1631
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Historie of St. George of Cappadocia.

The Historie of that most Famous Saint and Souldier of Christ Jesus; St. George of Cappadocia; asserted from the Fictions, in the Middle Ages of the Church; and Opposition, of the Present. The Institution of the most Noble Order of St. George, named the Garter. A Catalogue of all the Knights thereof untill this present. By Pet. Heylyn.

Rev. Peter Heylyn


Peter Heylyn quotes Spenser on the subject of Saint George of England. Heylyn's study garnered considerable attention and not a little political and theological controversy.

James Granger: "His History of St. George, recommended him to Charles I. who, soon after he presented it to him, preferred him to a prebend of Westminster, and to the rectory of Houghton in the bishopric of Durham. He was ejected from his prebend and other preferments in the time of the civil war" Biographical History (1769, 1824) 5:40.

Anthony Wood: "Soon after the said history was much impugn'd by a discourse of Dr. G. Hakewill, which was, as Heylin saith, full of most base and malicious calumniations, both against the person and religion of the author. Whereupon his majesty having received notice of it from Laud, (who had a copy of it sent to him from Oxon. by Dr. W. Smith the vice-chancellor of that place, and he from Hakewill to be approved before it was to go to the press) commanded Heylin to consider of the matter, and withal sent him to Windsor to search into the records of the order of the Garter there. Which command he accordingly obeying, occasion'd a second edition of the said history, an. 1633, as I have before told you, wherein he answer'd all Hakewill's allegations, letting pass the slanders. Upon the coming out of which, Heylin heard no more of Hakewill till a second edition of his book of the supposed decay of nature, entit. An Apol. or Declaration of the Power, &c. wherein Heylin found a retraction of the passages which concerned S. George. About the same time Hakewill thinking better to sit silent than to come out with a reply, yet he thought it fit to acquaint his friends what sentiments he had of the said second edition of The Hist. of S. George, in several letters sent abroad; one of which speaketh thus 'In the second impression of his book (The Hist. of S. George) where he hath occasion to speak of the Roman writers, especially the legendaries, he magnifies them more, and when he mentions our men he villifies them more than he did in his first edition: But the matter is not much, what he saith of the one, or of the other, the condition of the man being such, as his word hardly passeth either for commendation or slander,' &c. From the said Hist. of S. George, written by Heylin, is a little pamphlet taken and stoln, entit. The Hist. of that most famous Saint and Soldier S. George of Cappadocia, &c. Lond. 1661. in 7 sheets in qu. Also another for the most part, entit. The History of the LIfe and Martyrdom of S. George the titular Patron of England, &c. Lond. 1664. in 8 sh. in qu. written in verse by Tho. Lowick gent. And many things are taken thence also, with due acknowledgment, by E. Ashmole in his book The Institutions, Laws, and Ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter. Lond. 1672. fol." Athenae Oxonienses, ed. Bliss (1815) 3:558-59.

David Norbrook: "In court circles, Spenser's poetry was being reinterpreted in rather startling ways.... The Laudian apologist Peter Heylyn insisted that the legend of St George must be interpreted literally, not just as a political or moral allegory" Poetry and Politics (1984) 240-41.

Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) notes six scattered references to Spenser.

Heylyn had been anticipated by Tristram White in The Martyrdom of Saint George of Cappodocia (1614), about which John Payne Collier comments: "White merits notice, if only because he has the good sense and good taste to quote Spenser (the earliest illustration ever drawn from our great romantic poet) in reference to St. George and his history. He does not give Spenser's name, but speaks of him as the author of the Faerie Queene, and cites Lib. I. Cant. 10, st. 60, but it is really stanza 66 of that Canto" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866) 4:257.




(6) This notwithstanding, the same of such his apparition to that King, did, as before I said, exceedingly promote the reputation of that Saint among the English: so farre, that the most excellent Prince King Edward the third, made choyce of him, for his Patron. So Master CAMDEN witnesseth in his Remaines, that "GEORGE hath beene a name of speciall respect in England, since the victorious King EDWARD the third, chose Saint GEORGE for his Patron: and the English in all Encounters and Battailes, have used the name of Saint George in their cries; as the French did, Mount-joy Saint Denis." The more immediate occasion was, that this Edward at the battaile of Callice, Anno 1349. being much troubled with griefe and anger, drawing his Sword, call'd earnestly upon Saint Edward and Saint George: whereupon many of his Soldiers flocking presently unto him, they fell upon the enemie, and put many of them at that instant to the sword. "Rex Edwardus provide frendens more apri, & ab ira & delore turbatus, evanginato gladio, S. Edwardium & S. Georgium invocavit, dicens, Ha Saint Edward, Ha Saint George: Quibus auditis & visis, milites confestim Anglici confluebant ad Regem suum. Et facto impetu contra hostes, tam animose institerunt, quod ducenti ex illis ceciderunt interfecti," &c. [Tho. Walsingham, Anno Regn. 23]. The next yeare after, followed the Institution of that noble Order of the Garter, dedicated unto Saint George also: by which he came possessed alone of that speciall patronage, as the more military Saint; which in the former Invocation might seeme to be divided, betweene St. Edward and himselfe. Nor did the King stay here, but having chose St. George to bee the tutelarie Saint and Patron of his Soldierie; hee caused him to be painted as upon a lusty Courser, holding a white Shield with a red Crosse on it, in his hand: and gave unto his Soldiers, to every one a white Coat or Cassock, with two red Crosses, on each side of them one; to weare upon their armour. "Edwardus item" (saith Pol. Virgil.) "cum D. Georgium militia prasidem optasset, postea ei armato & equo insidenti, dedit scutum album, rubra cruce perinsigne: dedit & militibus suis saga alba, utrimq. binis crucibus, item rubris, munita; quae illi super armaturam induerent" [Hist. Angli. l.89]. So that (saith he) it is a seemely and magnificent thing, to see the Armies of the English, to sparkle like the rising Sunne: the Soldierie of other Countries, having no habit, eyther to distinguish or adorne them. From henceforth therefore, we must not looke upon St. GEORGE, as a Saint in generall; but as conceived, (such was the superstition of those times) the speciall Patron of the English: of which, the Pilgrim in the Poet, thus prophecieth unto his Red-crosse Knight, as hee there calls him.

Then seeke this path which I to thee presage,
Which after all to Heaven shall thee send:
Then peaceably thy painefull Pilgrimage
To yonder same Hierusalem doe bend;
Where is for thee ordain'd a blessed end.
For thou amongst those Saints, which thou dost see,
Shalt be a Saint; and thine owne Nations friend,
And Patron: thou St. George shalt called bee
St. George of merry England; the signe of victorie.
[Faery Qn. l.1.cant.10.ii.61.]

And hereunto alludes Mich. Draiton, in his Poly-Olbion; in a great controversie, questionlesse which was then hot, among some Nymphes of his in that Poem.

And humbly to St. George, their Countries Patron, pray,
To prosper their designs, now in that mighty day.
[Song 4.]

[pp. 294-96]