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The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 6: Parts 1 and 2.

Richard Hooker. Vol. VI: Pts. One & Two. Ed. W. Speed Hill. Binghamton. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1993. 2 vols. xxxii +1247 pp. $75.

This two-part volume brings close to completion a project launched more than a quarter of a century ago. The project aimed to provide a critical edition, together with an adequate account of the publishing history and a substantive commentary on the texts, of all the writings of Richard Hooker, the Elizabethan defender of the Church of England. His sermons and small treatises were to be included, along with the famous Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity. The project has succeeded. There are now seven handsome books. Along the way, the participants in the project shared in at least one of Hooker's own experiences. Like him, they had difficulty finding a publisher for this final volume. But they persevered, and Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies deserves full credit for complain" what Harvard University Press began in 1977. So do the participants in this volume: William P. Haugaard, Lee W. Gibbs, John E. Booty, and Arthur Stephen McGrade.

The texts of Hooker's works appeared in the first five volumes of the series, initially noticed in these pages by Arthur B. Ferguson (35 ante [1985] 314-16). What we have here is divided between essays, textual commentary, a table of Biblical references, and bibliography. Unfortunately there is no general index, but one is promised in a future volume. The essays occupy about a third of the whole. They sum up the editors' thoughts on Hooker's life, his use of sources, and his worth as a writer and religious polemicist. They attempt to situate him within the religious controversies of his day and within broader traditions of Western religious and political thought. For example, the essay on Book VI deals with the various kinds of spiritual discipline then used in the English Church. Hooker discussed them, and for the editor not all of what one finds in his work has lost its relevance today.

The judgments here are measured and the conclusions without shock value. The authors emphasize Hooker's "essentially medieval orientation" (218), even while they praise his thought for going beyond immediate and parochial concerns. It is the latter that explains the continuing interest in him of later writers. Particularly valuable here are the essays dealing with the last three books of Hooker's Lawes. They were published posthumously and in unsatisfactory editions; much is here set right -- both as to the texts themselves and as to Hooker's view of contemporary problems.

The textual commentary, which occupies almost 700 pages, consists of detailed notes about the contents of the Lawes and the autograph notes. The authors have erred, if they have erred at all, on the side of inclusiveness. The commentaries contain clarifications of difficult terms and concepts, generous extracts from the works used by Hooker, information about current events in England, Geneva and Rome, useful cross references to treatments of the same subjects elsewhere in the Lawes, and much besides. The editors have pitched these commentaries at the level of a "North American graduate student" (395). That seems about right. But older readers will also find them consistently useful. For example, the reviewer found some new (to him) information on early usage of a maxim he has always found intriguing, Vox populi Vox dei (497). Other readers, with different idiosyncrasies, will no doubt have similar experiences.

The bibliography lists all the primary works published or written before 1600 that were cited in the commentary. It lists only modern works that were cited more than three times. This exclusionary principle makes the latter less comprehensive and useful than is consistent with the full scope of the Hooker project. Also less so than its achievement. All things considered, the fruit of this project deserves little but praise. It is a splendid accomplishment.
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Author:Helmholz, R.H.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
Words:636
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