Gifts and Graces: Prayer, Poetry, and Polemic from Lancelot Andrewes to John Bunyan
Published: March 2021© 2021
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 224 Pages
Illustrations: 8 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.25
224 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 0.70 in, 8 b&w illustrations
Prayer divided seventeenth-century England. Anglican Conformists such as Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor upheld set forms of prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, a book designed to unite the nation in worship. Puritan Reformers and Dissenters such as John Milton and John Bunyan rejected the prayer book and advocated for extemporaneous or free prayer. In 1645, the mainly Puritan Long Parliament proscribed the Book of Common Prayer and dismantled the Anglican Church in the midst of civil war. This led Anglican poets and liturgists to defend their tradition with energy and erudition in print. In 1662, with monarchy restored, the mainly Anglican Cavalier Parliament reinstated the Church and its prayer book to impose religious uniformity. This galvanized English Nonconformity and Dissent and gave rise to a vibrant literary counter-tradition.
Addressing this fascinating history, David Gay examines competing claims to spiritual gifts and graces in polemical texts and their influence on prayer and poetry. Amid the contention of differing voices, the disputed connection of poetry and prayer, imagination and religion, emerges as a central tension in early modern literature and culture.
1. Lancelot Andrewes and George Herbert: Where Most Pray
2. Jeremy Taylor: The Blessing of Unity
3. John Milton: The True Model
4. John Bunyan: The Nameless Instrument
"The book offers a clear and judicious account of the polemics of prayer, art, and inspiration so fundamental to the culture of seventeenth-century England. Gay's discussion of this contentious topic is particularly distinguished by the attention paid to preachers and prose writers such as Cranmer, Andrewes, Taylor, and Bunyan, as well as to three major poets of prayer – Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton."Helen Wilcox, professor emerita of English Literature, Bangor University
"Gifts and Graces deftly employs the lens of prayer – ‘the most fundamental religious activity’ – for the illumination of a rich and disparate array of early modern English poetry, from the Book of Common Prayer, Lancelot Andrewes, and George Herbert to the ‘prayers’ of Satan in Paradise Lost and the prayerful defiance of John Bunyan. David Gay's authoritative account is immensely informative and engaging. And for today's reader, his afterword alone is worth the price of admission."Dennis Danielson, professor emeritus of English, University of British Columbia
"In Gifts and Graces, the borderlands between prayer and poetry are as alive with influences and borrowings as they are riven by controversy and division. Gay writes with a command of the languages of scripture, prayer book, and poetic style. In this incisive study, the vernacular prayer book, imbued with biblical language and poetic invention, and meant to unify a nation, becomes a deeply divisive text as the boundaries between prayer and poetry are continually redrawn in early modern England. Well-chosen examples illustrate the contests between artifice and inspiration across ecclesiastical divides, in inner conflicts between priest and poet, and as markers of personal growth."Kathleen Lynch, Executive Director of the Folger Institute, Folger Shakespeare Library