Thursday, September 7, 2023

Longing after damsens

Samuel Ward, a sixteenth century religious scholar who spent all his working life at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, died 380 years ago today. As with Margaret Hoby who was born one year before Ward and died 10 years earlier - see After private prayers - much of what we know about Ward today comes from a diary he left behind. This, like Hoby’s, is largely concerned with Ward’s religious life, but whereas Hoby’s simply provides a record of her actions, Ward’s is much richer in terms of psychology since he writes so much about his own sins, many of them trivial, such as ‘longing after damsens’!

Ward was born at Bishop’s Middleham, Durham, in 1572. He studied and then taught at Cambridge University, rising to become Master of Sidney Sussex College. He married a widow with one child in the early 1620s. As a Puritan, he wrote widely on doctrinal issues, such as baptism. He was one of the scholars involved with the translation and preparation of the King James version of the Bible. He served as part of the English Calvinist delegation to the Synod of Dort.

When the First English Civil War broke out he fell out with the Presbyterian majority, and, in 1643, along with others, was imprisoned in St. John’s College. When his health gave way, he was permitted to retire to his own college. He died on 7 September later that same year. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the 1895-1900 edition of Dictionary of National Biography, or the University of Cambridge.

Intermittently, Ward kept a confessional diary, and this has survived down the centuries, and is held by Sidney Sussex College. It was published in 1933 by The American Society of Church History as part of Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries by Richard Rogers and Samuel Ward, edited by M. M. Knappen. This can be digitally borrowed at Internet Archive
Since then it has been reprinted, and reissued in different guises, serving as an important first hand source of historical information on the King James Bible. Most recently, the University of Cambridge has made every page of the notebook freely available online through its digital libraryThe following transcribed quotes are taken from a 1966 reprint of Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries. (Any trailing dots within the extracts come from the original source.)

13 May 1595
‘My little pity of the boy who was whipt in the hall. My desire of preferment over much. My adulterous dream. Think thow how that this is not our home in this world, in which we are straungers, one not knowing anotheres speach and language. Think how bad a thing it is to goo to bed without prayer, and remember to call on God at goyng to our prayers in the Chappell.’

8 August 1596
‘. . . Also my longing after damsens when I made my vow not to eat in the orchard. Oh, that I could so long after Godes graces . . .’

25 August 1596
‘. . . My extreme anger the day before att John Mourton for taking the axeltree out of my glob . . .’

27 August 1596
‘. . . Also my pride in thinking of the new colledg, wheras it is not licky I should have any place ther. Also my stomaching of Cuthbert and Holland agayne, and my grudging att ther remembrance my disease. . .’

3 September 1596
‘My complayning to Mr. Pott and Mr. Glover of Mr. Hutchinson, and my proud thoughtes with Mr. Montague when he said we should go se the crocodile. Also my proud and wild thoughtes in that I had so many places offrd, as one by Sir Hornby. Truly when God is favorable and merciful to me I begin to be proud and to attribute to myne oven desert sathanically. My unthankfulness for Godes benefits. My immoderate desire of the meat left for the sizer.’

5 September 1569
‘. . . My goying to the taverne with such lewd fellowes, albeyt I knew them not. How little greived was I att their swearing and othes and wyld talk. O Lord, thou knowest that I wished often to be ridd of their company. My little care of my health notwithstanding my disease grew upon me. . .’

6 August 1597
‘How little I was affected with hearing of the ill success of our Navy . . .’

25 December 1597
‘My lasines in not rising early inough to prepare myself to the worthy receit of the communion.’

5 November 1599
‘The like the Archbishop now hath performed in the choosing of this new - to be vicechancellor against the will of many in the University. Lord, turn all their plots and devices to thine own glory, and the good of thy church etc.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 7 September 2013.

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