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What was a Homily in Post-Reformation England?

  • HANNAH YIP (a1)

Abstract

The homily is frequently considered by scholars to be a printed address which acted as a substitute sermon in post-Reformation England. This essay provides an important corrective to this view by examining five singly issued homilies in English which were not intended for use in the pulpit and which were published c. 1544–c. 1635. It argues that, as a byword for popery but with recognised longstanding roots in patristic ritual, the term ‘homily’ was contentious in this period. The works investigated within this study reveal how the marginalised homily was transformed into a distinctive genre in its own right.

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I would like to thank the AHRC for funding both my doctoral research and my attendance at the 2018 Reformation Studies Colloquium, University of Essex, at which a version of this article was presented. I am grateful to members of the audience for comments offered on that occasion and to Hugh Adlington, Arnold Hunt, Alexandra Walsham, the Editors and the anonymous reviewer for this Journal for their invaluable feedback and suggestions.

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1 Greene, Robert, A qvip for an vpstart courtier, London 1592 (RSTC 12300), sig. G2r–v.

2 Spenser, Edmund, Prosopopoia, London 1591 (RSTC 23078), sig. Nr; Bond, Ronald B., ‘Cranmer and the controversy surrounding publication of Certayne sermons or homilies (1547)’, Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme xii (1976), 2835 at p. 33.

3 Whitgift, John, An ansvvere to a certen libel, London 1572 (RSTC 25427), 172; Wabuda, Susan, Preaching during the English Reformation, Cambridge 2002, 32.

4 Certayne sermons, or homilies, London 1547 (RSTC 13641); The seconde tome of homelyes, London 1563 (RSTC 13664); Hunt, Arnold, The art of hearing: English preachers and their audiences, 1590–1640, Cambridge 2010, 180. Note Susan Wabuda's brief comment upon the criticism of pre-Reformation collections of printed sermons in the early years of the English Reformation: Preaching, 33. Limitations of space prohibit a fuller review of similar issues and concerns surrounding the homily in Europe during this period. For France in the late sixteenth century see Bayley, Peter, French pulpit oratory, 1598–1650, Cambridge 1980, 43, 90–1; for post-Tridentine Italy see Westervelt, Benjamin W., ‘The prodigal son at Santa Justina: the homily in the Borromean reform of pastoral preaching’, Sixteenth Century Journal xxxii (2001), 109–26; and Michelson, Emily, The pulpit and the press in Reformation Italy, Cambridge–London 2013, 25–6, 94–6.

5 See, for example, An homyly, concerning the justice of God, in A fourme to be vsed in common prayer twise a weeke, London 1563 (RSTC 16505), sigs D.i.r–[F.iiii.v]; Edmund Grindal to William Cecil, 30 July 1563, BL, ms Lansdowne 6, fos 156r–157r; and Mears, Natalie and others (eds), National prayers: special worship since the Reformation, I: Special prayers, fasts and thanksgivings in the British Isles, 1533–1688, Woodbridge 2013, 5679. Edmund Grindal, then bishop of London, had commissioned Alexander Nowell, dean of St Paul's, to compose this particular ‘homyly’ for use in his diocese.

6 Blount, Thomas, Glossographia, 2nd edn, London 1661 (Wing B.3335), sig. U4r; Green, Ian, Print and Protestantism in early modern England, Oxford 2000, 209.

7 Alexandra Walsham, ‘“An old popish Booke of homilies”: a Carthusian incunable’, Remembering the Reformation, digital exhibition, <https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/reformation/artifacts/an-old-popish-booke-of-homilies-a-carthusian-incunable/>, accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

8 Peele, George [?], [The] troublesome raigne of Iohn king of England, London 1591 (RSTC 14644), unpaginated. See also Peele, George, The troublesome reign of John, king of England, ed. Forker, Charles R., Manchester–New York 2011, 185–6.

9 Donne, John, A sermon vpon the xv. verse of the xx. chapter of the booke of Ivdges, London 1622 (RSTC 7053), 62; Wall, John N. Jr and Burgin, Terry Bunce, ‘“This sermon … upon the Gun-powder day”: the Book of Homilies of 1547 and Donne's sermon in commemoration of Guy Fawkes’ Day, 1622’, South Atlantic Review xlix (1984), 1930 at pp. 25–6; Shami, Jeanne, John Donne and conformity in crisis in the late Jacobean pulpit, Cambridge 2003, 114; Morrissey, Mary, Politics and the Paul's Cross sermons, 1558–1642, Oxford 2011, 93–5; Crawforth, Hannah, Etymology and the invention of English in early modern literature, Cambridge 2013, 107–8.

10 Whitgift, An ansvvere, 63.

11 Donne, A sermon vpon the xv. verse of the xx. chapter of the booke of Ivdges, 62.

12 Green, Print and Protestantism, 194. In addition to the monographs of Susan Wabuda, Mary Morrissey and Arnold Hunt, key works include McCullough, Peter E., Sermons at court: politics and religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean preaching, Cambridge 1998; Ferrell, Lori Anne and McCullough, Peter (eds), The English sermon revised: religion, literature and history, 1600–1750, Manchester–New York 2000; and McCullough, Peter, Adlington, Hugh and Rhatigan, Emma (eds), The Oxford handbook of the early modern sermon, Oxford 2011.

13 ‘Some call theym homlyes … for they are homely handeled’: Latimer, Hugh, The seconde sermon of Master Hughe Latemer, London 1549 (RSTC 15274), unpaginated; ‘homilies, that are too homely, to be set in the place of Gods scriptures’: John Field and Thomas Wilcox, An admonition to the parliament, [Hemel Hempstead [?] 1572] (RSTC 10848), sig. B.v. See also Green, Print and Protestantism, 209–10; Wabuda, Preaching, 27; Morrissey, Politics, 58–9. Susan Wabuda has laid the groundwork for such issues by exploring the embryonic stages of the projected first Book of Homilies by Thomas Cranmer, who wished to replace longstanding late medieval preaching manuals such as Mirk, John's Festial: ‘Bishops and the provision of homilies, 1520 to 1547’, Sixteenth Century Journal xxv (1994), 551–66. For the postil see Frymire, John M., The primacy of the postils: Catholics, Protestants, and the dissemination of ideas in early modern Germany, Leiden–Boston 2010. Mention must also be made of Christian, Margaret, ‘“I knowe not howe to preache”: the role of the preacher in Taverner's postils’, Sixteenth Century Journal xxix (1998), 377–97.

14 Wenzel, Siegfried, Latin sermon collections from later medieval England: orthodox preaching in the age of Wyclif, Cambridge 2005, 357–62.

15 A considerable number of scholars have recognised the importance of careful contextualisation of certain early modern terms and ‘keywords’. See Knights, Mark and others, ‘Commonwealth: the social, cultural, and conceptual contexts of an early modern keyword’, HJ liv (2011), 659–87, and O'Malley, John W., Trent and all that: renaming Catholicism in the early modern era, Cambridge–London 2000. Lucy E. C. Wooding refers to the plethora of homilies and sermons in the reign of Mary i, but does not explain the difference between the two: Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England, Oxford 2000, 138. See also Wall, John N. Jr, ‘Godly and fruitful lessons: the English Bible, Erasmus’ Paraphrases, and the Book of Homilies’, in Booty, John E. (ed.), The godly kingdom of Tudor England: great books of the English Reformation, Wilton 1981, 47135 at p. 98 and passim, and Wizeman, William, The theology and spirituality of Mary Tudor's Church, Aldershot–Burlington, Vt 2006, 31.

16 See Three sermons, or homelies, to mooue compassion towards the poore and needie in these times, London 1596 (RSTC 13681), and Bownd, Nicholas, The holy exercise of fasting … in certaine homilies or sermons, Cambridge 1604 (RSTC 3438). Pollard, Leonard, in his Fyve homiles, refers to his work as ‘these simple and rude sermons’: Fyve homiles, London 1556 (RSTC 20091), sig. A.ii.r.

17 Huloet, Richard, Hvloets dictionarie, London 1572 (RSTC 13941), unpaginated; Bullokar, John, An English expositor, London 1616 (RSTC 4083), unpaginated; Coles, Elisha, An English dictionary, London 1676 (Wing C.5070), unpaginated. See also Minsheu, John, Ductor in linguas, London 1617 (RSTC 17944), 237, and Cockeram, Henry, The English dictionarie, London 1623 (RSTC 5461.2), sig. F2r.

18 Green, Print and Protestantism, 194. The editors of The Oxford handbook of the early modern sermon have commented upon the voluminous number of early modern printed works entitled ‘A sermon’: McCullough, Adlington and Rhatigan, ‘Preface’, pp. xiv–xvi at p. xv. See also Hunt, The art of hearing, 120. My statistic excludes reprints and, notably, features two extracts from the Official homilies.

19 See, in particular, Withington, Phil, Society in early modern England: the vernacular origins of some powerful ideas, Cambridge–Malden 2010, 7, and King, John N. and Rankin, Mark, ‘Print, patronage, and the reception of continental reform: 1521–1603’, Yearbook of English Studies xxxviii (2008), 4967 at p. 51.

20 Manuscript ‘homilies’ (for example, Congregational Library, London, ms I.h.20) and postils in this era, particularly original compositions as opposed to translations, are equally scarce in comparison with manuscript sermons and constitute another intriguing area of focus which cannot be addressed in this article. For the postils in manuscript see Ryrie, Alec, The Gospel and Henry VIII: evangelicals in the early English Reformation, Cambridge 2003, 117.

21 Westervelt, ‘The prodigal son’, 119; Quantin, Jean-Louis, The Church of England and Christian antiquity: the construction of a confessional identity in the 17th century, Oxford 2009, 83 and passim.

22 Groups of homilies, such as those in Old English by Ælfric of Eynsham which underwent a resurgence of interest from the Elizabethan period, have been discussed by Kleist, Aaron J.: ‘Monks, marriage, and manuscripts: Matthew Parker's manipulation (?) of Ælfric of Eynsham’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology cv (2006), 312–27. For the royally authorised homilies see Ashley Null, ‘Official Tudor homilies’, in McCullough, Adlington and Rhatigan, Oxford handbook of the early modern sermon, 348–65.

23 S. Mutchow Towers, Control of religious printing in early Stuart England, Woodbridge 2003, 2; Kastan, David Scott, ‘Print, literary culture and the book trade’, in Loewenstein, David and Mueller, Janel (eds), The Cambridge history of early modern English literature, Cambridge 2002, 81116 at p. 107.

24 The ESTC categorises the translation of Chrysostom's homily and Harpsfield's homily as ‘Sermons, English – 16th century’. The translation of Origen's homily is categorised as ‘Sermons – Early works to 1800’; the translation of Philippe Duplessis-Mornay's homily as ‘Sermons, English – 17th century’; and the homily by Anthony Stafford as ‘Good Friday sermons – Early works to 1800’, ‘Salvation – Sermons – Early works to 1800’ and ‘Sermons, English – 17th century’.

25 Walsham, Alexandra, Church papists: Catholicism, conformity and confessional polemic in early modern England, Woodbridge 1993; Muldoon, Andrew R., ‘Recusants, church-papists, and “comfortable” missionaries: assessing the post-Reformation English Catholic community’, Catholic Historical Review lxxxvi (2000), 242–57.

26 Wabuda, Preaching, 26.

27 Ibid. 32; Thayer, Anne T., ‘Preaching and worship’, in Whitford, David M. (ed.), T&T Clark companion to Reformation theology, London–New York 2012, 157–77 at p. 159.

28 Wabuda, Preaching, 26–7; King and Rankin, ‘Print, patronage, and the reception of continental reform’, 57.

29 William P. Haaugaard provides a provisional set of statistics for English translations of patristic texts issued before 1600 in ‘Renaissance patristic scholarship and theology in sixteenth-century England’, Sixteenth Century Journal x (1979), 37–60.

30 Gardynare, Germen, A letter of a yonge gentylman, London 1534 (RSTC 11594), sigs B.iii.v–B.iiii.v; David Daniell, ‘Frith, John (1503–1533)’, ODNB.

31 See Quantin, The Church of England and Christian antiquity, ch. i; Katrin Ettenhuber, ‘The preacher and patristics’, in McCullough, Adlington and Rhatigan, Oxford handbook of the early modern sermon, 34–53 at p. 37.

32 Alan Bryson, ‘Cheke, Sir John (1514–1557)’, ODNB.

33 Pollnitz, Aysha, Princely education in early modern Britain, Cambridge 2015, 144.

34 Chrysostom, John, An homilie of Saint John Chrysostome, trans. Chaloner, Thomas, London 1544 (RSTC 14637).

35 Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII, 116; Wooding, Lucy, ‘Erasmus and the politics of translation in Tudor England’, in Ditchfield, Simon, Methuen, Charlotte and Spicer, Andrew (eds), Translating Christianity (Studies in Church History liii, 2017), 132–45.

36 Chrysostom, An homilie of Saint John Chrysostome, sig. Avr–v.

37 Rosemary Dixon, ‘Sermons in print, 1660–1700’, in McCullough, Adlington and Rhatigan, Oxford handbook of the early modern sermon, 460–79 at p. 461. See also Morrissey, Politics, 58.

38 Chrysostom, An homilie of Saint John Chrysostome, sig. Aiir.

39 Ibid. title page.

40 McCullough, Peter, ‘Sermons’, in Hadfield, Andrew (ed.), The Oxford handbook of English prose, 1500–1640, Oxford 2013, 560–75 at p. 566.

41 Chrysostom, An homilie of Saint John Chrysostome, unpaginated.

42 Harpsfield, John, A notable and learned sermon or homilie, London 1556 (RSTC 12795), sigs A.iiiir–v, C.i.r.

43 Martin, J. W., ‘The Marian regime's failure to understand the importance of printing’, Huntington Library Quarterly xliv (1981), 231–47; Loades, David, ‘Books and the English Reformation prior to 1558’, in Gilmont, Jean-François (ed.), The Reformation and the book, trans. Maag, Karin, Aldershot–Brookfield 1998, 264–91 at p. 285; Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism, 117; Walsham, Alexandra, ‘“Domme preachers”? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the culture of print’, Past & Present no. 168 (Aug. 2000), 72123 at p. 80 and passim.

44 Wizeman, The theology and spirituality of Mary Tudor's Church, 15–16.

45 Idem, ‘The Marian Counter-Reformation in print’, in Evenden, Elizabeth and Westbrook, Vivienne (eds), Catholic renewal and Protestant resistance in Marian England, Farnham–Burlington, Vt 2015, 143–64 at p. 150.

46 Harpsfield, A notable and learned sermon or homilie, sig. A.ii.r.

47 William Wizeman consistently referred to this work as a ‘sermon’ in all of his discussions about it, even omitting the ‘homilie’ of the title in his references and bibliographies: The theology and spirituality of Mary Tudor's Church, 15–16, 260, and ‘The Marian Counter-Reformation in print’, 149–50.

48 Harpsfield, A notable and learned sermon or homilie, unpaginated.

49 Haigh, Christopher, ‘Introduction’, in Haigh, Christopher (ed.), The English Reformation revised, Cambridge 1987, 117 at p. 9.

50 Heal, Felicity, Reformation in Britain and Ireland, Oxford 2003, 184; Bray, Gerald, ‘Introduction’, in Bray, Gerald (ed.), The books of homilies: a critical edition, Cambridge 2015, pp. ixxxi at pp. xiv–xvi.

51 For references to Augustine see Harpsfield, A notable and learned sermon or homilie, sigs B.ii.r–v, B.iiii.v.

52 Duffy, Eamon, Saints, sacrilege and sedition: religion and conflict in the Tudor Reformations, London 2012, 200.

53 Origen (attrib.), An homilie of Marye Magdalene, declaring her ferue[n]t loue and zele towards Christ, London 1565 (RSTC 18847).

54 Idem (attrib.), Omelia orige[n]is de beata maria magdalena, ed. William Menyman, London [1505?] (RSTC 18846). Although this work and the later editions are supposititious, the focus is upon what the publication of the 1565 edition represented during a controversial period for religious publishing.

55 Idem (attrib.), [An homelie of Marye Magdalene, declaring her ferue[n]t loue and zele towards Christ], [London 1555 (?)] (RSTC 18848). It would, of course, have been a fruitful experiment to compare this translation with the ‘new’ one of 1565, examining in particular any purges by the unnamed translator (see Walsham, ‘“Domme preachers”’, 105). Sadly, however, the only surviving copy of the 1555 edition exists in the form of a fragment at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Arch. A d.2 (1)).

56 Jenkins, Gary W., John Jewel and the English national Church: the dilemmas of an erastian reformer, Aldershot–Burlington, Vt 2006, 70; Kirby, Torrance, ‘Political hermeneutics: John Jewel's “Challenge sermon” at Paul's Cross, 1559’, in his Persuasion and conversion: essays on religion, politics, and the public sphere in early modern England, Leiden–Boston 2013, 114–43.

57 Quoted in Jenkins, John Jewel and the English national Church, 70.

58 Stapleton, Thomas, A returne of vntruthes vpon M. Jewelles replie, Antwerp 1566 (RSTC 23234), sig. HHr.

59 See Ettenhuber, ‘The preacher and patristics’, 40–4; Kirby, Torrance, ‘John Jewel, “The Challenge sermon” preached at Paul's Cross (1560)’, in Kirby, Torrance and others (eds), Sermons at Paul's Cross, 1521–1642, Oxford 2017, 225–59 at p. 229.

60 Origen (attrib.), An homilie of Marye Magdalene (1565), sigs a.v.v, B.iii.v.

61 Ibid. sig. C.v.v. unpaginated.

62 Walsham, Alexandra, Charitable hatred: tolerance and intolerance in England, 1500–1700, Manchester–New York 2006, 14.

63 Origen (attrib.), An homilie of Marye Magdalene (1565), sig. C.iii.r.

64 Ibid. unpaginated.

65 Ibid. unpaginated.

66 Chrysostom, An homilie of Saint John Chrysostome, sig. Aiiiv; Origen (attrib.), An homilie of Marye Magdalene (1565), unpaginated; Hunt, The art of hearing, 159–63.

67 Hosington, Brenda M., ‘Tudor Englishwomen's translations of continental Protestant texts: the interplay of ideology and historical context’, in Schurink, Fred (ed.), Tudor translation, Basingstoke 2011, 121–42 at p. 135.

68 An exception is Crawford, Julie, ‘Reconsidering early modern women's reading, or, how Margaret Hoby read her de Mornay’, Huntington Library Quarterly lxxiii (2010), 193223.

69 Holt, Mack P., ‘Divisions within French Calvinism: Philippe Duplessis-Mornay and the eucharist’, in Holt, Mack P. (ed.), Adaptations of Calvinism in Reformation Europe: essays in honour of Brian G. Armstrong, Aldershot–Burlington, Vt 2007, 165–77 at p. 166.

70 Idem, The French Wars of Religion, 1562–1629, 2nd edn, Cambridge 2005, 176–7.

71 For example, Sutcliffe, Matthew, A briefe replie to a certaine odious and slanderous libel, London 1600 (RSTC 23453); Persons, Robert, A relation of the triall made before the king of France, [Saint-Omer] 1604 (RSTC 19413).

72 These works are not mentioned in the definitive work of scholarship on Duplessis-Mornay to date, Daussy's, HuguesLes Huguenots et le roi: le combat politique de Philippe Duplessis-Mornay (1572–1600), Geneva 2002.

73 Duplessis-Mornay, Philippe, Two homilies concerning the meanes how to resolue the controversies of this time, Oxford 1612 (RSTC 18164); An homily vpon these words of Saint Matthew, chap. 16. v. 18, trans. John Verneuil, Oxford 1615 (RSTC 18143); and Three homilies, trans. Anthony Ratcliffe, London 1626 (RSTC 18156).

74 Idem, Two homilies, sig. ¶ 2r.

75 Idem, Three homilies, sigs A2v, A3r.

76 Idem, An homily, 3.

77 Ibid. sig. A3r, p. 16.

78 See ibid. 9, 23 for patristic citations.

79 Worcester, Thomas, Seventeenth-century cultural discourse: France and the preaching of Bishop Camus, Berlin–New York 1997, 54–6.

80 Duplessis-Mornay, An homily, sig. A3v.

81 Stafford, Anthony, The day of salvation: or, A homily upon the bloody sacrifice of Christ, London 1635 (RSTC 23122), title page.

82 Ibid. sigs A3v–A4r. The engraved title page by William Marshall is described in J. T., ‘Bibliographic notes – Anthony Stafford’, Northamptonshire Notes & Queries v (1894), 118–22 at pp. 118–19.

83 Certain sermons or homilies (1547) and a homily against disobedience and wilful rebellion (1570): a critical edition, ed. Ronald B. Bond, Toronto 1987, 13.

84 Stafford, The day of salvation, 3.

85 Ibid. unpaginated.

86 Ibid. 153–5.

87 Ibid. sig. A3v.

88 Ibid.

89 I owe this point to Peter Lake.

90 Shelford, Robert, The ten preachers in his Five piovs and learned discourses, Cambridge 1635 (RSTC 22400), 57–119 at p. 78. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for drawing my attention to this text.

91 Walsham, Church papists, 8. There is a vast literature on religious press censorship in England in this period. See, for example, Mutchow Towers, Control of religious printing; the output of Cyndia Susan Clegg, including her Press Censorship series with Cambridge University Press; Milton, Anthony, ‘Licensing, censorship, and religious orthodoxy in early Stuart England’, HJ lxi (1998), 625–51; and Gadd, Ian A., ‘“A suitable remedy?” Regulating the printing press, 1553–1558’, in Evenden, Elizabeth and Westbrook, Vivienne (eds), Catholic renewal and Protestant resistance in Marian England, Farnham–Burlington, Vt 2015, 127–42.

92 Gants, David L., ‘A quantitative analysis of the London book trade, 1614–1618’, Studies in Bibliography lv (2002), 185213 at p. 190.

93 Aston, Margaret, ‘Lap books and lectern books: the revelatory book in the Reformation’, in Swanson, R. N. (ed.), The Church and the book (Studies in Church History xxxviii, 2004), 163–89.

94 Hooper, John, An homelye to be read in the tyme of pestylence, Worcester 1553 (RSTC 13759); Cooper, Thomas, A briefe homily, wherein the most comfortable and right vse of the Lords Supper, is very plainly opened and deliuered, London 1580 (RSTC 5684.5); Anon., A sermon, or homelie, to mooue compassion towards the poore and needie in these times, London 1596 (RSTC 13680.9).

95 For an example of such scholarship see Saunders, Austen, ‘Articles of assent: clergymen's subscribed copies of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England’, in Acheson, Katherine (ed.), Early modern English marginalia, New York–Abingdon 2019, 115–33.

96 A fascinating example within the Thomason Tracts is Roi, Gabriel le, Homelie sur l'Evangile de notre Seigneur, London 1654 (Wing L.1118), General Reference Collection, BL, E.1483.(2.).

I would like to thank the AHRC for funding both my doctoral research and my attendance at the 2018 Reformation Studies Colloquium, University of Essex, at which a version of this article was presented. I am grateful to members of the audience for comments offered on that occasion and to Hugh Adlington, Arnold Hunt, Alexandra Walsham, the Editors and the anonymous reviewer for this Journal for their invaluable feedback and suggestions.

What was a Homily in Post-Reformation England?

  • HANNAH YIP (a1)

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