- Black Bartholomew's Day: Preaching, Polemic and Restoration Nonconformity
This remarkable and excellent book is positioned at the confluence of two recent trends in the history of early modern England: a renewed interest in religion during the Restoration period, and an increasing emphasis on sermons as political texts. As such, it is a major contribution to our understanding of both.
The "black Bartholomew's Day" of the title refers to the date by which Church of England clergy were required to swear the oaths mandated by the Act of Uniformity of 1662. Those who had not done so by that date were to be ejected from their positions. This work is concerned with the farewell sermons that many of these clergy gave in anticipation of their expulsion. By closely analyzing and placing in historical context those sermons which survive in text, manuscript, and [End Page 1015] notes, David Appleby demonstrates not only "that religion remained central to political affairs after 1660" but that despite the mostly peaceful exodus of the dispossessed clergy, "the rhetoric from their pulpits . . . was an obstacle to the complete restoration of monarchical and episcopal authority and, amplified by the process of publication, represented a serious challenge to the new political order" (13).
After an introduction to the events, sources, and historiography of the farewell sermons, Appleby's first chapter explores the ambiguity of those, both clergy and laity, who would "plead political loyalty whilst explaining their nonconformity" (24) in religion. In particular, Appleby notes the "Batholomean" ministers' concern for their local communities, whom they carefully urged to remain in the Church of England, not as capitulation, but as a means of keeping godly religion alive. The second chapter considers the continuing popularity of sermons in Restoration England as well as the sermon as a rhetorical construct, its performance, the means by which sermon-authors sought to reach a wide spectrum of people on a variety of levels, and how the circumstances of the farewell sermons accentuated both public interest in them and their importance.
The third chapter turns to the content of the Batholomean sermons, and here Appleby does some of his best work, decoding the sermon authors' choice of biblical texts to argue that "Biblical citations and Scriptural metaphors were skillfully deployed in the farewell sermons to circumnavigate the power of political and episcopal authority in order to posit criticism and encourage resistance" (119). Yet, for all the sermon authors' skill and confidence that their message would be appropriately understood by their initial auditors, they lost considerable control over their works as the sermons moved into print, the subject of chapter 4. What sermons were selected for publication and compilation with others, how often and in what quantity they were published, were decided by the factors of patronage and the marketplace, and publishers might be more interested in promoting nonconformity per se than the sermons' authors. Thus, while publication was a means for a Bartolomean minister to outlive the "civil death" of his expulsion, a sermon's author might find the perception of his work changed, for example, if in a compilation it was linked to others that were more radical. In the fifth chapter, Appleby considers the responses to the Bartholomean sermons by the establishment. This response, like all attacks on nonconformity, reflected political in-fighting at court as much as ideological outrage, but its very vehemence nonetheless affirmed both the deep hostility towards religious dissent and the political threat such dissent still implied. Finally, after a brief epilogue, a conclusion recapitulates the book's fundamental themes.
Each of these chapters presents a consistently deft and perceptive analysis whose nuances cannot truly be covered within the limits of this review; suffice it to say that the concluding chapter is more necessary in this book than in many others. Throughout the work, Appleby is sensitive to the methodological and other difficulties of his task (for example, what visual and aural aspects of a...