Thursday, September 27, 2012

12: John Donne (1572-1631), poet, priest and theologian

John Donne ... “...for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free.”

Patrick Comerford

The poet, priest and Anglican theologian John Donne (1572-1631) was the most outstanding of the English metaphysical poets and is best remembered today for his lines:

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.
— John Donne, Meditation XVII

As a theologian, Donne ought to be remembered too for the classic Anglican aphorism on to the debate on the Eucharistic presence, which is sometimes attributed to Elizabeth I but is found in a poem by John Donne:

He was the Word that spake it;
He took the bread and brake it;
and what that Word did make it;
I do believe and take it.

John Donne was born between 24 January and 19 June 1572 in Bread Street, London, in the parish of Saint Nicholas Olave, to a prominent Roman Catholic family. His father, also John Donne, was an ironmonger and wealthy merchant, who in the following year became the Warden of the Company of Ironmongers, but died suddenly in 1576. His mother, Elizabeth Heywood, was the daughter of the playwright John Heywood, and was a great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Rastall, a sister of Sir Thomas More. His uncle, Ellis Heywood, was the secretary to Cardinal Pole, and died in banishment in 1578

As a child, Donne was so precocious that it was said of him that “this age hath brought forth another Pico della Mirandola.”

The Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College, Oxford ... John Donne matriculated there in 1584, but never received a degree from Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

He matriculated from Hart Hall, Oxford, on 23 October 1584, at the age of 11. Hart Hall is now Hertford College. There Donne began his friendship with Henry Wotton. But he left Oxford in 1587 to go to Cambridge, it may have been there that he began his friendship with the poet Christopher Brooke.

Although there are no surviving records of Donne’s attendance at Cambridge, the Library of Saint John’s College holds an edition of Ovid’s Metamorposes published in Cambridge in 1584, with the signature of John Donne on the bottom right-hand corner of the title-page, lost among a riot of other scribbles and flourishes. The book has obviously been through the hands of numerous schoolboys, and it is likely that Donne was among them. It was donated to the library by the Nonjuror Francis Roper.

However, as a Roman Catholic, he could not take a degree at either Oxford or Cambridge – although he would later receive the degree DD (Doctor of Divinity) from Cambridge University in 1615.

From Cambridge, he moved back to London in 1591, and he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1592. There he studied law and was expected to embark on a legal or diplomatic career. But as a young trainee lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn, he was something of a womanising libertine. His early poems mocked the hypocrisy of genteel society and celebrated his amorous conquests.

When Donne came of age, he inherited a considerable fortune, and it was probably about this time that he became an Anglican. He began to produce Satires, which were not printed, but eagerly passed from hand to hand; the first three are known to belong to 1593, the fourth to 1594, while the other three are probably some years later.

In 1596, Donne entered foreign service with the Earl of Essex, and “waited upon his lordship” on board the Repulse, in the victory at Cadiz on 11 June. Donne wrote several poems during this expedition, and during the Islands Voyage of 1597, in which he accompanied Essex to the Azores.

Izaak Walton ... the biographer of John Donne

According to Izaak Walton, Donne spent some time in Italy and Spain, and intended to go on to Palestine, “but at his being in the farthest parts of Italy, the disappointment of company, or of a safe convoy, or the uncertainty of returns of money into those remote parts, denied him that happiness.” There is some reason to suppose that he was on the continent at intervals between 1595 and the winter of 1597.

His lyrical poetry was mainly the product of his exile, according to Ben Jonson, who said Donne “wrote all his best pieces ere he was 25 years old.”

In 1598, he was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton (later Lord Ellesmere), Keeper of the Great Seal, and remained with his family for almost four years. In the latter part of time living at Sir Thomas Egerton’s house, Donne wrote the longest of his existing poems, The Progress of the Soul, which not published until 1633.

However, in 1600 he fell in love to Lady Egerton’s 17-year-old niece, Anne More. He was elected MP for Brackley in 1601, and sat in Elizabeth I’s last parliament. In December 1601, John and Anne were married secretly. When the marriage was uncovered, he was dismissed. He wrote to his wife to tell her about his dismissal, and wrote after his name: “John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done.” He was thrown into the Fleet Prison in February 1602, and when he was released he was in much-straitened circumstances. His fortune had all been spent and “troubles did still multiply upon him.”

After his release from prison, Donne made a meagre living as a lawyer. Anne Donne’s cousin, Sir Francis Wooley, offered the young couple an asylum at his Surrey country house of Pyrford, where they lived until the end of 1604. There they were helped by friends like Lady Magdalen Herbert, George Herbert’s mother, and Lucy, Countess of Bradford, women who also played a prominent role in Donne’s literary life.

Although Donne still had friends left, these were bitter years for a man who knew himself to be the intellectual superior of most, knew he could have risen to the highest posts, and yet found no preferment.

In the spring of 1605, the Donnes were living at Camberwell, and a little later in a small house in Mitcham. He had by this time “acquired such a perfection” in civil and common law that he was able to take up professional work, and assisted the religious pamphleteer Thomas Morton, later Bishop of Durham, in his controversies with Roman Catholics. Donne is believed to have had a considerable share in writing Morton’s pamphlets published between 1604 and 1607.

In 1607, Morton offered the poet certain preferment in the Church of England if he would only agree to being ordained. By this time, Donne had become seriously interested in religious matters, did he did not think himself fitted for the clerical life.

In 1607, Donne began a correspondence with George Herbert, Magdalen Herbert of Montgomery Castle. Some of these pious epistles were printed by Izaak Walton. Meanwhile, his income was extremely small. He speaks of his small house as his “hospital” and his “prison.” His wife’s health was broken and he was bowed down by the number of his children, who often lacked even clothes and food.

Donne’s principal literary accomplishments during this period were Divine Poems (1607), La Corona (1610), from which today’s choice of poem is selected, and the prose work Biathanatos (ca 1608), which was published posthumously in 1644.

Eventually, in the autumn of 1608 Donne and his father-in-law, Sir George More, were reconciled, and More agreed to pay his daughter’s dowry and to make them a generous allowance. Donne soon after formed part of the gathering around Lady Bradford in Twickenham, and he wrote several verse letters to her.

In 1609, Donne was writing his great controversial prose treatise, The Pseudo-Martyr, printed in 1610, which was an attempt to convince Roman Catholics in England to take the oath of allegiance to James I.

In 1611, Donne wrote a curious and bitter prose squib against the Jesuits, entitled Ignatius his Conclave. To the same period, but possibly somewhat earlier, belongs the apology for the principle of suicide, which was not published until 1644, long after Donne’s death. This work, the Biathanatos, is an attempt to show that “the scandalous disease of headlong dying,” to which Donne himself in his unhappy moods had “often such a sickly inclination,” was not necessarily and essentially sinful.

Eventually, he was admitted MA at Cambridge in 1610. At that time, Donne had become acquainted with the wealthy Sir Robert Drury of Hawsted, who offered John, Anne and their children an apartment in his large house in Drury Lane, London. When Drury’s only daughter died, Donne published an extravagant elegy on her in 1611, An Anatomy of the World, to which he added in 1612 a Progress of the Soul on the same subject. He planned to write a fresh elegy new for the “blessèd Maid,” Elizabeth Drury, on each anniversary of her death, but refrained from this on the third anniversary onwards.

At the close of 1611, Sir Robert Drury visited Paris with Paris. When Donne left London, his wife was pregnant with their eighth child. Her anxiety at his absence led him to compose his poem:

Sweetest Love, I do not go
For weariness of thee.

While Donne was at Amiens, it is said, he had a vision of his wife, with her hair over her shoulders, holding a dead child in her arms. On that same night, Anne Donne gave birth to a stillborn infant. The incident caused Donne great anxiety that did not end until he reached Paris, where he received reassuring accounts of his wife’s health.

Donne left Paris with the Drurys for Spa in May 1612, and travelled in the Low Countries and Germany until they returned to London in September 1612. In 1613, Donne contributed to the Lachrymae lachrymarum, an obscure and frigid elegy on the death of the Prince of Wales, and wrote his famous Marriage Song for Saint Valentine’s Day, to celebrate the wedding of the Elector Palatine and the Princess Elizabeth.

About this time, Donne became friends with Robert Ker, Viscount Rochester (later the Earl of Somerset), and had his hopes raised for preferment at court, although Donne was now in weak health in body and in mind.

He was elected MP for Brackley again in 1614. At the close of that year, King James sent for Donne, and “descended to a persuasion, almost to a solicitation of him, to enter into sacred orders.” Donne baulked at the first suggestion that he should be ordained, believing the “irregularities” of his private life and his erotically-charged poetry made a career in ministry unthinkable. But Donne asked for a few days to consider the king’s entreaties.

Finally, early in 1615, Donne was ordained an Anglican priest when the Bishop of London, John King, “proceeded with all convenient speed to ordain him, first deacon, then priest.” He was, perhaps, a curate first in Paddington, before being appointed a royal chaplain later that year.

The Backs at Cambridge ... in April 1615, at the insistence of James I, the University of Cambridge conferred John Donne with the degree of Doctor in Divinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His earliest sermon before the king at Whitehall carried his audience “to heaven, in holy raptures.” In April, not without much bad grace, the University of Cambridge consented to make the newly-ordained priest a Doctor of Divinity. It is said that when King James I visited Cambridge he urged the university to confer a doctorate on Donne. The king’s request was refused at first, and was then enforced by mandate.

In the spring of 1616, Donne was presented as Rector of Keyston, in Huntingdon, and a little later he became Rector of Sevenoaks in Kent, where he remained rector until his death. In October, he was appointed reader in divinity or preacher to the benchers of Lincoln’s Inn. Of the many sermons he preached at Lincoln’s Inn, 14 survive.

His ordination and immediate preferment eased Donne’s anxieties about money, but in August 1617 his wife died, leaving him with seven young children. Perhaps as a consequence of his bereavement, Donne went through a spiritual crisis that inspired a fervour of religious devotion. In 1618, he wrote two cycles of religious sonnets, La Corona and the Holy Sonnets, the latter not printed in complete form until 1899.

His health suffered from the austerity of his life, and in May 1619 he was persuaded to accompany Lord Doncaster as his chaplain on a diplomatic mission to Germany. They visited Heidelberg, Frankfurt and other cities before returning to England early in 1620.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London ... John Donne was appointed Dean in November 1621 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In November 1621, James I appointed Donne Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. In February 1622, he resigned from Keyston and as preacher in Lincoln’s Inn, but was the Rector of Blunham, Bedfordshire, from 1622.

At Saint Paul’s, Donne attained eminence as a preacher and his sermons were regarded by many as the most brilliant and eloquent of the day.

He became seriously ill in October 1623, and during his long convalescence wrote his Devotions, published in 1624. He was then appointed to the vicarage of Saint Dunstan’s in the West in London.

In April 1625, Donne preached before the new king, Charles I. His sermon was published immediately, and he then published his Four Sermons upon Special Occasions, the earliest collection of his discourses.

When the plague broke out, he retired with his children to the Chiswick home of Sir John Danvers, who had married Magdalen Herbert, for whom Donne wrote two of the most ingenious of his lyrics, The Primrose and The Autumnal. For a time, Donne disappeared so completely that rumours of his death began to spread.

When Donne returned to his pulpit, Donne’s popularity as a preacher reached its zenith and it continued until his death. Walton, who first got to know him in 1624, now became an intimate friend.

In 1630, Donne’s health broke down completely. He would almost certainly have been made a bishop, but that August his health broke again. He spent the greater part of that winter at Abury Hatch, in Epping Forest, with his widowed daughter, Constance Alleyn, and was too ill to preach before King Charles at Christmas.

It is believed that his disease was a malarial form of recurrent quinsy acting on an extremely neurotic system. He came back to London, and was able to preach at Whitehall on 12 February 1631. But this was his last sermon and was published soon after his death as Death’s Duel.

He stood for the sculptor Nicholas Stone before a fire in his study at the Deanery, with a winding-sheet wrapped and tied around him, his eyes shut and his feet resting on a funeral urn. The sculpture in white marble was placed in Saint Paul’s Cathedral after his death. It was one of the few monuments in the cathedral to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Donne died in London on 31 March 1631, after he had lain “fifteen days earnestly expecting his hourly change.” He was buried in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. He is commemorated in the calendar of the Church of England on 31 March as “priest, poet and preacher.”

His aged mother, who had lived in the Deanery, survived him, dying in 1632.

Donne’s works

Donne’s earlier works include The Anniversaries (1611-12) and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624). The principal editor of his posthumous writings was his son, John Donne the younger. His poems were first collected in 1633 and published as Songs and Sonnets (1633). They were published again in 1635, 1639, 1649, 1650, 1654 and 1669. Of his prose works, the Juvenila appeared in 1633; the LXXX Sermons in 1640; Biathanatos in 1644; Fifty Sermons in 1649; Essays in Divinity, 1651; Letters to Several Persons of Honour, 1651; Paradoxes, Problems and Essays, 1652; and Six and Twenty Sermons, 1661.

Izaak Walton’s Life was first published in 1640, and entirely rewritten in 1659.

Dryden gave the label “metaphysics” to Donne’s poetic philosophy. Borrowing the suggestion, Samuel Johnson used the title of the “metaphysical school” to describe Donne and the amorous and philosophical poets who succeeded him, and who employed a similarly fantastic language, and who affected odd figurative inversions.

His reputation almost disappeared in the 18th century but returned in the 19th century. His Poems were edited by EK Chambers in 1896. His prose works have not been collected. In 1899, Edmund Gosse published in two volumes The Life and Letters of John Donne.

In the 1920s and the 1930s, TS Eliot and William Butler Yeats discovered in Donne’s poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion that they aspired to in their own work. Today, as Schmidt notes, he is almost certianly the most anthologised autyhor in Anglican history.

Donne as theologian

John Donne, the “reformed soul,” is not one of the heroic figures in Church History who stood valiantly for principles. He was willing to make adjustments to fit in with the Establishment, and was so alarmed when one of his sermons failed to meet the approval of Charles I, that he made a grovelling apology to the king for any offence caused. Yet he braved the disapproval of his Roman Catholic family when he became an Anglican. Nor was being ordained an easy decision, and he knowingly alienated one of his key patrons when he was ordained.

His “metaphysical” poetry gives expression to a profoundly Trinitarian spirituality. His insights penetrate the depths of the believer’s experience of the “three person’d God.”
During the time Anne and John lived in squalid housing with their growing family, Donne developed his interest in theology and his poetry took on a more spiritual flavour. The imprisonment and death of his brother Henry for his role in a Catholic conspiracy had made Donne distrustful of religious fanaticism, leading to his decision to conform to the Church of England.

Theologically, Donne was a middle-of-the-road Anglican. He disliked the Roman Catholic extremism that led to his brother’s untimely death, and did not have much time either for the growing Puritan movement, so that at one point he worked closely with William Laud, Bishop of London and a principal persecutor of the Puritans.

Donne’s poetry shows an intellectual courage, as he examines the intricacies of his own “labyrinthine soul.” He faced death, the “last enemy” with quiet confidence. His last sermon, “Death’s Duel,” concludes: “There we leave you in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him that hangs upon the cross, there bathe in his tears, there suck at his wounds, and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a resurrection, and an ascension into that kingdom which He hath prepared for you with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. Amen.”

Donne had a fine sense of the interconnectedness of human life and held that the death of one man diminishes the whole of humanity: “No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

His Holy Sonnets reveal the source of Donne's hope in the face of death:

Holy Sonnet I

Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste,
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday;
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind, and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it t’wards hell doth weigh;
Only thou art above, and when towards thee
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour my self I can sustain;
Thy Grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And thou like Adamant draw mine iron heart.

In Holy Sonnet X, Donne even taunts death:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

In the Holy Sonnets, Donne felt he needed to make it clear that some things are more important than strict form or rhythm.

For Donne, it was the theology that mattered most. It is clear in his poem that at imes he makes the abrasive choice, goes with the rough and urgent when he had the option of something smoother. Take this, for example:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Some of the extra syllables in the lines of this poem can be elided without any loss of sense. This poem has been set to music twice by Sir Benjamin Britten in his selection of the Holy Sonnets – appropriately, as Donne talked of his hope of heaven as being “made thy [God’s] music”.

John Donne as poet

Donne is a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the period, his works are notable for their realistic and sensual style, and they include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires and sermons.

His poetry is marked by its vibrant language and inventive metaphors. His masculine, ingenious style is characterised by abrupt openings, paradoxes, dislocations, argumentative structure, and “conceits” – images that yoke things seemingly unlike. These features, combined with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax, and his tough eloquence were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques.

His early career was marked by poetry that bore immense knowledge of contemporary English society and he met that knowledge with sharp criticism. Another important theme in Donne’s poetry was the idea of true religion, which he spent much time considering and theorising. He wrote secular poems as well as erotic poems and love poems, and is particularly famous for his mastery of metaphysical conceits.

Some of Donne’s poetry is sensual for his time – many critics attribute those verses to his years as a student. A few of his poems apparently express his love for his wife, and a number express religious sentiment using terms and imagery that are nearly as passionate as his love poems.

Rising to prominence about a generation after Shakespeare, Donne wrote at a time when “wit,” or a kind of poetic cleverness, was highly valued. He delighted in writing complicated metaphors (called “conceits”) that often make his poems exercise the mind more than the heart.

Nativity by John Donne

John Donne delighted in imagined “contraction” or shrinkage of space and time – a lifetime into moments, or all of the world’s empires into his lovers’ eyes.

Nowhere in his “Divine” poems is that “contraction” more poignant than in his sonnet ‘Nativity.’ In this poem, the Infinite becomes small enough to be contained in the most private of all chambers. Donne also points out with charming irony that God pitied us so much that he became vulnerable enough to elicit our pity toward him.

This early poem by Donne comes, from the collection La Corona (1610). The key to understanding it lies in contrasting the opening line “Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,” with the contradictory “how He/Which fills all place, yet none holds Him.”

The Nativity Donne presents here is an historical reference, a few moments in time, standing for a message which is timeless and universal. The paradox moves in both time and space.

The image of tight confinement figures often in Donne’s writings, poetical and theological, and its significance is unfolded best here: “We are all conceived in close Prison; in our Mothers wombs, we are close Prisoners all; when we are borne, we are borne but to the liberty of the house; Prisoners still, though within larger walls; and then all our life is but a going out to the place of Execution, to death.”

But the message of the Nativity, says Donne, is a message of purpose and direction on this path tread by endless humans across the ages: “Divers men may walke by the Sea side, and the same beames of the Sonne giving light to them all, one gathereth by the benefit of that light pebbles, or speckled shells, for curious vanitie, and another gathers precious Pearle, or medicinall Ambar, by the same light. So the common light of reason illumines us all; but one imployes this light upon the searching of impertinent vanities, another by a better use of the same light, finds out the Mysteries of Religion; and when he hath found them, loves them, not for the lights sake, but for the naturall and true worth of the thing it self.”

This is a “supernaturall light of faith and grace,” he writes, that made its appearance at the Nativity, but it is a light of reason that enables humankind both to understand its maker and itself.

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The poem is a reworking of Donne’s thoughts in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), XVII: Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris, “Now, this bell tolling softly for another, says to me: Thou must die.” There he writes:

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all.

When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.

And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours.

Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.

No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels.

Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Holy Sonnets XIV

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Annunciation, by John Donne

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.

Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward, by John Donne

‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward,’ a 42-line poem, written almost 400 years ago, is regarded as one of the finest devotional poems of the English renaissance period. WH Auden provides testimony to how hard a time his students had in interpreting poems like ‘Good Friday, 1613,’ when he writes:

And nerves that steeled themselves to slaughter
Are shot to pieces by the shorter
Poems of Donne

This poem was written two years before John Donne’s ordination in 1615, and following Good Friday, 2 April 1613, when he made a journey on horseback from London westwards to Exeter. Donne’s brief title for the poem serves alone to reveal his shame and guilt at being on the road, instead of in church, on that particular Good Friday. The poem contains profound religious insights and a sincere expression of personal penance. The poem has a slightly jogging rhythm – a slightly irregular tetrameter, punctuated by largely end-stopped rhyming couplets. This intentional rhythm intentionally mimics the pace of the horse that Donne rode that day.

This poem is significant for what it tells us about the theology of the poet and for what it tells us about the spiritual psychology of that time. In 21 couplets, Donne writes an apologia for the faithless act on Good Friday that this poem recalls.

The poet gives five arguments, firstly blaming fallen Nature generally (lines 1-14). His riding, he says, follows the influence of the stars, which (from any observer’s perspective) move uniformly across the sky every night from east to west, from where Christ the Son of God took on humanity, from where he died on the cross at Golgotha. Secondly, citing the Bible, Donne explains that looking on God, face-to-face, is death to any creature (line 15-28). He averts his eyes because he dares not look. Thirdly, out of pity, Donne says he cannot bear to witness the sufferings of Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary sufferings (lines 29-32). Fourthly, he affirms that he observes the sufferings of Christ and Mary in his mind’s eye, in “memory” (33-35), as he should. Finally, he explains that, by turning his back on Christ, he also submits himself to deserved “Corrections” (lines 35-40), to a scourging. The poem’s final couplet then moves all responsibility to a God who, if he punished Donne as he should, would discover that he, unashamed, willingly turning his face to his creator.

Donne begins with a metaphor “Let man’s soul be a sphere” (line 1). He likens the soul to a “heavenly” sphere – a moon or a planet – and the “intelligence” that moves this planet (line 2) is the soul’s devotion to God.

The poet compares the devotion of the human soul to the force of gravity on a planet moving around the sun. The gravity of the larger body keeps the planets in orbit; therefore the devotion of humans to God keeps them on the right path. But, like planets in orbit, we can be distracted by things other than their devotion, and those distractions will lead them away from God:

And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motions, lose their own
. (lines 3-4).

On this Good Friday, while the poet is travelling to the west, his thoughts are in the east, towards Jerusalem, where Christ died. He is travelling when he ought to be praying, and so the west-east dichotomy is both literal and metaphorical.

Donne, who was fond of paradoxes, contrasts how he is looking towards where the sun sets, but Christ, by rising from the dead, made life eternal (lines 12-13).

He finishes this metaphor by averring that sin would have “benighted” all humanity had not Christ died for our redemption (line 14). After this, however, Donne is more concerned in the remainder of the poem more with the idea of looking toward.

In lines 15-24, he says he is glad that he did not have to look on Christ’s death on a cross because he could not have borne it. Donne shows how hard it must have been for anyone to have witnessed the Crucifixion, for Christ is God, and as he recalls in line 17, in the Exodus story God warns Moses that no-one could see God’s face and live (Exodus 33: 20). But the poet knows that in Christ God was clothed in “flesh” and therefore could have been seen safely by people in his own lifetime (line 27).

The poet is deeply impressed with spiritual anguish at imagining the Saviour on the cross.

In line 21, he alludes to the prophecy of Zechariah: “And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12: 10).

In the Fourth Gospel, Christ’s crucifixion is seen as fulfilling this prophecy: “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out ... These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled ... And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’.” (John19: 34-37).

Near the end of the poem, he is thankful that he could not have seen the horrors of the crucifixion: “Though these things, as I ride be from mine eye.” He reflects that these things are in his memory, and through that he can look towards God, and God can look towards him (line 33).

This final idea of “looking” is very important to Donne, for he ends the poem by saying that

I turn my back to thee, but to receive

He turns his back to God to be whipped and “corrected” of his faults (lines 37-38). He implores God to “Burn off my rusts, and my deformity” so that he can be made more in the likeness of Christ (line 40). Only when he is cleansed and corrected in this way may he then “turn his face” to God (line 42).

Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward, by John Donne

Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees God’s face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.

Holy Sonnets XVIII (‘Sonnet on the Church’), by John Donne

Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
What! is it she which on the other shore
Goes richly painted? or which, robbed and tore,
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self-truth, and errs? now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travel we to seek, and then make love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,
Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
When she is embraced and open to most men.

Select bibliography:

RC Bald, John Donne, a Life (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986).
John Carey, John Donne (London: Faber & Faber, 1990).
John Donne, Devotions (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959).
John Donne, Sermons, 10 vols, ed Simpson and Potter (Cambridge, Cambrdge University Press, 1953. DL Edwards, John Donne, Man of flesh and spirit (London: Coninuum, 2001).
Walter Eversley, ‘John Donne,’ pp 114-115 in Alister McGrath (ed), The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998).
Malcolm Guite, Faith, Hope and Poetry, Theology and the Poetic Imagination (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).
RH Schmidt, Glorious Companions, Five centuries of Anglican spirituality (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002).
John Stubbs, Donne, The Reformed Soul (London: Viking, 2006).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

11: Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), ‘Private Devotions’ and the via media of Anglicanism

Lancelot Andrewes ... editor of the Authorised Version of the Bible, and inspiration for TS Eliot

Patrick Comerford

Lancelot Andrewes was an Anglican bishop and scholar who played a key role in the translation of the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible. Although he worked mainly through the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I successively, he is counted as one of the early Caroline Divines, known for their scholarship and devotional writings.

He is be read alongside Richard Hooker, George Herbert and Jeremy Taylor, and is also one of the literary giants of English literature, exercising a particular influence on the poet TS Eliot, who singled out the 17th century as the high point of Anglican theology.

For Walter Frere, he is the successor to John Jewel in defining the via media position of Anglicanism. For Kenneth Stevenson, he “is without doubt along with Hooker one of the two giants of the era in which Anglicanism took shape.”

His appeal to antiquity was characteristic of classical Anglicanism. Andrewes summarises doctrinal authority in memorable form: “One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of fathers in that period – the three centuries, that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”

Lancelot Andrewes was born in 1555 near All Hallows, Barking, by the Tower of London – originally a dependency of Barking Abbey in Barking, Essex. He was descended from an old Suffolk family that later lived at Chichester Hall, Rawreth. His brother, the scholar and cleric Roger Andrewes, served with him as a translator for the Authorised Version of the Bible.

He may have acquired his flair for languages from his father, Thomas Andrewes, who was a merchant seaman and master of Trinity House. He undertook to master a new language every year, and it is said he was fluent in 15 or 16 languages, ancient and modern, as an adult, and could read 21 languages.

Lancelot Andrewes attended the Coopers’ Free School, Ratcliff, in Saint Dunstan’s Parish, Stepney, and then the Merchant Taylors’ School, then the largest school in England and where Richard Mulcaster (ca 1531-1611) was the first headmaster.

Pembroke College, Cambridge ... Lancelor Andrewes entered Pembroke Hall in 1571, and later became a fellow of Pembroke College in 1576 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1571, Andrewes entered Pembroke Hall, now Pembroke College, Cambridge, and he graduated BA (Bachelor of Arts). His academic reputation spread quickly, and at the foundation of Jesus College, Oxford, in 1571, he was named in the charter as one of the founding scholars “without his privity.” However, his connections with Jesus College may have been purely notional.

In 1576, he was elected a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge. As the catechist at Pembroke College, Cambridge, Andrewes read lectures on the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue, which were later published in 1630. He proceeded MA (Master of Arts) at Cambridge in 1578, and in 1581 he was incorporated MA at Oxford. He was ordained around this time, and he was admitted BD at Cambridge in 1585.

In a sermon during Easter week on 10 April 1588, he stoutly vindicated the reformed character of the Church of England against the claims of Roman Catholicism and praised John Calvin as a new writer.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London ... as a Prebendary, Lancelot Andrewes restored the ancient office of confessor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After a period as chaplain to Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, Andrewes became the Vicar of Saint Giles’s, Cripplegate, London, through the influence of Sir Francis Walsingham. With that appointment, he also became the Prebendary of Saint Pancras in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1589. That year he also became the Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and a chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift.

At Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Andrewes restored the ancient office of confessor. There, “especially in Lent time,” he would “walk duly at certain hours, in one of the aisles of the Church, that if any came to him for spiritual advice and comfort, as some did, though not many, he might impart it to them.”

On 4 March 1590, he preached an outspoken sermon before Queen Elizabeth I. He was admitted at Gray’s Inn that year, and in October he gave an introductory lecture at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, undertaking to comment on the first four chapters of Genesis. These lectures were later compiled as The Orphan Lectures (1657).

Westminster Abbey ... Lancelot Andrewes was appointed a prebendary in 1597 and dean in 1601 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1597, he was appointed a prebendary of Westminster Abbey, but a year later, in 1598, he declined nominations as both Bishop of Ely and Bishop of Salisbury because of the conditions attached to each appointment. At Whitehall on 23 November 1600, he preached a controversial sermon on justification.

Although he was the most junior prebendary, he was appointed Dean of Westminster Abbey in 1601.

The Dean’s Yard at Westminster Abbey ... as Dean of Westminster Abbey, Andrewes took a particular interest in the school (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As Dean of Westminster Abbey, Andrewes gave much attention to the abbey school, and he officiated at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.

He was closely involved in making arrangements for the coronation of James VI of Scotland as James I of England, bringing him into close contact with the new king. His style of preaching recommended him to the king, and Fuller says James I was in such awe and had such veneration of Andrewes that, in his presence, he refrained from the uncouth and unsavoury jesting he indulged in at other times.

Andrewes rose in great favour at the royal court, where he was known as a pre-eminent preacher. In 1604, he took part in the Hampton Court conference.

In 1605, he was consecrated Bishop of Chichester and was appointed Lord High Almoner.

Following the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, Andrewes was asked to prepare a sermon to be presented to the king in 1606. In this sermon, Andrewes justified the need to commemorate the deliverance and defined the nature of celebrations.

This sermon became the foundation of celebrations that continue more than 400 years later and was used to prop up the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.

In 1609, he published Tortura Torti, a learned work that grew out of the Gunpowder Plot controversy and that was written in answer to Cardinal Bellarmine’s Matthaeus Tortus, which attacked James I’s book on the oath of allegiance. Andrewes later published a reply to Cardinal Bellarmine in the Responsio ad Apologiam.

Ely Cathedral ... Lancelot Andrewes became Bishop of Ely in 1609 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1609, Andrewes moved from Chichester when he became Bishop of Ely. Meanwhile, he was working on King James’s grand project for a new translation of the Bible into English.

A copy of the King James Version of the Bible, dating from 1611, at an exhibition in Lambeth Palace

His name is the first on the list of divines appointed by King James to translate the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible. He directed the First Westminster Company, which took charge of the first books of the Old Testament, from Genesis to II Kings. The other members of his company or group of translators were John Overall, Hadrian à Saravia, Richard Clarke, John Layfield, Robert Tighe, Francis Burleigh, Geoffrey King, Richard Thomson and William Bedwell.

Andrewes also acted as a sort of general editor for the project. He was largely responsible for translating those first books of the Bible, and with the Bishop of Gloucester he had final authority from King James to review and revise the whole translation before it was published in 1611.

A plaque on the north wall of Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield, recalls that Edward Wightman was burned at the stake in the Market Square in 1612 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But Andrewes was so averse to controversy that in 1612 he acquiesced in the execution of two heretics in 1612 – Bartholomew Legate, who was burned at the stake in Smithfield, London on, 18 March 1612, and Edward Wightman, who was burned at the stake in Lichfield on 11 April 1612 – the last men to be burned at the stake for heresy in England.

In 1617, Andrewes accompanied James I to Scotland, with a view to persuading the Scots that episcopacy was preferable to Presbyterianism.

Jesus College Cambridge ... as Bishop of Ely and visitor, Andrewes appointed his brother Roger as Master (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As Bishop of Ely, he was the visitor of Jesus College, Cambridge, and in 1618 he appointed his brother, Roger Andrewes, as Master of the college. But it was a disastrous choice, and the new master was said to be “overbearing and quarrelsome.”

In 1618, he was made Dean of the Chapel Royal and Bishop of Winchester in 1618, a diocese that he administered with great success until his death in 1626.

Sacramental and Prayer Life

As Kenneth Stevenson writes, “Andrewes’ theology is thoroughly sacramental and eschatological.” He was typically Anglican, equally removed from the Puritan and the Roman Catholic positions. A good summary of his position is found in his First Answer to Cardinal Perron, who had challenged James I’s use of the title “Catholic.”

Andrewes saw himself as standing in the long line of Christian tradition. He told Walsingham that his whole life and teaching were indebted to the Fathers, especially the Eastern Fathers. He drew on the Cappadocian Fathers on the Eucharist, the Trinity and Christology, on Saint Cyprian on prayer, on Saint Anselm on sin and on Saint Bernard on atonement.

He had a keen sense of the proportion of the faith and maintained a clear distinction between what is fundamental, needing ecclesiastical commands, and what is subsidiary, needing only ecclesiastical guidance and suggestion.

He was regarded by many as the authority on worship, so that his practice in his chapel became their standard for the liturgy. He was steeped in the teachings of the Fathers and the liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches., and followed the 1549 Book of Common Prayer more than the 1559 edition.

His practice shaped the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, which was adopted by the American Episcopal Church in the 1789, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which restored the rubrics for the manual acts at the offertory and the consecration. Since then, most Anglican liturgies are closer to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer which, for Andrewes, reflected the practices and beliefs of the Church for over 1,000 years.

As a bishop, he stressed that the services of the Book of Common Prayer Book were to be taken by a properly ordained minister, the Eucharist was to be celebrated reverently, infants were to be baptised, the Daily Offices were to be said, and spiritual counselling was to be given where needed.

Andrewes’s sermons and his prayers illustrate the centrality of the Eucharist in his life and teaching. For him, the Eucharist was the meeting place for the infinite and finite, the divine and human, heaven and earth. “The blessed mysteries ... are from above; the ‘Bread that came down from Heaven,’ the Blood that hath been carried ‘into the holy place.’ And I add, ubi Corpus, ubi sanguis Christi, ibi Christus” (“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” Colossians 3: 1-2).

We here “on earth ... are never so near him, nor he us, as then and there.” Thus it is to the altar we must come for “that blessed union [which] is the highest perfection we can in this life aspire unto.” Unlike his Puritan contemporaries, it was not the pulpit but the altar that was the focal point for worship in his chapel.

His private chapel is said to have been fitted with an altar, candlesticks, two altar cloths, an altar book cushion, silver ciborium, a censer and five copes.

Andrewes placed so much importance on reverence in worship because of his conviction that when we worship God it is with our entire being, both bodily and spiritually. At a time when little emphasis was placed on the old outward forms of piety Andrewes maintained: “If he hath framed that body of yours and every member of it, let him have the honour both of head and knee, and every member else.”

He recommends that a preacher “raise to [God] a thirsting heart before he speaks of [God] with his tongue...”

Convinced that true theology is based on sound learning, Andrewes is said to have given himself to five hours of prayer daily. He says he prays to “our Lord and Master” to give him “the internal and sweeter doctrine of His own inspiration...” so that he can set forth for his hearers the truth and that “from this very truth I desire to be taught the many things I know not ...”

One of his pupils and friends, Henry Isaacson, relates that “from the hour he arose, his private devotions finished, to the time he was called to dinner, which, by his own order, was not till 12 at noon at the soonest, he kept close at his book, and would not be interrupted by any that came to speak with him ... Insomuch that he would be so displeased with scholars that attempted to speak with him in a morning, that he would say ‘he doubted they were no true scholars that came to speak with him before noon’...”

Richard Church, the 19th century Dean of Saint Paul’s, said of him: “He ... felt himself, even in private prayer, one of the great body of God’s creation and God’s Church. He reminded himself of it, as he did of the object of his worship, in the profession of his faith. He acted on it in his detailed and minute intercessions.” Church said Andrewes “claimed for the English Church its full interest and membership in the Church universal.”

Death of Andrewes

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes by the high altar in the Church of Saint Mary Overie, then in the Diocese of Winchester but now Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

He died at Winchester House, Southwark, on 25 September 1626. On the day he died, Archbishop William Laud wrote in his diary: “Monday, about 4 o’clock in the morning, died Lancelot Andrewes, the most worthy bishop of Winchester, the great light of the Christian world.” Milton later wrote a beautiful Latin elegy on the death of Bishop Andrewes.

John Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester, preached at his funeral. He was buried by the high altar in the Church of Saint Mary Overie, then in the Diocese of Winchester but now Southwark Cathedral. In the Church of England, he is commemorated on 25 September with a Lesser Festival.

The legacy of Lancelot Andrewes

Andrewes has been described by Rowan Greer, Professor of Anglican Studies Emeritus at Yale Divinity School, as “arguably, the most brilliant scholar the Church of England has ever produced.”

Next to James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Andrewes was considered the most learned churchman of his day, and enjoyed a great reputation as an eloquent and impassioned preacher. There are passages of extraordinary beauty and profundity in his writing.

Two generations after his death, Richard Crawshaw summarised popular sentiment, when, in his lines “Upon Bishop Andrewes’ Picture before his Sermons,” he writes:

This reverend shadow cast that setting sun,
Whose glorious course through our horizon run,
Left the dim face of this dull hemisphere,
All one great eye, all drown’d in one great teare.

In his lifetime, his only publication was a short volume of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer, Scala Cæli, published in 1611. But, at the command of King Charles I, 96 of his sermons were collected by William Laud, then Bishop of London, and John Buckeridge, by then Bishop of Ely, and published in 1629, which Chapman regards as the beginning of the “myth of Andrewes.”

His most popular work is his Preces Privatæ (Private Prayers or Private Devotions), which was published posthumously and has remained in print since a renewed interest in Andrewes arose in the 19th century.

Hooker, Andrewes and the Caroline divines were rediscovered by the leaders of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century. John Henry Newman translated into English part of his Private Devotions, the book that was still on his prayer desk at the end of his life. Andrewes’s works ran to eight volumes in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology (1841-1854). His Ninety-Six Sermons have been occasionally reprinted and are considered among the most rhetorically developed and polished sermons of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Andrewes continues to influence religious thinkers to the present day. Modern literary appreciation begins with TS Eliot, who refers to Andrewes as “the first great preacher of the English Catholick Church” who always spoke as “a man who had a formed visible Church behind him, who speaks with the old authority and the new culture.”

For Eliot, the sermons of Andrewes “rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time,” and the work of Hooker and Andrewes make the Church of England more worthy of intellectual assent.

Eliot also borrowed, almost word for word and without his usual acknowledgement, the opening words of Andrewes’s sermon on Christmas Day 1622 for his poem The Journey of the Magi.

In his introduction to the Selected Sermons and Lectures of Andrewes, Peter McCullogh of Lincoln College, Oxford, says the tradition of understanding Andrewes is based on the first collected edition, XCVI Sermons, a commemorative folio edited by Buckeridge and Laud. McCullogh claims Andrewes has since been understood as a court preacher and a Caroline Divine, to the neglect of his earlier critique of the English Reformation and the English Calvinists orthodoxy.

Andrewes in his own words:

He who prays for others, labours for himself. If thou prayest for thyself alone, thou alone wilt pray for thyself. If thou prayest for all, all will pray for thee. (Private Devotions)

As to the Real Presence we are agreed; our controversy is as to the mode of it. As to the mode we define nothing rashly, nor anxiously investigate, any more than in the Incarnation of Christ we ask how the human is united to the divine nature in One Person. There is a real change in the elements—we allow ut panis iam consecratus non sit panis quem natura formavit; sed, quem benedictio consecravit, et consecrando etiam immutavit. (Responsio).

Adoration is permitted, and the use of the terms “sacrifice” and “altar” maintained as being consonant with scripture and antiquity. Christ is “a sacrifice – so to be slain; a propitiatory sacrifice – so to be eaten. (Sermons).

By the same rules that the Passover was, by the same may ours be termed a sacrifice. In rigour of speech, neither of them; for to speak after the exact manner of divinity, there is but one only sacrifice, veri nominis, that is Christ’s death. And that sacrifice but once actually performed at His death, but ever before represented in figure, from the beginning; and ever since repeated in memory to the world’s end. That only absolute, all else relative to it, representative of it, operative by it ... Hence it is that what names theirs carried, ours do the like, and the Fathers make no scruple at it – no more need we. (Sermons).

He spells out a formula that would stand anyone who publicly unfolds the Scriptures for others in good stead: “Let the preacher labour to be heard intelligently, willingly, obediently. And let him not doubt that he will accomplish this rather by the piety of his prayers than by the eloquence of his speech. By praying for himself, and those whom he is to address, let him be their beadsman [intercessor] before he becomes their teacher...”

He asks that God “correct me wherein I am in error; confirm me wherein I waver; preserve me from false and noxious things; and make that to proceed from my mouth which, as it shall be chiefly pleasing to the truth itself, so it may be accepted by all the faithful...”

From the Private Devotions, edited by John Henry Newman:

From an order for Morning Prayer:

Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory to thee. Glory to thee who givest me sleep to recruit my weakness, and to remit the toils of this fretful flesh. To this day and all days, a perfect, holy, peaceful, healthy, sinless course, vouchsafe O Lord.

The Angel of Peace, a faithful guide, guardian of souls and bodies, to encamp around me, and ever to prompt what is salutary, vouchsafe O Lord. Pardon and remission of all sins and of all offences vouchsafe O Lord.

To our souls what is good and convenient, and peace to the world, repentance and strictness for the residue of our life, and health and peace to the end, vouchsafe O Lord.

Whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever just, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report, if there be any virtue, if any praise, such thoughts, such deeds, vouchsafe O Lord.

A Christian close, without sin, without shame, and, should it please thee, without pain, and a good answer at the dreadful and fearful judgment-seat of Jesus Christ our Lord, vouchsafe O Lord.


Essence beyond essence, nature increate, framer of the world, I set thee, Lord, before my face, and I lift up my soul unto thee. I worship thee on my knees, and humble myself under thy mighty hand. I stretch forth my hands unto thee, my soul gaspeth unto thee as a thirsty land. I smite on my breast and say with the Publican, God be merciful to me a sinner, the chief of sinners; to the sinner above the Publican, be merciful as to the Publican.

Father of mercies, I beseech thy fatherly affection, despise me not an unclean worm, a dead dog, a putrid corpse, despise not thou the work of thine own hands, despise not thine own image though branded by sin.

Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, Lord, only say the word, and I shall be cleansed. And thou, my Saviour Christ, Christ my Saviour, Saviour of sinners, of whom I am chief, despise me not, despise me not, O Lord, despise not the cost of thy blood, who am called by thy name; but look on me with those eyes with which thou didst look upon Magdalene at the feast, Peter in the hall, the thief on the wood; that with the thief I may entreat thee humbly.

Remember me, Lord, in thy kingdom; that with Peter I may bitterly weep and say, O that mine eyes were a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night; that with Magdalene I may hear thee say, thy sins be forgiven thee, and with her may love much, for many sins yea manifold have been forgiven me.

And thou, all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, despise me not, thy breath, despise not thine own holy things; but turn thee again, O Lord, at the last, and be gracious unto thy servant.


Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, the God of our fathers; who turnest the shadow of death into the morning; and lightenest the face of the earth; who separatest darkness from the face of the light; and banishest night and bringest back the day; who lightenest mine eyes, that I sleep not in death; who deliverest me from the terror by night, from the pestilence that walketh in darkness; who drivest sleep from mine eyes, and slumber from mine eyelids; who makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to praise thee; because I laid me down and slept and rose up again, for the Lord sustained me; because I waked and beheld, and my sleep was sweet unto me.

Blot out as a thick cloud my transgressions, and as a cloud my sins; grant me to be a child of light, a child of the day, to walk soberly, holily, honestly, as in the day, vouchsafe to keep me this day without sin. Thou who upholdest the falling and liftest the fallen, let me not harden my heart in provocation, or temptation or deceitfulness of any sin.

Moreover, deliver me today from the snare of the hunter and from the noisome pestilence; from the arrow that flieth by day, from the sickness that destroyeth in the noon day. Defend this day against my evil, against the evil of this day defend thou me.

Let not my days be spent in vanity, nor my years in sorrow. One day teileth another, and one night certifieth another. O let me hear thy loving-kindness betimes in the morning, for in thee is my trust; hew thou me the way that I should walk in, for I lift up my soul unto thee. Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies, for I flee unto thee.

Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee, for thou art my God: let thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the land of righteousness. Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake, and for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble: remove from me foolish imaginations, inspire those which are good and pleasing in thy sight. Turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity: let mine eyes look right on, and let mine eyelids look straight before me.

Hedge up mine ears with thorns lest they incline to undisciplined words. Give me early the ear to hear, and open mine ears to the instruction of thy oracles. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips. Let my word be seasoned with salt, that it may minister grace to the hearers. Let no deed be grief unto me nor offence of heart.

Let me do some work for which Thou wilt remember me, Lord, for good, and spare me according to the greatness of thv mercy. Into thine hands I commend mv spirit, soul, and body, which thou hast created, redeemed, regenerated, O Lord, thou God of truth: and together with me all mine and all that belongs to me.

Thou hast vouchsafed them to me, Lord, in thy goodness. Guard us from all evil, guard our souls, I beseech thee, O Lord.

Guard us without falling, and place us immaculate in the presence of thy glory in that day.

Guard my going out and my coming in henceforth and for ever.

Prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of those who meet him. O God, make speed to save me, O Lord, make haste to help me. O turn thee then unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and help the son of thine handmaid. Show some token upon me for good, that they who hate me may see it and be ashamed, because thou, Lord, hast holpen me and comforted me.

Evening Prayer

The day is gone, and I give thee thanks, O Lord. Evening is at hand, make it bright unto us. As day has its evening so also has life; the even of life is age, age has overtaken me, make it bright unto us. Cast me not away in the time of age; forsake me not when my strength faileth me.

Even to my old age be thou he, and even to hoar hairs carry me; do thou make, do thou bear, do thou carry and deliver me.

Abide with me, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent of this fretful life. Let thy strength be made perfect in my weakness.

Day is fled and gone, life too is going, this lifeless life. Night cometh, and cometh death, the deathless death. Near as is the end of day, so too the end of life. We then, also remembering it, beseech of thee for the close of our life, that thou wouldest direct it in peace, Christian, acceptable, sinless, shameless, and, if it please thee, painless, Lord, O Lord, gathering us together under the feet of thine elect, when thou wilt, and as thou wilt, only without shame and sins.

Remember we the days of darkness, for they shall be many, lest we be cast into outer darkness. Remember me to outstrip the night doing some good thing.

Near is judgment; a good and acceptable answer at the dreadful and fearful judgment-seat of Jesus Christ vouchsafe to us, O Lord.

By night I lift up my hands in the sanctuary, and praise the Lord. The Lord hath granted His loving-kindness in the day time; and in the night season did I sing of him, and made my prayer unto the God of my life. As long as I live will I magnify thee on this manner, and lift up my hands in thy name.

Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as the incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice. Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, the God of our fathers, who hast created the changes of days and nights, who givest songs in the night, who hast delivered us from the evil of this day who hast not cut off like a weaver my life, nor from day even to night made an end of me.


Lord, as we add day to day, so sin to sin. The just falleth seven times a day; and I, an exceeding sinner, seventy times seven; a wonderful, a horrible thing, O Lord. But I turn with groans from my evil ways, and I return into my heart, and with all my heart I turn to thee, O God of penitents and Saviour of sinners; and evening by evening I will return in the innermost marrow of my soul; and my soul out of the deep crieth unto thee.

I have sinned, O Lord, against thee, heavily against Thee; alas, alas, woe is me! for my misery. I repent, O me! I repent, spare me, O Lord, I repent, O me, I repent, help thou my impenitence. Be appeased, spare me, O Lord; be appeased, have mercy on me; I said, Lord, have mercy upon me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.

Have mercy upon me, O Lord, after thy great goodness, according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences. Remit the guilt, heal the wound, blot out the stains, clear away the shame, rescue from the tyranny, and make me not a public example. O bring thou me out of my trouble, cleanse thou me from secret faults, keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. My wanderings of mind and idle talking lay not to my charge. Remove the dark and muddy flood of foul and wicked thoughts.

O Lord, I have destroyed myself; whatever I have done amiss, pardon mercifully. Deal not with us after our sins, neither reward us after our iniquities. Look mercifully upon our infirmities; and for the glory of thy all-holy name, turn from us all those ills and miseries, which by our sins, and by us through them, are most righteously and worthily deserved.


To my weariness, O Lord, vouchsafe thou rest, to my exhaustion, renew thou strength. Lighten mine eyes that I sleep not in death. Deliver me from the terror by night, the pestilence that walketh in darkness. Supply me with healthy sleep, and to pass through this night without fear.

O keeper of Israel, who neither slumberest nor sleepest, guard me this night from all evil, guard my soul, O Lord. Visit me with the visitation of thine own, reveal to me wisdom in the visions of the night. If not, for I am not worthy, not worthy, at least, O loving Lord, let sleep be to me a breathing time as from toil, so from sin. Yea, O Lord, nor let me in my dreams imagine what may anger thee, what may defile me. Let not my loins be filled with illusions, yea, let my reins chasten me in the night season, yet without grievous terror.

Preserve me from the black sleep of sin; all earthly and evil thoughts put to sleep within me. Grant to me light sleep, rid of all imaginations fleshly and satanical.

Lord, thou knowest how sleepless are mine unseen foes, and how feeble my wretched flesh, who madest me; shelter me with the wing of thy pity; awaken me at the fitting time, the time of prayer; and give me to seek thee early, for thy glory and for thy service.

Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend myself, my spirit, soul, and body: thou didst make, and didst redeem them; and together with me, all my friends and all that belongs to me. Thou hast vouchsafed them to me, Lord, in thy goodness. Guard my lying down and my rising up, from henceforth and for ever. Let me remember thee on my bed, and search out my spirit; let me wake up and be present with thee; let me lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety.


O Lord, as days unto days, so withal do we add sins to sin.

The just man stumbleth seven times a day, but I, a singular great sinner, seventy times seven. Nay but I return unto thee, O Lord, O Lord thou lover of man, thou hast a golden censer; add me thine incense unto this prayer for a sweet-smelling savour before thy throne, and let the lifting up of hands be set forth for an evening sacrifice.

Lord, the Almighty, all our works thou hast wrought in us; if we have gotten any good success, receive it favourably, O Lord abundant in goodness and very pitiful: but so many things as we have done amiss, pardon graciously, for our destruction cometh of ourselves.

Another form of Evening Prayer

Deliver me, O Lord, from the terror by night, from the pestilence that walketh in darkness. Give me to seek thee early, even for thy praise and service. Preserve my lying down and my uprising from this time forth even for evermore.

Discover me my mind for meditation by night, so as to remember thee upon my bed; in the night to commune with mine own heart and to search out my spirit: and to keep my spirit: but if not this (for I am not worthy, I am not worthy, O Lord) yet at leastwise, O Lord thou lover of man, let my sleep be to me a respite, as from toiling, so from sinning withal.

Yea, O Lord, I beseech thee, look upon me, and put to sleep in me every earthly and evil thought.

The sleeplessness of mine unseen foes, Thou wottest, O Lord: the slackness of my wretched flesh thou knowest, which didst form me. Let the wing of thy goodness shelter me: lighten mine eyes that I never sleep in death. Give me, O Lord, a good life, a good death, and deathlessness: for I know not, I know not, O Lord, how soon is the putting off of my tabernacle. Wherein grant me, O Lord, that the end of life be Christian, sinless, shameless, and, if it like thee, painless; and a good defence at the appalling and fearful judgment-seat of Jesus Christ; that I may hear the most sweet voice.

Come ye blessed, and that I may enter into thy joy and get fruition of the vision of our Father which is in heaven. Grant me sleep, O Lord, for repose of weakness and for relief of the toils of this travailing flesh. Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend myself and all things mine: preserve me, o Lord, thou that art the keeper of Israel, that didst neither slumber nor sleep ever yet.

Blessing, thanksgiving and doxology:

Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers, that didst create changes of days and nights, that hast delivered us from the evil of this day, that hast bestowed on us occasions of songs in the evening and to get us through the night fearlessly in hope: for thou art our light, salvation and strength of life, of whom then shall we be afraid?

Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory be to thee, for all thy divine perfections, for thine inexpressible and unimaginable goodness and mercy, unto sinners and unworthy, and to me a sinner, of all most unworthy yea, O Lord, glory and praise and blessing and thanksgiving by the voices and concert of voices as well of angels as of men and of all thy saints in heaven and of all thy creation withal on earth, and under their feet of me the sinner unworthy and wretched, world without end.

On going to bed

Let me think upon thy name in the night season, and keep thy law; let the evening prayer go up unto thee, and thy pity come down unto us, O thou which givest songs in the night, which makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to praise thee, which givest thy beloved wholesome sleep.

Prayer upon entering a Church

As for me, I will come into thy house, even upon the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship towards thy holy temple.

O Lord, hear the voice of my humble petitions, when I cry unto thee; when I hold up my hands toward the mercy-seat of thy holy temple. We wait for thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

Be mindful of the brethren who are present, and join together in prayer with us now: remember their devotion and their zeal. Be mindful of them also who upon good cause are absent: and have mercy upon them and us, according to the multitude of thy mercies, O Lord.

We bless thee for our godly princes, orthodox prelates, and for the founders of this thy holy habitation.

Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory be to thee; glory be to thee, because thou hast glorified them; for and with whom we all glorify thee.

Let thine eyes be open, and thine ears graciously attend, to hear the prayer which thy servant prayeth in this place, wherein thy name is called upon.

Woe is me, I have sinned against thee, O Lord, I have sinned against thee; O how evilly have I done; and yet thou hast not requited me, according to my sins.

But I am ashamed, and turn from my wicked ways, and return to my own heart, and with all my heart I return to thee, and seek thy face; and pray unto thee: saying, I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have committed wickedness; Lord, I know the plague of my own heart, and, behold, I return unto thee with all my heart, and with all my might.

And now, O Lord, in thy dwelling place, the glorious throne of thy kingdom in heaven, hear the prayer and supplication of thy servant. And be merciful unto thy servant, and heal his soul. I dare not so much as lift up mine eyes unto heaven, but standing afar off, I smite upon my breast, and say with the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner. To me, a greater sinner than the publican, be merciful as to the publican. The earnest desire of man shall be to thy praise, and the continuance of that desire shall hold a festival to thee.

A footnote (of sorts):

Lancelot Andrewes in the academic hat to which he has given his name

Andrewes has an academic cap named after him, known as the Bishop Andrewes cap, which is like a mortarboard but made of velvet, floppy and has a tump or tuff instead of a tassel. This was in fact the ancient version of the mortarboard before the top square was stiffened and the tump replaced by a tassel and button. This cap is still used by Doctors of Divinity at Cambridge University and at some other academic institutions as part of their academic dress.

Select bibliography:

AM Allchin, ‘’Lancelot Andrewes,’ pp 145-164 in Geoffrey Rowell (ed), The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism (Oxford: Keble College, 1992).
Lancelot Andrewes, XCVI Sermons, (London,1635, 3rd ed).
MD Chapman, Anglican Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012).
TS Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order (London: Faber & Gwyer, 1928).
Walter H. Frere, ‘Lancelot Andrewes as a Representative of Anglican Principles: A Lecture Delivered at Holy Trinity, Chelsea, February 28, 1897’ Church Historical Society, 44 (London: SPCK, 1898).
Florence Higham, Lancelot Andrewes (London: SCM Press, 1952).
Henry Isaacson, An Exact Narration of the Life and Death of the Late reverend and learned Prelate, and painfull Divine Lancelot Andrewes, Late Bishop of Winchester. Which may serve as a pattern of Piety and Charity to All Godly Disposed Christians (London: John Stafford, 1650).
Peter McCullough (ed), Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Alister McGrath (ed), The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998).
William Marshall, Scripture, Tradition and Reason (Dublin: Columba, 2010). RL Ottley, Lancelot Andrewes (London: Methuen, 1894).
AT Russell, Memoirs of the Life and Works of Lancelot Andrewes, Lord Bishop of Winchester (Cambridge: J. Palmer, 1863).
PA Welsby, Lancelot Andrewes 1555-1626 (London: SPCK, 1958).
JP Wilson and J. Bliss (eds), The Works of Lancelot Andrewes (11 vols, Oxford: Parker Society, 1841-1854).

Last updated: 25 September 2014

Thursday, September 13, 2012

10: Richard Hooker (1554-1600), focussing theology on Scripture, Tradition and Reason

Richard Hooker ... gave Anglican theology the foundations of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and developed the concept of the Via Media

Patrick Comerford

Richard Hooker (1554-1600) was such an influential Anglican theologian that his emphases on scripture, tradition and reason have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglicanism. He never wrote a systematic theology or a catechism. Yet, for Richard Schmidt and others, Hooker’s position in Anglicanism parallels that of Martin Luther in Lutheranism, John Calvin in Presbyterianism and Thomas Aquinas in Roman Catholicism.

Hooker stands alongside Thomas Cranmer, who wrote and compiled The Book of Common Prayer and Matthew Parker, who was primarily responsible for The Thirty-Nine Articles, as one of the founders of Anglican theological thought, and he is considered by many as the “true father” or founding intellect and spirit of Anglicanism.

His great work is the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), in which he argued that it is through our participation in the life of Christ that we experience forgiveness and salvation, that Christ is really present not only in the Eucharist, but in those who receive the Eucharist, and that the Church is more than an invisible company of the elect, but a visible institution composed of those with the living Christ in their midst who are meant to sanctify the world.

Philip Bruce Secor, who has written extensively on Hooker, says he is “arguably the closest counterpart in the English Reformation to Luther and Calvin.” Although Hooker lived and worked through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the late Archbishop Henry McAdoo, in The Structure of Caroline Moral Theology, counts him among the Caroline Divines, the influential group of theologians who shaped post-Reformation Anglicanism in the 17th century.

The details of Hooker’s life are gleaned mainly from his biography by Izaak Walton. Hooker was born sometime around Easter Day in March 1554 in the village of Heavitree, now a suburb of Exeter in Devonshire.

His uncle, John Hooker, spent several years in Ireland as the legal adviser to Sir Philip Carew, and was MP for Athenry, Co Galway. Later, he was the chamberlain of Exeter, and wrote biographies of the Bishops of Exeter, including Myles Coverdale.

Corpus Christi College, Oxford ... Hooker was an undergraduate and later a fellow

He attended Exeter Grammar School (Exeter Latin School) until 1569, when his uncle John Hooker helped him to secure a place at Corpus Christ College, Oxford, through the patronage of another Devon-born theologian, John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury.

Hooker speaks of Jewel as the “worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years.” Indeed, Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity owes much to Jewel’s thinking.

Hooker graduated BA (Bachelor of Arts) at Oxford in 1574. He proceeded MA (Master of Arts) in 1577, and became a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, that year. He acted as tutor at Oxford, and in 1579 was appointed University Reader in Hebrew and lectured in logic.

On 14 August 1579, Hooker was ordained priest by Edwin Sandys, then Bishop of London, and later Archbishop of Canterbury. Sandys appointed Hooker tutor to his son Edwin, and Hooker also taught George Cranmer, the great nephew of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

After a contested election for the presidency of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1580, Hooker was deprived of his college fellowship, for “contentiousness.” He had campaigned for the defeated candidate, John Rainolds (1549-1607), against William Cole. Rainolds was Hooker’s former tutor and lifelong friend who would become a leader of Puritan party and a participant in the Hampton Court Conference in 1604.He finally became President of Corpus Christi in December 1598.

The site of Saint Paul’s Cross, on the north-east side of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London ... Richard Hooker was appointed preacher in 1581 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, in 1581, Hooker was appointed to preach at Saint Paul’s Cross, beside Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. His mentor, John Jewell, had been the select preacher at Saint Paul’s Cross in 1559. Preaching at Saint Paul’s Cross, Hooker became a public figure, more so because his sermon offended the Puritans by diverging from their theories of predestination.

Ten years before Hooker arrived in London, the Puritans had produced an Admonition to Parliament, together with A view of Popish Abuses and initiated a long debate that would last beyond the end of the 16th century.

John Whitgift, soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury, produced a reply and Thomas Cartwright wrote a reaction to that reply. Hooker was drawn into this controversy through the influences of Edwin Sandys and George Cranmer.

He was also introduced to John Churchman, a distinguished London merchant who became Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company. It was at this time, according to his biographer, Izaak Walton, that Hooker made the “fatal mistake” of marrying his landlady’s daughter, Jean Churchman. As Walton puts it: “There is a wheel within a wheel; a secret sacred wheel of Providence (most visible in marriages), guided by His hand that allows not the race to the swift nor bread to the wise, nor good wives to good men: and He that can bring good out of evil (for mortals are blind to this reason) only knows why this blessing was denied to patient Job, to meek Moses, and to our as meek and patient Mr Hooker.”

However, Walton is described by Christopher Morris as an “unreliable gossip” who “generally moulded his subjects to fit a ready-made pattern,” and both he and John Booty give the date of the marriage as 1588. Hooker seems to have with the Churchman family periodically until 1595 and, according to Booty, he “seems to have been well-treated and considerably assisted by John Churchman and his wife.”

The Temple Church, off Fleet Street, London ... Hooker was appointed the Master in 1585

Hooker became the Rector of the Parish Saint Mary the Virgin, Drayton Beauchamp, Buckinghamshire, in 1584. But he probably never lived in the parish, and in the following year, on the recommendation of Archbishop Sandys, he was appointed Master of the Temple Church at the Inns of Court in London by Queen Elizabeth, possibly as a compromise candidate to those proposed by William Cecil (Lord Burghley) and Archbishop Whitgift.

At the Temple Church, Hooker came into immediate public conflict with Walter Travers (1548-1635), a strenuous Puritan who was the Reader or Lecturer at the Temple Church, and who had been ordained Presbyterian in Antwerp but had never received Anglican orders.

The dispute orders in part because of Hooker’s sermon at Saint Paul’s Cross four years earlier, but mainly because Hooker argued that salvation was possible for some Roman Catholics.

Hooker preached on Sunday mornings, and Travers preached on Sunday afternoons, the Reader using the pulpit to attack the Master for his views on assurance and his attitude towards Roman Catholics. A popular cliché said: “What Mr Hooker delivered in the forenoon, Mr Travers confuted in the afternoon.” Or, as Izaak Walton and John Keble render it: “The forenoon sermon spoke Canterbury, and the afternoon, Geneva.”

The controversy ended abruptly when it was brought before the Privy Council. Travers was silenced and dismissed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in March 1586 and the Privy Council strongly supported the decision. Later, under Burghley’s influence, Travers succeeded Adam Loftus as the second Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, from 1594 to 1598.

Meanwhile, Hooker began to write his major work, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, a critique of the Puritans and their attacks on the Church of England in general and the Book of Common Prayer in particular.

In 1591, Hooker left the Temple and was presented to the living of Saint Andrew’s Boscombe in Wiltshire to support him while he wrote. He seems to have lived mainly in London but spent time in Salisbury where he was the Prebendary of Netheravon, Precentor and Subdean of Salisbury Cathedral, and regularly used the Cathedral Library. The preface and first four books of his major work, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, were printed by John Windet and published in 1593 with a subsidy from Edwin Sandys. Apparently, the last four books, although ready for publication, were held back for further revision by the author.

In 1595, Hooker became Rector of the parish of Saint Mary the Virgin in Bishopsbourne, four miles south-east of Canterbury, in Kent, and priest of the neighbouring parish of Saint John the Baptist, Barham.

Hooker was happy to be a country parson, and devoted his last years to caring for his parishioners, to prayer, and to further study and writing. In 1597, he published his fifth book of The Laws, which is longer than the first four books taken together.

He died on 2 or 3 November 1600 at his Rectory in Bishopsbourne. He was buried under the chancel floor in the church, although the exact place is not marked. He was survived by his wife and four daughters.

His will includes the following provision: “Item, I give and bequeath three pounds of lawful English money towards the building and making of a newer and sufficient pulpit in the parish of Bishopsbourne.” The pulpit still stands in Bishopsbourne parish church; a statue of Hooker near the pulpit is believed to have been in the old rectory. A memorial tablet in the church was erected by William Cowper in 1632.

A statue of Richard Hooker outside Exeter Cathedral was carved from white “pentilicon” marble by Alfred Drury (1856-1944) at a cost of 1,000 guineas, paid for by Mr R Hooker of Weston Super Mare, a descendent of Hooker’s uncle. The statue was unveiled on 25 October 1907. The statue, in the centre of the ancient cathedral common burial ground, depicts the “Judicious Hooker” seated with his book. A stained glass window in Exeter Cathedral also depicts Hooker.

Books 6-8 of The Laws were published posthumously, Books 6 and 8 in 1648, and Book 7 in 1662, which partly explains why Hooker is counted by many among the Caroline Divines.

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... ‘the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation’

Hooker’s influence:

Hooker was perhaps the most influential theologian in the aftermath of the Anglican Reformation, and his emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglican theology. His Laws is still regarded as a monumental work of Anglican theology and has influenced the development of theology, political theory, and English prose.

Hooker’s Laws, alongside Jewel’s Apology and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, is a major and original contribution to English ecclesiastical literature of the 16th century, and the first great ecclesiastical work written in English. It is written in a temperate spirit and with vigour of thought, and is free of the many, heavy quotations that are characteristic of most theological works at the time.

Although Hooker is unsparing in his censure of what he believes are the errors of Rome, his contemporary, Pope Clement VIII, said of The Laws: “It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning.”

King James I is quoted by Hooker’s biographer, Izaak Walton, as saying: “I observe there is in Mr Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil.”

Hooker’s emphasis on Scripture, reason, and tradition considerably also influenced the development of legal theory and the work of political philosophers, including John Locke, who quotes Hooker numerous times in the Second Treatise of Civil Government
His literary influences are reflected in the works of many writers, including John Donne, George Herbert and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Hooker as theologian:

Richard Hooker has the reputation as being the founder of the Anglican theology of comprehensiveness and tolerance. His attitude to scripture was deeply nuanced by reason. He made reason the criterion of reading scripture – not the criterion of scripture, but of reading scripture, for Hooker held scripture in first place. He held reason necessary for the understanding and the application of scripture in all the areas in which scripture might be applied.

Their first difference arose over the question of predestination. Some years before this controversy, Hooker had maintained in God two wills, the one antecedent, the other consequent, so the first will of God is that all should be saved, the second that “only those who did live answerable to that degree of grace which [God] had offered, or afforded.”

This contradicted the Calvinist views held by Travers that the will of God is single and unitary, and thus that God directly damns some prior to any behaviour of their own. Thus Hooker asserts the possibility, if not the fact, of the salvation of all.

In the Calvinist eyes of Travers, Hooker also compromised himself by asserting that Roman Catholics could be saved as Roman Catholics, because that Church, although imperfect and erring in various ways, still held to Christ and the greater part of the foundations of Christianity, and so its faithful were excused by honest ignorance of the truth.

Travers replies that none who believe in justification by works can be saved, because they are in ignorance of the truth of scriptural teaching, namely, that all are saved by faith alone. Thus for Travers, any drop of falsity tends to exclude, while for Hooker truth, partial and mistaken but well-meant, tends to include.

Hooker’s aim was to emphasise the unity of Christianity before its divisions by pointing out first the things in which all Christians agreed: “I took it for the best and most perspicuous way of teaching, to declare first, how far we do agree, and then to show our disagreements.”

Finally, Travers attacked Hooker on his manner of accepting Scripture. Travers took exception to Hooker saying the assurance of what we believe by word is not so great as that we believe by sense. Hooker replies by asking why it is then, that if assurance by word is greater, God so frequently shows his promises to us in our sensible experience.

Hooker’s ultimate principle he calls reason, by which he means thought, not as propositional thinking, but as the whole process of experience, and reflection on experience, that issues in knowledge and wisdom, and supremely, the knowledge of God.

Further, for Hooker, the realm of experience is ordinary life. Of this ordinary experience, scripture is a part. As all comes from God, so scripture does. As we learn from all our experience, and learn that the world is so ordered that it works in this way and not in that, so we learn of God from Scripture. This supplies the knowledge of God which we cannot gain from the nature we discern in the world around us.

But for Hooker the process of understanding is not different whatever it is that is being discerned. “So our own words also when we extol the complete sufficiency of the whole entire body of the scripture, must in like sort be understood with this caution, that the benefit of nature’s light be not thought excluded as unnecessary, because the necessity of a diviner light is magnified.” (Laws, 1.14.4)

This is an implicit critique of the use of scripture by Travers and the Puritans as the ultimate rule and guide. They used scripture as a set of propositional laws, unrelated to the ordinary life of humans of their time, as eternal laws and absolute, unconnected to person and circumstance. They used them to conform person and circumstance to their mould rather than both conforming to and at the same time transforming person and circumstance. Hooker’s complaint, though the words would be profoundly anachronistic, is that the Puritans’ construction of scripture is unhistorical.

So, in discussing the Puritans’ construction of ecclesial institutions on scriptural models, Hooker points out that the words of scripture were written to address specific occasions and situations in the life of the church, and not as absolute rules.

“The several books of scripture having had each some several occasion and particular purpose which caused them to be written, the contents thereof are according to the exigency of that special end whereunto they are intended.” (Laws I.14.3)

His whole critique of the Puritan use of scripture is summed up in Laws IV.11.7: “Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered.”

Finally, in the Travers-Hooker controversy, there is an irenic tone that underlies the polemic. The two men remained on good terms personally, and both made it clear that there was no personal animosity. Indeed, Travers’s brother John was married to Hooker’s sister.

Hooker in fact seems to have found all controversy hateful, and his writings are marked by a tone tolerance and inclusiveness.

Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity

Hooker’s best known work and masterpiece is Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Its philosophical base is Aristotelian, with a strong emphasis on natural law eternally planted by God in creation. On this foundation, all positive laws of Church and State are developed from Scriptural revelation, ancient tradition, reason, and experience.

The first four books were published in 1594, Book 5 was published in 1597, and the final three volumes were published posthumously.

The last three books have an interesting history, which was outlined by John Keble. Hooker’s widow was accused of having burned the manuscript. However, the rough drafts were preserved. Book 6 and Book 8 were published in 1648, and Book 7 in 1662. Book 7 and Book 8 contain the substance of what Hooker wrote, but Keble doubted whether Book 6 is genuine. It is now generally accepted that they are Hooker’s work and part of the full collection.

Hooker’s Laws is much more than a negative rebuttal of Puritan claims. The late Archbishop Henry McAdoo sees it as “a continuous and coherent whole presenting a philosophy and theology congenial to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the traditional aspects of the Elizabethan Settlement ... Anglicanism ...has become a coherent theology.”

Hooker argued for a middle way or via media between the positions held by Roman Catholics and by Puritans. He argued that reason and tradition were important when interpreting the Scriptures, and that it was important to recognise that the Bible was written in a particular historical context, in response to specific situations: “Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered.”

Hooker’s principal subject is the proper governance of the Church, and he seeks to work out the best methods for organising the Church.

Structurally, the work is a carefully structured reply to the general principles of Puritanism as found in The Admonition and Cartwright’s subsequent writings, more specifically challenging:

● Scripture alone is the rule of all things which may be done;
● Scripture prescribes an unalterable form of Church government;
● The English Church is corrupted by ‘Popish’ orders, rites, &c;
● The law is corrupt in not allowing lay elders;
● ‘There ought not to be in the Church Bishops.’

Quoting CS Lewis in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Stephen Neill underlines its literary contibution in the following terms: Hitherto, in England, “the art of controversy ... had involved only tactics; Hooker added strategy. Long before the close fighting in Book III begins, the puritan position has been rendered desperate by the great flanking movements in Books I and II ... Thus the refutation of the enemy comes in the end to seem a very small thing, a by-product.”

It is a massive work of immense learning, drawing on Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, scholastic theologians and philosophers, and the Classics. Its principal subject is the proper governance, or “polity,” of the Church, and Hooker seeks to work out which methods of organising the Church are best.

Also at stake was the position of Queen Elizabeth I as the Supreme Governor of the Church. If doctrine were not to be settled by authorities, and if Luther’s argument for the priesthood of all believers were to be followed to its extreme with government by the elect, then the role of the monarch as governor of the Church was unacceptable. On the other hand, if the monarch was appointed by God as the governor of the church, then it was similarly unacceptable for local churches or parishes to go their own way.

The Laws is remembered not only for its stature as a monumental work of Anglican thought, but also for its influence in the development of theology, political theory, and English prose, being one of the first major works of theology written in English.

Hooker worked from Aquinas, but adapted scholastic thought in a latitudinarian manner. He argued that Church organisation, like political organisation, is one of the “things indifferent” to God. He wrote that minor doctrinal issues were not issues that damned or saved the soul, but rather frameworks surrounding the moral and religious life of the believer.

He argued there were good monarchies and bad ones, good democracies and bad ones, and good Church hierarchies and bad ones: what mattered was the piety of the people.

At the same time, Hooker argued that authority was commanded by the Bible and by the traditions of the Early Church, but authority was something that had to be based on piety and reason rather than automatic investiture. This was because authority had to be obeyed even if it were wrong and needed to be remedied by right reason and the Holy Spirit. Notably, Hooker affirmed that the power and propriety of bishops need not be in every case absolute.

Book 1, which includes a nine-chapter Preface, is a discussion of the nature of Law.

Book 2 and Book 3 include debate with the Puritans over the interpretation of scripture and the place of reason in interpretation.

Book 4 is a defence of Anglican liturgical practices that have been taken over from Rome, stating that they belong as catholic and universal elements of the true Church.

Book 5 was published when Hooker was at Bishopsbourne and, according to the late Archbishop McAdoo, long remained on the curriculum for Anglican ordinands. This, by far the longest of the books, can be read as a theological commentary on The Book of Common Prayer, defending its legality. It includes detailed discussions on baptism, chanting and ministerial attire – all contentious issues at the time. It has been said that this volume brought Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer to life, and it probably had the greatest influence on Anglican life of any books at the time.

The three remaining volumes were published posthumously, from almost complete manuscripts found in Hooker’s study in Bishopsbourne Rectory after his death.

Book 6 has a discussion of lay leadership and the role of ordained ministry, and also deals with justification and the practice of penitence.

Book 7, which was the last to be published, is a defence of episcopacy and the episcopal polity of the Church in its ideal form.

Book 8 concerns the Royal Supremacy, and the place of the Crown in the Church. Manuscript notes on Book 8 discovered some years ago in Trinity College Dublin shed new light on Book 8, and John Booty says it is now believed that Hooker, with his strong convictions concerning law, was no avid proponent of the divine right of kings.

Trinity College Dublin .... manuscript notes found some years ago in Trinity College Dublin have shed new light on Book 8 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hooker’s other works:

Apart from his Laws, Hooker’s lesser works, which are few in number, fall into three groups:

● Writings related to the Temple Controversy with Walter Travers and before the Privy Council, including three sermons;
● Writings connected with the last writing of the last books of the Laws;
● Miscellaneous sermons, of which four are complete and fragments remain of three.
● The theologically important work, A Learned Discourse of Justification, first published in 1612.

A Learned Discourse of Justification

Hooker’s best short work is his sermon, A Learned Discourse of Justification is a sermon from 1585. Although it was not published until 1612, it was one of the sermons that triggered Travers’s attack and appeal to the Privy Council.

In an earlier sermon, Hooker had expressed the hope of seeing in Heaven many who had been Roman Catholics on earth. Travers took him to task for this, saying that since Roman Catholics did not believe the doctrine of Justification by Faith, they could not be justified.

Hooker replied at length in this sermon. He sets forth the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, and agrees with his opponent that the official theology of Rome is defective on this point. He then defends his assertion that those who do not rightly understand the means that God has provided for salvation may nonetheless be saved by it. He says: “God is no captious sophister, eager to trip us up whenever we say amiss, but a courteous tutor, ready to amend what, in our weakness or our ignorance, we say ill, and to make the most of what we say aright.”

Travers accused Hooker of preaching doctrine favourable to the Roman Catholic Church, when in fact he had just described their differences emphasising that Rome attributed to works “a power of satisfying God for sin.”

For Hooker, works were a necessary expression of thanksgiving for unmerited justification by a merciful God. Hooker defended his belief in the doctrine of justification by faith, but argued that even those who did not understand or accept this could be saved by God.

Hooker in his own words:

God is no captious sophister, eager to trip us up whenever we say amiss, but a courteous tutor, ready to amend what, in our weakness or our ignorance, we say ill, and to make the most of what we say aright. – A Learned Discourse of Justification.

There shall come a time when three words uttered with charity and meekness shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit. – Laws, Preface, 2.10.

Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power. – Laws, 1.16.8.

That to live by one man’s will became the cause of all men’s misery. – Laws, 1.

We live, as it were, the life of God. – Laws, 1.11.2.

So our own words also when we extol the complete sufficiency of the whole entire body of the scripture, must in like sort be understood with this caution, that the benefit of nature’s light be not thought excluded as unnecessary, because the necessity of a diviner light is magnified. – Laws, 1.14.4.

We must acknowledge even heretics themselves to be, though a maimed part, yet a part of the visible church. If an infidel should pursue to death an heretic professing Christianity, only for Christian profession’s sake, could we deny him the honour of martyrdom? – Laws, 3.1.11.

The ceremonies which we have taken from such as were before us, or not things which belong to this or that sect, but they are the ancient rites and customs of the Church of Christ, whereof ourselves being a part, we have the selfsame interest in them which our fathers before us had, from whom the same are descended unto us. – Laws, 4.9.1.

Every good and holy desire though it lack the form, hath notwithstanding in itself the substance, and with him the force of a prayer, who regardeth the very moanings groans and sighs of the heart of man. – Laws, 5.48.2.

Richard Hooker describes a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,” and says: “It pleaseth Almighty God to communicate by sensible means those blessings which are incomprehensible.” – Laws, 5.57.3.

The Grace which we have by the Holy Eucharist ... [is] the real participation of Christ and of life in his body and blood by means of this sacrament. – Laws, 5.67.2.

Take therefore that wherein all agree, and then consider by itself what cause why the rest in question should not rather be left as superfluous than urged as necessary ... the sacrament being of itself but a corruptible and earthly creature must needs be thought an unlikely instrument to work so admirable affects in man, we are therefore to rest ourselves altogether upon the strength of his glorious power who is able and will bring to pass that the bread and cup which he giveth us shall be truly the thing he promiseth. – Laws, 5.67.7.

The very letter of the word of Christ giveth plain security that these mysteries do as nails fasten us to his very Cross, that by them we draw out, as touching efficacy, force, and virtue, even the blood of his gored side, in the wounds of our Redeemer we there dip our tongues, we are dyed red both within and without, our hunger is satisfied and our thirst for ever quenched; they are things wonderful which he feeleth, great which he seeth and unheard of which he uttereth, whose soul is possessed of this Paschal Lamb and made joyful in the strength of this new wine, this bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold, this cup hallowed with solemn benediction availeth to the endless life and welfare both of soul and body in that it serveth as well for a medicine to heal our infirmities and purge our sins as for a sacrifice of thanksgiving; with touching it sanctifieth, it enlighteneth with belief, it truly conformeth us unto the image of Jesus Christ; what these elements are in themselves it skilleth not, it is enough that to me which take them they are the body and blood of Christ, his promise in witness hereof sufficeth, his word he knoweth which way to accomplish; why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this, O my God thou art true, O my Soul thou art happy! – Laws, 5.67.12.


In the Church of England, Richard Hooker is celebrated with a Lesser Festival on 3 November; the same day is also a Lesser Feast in his honour in the Episcopal Church’s Calendar of Saints.

O God of truth and peace, who raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Select bibliography:

Richard Hooker, A Learned Discourse of Justification (1612).
Richard Hooker, The Works of … Mr. Richard Hooker: With an Account of his Life and Death by Izaak Walton (3 vols), edited by John Keble (Oxford, 1836) and revised by RW Church and F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888).

John Booty, ‘Hooker, Richard,’ pp 140-145 in AE McGrath (ed), The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998).
Michael Brydon, The Evolving Reputation of Richard Hooker: An Examination of Responses, 1600–1714 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
MD Chapman, Anglican Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012).
RK Faulkner, Richard Hooker and the Politics of a Christian England (Berkeley: California University Press, 1981).
WJT Kirby, “Richard Hooker’s Discourse on Natural Law in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation, Animus 3 (1998).
HR McAdoo, The Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the Seventeenth Century (London : Adam & Charles Black 1965).
HR McAdoo, ‘Richard Hooker,’ pp 105-125, in Geoffrey Rowell (ed), The English Religious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism (Oxford: Ikon, for Keble College, 1992).
AC McGrade (ed), Richard Hooker and the Construction of Christian community (Tempe, Arizona: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1997).
Peter Munz, The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952).
William Marshall, Scripture, Tradition and Reason (Dublin: Columba, 2010).
Stephen Neill, Anglicanism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 3rd ed, 1965). Arthur Pollard (ed), Richard Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity: Selections (Manchester: Carcanet, 1990).
RH Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002).
PB Secor, Richard Hooker: Prophet of Anglicanism (London: Continuum, 1999).
Izaak Walton, The Life of Rich. Hooker, The Author of those Learned Books of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (London: Richard Marriott, 1665).