Peter McCullough. Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. lx+491pp. ISBN 0 19 818774 2.

Mary Ann Lund
Mansfield College, Oxford

Lund, Mary Ann. "Review of Peter McCullough, Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures." Early Modern Literary Studies 12.3 (January, 2007) 6.1-4<URL:>.

  1. "There be Texts, the right way to consider them, is to take them in pieces": thus Lancelot Andrewes explains his preaching method in his 1609 Christmas sermon before King James at Whitehall, one of ten sermons (there are also two prayers, a lecture and extracts from the posthumously published Pattern of Catechistical Doctrine) to feature in this important new edition by Peter McCullough. The word-by-word and even world-within-word style of analysing texts is the literary characteristic for which Andrewes is most famous, chiefly through T. S. Eliot's influential essay of 1926. In this edition McCullough takes Andrewes's text in pieces too in his substantial and learned commentary (this is the first ever fully annotated edition of Andrewes's writing), revealing the preacher's wide range of allusions to the Bible, the Church Fathers and the classics, along with contemporary sources and resonances. Yet McCullough's greatest achievement is not so much to take apart Andrewes as to present a whole picture of him in a new light: instead of Eliot's distorted depiction of the clergyman, McCullough shows Andrewes as he was known to his contemporaries, revealing more about his style of churchmanship, his complex theology, and his politics, as well as his literary importance.

  2. This method of presentation is partly achieved through the material McCullough selects. There are few of the sermons on the great liturgical festivals, familiar to readers through G. M. Story's 1967 selection and through T. S. Eliot's essay (such as the Christmas 1622 sermon that inspired his "Journey of the Magi"). Instead, the editor's stated intention is to provide "the most comprehensive possible range of date, occasion, place and subject" (xi). Hence the first sermon in the volume shows an Elizabethan Andrewes unknown to most modern readers, preaching in 1588 from the pulpit of one of London's most famous outdoor sermon venues, St. Mary's Hospital (the "Spital") to the City Aldermen. He bravely takes as his text 1 Timothy 6:17-19, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded…" and proceeds in a style which is witty, colloquial and direct, a sign of his aptitude at matching tone to auditory: "He speaketh to the Rich: you know your owne names; you know best, what those rich men are" (42). While most of the other sermons are preached at court, it is pleasing to find one of his parish sermons here (138-45), and a remarkable one at that. For it is in St. Giles's Cripplegate, the church which would become the final resting place of Milton, that Andrewes expounds a eucharistic theology radically different from orthodox English belief in the period, namely that taking the consecrated bread and wine remits sins. The setting is significant here: the editor suggests that the parochial setting allowed Andrewes greater freedom to preach such views than in the "more politically exposed court context" (380). McCullough handles the startling theology revealed in the sermon with precision and a clarity that is helpful for the non-specialist, finding a surprising source (unacknowledged in the sermon) of Andrewes's understanding of the eucharist in the German Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz. Andrewes hence goes much further than his contemporary Richard Hooker in his departure from mainstream English Calvinism.

  3. The decision to select material not solely on the grounds of its literary merit may disappoint some readers, yet the rewards of McCullough's editorial approach are great. For example, the aforementioned parish sermon may at first seem unpromising, the existing text being only a summary gathered from a listener's notes, first published posthumously in 1657. However, the fact that it has never been printed since, not even in the monumental Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology edition of 1841-54, more than justifies the editor's decision to include it on theological grounds. Moreover, the example shows how closely the fields of literature, theology and history relate in religious writing of this period: if, as McCullough claims, there is "only a very small step between Andrewes's understanding of words and of the eucharist" (xxxvi), a sermon on the latter subject can also shed light on Andrewes's views of the power of language.

  4. Another great benefit of this new edition is the insight it gives into sermon performance. There are striking parallels between the textual issues surrounding sermons and those concerning early modern drama, as a glance at some of the textual notes in this volume suggests. In the case of the Spital sermon, a recently-discovered manuscript in St Paul's Cathedral library, reprinted in full as an appendix, provides an intriguing alternative version of the text as delivered in the pulpit. This is one of many instances in which the edition opens up opportunities for further study. McCullough's introduction takes care to highlight the areas in which future research is needed, and it is to be hoped that established academics and graduate students will follow up some of these useful suggestions. For the edition provides not only an essential resource for the study of Andrewes, but also a model of how studies of early modern literature, history, and theology can profitably interact.
Works Cited
  • Eliot, T. S. "Lancelot Andrewes." Times Literary Supplement. 1286 (23 Sept 1926): 621-22. Repr. in For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order. London: Faber & Gwyer, 1928.
  • Story, G. M., ed. Lancelot Andrewes: Sermons. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1967.


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