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 Issues | Church History | Richard Hooker

 

Richard Hooker by C Sydney Carter

Hooker's Marriage

<<Introduction

On the recommendation of his pupil, Edwin Sandys, Hooker lodged while in London with Sandys' friend, John Churchman, and thus met his daughter whom he eventually married. The story of the alleged “disastrous” consequences of this romance - which has been handed down as authentic for nearly three centuries in Izaak Walton's attractive Life of Hooker, based on what Walton believed to be reliable contemporary evidence - has recently been proved devoid of foundation. For it is now asserted on good evidence that “on no matter was the judicious Hooker more fortunate than in his marriage” (Sisson).

Walton's version was that during this visit in 1581 Mrs. Churchman, the wife of an impecunious draper, cunningly persuaded the guileless young student to take as his wife her own plain, penniless and unsuitable daughter, Joan, who brought him “neither beauty nor fortune.” He also declares that, like John Wesley's wife, Joan was exacting and nagging and unsympathetic with his work, and a constant hindrance and trial to Hooker. According to Walton, Hooker married almost immediately and was then forced to resign his Fellowship and retire to a small country living. But the researches of Professor Sisson, in his The Judicious Marriage of Mr. Hooker, have proved the definite inaccuracy of this account, for Hooker did not marry till February, 1588, his first child being born in 1589. There is also ample evidence that Joan's father was a prosperous London merchant, who attained the important position of Master of the Merchant Taylor's Company in 1594 and was also elected City Chamberlain. He was able to bestow a dowry - considerable for those days - of £700 on his daughter, so that a poor parson's alliance with her on this ground alone was distinctly prudential. Hooker's residence at Drayton Beauchamp, to which he was appointed in 1584, has been questioned, although in his letter to Whitgift in 1591 he refers to the freedom he enjoyed “in his quiet country parsonage.” But he certainly could not have been distracted there by “rocking the cradle,” as Walton narrates, since he was then still a bachelor!

In 1585, in spite of Lord Burleigh's strong sponsorship of his Puritan friend, the learned Walter Travers (Reader of the Temple), Hooker was appointed Master of the Temple, through the direct intervention of Archbishop Whitgift. In this post he hopefully looked forward to a “virtuous quietness and a blessed tranquility,” so as to be able to “glorify God by uninterrupted prayers and praises.” These hopes, however, were not destined to be realized. For to his great sorrow he was at once involved in a vigorous controversy with his relative, the presbyterian Reader. In a most unedifying way, as the Church historian Fuller tells, “the pulpit spoke pure Canterbury in the morning and Geneva in the afternoon.” Travers was strongly opposed to episcopacy and a zealous advocate for a presbyterian polity, as well as being a " depraver " of the Prayer Book. He taught that papists could not be saved because they sought to be justified by the merit of their works; and he denounced Hooker's charitable opinion that God " was merciful to many of our forefathers living in popish superstition because they had sinned ignorantly.”

These incessant contests between two celebrated preachers grievously disturbed the peace-loving Master. At length he wrote to Whitgift that " he was weary of the noise and opposition " at the Temple, because " God and Nature did not intend me for contentions, but for study and quietness.” The Archbishop then inhibited Travers from preaching which provoked him to appeal to the Privy Council, accusing Hooker of preaching erroneous doctrine. Hooker in reply published an able and moderate defence of his teaching, and also decided to write a full and reasoned treatise dealing with the main Puritan objections to the Church discipline in a sweet language void of any provocation.”

 

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Related Links
Richard Hooker
BulletIntroduction

BulletRichard Hooker by Sydney Carter
BulletHooker's Marriage (Carter)
BulletThe Ecclesiastical Polity (Carter)
BulletEcclesiastical position (Carter)
BulletClosing Years (Carter)
BulletHooker's character (Carter)


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