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George Herbert and Caroline Religious Uniformity

  • John M. Adrian
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

Abstract

The concept of nationhood became even more contested in the two decades following the 1612 publication of Poly-Olbion. The commencement of Charles I’s Personal Rule in 1629 did little to assuage the fears of a monolithic nationhood and, indeed, seemed to confirm Michael Drayton’s particular complaint about the disproportionate influence of the royal Court. As we shall see, there were initiatives afoot to reduce the national religious landscape to a greater uniformity as well. Such political and religious issues came to dominate public discourse, and it is easy to look back at the 1620s and 1630s as a time of national polarization. But against this highly charged backdrop, contemporaries continued to turn to the local to mediate ideological conflicts. The same heterogeneity that Lambarde and Drayton endorsed in their works was also found serviceable to a new generation of writers. In this chapter we will consider George Herbert’s investment in the local parish as a strategy for negotiating national religious controversies about appropriate forms of worship. As with the previous two chapters, the author’s deployment of the local is intimately tied to his historical moment — in this case, the rise of Laudianism.

Keywords

Religious Experience Middle Ground Historical Moment Parish Bond Local Church 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Kevin Sharpe, The Personal Rule of Charles I (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 331.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Such attempts, however, have yielded considerable variation. Izaak Walton, the poet’s first biographer, claimed him rather nostalgically for the Laudians. Elizabeth Clarke, on the other hand, sees in Herbert ‘The Character of a Non-Laudian Country Parson,’ Review of English Studies 54:216 (2003): 479–496. Judith Maltby, in referring to Herbert as a ‘model conformist parson,’ comes down somewhere in between. ‘“By this Book”: Parishioners, the Prayer Book and the Established Church,’ in The Early Stuart Church, 1603–1642, ed. Kenneth Fincham (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Achsah Guibbory, Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 44–78.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 33, 53.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    These canons cover church membership, ordination, discipline, ritual, sacraments, visitations, courts, and other regulations related to the daily procedures of the English Church. For detailed analysis, see R. G. Usher, The Reconstruction of the English Church, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1910), Vol. I, 385–390; Vol. II, 273–288.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    On early Jacobean enforcement and its subsequent laxity, see Nicholas Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c. 1590–1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 185; also Kenneth Fincham, ‘Clerical Conformity from Whitgift to Laud,’ in Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church, c. 1560–1660, ed. Peter Lake and Michael Questier (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2000), 141. This does not mean, of course, that the Church stopped enforcement altogether and that local congregations were free to abandon both the Prayer Book and the 1604 Canons. It merely means that there was not a minute focus on following the letter of every canon. As a result, many ministers could get away with what Lake, Tyacke, and other Stuart church historians have called ‘occasional conformity.’ The Prayer Book was used and most canons were followed ‘occasionally’ rather than in every service. This might allow a more preaching-minded minister, for instance, to de-emphasize the role of church ritual in worship.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982). Discussed by Fincham in his ‘Introduction’ to The Early Stuart Church, 5.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Tom Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620–1643 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 18.
    Julian Davies, The Caroline Captivity of the Church: Charles I and the Remoulding of Anglicanism, 1625–1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 62. In this passage, Davies is speaking of London Diocese prior to Laud’s elevation to bishop in 1628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Margaret Stieb, Laud’s Laboratory: The Diocese of Bath and Wells in the Early Seventeenth Century (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1982), 313.Google Scholar
  11. 50.
    The Country Parson was completed in 1632, but according to biographer Amy Charles, ‘Herbert probably worked at The Country Parson during most of his time at Bemerton.’ A Life of George Herbert (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 159.Google Scholar
  12. 57.
    Kenneth Fincham (ed.), Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church, 2 vols. (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1998), Vol. II, 37. Davies discusses the 1629 Instructions, though he is primarily interested in the question of their authorship. Caroline Captivity, 27.Google Scholar
  13. 65.
    Ronald Cooley, ‘Full Of All Knowledg’: George Herbert’s Country Parson and Early Modern Social Discourse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 41.Google Scholar
  14. 67.
    Louis L. Martz (ed.), George Herbert and Henry Vaughan: A Critical Edition of the Major Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 190. All citations of The Country Parson are from this modernized-spelling edition. Subsequent page numbers are given in parentheses within the text.Google Scholar
  15. 68.
    Ibid., 479.Google Scholar
  16. 76.
    For more on this fascination with ‘circumstance’ in the English Church of the 1620s and 1630s, see Reid Barbour’s Literature and Religious Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Introduction.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 77.
    Gregory Kneidel’s recent article probes the religious context of ‘exactness’ as part of Herbert’s ‘priestly vocabulary.’ ‘Herbert and Exactness,’ English Literary Renaissance 36:2 (2006): 278–303. Local flexibility, I would argue, is a precondition for this parsonly aim to flourish.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 79.
    Ramie Targoff, Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion in Early Modern England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 98.Google Scholar
  19. 80.
    Ronald Cooley has written incisively on this tricky passage, and my basic interpretation is indebted to him. Cooley also observes that the ambiguity of Herbert’s formulation serves his own need to appeal to multiple audiences within the parish. ‘John Davenant, The Country Parson, and Herbert’s Calvinist Conformity,’ George Herbert Journal 23:1–2 (1999/2000), 1–13 (9–10).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 82.
    Brian Vickers, Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 77.Google Scholar
  21. 83.
    Outlandish Proverbs are reprinted in The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 321–355. Those mentioned in the text are (in order of occurrence) #643, #181, and #168.Google Scholar
  22. 84.
    Diana Benet, ‘Herbert’s Proverbs: The Magic Shoe,’ in Like Season’d Timber: New Essays on George Herbert ed. Edmund Miller and Robert DiYanni (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), 149.Google Scholar
  23. 87.
    Debora Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 91–119.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John M. Adrian 2011

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  • John M. Adrian

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