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The Literary Achievement of King James i Speaking at the University of Cambridge a good many years ago, Professor W.P. Ker assured his audience that King James I had 'abilities which would have entitled him to be a Professor of Literature." Of James's pedagogical bent there has never been any doubt- he has been described as a Scottish dominie at heart. Characteristically, King James, daily visiting his young favourite, Robert Ker, while the young man was recovering from a leg injury, used the opportunity to teach him Latin. But a desire to teach is not enough to create a professor. There is a further consideration: the man must be a publishing scholar. With this in mind, let us consider the bibliography of King James. His Essayes of a Prentise in 1584 and Poetical Exercises in 1591, being mere verse, would be excluded by some austere academics from any professorial bibliography. But His Majesty had more substantial publications . When not yet twenty he wrote his formidable Paraphrase on Revelations, an admirably documented piece of scholarship. In 1597 he published his Daemon%gie, and in 1598 his True Law of Free Monarchies. In 1599 he wrote his Basi/ikon Doran. In 1604 he published his Counterblast to Tobacco, and in 1606 his Ap%gie for the Oath of Allegiance. In 1609 King James published, both in English and in his own Latin translation, his Praemonition to all Christian Monarches. In 1612 he composed in French his weighty Declaration against Vorstius and in 1615, also in French, his Defence of the Rights of Kings. He also wrote a number of lesser pieces. On the whole, this must be accepted as quite an impressive record, especially since, throughout this period, King James was carrying a very considerable administrative load. Moreover, we may note that King James was not only a publishing scholar himself but a cause of publication in other men. He deserves credit for setting the bishops and professors of theology to work on the King James Bible, and he actively encouraged such younger writers as John Donne and Ben Jonson. The purpose of this present essay is to assess the literary achievement of King James himself as a practising man of letters. It may, however, be .. This article was presented, in shortened fonn, as a paper at the 1972 meeting of the Assocation of Canadian Teachers of English in Montreal. UTQ, VDlume XLIV, Number 2, Winter 1975 116 G.P.V. AKRIGG gennane first to take a glance at the family from which he sprang. It is a commonplace of British history that, though the Stuarts were on the whole unsatisfactory politically, where the arts are concerned they were the most gifted royal family ever to possess the throne. Certainly if literary taste and talent are heritable (and a fair bit of evidence suggests that they may be), James might reasonably have been expected to show a flair for literature. In his realm ofScotland, our King was James VIand his Stuart ancestor there, James I, author of The Kingis Quair, was one of the really major Scottish poets. But there is no need to reach that far back for family literary antecedents. james's own mother, Mary Queen of Scots, according to Brantome, delighted in poets and poetry. She wrote poems, in French, herself; and Ronsard, a particular friend of hers, paid tribute to her lines. We are told that King James had in his possession, and 'esteemed as a most precious jewell,' a manuscript of his mother's verses on 'The Institution of a Prince: written in her own hand and bound in a cover decorated with her own meticulous needlework. On his father's side also James came of a literary line. Contemptible as the weak and vicious Lord Darnley may have been as a person, he was the author of poems which Lady Antonia Fraser has recently characterized as 'pleasant .' Darnley's mother, the Countess of Lennox, was, like her daughterin -law, Queen Mary, a poetess. All in all we may say that if genes have anything to do with the matter, James was made for some sort of a career in literature. James Stuart became King...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 115-129
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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