. 4
( 14)


all ultimately be judged.44
˜[T]here belongeth further to the handling of this part, touching the
duties of professions and vocations, a relative or opposite, touching
the frauds, cautels, impostures, and vices of every profession.™45
As Bacon™s use of ˜relative™ indicates, office and its abuse were matters of
clarifying conceptually interdependent relationships. Good and evil grew
together in the world, wrote Milton, and knowledge of one entailed know-
ledge of the other; ignorance of one is ignorance of both.46 The necessity for
a language of abuse was personified in the image of Lucifer, the rebellious
angel driven by pride, the byword for injustice, the father of lies, the
rapacious gobbler of souls who would shovel God from his heavenly throne.
In the shadow of his engorgement lay the ˜frauds, cautels, impostures and
vices™ of humankind. The vocabulary of vice was also a rhetoric of motives.
The mind is a labyrinth of ˜crooked windings™, Tuvill rumbled, ˜beautified
by outward imposture™.47 Motivation, as remains the case, was characteris-
tically hypothesised to explain departure from proper conduct. The voice of
Cardinal Wolsey expatiates on his being motivated only by ambition and
˜pryde,/ For which offence, fell Lucifer from the Skyes™. It is ˜A swelling
tode, that poysons euery place™. Because of this ˜I thought nothing of duty,
loue, or feare/ I snatcht vp all, and alwayes sought to clime™.48
Humour theory gave a physiological and semiotically rich grounding
to motivation, connecting character type, physiology and the structure
of the world. Blood, choler (yellow bile), phlegm and black bile corres-
ponded respectively to air, fire, water and earth, and their variable
balance created dispositions, the sanguine, choleric, melancholic and
phlegmatic, each with its own propensities. A melancholic temperament
was so associated with contemplation and philosophy that it was not
unusual for authors to allude to this to help establish a persona; for
Walter Charleton melancholy was a ˜tyranny™, for Robert Burton, far

Niccolo Machiavelli, Il Principe (1513), ed. Sergio Bertelli (Milan, 1973 edn), ch. 8, p. 42.
Joan Bennett, Reviving Liberty: Radical Christian Humanism in Milton™s Poems
(Cambridge, Mass., 1989), p. 42.
Sanderson, Ad Populum, p. 135; Anon., The Whole Duty of Nations, p. 67.
Bacon, Advancement, p. 236.
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644), in The Complete Prose Works, ed. Ernest Sirluck
(New Haven, 1959), vol. II, pp. 514, 527.
Tuvill, ˜Of Reputation™, in Essayes, fol. 116.
Mirror for Magistrates, lines 358“9, 366, 407“8, pp. 507“8; see also motivations for
rebellion ˜Homily against Disobedience, fifth part™, in Certain Sermons (1683), p. 377.
88 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
more. The philosopher™s ailment was a cause of civil disorder.49 Con-
versely, excessive black bile was believed to unsettle judgement and
phlegm diluted intellect.50 The interest in humours was both explanatory
and judgemental especially concerning potential imbalance and office-
abuse. So the phlegmatic, as Marlowe put it, was slow to anger, quick in
lust.51 Although gradually separated from their physiological grounding,
the humours retained their explanatory function, certainly in popular
discourse, throughout the early-modern world. Writers such as Hobbes,
with his elegant reduction of motivation to aversion (fear), and attrac-
tion (broadly ambition), Willis and then Mandeville attempted to reform
vocabularies of motive, but the focus remained on socially deviant
behaviour and vulnerability of office. It was not until the eighteenth
century that Ephraim Chambers could confidently consign humour
theory to the archives of the understanding; in doing so he helped
perpetuate its popular currency.52 Again, as with the defence and pro-
motion of office, critique expressed a variable sensitivity to ethical mo-
dality, disguised or mediated by reference to general motivation. For Sir
Walter Raleigh, the virtues of the general are vices in the common
soldier, so to assume them might well be taken to speak of undue
ambition or pride; and credulity, hardly a major blemish in most people,
becomes ˜unfit and perilous™ in a ruler.53

Beyond the nomenclature of character was the vocabulary of action,
displaying character, or revealing hypothesised motive. Expressed synop-
tically, proper action was judged by what was right and useful. The broad
Ciceronian strategies of sound rhetorical discourse, the orchestration of
honestas and utilitas, were particularly prominent in discussions of coun-
sel, but effectively functioned as the terms in which criteria specific to
any office were organised.54 The language of proper action comprised a

Charleton, Darknes of Atheism, p. xxii for discussion; Booth, ˜A Subtle and Mysterious
Machine™, p. 52; Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), ed. T. C. Faulfer,
N. K. Kiessling and R. L. Blair, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1989), ˜Satyrical Preface™, vol. I.
Marsilio Ficino, Libra da vita in tres libros divisos (1489), ed. Carol V. Kaske and John
R. Clark (New York, 1989), bk. 1.3.
Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, A Text (c. 1590, 1604), ed. David Ormerod and
Christopher Wortham (Perth, Western Australia, 1985), lines 218“20, pp. 20“1.
Ephraim Chambers, Encyclopaedia (1728); I am grateful to discussions with Richard
Yeo for this point.
Raleigh, Cabinet Council, ch. 25, p. 134; ch. 20, p.55; Rogers, Philosophicall Discourse,
ch. 31, p. 149v; ch. 25, pp. 130“2v, with especial reference to the ˜office™ of ˜strangeness™,
observing due measure.
Goslicius, The Counsellor, pp. 92“3.
The vocabulary of office 89
consequential vocabulary necessary for the sustenance of the office, and so
ideally what was useful tended to the good of the office.
Central to this positive register were words such as duty, care, responsi-
bility, rule, service, right, prerogative and liberty. An appeal to rights did not
necessarily involve much reliance on natural law, but reference to natural
law could be a rather grand affirmation of the naturalness of office and duty
to God; hence Samuel Daniel™s claim that ˜by the law of nature™ he must
defend ˜the station of his profession™,55 as if literary critics were already a
part of a natural order. The projection of self-defence as part of natural law
becomes familiar by the seventeenth century as something exercised even by
animals, but wherever possible it is assimilated to office defence; self was
largely an anaphoric expression for a persona ( see below, chapters 6, 9).
Because those in office claimed to be serving some end, they asserted
rights, prerogatives or duties of ruling and liberties of office. It is import-
ant to expand on liberty of office, as it provides a succinct illustration both
of the ubiquity of understandings of office and their misconstrual in
modern scholarship.56 Liberty of office was the latitude deemed necessary
in order for the persona to fulfil its responsibilities. To recall Goslicius™
translator, the citizen™s liberty lay ˜chiefly in being capable of offices™.57
Concomitantly, when a posited office was thought to be threatened, typic-
ally it was defined in terms of its liberty, its area of operation. This will be
most familiar from the tenacity with which the Stuart monarchs asserted
prerogative right as definitional of sovereignty; and it was a periodic
feature of parliamentary debate even on those ceremonial occasions when
the office of the parliament was ritually proclaimed.58 William Noy, speak-
ing in the parliament of 1621, argued that its liberty had to be exercised for
its own protection: exercise of liberty maintained the office.59 Again,
Jeremy Collier was similarly insistent upon his liberty; he was a priest
and to see him as a servant undermined his office which included the
freedom to admonish.60 Ruling, then, whether we speak of mayors, mon-
archs, parliaments or parents, was through just command in the interest of
the ruled, and so properly was for a public, or greater good. Parents

Samuel Daniel(?), A Defence of Rhyme (1603), in Edmund D. Jones, ed., English Critical
Essays (Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries) (London, 1956 edn), p. 62.
For a fuller discussion of this point, see Conal Condren, ˜Liberty of Office and its
Defence in Seventeenth-Century Political Argument™, History of Political Thought, 18
(1997), pp. 460“82.
Goslicius, The Counsellor, pp. 79“80.
Francis Bacon, ˜Speech to the Speaker™s Excuse™, pp. 73“4.
Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, pp. 239“45; Greenberg, The Radical Face, p. 31 quoting
Noy, Commons Journals, vol. VI, p. 240; see also, for example, Burnet, text of speech
1713, in History, vol. VI, p. 155.
Jeremy Collier, The Office of the Chaplain (1688), pp. 5, 15, 13.
90 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
commanded children because their office gave them this bounden duty and
they did so in the interests of the children. Monarchs commanded their
people in the public interest because of an analogous responsibility. Be-
cause claimed offices were simultaneously centres of responsibility and
spheres of liberty for their personae, all offices could be discussed purely
through questions of liberty and its transgression into wrongdoing.61
The confusion of this general feature of all office claims with later more
specific and oppositional doctrines has encouraged the projection of lib-
eralism back into the seventeenth century, either to provide a family tree,
or as an easy surrogate for attacking genuine liberals who have flourished
since.62 It is true that reference to liberty being so widespread, some of
its casual uses sound superficially familiar. Andrew Willett referred to
Josephus taking liberties with the Bible and of David™s people being tired
of kings and seeking liberty.63 Later in the century, Roger L™Estrange,
rather untypically, asserted that if the people cannot rule they want liberty.
It is a use suggestive of Sidney™s sustained conception of liberty as freedom
from the domination of another.64
Indeed, when isolated from tacit reference to office, a wide range of
statements about liberty can sound like expressions of positive or of
negative liberty. Since their clear articulation during the eighteenth cen-
tury, we have come to take these to be either opposing or complementary
concepts of liberty, even if they are not, as Gerald McCallum argued,
mutually dependent.65 To put the matter briefly, negative liberty is taken
to be the liberty of non-interference and private endeavour; it is enough

Sharp, ˜Rules of Conduct for Ourselves™, in Works, vol. I, pp. 175, 179“97.
See, for example, Sullivan, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the Formation of a Liberal
Republicanism, pp. 2“27, citing much in the same vein; William Lund, ˜Neither Behemoth
nor Leviathan: Explaining Hobbes™s Illiberal Politics™, Filozofski Vestnik, 24, 2 (2003),
pp. 59“83; on Hobbes™s rejection of liberalism, p. 61 and failure to be as liberal as he
should have been, as we are, p. 83. Instructively, David Armitage refers to liberalism in
the seventeenth century as an admitted anachronism and an almost inescapable term of
art; see ˜John Locke, Carolina and the Two Treatises of Government™, Political Theory,
32, 5 (2004), p. 1, n.
Willet, Harmonie on the First Booke of Samuel, p. 93; An Harmonie on the Second Booke
of Samuel (1614), p. 117; Hammond, Vindication (1650), p. 26 on assuming the liberty to
misuse language.
Roger L™Estrange, A Memento (1682), p. 72; Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning
Government (1681“3?, 1698), ed. Thomas G. West (Indianapolis, 1996), ch. 3, sect. 33,
p. 510; or see Hyde (Lord Clarendon), ˜Liberty™ (1670), in Essays, vol. I, p. 144, where
true liberty is being able to do whatever the laws allow, but he had already insisted that
no one doubts that liberty involves obligations, p. 143.
Isaiah Berlin, ˜Negative and Positive Liberty™, in Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford, 1969);
Charles Taylor, ˜What™s Wrong with Negative Liberty™, in Philosophy and the Human
Sciences (Cambridge, 1985); Philip Pettit, Republicanism, A Theory of Freedom and
Government (Oxford, 1997); Gerald C. MacCullum Jr, ˜Positive and Negative Freedom™,
Philosophical Review, 76 (1967), pp. 314“19.
The vocabulary of office 91
that it is possessed formally to enable action and it is commonly held to be
the liberty of liberalism. The so-called liberal or ˜night-watchman™ state,
has its rationale in maximising this form of liberty. Positive liberty, asso-
ciated by Berlin with forms of collectivism, has more recently been at-
tached to republicanism or public involvement, and is the liberty of
autonomy, self-fulfilment “ in Philip Pettit™s salient term, non-domination.
It provides a focus on the conditions that enable a meaningful exercise of
private, negative liberty.66
The plausibility of this oppositional conceptualisation has depended
largely upon a fairly robust distinction between a public and private
sphere; but just as early-modern uses of public and private are largely at
odds with such a distinction, so usage of the word liberty gives flimsy
support for any awareness of its positive and negative formulations. There
was certainly no scope for liberty to be treated in the libertarian fashion as
an end in itself, and a value to trump others. And, despite the shared
emphasis on exercise as opposed to mere possession, neither was liberty of
office a positive liberty in the modern sense, for it was not about personal
autonomy or self-fulfilment. Because it was an assertion of the necessary
latitude of action for a persona acting in responsibility to something else, it
was a right ever teetering on the cusp of duty and subordination. Indeed, it
often expressed the meta-duty of the persona™s responsibility to the integ-
rity of the office itself. The Stuart insistence on prerogative, Noy™s on the
liberty of parliament, Collier™s on his freedom as a chaplain, are therefore
of a piece. The palpable emphasis on vigilance has recently suggested a
notion of republican liberty as a conceptual refinement of positive liberty,
but this too is historically unhelpful. Republican liberty may better be seen
as an emphatic employment of liberty of office and hardly the exclusive
privilege of republicans. Recognising this, Quentin Skinner has come to
prefer the expression neo-Roman liberty to capture something to one side
of positive, negative or republican liberty, namely, the condition of being
free.67 The problem inherent in all these formulations is that they arise
from trying to isolate an ideological grouping from the more widespread
evidence of a register of office, while the condition of being free does not
seem to be a further type of liberty which some might or might not relish,
but the security of any office against invasion or curtailment.
As I have illustrated in chapter 3, freedom was very much an accretion
of personae. If one takes a negative understanding of freedom back to the

See also Quentin Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge, 1998); Taylor, ˜What™s
Wrong with Negative Liberty™, at length.
Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism, pp. 1“22.
92 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
seventeenth century, the liberty of citizenship seems anything but free.68
Given some anachronistic presuppositions, freedom as being capable of
office will certainly sound peculiar; and a life ˜unweighed by liberty™
oxymoronic or anticipatory of Eric Fromm.69 As an accoutrement of duty,
however, liberty could be the exercise of authority. Such usage can ap-
proach, and in discussions of the soul we will see that it can attain, the
paradigmatic unity of freedom and authority. It is difficult for us to make
literal sense of this sort of configuration of vocabulary, especially since
David Hume made such organisational capital out of an opposition be-
tween freedom and authority in conceptualising Civil War hostilities. The
unending quest for a proper balance between their claims, and the parties
attached to each, has been a staple of historiographical analysis, surviving
deep into the twentieth century;70 and it has obscured how people actually
used words like freedom and authority, when the freedom was a liberty of
office and the authority was derived only from office. The words liberty
and freedom can be seen to function, then, rather like justice, or humility,
as the formal properties of any office, their content being dependent upon
the office itself. It is little wonder that later notions can be read into the
vocabulary if first the context of argument about office is ignored.
Once restored, however, what becomes central to liberty is not the
adherence to one concept rather than another, let alone in opposition to
authority, but a dichotomous relationship with licence and slavery, terms
which have their place in the negative register of office talk. Licence was
the untrammelled action of the libertine or tyrant. It was immoral or
luxurious because it was a movement beyond the sanctioned authority of
an office. It was, in a word, the disruptive residuum of action beyond
liberty, the formal property of office-abuse.71 I will say more about this
register below, but immediately it can be noted that licence loomed large in
attempts to constrain the notion of liberty to an attribute of office, or to
challenge liberty claims made from the authority of an office. As Henry
IV accuses his son, ˜Harry from curb™d licence plucks/ The muzzle of

Powell, Puritan Village, p. 44; Wilmore Kendall, ˜How to Read Milton™s Areopagitica™,
Journal of Politics, 22 (1966), pp. 439“73.
Howard, A Publication, pp. 30“1, quoted in Peltonen, The Duel, p. 110.
See, for example, Gerald R. Cragg, Freedom and Authority: A Study of English Thought
in the Early Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia, 1975), throughout.
Condren, ˜Liberty of Office™, pp. 467“71; Hammond, Vindication, on ˜an age of
licentiousness™, p. 3; a subordinate meaning, now predominant, was ˜licence™ as a specific
permission, e.g. Sir Edward Hoby, A Curry-Combe for a Cox-Combe (1615), p. 119;
before Hobbes, on whom see below, only occasionally, and casually do we find liberty
implicitly at odds with office and elided with licence: for example, Shakespeare, Measure
for Measure, cf. 1.3 and 2.4. The usage is appropriate to there being a state of
licentiousness in the city and a failure of ruling office.
The vocabulary of office 93
restraint, and the wild dog/ Shall flesh his tooth on every innocent.™72
In polemic, the distinction is often presented as trouble-free; but some-
times its trickiness is acknowledged. To use the word liberty for sin, wrote
John Sharp, conventionally enough, was contradictory; the problem was
that there was little latitude between the two.73 Within a few pages Sharp™s
liberty has itself become a duty. And it was sometimes noted that the
distinction between liberty and licence could involve self-serving justifica-
tion. The ˜ding-dong™ about that equivocal term liberty, as The Parallel
had it, might mean nothing more than licence to rebel.74 In subverting the
disruptive potential of the familiar appeals to endangered liberty, Hobbes
had ingeniously undermined any distinction between liberty and licence.
The proper, literal signification of liberty was extended so far that licence
lost its meaning. It was directly parallel to his insistence that there was no
such governmental form as tyranny.
Slavery, in common parlance, was inimical to liberty and was the
consequence of tyranny. In a literal sense slavery was familiar enough,
but in polemic it is largely an inflated anguish about office-abuse, and the
word took on a rather special pattern of meaning in relation to tyranny,
the ultimate perversion of office.75 Milton expressed an almost tauto-
logical commonplace of liberty of office when he wrote, in The Second
Defence, that ˜it has been arranged by nature that he who attacks the
liberty of others is the first of all to lose his own liberty™; in tyrannically
reducing others to slavery, ˜he is the first of all to become a slave™.76 This is
much more than a paradoxical consequence. It was entailed by the linguis-
tic relationships Milton was spelling out. The attack on the liberty of
others is licence: licence is the action of the tyrant, a slave to unrestrained
passion. By our standards this begins to sound a trifle convoluted and
removed from the experience of the galley and the cane field; and it
suggests that Benjamin Constant was right in intuiting a conceptual sea-
change in what he called the ˜modern™ concept of liberty.77 His history
may have been askew, but he pointed to a contracting sense of office
which, like the ebbing tide left exposed an increasing strand of activities,

Shakespeare, 2Henry IV 4.5.
Sharp, ˜Rules of Conduct for Ourselves™ (1690), in Works, vol. I, pp. 175“80.
Anon., The Parallel (1682), pp. 21“2; Clarendon, ˜Liberty™, pp. 142“4, 147.
Hutchinson, Memoirs, pp. 293“4: everyone under Cromwell was a slave; on the widespread
rhetorics of slavery, see, for example, Quentin Skinner, ˜Classical Liberty, Renaissance
Translation and the English Civil War™, in Visions of Politics, vol. II, pp. 308“43.
John Milton, The Second Defence of the English People (1654), in Complete Prose Works
(New Haven, 1954), vol. IV, p. 673.
Benjamin Constant, Ancient and Modern Liberty (1838), in Political Writings, ed.
Biancamaria Fontana (Cambridge, 1988).
94 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
flotsam and jetsam, demanding, like Greta Garbo, to be left alone from
the responsibilities of office.
It was on this shifting strand of the sea that from the later eighteenth
century, a new line was gradually drawn between public and private. These
have become complementary domains of legitimate human endeavour; a
public sphere and a civil society, with a type of liberty appropriate to each
in a way not possible all the time, the discourse of office was a liquid
empire colonising the totality of human activity. To designate people of
the early-modern world liberals, adhering to something called liberalism,
is not just a matter of the technical seeding of isolated alien terms,
something to be neutralised by some ad hoc definitional care; we have to
implant an awful lot of the modern world into the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries to see liberalism flourishing that long ago. Hardly sur-
prisingly, there was no word for it. We have a compound instance of
Caputo™s invention by analytic elucidation.78 In crafting firm distinctions
between public, private, negative and positive liberty, liberal and non-
liberal, freedom and authority we create the categories by clarification.
This may all be conceptually worthwhile for the ahistorical theorist, and
my point is not to praise seventeenth-century usage; but when Swift wrote
of himself that ˜Fair liberty was all his cry™, the one thing he was not doing
was ˜pilfering . . . liberal clothes™.79 It seems that for Porter Tories could
not be enlightened, and as Swift was a Tory he could only be a fake liberal.
Curious as such specimens of judgement are, they are also historically
irrelevant. Swift was, rather, laying claim to a traditional liberty of office
that belonged as much to the ruler shuffling off restrictions as to the citizen
resisting slavery. It was loose enough clothing to fit even the unenlightened
baby-eating Dean.

Because offices existed in mutually delineating relationships, they could
ignite in the frictions that provoked the rhetorics of liberty. Claims on any
office could be contentious, hierarchies of office unstable; their dynamics
were part of a disputatious world. So the language of office had a negative
dimension, and having touched on the terms slavery and licence, it is now
necessary to outline it more fully. No more than liberty, or authority, was
this accusative aspect of office the property of any one political group.
More or less fully available to any putative office-holder, its use was a

Caputo, On Religion, p. 46; Sullivan, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Lund, ˜Neither Behemoth
nor Leviathan™, are recent examples.
Porter, Enlightenment Britain, p. 33.
The vocabulary of office 95
response to perceived dangers coming from those resisting the authority of
office, be they fellows, superiors or subordinates. It was as necessary to
have a battery of accusatory terms as it was to have an armoury of
justification. In addition to words like slavery and licence were domin-
ation and tyranny, oppression, arbitrary rule, force, neglect, alienation,
anarchy, luxury, corruption, revolt, rebellion.
Anyone who comes to political argument is at once constrained and
given opportunities by the established resources of language. To use them
is almost invariably to counter alternative patterns of judgement and in
this process the language is gradually altered, but retaining exploitable
traces of earlier states of affairs. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
the complementary registers of office afforded enormous latitude for
moral redescription and there were a number of means to this deceptively
simple end of presenting one case at the expense of another. Without
semantic change, the force of a position might be inverted most obviously
by the use of litotes. ˜For Brutus is an honourable man; they so are they
all, all honourable men™. A position might be subjected to diminishing or
derisory comparison, tapinosis, such as when Hobbes compared priests
with fairies.80 Although these tropes have redescriptive force, more expli-
cit redescription existed alongside them.81 Unlike them, however, it was a
necessary feature of language, a consequence of the fact that anything that
can be classified can be reclassified. Hence anything that can be described
can be redescribed. There is, as the ancient sceptics emphasised, no
unchallengeable description.
It is possible to make a rough distinction between the following mech-
anisms of redescription. First, there was the simple act of repredicating a
shared common term. The quality of mercy might be deemed a ˜lazy
passion™.82 Sometimes repredication took the form of what Chaim Perel-
man has called the disassociation of ideas. This was a process of co-optive
or distributive employment of vocabulary, where a predominant descrip-
tion is at once accepted and subverted in an attempt to replace its associ-
ations.83 Hence expressions such as ˜true liberty™ or ˜so called rebellion™, or
˜miserably misled Commonwealth™s-men (falsely so called)™.84 Second, an
expression, negative or positive, might be ˜softened™ by a more general

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 46.
Quentin Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge, 1996), at
Thomas Walter, The Excommunicated Prince (1679), 5.5.3.
Chaim Perelman, The New Rhetoric and the Humanities: Essays on Rhetoric and its
Applications (Dordrecht, 1979), pp. 23“4; Condren, The Language of Politics, pp. 76“9.
Christopher Harvey, Faction Supplanted (1663), sects. 2, 7; Anon., A worthy Panegyrick upon
Monarchy (1658?, 1680); on rebellion see also Sidney, Discourses, ch. 3. sect. 36, p. 519.
96 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
descriptor that lacked the emotional force of the specific. Parliamentary
office could be a ˜softer word™ for a pension.85 According to Burnet,
persecution was softened by the more encompassing ˜prosecution™,
˜obstinacy™ by ˜firmness™.86 Conversely, a general description might be
replaced (hardened) by something more pointed; protest could be called
riot, remonstrance, rebellion. Third, there was recourse to rhetorical
antonymity: the interchange of words in direct opposition to each other.
It was a practice that helped sustain the binary nature of much political
vocabulary, providing a ready source of redescriptive defence or attack, as
the case may be. Power could become force, prerogative deemed arbitrary
rule, sloth and cowardice converted into meekness and peaceableness,
liberty called licence. As John Hall put it, such words got bounced like
so many ˜tennis balls™ across a court.87 Hobbes pointed to this feature of
discourse by insisting that tyranny was but monarchy misliked; anarchy
disliked democracy. He might as easily have said that licence was liberty
misliked; anarchy after all was a byword for licentiousness. Clumsy con-
jurors, he remarked, ˜call up spirits, as they cannot at their pleasure allay
again . . . Unskillful divines do oftentimes the like; for when they call
unreasonably for zeal, there appears a spirit of cruelty . . . instead of
reformation, tumult™.88 Each of these three redescriptive tactics can be seen
in the question of what to call what we now neutrally refer to as the Civil
Wars, such as revolution, dissolution, rebellion or troubles. Fourth was
the use of dramatic metaphorical and allegorical transformations that
might accentuate or invert a prior description. David Norbrook™s discus-
sion of May™s translation and continuation of Lucan™s Pharsalia offers
clear evidence of this, as well as the importance of the terms used to
designate the warfare in mid-seventeenth-century Britain. May treated
Roman civil war as an allegory, and in doing so transformed what some
called a rebellion of subjects into a combat between citizens.89
Not all substitutions were redescriptions. Reliance on synecdoche or
metonymy could serve to sustain focus. Yet the ways in which perspectives
could be altered were easily combined, and thus redescription as a broad
process was always a matter of degree, from nuanced qualification and
insinuation to allegorical recasting and metaphorical transformation. Be-
cause of classificatory contingency, some process of redescription in argu-
ment is a condition for us being able to identify anything as political in the

Hutchinson, Memoirs, p. 63; Anon., The Certain Way to Serve England (1681), p. 15.
Burnet, History, vol. I, pp. 337, 472.
John Hall, Of Government and Obedience (1654), p. 125.
Thomas Hobbes, The Answer to the Preface Before Gondibert (1651), in The English
Works of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Sir William Molesworth (1845), vol. IV, p. 448.
Norbrook, Writing the English Republic, chs. 1, 4.
The vocabulary of office 97
first place, for the predicate political privileges a certain sort of description
through an established vocabulary of political terms. But a necessary
process could always threaten instability.
With the full array of redescriptive mechanisms in mind, it is possible to
identify two principal types of redescription. With one, there is a suffi-
ciently shared tacit understanding of the world for an appeal to the facts,
or truth to be used as standards for measuring linguistic ingenuity. Under
such circumstances redescription can be controlled, neutralised as poetic
amplification, or revealed as a form of misdescription. Hence a principle
of decorum could operate as a criterion for language use. It was partially
against a background of sensitivity to paradiastole and its consequences
that one should place the seventeenth-century attempts to establish a
universal language, the development of dictionaries to control the mean-
ings of new and difficult words, the heated objections to alien terms, and
the attempts associated with the Royal Society to tie words univocally to
simple reference functions.90 The reform of language as a barrier to
redescription and the creation of detailed natural histories of the empirical
world were related enterprises. The insistence that people should call
things by their proper names remains familiar from the seventeenth cen-
tury to George Orwell. The notions of euphemism and dysphemism are
now used to pinpoint dubious deviance from proper use.
There is, however, also a more radical form of redescription where an
assumed court of appeal beyond language is unreliable, so rendering
contentious any asserted deviation from the acceptable. The possibility
had been recognised since antiquity.91 Aristotle had tried to stabilise
moral terms by locating them between extremes “ so generosity lay be-
tween profligacy and meanness, honesty between exaggeration and under-
statement. Hobbes regarded this procedure as part of the problem,
because it opened a two-dimensional latitude for disputed descriptions,
and what had to be effected was a binary, and somewhat Ramist collapse
into proper use and misuse “ a computer-speak of morality.92
I am suggesting here that the problem of moral redescription was
recognised as serious because its first form could not be insulated from
the second. The opposing registers of office guaranteed the possibility of
moral transfiguration, especially in a world in which everything could be
taken as a sign for something else. The result was an alarming credence to
the claims that the accomplished rhetor could make and re-make the social

Barbara Shapiro, John Wilkins, 1614“1672: An Intellectual Biography (Los Angeles,
1969), pp. 207“23.
Plato, Republic, 561A.
Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric, pp. 172“80; 294ff.
98 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
world, like a god, or indeed like a devil. This fear helps explain why writers
like Hobbes wanted the language purged of words like tyranny. The
transformative powers of rhetoric could be like ˜the witchcraft of Medea™;
the spells cast with them could call up storms of ruin.93 Roger L™Estrange
made the point later in a hyperbolic redescription of the language of
nonconformists like Baxter. They ˜have a certain Routin of Words and
Sayings, that have the tone of Magique in the very sound of them and serve
only (without any other Meaning) like the Drum and the Trumpet to rouse
up the Multitude to Battle™.94 These dangers, however, were endemic to the
language of office, and all office-holders had an interest in keeping it that
way ” not least the pot L™Estrange calling the nonconformist kettle black,
and the philosopher Hobbes eloquently attacking the philosophies of
Mr White: the negative register of office was defence against erosion of
the positive. They were bi-conditional and herein lies the full implication
of Milton™s point about the necessity of sin for a conception of virtue. It
was this that Hobbes™s draconian solutions to the vocabulary failed to
overcome; indeed they seem to illustrate the status quo of contested
language use and even to have exacerbated it.
As the occasional recourse to the figures of magic suggests, the extreme
of redescriptive hostility relied upon the semiotics of the supernatural.
When subjected to Cotta™s ˜prudent ghesse™, all visible signs, acts, per-
formances and coincidental happenings could be transmogrified into an
antithetical projection of one™s proper relationship with God and one™s
neighbours, Hell populated ˜with Ghosts and spiritual Officers™.95 As a
corollary, the projection of the demonic world easily became entangled
with images of religious malefaction, for these too were wayward under-
standings of the relationship to God. James VI&I argued that the weak in
faith were Satan™s victims and popish gullibility and useless rites of exor-
cism the reason for there being so many witches.96 Over a hundred years
later, Defoe was able to evoke a similar ambience of cosmic evil, describ-
ing those who ˜draw the Draught of Arbitrary Power™ as ˜Infernal States-
Men™ from ˜the Depths of Satan™s Kingdom™.97 Monstrous projections tell
us much about the proper order of things, the extremes to which people
will go to rid themselves of conjectured evil and shore up conceptions of

Hobbes, Elements, 2, ch. 9.15, p. 178; Answer, p. 448.
Roger L™Estrange, The Casuist Uncas™d in a Dialogue with Richard Baxter (1681),
Preface, n.p.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 12, p. 79; the reference is to pagan religions.
James VI&I, Daemonologie (1597), in Workes, pp. 119“21.
Daniel Defoe, Jure Divino (1706), 6.2, 7.14; see D.N. De Luna, ˜Jure Divino: Defoe™s
“volume in a Folio by Way of Answer to and Confutation of Clarendon™s History of the
Rebellion”™, Philological Quarterly, 75 (1996), p. 50.
The vocabulary of office 99
the good; but they do not necessarily evidence the independent identity of
the monsters themselves.98 Whether they are polemically shaped by hostile
redescription, or whether they are actually created by the magic of an
inverted world of official probity, can be a moot point. We no longer
believe in witches, but some say there be Antinomians and Ranters at the
bottom of the seventeenth century.99
When Lawson expostulated that Hobbes deserved to be a slave, it was
partly in objection to Hobbes™s argument that the word tyranny is redun-
dant.100 For Lawson, conventionally enough, slavery was by definition
what tyranny created. Without the language of office-abuse the world was
safe for the abusers of office; because their behaviour could not adequately
be described, they could not be brought to book. Hobbes, in short,
deserved to swim in his own medicine. The issue between them went
beyond political forms to the vocabulary of office, to whether words had
a reference function sufficient for there to be an appeal in language to
realities, so providing a criterion for judging the decorum of redescription;
or, whether the sense of reality is created by the language available. The
insecurity of any distinction between ontology and epistemology made
such matters very difficult to clarify; and Hobbes, formally adhering to the
first possibility, seemed to want to purge language on the basis of the
second, a remarkable three-card trick.
Just how far the vocabulary of office was subject to destabilising rede-
scription can be seen by William Cornwallis™s earlier dangerous experi-
ment in paradox. He took Richard III, the exemplary abuser of kingly
office, and then set out less to deny the facts of the case against him than to
re-describe his rule through what I am calling the positive register of office.
Negative predicates are discounted, ˜softer™ generalities drained of critical
force replace specific accusations, and favourable terms bustle in
for hostile antonyms. The tyrant becomes the wise and politic ruler.
Cornwallis™s paradox was a Gorgian exercise in rhetorical dexterity, a
latter-day proof that Helen never went to Troy on the evidence of The

` ´
See, for example, Ian Maclean, ˜La doctrine de la preuve dans les proces intentes contre les
sorciers en Lorraine et en Franche-Comte autour de 1600™, in J.-P. Pittion, ed. Droit et justice
a la Renaissance (Tours, forthcoming); Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe
(London, 1978), pp. 185“91; Peter Lake, ˜Deeds Against Nature: Cheap Print, Protestantism
and Murder in Early Seventeenth Century England™, in Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake, eds.,
Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 268“9, 274.
Cooper, Fear and Polemic; J. C. Davis, Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the
Historians (Cambridge, 1986). Some awareness of invention by conceptual projection of
fear was to be found before modern psychology on which Cooper and Davis draw: see
Michael Wilks, The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1963),
on Augustinus Triumphus™ image of a heretical pope, pp. 502“3.
Lawson, An Examination, p. 37.
100 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Iliad. It was like trying to prove that syphilis is good for you, which he
did.101 Nothing, however, will better illustrate the redescriptive resource-
fulness of the vocabulary of contested office than the issue of rebellion
(chapter 9).

The whole vocabulary of office ensured both that a persona in office was
contingent and often fragile; and that relationships between offices were
crucial to the stability of all of them. These points can be illustrated by
concluding with comments on the doctrine of the king™s two bodies. It
required both an awareness of relational identity, and of its Richardian
negation in tyranny; what it was never able to do was to ensure that
the persona of the monarch was absolute and beyond transforming
Ernst Kantorowicz produced the major study of the king™s two bodies,
but his account is misleading if the doctrine is isolated from the world of
presuppositions and language use in which it was forged. As Kantorowicz
argued, during the late Middle Ages, kingship was seen through a christo-
logical metaphor of unchanging divinity expressed in mutable form. Any
king was thus conceived as having two natures: the persona of office and
the body inhabiting it.102 But if this was so of a king because it was so of
Christ, it was so of Christ because the vocabulary of office provided a
perspective for understanding divinity (I shall return to such circularity
in chapters 6 and 10). This doctrinal specification of kingship was not
unique to England, but flourished there because monarchy was perceived
to be insecure, its difficulties widely advertised in a discordant chronicle
tradition relating with relish kingly failure.103
It is, then, not surprising that a doctrine of the king™s two bodies
expressed the need for continuity of rule, and the potential expendability
of the ruler.104 Neither is it odd that James VI&I™s considered theories of
kingship were printed when continuity was indeed an issue against a
backdrop of instability. In the Basilikon Doron, written for his first son,
the picture of ruling was a miniature of the imperative of continuity of
office organised in terms of three patterns of relational responsibility: the

Sir William Cornwallis, Folger MS V.a.132; ˜Richard III™ in Essays of Certain Paradoxes
(1616); ˜In Praise of the Pocks™, in Essays.
Kantorowicz, The King™s Two Bodies, at length.
A point seized upon first, I think, by Ponet, A Shorte Treatise, pp. 100ff; see also
Greenberg, The Radical Face, pp. 206“42; Conrad Russell, The Causes of the English
Civil War (Oxford, 1990), pp. 134“5, 156“60.
Russell, The Causes, pp. 158“60.
The vocabulary of office 101
Christian calling, the duty to rule and the king™s behaviour towards
anything not strictly determined by his office.105 But a pious hope for
kingly continuity was only one use to which a doctrine of official identity
was put. Parliament™s Apology of 1604 can be seen in the same context of
office redefinition. It, too, re-asserted an abstract identity independent of
its changing membership. It was a conceptual and material body, a ˜Sov-
ereign Court™, whose ˜care™ is the maintenance of the bonds between king
and subjects and making with the king ˜one body politic™.106 The vocabu-
lary allowed an almost infinite multiplicity of duplex bodies. The crucial
issue, then, was the relationship between offices under the aegis of which
people could give voice. Only God is not dependent upon relationships, as
Browne later put it, ˜for only he is, all others have an existence with
dependency, and are something but by a distinction™.107
If official identity was forged in reciprocity, the common understanding
was also that occupation of office superadded something special to the
office-holder; many held that in becoming a priest a man was mystically
transformed. For Catholics, a priest became infallible when made a pope.
In this unity with persona lay the effectiveness of the office. Identity could
thus always be claimed nominally to be specific to office, referring only to
bodies considered as personae. By the seventeenth century the habits of
doing so were ingrained, as was the formulation of Baldus de Ubaldus
(1327“1400): an official persona was an identity comprehended by the
intellect but conceptually separable from its active, physical agent; dignitas
and substance were different.108 Notions of relational identity in office
created the personae that in logic and in apologetics had long provided the
currency of ethical discourse.109 The king, or shepherd, was the image of
God in executing his office, stated John of Salisbury, but in abusing it he
became the image of the Devil.110 This principle applied to any office,

James VI&I, Basilicon Doron, pp. 150, 155, 180ff.
Form of Apology and Satisfaction (1604), in J. R. Tanner, Constitutional Documents of
the Reign of James I, 1603“1625 (Cambridge, 1961 edn), pp. 224, 230.
Browne, Religio Medici, p. 92; see also, for example, John Pym: only God ˜subsists by
himselfe, all other things subsist in a mutual dependence and relation™, The Speech or
Declaration of John Pym (1641), in Malcolm, ed., The Struggle for Sovereignty, vol. I,
p. 131; Ste B., Counsel to the Husband, to the Wife Instruction (1608), p. 40, on the
˜reciprocally related™ societies that form a family.
J. P. Canning, ˜Law, Sovereignty and Corporation Theory, 1300“1450™, in J. H. Burns,
ed., The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c.350“c.1450 (Cambridge,
1988), pp. 474“5.
They also lie behind Paul Ricoeur™s analysis of the philosophical concept of moral
identity; see Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen Blamey (Chicago, 1992), pp. 1“26,
John of Salisbury, Policraticus, ed. and trans. Cary J. Nederman (Cambridge, 1990),
7.17, pp. 163, 202; see also C. H. McIlwain, The Growth of Political Thought in the West
(New York, 1932), on the Tractatus Eboracenses, pp. 211ff.
102 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
including the priesthood. The offices of pope and monarch were powerful
analogues. The misuse of papal power could be seen as self-deposition.
Lewis of Bavaria drew on the same sort of proposition when formally
deposing Pope John XXII at Pisa in 1328; the pope had already deposed
himself by misconduct.111 The Leges Edwardi Confessoris illustrates what
was by the sixteenth century an entirely conventional sort of statement.112
A king who did not uphold law and religion lost the name of king. It was a
name that could easily be held to be meaningless in anything approaching
a natural condition. ˜When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for
the name of king?™ Prospero would shortly reflect on precisely this nom-
inal contingency of office. He grew a stranger to his government, lost his
office to his brother, who ˜new created creatures that were mine . . ./. . .
having both the key/ Of officer, and office, set all hearts I™ th™ state/ To
what tune pleased his ear™.113
Applied to any office, a doctrine of moral persona in office required
recognition of no more than a conceptual distinction between the dignitas
of the official and the fact of the physical body; to collapse them into one
created the notion of a quasi-divine figure, a local image of papal plenitudo
potestatis and divine succession. Although it could never literally be
sustained under all circumstances, it was clearly valuable to be able to
make this move when conduct in office needed defending; it was a barrier
against deployment of its accusative register. Conversely, a separation of
persona from corporeal person isolated office-holder as mortal and merely
human, even ˜private™, and allowed the person to be attacked or deposed
and given a different (im)moral identity while according the office formal
respect and allegiance. This was a casuistical move of decided value in a
world of potent monarchs. In either case, the defining relationships be-
tween the office of kingship and any others were dramatically changed.
The problems of separating, or conceptually distinguishing, man from
office would be a constant for the troubled Stuart dynasty. We have what
might be styled a unity and a separation variant arising from acceptance
of nominal identity and expressed in a pattern of shared propositions
between which people could shift, depending on circumstances.
During the Civil Wars, the difficulties of sustaining Baldus™s precarious
formulation between unity and separation became spectacularly apparent.
Some distinction between man and office carried superficial advantages

Durandus de Sancto Porciano, De iurisdictione ecclesiastica (Paris, 1506), fols. 1“8
unpaginated, cited in Wilks, The Problem of Sovereignty, p. 224; Augustinus Triumphus,
Summa, 5.1, p. 50; 67.1. ad 3, p. 353, quoted in Wilks, The Problem of Sovereignty,
pp. 502, 516.
Greenberg, The Radical Face, at length.
Shakespeare, The Tempest 1.1; 1.2.
The vocabulary of office 103
for the motley gathering of royalist supporters. Many were wedded to his
cause despite his policies and behaviour, their concern being for his office
and the rule of law.114 Conversely, parliament lacked a focus for personal
loyalty and so had perhaps a greater incentive to reify allegiance to offices,
initially if awkwardly to the office of kingship itself.115 Predictably, this
backfired when parliament was in turn accused of office-abuse. With
splendid polemical sweep, Richard Overton rubbed the parliamentary
nose in its own doctrines of office: sovereign authority was separate from
the gathering of men who sat in Westminster, for official and personal
capacity differ. If war against the king was not war against the office, but
a man in relationship with the kingdom, so too this ˜very Axeltree™ of
opposition to Charles is a ˜principle™ against the men in parliament now.
It allows ˜defensive opposition™ to their arbitrary and unjust commands.116
Such interested exploitations of long-shared topoi saw a period of parti-
cularly intense conceptual confusion, splendidly summed up by Lawson
in 1660:
This gave occasion of curious distinctions. For, men did distinguish between
Charles Stuart and the King, between his regal and his personal capacity: and on
the other side, between Parliament and a party in the Parliament, though the whole
Parliament did commission and arm. Thus they found a difference between the
King and himself, and the Parliament and itself. These distinctions were not
altogether false: yet though Charles Stuart and the King, and so Parliament, and
a party in the Parliament, might be distinguished, yet they could not be separated.
And woe unto the people that is brought into such straights and perplexities. For if
they kill Charles Stuart, they kill the King; and if the King destroy that party in the
Parliament, he destroys the Parliament.117

Lawson™s response was not to reject the curious distinctions, but in taking
their formulation to a higher level of abstraction to extend them and offer
protocols for the use of the vocabulary of office across society as a whole.
All political beings existed in multiple relationships of office and so were
to be understood as complementary personae. To have a political society is
to have an order of subjection required by God. Thus subject and ruler

See David L. Smith, Constitutional Royalism and the Search for a Settlement, c.1640“
1649 (Cambridge, 1994), e.g. ch. 7.
See Russell, The Causes, ch. 6; Philip Hunton, A Treatise of Monarchie (1643); Henry
Parker, Some Few Observations upon his Majesties Late Answer (1642), on whom see
Michael Mendle, Henry Parker and the English Civil War: The Political Thought of the
Public™s ˜Privado™ (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 84“9, 90“110.
Richard Overton, An Appeale from the Degenerate Representative Body (1647), in Don
Wolfe, ed., The Leveller Manifestoes (London, 1967), pp. 174“5, 177“8.
Lawson, Politica, 15.8, pp. 230“1; see also Anon., A Letter of Spiritual Advice (1643), on
the enormity of separating the king from Charles Stuart; Edward Bagshawe, The Rights
of the Crown (1660), p. 30, on the imperative of distinguishing without dividing.
104 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
were, as Charles I held, plainly different things: mutually defining relative
terms, or nominals. But physical beings with a subject persona also existed
simultaneously in a relationship of fellowship with each other. These
beings had the persona of citizen with duties to each other and the
community as distinct from the hierarchical polity. This communal iden-
tity in citizenship was also divinely sanctioned. There were not, then, just
two bodies, the physical and the moral persona of office, but at least three:
the physical and the duplex personae of social being. This was to elevate a
notion of citizenship not just as conceptually independent of subjection
but as partly constitutive of divinely sanctioned human offices. How much
followed from this, however, was another matter. Knowing when citizen-
ship or subjection took priority at any time was the way to minimise
straights and perplexities by privileging the appropriate sphere of office
and its terms of judgement. That was too much for any who saw the polity
only as having ruler and ruled and the king™s two bodies being insepar-
able.118 Beyond that, however, Lawson saw that legislative moral theory
had its limits; it was not always possible to say a priori which persona
should take priority. Complicating the casuistic force of Lawson™s case,
however, there was a wider problem. The integrity of any office required
its delineation from its neighbours, as well as from its underbelly of abuse;
but the vocabulary had to be common to all claimed offices including
those of citizen and ruler. As I shall now argue, given ingenuity there was
little that could not be construed as some sort of office-generating perso-
nae each with the full ornatus of standing, yet subject to an extensive
lexicon of reproof and contradiction. Lawson™s straights and complexities
were endemic to the world of offices, of which the king™s two bodies were
only an instance.

Owen, Herode and Pilate; John Maxwell, Sacro-sancta regnum majestas (Oxford, 1644);
Heylyn, The Rebells Catechism; Thomas Hobbes, De cive (Amsterdam, 1642, 1646), all
illustrate the reduction of citizenship to subjection.
5 Of¬ces of the intellect: player, poet and

He is very severe in his supposed Of¬ce, and cries, Woe to ye Scribes
right or wrong . . . He is a Committee-Man in the Commonwealth of
Letters and as great a Tyrant.
(Samuel Butler, Characters, 1667“9)

Early modern England exhibited grave suspicion of the protean; but with
ethical argument centred on personae, the conditions were ideal for con-
structing the very mutability it feared. The following two chapters will cast
light on this tension. The next will show how a presupposition of office
was characteristic of accounts of that most immutable and defining inner
essence of humanity, the soul. This concerns the rhetorics of office used to
sanction socialised, outer identities. Together they should make more
historical sense of the post-Renaissance fascination with human identity
that has proved to be such a fruitful theme in modern literary studies.1
Moral autonomy was neither sought nor celebrated. In Protestant
polemic, the denigrated priest is a shape-shifter and dissembler. ˜Sometime
I can be a monk in a long sad cowl;/Sometime I can be a nun and look like
an owl.™2 The myth of Jesuit transmogrification proved sturdy. Unlike the
silly sheep, wrote Daniel Tuvill, near the start of the seventeenth century,
man can fashion his voice in as many dialects as ambition demands. Only
the honest man, wrote Joshua Barnes a hundred years later, was not a
changeling.3 Any suspicion of plasticity therefore, needed rationalisation.

Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning; Katherine Eisaman Mous, Inwardness and
Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago, 1980).
John Bale, King Johan, cited in Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton,
2002), pp. 30“1; cf. Sir Thomas Overbury (?), ˜Jesuit™, Sir Thomas Overbury, his Wife with
Additions of More Characters (1622), n.p.; Evelyn, Diary, vol. III, 2 December 1650, p. 23
on a preaching Jesuit as all things to all men.
Daniel Tuvill, ˜Of Reputation™, fol. 116; Joshua Barnes, The Good Old Way (1703), p. 91;
Richard Head, Proteus Redivivus, or the art of Wheedling (1684), at length.

106 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
It was done through the language of office; anything else equalled vil-
lainy. It was disputed claims of office that gave a family resemblance to the
potentially unreliable identities of courtier, stage player, poet, rhetor and
I have already discussed the aristocratic persona, noting that as the
vocabulary of office could extend to the courtier, these identities might
be merged. While both might draw inspiration from courtesy literature,
however, the relationship was asymmetrical; courtiers were aristocrats,
but aristocrats might shun court. Moreover, a large part of aristocratic
identity stemmed from continuity of family name and stability of salient
virtues. This was not so obvious for the courtier, and therein lay the
opportunity to denude the figure of official standing. For, in contrast to
the aristocrat, whose inflexibility, not least on points of honour, was itself
a source of difficulty, the courtier was identified with a chameleon-like
capacity for adaptation.
Castiglione™s Il Cortigiano had a number of English printings from
1561, and by appropriating the terminology of office, tried to circumscribe
the courtier™s need for flexibility. As a modern translator has disapprov-
ingly remarked, much of the work is boldly plagiarised from Cicero, Plato,
Plutarch and Livy.4 At the outset, the allusions to Cicero put the stamp of
office upon the ideal: the courtier is not just a shape-shifter, a servant or
advisor, but occupies an office to a ruler to entertain, advise and display
style and virtue, which in itself enhances the standing of any prince. The
courtly office, then, has great tolerance of movement and even dissimu-
lation, but is cohered by a style of performance; hence the centrality of the
exclusive virtue of sprezzatura, the wit and lightness with which the
courtier responds in assuming a diversity of specific roles. Stressing differ-
ent aspects of a composite identity could stabilise its responsibilities in
different ways. Stephen Gosson, relying no less on the authorities of
antiquity than Castiglione, isolated counselling as the principal courtly
function. On the courtier lay the weight of responsibility for the common-
wealth and for its burdens: learning, probity, liberality, justice and cour-
tesy were essential. ˜A. D. B.™ attends more to the dangers of the courtly
environment, justifying flexibility as an insurance against ruin,5 but here
too the line between courtier and counsellor becomes blurred. Markku
Peltonen has argued that the adaptation of Castiglione™s image to the early

Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (1528), ed. and trans. George Bull
(Harmondsworth, 1987 edn), p. 13.
Stephen Gosson, The Ephemerides of Philo divided into Three Bookes (1586), fols. 27r“
32v, 33v“36r, 39v; A. D. B., The court of the . . . most magnificent James (1619), pp. 60“1,
65“6, 97“9, quoted in Peltonen, Classical Humanism, p. 136.
Offices of the intellect 107
seventeenth century could have been Tacitean.6 Court life in an uncertain
world required sailing with the wind. But the Tacitean topoi of contingency,
danger and corruption still operated within the terms of Castiglione™s
ambit of office and provide thin evidence for any emerging ideology.
The Ciceronian and Tacitean alike remain bounded by affirmations of
Christian virtue.7 Moreover, the formulised requirements of the civil
conversation that theoretically lubricated court life had already developed
an internal momentum to dissimulation independent of anything exclu-
sively Tacitean. As Peltonen has more recently argued, the civil conversa-
tion was, as it were, the life-blood of the courtier, and it led rapidly to what
looks like a cult of superficiality. This may do the conversational literature
a disservice, for as a grammar of civility, its point was not to exhaust the
content of social interaction. And although the result was the formulation
of a ritualised shiftiness that made sincerity a solecism, its purpose was still
to serve dexterity within office.8 Nevertheless, it would make the courtier a
hostage to fortune.
For all his play with the vocabulary of Ciceronian office taken from
Castiglione, Philibert de Vienne provided a satire of the courtly and its
conversation that subverted its official standing, and Shakespeare may
have taken a cue from this, for in Polonius we have something close to a
personification of a useless mobility. Polonius is at once central and
marginal to the action; attached to all in turn, he only gets in the way,
and so dies behind the arras, a sort of absent presence. His advice to his
son Laertes does little but specify the terms through which social move-
ment was possible, a parody of Aristotelian definition by mean, most
tellingly in his advice on the fixation with dress. ˜Costly thy habit as thy
purse can buy,/ But not expressed in fancy; rich not gaudy;/ For the
apparel oft proclaims the man;/ And they in France of the best rank and
station/ Are of a most select and generous choice in that.™ Curiously,
almost the only substantial advice, ˜neither a borrower nor a lender be™,
would have been hopelessly impractical in a cash-strapped society
functioning through reciprocal debt.9
More directly, in the book of characters attributed to Sir Thomas
Overbury, the courtier is depicted as officeless and empty, a display of
clothes that belong to another and who follows ˜nothing but inconstancy™.
For Samuel Butler, the courtier is a cypher, ˜a moving Piece of Arras™,

Peltonen, Classical Humanism, pp. 136“7.
Tuvill, The Doue and the serpent, p. 36.
Philibert de Vienne, The Court Philosopher, trans. G. North (1575), pp. 104“6; see
Peltonen, The Duel, pp. 19“30, 146“63.
Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.3.
108 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
unfortunate in Polonius™s case. He is nothing but the cut and flow of his
clothing, for which he is probably in debt. The creation of his tailor, he
exists only to be seen.10 Similarly, according to Butler, the court wit is a
mere monster of appearance. Here, then, is a parody of Il Cortigiano, with
possible allusion to Hamlet, achieved by draining all vestige of office from
the description of social pliancy.
Similar images of instability are found throughout the century, even in
court masque: ˜Courtiers there™s no faith in you/ You change as often as
you can™.11 Predictably, the slight could be directed at any counsellor, or
aristocrat in need of attack. ˜Dexterity in doing ill™ made men think
Shaftesbury might do good, wrote one anonymous author. Another called
his breath airy compliment. He is the sign of a man made only of clothes
and cringes.12 The courtier, then, could be the counsellor misliked. If for
Stephen Gosson the office of counsel had given a justification for courtly
plasticity, that office could be contaminated by the courtier™s recidivistic
shape-shifting. To this end, biblical topoi were employed to enhance the
image of the mouth without authentic voice. At the beginning of the
seventeenth century, Andrew Willett noted Achitophel™s relationship
with David as typological for Jesus and Judas and for modern times.13
Absalom™s Conspiracy (1680) provided a detailed narrative of Achitophel™s
treachery, easily read as allegory, once David was recognised to be
Charles. These may have functioned as pre-texts for Dryden™s poem in
which the arch-villain, Achitophel/Shaftesbury is an essay in manipulative
inconstancy. This simulacrum of satanic evil is also a backdrop to Hali-
fax™s Character of a Trimmer. Halifax, a prominent and controversial
courtier, was accused of persistent vacillation; he too has a place in
Absalom and Achitophel. His famous defence of trimming will be touched
on in chapter 7 to illustrate the construction of country-love as a stabilis-
ing responsibility in its own right. It is enough here to anticipate by noting
that courtly trimming was defensible only within the constraints of a
postulated office.
The homologies between dress and discourse provided opportunities for
diminishing the courtier that Butler found irresistible. The courtly concern
with dress was, as we would say, fetishistic, a sign of empty words and
officeless conduct. The courtier is only his tailor™s cut and tailors have no

Overbury (?), Characters, n.p.; Butler, Characters, pp. 69“70. ˜I have undone three
tailors™, boasted Touchstone of his duelling: Shakespeare, As You Like It 5.4; Overbury,
˜A Taylor™, in Characters.
Blow (?), An Opera Performed before the King, p. 2.
Anon., The Character of a Disbanded Courtier (1681), p. 1; Anon., The True Character of
an upstart Courtier (1682), p. 2.
Willett, Harmonie on the Second Booke of Samuel, pp. 104“7.
Offices of the intellect 109
office either, being unchristian and rejected by Christ.14 Butler™s account
of the tailor, who came in with the Fall, sneers at Jews, Turks and
Mahometans sitting cross-legged at their dubious work. They are the
rhetors of the artisan world, creating an outward appearance to disguise
a hidden reality. In this, the age-old associations of dress and words,
the common homology between fustian clothes and fustian rhetoric,
plain tongue and plain dress from a Quintilianesque metaphor for de-
corum, are all deftly exploited at the courtier™s expense. Sumptuous or
simple, dress was a sign pointing in opposite directions; if not a direct
expression, it was a disguise, if not of truth, of dishonesty. So, for the
hostile, the Quaker™s parade of simple dress to symbolise modesty was a
proof of hypocrisy.15
The insistence on a rationale for alteration is also used to assert the
integrity of the actor who, according to Butler, unlike the courtier had a
˜calling™ and ˜profession™.16 There is good reason to consider the actor as
having an officium because of the philological origin of persona from a
theatrical mask; but the persona of an officium and the player™s mask were
not self-evidently fused in the early modern world. When the theatre was
no longer a sanctioned part of religious performance and yet was increas-
ingly prominent, the perceptible distance between mask-wearer and mul-
tiple guises raised questions about the player™s status. The legitimacy of
the theatre had been a formal topic of disputation in sixteenth-century
universities, in which context questions of office, the consequences of
poetic imagination and the appeal to the emotions provided a richly
entangled opportunity for rhetorical skill.17 Hamlet™s advice to the players
draws generally on the questionable place of the actor “ a point of direct
relevance to the competition between companies in the first years of the
seventeenth century, and to controversies surrounding college-sponsored
plays in Cambridge where Hamlet had early performances. The author of
the words to be spoken has authority: ˜Speak the speech, I pray you, as I
pronounced it to you.™ Yet the need for the actor to show flexibility is

Butler, Characters, p. 174.
Anon., The Character of a Quaker (c. 1679), ed. Merritt Y. Hughes, p. 2; cf. John Milton,
Eikonoklastes (1650), in Complete Prose Works (New Haven, 1962), vol. III, pp. 361“2 on
signs of piety as proof of hypocrisy in Richard III and Charles I.
Butler, Characters, p. 300.
Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, p. 64; John Rainolds, Th™Overthrow of Stage-Playes (1599),
gives a sense of university disputation; Stephen Gosson, Playes Confuted in Five Actions
(1582); Alvin B. Kernan, The Playwright as Magician: Shakespeare™s Image of the Poet in
the English Public Theater (New Haven, 1979), pp. 52“84, for an outline of the uncertain
status of the player in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: the argument
draws largely on G. E. Bentley, The Profession of the Dramatist in Shakespeare™s Time
(Princeton, 1971).
110 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
evident: ˜let your own discretion be your tutor™. If this were all, there might
be little difference between player and courtier, but the emphasis is upon
eliciting the appropriate response in the audience to the matter at hand.
The player, not unlike the priest, has a mediator™s responsibility and all
interpretative licence serves the theatre™s ˜end . . . [which] is to hold, as
™twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature™.18 The play
within the play, then, manifests the execution of a moral office to try the
conscience of the king.19 John Earle and Samuel Butler similarly pinpoint
the need to craft an identity bounded by office. The result is a deliberately
sustained sense of paradox. Like ˜our painting gentlewoman™, wrote Earle,
˜seldom in his own face™ or clothes, the more he counterfeits, the better he
pleases.20 For Butler, the player™s wit, like his wardrobe, is second-hand.
With both he shifts shapes like a witch, assuming ˜a body like an appar-
ition™, but ˜the less he appears himself, the truer he is to his profession “
The more he deceives men, the greater right he does them; and the plainer
his dealing is, the less credit he deserves™: once more the homology of social
and material identity. ˜His profession is a kind of metamorphosis . . . like a
tailors sheet of paper which he folds into figures.™21 A different image also
makes the contrast between the player and the courtier. Butler™s ˜moving
Piece of Arras™ is merely part of the ˜Furniture of the Rooms, and serves
for a walking Picture™, whereas the player ˜represents many excellent
virtues™, though knows no more of them ˜than a picture does whom it
But if the courtier was the creature of his tailor, the actor™s integrity lies
in being the puppet of the poet, or, as Earle put it, using the language of
office-abuse to paradoxical effect, ˜the poet is his only tyrant™.23 The
interplay of overlapping patterns of metaphor for social conduct, clothes,
bodies, words, furnishing and movement were all ways of expressing office
or its absence. If players were to be attacked, office was overlooked; when
defended, overworked. Stage plays are the instruments of the Devil,
Gosson then Prynne insisted; actors have a vocation, retorted Baker.24
They are not hypocrites, for there is an end to their activities. They have

Shakespeare, Hamlet 3.2.
For more extended comment, see Kernan, The Playwright as Magician, pp. 94“111.
Earle, Micro-cosmography, or a Piece of the World Discovered.
Butler, Characters, pp. 300“1.
Ibid., pp. 69, 301.
Earle, Micro-cosmography, ˜A Player™.
Gosson, Playes Confuted, B4r“v, C1; Prynne, Histrio-mastix, at length, but see Actus
secundus, pp. 34“42 (Prynne uses Gosson™s conceit of acts for chapters); Sir Richard
Baker, Theatrum Triumphans (1670), p. 2; it was a long-standing perception that
moralists tended to be condemnatory of the stage: Malcolm, Anecdotes of the Manners
and Customs of London, vol. III, ch. 5, pp. 1“105, but the reasoning changed and was not
Offices of the intellect 111
a vocation superior to that of the historian or philosopher. Vivid
representation in placing moral types before us is ˜the proper Office, and
work of Plays™. It is the ˜Office of the Stage to detect roguery™.25 These
were Hamlet™s sentiments pretty exactly.
Consideration of the player clarifies the importance of keeping distinct
the notion of a role-playing agent from a persona as a function of office.
For the defence of acting was never of role-play as such. It was of an office
requiring the persona to fulfil responsibilities to roles, to the audience to be
delighted and instructed, and to the poet who created the roles to be
staged. Conversely, for a critic like Gosson, it was the diversity of mere
role-play that actually disrupted vocational order.26 It is this last responsi-
bility that brings poetry and the stage into such close alignment. Baker™s
co-option of Sidney™s Defence of Poetry, and the picture imagery associ-
ated with the actor™s office, leads from the mundane world of furniture
and show to the well-worn commonplace of ut pictura poesis, and the poet
had claims to serving a very high office indeed; many who wrote on the
matter would have known something of Petrarch™s being crowned with
laurels, so assimilating an intellectual office to one of divinely sanctioned

In touching on the literature of poetics, we are confronting a world in
which, as Samuel Daniel put it, ˜of one science another may be born™.27 In
university study, the organised parts of trivium and quadrivium were
neither exhaustive nor incontestably distinct. From the sixteenth to the
eighteenth century the shifting domains of intellectual endeavour were
variously mapped in order to consolidate human knowledge. There was
no certain place, for example, for mathematics touching music, magic,
natural science and navigation. Galileo called it the language of God, a
claim more conventionally associated with poetry; but the mathematical
was itself comprised of competing dialects. Deductive vied with probabil-
istic, the certainty of geometry with the suggestive mobility of algebra.
Richard Mulcaster saw logic as the grammar of mathematics, yet on the
eve of Newtonian pre-eminence, John Eachard could see the two as

always what it seemed. Before the Restoration enmity was provoked by the religious
themes presented on the stage; afterwards overt hostility could be a surrogate for
attacking an irreligious and theatre-going court.
Baker, Theatrum Triumphans, pp. 110, 178, 133; Anon., The Immorality of the Pulpit
(1698), p. 7.
Gosson, Playes Confuted, penultimate pages, n.p.
Daniel, Defence of Rhyme, p. 63.
112 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
combining no better than black pudding and anchovy sauce. Logic itself
might be included and excluded from philosophy.28 There was no litera-
ture, but in such a fluid environment, there was a crucial but variable
understanding of poetics.29
In post-Reformation England the poet sometimes needed defending
against the ancient accusation of lying, and of being a prop to purgatory,
that most self-serving of the delusions of Catholicism.30 He also needed
defending against of taints of Anabaptist prophetic enthusiasm, and the
self-indulgence of celebrating carnal trivialities. The poet™s faculty has
been so discredited, wrote Robert Southwell, ˜that a Poet, a Lover and a
Liar, are by many reckoned but three wordes of one signification™.31
Southwell™s model of poetic responsibility was the poet-king David.
Across denominational divisions the defence of poetry, then, frequently
had a theological point or shifted into theology or philosophy on the
authority of Aristotle™s Poetics.32 Not surprisingly, the poetic also needed
to be delineated in tension with competing enclaves of human wisdom,
such as history, rhetoric and philosophy. Intellectual identity might simply
be assumed in re-characterising poetry;33 but incantations of office were
always available as introductory ploys,34 and became sharper when
asserting intellectual primacy, allaying suspicion, or deflecting accusations
of irresponsibility.
Typically, however, the defence of poetry was a defence of its represent-
ing persona. In the tragedy of the poet Collingbourne (Colyngbourne),
gruesomely executed for his lines ˜The Cat, the Rat and Lovel our Dog/Do
rule al England vnder a Hog™, the argument is that under a tyranny the
office of the poet is dangerous. If the office of rule sustains other offices,
the ultimate form of misrule contaminates them. Collingbourne™s voice
states that ˜The Greekes do paynt a Poetes office whole™, and proceeds to
outline the necessary qualities through the metaphor of Pegasus. The poet
must be chaste and virtuous, ˜nymble, free and swyft™; in a tyranny

Mulcaster, Positions, ch. 41, p. 246; Eachard, Mr Hobbs State of Nature, p. 99; Bacon,
Advancement, pt. 2, pp. 125, 144“5.
McKeon, ˜Politics of Discourses™, pp. 35“47.
Greenblatt, Hamlet, pp. 36“9; Hoby, A Curry-Combe; John Donne, The Pseudo-Martyr
(1610), pp. 115“19, on purgatory and priestly office.
Robert Southwell, ˜The Author to his Loving Cosen™, in St. Peter™s Complaint, With
Other Poems (1595), in The Poems of Robert Southwell, S.J., ed. James H. McDonald and
Nancy Pollard Brown (Oxford, 1967), p. 1.
McKeon, ˜Politics of Discourses™, pp. 44“5.
For example, Thomas Campion™s Observations in the Art of English Poesy (1602), or
John Dryden™s Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668), both in Jones, ed., English Critical
Essays, pp. 55“60, 104“73, respectively.
Daniel, Defence of Rhyme, p. 62.
Offices of the intellect 113
decidedly swift. Mistakenly, he had thought the poet™s ancient liberty to
chastise and correct could be pleaded at any bar: ˜I had forgot howe
newefound tyrannies/ Wyth ryght and freedome were at open warre™.35
Liberty of office is predictably in tension with tyranny. Yet, however
circumspect, indirect or jesting the poet is advised to be, his office remains
to trade in moral truths.
For all its abstract economy and emphasis on procedure, Bacon™s
Advancement of Learning illustrates a similar point with respect to rhet-
oric. The principal distinctions between poetry, history and philosophy
are primarily related to a human faculty. Poetry expresses imagination,
history is memory and philosophy is reason. Throughout the text, Bacon
occasionally shifts from accounts of intellectual procedure to what the
practitioner actually does, his virtues and the ends he must serve. If a man
as rhetorician speaks to different people, he should do so in different ways,
as he should not if the discourse is purely logical. This places rhetoric, as
Aristotle argued, between logic and civic knowledge: ˜the duty and office
of Rhetoric is, to apply reason to the imagination for the better moving of
the will™.36 How a man should speak is a function of persona. Further, the
complementary scope of each sphere of learning is a way of insisting that
conversation between them makes the active life of value to the common-
wealth. The Advancement of Learning is an elaborate defence of what
George Pettie had stated as fact: all learning must be of use, the means
to which is conversation. This has its own office in the perfection of
The conventional early modern ideal of the poet remained cloaked
in the authority of antiquity. In Greece poets had been associated with
divine inspiration. Traditionally draped in purple, the poet was both a
maker or creator and a teacher, whose standing Plato, in particular,
felt the need to confront in asserting the primacy of philosophy. In
lowland Scots as well as English, the term maker could mean poet,
and Sidney in his Apology and then Jonson in Timber drew on the
philology of poietes to emphasise the poet™s divinely creative capacities.
Each elaborated on a pattern of responsibility. Jonson explicitly ap-
proached the critical ideal of a poem by detailing the qualities necessary
for the poet: natural wit, a capacity to imitate nature, industry and

Baldwin, Mirror, p. 349, lines 69“70; pp. 354“5, lines 183, 198“200. The Mirror implicitly
condones Colyngbourne™s actions by giving him the persona of poet for his fragment of
verse, but he was executed for something worse, namely treason as an agent of Henry
Bacon, Advancment, p. 209.
George Pettie, Ciuile conuersation (1586), fols. 15“16, esp. 16r.
114 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
learning.38 Rhetoric was commended in much the same terms. As the
sophists had donned the purple cloaks of the poets, so there is a sort of
clothes-stealing between the theorists of poetry and rhetoric.39 In this
limited context of discussion, then, the promotional literature on rhetoric
and poetry can continue to be treated in tandem. Since antiquity each had
been associated with magic, boasting the capacity to make and re-make
social reality as the magician could re-make nature.40 The consequences of
such transformatory power were disturbing, and so the promoters of the
activities pointedly endorsed decorum and service, or subordination to
something greater. Even Plato (as Sidney would insist) considered the
powers of poetry and rhetoric permissible if subject to the arbitration of
philosophy, the love of wisdom. Cicero and Quintilian with respect to
rhetoric, Longinus with respect to poetry, trod in his footsteps.
The expectations of poetry and rhetoric from medieval times continued
to move within this compass.41 In part, this was to participate in a
tradition of discussion of Man as imago Dei that perforce involved the
correlates of an omnipotent voluntarist God and a responsible rational
creator: Man as the image of God was wonderfully creative but to a point
or end. Even in its most hyperbolic celebrations, such as Ficino™s, it was an
image of office.42 From the Reformation, however, as I have intimated,
the stress on the persona of the good rhetorician or poet became burdened
with denominational implication and was used to re-specify theology.
Thus Richard Pace on the opening of Cicero™s De inventione: as eloquence
founds cities and helps create the arts, so its role in theology is central. The
good man, rhetorician and Christian are one in creative responsibility;
Christ is the model of great oratory, good rhetoric a form of imitatio
Christi.43 The Protestant Thomas Wilson later made similar claims on
the authority of the same Ciceronian text. The rhetor approaches God in
his capacity to make and civilise, melding limitless power with wise

Ben Jonson, ˜What is a Poet™, in Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter
(1641), in Works, ed. W. Gifford (London, 1875), vol. IX, pp. 210“12.
Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry (1595), in Jones, ed., English Critical Essays,
pp. 50“1; Jonson, Timber, p. 218.
Jacqueline de Romilly, Magic and Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, Mass., 1975);
Kernan, The Playwright as Magician, on The Tempest, pp. 129“59.
Dr. John O. Ward has informed me of an MS fragment by William of Chartres referring to
the officium of rhetoric and its end, finis, Bruges, Bibliotheque de la Ville, MS 553.s.xiv.
Marsilio Ficino, Theologica Platonica: see Charles Trinkhaus, In our Image and Likeness:
Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1970), vol.II,
pp. 470“98.
Richard Pace, De fructu qui ex doctrina percipitur (Basel, 1517), ed. and trans.
Frank Manley and Richard S. Sylvester (New York, 1967); see Catherine Curtis,
˜Richard Pace on Pedagogy, Counsel and Satire™ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University
1996), pp. 109“14.
Offices of the intellect 115
ordering. Without him, duty, service, callings cannot be sustained. He is,
in short, a microcosm of God™s own office of offices.44 Reclaiming the
rhetor™s purple to adorn the poet, Puttenham argued that the ˜high charge
and function™ of poetry demanded poets live holy and contemplative lives.
Virtue made them fit for prophecy and they were the first lawmakers,
politicians and philosophers keeping the commonwealth in order.45 The
poet is the quintessence of decorum, of ˜seemliness™, a crucially stabilis-
ing virtue in the context of court life. Comeliness, discretion, decency,
Puttenham™s amplifications for seemliness, imply discipline and moder-
ation to bridle the transgressions of figurative creativity. Decorum is the
courtly poet™s sprezzatura that makes him an honest man and not a
cunning dissembler.46 This kind of argument would echo through the
pages of Paradise Lost in which Christ is the supreme rhetorician and
Lucifer the inverted parody, whose eloquence can sustain only a travesty
of a properly ordered world.
Sidney™s Apology is perhaps the most famous instance of these themes.
Although an apology for poetry, it is a discourse of the poetic persona in
the dissonant context of historians and philosophers. The central argu-
ment is that, of these, only the poet is a second creator to ˜be counted
supernatural™ and ˜ranging freely within the zodiac of his own wit™. The
poet is both imitator and maker.47 This ranging is never a matter of
capricious invention or undisciplined imagination, let alone popish fan-
tasy. Even when trading in the comic, the poet is a figure of responsi-
bility.48 As Rosamund Tuve has persuasively argued, this attitude
provides a key to understanding the differences between modern and early
modern imagery. The Wordsworthian romantic vision of poetry, as an
excess of emotion spontaneously expressed, would have amounted to an
impiety. For the poet was neither eccentric nor an individual, revelling in
singularity.49 He was a craftsman, tied to God™s creation and in service to
an ethical as much as an aesthetic vision. All the intellectual arts and
poetry™s immediate competitors are, he argued, ˜serving sciences™. Their
shared end is to draw us as close to perfection as possible. The poet does
so by providing perfect pictures that transcend the limited precepts of

Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetoric (1553, 1560), ed. G. H. Mair (Oxford, 1909); see also
Angel Day, The English Secretary (1586, 1592), ed. Robert O. Evans (Gainesville, Fla.,
George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy (1589), introduction by Baxter Hatherway
(Kent, Ohio, 1970), ch. 3.
Puttenham, English Poesy, chs. 23, 25.


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