Reference > Cambridge History > Renascence and Reformation > “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity” > Richard Hooker
  The puritan position The preface to the Polity  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XVIII. “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”.

§ 5. Richard Hooker.

Richard Hooker entered the lists almost a generation after the early puritans; and he did so, not so much as a churchman pleading the cause of ecclesiastical authority, as a representative of humanistic Christianity and of the love of intellectual freedom.   14
  The facts of his life can be briefly related from Izaak Walton’s biography—a curious mixture of artless simplicity and consummate art, making the virtues of its subject the more conspicuous by darkening the background of family life and surroundings. Born in 1553, at Heavitree, Exeter, Richard Hooker came of good, though not noble or wealthy, stock, for his uncle John Hooker was a man of some note and chamberlain of Chichester. By the influence of this relative, he obtained the patronage of another Devonian, John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury, and was enabled to enter Corpus Christi College, Oxford, becoming a fellow of the society in 1577. Sandys, then bishop of London, made Hooker tutor to his son Edwin, and he also had charge of George Cranmer, great nephew of the celebrated archbishop. In 1581, when appointed to preach at Paul’s Cross, Hooker, according to his biographer, made the fatal mistake of marrying his landlady’s daughter.
“There is,” to quote Walton’s quaint words, “a wheel within a wheel;” a secret sacred wheel of Providence (most visible in marriages), guided by His hand that “allows not the race to the swift” nor “bread to the wise,” nor good wives to good men: and He that can bring good out of evil (for mortals are blind to this reason) only knows why this blessing was denied to patient Job, to meek Moses, and to our as meek and patient Mr Hooker.”
  In justice to Mrs. Hooker, it may be remarked that she and her family seem to have belonged to the puritan party and, consequently, were extremely obnoxious to the high church friends of her husband, who seems always to have treated her with respect and to have named her executrix in his will. In 1584, Hooker was presented to Drayton Beauchamp in Bucks, then in the diocese of Lincoln, and, in 1585, after some dispute, he was given the mastership of the Temple, where he had his famous controversy with Walter Travers, the reader, “a disciplinarian in his judgment and practice,” who had received only presbyterian ordination at Antwerp. It was at the Temple that Hooker began to plan his great work; and, wearied by his contentions with Travers, whom he admired as a man whilst differing from him as a divine, he petitioned archbishop Whitgift to relieve him of the mastership in order that he might study to complete “a Treatise in which I intend a justification of the Laws of our Ecclesiastical polity.” Accordingly, in 1591, Whitgift preferred him to the rectory of Boscombe, six miles from Salisbury; and, in 1595, queen Elizabeth gave him the living of Bishopsbourne, three miles from Canterbury. The first four books of the Polity were completed at Boscombe and printed in 1594; the fifth appeared in 1597. His health began to fail in the year 1600, in consequence of a cold contracted on a journey by water from London to Gravesend; his will bears date 26 October, 1600, and he probably died in the same year. The sixth and eighth books did not appear till 1648 and 1651, and the seventh was first printed in Gauden’s edition of Hooker’s works in 1662.   16

  The puritan position The preface to the Polity  

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