This book is an open-ended critical account of the Gawain-poems. The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3 are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order: Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. Patience is a poem that combines discussion of a moral quality with biblical narrative, in the case of Patience, one narrative only, the story of Jonah.Sir Gawain is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience suggest that for the poet national events may have merged with events in his own life to challenge his faith. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.
This book explores the life, thought and political commitments of the free-thinker John Toland (1670–1722). Studying both his private archive and published works, it illustrates how he moved in both subversive and elite political circles in England and abroad. The book explores the connections between Toland's republican political thought and his irreligious belief about Christian doctrine, the ecclesiastical establishment and divine revelation, arguing that far from being a marginal and insignificant figure, he counted queens, princes and government ministers as his friends and political associates. In particular, Toland's intimate relationship with the Electress Sophia of Hanover saw him act as a court philosopher, but also as a powerful publicist for the Hanoverian succession. The book argues that he shaped the republican tradition after the Glorious Revolution into a practical and politically viable programme, focused not on destroying the monarchy but on reforming public religion and the Church of England. It also examines how Toland used his social intimacy with a wide circle of men and women (ranging from Prince Eugene of Savoy to Robert Harley) to distribute his ideas in private. The book explores the connections between his erudition and print culture, arguing that his intellectual project was aimed at compromising the authority of Christian ‘knowledge’ as much as the political power of the Church. Overall, it illustrates how Toland's ideas and influence impacted upon English political life between the 1690s and the 1720s.
about authorship comes from the poems themselves. My conviction that a single individual wrote all four poems informs my approach to them. Without going over again the arguments and counter-arguments that have been put forward, I believe that my conviction is well, though not conclusively, supported by the balance of the evidence.
The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious – a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christiandoctrine, and his understanding
, though they are central to much medieval religious literature, are absent from Pearl . The poem is little interested in morality. It is not interested either in the finer points of Christiandoctrine, or in controversial religious issues. Unlike Piers Plowman , it does not engage significantly with the fourteenth century. 2 Its interest lies rather in relating Christiandoctrine to universal life-experience, and particularly in the problem that some of the basic tenets of that doctrine fly in the face of basic human instincts and attitudes. Langland’s dreamer in
in Chapter 6, Robertson’s dismissal of Nott and Gliddon stemmed from his
hostility to their racist polygenism.
The uses of polygenesis
Given the influence of anthropologists on freethinkers, it was no surprise
that they were familiar with the arguments of polygenesis and its implications for the Genesis story. A number of atheistic authors around the
middle of the century used polygenesis as an example of how Christiandoctrines seemed to conflict with the “obvious” facts about reality.105 John
E. Remsburg, an American freethinker, used Christians’ defense
offering working men the Gospel and social improvement. 16
Christiandoctrine underwrote Moody’s ideas of
humanity and race. In a pamphlet addressed to young members of Christian
Endeavour, he said:
Christ came to help me to realise that in
spite of all my failings I was worth dying for; as one of His
followers, I must impact to
be, physical ugliness in Neoplatonic thought is
largely synonymous with moral perversion.
The association of ugly bodies with evil in early modern
English culture is also rooted in Christiandoctrines of the Fall, in
which the originally perfect, beautiful creation is said to have become
both morally and physically deformed as a result of Adam’s sin.
The Bible states that man (and woman, although many
Limiting godly speech in early seventeenth century England
had some success and
developed ‘hope that they are become teachable and prepared’, he was then to
open Christiandoctrine to them gradually, but ‘if they shall remaine unteachable without hope of winning them, they are to be left’ – advice he followed
by quoting Matthew 7:6 and Proverbs 9:8.74
The godly clergymen who read Perkins’s manual undoubtedly considered many of their parishioners to be ‘unbeleevers who are both ignorant
and unteachable’. When Arthur Hildersam (Perkins’s fellow student at
Cambridge in the 1570s) argued that ministers were duty-bound to preach
The congregationalist divines and the establishment of church and
magistrate in Cromwellian England
This chapter charts the various experiments by the leading ‘magisterial’
congregationalist ministers, in the 1640s called the ‘Dissenting Brethren’,
to establish a version of the New England model of church and state in
interregnum England. It looks at the political theology of these
congregationalists in regard to the magistrate and then charts the various
programmes and confessions advanced by the congregationalists to achieve a
national religious settlement. The chapter explores the tensions between the
congregationalists’ goals: the desire to preserve liberty of conscience for
those holding to the foundations of sound Christian doctrine with the need
to define what the boundaries of that doctrine were. This attempt culminated
in the ‘Savoy Declaration’ of 1658, the political theology of which is
analysed using sermons and other contemporary literature.