George Sandys: Travel, Colonialism, and Tolerance in the Seventeenth Century

By James Ellison | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

ALL of George Sandys's publications were dedicated, with remarkable consistency, to Charles I, and the king rewarded his persistence with a handful of minor rewards: he become a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and obtained important royal patents for the publication of the Ovid and the Psalms. Sandys deserves to be seen as an important poet of the Caroline court, and yet his relationship to that court was equivocal at best. Despite his relatively advanced years (he was fifty-four at the time of the publication of the 1632 Ovid), he adapted comfortably to the new religious ceremonialism being encouraged by Charles and Laud, but retained an independent political stance which saw him accepted more readily by the men of Great Tew than the court. His attitude towards the Personal Rule deteriorated, culminating in the daring publication of Christs Passion (1640), in which criticism of Archbishop Laud is barely concealed. But he was unshakeably loyal to the king: he describes this last work as doing some 'service' to his royal master, giving him important and urgent advice.

Many of Sandys's attitudes can be seen as a direct reaction against his father's beliefs. The brutal, greedy old Calvinist can scarcely have seemed an attractive role-model, and it is no surprise that both George and Sir Edwin Sandys found the opinions of Richard Hooker more congenial. Arminian theology, scepticism, and tolerance were more attractive to them than Genevan predestinarianism. Both brothers were attracted by a more ceremonial and lavish style of church worship, where their father had been one of those Marian exiles who continued to express unhappiness with the level of ornament even in the Elizabethan church: in his will, Archbishop Sandys famously wrote that some of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England 'be not so expedient in this church now, but that in the church reformed ... they may better be disused little by little, than more and more urged'. 1 It is clear that in the case of the Sandys brothers, at least, an attraction to ceremonialism was no relict of crypto-popery or nostalgia for a traditional medieval religion, but a reaction against a starkly Calvinist upbringing. 2

____________________
1
Edwin Sandys, Sermons, p.448.
2
On the current debate among historians about the extent, and origins, of lay support for the

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