George Herbert: His Religion and Art

By Joseph H. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Religion

IT is difficult to make our fairly rigid modern conceptions of Puritan and Anglican, or of high, broad, and low, apply to a man who was engaged in no major theological or ceremonial controversies after his university days and who died before 1640. The religious differences in Herbert's lifetime, moreover, were much more complicated than the modern labels indicate. Herbert's great friend Nicholas Ferrar, for example, was by no means generally considered an Anglo-Catholic in his own day, as he is in ours. With the Bible, Foxe Book of Martyrs, and the Prayer Book as his guides, Ferrar attempted to follow scrupulously the doctrines and practices of the Church of England. He was, however, 'torn asunder as with mad horses, or crushed betwixt the upper and under milstone of contrary reports; that he was a Papist, and that he was a Puritan,' and he remarked that 'to fry a Faggot, was not more martyrdome then continuall obloquy.'1 At Little Gidding he strictly celebrated the fasts and held 'Vigils or Night-Watches'; his chapel was elaborately decorated and provided with candles and an organ, and two of his nieces took vows of perpetual virginity. It was little wonder, then, that a hostile pamphlet was addressed to Parliament in 1641 entitled, The Arminian Nunnery: or, A Brief Description & Relation of the late erected Monasticall Place, called the Arminian Nunnery at Little Gidding in Huntingdon-shire. Yet Ferrar was a friend to Bishop Williams as well as Laud, the communion table in his chapel was placed in the 'low' east-west position, and he said, 'I as verily believe the Pope to be Antichrist as any article of my faith.' At least one visitor to Little Gidding described the family as 'orthodox, regular, puritan protestants'; and for the attitude it expresses toward profane literature, Nicholas Ferrar's death-bed statement might have been written by an Anabaptist:

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George Herbert: His Religion and Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • I 9
  • Chapter I- Time and the Temple 11
  • Chapter II- The Life 29
  • Chapter III- Religion 49
  • II 71
  • Chapter IV- The Conception of Form 73
  • Chapter V- The Proper Language 95
  • III 121
  • Chapter VI- The Poem as Hieroglyph 123
  • Chapter VIII- Music 156
  • Appendix A- ''Mr Herbert''s Temple & Church Militant Explained and Improved'' 191
  • Appendix B- Bacon and Herbert 195
  • Abbreviations Used in Notes 198
  • Notes to Chapter I 199
  • Index 239
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