Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches, in the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory. Ed. Ian Lancashire. [Renaissance Electronic Texts 1.1.] Toronto: U Toronto [Centre for Computing in the Humanities], 1994. <URL: http://library.utoronto.ca/www/utel/ret/elizhom.html>.
Ronald B. Bond
University of Calgary

Bond, Ronald B. "Review of Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches, in the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory." Early Modern Literary Studies 2.2 (1996): 15.1-9 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/02-2/rev_bon1.html>.

  1. To inaugurate the University of Toronto's Renaissance Electronic Texts series, Ian Lancashire, assisted by Siān Meikle and Claire Smith, have prepared an old-spelling electronic edition of the two books of Tudor homilies, originally published in 1547 and 1563, respectively, and supplemented in 1571 by the fiercely polemical "Homily Against Disobedience and Wilful Rebellion," commissioned by the government of the day as a direct response to the Northern Rebellion. These thirty-three sermons have long been recognized as important documents for the study of fledgling Anglicanism: indeed, they rank with the the Bible in English, the 39 Articles, and the Book of Common Prayer as foundational statements of English Protestant thought. The sermons have also played a leading role in what I will dare to call "cultural studies": because they were official sermons, sponsored by both the religious and the political establishments, and because they were prescribed for delivery throughout the whole of England, Sunday by Sunday, it has been assumed that they exerted considerable influence on Elizabethan culture generally, and its literary culture specifically. Among critics such as Alfred Hart, E.M.W. Tillyard, Peter Milward and Andrew Hadfield, the homilies have been used as touchstones of Elizabethan political, religious, social and ethical thought, and passages in the sermons have been invoked by these and other commentators as sources and analogues for ideas and phrasing in the writing of Shakespeare, Spenser, et al.

  2. As an editor of the first book of homilies and the long sermon "against rebellion" (University of Toronto Press, 1987) and as the author of the entry on "homilies" for The Spenser Encyclopedia, I certainly welcome the appearance of the complete set of official Tudor homilies as an electronic edition. The Renaissance Electronic Texts (RET) series proposes to distinguish three formats for the old-spelling texts to be included in the series: a) the "plain" electronic text (the example currently available through the RET webpage is Raymond Siemens' version of Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabetical (1604) prepared in HTML by series editor Lancashire; b) the electronic edition, complete with introductory material and encoded in Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), according to guidelines developed specially for the RET series as a whole; c) the critical electronic edition, which will provide a textual apparatus, in addition to introductory materials and the encoded text proper. The RET's homilies fall into the second category. It does not provide an apparatus criticus, but it does provide preliminary materials meant to orient the reader to the significance and the nature of the text presented. In this sense it is an electronic edition, not just an unadorned electronic text of the kind that detractors of the Internet sometimes complain about, with justification. In another sense, however, it would be proper to call this an electronic facsimile: when entering the text of the homilies, Lancashire has chosen to follow the facsimile reprint of the University of Kentucky copy of the 1623 edition (STC 13675), selected by Thomas Stroup and Mary Ellen Rickey for their 1968 reproduction in the Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints series (Gainesville, Florida). This 1623 volume, which neither Rickey and Stroup nor Lancashire subject to comparison with other copies, is far from being the editio princeps for either the first (1547) or the second tome (1563), although it does offer the first collected edition of all thirty-three sermons.

  3. The preliminary materials supplied here offer the Internet reader a general orientation to the two books of homilies. A brief "introduction" identifies the collection of sermons as one of the four "pillars" of the English Reformation and as a book that "had a powerful, seminal effect" on English Renaissance literature. A "brief history of the homilies" canvasses the period from 1547, when Thomas Cranmer brought out the first book for Edward VI, to 1662, when Charles II directed preachers to employ the doctrine of the homilies in an effort to strengthen conformity in things religious. Another section describes what little is known and how much has been conjectured about the authorship of the individual sermons in the two books. There is also a highly selective bibliography of books and articles dealing in whole or in part with the homilies. No annotations appear here, though embedded within the textual encoding are expansions of some of the many references made by the homilists to the Bible and to the church fathers.

  4. Readers unfamiliar with the homilies and the various contexts in which they have been situated by ecclesiastical historians and by literary critics will gain from these accounts an impression of why these sermons matter. But I would hesitate to recommend in all respects Lancashire's introductory observations to those eager to study the homilies and their impact seriously. The "introduction" itself contains several highly questionable claims. It is difficult to see how the homilies could be straightforwardly part of a Protestant programme that made "the individual's ability to read and to analyze text" the "sole gateway" to salvation (emphasis mine), when they were based on the biblical notion that "faith cometh by hearing" and since most who became acquainted with them would not have read them, but would rather have heard them. Given the imposition of the homilies on all but a very few preachers, it is also difficult to swallow the assertion that the homilies "render in plain English, simple thoughts about important subjects expressed by thoughtful sixteenth-century clergy who earned, by living itself, the right to say what they thought": it would be more appropriate to associate the homilies with the stifling of the expression of ideas than with its emancipation. Perhaps most unsettling to me are Lancashire's attempts to link the homilies with the major literary artefacts of Elizabethan and Jacobean England: "There are not more moving accounts 'Of good workes' or 'Of Christian love and charity' {sermon titles}. . . than Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a casebook 'Against swearing and periury' and 'Of the declining from GOD'(1.7-8). Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy surely the most cheerful book on that subject ever written, exhorts us 'against the fear of death.'" Even those who do not subscribe to New Historicism will be made uncomfortable by these loose and vague comparisons.

  5. The encoding of this particular text is explained both in a note on "The Electronic Edition" and in an Appendix, which lays out in detail, with illustrations drawn helpfully from the text of the homilies, the procedures developed for the Renaissance Electronic Texts series as a whole. The aim is to reproduce, through tagging, as many of the physical characteristics of the palpable book as possible. As Lancashire puts it,

    The text of the edition is unemended, although typographical errors are identified within tags when I have noticed them. All text in the folio including title-page, printer's business (running titles, signatures, catchwords, etc.) and marginalia, appears as found in the original book. The layout of each book is kept, including lineation, indentation, paragraphing and pagination, but this is managed normally by tagging rather than by trying to replicate the visual look of the text on screen.

  6. Once one understands the intricacies of the tagging scheme (a combination of SGML standards and procedures from the Text-Encoding Initiative, on the one hand, with guidelines designed specifically for the challenges of presenting the early modern texts of the RET, on the other), the precision with which the electronic edition represents the 1623 edition in all of its bibliographical specificity becomes clear. Tagging provides information not only about formes and forme-work; it differentiates various fonts from one another; it positions marginalia exactly as they are located in the Rickey-Stroup facsimile of the 1623 edition. One of the extremely useful features of this edition is its inclusion of substance from both the "text" and the "book," the latter being a broader category, of course, than the former. The electronic edition furnished here is an edition conceived for bibliographers and scholars, not for the general academic reader.

  7. Indeed, that reader, unless already accustomed to deciphering encoded electronic texts, will need to learn afresh how to read. This is an example--from the Homily on Obedience, number 10 in volume one--of what thorough encoding practice yields:
    <ttdv2 n="10" t="sermon"
    <bkdv3 n="3829"><f t="r"><fw t="catch">AN</fw>
    <bkdv2 type="page" n="69" sig=F5v" side="inner" forme="2">
    <bkdv3 n="3830"><fw t="pag">69</fw>
    <bkdv3 n="3831"> <f t="rl"> AN EXHORTATION<f t="r">
    <bkdv3 n="3832"> concerning good Order and obedience
    <bkdv3 n="3833"> <f t="i"> to Rulers and Magistrates.<f
    <ttdv3 n="1" t="part">
    <ttdv4 n="1.10.1-1"> <bkdv3 n="3834"> A<f
    t="bl">Lmighty>ft="bll"> GOD<ft="bl">hath created and ap{\-}
    <ttdv4 n="1.10.1-2"Xbkdv3 n="3835"> pointed all things in heaven,
    earth, and
    <ttdv4 n="1.10.1-3"Xbkdv3 n="3836"> waters, in a most excellent and
    <ttdv4 n="1.10.1-4"Xbkdv3 n="3836"> order. In Heaven, hee hath appointed

    To decode the last five lines only, we learn that a paragraph begins <p> at the fourth level of the text division of the tenth homily of the first book, part one, line one (also described as line 3834 in the third level of the book division). After the initial A (set in font type "block"), the word "Almighty" appears in font type "black-letter" and the word following that, "GOD," appears in font type "black-letter lapidary" meaning that the compositor set it in black-letter type, spaced. The rest of the passage, moving to line 4 of the text of this homily (or line 3837 in the continuous numbering scheme used for the book) proceeds in regular black-letter type with the lineation and hyphenation shown. We are thus able to reconstruct the appearance of the material object we would confront if we were handling this exemplar of the 1623 edition. Bibliographers will note, however, that some useful data is missing: information about paper and watermarks is absent, for example, in the RET's transcription of the homilies.

  8. Notwithstanding my admiration for the painstaking care with which the encoding has been done, I will mention several elements of this electronic "edition" that strike me as problematic. First, it must be noted that with respect to Document Type Definition (DTD), Lancashire simply abandons the field: "I leave it to the individual user to construct a DTD according to the single most important structure for the kind of analysis to be done. SGML does not permit the use of more than one structure at a time, although it does allow two structures to be simultaneously encoded." Second, one wonders why Lancashire, evidently following RET policy, has chosen not to comment editorially on the physical characteristics of the text he has encoded: in the "Homily on Obedience," for example, we find the first par of the running title that occurs on pp. 70 and 71 at "bkdv3n="3871" ("The II. part of the Sermon") and its completion, several screens later, at "bkdv3n="3923" ("of Obedience"); nothing draws the attention of the reader to the fact that this is patently a compositor's error: we are still in the midst of the first part of this sermon. Another troubling element of the edition has to do with inconsistencies in the handling of citations. For the sermons from the first book of homilies, the RET edition tracks citations from Augustine and other authorities to the works from which they come, properly titled and located in the Patrologia Latina or the Patrologia Graeca. A marginal reference to Chrysostom's sermon "de fide, lege, spiritu sancto" in the "Homily on Good Works," for instance, is expanded in the tag to a citation of "Pseudo-Chrysostom, De Fide et Lege Naturae 1 (PG 48.1081-82)". Here, as elsewhere when such expanded references occur, the RET edition of the homilies appears to rely, silently on the 1987 edition of the first book and the "Homily against Rebellion," where the relevant references to the PL and the PG for patristic quotations and allusions were made for the first time. When we come to citations that occur in homilies from the second book (for which no one has yet published information about where to look in the PL and the PG for quotations and their immediate contexts), the practice of the RET changes. In the "Homily on Common Prayer and Sacraments," for example, a marginal reference to "August. de sprititu & anima" appears within the citation tag simply as "Augustine, 'De Spiritu et anima'."

  9. This edition of the homilies reveals the promise of serious editions of Renaissance texts on the Internet. Ian Lancashire (and his editorial board of over a dozen experts in Renaissance literature or computing in the humanities) deserve congratulations for initiating the Renaissance Electronic Texts series auspiciously. What needs to be sorted out now, I believe, is how to produce introductions (and perhaps annotations and commentaries) that match the high quality of the encoded texts: in the case of this facsimile edition, the text proper, presented in a malleable electronic form that holds great potential for attribution studies and other forms of advanced work on the homilies, is more impressive than the supporting material. What also needs to be sorted out is the vexed question of which Renaissance texts lend themselves most readily to electronic versions of the kind RET will be producing. On what criteria did RET choose Shakespeare's Sonnets (1609) as the next text to appear in its series?

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.

© 1996, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).
(September 4, 1996)