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Reviewed by:
  • Selected Sermons and Lectures
  • Hannibal Hamlin
Lancelot Andrewes . Selected Sermons and Lectures. Ed. Peter McCullough. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. lx + 492 pp. $175. ISBN: 0-19-818774-2.

In 1926, the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of Lancelot Andrewes, T. S. Eliot wrote that although Andrewes's sermons "rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time," they were little known, even to readers of English Renaissance literature. Eighty years later not much has changed. Clearly, Peter McCullough hopes that this new edition of Andrewes's selected works may help succeed where Eliot's seminal essay did not. Indeed, McCullough, author of Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching, has a larger and more difficult project in mind: the restoration of the sermon to its rightful place in literary history and criticism, as one of the most sophisticated, popular, and important genres in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. This restoration is long overdue. Sermons constituted a major component of the period's printed books, testifying to the English reader's ravenous and apparently insatiable appetite for this literature. Even for those who could not read, or chose not to, sermons were regularly heard in services of the English church, to which all were legally obliged to attend. Sermons in London at St. Mary's Hospital and Paul's Cross were huge public events, attended by thousands of citizens from across the social spectrum. The most popular preachers of the day, like Henry "Silver-Tongued" Smith or Lancelot Andrewes, were genuine celebrities, generating the sort of buzz today reserved for athletes and movie stars.

Selected Sermons and Lectures is a work of impeccable scholarship but also an attempt to offer, in print, a different Lancelot Andrewes than has been hitherto available. The scholarship is first evident in McCullough's thorough biographical, critical, historical, and bibliographical introduction, the materials of which will soon be supplemented by McCullough's forthcoming scholarly biography, the first ever published. The text is presented in a format that carefully follows seventeenth-century printing practices, including varied fonts and marginal glosses. Yet McCullough has also been scrupulous in providing the best text possible, correcting errors even in the 1967 Clarendon Sermons, and describing in meticulous detail the complete textual history of Andrewes's prose, as far as it is ascertainable, in both manuscript and print. The notes for each selection provide a full description [End Page 1320] of the text and a head-note covering the original occasion for the work, general comments on content, form, and style, and even (when warranted) the work's subsequent reception history. It is important, for instance, to know that in his 1588 Easter Week sermon, Andrewes was speaking to a specific audience, London's Court of Aldermen, who commissioned the special public sermons at St. Mary's Hospital. However, it is also intriguing to know that when the sermon "Sacrilege a Snare" was printed in 1646, long after Andrewes's death, its arguments against the alienation of church property appealed to the very Presbyterians who had been Andrewes's opponents in an earlier ecclesiastical climate. McCullough further includes a description of Andrewes's sources for each work and a brief note on further reading. The notes proper are erudite and exhaustive, covering matters of theology, biblical commentary, church politics, social and political history, and literary criticism.

McCullough's revisionist agenda is announced openly in his introduction. All previous editions of Andrewes's work have been based on the 1629 XCVI Sermons, edited by William Laud and John Buckeridge, whose agenda was unsurprisingly Laudian. The nineteenth-century editors of Andrewes's works were caught up in the new Laudianism of the Oxford Movement, which also influenced Eliot. McCullough is interested in a more complex representation. He therefore includes samples not just of Andrewes's celebrated feast-day sermons for Elizabeth I, James I, and their courts, but of public sermons, university sermons, and even lectures that demonstrate Andrewes's concern with "practical moral divinity" as well as high church politics. The selections thus cover a variety of different styles and venues, as well as spanning the entire course of Andrewes's...


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Archived 2009
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