Local Negotiations of English Nationhood, 1570-1680 by John M. Adrian

By John M. Adrian

Even in an age of rising nationhood, English women and men nonetheless concept greatly by way of their parishes, cities, and counties. This e-book examines the power of early smooth neighborhood awareness and its deployment through writers to mediate the bigger political, non secular, and cultural adjustments of the 16th and 17th centuries.

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Although Jack occasionally journeys to London, most of the action occurs in and around the Berkshire town of Newbury, which Camden says has ‘become rich . . ’129 In Deloney’s account, Newbury is not just a convenient setting, but an integral element in the story. The town is represented in detailed fashion, including references to its maypole, market cross, fairs, taverns, rivers, specific streets, and surrounding villages. One also gets a sense of the human community that occupies this space through allusions to inhabitants (laborers, widows, local gentry), neighborhood gossip, behavioral norms, and social interactions.

100 In other words, the nation is quite clearly shown to be a product of its component parts. Furthermore, as Camden and his contemporaries move through each county, they focus on the particular characteristics that define the county and distinguish it from others. Camden’s etymological discussion of the name ‘Rutlandshire’ is revealing. Some county inhabitants claim that a past king said he would give someone named Rut as much land as he could ride around in one day. For Camden, this doubles as an explanation for how Rutlandshire came to be the smallest county in the realm, and indeed ‘in compasse so farre about, as a light horseman will ride in one day’ (525).

128 Despite its smaller scope, the Kentish countryside also offers greater personal freedom for the speaker: ‘No man doth mark whereso I ride or go; / In lusty leas in liberty I walk’ (84). Of course, retreat literature is most commonly associated with royalist literary activity during the Civil War and Interregnum. The poetic productions of Robert Herrick, Mildmay Fane, Edmund Waller, Richard Lovelace, Abraham Cowley, Henry Vaughan, and Thomas Stanley feature repeated praise of retirement and country living, with an emphasis on friendship, contemplation, and the stoic centered self.

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