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Kentish Book Culture

Writers, Archives, Libraries and Sociability 1400-1660

Edited By Claire Bartram

This volume explores the writing practices and book collections of a range of individuals in early modern Kent including monks, a mariner and an apothecary as well as members of the gentry and clergy and urban administrators. In a county with ready access to metropolitan, courtly and continental influences, a vibrant provincial book culture flourished, in which literacy was prized and book ownership widespread. Reinforcing the important social role played by the literate and revealing something of their creative potential, the essays gathered here also uncover an appetite for debate, reflected in the books owned, lent, written and published by the Kentish in the period covered. Underpinning all of this is an enduring culture of sociability, centred around the book as an object to be shared.

Interdisciplinary in approach, this collection brings together specialists in the history of the book, literary scholars, social historians and librarians to explore the nature of authorship and the dynamics of the market for print and manuscript books outside London. It demonstrates the rich potential of regional archival study to extend our understanding of medieval and early modern literature.

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4 The Sinful Life and Woeful Death of William Rogers: Textual Legacies and Puritan Culture in 1630s West Kent

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ABSTRACT

The 1635 inventory of a Cranbrook apothecary, William Rogers, reveals a fascinating collection of medical books but Rogers was also to become the subject of printed material himself. Rogers featured in a print-published sermon and a ballad that moralised his demise as indicative of spiritual and business failure. In examining this material and in highlighting wider book-owning habits and local politics the chapter explores how contemporaries navigated the culture of Puritanism in west Kent in the 1630s.

In the mid-1630s Robert Abbot, minister of Cranbrook, published a burial sermon he had recently delivered in that town. Entitled The Young-Man’s Warning-Peece: or A Sermon Preached at the Burial of William Rogers Apothecary: Together with an Historie of his Sinfull Life and Woeful Death, it depicted the psychological suffering of a young man, unable to adhere to the strict religious discipline of ‘godly’ Protestantism.1 Rogers is exposed as a common drunkard and frequenter of alehouses whose neglect of his calling and the church led to his final days being tortured by fear of hell and damnation. Such was the infamy of Rogers’ woeful death, that ballad writers swiftly published his story as a Youth’s Warning Peece – In a True Relation of the Woeful Death of William Rogers of Cranbroke in Kent an Apothecary, Who Refusing ←95 | 96→All Good Counsel and Following Lewd Company, Dyed Miserably.2 It echoed the sentiments of Abbot’s sermon.

Abbot’s sermon, published within a genre of Puritan literature, focused...

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