King James I and the Religious Culture of England

Article excerpt

JAMES DOELMAN. King James I and the Religious Culture of England. Woodbridge, Suffolk: O.S. Brewer, 2000. Pp. viii + 184, index. $75.00.

Professor Doelman is a literary scholar and this book comprises a set of essays concerned chiefly with James I himself and different facets of religious writing in the Jacobean period. The discussion of religious literature is, however, carefully set in the historical context. This is an impressive, well-written work. Doelman has examined a range of manuscript and printed primary sources, and a host of modern secondary works. He discusses not only works in English, but also Latin material. Despite the title, the book contains some interesting material on Scotland and James' intellectual concerns before 1603. As Doelman observes, James' outlook was principally forged by "the Protestant understanding of the Bible as it related to kingship, and his experiences as a young king of Scotland" (p. 7).

Doelman begins by examining James and religious ideas concerning monarchy. He investigates James' ideas on kingship, and how he tackled the anti-monarchical passages in I Samuel 8. He looks at the two volumes of verse which James published as king of Scotland, The Essayes of a Prentise in the Divine Art of Poesie (1584) and His Maiesties Poeticall Exercises at Vacant Heures (1591). In later years, James' interest in poetry waned, while his interest in theology increased. Given his publications, when James ascended the English throne some poets hoped for generous patronage if they wrote religious poetry, and accordingly composed sacred verse. They received less than they had anticipated. Doelman also looks at prophetic writings under James-notably those of William Thorne, Henoch Clapham, and George Wither-and at the neo-Latin religious epigrams of Andrew Melville. …


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