God's Secretaries [NOOK Book]

Overview

A network of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the era of the Gunpowder Plot and the worst outbreak of the plague. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than the country had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between these polarities. This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment ...

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God's Secretaries

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Overview

A network of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the era of the Gunpowder Plot and the worst outbreak of the plague. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than the country had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between these polarities. This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment "Englishness," specifically the English language itself, had come into its first passionate maturity. The English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own scope than any form of the language before or since. It drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061804021
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 200,890
  • File size: 694 KB

Meet the Author

Adam Nicolson

Adam Nicols on is the author of Seamanship, God's Secretaries, and Seize the Fire. He has won both the Somerset Maugham and William Heinemann awards, and he lives with his family at Sissinghurst Castle in England.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

A poore man now arrived
at the Land of Promise

And the LORD magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal maiestie as had not bene on any king before him in Israel.

I Chronicles 29:25

Few moments in English history have been more hungry for the future, its mercurial possibilities and its hope of richness, than the spring of 1603. At last the old, hesitant, querulous and increasingly unapproachable Queen Elizabeth was dying. Nowadays, her courtiers and advisers spent their lives tiptoeing around her moods and her unpredictability. Lurching from one unaddressed financial crisis to the next, selling monopolies to favourites, she had begun to lose the affection of the country she had nurtured for so long. Elizabeth, should have died years before. Most of her great men -- Burleigh, Leicester, Walsingham, even the beautiful Earl of Essex, executed after a futile and chaotic rebellion in 1601 -- had gone already. She had become a relict of a previous age and her wrinkled, pasteboard virginity now looked more like fruitlessness than purity. Her niggardliness had starved the fountain of patronage on which the workings of the country relied and those mechanisms, unoiled by the necessary largesse, were creaking. Her exhausted impatience made the process of government itself a labyrinth of tact and indirection.

The country felt younger and more vital than its queen. Cultural conservatives might have bemoaned the death of old values and the corruption of modern morals (largely from Italy, conceived of as a louche and violent place), but these were not the symptoms of decline. England was full of newness and potential: its population burgeoning, its merchant fleets combing the world, London growing like a hothouse plum, the sons of gentlemen crowding as never before into the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, plants and fruits from all over the world arriving in its gardens and on its tables -- but the rigid carapace of the Elizabethan court lay like a cast-iron lid above it. The queen's motto was still what it always had been: Semper eadem, Always the same. She hadn't moved with the times. So parsimonious had she been in elevating men to the peerage that by the end of her reign there were no more than sixty peers in the nobility of England. Scarcely a gentleman had been knighted by the queen for years.

That drought of honours was a symptom of a kind of paralysis, an indecisive rigidity. None of the great issues of the country had been resolved. Inflation had transformed the economy but the Crown was still drawing rents from its properties that had been set in the 1560s. The relationship between the House of Commons and the queen, for all her wooing and flattery, had become angry, tetchy, full of recrimination. The old war against Spain, which had achieved its great triumph of defeating the Armada in 1588, had dragged on for decades, haemorrhaging money and enjoying little support from the Englishmen whose taxes were paying for it. The London and Bristol merchants wanted only one outcome: an end to war, so that trade could be resumed. Religious differences had been buried by the Elizabethan regime: both Roman Catholics, who wanted England to return to the fold of the Roman Church, and the more extreme, 'hotter' Protestants, the Puritans, who felt that the Reformation in England had never been properly achieved, had been persecuted by the queen and her church, fined, imprisoned and executed. Any questions of change, tolerance or acceptance had not been addressed. Elizabeth had survived by ignoring problems or suppressing them and as a result England was a cauldron which had not been allowed to boil. Later history -- even in the seventeenth century itself -- portrayed Elizabeth's death as a dimming of the brilliance, the moment at which England swopped a heroic, gallant, Renaissance freshness for something more degenerate, less clean-cut, less noble, more self-serving, less dignified. But that is almost precisely the opposite of what England felt at the time. Elizabeth was passé, decayed. A new king, with wife, children (Anne was pregnant with their sixth child) an heir for goodness' sake, a passionate huntsman, full of vigour, a poet, an intellectual of European standing, a new king, a new reign and a new way of looking at the world; of course the country longed for that. Elizabeth's death held out the prospect of peace with Spain, a new openness to religious toleration, and a resolution of the differences between the established church and both Catholics and Puritans. More than we can perhaps realise now, a change of monarch in an age of personal rule meant not only a change of government and policy, but a change of culture, attitude and belief. A new king meant a new world.

James Stuart was an unlikely hero: ugly, restless, red-haired, pale-skinned, his tongue, it was said, too big for his mouth, impatient, vulgar, clever, nervous. But his virtues, learned in the brutal world of Scottish politics, were equal to the slurs of his contemporaries. More than anything else he wanted and believed in the possibilities of an encompassing peace. He adopted as his motto the words from the Sermon on the Mount, Beati Pacifici, Blessed are the Peacemakers, a phrase which, in the aftermath of a European century in which the continent had torn itself apart in religious war, would appear over and over again on Jacobean chimneypieces and carved into oak testers and overmantels, crammed in alongside the dreamed of, wish-fulfilment figures of Peace and Plenty, Ceres with her overbrimming harvests and luscious breasts, Pax embracing Concordia. The Bible that is named after James, and whose translation was authorised by him, was central to his claim on that ideal.

God's Secretaries. Copyright © by Adam Nicolson. Reprinted by pepermission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2013

    Why is my bible called the King James Version?

    I've always wondered how the books of the bible all came together, and over time have gotten so many differing responses, I finally started doing some digging to get the answers. From the point of a final widely accepted version which was reproduced for the masses to read it where I started. That version was the King James version and this book is absolutely a treasure trove of information which was well researched and has a high degree of credibility. It takes us to back to the era when documentation allows us to follow the story in its majority.

    This is a wonderful starting point for anyone who is interested in how the books of the bible were chosen and passed down through the ages. It is a good first step to follow the trail back through the centuries to see the politics of how Christianity was presented to the world.

    I have a hard copy of this book and a nook version so that as I continue my research I always have one to refer to as I continue going back in time.

    If you have been told that God wrote the bible and gave it to us, then this is a wonderful story of the hands he used to deliver it................human hands with human foibles

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2012

    "..clever guesses and well-devised possibilities."

    Composed of "..clever guesses and well-devised possibilities."
    Old Testament criticism and the rights of the unlearned – John Kennedy
    1Timothy 1:7 They want to be teachers of the law(Bible), but they don't know what they are talking about. They don't even understand the things they say they are sure of.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2003

    Not horrible for a novice

    This book was ok. I say ok because I was able to read it on a plane from Ohio to Florida, so it is quite short. There are no footnotes or endnotes, thus making its scholarly contribution next to nil. However, it does give a sweeping and superficial overview of the creators of the KJB (I'm not even going to get into the Tyndale controversy - too complex!). This could be fine for someone who wants an introduction to the subject, though it does help to already have some background on Jacobean society and politics. The author made many broad generalizations that left me uncomfortable, so I can only give it 2 stars.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2003

    KJV overrated

    Pretty much everything that was good about the KJV actually came directly from Tyndale's translation. Tyndale was the real genius. In fact a well known biblical scholar has said that where the KJV and the Tyndale translation are different it is usually because Tyndale had a better understanding of the original language than the KJV translators had. Personally I've never much cared for the archaic translations. Come to that, most of the genius of Tyndale actually comes from the underlying biblical writers themselves and is readily seen in many modern translations. Too many readers of the KJV actually don't understand what they are reading. For example the 'strain at a gnat' verse, which is often labeled a misprint in the KJV, is misinterpreted by most otherwise well informed KJV readers that I've met. (Hint: strain means 'filter').

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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