Ransome 2011

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Ransome, Joyce. The Web of Friendship: Nicholas Ferrar and Little Gidding. Cambridge: James Clark & Co., 2011.

"The Ferrars were a musical family and as members of the household gathered round their mistress, she led them in singing psalms together as they worked. She also heard her children read aloud from the Bible and also from Foxe's Actes and Monuments and other worthy volumes." (27)

while Ferrar was in Europe:

  • he visited churchs and "set about collecting examples of divine providence and miracles, evidence of God's active intervention in His creation, the sorts of stories he subsequently collected for his family to use" (33)
  • no mention of him buying books or prints, though that is often repeated in his biographies (34)
  • in Leipzig, acquired the skill of 'artificial memory' (35)
  • evidence he "knew of at least some of the charitable Italian institutions created to care for and to educate children. One of the works he had by 1634 translated but was refused permission to publish was Ludovico Carbone's Dello Ammaestramento de' Figliuoli nella Dottrina Christiana, which Ferrar rendered as 'Of the Christian Education of children'." (39)

at Little Gidding, "tenants delivered provisions (eggs, butter, cheese, meat and bread) but the nieces supervised the dairy and the cows that provided the family's milk as well as the baking of the special manchet breat. This arrangement not only trained the nieces but relieved their mother and grandmother of these tasks. The nieces were also skilled needlewomen and dispensed medical ministrations to the local villagers."

the estate yielded an annual income of between 400 and 500

"As the many conduct manuals of the period made plain, a household needed the skills of both a man and a woman for its smooth functioning. Little Gidding had such a partnership but in the unconventional form of a widowed mother and her unmarried son." (51)

royal opposition to private chapels became clear in 1629; Ferrar tried to counter the appearance that the Little Gidding chapel (a parish church, with the entire parish as the household) was private (64)

"Reading, as would be appropriate for a household that was a 'school of religion', featured prominently in many of its shared activities. How much of that reading was done by individuals in private is unclear from the accounts that survive. Ferrar himself obviously devoted much of his time when hew as at Gidding to study and probably encouraged at least his namesake nephew, whom he educated wholly at home, to do the same. For the most part, however, reading seems to have been very much as a social as well as an educational activity and one fundamental to Ferrar's method of interactive instruction for all ages." (65)

children read stories during meals; those stories were then abstracted by an adult and transcribed by the children into a book; the children were quizzed on the stories; at each main meal children recited stories from memory (65)

"The women of the family would also have had opportunity during the day for similar consultation and indeed might have read to one another as they sat together in the Great Chamber around old Mary Ferrar. Certainly the social ambience for reading and family devotions for which John Rastrick later yearned was very much present at Little Gidding." (65)

how was filled with clocks/timepieces in every room to reinforce the metaphor of the mind as a clock or watch; bells summoned participants (66)

Ferrar's manuscript "The Duties of Man and Woman" included a section on "Duties Peculiar to Woman" "enjoining Pauline obedience to husbands" (66)

burst of interest in Harmonies during the Reformation; "The hope behind them was that an integrated narrative would make the gospel messge clearer and easier for preachers to expound and readers to remember and understand. Harmonies thus were preeminently teaching tools and as such would have an obvious appeal to someone entrusted with educating a household." (67)

difficulty in making Harmonies: how to avoid repetition? -- illustrations (68)

  • model in Cornelius Jansen's Concordia Evangelica (1549), possibly Robert Hill's summary of Jansen's harmony (1596) (68)

Mary Collet Ferrar became known to Nicholas as his "sister"; "This curious transformation of the relationship of uncle and niece into one of brother and sister included John as well as Nicholas and Hester and probably Margaret as well as Mary and Anna." (74)

Mary solely in charge of many things; Anna, not (76)

"He [Ferrar] also looked beyond the immediate household, seeking to bind Woodnoth and others who were united 'in heart' though not 'in cohabitation' with the family at Gidding into what he called a 'Web of Friendship'." (80)

Ferrar -- committed to "voluntary choice and commitment as essential to a genuine sense of community" (103); believed that particulars, not general intentions, mattered most (106)

  • Bathsheba disrupted this system (109)

Little Gidding as an example to the world

  • "Realising that success in such an ambitious ministry depended on participants who embraced its particuar projects voluntarily, Ferrar insisted on explicit promises, often in writing, from those taking part. Willing members of the household and of the web of friendship thereby made themsevles a committed and purposeful community." (110)
  • earliest example to reach outside world: gospel harmony now in the Bodleian, completed by Mary on 3 December 1631
  • Herbert suggests night vigils; collaborated with Ferrar on Juan de Valdes's One Hundred and Ten Considerations and Luigi Cornaro's Treatise on Temperance and Sobriety (113)
    • Ferrar particularly interested in Valdes's "experimentall and practical divinity", esp. doctrines of justification and mortification (118) -- Valdes had hoped to identify a doctrine acceptable to both Catholics and Protestants; "without explicitly abandoning or attacking the larger institutional church Valdes had in effect quietly shifted his hopes for spiritual renewal to smaller, more intimate groups within it, groups indeed not unlike Little Gidding" (121)

balance of ritual and preaching at Little Gidding (122)

Little Academy

  • Mary Woodnoth Ferrar organized the group to educate her granddaughters
    • "The daily circle of women gathered round her chair of a morning or afternoon in the Great Chamber must have generated a certain informal level of discussion. It was only the little children who were to be seen and not heard. Perhaps this pattern suggested to her a way readily to transform and extend an informal and thoroughly conventional female activity into a more formal and structured educational device." (127)
  • inspired by Francis de Sales "Conversations" with the nuns of the Visitation? modeled after Plato's Academy? (127)
  • signed a convenant (131); "they would study wisdom, not with unaided human 'right reason' but always with God's help, an entirely orthodox combination of reason and faith applied to the understanding of revelation" (129)
  • "Their initial aim to judge worldly activities purely by scriptural standards gradually narrowed its focus from this broad purpose to the specific goal of establishing the nature and value of temperance." -- outline of schedule (132)
"The efforts to publish a gospel harmony and a translation of Valdes testified to Ferrar's growing sense of a mission that his household and members of his Web of Friendship could undertake empowered by their willingness to convenant themselves for this purpose." (133)

Cornaro and his diet (136)

commitment to the diet, marking the calendar, confirming the commitment in writing (138)

Ferrar's preparations to put the Hygiasticon to press (144)

Ferrar calling himself compositor in Little Academy books? (146)

reader of Little Academy manuscripts "who could only have been family members or close friends able to access the manuscript volume, were admonished not to try to figure out who these individuals were" (154) (manuscript could have been copied though)

"In an interesting comment on the earlier purpose that had governed the choice of names for participants the account stated that the old names were deliberately discarded because they had in fact not shown themselves to be spurs to strive for the virtues named but rather invitations to complacency and pride, as if the individuals had already acquired them." (154)

new names -- new baptism -- new covenant to attain perfection by example (154)

diminished interest in Little Academy perhaps indicates more attention being paid to Harmonies (156)

Bathsheba's letter complaining that Ferrar claims she doesn't own her own goods, her husband does (158)

family's harmonies becoming known in court circles (160)

"Unlike temperance and night vigils it did not represent an addition to but rather an outgrowth and intensification of established practice; making and using a harmony had been among the earliest collective tasks that Ferrar initiated as part of the regular household routine. Moreover, whilst it played a significant role in fostering education, co-operation and a sense of community among the nieces, there was no suggestion then or later than participants should give oral or written onsent in order to take part as they did in the Little Academy or the temperance diet or the night vigils." (161)
"The cutting and pasting had, of course, to be carefully and accurately done, but the work offered a social setting with some flexibility in times of starting and stopping and so put less immediate pressure on its participants in the midst of what was otherwise a highly structured day." (161)
"At least until the king's request for a harmony reached them, members of the family might well have seen 'scissors work' on the harmonies as a more relaxed and flexible aspect of their life together than their more strenuous projects to privde 'patterns' for their age." (161)

images disappeared in late c16 editions of the Geneva Bible; "however, they were enjoying with the support of a king and archbishop sympathetic to the visual arts, a revival in volumes of the new Authorized Version in the late 1620s and 1630s." (162)

  • these prints were "optional extras," separate sheets purchased and interleaved at the time of binding (162)

Ferrars could combine images to create new ones -- "a closer coordination of picture with text than interleaving" (162)

problems of Harmonies

  • chronlogy, "establishing a unified time sequence for the new narrative";
  • "reconciling variations in accounts";
  • "need to retain every word of Holy Writ while avoiding a redundancy" (162)

Ferrar responded with a new format that would enable the reader to make syntheses out of variations (162-3)

  • Comparison and Composition -- comparing similar passages, encouraging active reading
  • Collection -- whole narrative in Context, with those relevant passages not included in Supplement marked by a different typeface
  • acknowledged debt to Buisson

other Harmonies made during this year continue this form

extra cuttings provided supplies to make new harmonies

discrepency between chapters and table of contents (which were printed, since they were stablized to Jansen's 150) (166)

"For whom then were these new model harmonies intended? Royal patronage offered access to a promising audience of the wealthy and powerful whose acquisition of a harmony would not only fulfill the Ferrars' missionary hopes but also perhaps replenish their purse." (166) -- Ransome argues for a financial motive
"By the time the family came to make the Ickworth and Heming harmonies they followed a significantly simpler format than those they had made in the middle of the decade. It may well represent the absence of Nicholas's guiding hand and the different interests of his nephew Necholas, who took over leadership of the work." (168) -- no separate Comparison or Composition, no Supplement and Context; reverted to single text found in Houghton and Bodleian volumes
"the Ferrars' position as harmony-makers to the king linked them increasingly not only to Charles's spiritual life but also and more controversially to his and his archbishop's ecclesiastical policies" (170)

Harmonies had no serious lasting impact, but Ferrar's bringing of Herbert into the world did (177)

"If Ferrar was driven by a sense of sin, he was also driven by a passion for order and regularity reflected in the monastic appearance of the family's life, the clocks he placed throughout the house and his metaphorical concern to wind up the clocks that were family members' minds, his efforts to minimise personal conflicts and emotional confrontations such as those with Bathsheba by putting the issues in writing, and his negative attitude toward spontaneous prayer." (195)
"Ulitmately it was this first project, the harmonies, rather than the more ambitious but divisive later ones on which he centred his hopes for the future of the community he had created. Its appeal to both hands and minds and its ability to bring in the younger members of the family as they grew up contributed to the willingness with which family members continued the work at least through 1642." (197)