The darker side of the chief King James Bible translator, Lancelot Andrewes


Portrait of Bishop Andrewes by Hollar

One of the most amazing feats of history was the creation of the King James Version of the Bible in the years leading up to 1611. A committee of bickering scholars pulled together one of the two greatest works of English literature–great, at least, in their formative influence on the language and culture of English-speaking nations–with the other being the plays of Shakespeare.

The “lead mule” on this herculean project was perhaps the most brilliant man of his age, and one of the most pious, Lancelot Andrewes. A fascinating figure in his own right, Andrewes was not only a scholar and a spiritual man, but also a master of ecclesiastical politics. Like all people, he was not without flaws, and Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries, looked unstintingly into those flaws as well as the greatness of the man. Here is some of what Nicolson discovered:

[You should know that a prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral. A prebend is a type of benefice, which was usually drawn from specific sources in the income from the cathedral estates.]

26           “By midsummer [1603], London under plague now looked, sounded, and smelled like a city at war. It was by far the worst outbreak England had known. Here now, grippingly, and shockingly, the first and greatest of the Bible Translators appears on the scene. It is not a dignified sight. Lancelot Andrewes was a man deeply embedded in the Jacobean establishment. He was forty-nine or fifty, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was also Dean of Westminster Abbey, a prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, drawing the income from one of the cathedral’s manors, and of Southwell Minster, one of the chaplains at the Chapel Royal in Whitehall, who under Elizabeth had twice turned down a bishopric not because he felt unworthy of the honour but because he did not consider the income of the sees he was offered satisfactory. Elizabeth had done much to diminish the standing of bishops; she had banished them from court and had effectively suspended Edmund Grindal, the Archbishop of Canterbury whose severe and Calvinist views were not to her liking. Andrewes, one of the most astute and brilliant men of his age, an ecclesiastical politician who in the Roman Church would have become a cardinal, perhaps even pope, was not going to diminish his prospects simply to carry an elevated title.”

26-7       “Andrewes plays a central role in the story of the King James Bible, and the complexities of his character will emerge as it unfolds—he is in many ways its hero; as broad as the great Bible itself, scholarly, political, passionate, agonized, in love with the English language, endlessly investigating its possibilities, worldly, saintly, serene, sensuous, courageous, craven, if not corrupt then at least compromised, deeply engaged in pastoral [27] care, generous, loving, in public bewitched by ceremony, in private troubled by persistent guilt and self-abasement—but in the grim realities of plague-stricken London in the summer of 1603, he appears in the worst possible light. Among his many positions in the church, he was the vicar of St Giles Cripplegate, just outside the old walls to the north of the city.”

27           “The church was magnificent, beautifully repaired after a fire in 1545, full of the tombs of knights and aldermen, goldsmiths, physicians, rich men and their wives. The church was surrounded by elegant houses and the Jews’ Garden, where Jews had been buried before the medieval pogroms, was now filled with ‘fair garden plots and summer-houses for pleasure . . . some of them like Midsummer pageants, with towers, turrets and chimney-tops.’”

27-8       “But there was another side of Cripplegate . . . [basically a slum, overcrowded, with “too many Irish people here, and, as all Jacobeans knew, the Irish meant plague.” A playhouse, seventy breweries, “filled . . . with the diseased poor.”] “No part of London suffered more horrifyingly in the plague of 1603. ‘Open graves where sundry are buried together’ were dug in the parish, ‘an hundred hungry graves each to be filled with 60 bodies’. The graves, Thomas Dekker, the sardonic, sententious, gossiping newsmonger of plague London, wrote, were ‘like little cellars, piling up forty or fifty in a pit’. At the beginning of the year, there were about 4,000 people in Lancelot [28] Andrewes’s parish. By December 1603, 2,878 of them had been killed by the disease.”

28           “Andrewes wasn’t there. He had previously attended to the business of the parish, insisting that the altar rails should be retained in the church (which a strict Puritan would have removed), doubling the amount of communion wine that was consumed (for him, Christianity was more than a religion of the word) and composing a Manual for the Sick, a set of religious reassurances, beginning with a quotation from Kings: ‘Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die.’ And he certainly preached at St. Giles’s from time to time. But throughout the long months of the plague in 1603, he never once visited his parish.”

28           “It was generally understood that by far the best way to avoid catching the plague was to leave the city. Contemporary medical theory was confused between the idea of a disease spreading by contagion and by people breathing foul air, but the lack of certainty didn’t matter: the solution was the same. Go to the country; fewer people, cleaner air. From late May onwards, James and his followers had been circling London, staying at Hampton Court and Windsor, hunting at Woodstock in Oxfordshire or at Royston in Hertfordshire, staying at Farnham, Basing, Wilton and Winchester. It was, as Cecil described it, ‘a camp Volant, which every week dislodgeth’. For the king to absent himself (even though the crowds accompanying his travels took the plague with them, infecting one unfortunate town after another) was only politic. But for the vicar of a parish to do so was another question.”

28           “The mortality had spread to Westminster. In the parish of St Margaret, in which the Abbey and Westminster School both lie, dogs were killed in the street and their bodies burnt, month after month, a total of 502 for the summer. The outbreak was nothing like as bad as in Cripplegate, but Andrewes, who as dean was responsible for both Abbey and school, with its 160 pupils, was not to be found there either. He had ordered the college closed for the duration and had gone down himself to its ‘pleasant [29] retreat at Chiswick, where the elms afforded grateful shade in summer and a ‘retiring place’ from infection’. He might well have walked down there, as he often did, along the breezy Thameside path through Chelsea and Fulham ‘with a brace of young fry, and in that wayfaring leisure had a singular dexterity to fill those narrow vessels with a funnel’. He was lovely to the boys. ‘I never heard him utter so much as a word of austerity among us,’ one of his ex-pupils remembered. The Abbey papers still record the dean’s request in July 1603 for ‘a butler, a cooke, a carrier, a skull and royer’ – these last two oarsmen for the Abbey boat – to be sent down to Chiswick with the boys. Richard Hakluyt, historian of the great Elizabethan mariners, and Hadrian à Saravia, another of the Translators, signed these orders as prebendaries of the Abbey. Here, the smallness of the Jacobean establishment comes suddenly into focus. Among the Westminster boys this summer, just eleven years old, was the future poet and divine George Herbert, the brilliant son of a great aristocratic family, his mother an intimate of John Donne’s. From these first meetings in a brutal year, Herbert would revere and love Andrewes for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, in Cripplegate, the slum houses were boarded up, the poor died and in the streets the fires burned. Every new case of the disease was to be marked by the ringing of a passing bell down the street. Each death and burial was rung out too so that ‘the doleful and almost universal and continual ringing and tolling of bells’ marked the infected parishes. From far out in the fields, you could hear London mourning its dead. In the week of 16 September, the outbreak would peak at 3,037 dead. Proportionately, it was a scale of destruction far worse than anything during the Blitz.”

29-30     “Was Andrewe’s departure for Chiswick acceptable behavior? Not entirely. There was the example of the near-saintly Thomas Morton, one of John Donne’s friends and the rector of Long Marston outside York, later a distinguished bishop, who, in the first flush of this plague epidemic as it attacked York in [30] the summer of 1602, had sent all his servants away, to save their lives, and attended himself to the sick and dying in the city pesthouse. Morton slept on a straw bed with the victims, rose at four every morning, was never in bed before ten at night, and travelled to and from the countryside, bringing in the food for the dying on the crupper of his saddle.”

30           “Alongside this, Andrewes’s elm-shaded neglect of the Cripplegate disaster looks shameful. While he was at Chiswick, he preached a sermon on 21 August that compounded the crime. ‘The Rasor is hired for us,’ he told his congregation, Hakluyt and Herbert perhaps among them, ‘that sweeps away a great number of haires at once.’ Plague was a sign of God’s wrath provoked by men’s ‘own inventions’, the taste for novelty, for specious newness, which was so widespread in the world. The very word ‘plague’ – and there is something unsettling about this pedantic scholarship in the face of catastrophe – came from the Latin plaga meaning ‘a stroke’. It was ‘the very handy-worke of God’. He admitted that there was a natural cause involved in the disease but it was also the work of a destroying angel. ‘There is no evill but it is a sparke of God.’ Religion, he said, was filled by Puritan preachers with ‘new tricks, opinions and fashions, fresh and newly taken up, which their fathers never knew of’. The people of England now ‘think it a goodly matter to be wittie, and to find out things our selves to make to our selves, to be Authors, and inventors of somewhat, that so we may seem to be as wise as God, if not wiser’. What could be more wicked than the idea of being an Author? Let alone wittie? Newness was the sin and novelty was damnable. ‘That Sinn may cease, we must be out of love with our own inventions and not goe awhoring after them . . . otherwise, his anger will not be turned away, but his hand stretched out still.’”

30-1       “The educated, privileged and powerful churchman preaches his own virtue and ignores his pastoral duties, congratulating himself on his own salvation. The self-serving crudity of this [31] did not escape the attentions of the Puritans. If Andrewes sincerely believed that the plague was a punishment of sin and ‘novelty’, and if he was guiltless on that score, then why had he run away to Chiswick? Surely someone of his purity would have been immune in the city/ And if his pastoral duties led him to the stinking death pits of Cripplegate, as they surely did, why was he not there? Did Andrewes, in other words, really believe what he was saying about the omnipotent wrath of the Almighty?”

31           “In a way he didn’t; and his hovering between a vision of overwhelming divine authority and a more practical understanding of worldly realities, in some ways fudging the boundaries between these two attitudes, reveals the man. Henoch Clapham, the angry pamphleteer, lambasted Andrewes in his Epistle Discoursing upon the Present Pestilence. All Londoners, Andrewes included, should behave as though plague was not contagious. Everybody should attend all the funerals. There was no need to run away. It was a moral disease. If you were innocent you were safe. And not to believe that was itself a sin. How innocent was Andrewes in running to save his own skin? Did the innocent require an elm-tree shade? Clapham was slapped into prison for asking these questions. To suggest that the Dean of Westminster was a self-serving cheat was insubordinate and unacceptable. Andrewes interrogated him there in a tirade of anger and attempted to impose on him a retraction. Clapham had to agree (in the words written by Andrewes):”

31           “ ‘That howsoever there is no mortality, but by and from a supernatural cause, so yet it is not without concurrence of natural causes also . . . That a faithful Christian man, whether magistrate or minister, may in such times hide or withdraw himself, as well corporeally as spiritually, and use local flight to a more healthful place (taking sufficient order for the discharge of his function).’”

31-2       “Clapham refused to sign this and stayed in prison for eighteen months until he finally came up with a compromise he could [32] accept: there were two sorts of plague running alongside each other. One, infectious, was a worldly contagion, against which you could take precautions. The other, not infectious, was the stroke of the Angel’s hand. A pre-modern understanding of a world in which God and his angels interfered daily, in chaotic and unpredictable ways, was made to sit alongside something else: the modern, scientific idea of an intelligible nature. The boundary between the two, and all the questions of authority, understanding and belief which hang around it, is precisely the line which Andrewes had wanted to fudge.”

32           “If this looks like the casuistry of a trimming and worldly churchman, there were of course other sides to him. Down at Chiswick, as throughout his life, the time he spent in private, about five hours every morning, was devoted almost entirely to prayer. He once said that anyone who visited him before noon clearly did not believe in God. The prayers he wrote for himself, first published after his death in 1648 as Preces Privatae, have for High Church Anglicans long been a classic of devotional literature. Andrewes gave the original manuscript to his friend Archbishop Laud. It was ‘slubbered with his pious hands and watered with his penitential tears’. This was no rhetorical exaggeration: those who knew him often witnessed his ‘abundant tears’ as he prayed for himself and others. In his portraits he holds, gripped in one hand, a large and absorbent handkerchief. It was a daily habit of self-mortification and ritualized unworthiness in front of an all-powerful God, a frame of mind which nowadays might be thought almost mad, or certainly in need of counseling or therapy. But that was indeed the habit of the chief and guiding Translator of the King James Bible: ‘For me, O Lord, sinning and not repenting, and so utterly unworthy, it were more becoming to lie prostrate before Thee and with weeping and groaning to ask pardon for my sins, than with polluted mouth to praise Thee.’”

32-3       “This was the man who was acknowledged as the greatest preacher of the age, who tended in great detail to the school children in his care, who, endlessly busy as he was, would nevertheless wait in the transepts of Old St Paul’s for any Londoner in need of solace or advice, who was the most brilliant man in the English Church, destined for all but the highest office. There were few Englishmen more powerful. Everybody reported on his serenity, the sense of grace that hovered around him. But alone every day he acknowledged little but his wickedness and his weakness. The man was a library, the repository of sixteen centuries of Christian culture, he could speak fifteen modern languages and six ancient, but the heart and bulk of his existence was his sense of himself as a worm. Against an all-knowing, all-powerful and irresistible God, all he saw was an ignorant, weak and irresolute self:

33           “ ‘A Deprecation

33           “ ‘O Lord, Thou knowest, and canst, and willest
the good of my soul.
Miserable man am I;
I neither know, nor can, nor, as I ought
will it.’”

33           “How does such humility sit alongside such grandeur? It is a yoking together of opposites which seems nearly impossible to the modern mind. People like Lancelot Andrewes no longer exist. But the presence in one man of what seem to be such divergent qualities is precisely the key to the age. It is because people like Lancelot Andrewes flourished in the first decades of the seventeenth century – and do not now – that the greatest translation of the Bible could be made then, and cannot now. The age’s lifeblood was the bridging of contradictory qualities. Andrewes embodies it and so does the King James Bible.”

86           “At the same time, Bancroft began to hire the men for the great translation and here it was breadth and inclusiveness which dictated the choice. The first Westminster company, charged with translating the first books of the Bible, had Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster Abbey, as its director. He was known as ‘the Angell in the pulpit’, the man more versed in modern and ancient tongues than any other in England, who could serve, it was thought, as ‘Interpreter-General’ at the Day of Judgement, but he had other skills, and another track record, which confirmed him as a member of the core establishment and recommended him to Bancroft and the king.”

86           “He had been used before in important political work, some fifteen years earlier when Bancroft was working for Whitgift rooting out the Separatist congregations in London. Andrewes, then in his mid-thirties and already recognized as the coming man, and as the cleverest preacher in England, could be relied on to do Bancroft’s work for him. Highly detailed accounts survive of what Andrewes did for the ecclesiastical establishment: a representation, in other words, of what Bancroft would have known of him, the grounds on which he chose him as one of the principal Translators. Once again, it is not a dignified picture: his governing qualities are those of a man who knows how to exercise power.”

86-7       “Through the second half of the 1580s, the more extreme Separatist puritans, who considered each congregation a self-sufficient church of Christ, became the target of a campaign led by Richard Bancroft. They were to be found in private houses all around London, holding private conventicles in which their [87] inspirational preachers were, it was reported to Bancroft, ‘esteemed as godds’. Bancroft, who in another life would clearly have been an excellent detective, had his spies in place. As a central player in the Crown establishment, he would have had an array of inducements to hand: money, prospects, threats, the persuasive words of a man with access to power. Those tools gave him access to all kinds of secret meetings. ‘After the Minister hath saluted everie one, both man and woman, at theire comynge into the Chamber with a kysse’, one report of such a Separatist meeting described, shocked at its impropriety,”

87           “ ‘a large Table beinge prepared for the purpose (which holdeth fortie or fiftie persons) he taking the chayre at the end thereof, the rest sitt down everie one in order: . . . the Minister himself having received [communion] in both kyndes: the breade and the wyne which is left, passeth downe, and everye man without more a doe is his owne Carver.’”

87           “The state church could not tolerate the freedom or the priestlessness of such behavior. Many Separatists – and they were overwhelmingly young, idealistic people, a tiny minority, perhaps no more than a couple of hundred in England as a whole – fled to the Netherlands but others were arrested and, eventually, some fifty-two were held for long periods in the string of hideous London gaols [jails]: the Clink, the Gatehouse, the Fleet, Newgate, the Counter Woodstreet, the Counter Poultry, Bridewell and the White Lion, some of the prisoners shut in the ‘most noisome and vile dungeons’, without ‘bedds, or so much as strawe to lye upon . . . and all this, without once producing them, to anie Christian trial where they might have place given them, to defend themselves’. One of them, the eighteen-year-old Roger Waters, was kept in irons for more than a year.”

87-8       “Their leaders, honest, fierce men, the spiritual forebears of the future  Massachusetts colonists, were to be interrogated (or ‘conversed with’ as Bancroft described it; the meetings were known among the Separatists themselves as ‘Spanish conferences’) [88] by the more brilliant and trustworthy members of the Church of England. Andrewes was at their head. Bancroft instructed him to interrogate Henry Barrow, the leading Separatist who had been arrested in 1587 and kept in the Fleet.”

88           “Andrewes visited the gaol accompanied by another divine, William Hutchinson. Their descent into the Separatists’ hell is a moment of sudden, film-like intensity, when the passionate realities of early modern England come starkly to life. The entire context of the King James Bible is dramatized in these prison meetings: holiness meets power, or at least one version of holiness meets another; the relative claims of society and the individual, and the legitimacy of those claims, clash; the individual conscience grates against the authority structures of an age which senses incipient anarchy at every turn and so is obsessed with order; the candid plays against the cynical, worldliness against a kind of stripped Puritan idealism; and the godly comes face to face with the political.”

88-9       “With Barrow, in March 1590, Hutchinson and Andrewes began kindly. They were sitting in the parlour of the Fleet prison [89] (one of the better of the London prisons, ‘fit for gentlemen’).” Barrows expressed his desire “ ‘to obtain such conference where the Book of God might peaceably decide all our controversy’. That phrase, innocuous as it might sound, was salt in the eyes for Andrewes. It released a flood of hostile questions. All the issues of order and authority, the great political questions of the day, streamed out over his prisoner-conversant. ‘Whie,’ Andrewes said, ‘the booke of God cannot speake, which way should that decide owr controversies?” That was the central question of the Reformation: did Christians not need a church to interpret God for them? Or could they have access to the godhead without help, with all the immediacy of the inspired? Barrow replied in the spirit of Luther: each soul could converse with God direct, unmediated by any worldly church, his thoughts and actions to be interpreted by the words of scripture itself.”

89           “ ‘Dr Andrewes: But the spirits of men must be subject unto men, will you not subject your spirit to the judgment of men?

“ ‘Barrow: The spirit of the prophets must be subject to the prophets, yet must the prophets judge by the word of God. As for me I willingly submit my whole faith to be tried and judged by the word of God, of all men.

“ ‘Dr Andrewes: All men cannot judge, who then shal judge the Word?

“ ‘Barrow: The word, and let every one that judgeth take hede that he judge aright htereby; ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.’ (Matthew 11:19)”

89-90     “Andrewes thought he spotted error. ‘This savorth of a pryvat spyrit,’ he said. Nothing was more damning in his lexicon than that phrase. The privateness of the Puritan spirit was its defining sin, its arrogance and withdrawal in the face of communal and [90] inherited wisdom, treating the word of God, the scriptures, not as a common inheritance, whose significance could be understood only within the tradition that had grown and flowered around it, but as a private guidebook to a personal and selfish salvation. The heart of the Puritan error was that social divisiveness, that failure to join in, its stepping outside the necessity of order, its assumption that the Puritan himself was a member of God’s elect, and the rest could look to the hindmost [look out for themselves]. How could a society be based on that predestinarian arrogance? Increasingly, for churchmen such as Andrewes [and here is the Establishment position], it seemed that the true church could only be inclusive, one in which God’s grace would descend on believers not through some brutal predestinarian edict but through the sacraments, through the ceremony of the church.”

[a paragraph cut out here]

90           “Barrow responded sharply. It was not a private spirit but ‘the spirit of Christ and his Apostles’. They had been happy to be judged by the word of God and so was Barrow. This, for Andrewes, so crushingly aware of his own sin, was too much.

“ ‘Dr Andrewes: What, are you an apostle?

“ ‘Barrow: No, but I have the spirit of the apostles.

“ ‘Dr Andrewes: What, the spirit of the apostles?

91           “ ‘Barrow: Yea, the spirit of the apostles.

“ ‘Dr Andrewes: What, in that measure?

“ ‘Barrow: In that measure that God hath imparted unto me, though not in that measure that the apostles had, by anie comparison, yet the same spirit. There is but one spirit.”

91           “That was not an unreasonable answer: God had blown his spirit into Adam, and it was acceptable to think that the life of men was a divine gift. But Andrewes, revealing himself here in a way he would rarely do later in life, curiously narrowed and harsh . . . clung to his hostility. They argued over the difference between a schism and a sect. Then, in an emblematic moment of the English Reformation, angry, impassioned, pedantic, scholarly, they called for a dictionary. The heretic and his interrogator pored together over the Greek-Latin Lexicon of Joannes Scapula (Basel, 1580) to try and sort out the etymologies of the two words, but they could come to no shared conclusion.”

91-2       “Andrewes then uttered one of the most despicable remarks he ever made. Barrow said his imprisonment had been horrible. He had been there for three years and the loneliness of it, the sheer sensory deprivation, the nastiness of the conditions, had sunk him deep into depression. Andrewes’s reply, witty, supercilious, a pastiche of the sympathetic confessor, is still shocking 400 years later: ‘For close imprisonment’, he told Barrow, ‘you are most happie. The solitarie and contemplative life I hold the most blessed life. It is the life I would chuse.’ It is Henry barrow, martyr to his beliefs, who emerges from this confrontation as the holy man. ‘You speak philosophically,’ he told Andrewes with some self-control, ‘but not Christianly. So sweete is the harmonie of God’s grace unto me in the congregation, and the conversation of the saints at all times, as I think my self as a sparrow on the house toppe when I am exiled thereby. But could you be content also, [92] Mr. Androes, to be kept from exercise and ayre so long together? These are also necessarie to a natural body.’”

92           “The poor man was lonely, longing for his friends and for a sight of the sky, from which the intolerance of the state had excluded him. Andrewes’s breathtaking insouciance continued until the last. In conversation, he had used the word ‘luck.’ For fundamentalists [sic] such as Barrow, there was no such thing: all was ordained, everything from the death of a sparrow to the execution of a heretic was the working out of God’s providence. Calvin had written, in a famous passage, that to believe in luck was a ‘carnal’ way to look at the world. Barrow told the departing Andrewes ‘there was no fortune or luck. To prove luck [Andrewes] torned in my Testament to the 10 of Luke, verse 31, ‘By chance there went down a certain priest that way.’ And torned in a leafe upon the place, and as he was going out willed me to consider of it.’”

92           “That folded-down page of the Puritan’s Bible, Andrewes’s all-too-complacent knowledge of the scriptural text, ‘the poor worne bodie’ of the prematurely aged Barrow (he was about thirty-seven, a couple of years older than Andrewes) standing in the room, silenced by the rising self-congratulatory confidence of the young Master of Pembroke College, prebendary of St Paul’s, vicar of St Giles Cripplegate, a candidate for the bishopric of Salisbury, sweeping out of the prison parlour door, with his departing quip, his patronizing flourish: could you ask for a more chilling indictment of established religion than that?”

92-3       “Three years later Barrow’s life ended in execution, for denying the authority of bishops, for denying the holiness of the English Church and its liturgy and denying the authority over it of the queen. Andrewes saw him again on the eve of his death. The prisoner had been transferred to Newgate . . . and he was high on his impending martyrdom. He was reminded by one of those present of the Englishmen who had been martyred by the Roman Catholics in the reign of Queen [93 Mary for their defence of the very church which Barrow now denied. ‘ “These holy bonds of mine” he replied, (and therewith he shooke the fetters which he did wear) “are much more glorious than any of theirs.”’ Andrewes argued with him again over points in the Geneva Bible. Barrow would have none of it and he told his adversary that his ‘time now was short unto this world, neyther were we to bestow it unto controversies’. He was finally executed early in the morning on 6 April at Tyburn, where the mallows and bulrushes were just sprouting in the ditches.”

93-4       “Andrewes could put the knife in. What little one can judge from contemporary portraits – the Jacobean image is so much less revealing than the Jacobean word – shows a narrow and shrewd face, a certain distance in the eyes, as if the person had withdrawn an inch or two below the surface of the skin, but that surface was bien soigné [well washed, cleaned], a well-trimmed beard, a well-brushed moustache. He could look the church’s adversaries in the eye, and he was clever enough to slalom around the complexities of theological dispute: not only a great scholar but a government man, aware of political realities, able to articulate the correct version of the truth. He was . . . useful for his extensive network of connections. It is clear that in 1604 he played a large part in selecting the men for his, and perhaps also for Barlow’s, company. Several themes emerge: there is a strong Cambridge connection (Andrewes had been an undergraduate and fellow there and was still Master of Pembroke College); an emphasis on scholarly brilliance – more so than in the other companies; a clear ideological bent in choosing none who could be accused of Puritanism, however mild, and several who would later emerge as leading anti-Calvinists in the struggles of the 1620s; there was also a connection with Westminster Abbey, where ANdrewes had been appointed dean. . . . [94] In this marrying of leverage and discrimination, it is a microcosm of the workings of Jacobean England: the right men were chosen and part of their qualifications for being chosen was their ability to work the systems of deference and power on which the society relied.”

94           “They met in the famous Jerusalem Chamber, the fourteenth-century room in what had been the abbot’s lodgings at Westminster, where Henry IV had died; now it was part of Andrewes’s deanery. It was where the chapter usually met, on which Andrewes had secured for his brother Nicholas the valuable post of registrar for life. Such nepotism was habitual and habitually condemned. Ten years before, Andrewes had preached at St Paul’s (in Latin), lashing the indigent clergy for their corruption: ‘You are extremely careful to enrich your own sons and daughters,’ he had told them. ‘You are so careful of the heirs of your flesh that you forget your successors.’ One of the Translators, in the Cambridge company dealing with the central section of the Old Testament, was Andrewes’s brother Roger. Judging by every other aspect of Roger’s life we know of, he was almost certainly there on Lancelot’s recommendation: when Lancelot had become Master of Pembroke, he made Roger a fellow; when he became Bishop of Chichester, he made Roger a prebendary, archdeacon and chancellor of the cathedral. When Lancelot moved on to Ely in 1609, Roger became a prebendary there and also Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, which was in the gift of the Bishop of Ely. At Jesus, Roger was not a success. He argued with the fellows, neglected the financial affairs of the college and was finally sacked in 1632 for stealing college funds. Meanwhile, when in 1616 his saintly brother was translated to Winchester, the richest see in England, Roger received another prebend there.”

2 responses to “The darker side of the chief King James Bible translator, Lancelot Andrewes

  1. Fascinating stuff but for my own research purposes I’d be really grateful if anyone can tell me where Adam Nicholson got the transcription of Barrow’s conversation with Andrewes. I’ve searched all I can but haven’t been able to track it down anywhere. Any help gratefully appreciated.

  2. Fascinating indeed, Dr Armstrong.
    Andrewes was undoubtedly a brilliant man, but his conduct reminds me of Montaigne’s observation that supercelestial thoughts often go hand in hand with subterranean conduct.
    Thank you.

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