Edward Dowden.

Puritan and Anglican : studies in literature online

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Puritan and Anglican:











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E. D. D.

"Truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious] as a king, I
could find it in my heart to bestow it all of your worship ; yea,
an' 'twere a thousand pound more than 'tis."



The first article in this volume is reprinted from
The Contemporary Review ; the rest of the volume
has been hitherto unpublished. The Puritan writers
with whom I deal are such as to render the title
" Puritan and Anglican " not inexact, although many
of the Puritan party were loyal members of the
Anglican Communion.

In choosing my subjects 1 have been influenced by
two things ; first, I have spoken only of writers with
whom I have dwelt long and intimately ; and secondly,
among such writers I have spoken only of those who
move me to speak through some personal interest
which I feel in the men or their work. Hence without
scruple or regret I omit many great names, being
here content to indulge my own likings.

I have desired to remain close to my subjects.
In many passages, for example, of what I have written
on Herbert and Vaughan, it is Herbert and Vaughan
who are in fact the speakers ; but I did not think
it necessary to encumber my pages with a crowd of
references to scattered poems from which their thoughts
and phrases have been collected.

viii Preface

I write not as a controversialist but as a student
of literature. Literature, however, and especially what
, is most valuable in seventeenth-century literature,
, / cannot be studied without reference to the history
of religion. All these writers, except Hooker, belong
to the seventeenth century ; and the influence of
Hooker, who died in 1600, was in great measure



Puritanism and English Literature . . . 1

Sources of the greatness of Elizabethan literature — Decline of
the drama — Art and politics — Was the work of the Renaissance
interrupted ? — Separation of individual religious life and national
life — The Catholic and the Puritan religious spirit — DiflBculty in
Puritanism for art — The sensuous medium — Baxter's testimony
— Dominant idea of Puritanism — Its cardinal error— How the
invisible is embodied by Puritanism — Hebrew literature supplies
an imaginative medium — Schoolmen of the Pieformation — The
fabric of doctrine — Morals and casuistry — The Puritan gentle-
man — His culture — Inwardness balanced by public duty — Body
of inspiring ideas — Co-oiDcrancy with God — Hortatory literature
— Moral restraint and art — Popular sympathies.


Sir Thomas Browne . . . . .35

His unique character in his own age — Connection with the
scientific^ movement — Whitef oot's reminiscences — Browne in his
family — His sons Edward and Tom — " Religio Medici " — Its plan
— Feeling for ceremony — His heresies — His mysticism — His
view of nature — Final causes — Providence — Angels and demons
— Scale of being — Charity — Love of woman — Music — Wonder
in common things — " Christian morals " — " Garden of Cyrus " —
"Letter to a friend" — " Hydriotaphia " — Coleridge's criticism
— Concluding section — Browne's gift to his age.


Richard Hooker ...... Qd

Belongs to both Renaissance and Reformation — Walton's art
as biographer — Hooker's peaceable spirit — His conduct of con-
troversy — ^Personal traits — Marriage — Hooker and Travers —
"Ecclesiastical Polity," state of the text — Historical character


of the English Church — Puritanism dogmatic and not historical
— Hooker's comprehensive grasp of truth — The Puritan position
and that of Hooker— First Book of '* Ecclesiastical Polity "—The
reign of law — Law of man's nature — Human society under law
— Laws regulating supernatural duties — Reason and revelation
— Positive laws of two kinds — Which are permanent and which
transitory — Hooker's originality — Scripture and reason — Human
authority — Conception of the Church — Episcopacy — The fifth
Book — Tolerance and its limits — Cautions to rash reformers.

Anglo-Catholic Poets : Herbert, Vaughan . . 97

Herbert and Keble— Crisis in Herbert's life—" The Pilgrim "
— Desire for inward coherence — How to obtain this — Dignity
and poverty of man — The age of wonder renewed— God
the strategist — Humility and obedience leading to peace —
Fluctuations of feeling — Yet a link in God's great chain
— Herbert's pious fantasies — His love of beauty — Satisfied by
beauty in the Anglican Communion — Simplicity and severity

— The Christian Year — Prayer — The poem "Love" — The
"Country Parson" — Ideal of the parson's life — Herbert and
Vaughan contrasted — Vaughan an illumine — His love of light

— His nostalgia — Vaughan and Wordsworth — His "Rules
and Lessons" — Richard Crashaw — The mystic of flame— His
infirmities as a poet.


Milton : Civil Liberty . . . . .133

Liberty and obedience the sum of Milton's writings — The
transitory and the abiding elements in his prose — Pamphlets
on divorce — The central proposition — Ideal of marriage — Con-
troversial violence — Ends of marriage — For labour and for rest
— Letter on education — Liberty and a higher rule in education
— Its religious end — Uses of an ideal — Intellectual, moral,
aesthetic, physical training — Ideal of the Renaissance on a
Christian foundation— Freedom in publishing opinions— Per-
petual search for truth the law of liberty— Confidence in the
nation of England— Sir John Seeley on Milton's politico—
' ' Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth "—
Centralisation and decentralisation— The good old cause.

Milton II. — Ecclesiastical and Theological Liberty :

Poems ...... 1^

Need of discipline— True and false glory of the Church— A

Contents xi

humility that soars — Material splendoiu-s in religion— Proposal
for State-aided pleasures — Eeligious freedom — Hirelings in the
Church — An unordained clerisy — Theological liberty — Treatise
on Christian Doctrine — Dogma behind the poetry — Milton's
materialism — Matter honoured — Man not composed of soul and
body — What death means — Freedom of the will — Doctrine of
the Trinity — Obedience the central idea of the poems — "Comus"
— "Paradise Lost " — " Paradise Regained "—Its ideal Hebraic —
Active obedience — "Samson Agonistes."


An Anglican and a Puritan Eirenicon — Jeremy

Taylor : Baxter ..... 197

Rust's delineation of Taylor — Taylor's zeal — Katharine Philips
— Taylor on friendship — His bravura passages — His large ordon-
nance in composition — His fervour — " Lukewarmness and Zeal"
— His courageous teaching — Dangers of zeal — " Liberty of
Prophesying " — " Via Intelligentiije " — Temper in which to seek
truth — Theology "a divine life" — False ways of peace — The
true way — Truth implicit in goodness — Baxter's autobiography
— Efforts towards conciliation — His scrupulosity — Bodily in-
firmities — Zeal yet detachment from party — The preacher of
Kidderminster — His writings — The minister's wife — His breviate
of her life — Changes wrought in him by time and experience
— His best Eirenicon.


John Bunyan ...... 232

Bunyan more than a representative of Piu-itanism — Would an
Anglican Bunyan be possible ? — Personal and universal elements
in his writings — How serviceable for modern minds — "Grace
Abounding " — Realisation of the unseen — Bunyan and public
affairs — Accusation of otherworldliness — Uncertainty of his re-
lig'"U3 progress — Visions and locutions — Function of fear — A
solitary — Macaulay on Bunyan — The Bible a book of magic —
Its influence on his imagination — His spiritual deliverance —
Saving good sense — A portrait painter — Mr Badman — Two chief
forms of allegory — "Holy War " — Origin of ' ' Pilgrim's Progress "
— The Second Part — Need of vigilance—" Piers the Plowman"
— "The Faerie Queene" — Change in the spirit of the age —
Robinson Crusoe — The epic of self-help — Tools and the man —
Growth in religious tolerance.


xii Contents

i-^. PAGE

Samuel Butler ...... 279

A slinger under the banner of good sense — Gloom beneath
his wit — Weakness and misery of man — The understanding his
citadel — A world of unreason — Unreason of enthusiasts — Un-
reason of sots — Unreason of science — Wit and the understanding
— " Elephant in the moon " — Imperfection and abuse of human
learning — Indictment of Puritanism — Butler's verse — Compos-
ing in fragments — Heroic and mean satire — " Hudibras " — Seri-
ous yet a drollery — Characters of knight and squire — Unreason
discursive and unreason intuitive — The incidents — Puritan
sophistications — Duke of Buckingham and Butler — Influence
of Selden.


Transition to the Eighteenth Century . .311

A time for provisional arrangements and compromises —
Halifax — Character of a Trimmer — Spirit of the Revolution — ^
Religious toleration — Locke — Essay on Human Understanding

— The scientific movement — Macaulay's theory — Scientific
movement a European phenomenon — Rationalising of theology
— The Church and Deism —Robert South — Honour to reason —
His criticism of Puritanism — Condemns the unreason of
voluptuaries — John Eachard — Grounds of contempt of the
clergy — False learning — Strained metaphors — Division of texts

— Tillotson — His reasonable piety — Addison's ecclesiastical
thermometer — Religion in the eighteenth century — Fielding's
parsons — Mr Booth's conversion.


The greatness of Elizabethan literature arose from the
unity of the national mind, in which the streams of the
Renaissance and the Reformation had met and mincfled.
The enthusiasm of the years that followed the destruc-
tion of the Spanish Armada fused together powers which
often work in opposition or apart. Reason, passion, and
imagination co-operated one with another, and through
their co-operancy gave substance and form to the poetry
of Shakespeare and of Spenser, to the prose of Bacon and
of Hooker. The literature of pleasure had never before
attained to such seriousness in beauty, the literature of
knowledge had never before been so infused with ima-
ginative power. In such works as " Hamlet," " Measure
for Measure," and " The Tempest " there is a depth of
reflection equal to their heights of poetical vision. Spenser
is at once a weaver of dreams and a teacher of truth.
Hooker cannot discuss the sign of the cross in baptism
or the rites of burial until he has first expounded his
magnificent conception of the universe under a reign of
law. The scientific writings of Bacon — later as these
are in date — are the utterances of a great imaginative
seer rather than of a fully equipped scientific student.
If his nature was lacking in passion of other kinds, he
had assuredly an unbounded passion for universal know-

A ^

2 • Puritanism and English Literature

ledge, and for the power to enhance the worth of human
life which knowledge confers. But gradually in the
history of our literature there was a descent from the
heights. The unity of the national mind was broken
or impaired. Passion in large measure transferred itself
from literature to the affairs of politics and religion.
Eeason, confronted with urgent practical problems, grew
perplexed. Imagination waned, and often yielded to
the seductions of easy and vulgar pleasure. A period
of doubt and difficulty followed a period of steadfast and
daring advance. Two doctrines in religion arrayed them-
selves each against the other. Two parties in the State
entered upon a great contention. Two theories of life
and conduct stood opposed. All things tended towards
a vast disruption ; and in the strife of King and Com-
monwealth, of Puritan and of Anglican, that disruption
was accomplished.

The chief glory of Elizabethan literature was the
drama, with the deepest passion and the most heroic
actions of humanity for its theme. It had its basis in
what is most real in the life of man, and what is real
was interpreted into the highest meanings by imagina-
tion. During the later years of the reign of James I.
and during the reign of Charles the drama lost touch
with reality ; it was cut off from its true basis of supply.
It advanced with a showy gallantry, but its strength and
solidity of movement were gone. It relied too often, as
with Massinger and Fletcher, on overstrained, fantastic
motives. It deserted the substantial ground of national
history. It endeavoured to excite a jaded imagination
with extravagances of romantic passion or even of un-

PuritanisTH and English Literattcre 3

natural lust. It sought for curiosities of prettiness in
sentiment and imagery. It supported its decline by
splendours appealing to the senses ; vast sums of money
were expended upon the masque. It grew shallow in
true passion and meditative wisdom. It grew rhetori-
cal ; its moralities are often those of eloquent periods.
And if at times less rudely gross than the earlier drama,
it was infected with a subtler and a baser spirit of evil.
Nor do other forms of poetry compensate the decline of
the drama. While much in the Jacobean and Caroline
lyric poetry is admirable in its kind, a charming inter-
mixture of nature with art, of grace with gay effrontery,
it does not often deal with the great lyric themes in a
spirit of serious beauty ; it ceases to be in any large sense
an interpretation of life.

To us, looking back upon the period, the literature
of pleasure may be worth far more than its theological
treatises or its political pamphlets : grace and gaiety are
always welcome gifts, fresh and living, while the theo-
logical and political controversy of the seventeenth
century concerns us chiefly as a matter of history. The
questions so fiercely debated then are not the questions
which concern us to-day, or at least they require for our
uses to be re-stated in modern terms. But to a man of
serious mind, living in the years which preceded the
struggle between the King and the Parliament, the
poetry of the time would have appeared as no more
than a decorative fringe ; the warp and woof of thought
would have been found by him in those folios and
quartos on which the dust now gathers in our libraries.
The same cannot be said of the contemporaries of Shake-

4 Puritanism and English Literature

speare or of Spenser: for them the poetry of the
time was a large and true interpretation of life. And
science and theology were then a genuine portion of

Was there a check, an interruption, of the higher
intellectual life of England ? Yes — to a certain extent.
The Renaissance influence in literature, separated from
the serious temper of the Reformation, dwindled and
suffered degradation ; the spirit of liberty, entangled
with politics, set itself to resolve urgent, practical pro-
blems, and lost some of its nobler ideality. Human
freedom — that indeed was still sought ; but freedom
came to mean deliverance from an unjust tax or from
an inquisitorial bishop. The spirit of the Reformation
separated from the Renaissance influence lost some of
its more liberal temper in a narrow Scripturalism and
in pettinesses of moral rigour. But the political and
religious questions could not be put aside ; they, too,
supplied a stern discipline for the intellect ; in their
solution an effort was made on behalf of liberty of
thought, narrowed in its meaning though liberty of
thought might be by the exigencies of the time. The
more enli^jhtened Puritanism contained within it a
portion of the spirit of the Renaissance. The mun-
dane spirit of the Renaissance, in its lower form of
commercial interests, by degrees allied itself with
Puritanism. The higher tendencies of the Renais-
sance re-emerged in the great scientific movement of
the second half of the seventeenth century. Through
the strife of parties and the tangle of interests a real
progress is discernible.

Puritanism and English Literature 5

Poetical literature, in the years of growing trouble
bad in some degree, as bas been said, lost toucb witb
reality. The Cavalier poets produced their gallant songs
of pleasure, of fancy, of delicate melody ; but they do
not, and they did not, sway the life of man. Two
things, however, became more real and gravely earnest.
One of these concerned the corpQrate_lif e of the jnation
— the great contention between King and people. The
other concerned primarily the inner life of _the indi-
vidual soul. In Elizabethan literature these two things
had not fallen apart. Spenser's '' Faerie Queene " deals
essentially with the life of the soul and its combat with
the various foes and tempters which beset that life ; but
it is also a poem concerning the honour and well-being
of England. It is a moral or spiritual allegory ; but at
the same time it is an historical allegory. Gloriana is
at once the glory of God and the Queen of England ;
St George is at once the knight of Holiness and the
patron saint of England. Shakespeare can search the
mysteries of the solitary soul in Hamlet, but he can
also celebrate the glories of his country at Agincourt,
and raise his chant of patriotic trmmph. Such poetry
became impossible in the days of James and of Charles.
Men who were interested in public life were putting on
their armour* for an internecine struggle. Men who w^ere
concerned for the life of the soul, if they did not carry
that concern into the public strife and become the zealots
of a party, were tempted to retreat from the world of
action, like the devout company at Little Gidding or
certain of the Puritan fugitives to America, and they
nourished the spirit of religion in secret or in little com-

6 Puritanism and English Literature

munities. The highest Elizabethan literature is at once
mundane and, in the truest sense of the word, religious.
At a later time the mundane literature became wholly
mundane, often even frivolously or basely mundane ;
the religious literature, when it ceases from controversy,
often ceases to regard the affairs of earth, which is but
a City of Destruction or a Vanity Fair, and has its gaze
intensely fixed upon another world, where the Saint will
attain his Rest.


One of the first effects of the Protestant Reformation
was a quickening of self-consciousness in matters of
religion. External rites, ordinances, and ceremonies
seemed for many devout men and women to lose much
of their virtue. To some they became matters of in-
difference ; to others they appeared hostile to^ the true
life of the soul. The realm of sense was viewed as if
it were separated by a deep gulf from the realm of the
spirit. There have, indeed, always existed the two types
of mind which we may call the Catholic and the Puritan,
to one of which the visible and the invisible are only
different aspects of one great reality, while to the other they
stand apart as sundered or even as antagonistic powers.
In a review of Newman's ''Phases of Faith," written many
years ago by the most venerable of recent thinkers,
Dr Martineau endeavours to distinguish between these two
conceptions of life and the world and of God's relation to
it in a passage which it is worth while to quote at some
length. According to the Catholic conception the two
spheres of sense and spirit seem to melt into each other

Puritanism and English Literature 7

under themediation of a kind of divine chemistry ; ''hence/'
he goes od, ''the invariable presence of some physical
element in all that Catholicism looks upon as venerable.
Its rites are a manipular invocation of God. Its miracles
are examples of incarnate divineness in old clothes and
winking pictures. Its ascetic discipline is founded on
the notion of a gradual consumption of the grosser body
by the encroaching fire of the spirit ; till in the ecstatica
the frame itself becomes ethereal and the lic^ht shines
through. Nothing can be more offensive than all this
to the Evangelical [or, as we may put it, the Puritan]
conception, which plants the natural and the spiritual in
irreconcilable contradiction, denies to them all approach
or contact, and allows each to exist only by the extinction
of the other. . . . This unmediated dualism follows
the Evangelical into his theory as to the state of each
individual soul before God. The Catholic does not deny
all divine light to the natural conscience, or all power
to the naturjil will of unconverted men : he maintains
that these also are already under a law of obligation,
may do what is well-pleasing before God, and by superior
faithfulness qualify themselves to become subjects of
grace ; so that the Gospel shall come upon them as a
divine supplement to the sad and feeble moral life of
nature. To the Evangelical, on the contrary, the soul
that is not saved is lost. . . . So, again, the contrast
turns up in the opposite views taken of the divine
economy in human affairs. The Evangelical detaches
the elect in imagination from the remainino^ mass of
men, sequesters them as a holy people, who must not
mix themselves with the affairs of Belial. . . . The

8 Puritanism and English Literature

Catholic, looking on the natural universe, whether
material or humao, not as an antagonist but as the
receptacle of the spiritual, seeks to conquer the World
for the Church, and instead of shunning political action,
is ready to grasp it as his instrument."

The tendency to the one or the other of these religious
conceptions, adds Mr Martineau, marks the distinction
between two great families of minds. How, we may
inquire, does each conception adapt itself to literature
and especially to the literature of imagination? We can
at once perceive that what has been named the Catholic
conception more readily finds that sensuous vehicle for
its ideas which literature and art demand. It interprets
the invisible by the visible ; it does not suspect beauty
or colour or the delight of life, but seeks to inter-
penetrate these with what is divine. The danger is
that it may mistake what is arbitrary, artificial, or merely
traditional for that which is natural, and so may con-
struct a body of factitious symbolism instead of discovering
the veritable play of what is spiritual in and through
what is sensible. Such factitious symbolism debars or
diverts the mind from the genuine sources of light ; at
best it serves as a receptacle for truth or passion trans-
ferred to it from the mind itself In this large sense
of the word " Catholic " we might name Wordsworth in
some of his earlier poems a true Catholic, discovering,
as he does, the ideal in the real, the divine in the
natural, the invisible in the visible ; and we might
name Keble, in certain of his verses, a pseudo-Catholic,
applying, as he sometimes does, a factitious or a traditional
symbolism to sanctify what in reality is sacred in itself.

Puritanism and English Literahire 9

For the Puritan, on the other hand, using the word to
describe a type of mind, the natural and the supernatural
exist in an uu mediated dualism, and it is a difficulty
with him to clothe the naked idea — reliofious or ethical
— in any sensuous medium or body. Hence Puritanism
in itself i s ill fitted to produce a great art. Yet the
inward life of the soul may be intense, and tbe more
intense because it does not readily distribute itself
through appointed forms ; and absorbing thoughts and
passions cannot fail in some way to discover or to create
that outward vehicle through which alone they can
secure a complete self-realisation.

In the Fourth Part of *' The Saints' Everlasting Rest "
Baxter considers the aids which the senses can afford to
the spirit. It is a point of spiritual prudence, he says,
to make friends of powers which are usually our enemies;
our senses and their objects would not have been given

Online LibraryEdward DowdenPuritan and Anglican : studies in literature → online text (page 1 of 24)