By Alison Shell
The Catholic contribution to English literary tradition has been greatly overlooked or misunderstood. This publication units out to rehabilitate a variety of Catholic imaginitive writing, whereas exposing the function of anti-Catholicism as an resourceful stimulus to mainstream writers in Tudor and Stuart England. It discusses canonical figures comparable to Sidney, Spenser, Webster and Middleton along many lesser-known writers. Alison Shell explores the Catholic rhetoric of loyalism and apostasy, and the stimulus given to the Catholic literary mind's eye through the persecution and exile such a lot of of those writers suffered.
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Extra resources for Catholicism, controversy, and the English literary imagination, 1558-1660
Lines 9±10 of Henry Constable's poem `Sweete hand the sweete, but cruell bowe thou art' reads in the original, `Now (as Saint Fraunces) if a Saint am I, / the bowe that shot these shafts a relique is . '; but in one manuscript copy the brackets have been placed instead round `(if a Saint)', injecting Protestant scepticism while leaving the comparison intact. 45 More puzzling is the occasional phenomenon of texts attributable to outlawed Catholic Englishmen or containing unmistakably Catholic sentiments, issued by mainstream presses without comment.
I spent all my time in the library, reading the Jacobean dramatists. Webster and Middleton, Tourneur and Ford. It was an obscure specialisation, but the candlelit and treacherous universe in which they moved ± of sin unpunished, of innocence destroyed ± was one I found appealing. Even the titles of their plays were strangely seductive, trapdoors to something beautiful and wicked that trickled beneath the surface of mortality: The Malcontent, The White Devil, The Broken Heart . . 1 Like many previous literary critics, he enshrines these thoughts in a dissertation on The Revenger's Tragedy.
21 Pulverisation of precious substances for alchemical, medical or painterly purposes fascinated the early Jacobeans ± the dramatic locus classicus of this fascination is The Alchemist ± and it could easily be employed to anti-Catholic ends: either Rome's Cleopatrean dissolution of pearls in wine or the Protestant act of iconoclasm performed on worldly glory and pernicious beauty, proleptic of the dust to which these things would come. 22 Apocalypse declared an end to hypocrisy, rending the veil, cracking the rind and stripping away pigment; and the act of interpreting allegory, a penetration to the inner meaning, required a similarly aggressive disclosure.