johnson volume contains many essays that seek to situate religious lyrics as a way to recover or even discover them. In the first essay Kari Boyd McBride writes on four authors who "attempted to write themselves into some kind of literary identity through poetic meditation on the Passion" (17). She tries to answer "questions about authority and canonicity" by attending to genre and to "gender, and other markers of identity as effects of poetry" (18). McBride's starting point is the assumption that the Gospels "all agree that the Jewish people were primarily responsible for the death of Jesus, a contention that is not historically tenable" (19). An immediate problem is that the first three Gospels, at least, name religious leaders, not the Jewish people, as the instigators of Jesus' trial and death. Unlike Pilate, the Gospel writers do not seek to exonerate the Romans. And, significantly, they are not much concerned with assigning blame but with declaring the good news of redemption. If readers forget that Jesus and all his disciples were Jews, that is hardly the fault of the evangelists, who naturally took it for granted. If there is an unfortunate tendency in people to affirm their identity by vilifying other people, this, according to New Testament writers, is part of human sinfulness, not something they advocate. The notorious fact that anti-Semitism has been fostered by some Christians should not be attributed to the biblical accounts of the Crucifixion but to distorted readings of those accounts and to other factors such as fear of people who are different.
Elizabeth Middleton's poem on the Passion, as McBride shows, is an example of Christian anti-Semitism, one that distorts the Gospel accounts by attributing acts of Roman soldiers to the Jews (26). McBride comes to Robert Southwell expecting anti-Semitism but "discovers" instead "a homoerotic subjectivity constructed upon the desirable body of Christ across the corrupt and corrupting bodies of all women" (28). McBride finds Aemilia Lanyer more complex but also more fair: men take the place of Jews in her account but are not demonized (32). Lanyer argues (unlike McBride, it seems) that violence and persecution are "abhorrent" to the Jesus of the Gospels. Her reading of Pilate is not, as McBride suggests, contradictory to the Gospel accounts, and Lanyer's feminism here is, I would agree, in general "(theo)logically sound" (35). Finally, Giles Fletcher's self-fashioning in his treatment of the Passion, according to McBride, "depends not so much on othering as on displacement and effacement" of the Marys by Joseph of Arimathea (39).
In a fine essay Scott R. Pilarz gives a totally contrasting picture of Southwell. In fact, Pilarz differs from most previous interpreters by emphasizing that this poet did not set out to change the nature of English devotional verse. Instead, his chief goal was that of the Jesuit order--namely, to "help souls" (44). Pilarz claims that Southwell "writes as a pastor, not as a polemicist," with the hope that his "literary efforts will help souls by promoting reconciliation" and consolation (46). The Pilarz account of Jesuit constructive motives gains credibility by his admission of the truculence and aggressiveness of Robert Parsons (348-49n14).
George Klawitter blames the neglect of William Alabaster's "Ensigns" sonnets not so much on the poet's repeated fluctuations between the Church of England and that of Rome, nor on the poems' late publication, but to a significant degree on the rearrangement of the sonnet sequencing by the editors of the 1959 edition, G. M. Story and Helen Gardner. Klawitter's reading of the poems as an Ignatian meditation restores the sequences found in the manuscripts and envisions them as "a preparation for the soul-searching to come" (78).
Debra Rienstra examines the way in which Lanyer "dreams authorship" by invoking the example of the Countess of Pembroke. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Rienstra notes, both reflects the literary culture of her time and "turns conventional practices forcefully on their heads" (80). Lanyer harnesses "the most direct medium of authority in post-Reformation England [the Scriptures] to valorize the humble, marginalized, suffering, and feminine--where Lanyer persistently locates herself" (82). Here she builds on, but goes beyond, what Pembroke had done in her version of the Psalms, which "re-authors each psalm" (84). Rienstra's study focuses first on Lanyer's dedicatory poem to the Countess, called a "Dreame," then on Salve Deus, including a substantial passage echoing the biblical Psalms. Her treatment of Lanyer's prophetic vocation makes interesting contrasts to Jonson, Donne, and Herbert.
After noting that Lanyer's "The Description of Cooke-ham" locates itself in the English country-house tradition "more by the conventions it excludes and revises than by those it imitates in a straightforward way" (104), Patrick Cook claims that preoccupation with this genre has led to the ignoring of the poem's other aspects. Specifically he takes up features of the poem that link it with the devotional lyric, such as its "portrait of Lady Clifford's piety" through meditation on "her own salvational history" (105), its dramatizing "the affective oscillations of its speaker's spiritual condition," and its use of "concerns and techniques of the great devotional lyrics of Donne, Herbert and Vaughan" (106).
Robert C. Evans, in "Drummond's Artistry in the Flowres of Sion," suggests that such neglected writings merit recovering if they can pass the test of "linguistic skill and formal craftsmanship" (120). His essay offers close readings of a number of Drummond's religious lyrics to demonstrate that, even if in a sense they are imitative, they manifest excellent literary skill. He concludes, "Drummond is a 'minor' poet only in the sense that all poets except the very best are 'minor': not every writer can be a Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Milton, and there is much honor in being a Surrey, a Drayton, or even a Drummond" (138-39).
Sean McDowell says that the verse of Patrick Cary, less popular than even Drummond's, can tell us "how first-person religious lyrics generally present the creation and consecration of the self" (164). McDowell adduces writings such as Richard Brathwaite's on the five senses to rehearse faculty psychology, then concentrates on how the senses are approached in Cary's poems. Although Cary wrote these lyrics in a Benedictine monastery, his attitudes toward the senses seem simply Christian. While it is true that the "difference between Catholic and Calvinist views of sight (and the senses generally) centers mainly on the degree of trust placed on people's ability to gain control" (176-77), McDowell, like Martz in the other volume, wants to limit Calvinists to "strict Calvinists" and thus seems unaware that Bishop Joseph Hall was Calvinist too. McDowell's argument that Cary can teach us how to read Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan will leave some readers unconvinced.
Patricia Demers pictures "Eliza" An Collins, and Elizabeth Major, each of whose works appeared in the period 1652-56, as a "Penseroso triptych" composed in turbulent times (193). In contrast to Elaine Hobby's reading of effects of the political situation on these poets, Demers claims that their circumstances "did not heighten feelings of neediness and powerlessness" (195). Of the three, "'Eliza's' voice is the least melancholic and most assured" (197). Demers detects in Collins "a more intimate [...] acknowledgement of Melancholy as an instructive, elevating state" and some response to political events (198). Major hardly reflects national happenings in cataloguing "her own inconstancy and vulnerability without apparent sense of progress," but she is actively candid rather than passive or placid (200). All three share a "remarkable balance of humility and doubt with productivity and confidence" (203). Feminist readings of these poets are appropriate, but Demers rightly refers past them to the "common religious praising" in their work, with parallels in Herbert and roots in the Bible (203-04).
After first describing the context in which Eliza's Babes appeared, Michael Rex examines the poems with particular attention to the author's offered reasons for their publication, her poetic methodology, and her social and political commentary. Rex often makes good points, but his readings sometimes overstate, as in suggesting that Eliza "almost orders God" or places herself "on the same level as God" (214, 218). His assertion that in "Christ's Kingdom" the "speaker creates the Kingdom of God within herself" ignores the repeated emphasis in that poem on God's activity (218). Although he admits the poems' thorough grounding in Scripture, his reading of "The Temple" reflects an unawareness of Eliza's biblical echoing in it. Rex reads "The Royal Gods" well but misconstrues the real point of his quotation from it. Again, Eliza's saying that children "proceed from sinfull race" is not the same as saying they are "born from sin" (222). This essay could have benefited from more editing, more attention to wording.
Ann Hurley describes Collins as a "philosophical, even didactic, poet, less interested in creating an arresting image or immediacy of narrative voice than in crafting a plain style" appropriate for her "specific mix of exaltation and reflection" (231). Celebrating Protestant doctrine and Scripture, Collins seeks to inspire more than just instruct (234). Hurley makes an interesting contrast to Herbert's "The Collar" and a comparison to what Donne praises (instructiveness, not innovation) in the Sidney Psalms (244-46).
Donna Long considers a single poem by Mary Carey, an elegy about an "abortive Birth" which "is also a religious lyric" that "engages a wide range of doctrine and negotiates biblical tropes" (249). Long finds "gendered" as well as common aspects in the religious lyric and in the elegy. "What enables early modern women to engage the conventions of elegy so powerfully is their recourse to religious faith" which "in the face of loss" and "social repression" leads to "a specifically female 'poetics of tension'" (257). Long, like Rex, occasionally uses immoderate diction, such as saying that Carey "compels" God or "demands, subtly, that God act" (269, 270). Why not "urges" or "implores"? Long concludes that Carey is a "'successfully socialized' woman whose very godliness makes her an exciting study. She takes her godliness seriously enough to struggle with it" (271).
Barry Spurr argues for seeing Thomas Traherne as somewhat of an Anglo-Catholic in the sense of the nineteenth-century formulators of that term. While sharing common ground with Herbert and even engaging in Protestant poetics, Traherne is distinct in not following the via media but embracing what Spurr calls "Catholic Christianity" (275-76). (The latter term is problematic because both the Church of England and Calvin recognized the universal catholic church, as in the Apostle's Creed, and Traherne rejects the errors of the Roman Church. Is Spurr by implication excluding Protestants from the universal church?) Quoted verses about Mary reflect Scripture and give no indication that Traherne views her as "co-redemptrix" (282). Traherne indeed has a greater sacerdotal emphasis than Herbert, but when Herbert stresses the Redemption and Traherne the Incarnation, the differences involve doctrines important for the universal (catholic) Christian church, not quite so simply distributable to Protestant and non-Protestant orientations.
The Cunnar-Johnson collection ends with two essays on Joseph Beaumont. Paul G. Stanwood, whom the other festschrift honors, advocates the "considerable merit" of Beaumont's religious lyrics. With strong links to Laudian Peterhouse in Cambridge, Beaumont writes verse in some ways resembling Crashaw's but also sometimes Herbert's and Vaughan's. The poems that Stanwood quotes do indeed have merit. In addition, he claims for Beaumont's collection "a systematic and meaningful arrangement that is also chronological" (299). Like Herbert, Beaumont pictures spiritual conflicts, but he seldom reaches Herbert's "kind of quietness and rest" (303).
Paul Parrish argues for the continuing interest of Beaumont's lyrics and usefully classifies by topic and title the 179 poems in Eloise Robinson's edition (311-13). Like Stanwood, he gives generous samples. Many poems share the exuberance and sensuousness of Crashaw, but others are "more reminiscent of Herbert" or emulate neither (324). Parrish concludes with a look at poems in what he calls Beaumont's "deliberative mode," some of which "stand effectively on their own" and are best appreciated "apart from a forced association with the poetry of Donne, Herbert, or Crashaw" (330).
The Henley-Hill volume concludes with an impressive tabulation of the many books that Stanwood has authored or edited, book chapters and encyclopedia articles he has contributed, and articles and selected book reviews he has written. The Cunnar-Johnson collection ends with a similarly fitting tribute to "John Roberts, Bibliographer," a perceptive short essay in which Summers details Roberts' bibliographical accomplishments, including their "contributions to literary history" (334), and praises the "seasoned judgment and wide learning" they evince (339).
Both these collections are worth reading, but the arguments of a number of essays are seriously weakened by being out of touch with important recent discoveries made by church historians. On such matters these essays should be read with caution. Reviewers have various kinds of expertise; it happens that for thirty-five years I have often dealt with Calvinism, though I am not a Calvinist and instead treasure my Anabaptist roots. Although I dislike the occasionally harsh language of the sixteenth-century reformers, I have immense respect for some of their accomplishments. Those who want to be good writers on seventeenth-century religious literature should read the church historians and the religious texts. I was shocked by the passing implication in an otherwise fine essay that "Eliza's" writing on the Trinity and on "the bread and wine of the Eucharist as 'the pleadges of thy grace'" was regarded as incompatible with having strong Calvinist sentiments (Cunnar-Johnson 362n9). Graduate programs and academic scholarship can do better than this.
Literary theory has taught us some good things, but an enjoyable feature of both these books is that in most essays whatever theory is employed does not bristle out at the reader. Instead, there is a clear focus on literary texts, with illumination sought from their religious contexts. And the old-fashioned historical method, combining thorough scholarship with attention to the text, has never really gone out of fashion in studies of the English literary Renaissance, for which God be thanked.
Benet, Diana Trevino. "'This Booke, (thy Embleme)': Donne's Holy Sonnets and Biography." Henley and Hill 155-73.
Blissett, William. "'The strangest pageant, fashion'd like a court': John Donne and Ben Jonson to 1600--Parallel Lives." Henley and Hill 99-121.
Booty, John E. "The Core of Elizabethan Religion." Henley and Hill 45-51.
Bridge, G. Richmond. "Trumpet Vibrations: Theological Reflections on Donne's Doomsday Sonnet." Henley and Hill 175-92.
Collinson, Patrick. The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559-1625. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.
Cook, Patrick. "Aemilia Lanyer's 'Description of Cooke-ham' as Devotional Lyric." Cunnar and Johnson 104-18.
Cunnar, Eugene R., and Jeffrey Johnson, eds. Discovering and (Re)Covering the Seventeenth Century Religious Lyric. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2001.
Demers, Patricia. "Penseroso Triptych: 'Eliza,' An Collins, Elizabeth Major." Cunnar and Johnson 185-204.
Doerksen, Daniel W. Conforming to the Word: Herbert, Donne, and the English Church before Laud. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1997.
--. "Polemist or Pastor? Donne and Moderate Calvinist Conformity." Forthcoming in John Donne and the Protestant Reformation. Ed. Mary Papazian. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2003.
Evans, Robert C. "Drummond's Artistry in the Flowres of Sion" Cunnar and Johnson 119-39.
Ferrell, Lori Ann. Government by Polemic: James I, the King's Preachers, and the Rhetorics of Conformity, 1603-1625. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998.
Fincham, Kenneth. Prelate as Pastor: The Episcopate of James I. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.
Gooch, Bryan N. S. "Donne and Britten: Holy Sonnets Set to Music" Henley and Hill 193-212.
Henley, Mary Ellen, and W. Speed Hill, eds. With the assistance of R. G. Siemens. Wrestling with God: Literature and Theology in the English Renaissance. Essays to Honour Paul Grant Stanwood. N.p., 2000.
Herendeen, Wyman H. "'I launch at Paradise and saile toward home': The Progresse of the Soule as Palinode." Henley and Hill 123-38.
Hunt, Arnold. "The Lord's Supper in Early Modern England" Past and Present 161 (1998): 39-83.
Hurley, Ann. "An Collins: The Tradition of the Religious Lyric, Modified or Corrected?" Cunnar and Johnson 231-47.
Jaeger, Kathleen Grant. "Martyrs or Malignants? Some Nineteenth-Century Portrayals of Elizabethan Catholics." Henley and Hill 253-74.
Johnson, Lee M. "Renaissance Copresences in Romantic Verse." Henley and Hill 233-51.
Klawitter, George. "Alabaster's 'Ensigns' Sonnets: Calm Before the Storm" Cunnar and Johnson 62-79.
Lake, Peter. "Calvinism and the English Church, 1570-1635." Past and Present 114 (1987): 32-76.
Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979.
Long, Donna. "'It is a lovely bonne I make to thee': Mary Carey's 'abortive Birth' as Recuperative Religious Lyric." Cunnar and Johnson 248-72.
Maltby, Judith. Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
Martz, Louis L. "Donne, Herbert, and the Worm of Controversy." Henley and Hill 11-25.
McBride, Kari Boyd. "Gender and Judaism in Meditations on the Passion: Middleton, Southwell, Lanyer, and Fletcher" Cunnar and Johnson 17-40.
McDowell, Sean. "Patrick Cary's Education of the Senses" Cunnar and Johnson 164-84.
Milton, Anthony. Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1995.
Narveson, Kate. "William Austin, Poet of Anglianism" Cunnar and Johnson 140-63.
Parrish, Paul. "Ravishing Embraces and Sober Minds: The Poetry of Joseph Beaumont." Cunnar and Johnson 308-31.
Parry, Graham. "The Devotional Flames of William Austin." Henley and Hill 67-83.
Pebworth, Ted-Larry. "John Donne's 'Lamentations' and Christopher Fetherstone's Lamentations ... in prose and meeter (1587)." Henley and Hill 85-98.
Pilarz, Scott R. "'To Help Souls': Recovering the Purpose of Southwell's Poetry and Prose." Cunnar and Johnson 41-61.
Rex, Michael. "Eyes on the Prize: The Search for Personal Space and Stability through Religious Devotion in Eliza's Babes." Cunnar and Johnson 205-30.
Rienstra, Debra. "Dreaming Authorship: Aemilia Lanyer and the Countess of Pembroke." Cunnar and Johnson 80-103.
Shami, Jeanne. "'The Stars in their Order Fought Against Sisera': John Donne and the Pulpit Crisis of 1622." John Donne Journal 14 (1995): 1-58.
Shawcross, John T. "'The Virtue and Discipline' of Wrestling with God." Henley and Hill 27-43.
Siemens, R. G. "'I haue often such a sickly inclination': Biography and the Critical Interpretation of Donne's Suicide Tract, Biathanatos." Henley and Hill 139-53.
Simpson, Ken. "The Rituals of Presence in Paradise Regained." Henley and Hill 213-32.
Spurr, Barry. "Felicity Incarnate: Rediscovering Thomas Traherne." Cunnar and Johnson 273-89.
Stanwood, Paul G. "Revisiting Joseph Beaumont" Cunnar and Johnson 290-307.
Summers, Claude. "John Roberts, Bibliographer." Cunnar and Johnson 332-39.
Summers, Claude J. "W[illiam] S[hakespeare]'s A Funeral Elegy and the Donnean Moment." Henley and Hill 53-65.
Targoff, Ramie. Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion in Early Modern England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. London: Chatto, 1943.
Daniel W. Doerksen, Honorary Research Professor at the University of New Brunswick, is the author of Conforming to the Word: Herbert, Donne, and the English Church before Laud (1997) and, with Christopher T. Hodgkins, coeditor of Centered on the Word: Literature, Scripture, and the Tudor-Stuart Middle Way (2003). He also has written many articles on Spenser, Donne, Herbert, and Milton, as well as the Canadian poet Margaret Avison.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||"Discovering and (Re)Covering the Seventeenth Century Religious Lyric" and "Wrestling with God: Literature and Theology in the English Renaissance. Essays to Honour Paul Grant Stanwood"|
|Author:||Doerksen, Daniel W.|
|Publication:||Christianity and Literature|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2003|
|Previous Article:||Hawthorne and Sin.|
|Next Article:||The Cedar Waxwing. (Poetry).|