One of the most amazing feats of history was the creation of the King James Version of the Bible in the years leading up to 1611. A committee of bickering scholars pulled together one of the two greatest works of English literature–great, at least, in their formative influence on the language and culture of English-speaking nations–with the other being the plays of Shakespeare.
The “lead mule” on this herculean project was perhaps the most brilliant man of his age, and one of the most pious, Lancelot Andrewes. A fascinating figure in his own right, Andrewes was not only a scholar and a spiritual man, but also a master of ecclesiastical politics. Like all people, he was not without flaws, and Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries, looked unstintingly into those flaws as well as the greatness of the man. Here is some of what Nicolson discovered:
[You should know that a prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral. A prebend is a type of benefice, which was usually drawn from specific sources in the income from the cathedral estates.]
26 “By midsummer , London under plague now looked, sounded, and smelled like a city at war. It was by far the worst outbreak England had known. Here now, grippingly, and shockingly, the first and greatest of the Bible Translators appears on the scene. It is not a dignified sight. Lancelot Andrewes was a man deeply embedded in the Jacobean establishment. He was forty-nine or fifty, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was also Dean of Westminster Abbey, a prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, drawing the income from one of the cathedral’s manors, and of Southwell Minster, one of the chaplains at the Chapel Royal in Whitehall, who under Elizabeth had twice turned down a bishopric not because he felt unworthy of the honour but because he did not consider the income of the sees he was offered satisfactory. Continue reading