‘AN AUTHORIZATION FOR NO AUTHORS’
A Playlet of the Imagination in Two Scenes


SCENE ONE

London, 1610.
The house of Lancelot ANDREWES, Bishop of Chichester.
With him is Prebendary Philip INGRAMS his amanuensis,

Attending upon the Bishop are two delegates from each of the three seats of learning, Oxford, Cambridge and London, which had been charged at the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604 with afresh translation of the Bible.

The delegates are:



ANDREWES: My friends, we are met now to consider the latest draft of our Preface, ‘The Translators to the Reader’. You will like to hear that His Majesty has graciously approved of our Epistle Dedicatory.

First, in the matter of recognition. Just as the First Act of His Majesty's Parliament made a most joyful and just Recognition of his lawful Succession, so have we inquired of you for a joyful and just Recognition of those English translators gone before us. Cambridge?
DUNTHORN: To name them, nemine contradicente.
ANDREWES: Oxford?
RICHARDS: To name them, nemine contradicente.
ANDREWES: London?
COLFE: Divided, my Lord Bishop. A willingness to acknowledge tempered by little sanguinity of success.
DUNTHORN: The very point, my Lord, discussed at high table as in chambers! It is no part of our task to anticipate objections of politics but rather to pay our debts like honest men to our creditors.
ELIOT: Posterity will not thank us for finding so little fault with works of one frail and fallible man be he never so great scholar. 'twere best we have no acknowledging.
TRUELL: Posterity, my Lord, will search us out ere long and point the finger of scorn at our conceit. Our indebtment never can be hid from diligent eyes that would light upon Master Coverdale and Master Tyndale ...
WELBY: ... and so forth and so backward, my Lord Bishop. With respect to your deep learning in the Fathers of the Church, you have well shown how the Word reached us from the Ancient Tongues. Is it so nice a matter to show how that Word hath reached us in our own?
ANDREWES: My friends, you have borne with me and with this work these many years. You cannot but know my heart which is as yours in this. And you must know my mind which is fast in this, that no names of ours shall be seen appended. This is His Majesty's desire and, yea, his command, that The Book shall stand as the Word of God, not of any man. This we have known long since. Now, if I hear you aright, you would have me speak for His Majesty's indulgence in the owning of Master Coverdale and Master Tyndale, if none other.
RICHARDS: That, my Lord Bishop, we surely desire, more than the most of us who have laboured. Were a democracy brought to the setting forth our Preface, no more disputation were needed.
ANDREWES: So be it. Master Ingrams will be pleased to place before you some words of this owning I have written, with indication wherein the text I purpose they would best be found.

Our meeting shall stand adjourned the better for you to ponder them ere we meet next.

His Majesty has granted me audience this day sennight.

SCENE TWO

Hampton Court a week later. The Royal Suite wherein King JAMES and Bishop ANDREWES are closeted. George ABBOTT, the newly appointed Bishop of London, in attendance but he does not speak.
JAMES: Now, I'll trouble ye, Bishop Andrewes, to read it to me.
ANDREWES: Very well, Sire. (reading) ‘But it is high time to leave...’
JAMES: (interrupting) This road we'll come mebbe to fuller understanding. What the eye canna trust the car may warrant yet. Again, Bishop!
ANDREWES: ‘But it is high time to leave them, and to show in brief what we proposed to ourselves, and what course we held in this our perusal and survey of the Bible. Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new translation nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of Sixtus had been true in some sort that our people had been fed with gall of dragons instead of wine, with whey instead of milk:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark. To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men's eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise. ‘And not alone among the living, but among humble scholars there were that left no memorial than their words to us who have taken much ease and comfort thereby of their skill and pains with the Word. We would set off and indemnify our weaknesses by the genius of William Tyndale in the Pentateuch and the New Testament and of Miles Coverdale his poesy in...’
JAMES: Enoo, laddie! I'll mak ye an archbishop mebbe, but I'll no ha'yon Tyndales and Coverdales aspirin' to mannymission o' God's Word. Ye speak truly o' those twae scholars o' the glens. Truly indeed! But ye'll no put it to yon Preface. Ye Church founded by ye Queen, my coz, sha' want for persons aside ye Blessed Trinity. An' tha's ye Politics, Bishop; a league frae ye Divinity!
ANDREWES: Sire, I speak for the many chosen. Save one or two voices from London, the words I have read before Your Majesty are for all the many chosen since we living find little room to better such renderings aforetimes.
JAMES: Aye, an' ye have made of a good one a better, be it by ever so little. And see ye, ne prologues, ne commentaries, Bishop, ne namin' o' names. When none living shall subscribe, surely shall none deid.

Simon Frazer

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