The Very Picture of (Non-)Conformity(?)

As part of the 2021 IJBS Blog Series, Drew Nathaniel Keane (@dkeaneGSU) Senior Lecturer at Georgia Southern University examines, through religious iconography, the complex realities of administering the Lord’s Supper in early modern England.

This woodcut, likely familiar to any student of early modern English religion, illustrates the difficulty of sorting out the boundaries of religious conformity (see Figure 1). It first appears in Lewis Du Moulin’s The Understanding Christians Duty (1660), and then again some fourteen years later in the second edition of Eniautos (1674).[1] Although both were published after the Restoration, the woodcut appears Jacobean,[2] but regardless of when it was cut, it raises an interesting question: should the service depicted be labeled as conformist or non-conformist?

Figure 1. Anon, Eniautos. Or, A Course of Catechizing (London, 1674), p. 276. Part of a series of woodcuts illustrating the various rites and rituals of the Established Church in seventeenth-century England.      

The two works in which it appears point towards conflicting answers. Du Moulin, a Huguenot who became Camden Professor of History at Oxford in 1646, from which he was ejected at the Restoration, earned a reputation as a pugnacious polemicist.[3] The Understanding Christians Duty argues against those who avoided participation in ‘the Holy Sacrament of the Supper of the Lord.’ Aware of his reputation, the epistle to the reader pleads that they ‘not judge of my Book by my Person, but of my Person… by my Book.’ The work references such non-conformist favorites as John Calvin and William Perkins (a moderate conformist), and outspoken non-conformists William Ames and Arthur Hildersham. And yet, it quotes approvingly from the Articles of Religion, ‘no other then the very Catholick Doctrine of the Church of England.’[4] The anonymous Eniautos is a year-long course on the Prayer Book Catechism that draws freely from a list of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline divines whose views on questions of conformity are diverse — William Perkins, Thomas Rogers, Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, Edward Reynolds, James Ussher and others — but does not include any who might be called extreme non-conformists.

Turning to the image itself, the black academic robe worn by the presider might signal a ‘church puritan.’ Use of the surplice became a critical dividing line during the period. Conformists regarded the surplice as adiaphora (i.e., indifferent to salvation), therefore, within the scope of civil authorities to require it during divine service. In 1650, Du Moulin even argued for the authority of the State in such matters.[5] By strict definition, anyone officiating without the surplice (whether through principled defiance, apathy, or laziness) was a non-conformist. Principled non-conformists saw the surplice as so associated with ‘popery’ that it necessarily implied sacerdotalism and would mislead the ‘ignorant’ (a key category in debates over adiaphora), making it too dangerous to regard as indifferent. Yet, even conformist ministers wore their scholar’s gowns to preach, which signaled qualification for the task that was regarded by all parties as the quintessence of an ordained ministry.[6] So, it is understandable why even a minister favorable toward the authorized liturgy might regard the scholar’s gown as more indicative of his role and the essential unity of sermons and sacraments than the surplice. Many ministers who accepted the essential indifference of it may have wished for the requirement to be lifted.

At the level of the parish, what constituted conformity had more to do with what the Ordinary enforced than the letter of the law. Many Elizabethan and Jacobean visitation articles required no more than use of the surplice sometimes.[7] An incumbent might have believed he was only required to wear the surplice to administer the Lord’s Supper (which he might only do a few times a year) or during a visitation (which may come only triennially). The publication of this woodcut in such a clearly conformist work as Eniautos suggests that the lack of the surplice was not seen as definitively indicative of non-conformity.

The orientation of the table also warrants attention. It is set length-wise in the chancel as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer and Canon 82 (of the 1604 Canons) — the commandment boards are visible on the east wall (also required by Canon 82). Lancelot Andrewes ridiculed this arrangement, saying it made the communion table look ‘more like an oyster board.’[8] Despite deriding what the Prayer Book required, Andrewes seemingly became the doyen of what Peter Lake termed ‘avant-garde conformity,’ a curious label since avant-garde is by definition non-conformist. In 1616, the Dean of Gloucester, William Laud relocated the table to an altar-wise position, so offending his bishop, Miles Smith, that he never set foot in the cathedral again.[9] In 1640 Archbishop Laud and other avant-garde bishops sought to establish this as the new standard of conformity, writing it into Canons approved by Convocation, though not Parliament (then dissolved by Charles I).[10] But in 1660 the 1604 Canons were restored, not those of 1640, though many of bishops favored the altar-wise arrangement and it was widely observed. Thus, it is difficult to know whether the length-wise table arrangement seen in this woodcut would have suggested conformity or non-conformity, though likely it read differently to different eyes.

The presider appears to be reading from the Prayer Book.[11] The physical codex itself often served as a trigger for principled non-conformists who objected to public worship mediated through text. Judith Maltby recounts a story of John Hacket who memorized the Prayer Book funeral service so as to use it without offending his flock of conscientious objectors to the printed liturgy.[12] Those who heard the service — without the visual trigger of the book — warmly thanked him for his particularly compelling words, not knowing they were not his own. The prominent presence, therefore, of the Book of Common Prayer on the table points towards conformity.

The posture of the communicants could not have gone unnoticed. The first Prayer Book (1549) allowed for kneeling, sitting, or standing to receive the sacrament, but the second (1552) prescribed kneeling only. Zealous Scottish preacher and royal chaplain John Knox made a last-minute attempt to have the requirement deleted, but Cranmer succeeded in retaining it, adding after the initial print run a rubric explicitly disavowing and denouncing Eucharistic adoration (the so-called ‘black rubric’).[13] While most rubrics are merely instructions necessary for officiating services, this rubric argued against potential misunderstanding. Given low literacy levels, few could read this note, but the key was the parish priest — if he was convinced, he could provide whatever instruction was needed with the full persuasiveness of the viva voce. Nevertheless, even conformist ministers like George Herbert still worried about kneeling. Herbert concedes that the duly prepared communicant has a right to sit at God’s board for the Supper, but argues kneeling better expresses the humility and inadequacy that even the worthy communicant (i.e., one who had met the requirements for participation) must feel.[14] But, after having made the case for kneeling, he advises that, if some still refuse to kneel, the minister should not stir up conflict by pressing the issue. In The Understanding Christians Duty,Du Moulin treats the matter of posture as wholly indifferent, though he seems to favor sitting. Nevertheless, he admonishes those who refuse to receive the sacrament at all if they are forced to kneel: ‘why… wholly omit a necessary substantial Duty of Divine Institution, because that another doth in some unnecessary Circumstantial Point vary from a prescribed Humane Forme of Administration?’[15]

This woodcut combines signals typically associated with conformity and non-conformity, and so resists easy classification. Its use in both Du Moulin’s work, which would have appealed more to non-conformists, and Eniautos, an explicitly conformist text, highlights the limited utility of tidy labels — both those that partisans hurled at each other in their struggles over the Established Church and those that later scholars apply in an effort to make sense of those conflicts and combatants. It serves as a reminder that conformity was always a moving target in relation to which individuals and communities had complex and variable relationships.

Footnotes


[1] Lewis Du Moulin, The Understanding Christians Duty (London, 1660), frontispiece; Anon, Eniautos. Or, A Course of Catechizing (London, 1674), p. 276.

[2] My attempts to find an earlier instance of its use have, as of yet, yielded no fruit.

[3] See Nicholas Tyacke, ed., Seventeenth-Century Oxford, The History of The University of Oxford Volume IV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 348.

[4] Du Moulin, The Understanding Christians Duty, p. 93.

[5] See, for example, Lewis Du Moulin, The Power of the Christian Magistrate in Sacred Things (London, 1650).

[6] Arnold Hunt, The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and Their Audiences, 1590-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 19.

[7] Patrick Collinson The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London: Cape, 1967), pp. 67-68; Kenneth Fincham, ‘Clerical Conformity from Whitgift to Laud,’ in Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church, 1560-1660, ed. by Peter Lake and Michael C. Questier (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2000), pp. 125-158 (p. 147).

[8] Nicholas Tyacke, ‘Lancelot Andrewes and the Myth of Anglicanism’, in Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church, ed. by Lake and Questier, pp. ix-xx (p. xv).

[9] Kenneth Fincham and Nicholas Tyacke, Altars Restored: The Changing Face of English Religious Worship, 1547-c.1700 (London: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 116.

[10] George Yule, ‘James VI and I: Furnishing the Churches in his Two Kingdoms’, in Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honour of Patrick Collinson, ed. by Anthony Fletcher and Peter Roberts (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 182-208 (pp. 197-201).

[11] It is unlikely that this is a Bible, as a non-conformist minister — who favored extemporaneous discourse drawn from the learned storehouse of the memory — would be unlikely to need to read from the Bible while presiding at the communion table as the presider in the woodcut is.

[12] Judith Maltby, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 7.

[13] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 526.

[14] George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple, or, the Country Parson (London, 1652), p. 92. Also see Elizabeth McLaughlin and Gail Thomas, ‘Communion in The Temple’, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 15.1 (1975), 111-124.

[15] Du Moulin, The Understanding Christians Duty, pp. 96-97.

Enigmas in Editing Early Modern Manuscripts

As part of the 2021 IJBS Blog Series Vera J. Camden, Professor of English at Kent State University, explores the the trials and tribulations of editing the diary of the eighteenth-century Presbyterian widow of a London goldsmith, Hannah Burton.

Margaret Ezell has reflected that the survival of manuscript documents such as early modern women’s diaries are like insects in amber, occupying a ‘long since deceased literary landscape’ that yet offer a ‘continuation of that presence which survives destruction, that matter which the living are permitted still to embrace.’[1]  

Yet such ‘embrace[s]’ are by no means effortless. The challenges of transcribing early modern manuscripts are many, ranging from cramped handwriting, to idiosyncratic punctuation; from protracted notes to obscure biographical details; from pages left intentionally blank to ripped or blotted transcriptions of unknown authors. Such peculiarities faced me when I came to edit the diary of Hannah Burton (1723–1786), since published as She Being Dead Yet Speaketh: The Franklin Family Papers in the Other Voice series. In this blog post, I wish to explore the patience and persistence required when making such manuscript papers ‘press ready’.

The early modern diary of Hannah offers a rare insight into the inner life and outer experience of a destitute widow living at the height of the economic revolutions and dissenting religious resurgences of eighteenth-century London, but its pages require careful decoding.

Hannah’s manuscript diary presented what seemed at first glance almost impenetrable pages of anxious italic script, ink blots, stricken words, pinned portions, upside down insertions from foreign hands, and ripped page remnants, so characteristic of the ‘messy’ manuscripts of the ordinary early modern household (see Figure 1).[2] Hannah writes in the same notebook as her grandmother, Mary Franklin (d. 1711) had written in to keep an account of her own spiritual experiences  during the persecution of the Protestant Dissenters after the Restoration. Such intergenerational manuscripts of course contain many enigmas.

Figure 1. Pages from Hannah Burton’s diary illustrating various revisions and erasures.
Held at the Congregational Library, within the Dr Williams’s Library (DWL), London, CL MS 33 I. h. fols. 20v-21r. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Congregational Memorial Hall.

In the case of Hannah’s diary, we know her name because she autographs nearly all of her daily entries in full or with her initials. Though her grandmother’s notebook contains the autograph signature of Mary Franklin on its front flyleaf, Hannah Burton goes to the extra effort of curating her grandmother’s narrative, adding its title in her own hand ‘The Experiences of my grandmother, Mrs. Mary Franklin.’ (see Figure 2) Naming herself and her grandmother holds a particular significance to Hannah. She explicitly invokes her family legacy of faith in the preamble to her diary where she writes, ‘Oh, may the unfeigned faith, and patient that dwelt in my dear grandmother Franklin, and in my dear and honored mother Ryland dwell in me also’ (p. 175). In titling the narrative of her grandmother and writing her own name, she connects to – and reminds others of—the history she has inherited with these family papers.

Widow of a London goldsmith, Hannah takes pen to paper in September 1782, following her husband’s death, to capture, Job-like, the contours of her sorrows and losses amidst the nearly unbearable economic realities of her destitute state living on a widow’s meager pension. Hannah Burton’s account of her days reflects the tension within herself between a devotion that fosters transcendence of worldly trials and a desperate particularity to record every debt, every conversation, and every dreadful disorder that poverty brings. While she is determined to identify herself as the author of this diary, she paradoxically omits any proper naming of her husband: he is repeatedly mentioned but only by monikers such as ‘wrestling Jacob’, ‘dearest yokefellow’, and, when he was sick, as a bruised and battered house, a crumbling ‘clay building.’ (pp. 206; 221; 196). Whether she was resisting naming her husband because of shame over financial ruin or merely a sense that his worldly identity had been superseded by being now numbered among the citizens of London, the fact remains that the editorial task of finding a biographical context for this spiritual chronicle entailed much sleuthing of the London archives.  More than once my then graduate assistant Valentino Zullo and I pleaded out loud and into the night: ‘who was your husband?’ ‘Who is this wrestling Jacob?’

Figure 2. Page showing the handwritten title Hannah Burton gave to her grandmother’s writings. Held at the Congregational Library, within the DWL, London, CL MS 33 I. h. fol. 3r. Reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the Congregational Memorial Hall.

How did we find out, finally, whom Hannah was married to?  We uncovered the truth by following the diarist’s habits of mind, for, throughout her diary, Hannah documents all anniversaries, from the day of the loss of her mother fourteen years ago, to the anniversary of a nearly fatal encounter with a bull on the streets of London! She also documents the details of her purchases and debts, telling us she has no money for cheese and candles and that she has reluctantly sold her husband’s ‘old coats’ and ‘old rags’ (p. 183).  It is the attention to these details that makes this document seem so quintessentially eighteenth century compared to her grandmother’s narrative where domestic details of such things as weaning of children, cradle fires and home intruders pointed to the Lord’s providences (pp. 135; 139). Hannah by contrast keeps to record-keeping, account keeping and mapping her travels, and thus leaves a neat, discernible trail which in the end led us to the Goldsmiths’ Hall, and to William Burton (d. 1781), London master goldsmith, and watchcase maker (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. William Burton’s incuse mark and small workers’ mark. Apprenticeship records of William Burton and William Burton, the younger. Goldsmiths’ Company, London.

The three clues that Hannah offers about her husband are also related to three preoccupying themes of her diary: time, money and death. She reminiscences that of the death of her husband occurred ‘sixty-five weeks ago,’ ‘sixty-seven weeks ago’ and so on and that his illness had been painful and prolonged (pp. 223; 242); she tells us that she has an eight-pound pension because of the charity of his business (p. 182); and, lastly, she tells us he is now among the clods of the valley in Bunhill Fields (p. 179). Thus, by searching pension records, death and burial records from Bunhill fields, and the names of possible apprentices within a span of several years, we were able to locate William Burton, apprenticed to his father, and thrice bankrupted, whose Last Will and Testament left all worldly goods to his widow, Hannah, who receives his small annual pension and other charities from the Goldsmiths’ Hall.

Sources

Hannah Burton, ‘The Diary of Hannah Burton (1782)’, in She Being Dead Yet Speaketh: The Franklin Family Papers, ed. Vera J. Camden (Toronto: Iter Press and the Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020), pp. 173-266.

Footnotes


[1] Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘The Posthumous Publication of Women’s Manuscripts and the History of Authorship’, in Women’s Writing and the Circulation of Ideas: Manuscript Publication in England, 1550–1800, ed. by George Justice and Nathan Tinker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 121-136 (128).

[2] Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘Invisible Books,’ in Producing the Eighteenth-Century Book: Writers and Publishers in England, 1650–1800, eds. Laura L. Runge and Pat Rogers (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2009), pp. 53–69 (66).

BUNYAN STUDIES 17 (2013): FORTHCOMING

By W.R. Owens

WHH portraitThe 2013 number of Bunyan Studies is now in press and will be available in early March. It is a special number marking the one hundredth anniversary of the death of the novelist William Hale White, better known by his literary pseudonym ‘Mark Rutherford’. White was born in Bedford on 22 December 1831, and died in Groombridge in Kent on 14 March 1913. It is appropriate that he is being commemorated in Bunyan Studies, because his parents were prominent members of Bunyan Meeting and White himself attended it every week up until he was about seventeen. Among the last things he wrote was a book-length study of Bunyan, published in 1905. He is best remembered for the six novels he published between 1881 and 1896: The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881); Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance (1885); The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887); Miriam’s Schooling (1890); Catherine Furze (1893); and Clara Hopgood (1896).

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A new edition of the Bunyan Church Book, 1656-1710

By Michael Davies, University of Liverpool

The purpose of this edition (currently in preparation, and forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2015) is to provide literary scholars and historians, as well as students and general readers, with a scholarly yet accessible annotated edition of A Booke Containing a Record of the Acts of a Congregation of Christ in and about Bedford: the manuscript record of the Bedford congregation’s life during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Who the congregation’s members were, how they were received and disciplined, how they survived strife and harassment, and what defined their ecclesiological principles and practices are all revealed in fascinating detail by this remarkable document.  This edition will include the Church Book’s record of meetings from 1656, when they begin to be noted, to 1710, when an off-shoot congregation was formed out of the Bedford church and established – on good terms – at Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire.  During this period, John Bunyan famously served as the congregation’s preacher and pastor, witnessing significant crises and developments both within the Bedford church and for Restoration Nonconformity more generally.

Church book

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2013 Richard L. Greaves Award to Kathleen Lynch

On 15 August 2013, Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute) received the Award from David Gay, chairman of the  selection committee (2010-2013), for her monograph, Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone Worldpublished in 2012 by Oxford University Press.

3013 greaves award

Kathleen Lynch and David Gay

LynchThe Richard L. Greaves Award is presented triennially by the International John Bunyan Society for an outstanding book on the history, literature, thought, practices, and legacy of English Protestantism to 1700. An Honourable Mention went to Tim Cooper for his John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Ashgate, 2011).