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John Donne and Conformity in Crisis in the Late Jacobean Pulpit

John Donne and Conformity in Crisis in the Late Jacobean Pulpit

Jeanne Shami
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81r5d
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  • Book Info
    John Donne and Conformity in Crisis in the Late Jacobean Pulpit
    Book Description:

    This book considers the professional contribution of John Donne to an emerging homiletic public sphere in the last years of the Jacobean English Church (1621-25), arguing that his sermons embody the conflicts, tensions, and pressures on public religious discourse in this period; while they are in no way "typical" of any particular preaching agenda or style, they articulate these crises in their most complex forms and expose fault lines in the late Jacobean Church. The study is framed by Donne's two most pointed contributions to the public sphere: his sermon defending James I's Directions to Preachers and his first sermon preached before Charles I in 1625. These two sermons emerge from the crises of controversy, censorship, and identity that converged in the late Jacobean period, and mark Donne's clearest professional interventions in the public debate about the nature and direction of the Church of England. In them, Donne interrogates the boundaries of the public sphere and of his conformity to the institutions, authorities, and traditions governing public debate in that sphere, modelling for his audience an actively engaged conformist identity. Professor JEANNE SHAMI teaches in the Department of English at the University of Regina.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-094-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 “DISCREET OR RELIGIOUS PREACHERS”: JOHN DONNE AND THE LATE JACOBEAN PUBLIC SPHERE
    (pp. 1-35)

    This study proposes to examine the late Jacobean pulpit, and particularly the sermons of John Donne, as an index of “conformity” and its expression in the years immediately preceding and including the transition from the Jacobean to the Caroline monarchy (1621–5). During these years, sermons, always important in Jacobean religious and political culture, became sites of contention for important matters of religious and national identity, contention epitomized by James I’s Directions to Preachers. These Directions, issued on 4 August 1622 by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, were an attempt to reduce to order a pulpit that had become increasingly...

  6. Chapter 2 “THE INDISCRETION OF THAT FOOLE”: JOHN KNIGHT AND THE JACOBEAN PULPIT, 1620–2
    (pp. 36-74)

    Although the conditions for preaching and publishing sermons in the early 1620s did not mark a sharp break with the early part of James’s reign, some principles governing allowable pulpit speech can be extrapolated. These principles do not amount to a clearly defined code; however, they suggest that sermons could be examined for both doctrinal and political lapses: exceeding the boundaries of orthodox divinity on the one hand, or meddling with matters of state on the other. Reported cases also suggest that definitions of both kinds of lapse were unstable.¹ Edmond Peacham’s case indicates that it was perilous even to...

  7. Chapter 3 “THE FISHING OF WHALES”: JOHN DONNE’S SERMONS, 1620–2
    (pp. 75-101)

    Although not published in his lifetime, a number of sermons preached by John Donne in the crucial period from 1620 to August 1622 have survived. These sermons span the period during which Donne was Reader at Lincoln’s Inn, and after November 1621, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. They offer an important single case of the responses of a perceptive and complex preacher to the political climate registered in historical studies, and represented in the sermons already examined. Donne is a key figure for several reasons. It was Donne who was commissioned to defend James’s Directions at Paul’s Cross...

  8. Chapter 4 “FAIRE INTERPRETATION”: THE DIRECTIONS AND THE CRISIS OF CENSORSHIP
    (pp. 102-138)

    While the Directions for Preachers were issued on 4 August, their official interpretation had to wait for Donne’s sermon almost six weeks later. This 15 September sermon was Donne’s most important homiletic intervention in the public sphere. Preached by royal command, it was published shortly afterwards, and soon moved into three issues (IV,15—16). Neither the sermon’s publication nor its royal authorization, however, are the chief reasons for according it this significance.¹ Its influence derives primarily from Donne’s specific role in interpreting the momentous and controversial change in public policy anticipated in August and September of 1622 in terms that...

  9. Chapter 5 “WISE AS SERPENTS, AND INNOCENT AS DOVES”: ZEAL AND DISCRETION IN THE PULPIT, 1623–5
    (pp. 139-165)

    Although fewer sermons were challenged following the Directions, those that survive bear all the marks of anxiety, tension, and pressure that the Directions had identified. To begin with, the Directions had proscribed virulent anti-papism, and yet anti-papist rhetoric continued to dominate the pulpit. What had changed were the uses to which this rhetoric was put, the particular aspects of Roman iniquity that were stressed, and the polarizing effect this rhetoric produced within the church. While the Directions had sought to contain the divisive effects of controversy (by forbidding personal attacks, labeling, and controversy), extant sermons suggest that it had entirely...

  10. Chapter 6 “JESUS WEPT”: THE JOURNEY TO SPAIN AND PULPIT LAMENTATION
    (pp. 166-182)

    The first half of 1623 was dominated by one event: the departure of Prince Charles and Buckingham for Spain in February – in disguise – and the prolonged negotiations for a match with the Spanish Infanta. Every other matter – both domestic and foreign – paled in comparison to interest in this event and its real and imagined repercussions. Even concern for Elizabeth and her family on the continent was enmeshed in the details of this proposed alliance, Charles having promised his sister that he would not marry with Spain without restoring Frederick’s hereditary lands in the Palatinate (in retrospect, a hopeless promise). Fears...

  11. Chapter 7 “BLINDE BUZZARDS IN THE CHOISE OF A WIFE”: SERMONS AND THE MORAL MARKETPLACE
    (pp. 183-211)

    In the months following ratification of the marriage articles, and preceding Charles’s return (presumably with his Spanish bride), concerns about religion and politics simmered, and rumours of great changes circulated. Simonds D’Ewes recorded the popular refrain of contemporary news sources: “everye mans heart [is full] of feare of an ensuing toleration.”¹ These anxieties were alleviated temporarily by the prince’s miraculous return as a bachelor in October, an event that occasioned the outpouring of public relief and thanksgiving so well documented by Cogswell.² Occasions of public rejoicing, however, could also become occasions of public debate, and several sermons used the opportunity...

  12. Chapter 8 “THE LOVESICK SPOUSE”: PARLIAMENT, PATRIOTS, AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE
    (pp. 212-233)

    The first half of 1624 was dominated by the parliamentary session that began in February and was prorogued in late May. Popular expectation that the Catholic upsurgence would be halted, the Spanish hold on James broken, and war with Spain declared was shadowed by the failure of the 1621 parliament over these very issues of domestic and foreign policy. The mood of elation and relief expressed at Charles’s return and the temporary collapse of the Spanish marriage negotiations in October, then, was tempered by deep-seated uncertainty about James’s trustworthiness, and parliamentary reluctance to subsidize on faith a foreign policy that...

  13. Chapter 9 “CHURCH-QUAKES”: POST–PARLIAMENTARY FAULTLINES
    (pp. 234-255)

    By the beginning of the summer of 1624, Buckingham had withstood an assault by the Spanish ambassadors during his illness, people were rejoicing in the anti-Spanish turn of English foreign policy, and war with Spain seemed imminent. Parliament had been prorogued until 22 November. The possibility of a marital and military alliance with France to restore the Palatinate and the expectation that more co-operation between king and people would ensue was expressed in sermons and pamphlets by openly warlike and anti-popish rhetoric. Donne’s friend James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, had been sent to France to promote the French match, and...

  14. Chapter 10 “IF THE FOUNDATIONS BE DESTROYED”: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
    (pp. 256-271)

    The crisis of censorship that had been alleviated by public debate of religious and political issues in parliament resurfaced late in 1624 when negotiations for the French match threatened to delay the second session of parliament indefinitely. In the final weeks of December 1624, King James once again issued proclamations ordering relaxation of penal laws against recusants in anticipation of the marriage between Charles and Henriette Marie of France. This was not the first time James had done so. But, after the outburst of popular relief at the failure of the Spanish match a year before, the penal laws had...

  15. Chapter 11 “BLESSED SOBRIETY”: JOHN DONNE, THE PUBLIC SPHERE, AND CAROLINE CONFORMITY
    (pp. 272-283)

    In the last years of the Jacobean church, John Donne emerged as an important public figure at the center of political culture. In several high-profile sermons – especially his sermon defending James’s Directions to Preachers in 1622 and his first sermon before King Charles in 1625 – Donne tested the boundaries of this sphere and the limits of its capacity to tolerate public dispute. Both sermons were preached on official occasions, published at royal command, and reprinted. Increasingly in the late Jacobean years, however, Donne’s sense of vocation demanded a private discourse of conscience as well as a public discourse of religious...

  16. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 284-296)
  17. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 297-312)
  18. INDEX TO JOHN DONNE REFERENCES
    (pp. 313-316)
  19. INDEX TO JOHN DONNE’S SERMONS
    (pp. 317-318)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-320)