Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who is a Puritan? Lucy Hutchinson's answer.

Lucy Hutchinson wrote a very famous biography of her regicide husband Colonel John Hutchinson. They were both staunch independents and considered themselves Puritans. Here she explains how the derogatory label Puritan was used somewhat liberally in the early seventeenth century. It makes a fun read!

'The King [James I of England, VI of Scotland] had upon his heart the dealings both of England and Scotland with his mother, and harboured a secret desire of revenge upon the godly in both nations, yet had not courage enough to assert his resentment like a prince, but employed a wicked cunning he was master of, and called kingcraft, to undermine what he durst not openly oppose, - the true religion; this was fenced with the liberty of the people, and so linked together, that it was impossible to make them slaves, till they were brought to be idolaters of royalty and glorious lust; and as impossible to make them adore these gods, while they continued loyal to the government of Jesus Christ. The payment of civil obedience to the king and the laws of the land satisfied not; if any durst dispute his impositions in the worship of God, he was presently reckoned among the seditious and disturbers of the public peace, and accordingly persecuted; if any were grieved at the dishonour of the kingdom, or the griping of the poor, or the unjust oppressions of the subject, by a thousand ways, invented to maintain the riots of the courtiers, and the swarms of needy Scots the king had brought in to devour like locusts the plenty of this land, he was a Puritan; if any, out of mere morality and civil honesty, discountenanced the abominations of those days, he was a Puritan, however he conformed to their superstitious worship; if any showed favour to any godly honest person, kept them company, relieved them in want, or protected them against violent or unjust oppression, he was a Puritan; if any gentleman in his country [county] maintained the good laws of the land, or stoop up for any public interest, for good order or government, he was a Puritan: in short, all that crossed the views of the needy courtiers, the proud encroaching priests, the thievish projectors, the lewd nobility and gentry – whoever was zealous for God’s glory or worship, could not endure blasphemous oaths, ribald conversation, profane scoffs, Sabbath-breaking, derision of the word of God, and the like – whoever could endure a sermon, modest habit or conversation, or anything good, - all these were Puritans; and if Puritans, then enemies to the king and his government, seditious, factious hypocrites, ambitious disturbers of the public peace, and finally, the pest of the kingdom. Such false logic did the children of darkness use to argue with against the hated children of light, whom they branded besides as an illiterate, morose, melancholy, discontented, crazed sort of men, not fit for human conversation; as such they made them not only the sport of the pulpit, which was become but a more solemn sort of stage, but every stage, and every table, and every puppet-play, belched forth profane scoffs upon them, the drunkards made them their songs, and all fiddlers and mimics learned to abuse them, as finding it the most gameful way of fooling.'

Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson, ed. C.H. Firth (London: 1885; first published 1664), 113-115

1 comment:

Susan A said...

She also described Puritanism, somewhat pithilly, as: 'the reproach of the world, though the glory of good men'...


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