Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Alan Fager Herr, The Elizabethan Sermon

Alan Fager Herr, The Elizabethan Sermon; A Survey and a Bibliography, A Dissertation in English, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1940.

(Chapter I, The Vogue of the Sermon)

At the beginning of the reign the religious issue was quite simple; England would be either Roman Catholic or Protestant, the people thought, for Elizabeth was yet to demonstrate that there was a tenable middle ground. But the leniency by means of which Elizabeth hoped to reconcile all her subjects to the broad-based national church was interpreted as license to dissent from its usages at almost every point upon which divergence was possible and, once this spirit of dissent was well rooted, it was impossible to obtain conformity to any one corpus of dogma or usage. (11)

As soon as the new Queen had been proclaimed, a furore in the pulpits began. The Protestants, suddenly free of the yoke of Mary, were loudly demanding a complete reformation and were further driven to outcry by seeing no great signs of action in that direction. The Roman Catholic party, apprehensive, feared that the Queen might tear down their newly reestablished church and favor Protestantism. In their fervor both parties took great liberties in their sermons and assumed impertinent attitudes toward the Crown. / For a short time Elizabeth endured the confusion … On December 28, 1558, came the royal proclamation prohibiting all preaching until further notice. (11-12)

Sermons at the court never ceased even after the proclamation of silence, but they were preached by appointed stable and learned men on general topics not inciting controversy. … after Easter… preaching began anew all over England as new licenses to preach were approved and issued by the bishops. … Only clergy were licensed to preach, and to retain their clerical status they were required to subscribe to three main points of the established religion: first (1559) to the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Queen, later (1561) to the lawfulness of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, and finally (1603) to the thirty-nine Articles of Religion. (13)

By the second act of Parliament in Elizabeth’s reign people went to church under penalty of the law and listened to the sermons provided there (13)

… ‘and also upon Pain that every Person so offending shall forfeit for every such Offence twelve Pence, … (Statutes, Anno Primo Reg. Eliz., Cap. II, Section XIV.) (14)

In the north, where Romanism had a stronger hold than elsewhere in England, recusants were obliged by law to attend even more services than were required of the general populace. (14)

In 1591 Sir Richard Sherborne, with a touch of genius, thought of a way to avoid hearing the sermons, even theough it was soon discovered. He and his family went to church when they were forced to go, but took the precaution to stuff wool in their ears so that they heard nothing. Perplexed, the local authorities wrote to London for instructions in the case. [C.S.P.D.Elizabeth, vol. CCXL, No. 140] (15)

With congregations provided by law to listen to its preachings, one might suppose that the Established Church would seize the advantage thus presented and pour forth a torrent of sermons, but it so fell out that there were far fewer than might be expected. The usual service consisted of Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer without the addition of a sermon. Preachers could preach as often as they would, for only a lower limit was set by authority. Four sermons a year were required, but even at these four occasions the 1559 Common Prayer allowed the preacher to substitute a reading from the Book of Homilies for the sermon. More than the four required sermons were expected, however, in all but the most wretched parishes. (16)

Some ministers, of course, were merely too lazy to preach, but in most cases the neglect of sermons showed a leaning toward Catholicism and a consequent feeling that the Mass or Communion was the only important service of the church. (16)

While the government and the prelates favored and tried to enforce monthly or quarterly sermons, the very frequent sermons advocated by the most Protestant factions were not particularly desired by the authorities because they felt that the quality of sermons must certainly suffer if the preacher had to compose more than one sermon a month. (17)

The predilection of Elizabethan audiences for the amusing and the sensational is no mere assumption, for the most zealous of the preachers speak of it as one of their greatest problems and discouragements. These complaints do not come only from the chronically ill-tempered ultra-Protestants who criticized everything indiscriminately; three bishops of the Church of England who were both able and willing preachers have recorded their views of their audiences. (17)

…the reign of Elizabeth, the others having either died or been deposed for not conforming to the new doctrines of the Church or for not acknowledging Elizabeth as the head of the Churhc of England. [18] … it is certain that there was a great lack of men of the right caliber in the lower clergy and that replacements were difficult to make. … Under these circumstances the Book of Homilies assumed new importance. As an emergency move to provide services in parishes that were now without preachers, a substitute order of laymen known as ‘readers’ was installed. Readers could read from the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Homilies… (18-19)

The Elizabethans were interested in religion and delighted in discussions of it, the subject then not being taboo in conversation. A man as worldly as Thomas Nashe would set himself up as a sermon critic, and a man as busy as John Manningham would be a connoisseur of the art of preaching and would fill his diary with very full notes of sermons… (21)

…Paul’s Cross. That people attended these sermons willingly does not, however, imply that they attended in any particularly pious frame of mind… (23)

The sermons at Paul’s Cross, and perhaps at a few other pulpits, were frequently made more amusing for the audience by the exhibition of people doing penance. At the Cross there was a regular platform, level with the pulpit, built for the penitents to stand upon and receive the jeers of the audience and the gibes of village wits. Sometimes the penitents simply stood up throughout the sermons and were considered amply punished. … Public penance before the huge jeering audience was often resorted to. It might be added that the distraction of these side-shows was probably a great hindrance to the preacher’s efforts to hold the attention of his audience. / These Paul’s Cross sermons were probably the most important in London because of the size of the audience, which was only limited by the power of the preacher’s lungs. These audiences are estimated to have been as large as six thousand. It was not only a huge audience, but a most mixed one, since not only the common people gathered there, but also many nobles and officers of the court and the city attended with full ceremony and retinue. Here the great preachers held forth by invitation and visiting clergy from all over England were heard. [25] … At other time of the year there was a great variety of preachers ranging from dull to sensational, ignorant to learned, and Protestant to Anglo-Catholic. / The appointment of the preachers to this important pulpit originally lay with the Bishop of London and the Dean of St. Paul’s, but by Elizabeth’s reign a great number of authorities, as well civil as ecclesiastical, exercised this prerogative. This thus dispersed authority accounted for many untoward preachings and ridiculous occurrences. (24-25)

There were also 123 parish churches in London and its immediate suburbs [Stow, Survey of London, II, 143], and many of the clergy of these churches had large and enthusiastic followings. At St. Anne’s Blackfriars, Stephen Egerton preached to his predominantly female congregation; at St. Andrewes Holborn, one could hear Richard (afterward Archbishop) Bancroft or Dr. John King; at St. Giles Cripplegate, Lancelot Andrewes; at Christ Church, Newgate, Richard (afterward Bishop) Greenham; and at St. Celement Danes, Henry Smith. (27)

…they also read sermons in print for pleasure and for edification. The sale of printed sermons was encouraging to the printers and as a result publications of sermons increased steadily throughout the reign. (27)

Sermons that had been preached on important occasions (and these occasions were secular as well as religious, as will be seen further on) had large sales because they were usually by high-ranking clergy, as the occasion demanded, and also, since the people ere interested in the sort of sermon that would be preached before the Queen, at a social function that they could not attend, or at the funeral of a personage whom they either dearly loved or hotly hated, because these sermons had a certain news value. Sometimes it was the preacher’s name that sold the sermons. Henry Smith’s sermons went into a phenomenal number of editions and his name on a sermon was so attractive to buyers that it was charged that unscrupulous printers forged sermons over his name when they could not lay their hands upon authentic copy. (28)

(Chapter II, Pulpit Delivery)

Before the preacher even mounted the pulpit steps the problem of vestments or habits had to be considered. So high was the feeling on this controversial point that no matter what the preacher wore or left unworn, somebody would find fault. The most Protestant of the clergy had refused to wear the prescribed habits, but Archbishop Parker had, on March 26, 1566, called the London clergy together and ordered them either to “ear theyr apparayll accordyng to ye quens injunctions, or ells to do no sarvyce”. If the preacher wore the habit prescribed by the Queen and the bishops, he would be accused by the Protestants of favoring Rome, and protests would be loud against his “popish rags”. (31)

People still had to have their ears nailed to a post and then cut off for fighting in St. Paul’s, and that cathedral was still a great business center and social promenade. The fact that a service might be in progress did not stop the other activities; even as late as 1602, after forty-four years of reforming, the shutting of the doors of St. Paul’s during services brought about at least one preserved objection that this practice deranged the traffic of news. (32)

A seemingly popular diversion that was sure to distract a preacher and his audience during service was to sing lustily out of turn. W. Fleetwood, the recorder, in a letter to Lord Burghley, tells of an arraignment of a young hoodlum for such an offence, the charge being the disturbance of the peace: (32)

The church edifice was given no particular reverence and the congregations were restrained by no inhibitions in their behavior there. One minister felt that he should remark on this from the pulpit. / ‘Further, God house is abused by them which bring hither hawks and dogs, which is faulted in our Church-homilie, and whereby peoples mindes are diverted from their devotions. (33)

Not only was the church building given thus little reverence, but the clergy were accorded no more. If a congregation became so incesed at a preacher as to want to manhandle him, his cloth could not be counted upon to save him. (34)

At Paul’s Cross the preacher had one or more companions in the pulpits with him; we might almost call them ‘seconds’ when we consider the preacher’s need of protection if he displeased too large a portion of the audience. (34)

A type of protest against the sermon that was far more acceptable to the preacher took the form of writing objections on paper and throwing them into the pulpit. This was not considered a breach of the peace and so was allowed. (34-35)

…whereas the Elizabethans termed a theological discourse a lecture or a sermon depending only upon whether it was read from a finished composition or preached from memory with the aid of notes only. This distinction was rigidly preserved in the titles when the sermons and lectures went to the press. A further distinctive term was reserved for a theological dissertation which was neither preached nor read before an audience; this was called a treatise. When a man came to preach a sermon, therefore, he endeavored to use only notes and to have those notes as brief as possible. To preach without even notes as brief as possible. To preach without even the notes was the aspiration. The fullness or brevity of the notes from which the sermon was to be delivered was a matter of choice for the preacher. Very few of those notes have been published, naturally enough, but we may presume that they varied in length as greatly as do men’s memories. Bishop Andrewes’ notes were full to the point of indicating the nature of nearly ever sentence, while Hooker used none at all. (35)

Gestures were expected to accompany a good strong sermon. So usual were they, as a matter of fact, that there is very little mention of them in contemporary discussions of sermons, except to note anything so unusual as the lack of them. Hooker, for example, stood in his pulpit motionless, not even moving his eyes, and this idiosyncrasy was considered remarkable enough to appear in every account of that great preacher. (36)

Some few pulpits had traditions of their own which conditioned the delivery of sermons preached from them. Paul’s Cross was the most important pulpit in England from which to deliver a sermon. Originally there had been no service there, and the sermons were preached with neither prologue nor epilogue. The returning Marian exiles, however, brought with them the continental custom of congregational singing and by 1560 there was regular singing of Psalms at the Cross at sermon time. (36)

To be asked to preach at court before Elizabeth was a high honor, but it partook somewhat of the nature of an ordeal as well. Elizabeth’s knowledge of theology was nothing prodigious and neither was her interest in it, but she was extremely critical none the less. To speak freely before her was to displease her, for one of her few consistencies was her hatred of liberty of speech, especially if the speech concerned her. To speak with great reserve was to displease her also; she put the worst possible construction on all subtleties and she perceived threats in all dark passages. Not only was the preacher unable to compose a sermon certain to please her because of her shifting stand on theological matters, but his reception could not be guaranteed by the Queen’s friendship, any previous graciousness, or even her expression of approval of men whom she had heard before. The preacher would be received graciously, apathetically, or icily, depending only upon the degree of charity of which the Queen happened to be possessed at the moment. / During the sermon Elizabeth sat in a private closet at a window facing the preacher. If she were displeased with the sermon she would close the shutters or retire to the inner recesses of the box unless she thought stronger measures warranted. If a man preached too long, Elizabeth would simply tell him to stop, or if he wandered into the forbidden ground she might call him down on the spot. (37)

(Chapter III, The Occasional Sermon)

In the reign of Elizabeth no occasion of any magnitude at all was deemed properly observed or celebrated unless a sermon was preached, and the occasions of preaching were not ecclesiastical red letter days or emergencies only, but civil and social functions as well. ( 41)

At ecclesiastical gatherings a sermon was of course expected. Whenever there was a convocation of the bishops or other dignitaries of the church to iron out difficulties in doctrine or church government, the meeting usually began by a preaching, often in Latin, by one of the hierarchy, and not infrequently the preaching was continued daily to open each session. To be asked to preach before so great and so leaned an assembly was a mark of approval and also a chance to be cunning in subtle points of theology and to prove one’s ability to preach in Latin. (41)

The public baptizing of a Jew in 1578 called for a sermon; the baptizing of a Turk at St. Katherine’s Hospital in 1586 was even more of an event… excommunication also demanded a sermon. … Another occasion that always brought forth a large number of sermons was the cessation of a violent epidemic of the plague. (42)

The opening of a session of court regularly called for a sermon… (43)

The opening of Parliament was the occasion of a sermon. (43)

One more occasion that sometimes required a sermon was a funeral. While there had been sermons at funerals before this time, they were infrequent, and preaching at funerals of ordinary common people was an innovation in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. Before this, there had been Requiem Mass and a ceremonial interment, together with a choral procession to the grave. Now a funeral consisted of a silent procession to the grave, a few psalms, a lesson, the interment with the casting of dirt; then the party adjourned to the church and heard a sermon. (46)

(Chapter IV, Official Inspiration of Sermons)

…certain other sermons were preached by particular request of authorities both ecclesiastical and civil. The matter to be treated, and in a few cases even the manner of treatment, was officially inspired. Detailed evidence of such inspiration is, however, rare, as might be expected, since the force of the sermon on the audience would be lost if it were known that pressure had been put on the preacher. / It is not surprising to find that ecclesiastical inspiration is more common and less interesting than civil inspiration. (49)

While the civil inspiration is more interesting than ecclesiastical inspiration, it is also more difficult to prove. It is certain that the state constantly used the larger pulpits, such as Paul’s Cross, for the dissemination of propaganda. [Civil inspiration of important sermons was not an innovation of Elizabeth’s reign. In 1549 King Edward sent Bishop Bonner notes from which he was ordered to preach his first sermon at St. Paul’s. He ignored the notes and was sent to prison as a consequence. See C.S.P.D. Edward VI, vol. VIII, No. 36 and No. 57.] To civil authorities preachers would apply for official news, and might even ask whether they could be of any other service while they were in the pulpit. Such a letter is that of Bishop Grindal to Cecil: … [October 28, 1562. Grindal, Remains, p. 253.] (51)

There is one complete record of the civil inspiration of a sermon for the purpose of disseminating important official propaganda, and this is found in letters and other documents dealing with the rebellion and subsequent execution of Essex. The colorful and charming earl was exceedingly popular, and to shift public sentiment around to supporting the Crown’s case against him it was deemed wise to spread propaganda from the pulpit… (51)

Certainly there is not so complete a record of any other officially inspired sermon of the period, but doubtless there were many more which, not being connected with anything so sensational as the execution of Essex, were arranged with more secrecy and have left no evidence behind them. Even the search for evidence of official inspiration of sermons relating to the execution and several funerals of Mary Queen of Scots has been fruitless. (54)

(Chapter V, Controversial Sermons)

Sermons on subjects engendering theological controversy were strictly forbidden both by the Queen and the prelates. Elizabeth’s point in prohibiting them was doubtless the preservation of the peace and not any great fear of the spread of theories or doctrines repugnant to her. The find points of religion were of little importance to hear one way or the other, but contention over these matters she would not abide. / Archbishop Parker had ordered the clergy to ‘abstain from busy meddling with matters of controversy’ [Strype, Annals, vol. I, pt. 1, p. 329.] … (55)

The new position of the Church of England, neatly balanced between Protestantism and Catholicism, was difficult enough to maintain without confusion and dissension within, … (55)

None the less, in spite of the interdicts, a great many controversial sermons were preached, and not only preached but printed as well. These printed sermons, however, do not reflect the great religious controversies of the day save in a few exceptions. To preach on a trifling controversy would arouse only trifling notice, but preachers hesitated to launch into a vital controversial point because of the unwelcome amount of attention such a proceeding would attract. Ecclesiastical superiors would not only hear of vital controversial sermons, but probably get garbled versions of them which would make explanations difficult and dangerous. (56)

If the printing of a controversial sermon was contemplated, the preacher had to consider not only his ecclesiastical superiors, but theoretically the civil government as well. Officers of the crown could act in the case of the printed sermon since all material for publication had to pass a fairly rigid censorship which could be exercised by the Queen, members of the privy council, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Actually, however, this civil censorship was really ecclesiastical, for in practice licenses for publication were granted by licensers appointed by the archbishop only. Unsavory controversial sermons would by this means be prohibited by the Church in the name of the civil government, and publication without a license became a felony incurring rigorous punishment. Therefore in the face of ecclesiastical surveillance and the threat of civil punishment it is not strange that the major religious controversies are not represented among the printed sermons in numbers proportionate to their importance. (56)

Besides the arguing of dangerous and disputed matters of religious doctrine, the interdicts forbade discussion of affairs of state. Indeed, a preacher’s meddling in matters of state or the Queen’s private business was probably the most heinous offense of all. (56)

Political and religious contentions were discussed in the pulpits, however, because it came to be understood that there were certain exceptions to the inhibitions against controversial preaching. If you could be very sure just where the Queen stood on a controversial matter, you could probably preach with impunity on the Queen’s side. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, was a safe subject for a sermon provided that you attacked it for being Roman and not for being Catholic; no person could (or can) tell whether Elizabeth was Protestant or Catholic, but it was patent that she would have none of the Bishop of Rome’s claims to power, either spiritual or temporal, outside of the diocese of Rome. (57)

After these two major controversial sermons had been preached with impunity it became apparent that the Roman Church could be attacked by any preacher to his heart’s content and that he would not be reproved; attacks became almost a patriotic duty. The number of anti-Roman sermons that followed and continued beyond Elizabeth’s reign is huge; … (58)

At the other extreme of important controversial matters stood the Puritans. The Church of England was not likely to censure attacks upon them, since one of their main planks was the abolition of Episcopal government in the church, but they were not so easy to attack with impunity from the civil government because many persons in high places were known to have Puritan leanings, even if the Queen did not, and so the injunctions in this case were obeyed for a while. Then, too, at the first breaking away from Rome it had not appeared that Geneva would come to be an enemy of the Church of England also. But as the power of Rome waned, the menace of strict Protestantism became more evident. In February 1589 Dr. Bancroft steeled himself to the task and preached the first important sermon against the English Puritans and thus threw that controversial subject open to more preaching. Bancroft had reason to expect that he might preach without censure if he played up the Puritans not only as schismatics, but as enemies to Elizabeth and the aristocracy. Therefore in attacking them he emphasized their disbelief in Episcopal government of the church and made it plain that this disbelief came of their grudging Elizabeth her first fruits, tenths, and other gifts that she demanded from men whom she appointed to church office. While condemning them for rejecting the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion, he made it clear that in rejecting article thirty-eight, which concerns private ownership of goods, they affirmed a belief in common ownership highly repugnant to the aristocracy. (61)

This precedent, however, did not guarantee impunity for other controversial sermons against strict Puritanism; others followed Bancroft into the field, but came out not unwounded. Though Cambridge was a seat of Calvinistic Protestantism and thus was at loggerheads with the Church of England, even here zealous anti-Genevans essayed to preach after Bancroft’s example. In 1595 William Barret, a fellow of Caius College, attacked Calvin, both as a man and for his doctrines, in a Latin sermon to which exception was taken by the authorities. (61)

Edward Philips, being a reputable clergyman, was allowed to preach and print his dislike of the general confession. … Edward Dering (although he was later inhibited from preaching) was also allowed to attack doctrines that were not essential; he devoted a sermon, for example, to the long cold controversy over the nature of angels and the nine orders thereof. [Certain godly and learned Sermons, before 1605, sermon No. 8] More likely to be forbidden was his sermon against the observation of saint’s days and Lent, since the Church of England expected such observance. … Publication of this lecture was not prohibited, but Dering was restrained from futher lecturing at St. Paul’s. [Strype, Whitgift, III, 34.] (62-63)

It is important to see that out of these rather innocuous sermons in which men took exception to small portions and vitriolic private controversies. Private, in one sense, they were not, for they were carried on in the public pulpit and in printed books, but they were private in that they were very personal controversies and involved private animosities. These private controversies arose from the fact that a small sermon of protest would drawn an answer from another wing of the clergy; this in turn would have to be refuted, and the battle was on. There was nothing to prevent clergy other than the two original disputants from getting into the contention, and so we find that the point of the original dispute would sometimes disappear in a cloud of irrelevant dust… (64) Controversies rarely remained the property of the two original contestants only, but were taken up by others… (64-65)

(Chapter VI, The Printing of the Sermons)

The printing of sermons constituted a rather large business in Elizabethan England. It has been estimated that more than forty per cent of all publications issued at that time were religious or philosophical in nature and it is evident that sermons account for a large part of those religious publications. [Edith L. Klotz, “A Subject Analysis of English Imprints for Every Tenth Year from 1480 to 1640,” contained in Huntington Library Quarterly, I, 417-9.] … innumerable translation of the continental divines whom the more Protestant wing of the Church of England so highly favored, … reissues and subsequent editions of the English sermons, some of which were reissued annually for a decade or more after the first edition. (67)

…the preacher was forced to defend himself from charges civil and ecclesiastical bought by his detractors. How easily it was to misquote slanderously and maliciously! And since error in the pulpit incurred not only the wrath of God, but also the equally sure and more immediate wrath of Elizabeth, an attacked sermon had to be adequately defended. A sermon that raised a slight quibble needed no further excuse for publication. (70)

Except for the actual title, if even that much be excepted, the content of the title-page seems to have been composed by the printer. The texts or quotations that appear on the page are usually not the text of the sermon. (72)

On the whole, the printing of sermons in the reign of Elizabeth seems to have been a haphazard business; both the authors and the printers did their work with unnecessary carelessness—the copy was bad, and the printing, if we believe the authors, worse. And an enquiry into the state of the texts reveals them to be rather more unsatisfactory than a superficial examination shows. (74)

(Chapter VII, The State of the Texts)

The differences between the sermons as they were preached and the forms in which they were printed constitute a considerable problem. In some few cases we have the word of the preacher that the printed sermon was identical with the spoken; sometimes we have the less dependable word of the printer. But since sermons as a rule were not written out in full before they were preached we are entitled to suspect that the printer text differs in some degree from what was spoken in the pulpit. (75)

The extreme degree of revision between preaching and printing appears in sermons which were transformed into treatises for the purpose of publication. (75)

At other times, this change of form from sermon to treatise was due not to carelessness, but to premeditation. William Perkins, the prominent Puritan, was a prolific preacher who had no hesitation in publishing, but he so corrected and radically revised his sermon material before it went to press that neither he nor the printers called the majority of his publications sermons. / These cases of mutilation of form and substance are balanced by sermons which their authors profess to have reproduced fairly accurately from the spoken sermons. When William Fulke sent one of his sermons to the press he prefaced it with this statement… [A Sermon made in the Glyde Halle, 1574, sig. A2 verso.] (76)

Again, Robert Crowley states in the dedication of his one published sermon: / Yet notwythstanding I caused my Memorie to search out all her corners, and to bring forth that which she foud and so have have I penned (as my Memorie telleth me) almost the same wordes that I then spake, and in the same order that I then did sepake them. [A Sermon made in the Gylde Halle, 1574, sig. A3.] / Statements like these are very common, but frequently the author was not quite so sure that the written text reproduced the sermon verbatim. The learned theologian Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, was more cautious in his claims to accuracy. (76)

In another class are those sermons which have been purposely corrected and embellished for the press, and either augmented or condensed. Of the printed version of his Parable of the Sower George Gifford says “I have added somewhat which either the came not to minde, or els time did not serve to handle.” Long as these Elizabethaan sermons are, this complaint of the restriction of time is frequent.” (76)

John Bridges, when he came to publish one of his sermons, found that it was very long, but he was not exercised about the matter. (77)

As theologians have ever run more to prolixity than to conciseness, it is less frequently found that, in the course of editing, the sermons have been condensed. (77)

It was a common practice of members of the congregation to take notes, and a collation of these notes would furnish a fairly accurate copy of the substance of a sermon. It has been suggested that in the sixteenth century the practice of taking notes of sermons was an attempt to preserve a corpus of Protestant exegesis. In the seventeenth century the practice became more general, and note-taking was a part of the school training of children. [Mitchell, English Pulpit Oratory.. pp. 30 ff.] It is rather surprising to see how full and minute the notes of devout Elizabethans who transcribed their sermons notes into their diaries can be. One Elizabethan whose diary we have, John Manningham, made very careful notes of the sermons he heard. Sometimes he heard as many as two sermons in one day, and the notes of these sermons fill, on an average, four or five pages of smallish print each. When Dr. King, afterwards Bishop of London, preached at Paul’s Cross, Manningham took ntes that fill nine printed pages. [Diary, pp. 64 ff.] He begins by analyzing the structure of the sermon and then notes concisely every point that Dr. King made. Any person with any imagination could expand these nine pages to twenty, which was the average length of a sermon, and publish Dr. King’s sermon; … (77-78)

…most of the note-takers were devout or they would not have bothered, and their notes, if not as full as those of John Manningham, were still valuable as a record of the contents of a sermon. The dedicatory address prefixed to the one published sermon of Symon Presse shows how a collation of these less full notes could result in a printed sermon. / To his loving parishioners Mr. F. Cooke, R. Johnson, W. Walton, R. Knight, J. Gyllyver, & R. Slygh increase of the true zeale & endles felicitie. When I understoode your attention in the hearing of this sermon, & diligece in noting certaine principall points, & paines in conferring togither, penning, acquainting & sending your collections unto many your worshipfull friends, & at the length unto the righte honorable Sir Edmund Anderson knight, Lord chiefe Justice of the common Pleas, with intent (as I gesse) to make my simple skill liked and allowed of them, I thought it my duty to accept your endevour very kindly, and to requite you with procuring the same sermon to be imprinted, that all men might give you deserved commendations, and note your names amongst the number of vigilant hearers to your immortal praise. [A Sermon Preached at Eggington, 1596.] (78)
This preface, however, is unusual in that the congregation’s notes are highly spoken of, for while a great many prefaces to Elizabethan sermons in print tell of notes taken by members of the congregation that were used by the preacher in preparing the sermons for the press, few of them go into any detail about the notes that they mention except to say that they were failures as true transcriptions of the sermons. (79)

Presumably these notes, like those of Manningham and other sermon-connoisseurs, were written in longhand, but it is possible, at least after 1588, when Dr. Timothy Bright published his Characterie, the earliest known English system of stenography, (or even before that date if you think it preposterous that shorthand simply sprang out of the blue on a certain given date) that some of them had been made in shorthand. … confessional preface, like that addressed to ‘the Christian Reader’ by Anthony Tyrell in 1589: [79] / The cause therefore why it [the sermon] it come forth, in brief, was this. At the time I made my exhortation publicke in Christ his Church in London, my wordes were no sooner out of my mouth but a yong youth had penned my Sermon verbatim by Characterie, an art newly invented. It was this youths pleasure, for the manifesting of his skill in that swift kind of writing, to publish my Sermon in print.’ [A Fruitfull Sermon, sig. A6 recto and verso.] (79-80)

Shorthand…in 1593 it was sufficiently common to move a printer to advertise one of his sermons as not having been written up from shorthand notes: / Taken it was not from the Preachers mouth by any fond or new found Characterisme (which to the great prejudice of some worthie and learned, hath of late verie pitifully blemished some part of their labours this way with intollerable mutilations) : but set down at their desire, who might herein command, by the Authors owne pen.’ [L. S., Resurgendum, 1593 or before, sig. A3 recto.] (80)

…no complete and authentic version of a typical Elizabethan sermon ever existed. At the time of delivery the nearest thing to a complete and authentic version would be a particularly full set of notes drawn up by the preacher, but this would by no means correspond with what he uttered in the pulpit. When the preacher subsequently wrote out the sermon himself, it is not very likely that he would invariably be able to recapture the very words he had spoken; similarly, when he subsequently revised a shorthand transcript of his sermon his alterations cannot be assumed simply to substitute what he really said for the errors of the stenographer. Some of them would surely be second thoughts, stylistic improvements, and even prudent qualifications. (82)

…Henry Smith, who disowned the shorthand version of one of his sermons, evidently found that of another more accurate, or at least more complete, than his own version. Smith’s own transcript of The Affinitie of the Faithfull was printed in 1591; in the same year the same publishers issued a second editions with the following statement on the title-page: ‘Nowe the second time Imprinted, corrected, and augmented according to the Coppie by Characterie, as he preached it’. Whether or not an expert Elizabehtan shorthand-writer could produce a verbatim report of a sermon I have no idea, but I think it quite possible that he could produce as faithful a report as the preacher himself with his notes and his memory. (84)

(Chapter VIII, The Literary Value of the Sermons)

Except for the scheme of introduction, development, and summary (or introduction, proposition, argument, confutation, and conclusion), enjoined by practically every manual of rhetoric that has ever been written, the pattern of the sermons is rarely susceptible of definition. The most common mode of development is that of consecutive statement. In the Elizabethan sermon the art of composition, the art of arranging ideas in a structure of ordered beauty, was practiced only in the most elementary way. It was reserved for later times to fashion sermons which, in their disposition of the parts according to a carefully conceived and cumulatively effective scheme, are fit to compare with the classical oration. The Elizabethan sermon is polemical, and atmosphere of acrid disputation is hostile to the poise and the assurance which seem indispensable to pulpit oratory of enduring literary excellence. (87-88)

Nor is it possible to trace any noteworthy correspondences between the organization of the sermon and the precepts of the rhetorical manuals available during the reign of Elizabeth. Leonard Cox’s Arte or craft of rhetoryke, published about 1524, an elementary summary of Melanchthon, and Sherry’s Treatise of the Figures of Grammer and Rhetorike, 1555, do not illuminate the practice of sixteenth-century preachers in planning their sermons. The contemporary treatises on the art of preaching are no more helpful. Two of these were current in the age of Elizabeth. The first, Niel Hemmingsen’s The Preacher, or method of preaching, was translated into English by John Horsfall and published in 1574. The second, Andreas Gerardus Hyperius’ Practis of preaching, Englished by John Ludham, appeared in 1577. Neither of these treatises has any great originality, both being traditional rehashings of Cicero, Quintillian, and other rhetorical masters, who had been highly esteemed for centuries. (88)

Long traditional practice, university precept, and these manuals all recommended that the preacher compose a sermon that begins at the beginning and ends at the end, by stating a text, presenting divergent views of it, proving his own view, and drawing a moral and applying it to the conduct of life. Hundreds of sermons conform to this type of structure, but who shall say that they do so because of several dull and unoriginal treatises? Thomas Nashe comes nearer to the probable truth when he asserts that men come by their pulpit style by practice and by hearing other sermons. [Pierce Penilesse, McKerrow edition, I, 192.] (89)

…Hooker and other fine preachers produced sermons that expound a text section by section and not as one unit, while Andrewes’s exegesis proceeds by single words of his text. (89)

If the treatises on construction had any influence, it was probably baneful, for the greatest preachers are those who are found to be quite irregular in the construction of their sermons. (89)

In the use of stylistic ornamentation, the Elizabethan sermon follows the course of development of the secular prose of the period. Used sparingly or not at all by most preachers at the beginning of the reign, with the passing of time stylistic ornament attained greater and greater popularity as a result of the same interest in cultivated prose style and the same ingenuous desire to tickle the auditor’s attention as produced the Euphuistic and the Arcadian varieties of secular prose. (89)

…three Elizabethan styles of preaching can readily by distinguished—in order of their evolution, the plain, the florid, and the witty. (89)

The plain style is sober, simple in expression, as direct as possible, and free from ornamentation of either fantastic ideas or verbiage. Though it appears, on the whole, to be the spontaneous creation of the spirit of the Reformation, it has closer affinities with the pungent style of Latimer than with the rhetorical style of Fisher, which, indeed, foreshadows the florid style of the Elizabethan preachers. The plain style generally prevailed at the beginning of the reign, partly because of the predominance of Calvinistic preachers and preaching, partly because the awakening of a consciousness of the allurements of rhetoric was a gradual process, but even after the more ornate styles had become popular there were men who continued to use the plain style as a matter of choice. These later plain sermons are usually found to have been written by the Protestant wing of the clergy who stood for simplicity in all things, … / For there are some which thinke Christe too base to bee preached simply in him self, and therefore mingle with him too much the wisedome of mans eloquence, and thinke that Christe commeth nakedly, unlesse cloathed with vaine ostentation of wordes. [Bartimaeus Andrewes, Certaine verie worthie, godly, and profitable Sermons, edition of 1583, p. 26.] (90)

At times, even members of the strongly anti-Puritan wing of the clergy wrote in an unornamented style either for the same reason as the Puritan faction or for reasons of their won. John Bridges, who was prominent on the prelates’ side on the Marprelate controversy, shows in a preface the premeditation of his fairly plain sermon style: / As for eloquence, here is none: neither I have have it, nor my matter desires it. Which thought it be not set foorth in sublimibus humanae sapientiae verbis, yet have it truthe joined with simplicitie, it is enough. [A Sermon preached at Paules Crosse, 1571, sig. A3.] [90] It is possible, in this case, that a very plain style was adopted for the express purpose of giving the Puritans, who were sure to answer this provocative sermon, just one less thing to carp about. (90-91)

But even though a high churchman might use the plain style for one reason or another, it remains a fact that it must be chiefly associated with the more melancholy brands of Protestants, for this was the style of the Marian exiles and of other prominent Protestants such as William Perkins, John Knox, Thomas Cartwright, Eusebius Pagit, Edward Dering, John Keltridge, John Knewstub, and Stephen Egerton. (91)

Although the plain style was no longer in vogue when Perkins was preaching, his style is extremely austere. Perkins was not ignorant of the rules of rhetoric, but he used them only when they gained him clarity and power and never for ornament. He not only was aware of the austerity of his style, but championed it as a virtue just as he championed simplicity in worship. (91)

…it became apparent that English was intrinsically not adaptable to the requirements of the rolling Ciceronian period and thus the leading feature of the Ciceronian style left its mark on English prose only in a general tendency towards long and involved sentences. It is, incidentally, one of Hooker’s distinctions that he alone of sixteenth-century English prose writers succeeded in reproducing much of the dignified and massive effect of the Ciceronian period. With the verbal elegance and figurative richness of the Ciceronian style, however, it was quite different. The schemes and tropes by means of which Cicero, along with most other orators of antiquity… they were in contemporary manuals. (92)

It is difficult to isolate the beginning of the tendency towards ornate pulpit style, for a pre-Elizabethan preacher like Fisher and a devotional writer like More both resort to the kind of ornamentation characteristic of the florid style. To associate the phenomenon, whether as cause or as effect, with Thomas Wilson’s Arte of rhetorique, first published in 1553 and in its eight edition by 1585, is naturally and possibly illuminating. For Wilson’s rhetoric, instead of treating construction and development, is largely a collection of schemes and tropes of precisely the kind that Euphues, on the one hand, and the florid pulpit style, on the other, resort to incessantly. (93)

Among the preachers of the florid style two men stand out from the ranks; one, Richard Hooker, is notable for the excellence of his writings and for his ecclesiastical statement, and the other, Henry Smith is notable for having a greater contemporary fame than any other preacher of the reign. (97)

There was every reason to expect Hooker to preach well. Not only was he a well educated man, but he had what so many potentially great preachers lack—an inspiring and intelligent audience, for he was the preacher of the learned congregation of the Temple Church. In point of style his sermons fall definitely in to the category of the florid. They are as highly ornamented with rhetorical devices as any, yet the devices seldom strike our eyes or ears, so great is the eight of the matter of the sermons. (97)

By the sermons of Hooker it is shown that a sermon that was both grave and polished could delight an intelligent Elizabethan audience even though the preacher had a rather unattractive pulpit personality, for, as Fuller says of his delivery, “He may be said to have made good music with his fiddle and stick alone, without any rosin, having neither pronunciation nor gesture to grace his matter’. Izaak Walton, in his Life of Hooker, tells of this quiet and unimpressive delivery: / His use was to preach once every Sunday, and he or his curate to catechize after the second lesson in the evening prayer; his sermons were neither long nor earnest, but uttered with a grave zeal, and an humble voice; his eyes always fixt on one place… [Hooker, Works, I, 79-80.] (99)

The appropriateness of including Henry Smith among the preachers of the florid style is debatable, for while many critics think his style is rather plain, others, such as Putzer, call his style high ornate baroque. (99)

Such popularity with the reading public arouses our interest and leads us to expect great things when looking into his works. We look, and are disappointed—not violently disappointed or displeased, but rather left wondering why the Elizabethans made so much of him, for the word that best describes the sermons of Smith is, unfortunately, “dull”. [99] …As for ornamentation, there is plenty of that too, but he uses it in a rather peculiar manner, as though he felt that he ought to use it. Other men use rhetorical devices either definitely for the effect that might be gained from them or in an amused, playful manner; Smith attacks the problem of rhetorical devices stolidly, as one who might say “I shall preach fashionably though I choke in the attempt.” … Smith has another annoying trick—that of explaining his metaphors, prefacing every explanation with the phrase “that is.” (100)

Smith’s … he was a follower of the fashions and tried to preach in the most popular way. Secondly, he preached a theology that was very comfortable, for while he would be classed with the Puritans in that he had trouble with his conscience in acknowledging Elizabeth the head of the Church, he preached with a true Church of England attitude. He did not rant in an undignified manner at either Rome or Geneva; he preached the way to heaven and avoided such unpleasantnesses as hell-fire and brimstone, and he was a gentlemen as well as a scholar and a theologian. … All of Smith’s tactics would be appreciated by a fashionable congregation such as that as St. Clement Danes, where he held the post of lecturer. / One more reason for the popularity of Smith’s sermons with the reading public, and it is probably a highly important reason, is that a lingering sickness gave him the opportunity to write out his sermons for the press. We have seen that printers eagerly grasped any sermon copy that they could lay their hands on, and in this case the combination of eager printers and a popular preacher who was eager “to doe any good by writing” produced a huge number of printed sermons which the market easily absorbed, and which, in turn, increased the demand. (101-102)

But the witty style is to be distinguished from the florid by its minute analyses and subtle reasoning, by its abundant use of quotations, not only from scripture, as is characteristic too of many Puritan sermons, but also, and most distinctively, from the fathers and from profane literature, especially classical, and often in the original tongue, and by its addiction to metaphor as well as to the verbal figures. Moreover, the witty style rarely sounds like orotund Ciceronianism; its characteristic sentence structure, made up of short and disjointed members through which the thought progresses as a series of sharp flashes, is affiliated with the Senecan prose style of the seventeenth century rather than the Ciceronianism of the sixteenth. (102)

Aside from Andrewes, the most admired and influential witty preachers of the last years of Elizabeth were Thomas Playfere and John Carpenter. Playfere (1561?-1609), whose earliest printed sermon was published in 1593, became Lady Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge and in that position must have been influential in broadening the vogue of the witty style. Carpenter (?-1621) led a much quieter life as the rector of Northleigh, near Honiton in Devonshire, and exerted his influence through his printed works. (102)

One very great preacher may be placed beside these two triflers, but not without a word of warning that he belongs to a world apart spiritually. Bishop Lancelot Andrewes is remembered as a brilliant ornament of the court of James I, but he had been preaching for at least ten years when Queen Elizabeth died… (103)

The metaphysical conceit, high point of the witty style, was first developed by Andrewes, but not until the reign of James; by the time of the death of Elizabeth, however, all of the other characteristics of his very individual style had emerged. His method of preaching was that of verbal exegesis, … His sentences are as short as Hooker’s are long, and have a curt rhythm so marked as to seem very self-conscious. (104)

Andrewes’ zeal has made him one of the fathers of the Church of England, the first great Anglo-Catholic. His devotion, shown in his sermons and in his Precae Privatae, is such as we expect to find in true saints only. (105)

Elizabeth’s taste in sermon style governed the sermons preached at court to some extent, but as the Queen grew older, even her taste in sermons changed and she came to prefer the more conservative types. Subtle ones she always disliked, saying, “I see many ever bold with God Almighty, making too many subtle scannings of the blessed will as lawyers do with human testaments. The presumption is so great as I may not suffer it nor tolerate newfangleness.” [F. C. Chamberlain, Sayings of Elizabeth, p. 99.] It took clergymen some time to realize what the Queen liked, and Dr. Rudd in 1596 was surprised to be commended on what he thought was a very plain sermon when he had preached much more ornate ones before Elizabeth without commendation. Archbishop Whitgift put him straight on the matter: “I tell you the queen now is grown weary of the vanities of wit and eloquence, wherewith her youth was formerly affected; and plain sermons which come home to her heart, please her the best.” [Fuller, Church History of Britain, V, 436.] Thus the Queen was always ahead of her time in her taste in sermons, preferring florid ones while plain ones were in vogue and coming to dislike the florid ones long before their popular vogue ended. (106)

On the other hand, men like Thomas Nashe preferred the more ornate types of sermons; Nashe thus comments on the plain sermons of the ultra-Protestants: … ‘no wit to move, no passion to urge, but onelye an ordinarie forme of preaching, blowne up by the use of often hearing and speaking; and you shall fine there goes more exquisite paines and puritie of wite to the writing of one such rare Poem as Rosamond, than to a hundred of our dunsticall Sermons. [Pierce Penilesse, McKerrow edition, I, 192.] (106)

…at the beginning of the reign the exponents of the most hard-bitten and melancholy Calvinism were in the ascendant, while at the end of the reign we have Andrewes and his practical Catholicism. Richard Hooker marks the turning point in this development, since it was in the period in which he was dominant that Geneva supplanted Rome as the chief menace to the peace of the Church of England. He was the statesman who helped make permanent the middle course desired by the far-seeing Elizabeth. (108)

Soon the cycle was on its way to completion, for the sermons of Donne are the beginnings of the decline of the ornamented styles through Archbishop Laud and Jeremy Taylor to the once more severely plain sermon style of Archbishop Tillotson. (108)

Whether the literary style of the Elizabeth sermons is excellent or otherwise, many of them will be found very entertaining reading by persons not much interested in theology, for quite a few of them contain no more of that divine science than the thimbleful in the text. (108)


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