The Protestant Poetics of Acts and Monuments
by Tom Betteridge

Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) is a parodic history of Jack Wilton, a fictional courtier from the reign of Henry VIII. In the dedication to Lord Henry Wriothesley, Nashe claims that all he can promise in this 'fantastical treatise' is 'some reasonable conveyance of history and variety of mirth'.[1] Nashe's dedication is followed by an introduction addressed to Jack Wilton's fellow pages of the court instructing them how to treat The Unfortunate Traveller. They are told to challenge any who despise Wilton's treatise, swear on nothing 'but this chronicle of the King of Pages' and 'play with false dice in a corner on the cover of this foresaid Acts and Monuments'.[2] Wilton then goes on to ask his readers 'what stratagemical acts and monuments do you thinke an ingenious infant of my years might enact?'[3] These references to John Foxe's Acts and Monuments are designed to position Nashe's text alongside Foxe's work and suggest that one reading of The Unfortunate Traveller is as a humorous parody of Acts and Monuments.[4] That Nashe regarded this as even a possibility, despite the apparently insurmountable differences between his work and Foxe's, reflects the extent to which Nashe thought his The Unfortunate Traveller shared sufficient generic matter with Acts and Monuments for his readers to accept the possibility that they could be humorously compared.

And Nashe was undoubtedly right. At a relatively prosaic level stories like that of the duchess of Suffolk's escape from Mary Tudor's regime or the tales of the awful fates that befell some of the Marian persecutors that form such a memorable part of the later editions of Acts and Monuments can clearly be seen as precursors to Jack Wilton's fantastical tales and ingenious stories. More significantly, at the level of form The Unfortunate Traveller parodies the humanist emphasis on narrative order as the signifier of textual authority.[5] In The Unfortunate Traveller order is produced through parody; Wilton is a parodic humanist scholar, a traveller and historian whose narrative orders his knowledge not for the general good but for pleasure and profit. In these terms Wilton's and Nashe's agenda could not have been more different to that of Foxe.

Foxe's humanism in Acts and Monuments is centred upon the production of discursive authenticity through the accumulation of privileged textual moments.[6] Patrick Collinson has suggested that '' in the English reformation life itself in the sense of character was more persuasive than doctrine, or than anything put into writing, except the English Bible'.[7] In Acts and Monuments character is represented as inherently Protestant and is represented through humanist tropes that emphasise the collective nature of reading and the production of knowledge. Foxe creates in his work an image of Protestant selfhood and history that is centred on the twin ideals of order and coherence. Foxe's text is a lesson in godly reading which it constructs as synonymous with Protestant reason; reading Acts and Monuments 'properly' means participating in the ordered textual community that was magisterial English Protestantism.[8] Foxe, however, does not leave the reader entirely free to choose how they read Acts and Monuments. Not only does he shape the text so that it tells his readers how they should read; he also rules out readings which he associates with popery.[9] Papistry, in Acts and Monuments, threatens the narrative order of Foxe's text and the totality of the work's truth. It tempts the reader into moments of rushed reading that stall the work's plot or offers readers the pleasure of losing themselves in a maze of textual complexity and linguistic trickery. Acts and Monuments is a godly textual space. It is threatened from without, and from within, by papistry, and its boundaries provided the basic poetic coordinates for the work of writers such as Edmund Spenser, George Herbert and John Milton.

Part 1: Decorum and reading in Acts and Monuments.

Acts and Monuments seeks to create an English Protestant textual community, one of whose key characteristics is its ability to police its own boundaries. Foxe's work is a lesson in committed, godly Protestant reading. This is one reason why Foxe is usually careful to foreground for his readers his authorial and editorial presence within the text. Acts and Monuments is an authored text that seeks to include its readers within the authorial function.[10] It demands to be read actively.[11] Foxe's lesson in reading circles around a number of key issues within magisterial English Protestantism. In particular, in Acts and Monuments Foxe creates a model of ordered or decorous reading as a bulwark against religious radicalism and popish corruption. To read Acts and Monuments properly is to identify with Foxe's magisterial Protestantism against popery, which in turn means rejecting the temptation of reading without care or decorum.

The idea that decorum could be seen as an important aspect of Foxe's Protestant poetics in Acts and Monuments was suggested by Patrick Collinson in 1985 who commented that an

analysis of Foxe's rhetorical and polemical art ' might depict a style in transition from the racy vulgarity of many of his sources and of his more polemical passages to the decorousness of a text designed for the edification of what Louis B Wright called Elizabethan 'middle-class culture.[12]

There are two sides to decorousness in Acts and Monuments ' textual and interpretative. Foxe consistently invites his readers to adopt a decorous approach to their reading of Acts and Monuments. In particular, Foxe invites his readers to read in such way that they respect the religious boundaries of his work. At the same time that idea of decorous reading clearly has important ideological implications. Decorum as a concept suggests a set of rules or boundaries that have a clear class inflection but which are also unwritten and can be learnt. Indeed there is a level at which real decorum can only come from within and can therefore be seen as a potentially levelling ideal, albeit within specific class or social boundaries.[13] In particular, decorum could at once legitimatise resistance to worldly powers while simultaneously rendering such resistance inherently passive. For example, Foxe in his account of the trial of John Lambert presents Henry VIII as a hectoring bully not in control of the situation or his own emotions. It is Lambert who in this story is persistently represented as decorous in comparison with Henry's violent angry behaviour.

Then the kyng, with an angry voyce, interruptyng his [Lambert's] Oration: I came not hether [said he] to heare mine owne prayses paynted out in my presence, but briefly go to the matter, without any more circumstance. This he spake in Latine. But Lambert beinge abashed at the kinges angrye wordes, contrary to all mens expectation, stayd a while consideryng whether he might turne him selfe in these great straites and extremeties. But the king being hasty, with anger [and] vehemency sayd: why standest thou still? Answere as touchynge the Sacrament of the Altar, whether doost thou saye, that it is the body of Christ, or wilt denye it?[14]

This passage is clearly designed to encourage the reader to identify with Lambert. It effectively poses the question 'how would one react if one were in a similar situation?' It advances Lambert's quiet dignity as an appropriate role model against Henry's violence. This has the important effect of removing any taint of political radicalism from Lambert. Lambert's decorous behaviour signifies the truth of his Protestantism and at the same time renders his resistance to Henry's worldly authority acceptable within a magisterial perspective. In Acts and Monuments decorum means respecting the unspoken political and social boundaries of magisterial English Protestantism and in poetic terms it means texts that are distinguished by their plainness and self-reflective facticity; above all it means texts whose conclusion appears to arise naturally from the telling, from the ordering of the narrative.[15]

This was particularly the case in relation to the representation of the martyrs and their lives in Acts and Monuments. Deploying methods identical to those used by the various Tudor biographers of Sir Thomas More, Foxe constructs his martyrs as people whose lives were inherently decorous in terms of the relationship between public and private personas.[16] The substantial lives of the key Marian martyrs that form such an important part of Acts and Monuments can be read as self-fashioning narratives in which the truth of the Protestant martyr's selfhood is produced, in exemplary humanist fashion, through narration. In particular, while the truth of the lives of men like Hugh Latimer or John Hooper is ultimately their status as martyrs the reader is encouraged to see this truth as residing within the textual community of magisterial English Protestantism; their martyrdoms are not the end of their self-fashioning. There is no sudden or miraculous moment of truth rather the moment of martyrdom is the central act in a narrative that in its totality produces the truth of Latimer's and Hooper's life. The concluding truth of the character of Foxe's martyrs is located in Acts and Monuments not in their bodily suffering alone but instead in the totality of their lives as narrated and ordered by Foxe.[17]

The other side to the emphasis on decorum in Acts and Monuments is the use of indecorous language or writing to represent papistry. Foxe draws a distinction in his work between texts that are decorous, ordered, bounded and controlled and those that are not. As has been suggested, the latter are associated in Acts and Monuments with popery. For example, at the beginning of his account of Mary's reign in the 1563 edition of Acts and Monuments Foxe writes that he has decided to 'set forth to the reader the great absurditie, wicked abuse, and perilous idolatory of the Popish masse, declaring how [ and ] by whome it came in'.[18] Foxe concludes this detailed account by commenting:

or what terme soeuer it be els, either Laten, Siria[n], Doutch, or French: or how so euer els it taketh his appellation, as there is no certainty emonges the[m]selues that most magnify the masse, so it is no matter to us that sta[n]d against it.[19]

The mass represents for Foxe, as it did for earlier Protestant writers, the absurdity of papist thinking. In particular, what Foxe stages at this moment for the benefit of his readers is the temporary infection of Acts and Monuments itself by the nonsense of the mass and, by implication, popery. What is the end result of all Foxe's detailed and apparently scholarly discussion of the etymology of the mass? - nothing, nonsense, a mass of words. This passage demonstrates the extent to which Foxe is prepared to produce indecorous texts, 'papist' writing, in order to teach his readers how to read with decorum; to teach them to recognise and avoid texts that lack decorum and which encourage the reader to lose themselves in textual complexity and linguistic trickery.[20]

The nature of decorous reading in Acts and Monuments can be further illustrated by looking at the strange collection of texts that Foxe placed in the 1570 edition of Acts and Monuments between the Introductory material and the main body of the work. Foxe entitled this section, 'Certaine Cautions of the Author to the Reader, of thynges to be considered in readyng this story'.[21] In transpires, however, that this section amounts to a collection of things that readers should not 'consider' when reading Acts and Monuments. This strangely peripheral and at the same time integral section is made up of a collection of brief comments, short stories and corrections of fact. A number of these items concern the duke of Somerset, and one in particular reflects Foxe's anxieties over how his work might be misunderstood.

Ite[m], here also is to be noted touching [that] sayd Duke of Somerset, that albeit at hys death relation is made of a sodeine fallyng of the people, as was at the takyng of Christ, this is not to be expounded as though I compared in any part the Duke of Somerset with Christ.[22]

This comment is a typical piece of Foxian writing since it seems to invite precisely the reading that it then rules out of bounds. It repeats the story that the crowd at Somerset's execution suddenly fell down and then rules out of bounds an obvious explanation for this inexplicable event. If Foxe was so concerned with the way this story was understood surely the obvious thing to do was not to repeat it.[23] The use of the word 'expounded' is important here, however, since it suggests that Foxe's concern is not only with how the story itself is understood but also how its meaning might be expanded upon and taught. In particular, Foxe appears to be worried that the Biblical echoes that clearly exist in the story of the crowd's reaction to Somerset's execution will lead readers to rush to an inappropriate, almost sacrilegious, reading. In these terms this passage can be read as a lesson in reading. Foxe does not critique the story itself, despite the fact that it appears to invite precisely the reading that he then rules out of bounds; rather he is concerned with how readers expound it. In particular, Foxe's anxiety is that readers will misunderstand the nature of a traumatic event from the reign of Edward VI.

Foxe's repetition of this story and his worries over how it was understood can be related to the emergence of the earl of Leicester, the son of the man most responsible for Somerset's death, as a leading member of the Elizabethan regime. It is also important, however, to note that Foxe's concern to include as much detail as possible regarding the history of Somerset's regime, and in particular his fall, despite its potentially problematic status in an Elizabethan context, stands in marked contrast to his treatment of other events from the Edwardian period. In particular, Foxe's account of the troubles of the spring and summer of 1549 seems designed to obscure rather than illuminate the immediate causes of Somerset's fall. In all the English editions of Acts and Monuments Foxe's account of the popular rebellions and demonstrations that convulsed much of southern, eastern and western England in 1549 focuses disproportionately on the 'catholic' Western Rebellion.[24] The wide-spread popular demonstrations that took place across southern and eastern England at the same time, and are now inaccurately referred to as Kett's Rebellion, almost completely disappear from the history of English Protestantism as represented in Acts and Monuments.[25]Significantly Foxe gives considerable space to an extremely minor disturbance that took place in Yorkshire at this time. The only real comment that Foxe makes on the popular demonstrations now known as Kett's Rebellion is to suggest that initially the Western Rebels hoped to get help from them, but on finding that their 'cause beyng but the onely the plucking down of enclosures and enlarging of commons', they were disappointed.[26] In 1570 Foxe persisted in staging a return to a traumatic aspect of Edward's reign, the fall of Somerset, despite the problems that this potentially caused in an Elizabethan context and at the same time repeated Acts and Monuments' almost total erasure from the historical record of the really traumatic event of 1549 for magisterial English Protestantism ' Kett's Rebellion.[27]

It is possible that the reason the image of the people falling down at Somerset's execution caused Foxe such concern was that it allowed the emergence of a potentially positive image of mass popular action in the context of Edward's reign. Foxe's concerns that the story of the events at Somerset's execution might be misunderstood in religious terms can therefore be seen as obscuring a far more worrying and radical 'missreading' of the Edwardian Reformation ' that during Edward's reign the people almost wrenched control of the process of religious reform and renewal from the magistrates and clergy, and that they did so largely in the name of Protestantism.[28] A decorous reading of this story treads the tight-rope between two potentially dangerous missreadings ' a religious one that rushes to see a parallel between Somerset and Christ and a political one that sees the action of the crowd at Somerset's funeral as a positive image of mass popular political activity in the context of the Edwardian Reformation. But these two potential readings are not given even weight by Foxe. Interestingly it is the religious one that he explicitly foregrounds and disowns while the political one is not even mentioned or noted.

The final piece included in this section of Acts and Monuments is the story of 'one Laremouth, omitted in the body of the History'. Foxe's concerns are still with the problem of reading, albeit in a different context. Foxe comments that:

Albeit I am loth to insert any thing in this booke which may seme incredible or straunge to ordinary working, for quarrelling aduersaries, which do nothing but spie what they may cauil: yet forsomuch as besides other reporters the person is yet aliue, called Thorne, a godly minister, which heard it of the mouth of the partie himself, I thought therfore first for the incredible strangenes therof, neither to place this story in the body of these Acts and Monuments, and yet in some outcorner of the boke not utterly to passe it untouched, for the reader to consider it, and credit it as he seeth cause.[29]

What is noticeable about this passage is Foxe's concern to place the story of Laremouth outside the body of his work but not to exclude it entirely. He therefore puts it in an 'outcorner' and invites the reader to judge it themselves. There are two contradictory pressures at work in this moment. One is Foxe's desire for Acts and Monuments to be a complete and total account of the suffering of English Protestants which runs throughout the text. Consistently Foxe includes details purely in order to achieve completeness. In particular, when it comes to listing martyrs and their suffering, Foxe's policy is to mention people even when he only has the bare details.[30] The other pressure at work at this moment is reflected by the evocation, in the first line of this passage, of 'quarrelling adversities' who Foxe is concerned will use the story of Laremouth's escape to discredit the whole of Acts and Monuments. It is their existence that makes Foxe anxious to protect his work from being undermined or infected with anything 'incredible or strange'.

This in itself seems an incredible concern given the many stories of heroism and courage that Foxe does include in his work. Foxe's emphasis on the strangeness of Laremouth's story and its possible effect on the rest of Acts and Monuments is telling since what it indicates is the extent to which for Foxe the problem with this story is not simply one of veracity. Indeed, at one level the source given by Foxe for this story, godly Minister Thorne, is rather good, particularly in comparison with the sources of some of the stories that Foxe prints without comment in the main body of his work. Foxe's concern with Laremouth's story is that it might infect Acts and Monuments with untruth, not because it is untruthful itself but because of the kind of reading it might incite or encourage. For Foxe, inserting Laremouth's strange story into Acts and Monuments might lead to the whole text being rendered strange; that the strange story of the escape of Laremouth might, like a kind of textual leprosy, infect the whole of Foxe's text, undermining its truthfulness and opening it to attack by the quarrelling adversaries. Indeed the worrying possibility that Foxe accepts in this passage is that Acts and Monuments might not only become infected but that it might itself become a source of infection. In other words, and bizarrely to modern readers, Foxe's concern in this passage is that the story of Laremouth's escape, if it is given unambiguous endorsement by being inserted into the main body of Acts and Monuments, might infect the whole text so that instead of producing godly Protestant readers it ends up producing papists ' people infected with the same untruth that sustains the quarrelling adversaries. The metaphor of textual infection that underpins Foxe's concerns about the story of Laremouth's escape, his concern the readers and indeed the text of Acts and Monuments itself might become infected by the strangeness of this story, reflects the extent to which Foxe is drawing at this moment on a specifically magisterial Protestant fear of popish textual corruption. Early English Protestant writers like John Bale, when developing popery as a concept, drew on existing understandings of heresy and gave them a particular twist. In the same way that heresy was often conceived as a disease, so writers like Bale represented popery as a form of infection.[31] In particular, English Protestant writers developed the idea that a key symptom of popery was textual corruption and that popish writing combined protean textuality with complexity in a mix that was ultimately meaningless; popish texts for writers like Bale were voluminous, fantastical, seductive and pointless.

For Foxe the danger that Laremouth's story represents is that it might render the whole of Acts and Monuments meaningless. On the surface, however, it is not immediately apparent what it was that Foxe found so worrying in the story of Laremouth's escape.

There was one Laremouth ' to who[m] being in prison in Q.Maryes daies, it was sayd, as he thought, thus soundyng in hys eares: arise and go thy wayes. Whereunto when he gaue no great hede at the first, the second tyme it was sayd to him agayne in the same wordes. Upon this as he fell to his prayers, it was sayd the thyrd time likewise to hym, arise and go thy way, which was about half an houre after. So he arisyng upon the same, immediately a peece of the prison walle fell downe, and as the officers came in at the outward gate of the Castle or prison, he leaping ouer the dich escaped: and in the way metyng a certaine beggar, chaunged his coate with him, and commyng to the Sea shore, where he founde a vessell ready to go ouer, was taken in, and escaped the search, which was straitly layd for hym in all the countrey ouer.[32]

This seems a pretty straightforward piece of Protestant heroism. However, it may well have been precisely this passage's transparency that is the problem. In particular, Laremouth's escape contains a number of tropes that are Biblical but also would not be out of the place in a traditional saint's life. For example, the fact that Laremouth was 'called' three times invokes Peter's three times denial of Christ while the appearance of the fortuitous beggar, and the ship that just happened to be waiting for him, seems akin to the kind of direct divine intervention that occurred in the stories that filled the saints' stories in The Golden Legend. Foxe's concern that this story could undermine the truthfulness of the rest of his book may ironically be a product of its evocation of Biblical tropes in a contemporary setting. In other words, the real problem with the story of Laremouth's delivery from persecution during the reign of Mary Tudor is that it is too obvious; that its transparency creates the possibility that the quarrelling adversaries will see the story of Laremouth's escape as ridiculous in its strangeness while others will read it uncritically as if one could expect God to act in the here and now as he used to in the old saints' tales.

It is important to note, however, that despite his concerns over this story Foxe prints it, albeit in an outcorner of this edition of Acts and Monuments. As has been suggested, this can partly be accounted for by Foxe's desire to make his work as inclusive as possible. It is also, however, a product of the Protestant poetics of Acts and Monuments. At the end of the passage where Foxe discusses his concerns regarding the story of Laremouth, he comments that he decided in the end to print it 'for the reader to consider it, and credit it as he seethe cause'. Ultimately, despite all his worries about the potentially dangerous effects of the story on the integrity of Acts and Monuments, Foxe is prepared to trust his readers to use their judgement. It is to his reader's reason that Foxe turns for a vaccine against the diseases that Laremouth's story could produce within the body of Acts and Monuments. The printing of the story of Laremouth and his miraculous escape is an act of faith by Foxe in his readers as a decorous textual community. He trusts them to resist the temptation, that was also central to his concern over how the story of the reaction of the crowd at Somerset's' execution was expounded, to read uncritically, to see or read too quickly the miraculous. Acts and Monuments is a text that is consistently aware of its own seductiveness and of the desire of the unwary, the unlearned, but also the wicked, for texts that allow, indeed incite, them to lose themselves in their fantastical coils and sinful webs. Reading with decorum not only protects the reader from the dangers of indecorous reading but also innoculates Acts and Monuments itself from either susceptibility to the disease of popery or, even worse, becoming itself a carrier of popish infection.

Part 2. Foxe's Edwardian Poetics

Foxe's construction of infected or indecorous reading in Acts and Monuments reflects the work's Edwardian roots ' positive and negative. From a positive perspective the Edwardian Reformation saw the emergence of an English Protestant poetics committed to the idea of active reading as an essential part of reformation.[33] Writers like Robert Crowley and John Bale invited their readers actively to engage in the process of creating a godly Protestant England. Foxe shares this commitment but his work is also scarred by the effects of the popular revolts that took place in 1549. Decorum in Acts and Monuments mark the trauma of 1549 for magisterial English Protestantism.

Acts and Monuments' Edwardian provenance can be best illustrated by examining the influence of Bale and Crowley on Foxe's work. A central element in Crowley's religious and poetic agenda was the linking of a particular model of reading to the progress of Reformation. In his introduction to his edition of Piers Plowman, Crowley comments that:

The English is according to the tyme it was written in, and the sense somewhat darke, but not so harde, but that it maye be understoode of such as wyll not stick to breake the shell of the nutte for the kernelles sake.[34]

Crowley is advocating in this passage a kind of iconoclastic reading in which the surface of the text is simply a redundant shell to be smashed and discarded.[35] In the process he is deploying a metaphoric understanding of reading, 'breaking the shell of the text to reach the kernel of meaning' that had a long tradition within the western church stretching back to Augustine.[36]

Crowley's Edwardian work foregrounds meaning over form in its plain style and assertive narrative voice. For example, in his Epigrammes Crowley produced radical poetic texts that seek to deny their status as poetry. The collection opens with a short poem entitled, 'The Boke to the Reader'.

If bokes may be bolde
To blame and reprove
The faultes of all menne,
Both hyghe and lowe,
As the Prophetes dyd
Whom Gods Spirite did move,
Than blame not myne Autor:
For right wel I know
Hys penne is not tempered
Vayne doctrine to sowe

The epigrams that follow this claim to prophetic authority amount to a radical critique of Edwardian society. In particular, Crowley does not spare his fellow Protestants and in the first epigram in the collection, 'Of Abbayes', roundly criticises the use made of the money looted from the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. There are two sides to Crowley's Edwardian poetic agenda. The first and most obvious one is his assumption of a prophetic voice calling the people of England to repent. His poetry, and indeed his prose, is written in a plain direct style both in order to ensure that it can be readily understood and to exemplify godly Protestant writing. It is plain and simple because its doctrine, unlike that of the papists, does not require textual complexity and rhetorical flourishes; its truth speaks for itself while popery's truthlessness needs to be hidden in poetic conceits and textual play.

This plainness, however, does raise a problem in terms of Crowley's other aim, which is to teach his readers to be active, Protestant readers. One can hardly smash the shell of a Crowley poem to find its meaning, since its form seems designed to subvert the very idea that it might contain different levels of meaning. Despite the assertiveness of its narrative voice, the poem 'The Boke to the Reader' is an exercise in authorial negation. It works to deny any sense that Crowley's authorship should be seen as individualistic or personal. The book's equation of Crowley with the prophets is designed to remind readers of other voices in the wilderness who spoke God's word. What is being denied here is the status of Crowley as a poet as opposed to Crowley the preacher who happens to write in verse. But at one level the more effective Crowley's voice is, the less scope there is for his readers to exercise their minds ' to read actively and iconoclastically. There is therefore a tension in Crowley's work between his skills as a poet and the desire to force his readers to use their own reason; the more successfully his texts work as poems the less incentive there is for active reading. This tension is unresolved in Crowley's work and is a recurrent source of tension within English Protestant writing.[38]

The other mid-Tudor writer who had an important influence on Foxe's work was of course John Bale. There has been considerable work on the influence that Bale had on Foxe, particular in terms of historiography and apocalyptic thinking, but less attention has been paid to the older man's poetic influence on his younger colleague.[39] In his play The Comedy of the Three Laws, Bale dramatises the corruption of Nature's, Moses' and Christ's law by papist vices. What makes this play exemplary in terms of mid-Tudor Protestant poetic is the deployment of the grammatical metaphor to represent the vices as people whose language, in its aimless, pointless superfluity and protean productivity, signifies their corruption.[40] When Naturea Lex (Nature's Law) first meets the vice Infidelitas he tells the vice that,

Ye are dysposed to dallye,
To leape and oversallye
The compasse of your wytte
I counsell ye yet in season
Sumwhat to folowe reason,
And gnawe upon the bytte

Naturea Lex is clearly right. After all he is referring to a vice who entered the stage singing a piece of doggerel nonsense.

Brom, brom, brom, brom, brom.
Bye brom, bye, bye

What Naturea Lex fails to realise is that this nonsensical language is one of the vices' chief weapons in their attempt to pervert God's teaching. For example, the vice Idolotaria tells her colleagues that one way she works is to charm young children,

With whysperynges and wysshynges,
With crossynges and with kyssynges,
With blasynges and with blessynges

The important thing to note here is that the internal rhymes that make up Idolotaria's speech have a specific polemical intention which is to create the image of papist language that privileges the sound of words above their meaning; the shell over the nut. Indeed it would be hard to find the kernel of Idolotaria's words. Papist language in Bale's work, and in these terms it is exemplary of Edwardian representations of papistry (and indeed Marian Catholic representations of heresy), has no kernel. It is simply endless, protean, textual husk.

Bale's and Crowley's work needs to be seen in the context of the Edwardian regime's use of print to support its religious policies. For example in 1548 the regime mounted a sustained and very public campaign against the mass. Dickie Spurgeon has estimated that in this year 27 works were published attacking the mass. What is noticeable about these works is the range of different genres deployed and their consistent use of theatrical imagery. For example William Punt's A Newe dialogue called the endightment agaynst mother Messe deploys a judicial form that seems to call out to be performed as a court room drama.[44] It is important to note moreover the reference in the title of Punt's work to Mother Messe not mass. This reflects the extent to which Edwardian Protestant writers consistently constructed the Mass as the exemplary empty papist sign. A 'thing', or rather a non-thing, that embodied the sterile, protean productivity of papists' signs, their production of a mass of mess, of words, things, and signs that simply filled the space of religion with a meaningless babble. The anti-mass writings of 1548 consistently invited, indeed demanded, that their readers participate in the exposure and condemnation of the mass as a false, empty, corrupt sign.

The large-scale publication of anti-mass works in 1548 formed part of the campaign to prepare the country for the issuing of Archbishop Cranmer's first prayer book in the following year. This high-point of the Edwardian Reformation was, however, almost instantly over-shadowed by the outbreak of serious rebellion in the south west and the eruption of mass popular demonstrations across the south-east. It is impossible to exaggerate the impact of these events, and particularly the latter on English magisterial Protestantism. Suddenly the honest ploughmen that filled Protestant polemical writing emerged from the printed page and demanded to be heard. Even worse, this unexpected turn of events was precisely what writers like Crowley and the authors of the anti-mass works had effectively been calling for. Were not Crowley's and Bale's works one long incitement to the 'people' to take part in reformation? Did not the anti-mass works of 1548 invite their readers to participate in the process of exposing the mass as a fraud? 1549 meant that magisterial English Protestantism would in the future be very careful not to give the impression that the people themselves should take part in the process of Reformation.

Foxe was committed to the same kind of iconoclastic reading as Crowley and shared the Edwardian writer's aspiration to produce prophetic texts that called the country to reform. This is clearly reflected in Foxe's careful placing of the story of Laremouth into the public sphere to be judged. At the same time, like the anti-mass works of 1548, Acts and Monuments asks its readers to participate in its production of the history. In the case of Laremouth's escape Foxe explicitly asks his readers to use their judgement. Acts and Monuments also deploys the idea of papist language as an empty meaningless babble. In particular, Foxe equates papistry, as did writers like Bale, with textuality, with an inappropriate emphasis on the surface of the text; a desire to lose oneself in the sound, appearance and materiality of a text rather than to smash this seductive shell in pursuit of the hard, tough, unattractive nut of truth. It is this danger that Foxe sees as lurking in the margins of the Laremouth story - that the surface meaning of the story, its apparent echoing of Biblical and hagiographic tropes, will seduce the reader into a surface reading of not only this short text but the whole of Acts and Monuments. On the other hand the events of 1549 left a scar on Foxe's work that goes beyond his decision to erase them almost completely from the record. Their effect is felt most clearly in the use Foxe makes of humanist tropes in the construction of the lives of his Protestant heroes and his valorisation of narrative order in terms of the production of truth. Acts and Monuments is a decorous text and its emphasis on decorum is a coded expression of magisterial English Protestant class anxiety and its fear of popular religious excess.

Part 3. Genres, readers, and decorum in Acts and Monuments.

Acts and Monuments asks its readers to participate in its production of the history. In the case of Laremouth's escape Foxe explicitly asks his readers to use their judgment in order to produce the truth from the facts and, by implication, fiction that the story contains. Foxe equates papistry, as did Bale, with textuality and fictionality, with an inappropriate emphasis on the surface of the text. It is this danger that Foxe sees as lurking in the margins of the Laremouth story. That the surface meaning of the story, its apparent echoing of Biblical and hagiographic tropes, will seduce the reader into a superficial potentially 'popish' reading of not only this short text but the whole of Acts and Monuments.

Despite these concerns, however, Foxe consistently deploys the tension between truth and papistry throughout Acts and Monuments. This is entirely self-conscious. The emergence of papist language, passages that foreground the materiality of the text, is in Foxe's work a signifier of popery. This can be illustrated by looking at a key moment in Acts and Monuments, the fall of Northumberland and Mary Tudor's succession. Given that Mary came to the throne as the result of the only successful popular revolt in the sixteenth century and that the attempt to bar her from the throne was deeply problematic for magisterial English Protestants, it is perhaps not surprising to find that Foxe treats the events of the spring of 1553 with caution. Foxe opens his account by describing how Mary was protected by East Anglian Protestants and that it was only their help that enabled her to defeat Northumberland. He comments that:

Mary being guarded with the power of the Gospellers, did vanquish the duke, and all those that came against her. In consideration whereof, it was (me thinks) an heavy word that she answered to the Suffolke men afterwards, whych dyd make supplication unto her grace to perform her promise [not to restore Catholicism]: For so much (sayth she) as you being members, desire to rule your heade, you shall one day well perceiue that members must obey theyr head, and not looke to beare rule over [the] same.[45]

This passage subtly suggests that Mary was a tyrant. This is partly achieved through the use of the phrase 'heavy word', but more importantly through Mary's alleged interpretation of the proverb of the body politic and its members. When Mary is portrayed by Foxe deploying the metaphor of the body politic to assert hierarchy and close debate, he aligns her with a particularly conservative understanding of the relationship between the various parts of the body politic.[46]At a more conceptual level, the model of political discourse that Foxe depicts Mary as deploying in this passage is clearly potentially tyrannical. The attempt to close down the meaning of the proverbial metaphor of the body politic needs to be understood against an alternative Erasmian emphasis on proverbs as embodying an inherently communal wisdom based upon their plurality of meanings.[47] Mary's heavy word cuts off the supplication of the gospel men and seeks to close down the space of the political through a particular, and in some ways counterintuitive, reading of the relationship between the parts of the body politic.

Given the way in which he constructs the nature of Mary's queenship, how does Foxe explain her succession to the throne? Interestingly Foxe places his account of the fall of Northumberland's regime after the passage in which Mary disappoints the Sussex men. This ordering invites the readership to see a connection between the kind of queen Mary was and the events that led up to her succession which a simple narrative account would not have emphasised in the same way. Foxe writes that Mary, having gathered her supporters,

On the contrary side, the Duke of Northumberland having hys warrant under the broad Seele with all furniture in a readiness, as hee tooke his viage and was now forward in hys way, what ado there was, what styring on every side, what sendyng, what ridyng and posting, what letters, messages, and instructions went to and fro, what talking among souldiours, what heartburning among the people, what fair pretences outwardly, inwardly what privy fantasies there were, what speeding of Ordinance dayly and hourly out of the Tower, what rumours and coming down of soldiours fro[m] all quarters there was, a world it was to see [and] a process to declare, enough to make a whole Ilias.[48]

It is necessary to quote this passage at length because it is a perfect illustration of the way Foxe is prepared to produce 'popish' writing in order to teach his readers a lesson. The reader is clearly not meant to read this passage as factual. This is not to suggest that there are not facts in this passage, and indeed there is one clear fact which is that Northumberland was acting under the broad seal. The point of this passage is to equate the fall of Northumberland, and Mary's victory, with the emergence of a particular kind of fictionality and a particular kind of in-decorous textuality. The real political events and failures that led to Northumberland's fall are obscured in Foxe's account, in historical and textual terms, by a metaphoric list that starts with the Great Seal and ends with the Iliad. Historical causation is located in this passage not in the facts, which completely disappear under the weight of Foxe's repetitious rhythmic prose. Mary's succession is produced by confusion and leads to the infection of Foxe's text with papist fictionality and textual play. The return of Catholicism is represented here as a fall into textuality, a world of rumour and deception, where words and texts spill beyond their proper limits, and in the process the cause of Northumberland's 'fall' is obscured. By the time the reader has reached the end of this passage one is left with the clear impression that something has gone wrong but no real explanation beyond a general sense of confusion and betrayal.[49]

There are of course a number of obvious reasons why the last thing that Foxe would want to do at this point in his narrative was to explain the fall of Northumberland, but what is important to note is the specific textual strategy that Foxe adopts in order to avoid the danger of historical causation.[50] After all, there were any number of strategies that Foxe could have deployed here to avoid giving too much detail about an event that could not but have reflected badly on English Protestantism. His decision to represent Northumberland's fall in textual terms relates directly to the polemical and political agenda of Acts and Monuments. Given the tradition within which Foxe is writing, the form of this passage can clearly be seen as designed to encourage the reader to see Mary's succession as a product of papist plotting and betrayal. In this context Foxe's decision not explicitly to name the cause of the confusion that enveloped Northumberland serves the purpose of placing the reader of Acts and Monuments in the privileged position of applying the missing cause or term. In other words, what Foxe does in this passage is deploy language that looks popish and then leaves his readers with the job of providing historical explanation.[51] At the same time it is important not to miss the potentially radical implications of Foxe's account of Mary's succession and Northumberland's fall. Like other early Elizabethan texts, the Mirror for Magistrates being the best example, Acts and Monuments consistently, if implicitly, invites its readers to reflect critically on royal power and the nature of political debate within the polity. In political terms the textual community it simultaneously seeks to address and create is conterminous to the Protestant political nation that Patrick Collinson has suggested emerged, if only in writing and as a possibility, in the Bond of Association.[52]

Foxe's account of Northumberland's fall deploys the move from facts, the broad seal, to fiction, the world of the Iliad, to finesse a moment of historical tension. It is important to note that at other moments in Acts and Monuments Foxe works very hard to avoid any such hiatus in his work. For example, Foxe's account of the death of Bishop John Hooper is designed to appear ordered, harmonious and factual. This is despite the fact that Hooper's death, as portrayed in Acts and Monuments, was particularly horrific. Foxe's text does not spare the reader any of the details nor does the accompanying woodcut. The problem with this kind of detail, however, is that it could work to distract the reader from the overall purpose of Acts and Monuments so that they end up concentrating on Hooper's bodily suffering and not his status as a witness to the truth of Protestantism. Foxe guards against this danger through a number of textual strategies. Hooper's death comes after a detailed account of his life and is followed by numerous letters that Hooper wrote while he was in jail. In effect, Foxe surrounds the horror of Hooper's death with texts that serve to frame it as meaningful within a larger textual community. To be a reader of Acts and Monuments is to be pulled into the community of decorous readers that Foxe both aimed his book at and hoped that it would help to produce. Reading Hooper's death as a whole, one moves from a position of observer to participant; from reading the story of the martyr's life and death followed by his letters, readers are encouraged to regard themselves as part of the godly community Hooper is addressing.[53]

The text provides the hinge between the historical Hooper, as represented in his life and death, and the one that lives on in his letters: a Latin poem by Conrad Gesner. This poem concludes with a paraphrase of Corinthians 1. ii 9.

Namque dabit deus his maliora: nec auris Audiit ulla, oculus uel uidit, sed neque captus Humanae mentis potuit complectier unquam, Qualia, quanta deus seruet sua bona beatis. [Neither has any ear heard nor any eye seen, not could the capacity of the human mind ever embrace of what sort and how great are his good things which God keeps for the blessed.]

There is a similar Latin poem at the same point in Foxe's account of the martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley. The inclusion of these Latin texts serves a number of purposes. Clearly the most obvious one is to locate men like Hooper and Latimer within a learned humanist context. In this context the Latin is important, since it is a marker of social class and status. There is, however, more to the addition of these Latin poems then an attempt to emphasise Hooper's, Latimer's and Ridley's humanist credentials. It is noticeable that the passage paraphrased in the poem celebrating Hooper's life is one that highlights the issue of interpretation. In particular, this passage from Corinthians raises questions about the ability of human reason to understand God's purpose or love. Of course there is nothing radical in a Christian context about raising doubts over human reason or wisdom. In the context of Acts and Monuments, however, it is indicative of the kind of interpretative barriers that Foxe seeks to create that this poem is left in Latin. Certainly it is true that Foxe seeks to include his readers in the process of making Acts and Monuments meaningful. But at the same time he works to rule out of bounds forms of reading that he regards as unhelpful or dangerous. The concern Foxe had about the story of Laremouth's escape was that it would incite readers of Acts and Monuments to plunge into a form of easy immediate reading that would leave them open to being infected by the lying words and counterfeit texts of the papists. The only defence against this kind of temptation was to read with care and reason. Conrad Gesner's poem, however, suggests there are limits to human reason. In particular, it invites the reader to see 'Golden Hooper' as a symbol or image of a faith beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand or embrace. This poem reflects a form of Protestant mysticism that appears to fundamentally undermine the poetics of Foxe's work. However, by including Gesner's poem in the text while retaining its Latinity, Foxe is perhaps suggesting that this kind of poetic discourse can be a part of the English Protestant textual community, provided it is mediated and contained. Not everyone should be encouraged to see the martyrs as representing a moment that escaped the capacity of human mind to comprehend, but it was important to protect this possibility within English magisterial Protestantism.

The potential radicalism and complexity of what Foxe is doing at this moment in Acts and Monuments is reflected by the comparison between Hooper and the early martyr Polycarp that follows Gesner's poem.[54] Rowan Williams has recently pointed out that the original accounts of Polycarp's martyrdom are replete with eucharistic images. Polycarp's body in the fire appears transformed, like gold or silver, in a furnace. Williams writes:

'Polycarp or his chronicler or both saw the event of his martyrdom as analogous to the sacrament. The parallel is reinforced by the detail that, when the fire is lit, Polycarp's body is seen as if it is bread in an oven, and a sweet smell pervades the theatre. The martyr consecrates his body to be a holy place exactly as the bread and wine of the eucharist become the place where sacred presence and power are to be found.[55]

Foxe knew the details of Polycarp's martyrdom. There are given in full in Book 1 of the 1570 edition of Acts and Monuments. In effect, Gesner's poem with its clear, albeit unacknowledged references to Polycarp, introduces into Acts and Monuments imagery that seems at least as dangerous from a magisterial Protestant perspective as anything in the story of Laremouth's escape. What protects this moment is Foxe's clear rationale for comparing Hooper to Polycarp. He writes:

When I see and behold the greate patience of these blessed Martyrs in our dayes, in their sufferings so quietly and constantly abiding the tormentes that are ministred vnto them of princes for Gods cause: me thinkes I may well and worthily compare them vnto the old Martyrs of the primatiue church.[56]

What it is crucial to note in this passage is that for Foxe comparison in this context is active and intended to be collective. He goes on to compare Hooper to Polycarp in a way that simultaneously emphasises their similarities and differences. In particular, Foxe glosses the key 'eucharistic' moment in the story of Polycarp's martyrdom, the moment implicitly referred to in Gesner's poem with its references to Golden Hooper. Foxe writes:

And though Polycarpus, being set in the flame (as the story sayth) was kept by miracle from the torment of the fyre, tyll hee was stricken downe with weapon, and so dispatched: yet Hooper by no lesse miracle armed with patience [and] freuent spirite of Gods comfort, so quietly despised the violence thereof, as though he had felt little more then did Polycarpus in the fire flaming round about hym.[57]

Immediately following this passage the reader is directed towards the full account of Polycarp's martyrdom in Book 1. In the process Foxe is inviting his readers to participate in drawing a comparison between Hooper and Polycarp and modelling a way of comparing ancient and modern martyrs in such a way that the miraculous is up-dated and rendered Protestant. Hooper's patience in the fire is no less, indeed it is probably more, miraculous and god-given than Polycarp's transformation. And the reader is being invited to draw this conclusion themselves. In particular, taken as a totality Foxe's account of Hooper's death invites the reader of Acts and Monuments to meditate on the truth of this moment of horror in order to see it as something 'beyond the wit of man' to embrace.

The danger that popery represents in Acts and Monuments, one that Foxe deploys in his account of the fall of Northumberland, is that the reader will lose themselves in a world of textuality.[58] The direction of Foxe's prose at this moment is inwards as if the text itself has become infected with the same papist corruption that brought down Northumberland. For a reader the danger is that one loses sight of the story, of what is happening, as the words pile up, rumours spread and fantasy replaces truth. In the account of Hooper's life and martyrdom the movement of the text is outward. There is a moment of intense inwardness, marked in the text by Gesner's poem, where the reader is encouraged to meditate on the horror of Hooper's death and its meaning as beyond human reason, but this is followed by the martyr's letters which at once position Hooper and what he represents back into the public world. The fall of Northumberland ends in the Iliad: Hooper's death does not end; it is perpetuated through his letters that live on in the textual community that is godly English Protestantism.

D.R Woolf has suggested that in Acts and Monuments, 'If unity is the watchword of the Reformed, division is that of Rome'.[59] This is clearly right but it is important to note that unity to Foxe can be directly related to the question of historical causation and to the production of facts. In poetic terms, for Foxe papist disunity is marked on the pages of Acts and Monuments by the emergence of a protean textuality, a nonsensical fictionality that speaks the truth of popery at the level of form. Indeed one could go further than this and argue that, for Foxe, the truth (Protestantism) is marked by texts which have no subtext, no distinction between form and content, between shell and kernel. Papist texts and textuality are marked by an indecorous plurality which serves to disguise the disjuncture between surface and depth, form and meaning, which is a key signifier of papistry in Acts and Monuments.[60] At the same time Acts and Monuments does at times invite its readers, at very specific and contained moments, to move beyond the facts and to participate in a form of Protestant mysticism that is the deferred or protected heart of Foxe's historical and literary endeavour. These moments, for example Hooper's death, encourage the reader to see the truth of Protestantism as existing beyond the space of the text, indeed as a truth that escapes the play of textuality, and, like Golden Hooper, look towards the moment when language will itself escape the effects of the fall: when signifier and signified, word and meaning will be restored to their lost unity.[61]


The issues that are reflected in Acts and Monuments around the question of decorum continued to have a profound effect on English Protestant writing for the next one hundred years. In particular, the tension between the need to encourage readers to actively engage in the production of meaning while respecting the social hierarchies and norms of early modern English society can be seen in the work of writers as diverse as John Milton, George Herbert and Edmund Spenser. All three poets created texts that address the tension between active reading and the danger of becoming lost in a papist world of textuality.

In Book 5 of Paradise Lost the angel Raphael and Adam discuss the differences between men and angels. During the course of their discussion Raphael distinguishes two kinds of reason, discursive and intuitive, the latter mostly angelic while the former is more often human.[62] The distinction between these two kinds of reason is, however, not the end of Raphael's lesson for Adam since in the course of explaining Satan's fall, Raphael refers to a further different version of intuitive reason which has the power to undermine and distort discursive reason. Milton consistently portrays Satan as a brilliant but corrupt rhetorician who uses his skills to create situations where it appears decisions are being made after public debate, after the use of discursive reason, whereas in practice the public debate has been undermined by private Satanic plots and desires. Paradise Lost is, like Acts and Monuments, a lesson in how to read with reason, of the need to resist certain kinds of corrupt intuitive reason. At the same time Milton, like Foxe, holds out the possibility of a form of reason that is intuitive and godly, but this is one only open to very few; far safer to insist on discursive reason as the best bulwark against the dangers of corrupt intuition.[63]

George Herbert's The Temple opens with the extended poem 'The Church-Porch'. Herbert explicitly compares this poem, and by implication the whole collection, to a sermon.

Thou, whose sweet youth and early hopes enhance
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure:
Harken unto a verser, who may chance
Rhyme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure.
A verse may find him, who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice

This relatively innocuous verse is, however, followed by far more serious statement of intent.

Beware of lust: it doth pollute and foul
Who God in Baptism washed with his own blood.
It blots thy lesson written in thy soul;
The holy lines cannot be understood.
How dare those eyes upon a Bible look,
Much less towards God, whose lust is all their book?

The focus of 'The Church Porch' is on those things that a godly person must confront and defeat, the sins of the world, before entering the sacred space of the church. It is a statement of discipline in which social and personal decorum becomes a pre-requisite to entering the sacred space of the church.[66] Once inside Herbert's temple the reader/believer is confronted with a dazzling array of religious lyrics that consistently circulate around key issues in magisterial English Protestantism, in particular the relationship between self, language and God. This section of Herbert's book ends with 'Love III', a deeply provocative poem since it deploys the Renaissance eroticisation of the eye and gaze within a profoundly religious context.

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything

'Quick-eyed Love' is an image of desire and lust, but whose? The narrator of this poem seems to have made no progress from the sweet youth whose lust the narrator of 'The Church Porch' warns will prevent him from understanding the holy lines of the Bible. Herbert, however, is here subtly mocking his reader. The extent to which this poem is erotic relates to the reader's failure to purge the dust of sin from their eyes. The Temple as a whole is a lesson in how to read with care and decorum. Herbert is, however, prepared to take real poetic risks in an English Protestant context. At times his poems seem provocatively sexual while at others they appear almost Catholic in terms of their language. In practice, however, like the account of Hooper's death, and in particular the inclusion of Gesner's poem with its reminder of the potentially 'papist' imagery surrounding Polycarp's martyrdom, what one sees in The Temple is an example of English protestant mysticism pushed to the limits within a clearly and carefully controlled context.[68] The boundaries of Herbert's text are provided by 'The Church Porch' and the concluding section of the book, 'The Church Militant'. Indeed one can read the three parts of Herbert's volume as corresponding to the typical tripartite structure of the martyrs' lives in Acts and Monuments; 'The Church Porch' stands in place of the history of the martyr's life, the central lyrical section can be related to the mystical moment of martyrdom, while the final part of Herbert's work, 'The Church Militant', produces a call to arms akin to the demand for collective action implicitly embodied in the letters of the martyrs that invariably conclude Foxe's martyr stories.[69]

In Book 1 of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene the book's hero, Redcross, betrayals Una, Truth, having been tricked by Archimago into thinking that she has been unfaithful to him. Redcross' fall is marked by his loss of faith in Una. He attempts to test her truthfulness but in his fallen state does not realise that he is being tricked. Archimago's trick creates a fantasy world for Redcross, as 'real' as Leontes' in A Winter's Tale, from which he can only escape after having passed through despair and learnt to separate truth from falsehood. Spenser told his friend Sir Walter Raleigh that the purpose of his poem was 'to fashion a gentleman' and that this was why he wrote the poem as an allegory or dark conceit. But why should this be the case? Why should allegory be the appropriate mode for fashioning a gentleman? The answer is that Spenser was writing within the same literary and religious tradition as Foxe. The Faerie Queen, like Acts and Monuments, consistently insists on an equation between godliness and decorum. To read Spenser's poem, like Foxe's history, properly, one needs to be constantly aware of the dangers of loosing oneself in the text.[70] Redcross mistakes a false dream for the truth. Archimago sets two sprites on Redcross who,

'coming where the knight in slomber lay,
The one vpon his hardy head him plast,
And made him dreame of loves and lustful play,
That nigh his manly hart did melt away,
Bathed in wanton bliss and wicked ioy:
Then seemed him his Lady by him lay,
And to him playnd, how that false winged boy
Her cast hart had subdewed, to learne Dame pleasures toy

Redcross only starts to doubt Una after he has himself fallen into lust. The whole of The Faerie Queene can be seen as a lesson in avoiding repeating Redcross' mistake, at the level of the individual and indeed the polity. Spenser's choice of form, however, relates to the same issues that shaped Foxe's text. Writing The Faerie Queene as a dark conceit, printing Gesner's poem on Golden Hooper but keeping it in Latin, reflect a desire to control entry into the textual community of English Protestantism while at the same time retaining the possibility that all and any could enter.[72] There is no inherent limit on who could be fashioned into a gentleman by Spenser's poem, nor who could engage with the truth of Hooper's life, but there are barriers that one has to cross first. In particular, to become a godly gentleman, a member of Acts and Monuments' textual community, one has to learn to read with care and decorum. The story of Laremouth's escape is dangerous because it contains matter that may incite the readers of Acts and Monuments to read intuitively, quickly, without care, so that like Redcross or the fallen angels in Paradise Lost they fall into a world of papist fantasy. It has to be printed because Foxe, like Herbert, knows that the risk has to be taken of exposing one's readers to temptation, to reading about 'quick-eyed Love' or the details of how Laremouth escaped, in order to create the possibility of faithful active Protestant reading.


The Unfortunate Traveller, Thomas Nashe, ed J.B. Steane, (London: 1972), p.251


Ibid, p.253.


Ibid, p.254.


It is of course problematic at one level to refer to Acts and Monuments as 'Foxe's work'. A key finding of the work done by the British Academy John Foxe Project has been the importance of the differences between the various editions of Acts and Monuments that Foxe produced in his lifetime and the extent to which Acts and Monuments is a composite work made up of numerous different texts. Indeed there has been considerable debate concerning the extent to which it is appropriate to describe Foxe as the author of Acts and Monument. I would argue, however, that if by authorship one means the person who creates a text that claims to be authored, in other words claims to be coherent, sustained and consistent, then it is useful and accurate to describe Foxe as the author of Acts and Monuments. Certainly the other options, editor or writer, seem even more fraught, while working through the text ascribing authorship to different writers is important but can have the effect of undermining the extent to which Foxe clearly ultimately decided what each of the editions of Acts and Monuments would consist of.


Lorna Hutson suggests:

For humanists, discourses in which the plot solution emerged from the order of the telling were superior to discourses such as chivalric romance in which solutions were reached trough lapse, rather the ordering, of narrative time.

Lorna Hutson, 'Fortunate Travelers: Reading for the Plot in Sixteenth Century England', Representations, 41 (1993), pp. 83 ' 103, p.86.


For the humanist emphasis on the production of authentic discourse and selfhood from a diverse collection of different texts and words, see Mary Thomas Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth- Century England, (Princeton, 1993).


Patrick Collinson, ' 'A Magazine of Religious Patterns': An Erasmian Topic Transposed in English Protestantism', in Renaissance and Renewal in Christian History, ed Derek Baker, (Oxford, 1977), pp. 223 ' 249, p 227.


Patrick Collinson has pointed out the extent to which Acts and Monuments was in many ways a collective endeavour by the godly. He comments in relation to the various texts that make up Acts and Monuments that:

The godly community ' was constructing itself by both writing and reading, rehearsing these stories.

Patrick Collinson, 'John Foxe and National Consciousness', in John Foxe and his World, ed Christopher Highley and John N King, (Aldershot, 2002), pp. 10 ' 36, p.13. The idea of a textual community comes from the work of Brian Stock: see Listening for the Text: On the uses of the past, (Philadelphia: 1990).


For popery in early modern England, see Peter Lake's seminal article, 'Anti-popery: the Structure of a Prejudice', in Conflict in Early Stuart England: Studies in Religion and Politics 1603 ' 1642, ed. Richard Cust and Ann Hughes, (London, 1989), pp.72 ' 106.


The term authorial function comes from the work of Michel Foucault: see Michel Foucault, 'What is an Author', trans. Josu' V.Harari, in The Foucault Reader, ( ed ) Paul Rabinow, (London: 1991), pp.101 - 120.


An important element of Acts and Monuments is Foxe's use of theatrical metaphors, particularly in relation to the play or stage of history. At one level this seems to fly in the face of Protestant attacks on the theatre but in fact, as Patrick Collinson has pointed out, it is quite wrong to assume a blanket rejection of the theatrical by English Protestantism. For writers like Foxe the status of the theatre related directly to the audience's response: an active audience that saw its role as participating in the production of meaning was a better model for textual interpretation than that provided by the image of the solitary passive reader. For an extended discussion of Foxe's use of theatrical imagery, see Huston Diehl, Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage: Protestantism and Popular Theater in Early Modern England, (Ithaca, 1997). See also Patrick Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, (London, 1991).


Patrick Collinson, 'Truth and Legend: the Veracity of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs', in Clio's Mirror: Historiography in Britain and the Netherlands, ed A.C Duke and C.A Tamse, (Zutphen: 1985), pp.31 ' 54, p.49. Louis B Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan England, (Chapel Hill, N.C.: 1935).


In these terms decorum can be seen as a principle that allows writers like Foxe to finesse the tension within humanism between virtue and class in a religious context. Quentin Skinner comments that humanists tended to argue that, 'while virtue undoubtedly constitutes the only true nobility, it happens that the virtues are always most fully displayed by the traditional ruling classes'. For Foxe decorum worked to draw the radical implications of the Protestant ideal of a priesthood of believers. While any person could be elect, it just happened that the godly were decorous. See Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. The Renaissance. Volume 1., (Cambridge, 1990), p.238.


John Foxe, Acts and Monuments [1570]. The Variorum Edition. [online]. (hriOnline, Sheffield 2004), p.1282.


This was far from unique to Foxe and indeed is a basic element of confessional writing, Catholic and Protestant.


For a discussion of biographical writing in early modern England see Judith Anderson, Biographical Truth: The Representation of Historical Persons in Tudor and Stuart Writing, (New Haven, 1971).


Tom Freeman has discussed brilliantly the various different sources behind such famous martyrs, lives in Acts and Monuments as Hugh Latimer. It was Foxe's job as author to weave these different disparate parts together into a coherent whole. See Tom Freeman, 'Texts, Lies, and Microfilm: Reading and Misreading Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' ', Sixteenth Century Journal, 30 (1999), pp. 23 ' 46.


John Foxe. Acts and Monuments [1563] . The Variorum Edition. [online]. (hriOnline, Sheffield 2004), p.889.


Ibid, p.889.


This danger is at the heart of the similar lesson that Edmund Spenser seeks to teach readers in The Fearie Queene. The description of the Bower of Bliss at the end of Book 2 of Spenser's poem is beautiful but, as Stephen Greenblatt has pointed, out in the end the argument of the poem is that it must be destroyed, that it represents a source of temptation, corruption and interpretive pleasure that for Spenser cannot be tolerated. See Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare, (Chicago, 1980). Chapter 4.


Tom Freeman has discussed the placing of this section in the 1570 edition in detail in his article, 'Fate, faction and fiction in Foxe's Book of Martyrs' Historical Journal, 43 (2000, pp. 601 ' 624.


Foxe, 1570, no pagination.


It is important to remember that from the appearance of the first English edition of 1563 Foxe was acutely aware that his work was being read and criticised by English Catholics.


On the Western Rebellion see Robert Whiting, The Blind Devotion of the People: popular religion and the English Reformation, (Cambridge, 1989). One should note that the extent to which this movement can be properly seen as a 'rebellion' rather than a protest movement that got out of hand is debatable. See Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, (New Haven, 2001).


Recent work by historians such as Amanda Jones and Andy Woods has revealed how extensive the protests of 1549 were. On Kett's Rebellion see Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions, (Harlow: 2004).


Foxe, 1570, p.1305.


On the potentially radical nature of Somerset's response to the popular demonstrations that took place in the summer of 1549, see Ethan Shagan, 'Protector Somerset and the 1549 Rebellions: New Sources and New Perspectives', English Historical Review, 114 (1999), pp.34-63.


On the Edwardian Reformation, see Diarmaid MacCulloch, Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, (London: 1999).


Foxe, 1570, no pagination.


Foxe's decision to include every single martyr was in itself potentially radical since it suggested a degree of egalitarianism that contrasted markedly with the norms of Tudor history writing. See Tom Betteridge, Tudor Histories of the English Reformations 1530 - 1583, (Aldershot: 1999), Chapter 4.


On heresy as disease, see R.I Moore, 'Heresy as Disease', in The Concept of Heresy in the Middle Ages, ed. W. Lourdaux and D Verhelst, (Leuven, 1976), pp.1 ' 11.


Foxe, 1570, no pagination.


For the writing of the Edwardian period, see John N.King, English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition, (Princeton, 1982).


Robert Crowley, 'The Printer to the Reader', The Vision of Pierce Plowman, (London, 1550), S.T.C. 19907, *ii (v).


For a discussion of this metaphor and its dominant place in western Europe hermeneutical thought, see Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, (Baltimore: 1974)


For an excellent discussion of the way this metaphor influenced medieval English writing, see David Aers, Piers Plowman and Christian Allegory, (London: 1975).


Robert Crowley, One and Thyrtye Epigrammes, wherin are bryefly touched so many abuses, London, 1550, STC 6088.3, in The Select Works of Robert Crowley, ed. J.M.Cowper, EETS es 15., (London: 1872), pp.1 - 52, p.5.


The most striking place that this concern with authorship re-emerges within English Protestant writing is in the poetry of George Herbert. For example, the poem Jordan II is a deeply complex challenging work which nonetheless concludes with an explicit denial of authorship.


For the links between John Bale's and John Foxe's historiography and apocalyptic thought, see Richard Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse, (Oxford: 1978), Paul Christianson, Reformers and Babylon: English Apocalyptic Visions from the Reformation to the Eve of the Civil War, (Toronto: 1978) and Katherine R. Firth, The Apocalyptic Tradition in Reformation Britain: 1530 - 1645, (Oxford: 1979).


For a discussion of the grammatical metaphor and its place in English Reformation polemics, see Tom Betteridge, Literature and Politics in the English Reformation, (Manchester: 2004), Introduction.


John Bale, 'The Comedy of the Three Laws' c 1538, printed c.1548, STC 1287, in The Complete Plays of John Bale. Vol 2, ed. Peter Happ', (Woodbridge: 1986), pp 64'123, p 74.


Ibid, p.72.


Ibid, p. 79.


William Punt, William, A New Dialogue called the endightment agaynste mother Messe, 1548, STC 20499 printed in Dickie Spurgeon, Three Tudor Dialogues, (New York: 1978).


Foxe, 1570, p.1568.


For the careful and nuanced way that the image of the body politic was used by Tudor writers, see Paul Archambault, 'The Analogy of the "Body" in Renaissance Political Literature', Biblioth'que D'Humanisme et Renaissance, 29 (1967), pp.21-53.


For Erasmus's emphasis on the collective communal nature of the proverbial wisdom, see Erasmus, The Adages of Erasmus, selected by William Barker, (Toronto: 2001), p.4.


Ibid, p.1569


A key element in popery as a concept in early modern English political thought was its protean quality. One could tell that it was present by its effects, but its actual boundaries and shape could never quite be pinned down or fixed. For example, John Pym, an expert on popery if ever there was one, in his speech in favour of Stafford's impeachment, argued that:

These articles have expressed the character of a great and dangerous treason such a one as is advanced to the highest degree of malice and mischief. It is enlarged beyond the limits of any description or definition, it is so heinous itself as that it is capable of no aggravation '

Pym's popish treason clearly is the same 'thing' that infected the English polity at the time of Northumberland's fall. It cannot be described or defined but its malign presence can be seen by godly active Protestant members of the polity. For Pym's speech, see The Stuart Constitution, ed. J.P. Kenyon, (Cambridge, 1986), p.191.


The most obvious being the influential position of Northampton's son, the earl of Leicester, in the Elizabethan regime.


For a much latter example of this kind of textual strategy being used in a magisterial English Protestant context, see Andrew Marvell's The rise and growth of arbitrary government (1677), which incites its readers to uncover for themselves, albeit with tools provided by Marvell's text, the effects of the 'thing of darkness', Charles II's treaty with France, within the English polity.


See Patrick Collinson, 'The Elizabethan Exclusion Crisis and the Elizabethan Polity', Proceedings of the British Academy, 84 (1994), 51 ' 92.


In his 'Address to the Christian Reader' to the collection of martyr's letters published in 1564, Miles Coverdale commented that:

' it doth us good to read and heare, not the lying legendes of fayned . false, counterfayted, and popish saints, neither [the] triflyng toyes [and] forged fables of corrupted writers: but such true, holy [and] approved histories, monuments, orations, epistles [and] letters, as do set forth unto us [the] blessed behaviour of gods deare seruauntes.

Coverdale goes on to argue in this text that the letters of the Marian martyrs make them present even in their absence. See Certain most godly, and comfortable letters of such true Saintes and holy Martyrs of God, Miles Coverdale, (London, 1564), STC , A.ii.


It is interesting to note that Foxe's version of Polycarp's martyrdom here appears to be drawing as much on Barnabe Googe's poem 'The Death of S Polycarpus' as it does on the earlier version of Polycarp's death in Acts and Monuments. See Barnabe Googe, The Shippe of Safegarde (1569), ed Simon McKeown and William E Sheidley, (Tempe, Arizona, 2001).


Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church, (London, 2005), p.36.


Foxe, 1570, p.1685.


Ibid, p.1685.


This is the fear that is at once staged and mocked in William Baldwin's Beware the Cat.


D.R.Woolf, 'The Rhetoric of Martyrdom: Generic Contradiction and Narrative Strategy in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments', The Rhetorics of Life Writing in Early Modern Europe: Forms of Biography from Canandra Fedde to Louis XIV, ( ed ) Thomas F.Mayer and D.R.Woolf, U. Michigan P., Michigan, 1995, pp.243-282, p.259.


In Milton's polemic works Catholicism is portrayed as an empty crust or shell: its corrupt lack of meaning and the corruption that this nonsense hid emptied out by the truth of Protestantism. See Hong-Won Suh, 'Of Milton's Reformation', Prose Studies, 23 (2000), pp. 23 ' 42.


On Augustine's understanding of the fallenness of human language see Ferguson, Margaret W., 'Saint Augustine's region of unlikeness: the crossing of exile and language', Georgia Review, 29 (1975), pp.844 ' 864.


'Paradise Lost', in John Milton, ed. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg, (Oxford, 1991), p. 458.


This tension between intuitive and discursive reason can be related directly to a similar tension within Puritanism between, in John Spurr's terms, the rapture of being saved and 'the rationality of a complex account of why God saves some'. Peter Lake has argued that:

' the puritan style ' contained a certain internal spiritual dynamic, a dynamic that forced the believer into a constant struggle to externalise his sense of his own election through a campaign of works directed against Antichrist, the flesh, sin and the world.

In Acts and Monuments the godly struggle takes place between the twin poles of private conscience and public world, but the structure of the text consistently insists on the inter-related nature of these two realms. Hooper's example is both one of personal faith and of public witness, and Gesner's poem celebrates Hooper precisely as an example that transcends any division between public and private. See John Spurr, English Puritanism, 1603 ' 1689, (Basingstoke, 1998) and Peter Lake, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church, (Cambridge, 1982), p.282.


George Herbert, 'The Temple', in George Herbert and Henry Vaughan, ed Louis L Martz, (Oxford, 1986), p.6.


Ibid, p.6.


For the importance of discipline in Herbert's poetry, see Kenneth J.E. Graham, 'George Herbert and the 'Discipline of History', Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 31 (2001), pp. 349 ' 378.


Martz, 1986, p.171.


For a fascinating reading of Herbert's work, which stresses the poetic tension at its heart, see Achsah Guibbory, Ceremony and community from Herbert to Milton, (Cambridge, 1998).


On Herbert's 'Puritanism', see Richard Strier, ' 'To all Angels and Saints': Herbert's Puritan Poem', Modern Philology, 77 (1979), pp. 132 ' 145. On the importance of the public side to Herbert's poetry, see Claude J Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth, 'Herbert, Vaughan, and Public Concerns in Private Modes', George Herbert Journal, 3 (1979), pp. 1 ' 21.


Linda Gregerson comments that:

The history of corrupted and corrupting eloquence is one that impinges upon The Faerie Queene at every turning.

Linda Gregerson, English Literary History, 58 (1991), pp. 1 ' 34, p. 11.


Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A.C. Hamilton, (London, 1977), p.41


It is important to note that there is nothing personal or individualist about The Faerie Queene's fashioning of a gentleman. As Andrew Hadfield points out:

' The Faerie Queene stands and falls on the hope of a national public sphere.

As with Acts and Monuments, the lesson that Spenser's poem teaches its readers is one that is intended to act as the basis for godly public activity. Andrew Hadfield, Literature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance, (Cambridge, 1994), p.201.

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