Thursday, November 4, 2010

Standing Tiptoe

Some of George Herbert's most famous lines from The Temple (in The Church Militant) were the subject of controversy even before they made it into print. They almost failed the censorship test.

Izaac Walton, The Life of Mr. George Herbert, p. 110:

And this ought to be noted, that when Mr. [Nicholas] Farrer sent this book to Cambridge to be licensed for the press, the Vice-Chancellor would by no means allow the two so much noted verses,

Religion stands a tiptoe in our land,

Ready to pass to the American strand,

to be printed; and Mr. Farrer would by no means allow the book to be printed and want them. But after some time, and some arguments for and against their being made public, the Vice-chancellor said, "I knew Mr. Herbert well, and know that he had many heavenly speculations, and was a divine poet: but I hope the world will not take him to be an inspired prophet, and therefore I licence the whole book." So that it came to be printed without the diminution or addition of a syllable, since it was delivered into the hands of Mr. Duncon, save only that Mr. Farrer hath added that excellent Preface that is printed before it.

When those lines were quoted by Puritan minister Samuel Ward, they actually led to his imprisonment, thus proving Herbert right.

The charges leveled against Ward in November 1635 by none other than Archbishop William Laud included (William Prynne, Canterburies Doome, p. 361):

...preaching...against Bowing at the name of Jesus, the Booke of sports on the Lords day, and saying, that the Church of England was ready to ring the Changes, and insinuating unto his Auditory, that there was cause to fear an Alteration of Religion; saying, that Religion and the Gospel stood on tiptoes ready to be gone.

For these offenses, Ward was put in ward for "a long time" (according to Prynne). J.C. Ryle states that he removed to Holland after his release, and returned to his home parish of Ipswich in 1638, where he died the following year, having suffered in his homeland for the name of Jesus, while his brother Nathaniel Ward, who had gone to America in 1634, went on to author the famous Massachusetts Body of Liberties.

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