My Thesis: The Manuscript Poetry of Thomas St Nicholas and the Writing of ‘Scripturalism’ in Early Modern Britain.
It is Shakespeare’s eponymous misanthrope who descries that all should “[c]rack the lawyer's voice,/That he may never more false title plead,/Nor sound his quillets shrilly” (The Life Of Timon Of Athens IV.iii.162-4). Yet despite their specious reputation, both then and now, for half-truths and double dealing, there is one whose voice may have melted the stony heart of Timon. For it is the little known poetry of the Kent born lawyer, Thomas St Nicholas (bap. 1602, d. 1668), that clarions such a devotion to divine conduct and counsel. In a meticulously kept manuscript composed of seventy poems, spanning nearly forty-four years, this country attorney explores the contrapuntal rhythms of human life. From the horrors of political imprisonment to the honours of religious independence; from the cloistered hearth and heart to the commuted friend and foe; escapes from death and the eventual march towards it – St Nicholas’ work evokes a familiar ease which though unassuming is not uninformed.
Chronological in its focus, the thesis moves from St Nicholas’ carceral verse that emulated the protests of other Civil War prison narratives (both parliamentarian and Royalist); to his Interregnum battle hymn that was part of a vibrant culture of hymn writing for thanksgiving days in the 1650’s (by Independents, Republicans, and established parish clergy); to his Restoration sickness narrative that adhered to those of other religious writers (Baptists, Quakers, Anglicans); to his providential account of the Great Fire of London (that had much in common with the images espoused by elite pulpiteers and popular balladeers); and finally his examination of ‘evidences’ that justified his self-writing as preparatory works for the Final Judgement (as many other God-fearing Calvinist writers had done). Throughout St Nicholas’ verse is shown to be deeply engaged in literary modes of expression that were being played out amongst a variety of English writers.
My research interests include a wide array of topics in manuscript and print culture within the early modern period. These include Dissenting studies, prison literature and martyrdom, newsbooks, spiritual manuals and diaries, psalmody and hymnology, medicine, witchcraft, husbandry, prosopography, preaching and prophecy.
Associate Tutor and Examiner (in the English Department) for the Undergraduate modules: (EN121) Medieval to Renaissance English Literature; and (EN228) Seventeenth Century: The First Modern Age of English Literature.
Associate Tutor (in the Centre for Study of the Renaissance) for the Postgraduate module: (RS904) Renaissance Culture & Society.
Winner of The Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence (WATE PGR), 2015-16.
Public Lectures and Series Talks
'"A Desire for Destiny": Gideon and the Theology of Purpose in Renaissance England', Thameside Church: Theology Lecture Series (Reading) 2016.
'He "gave my wife a piece of the thunderbolt": Strange Things, Providence and Perspectives in Seventeenth-Century England', Queen Mary English Department Postgraduate Research Seminar Series, (Queen Mary University of London), 2018-19.
'"What piteous lodgings these poor men had": Life Inside English Prisons, 1553-1700', Durham Research Seminar Series (Durham University), 2018-19.
‘“Physicians of no value”: Biblical and Anti-Medical Sentiments in the Writings of English Patients, 1600-1700’, IHR 17th Century Seminar Series, (School of Advanced Study: University of London), 2018.
‘“[A] house of prayer, not the house of talking, of walking, of brawling”: Unruly Church Services in Early Modern England’, North West Early Modern Seminar series (Venue TBA), 2018-19.
Co-editing with Elizabeth Clarke: The People's Piety: Devotional Writing in Print and Manuscript in Early Modern England (under contract with Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2019).
Co-editing with Iman Sheeha: Door-Bolts, Thresholds, and Peep-Holes: Liminality and Domestic Spaces in Early Modern England (a special issue for the Early Modern Literary Studies Journal, forthcoming 2019).
Selected Conference Papers
‘“The particularity of diaries", Reading Diaries and Dissenting Networks’, Triennial John Bunyan Conference, (Alberta, Canada), 2019.
‘“upon it [I] wrote memento mori": Morbid Memory in English Homes, 1658-1715’, Remembering, Memory, and Commemoration in the Stuart World, 1658-1715, (Bangor University), 2019.
'"I read in Mr Alle[i]n’s Life with shame enough to myself": Biographical Writings and Readings amongst Dissenting Clergymen in Seventeenth-Century England’, Reading the Ministry, 1520-1848 Conference, (University of Aberdeen), 2018.
‘"When Hezekiah Judah's King was sicke": Scriptural Patterns and Model Patients, Sick-Bed Piety in Early Modern English Homes', Home and Religion: Space, Practice and Community from the C17 to Present, (Queen Mary, University of London) 2018.
‘God’s "house” is “not the house of talking, of walking, of brawling, of minstrelsy": Distractions during Sermons in the Early Modern Church’, Early Modern Sermons: Performances and Afterlives, (University of Sheffield) 2018.
'"To make a second Book of Martyrs": Re-Appropriating Foxe in the Nonconformist Prison Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England', Remembrance and Re-Appropriation: Shaping Dissenting Identities (Keele University) 2018.
'"What piteous lodgings these poor men had": Discipline and Defiance in the Prison Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England', Ordering the Margins of Society: Space, Authority and Control in Early Modern Britain (School of Advanced Study: University of London) 2017.
'"My sick-bed covenants": Scripturalism and Exclusion in the Sickness Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England', Devotional Writing in Print and Manuscript in Early Modern England, 1558-1700' (University of Warwick) 2017.
'"Don't give my tongue the lie": Regulating Sick-Bed Speeches in Early Modern England', Cultures of Exclusion in the Early Modern World: Enemies and Strangers, 1600-1800 (University of Warwick) 2017.
‘“Like Pharaohs made them fall”: The Origins of Dissenting Hymns', Voicing Dissent in the Long Reformation, Triennial John Bunyan Conference (Aix-en-Provence/France) 2016.
‘“Loudest Songs of Praise”, The Soundscape of Household Worship in Early Modern England’, Developing a Christian Mind and Seeking Wisdom, (Worcester College, Oxford), 2014.
'Godly Self-Writing in Early Modern England', 10th Anniversary Postgraduate Symposium, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies (University of Warwick) 2014.
'"Have a little book in thy Conscience, and write therein": Writing the Puritan Conscience, 1600-1650’, Sin and Salvation in Reformation England (Shakespeare Institute/Stratford) 2013.
Selected and Forthcoming Publications
‘“Have a little book in thy Conscience, and write therein”: Writing the Puritan Conscience, 1600-1650’, in Sin and Salvation in Reformation England, ed. by Jonathan Willis (Ashgate, 2016).
‘“Lessons written in bright Characters of Fire”: The Literary Culture of Urban Fire Narratives in Early Modern England’ (being revised for The Review of English Studies, 2018).
‘“Like Pharaohs made them fall”: Battle Hymns and the Evolution of Praise during the 1640-50’s’ (forthcoming, 2019).
‘“To hear what peals of psalms they forth did ring”: Psalm Suppression, Suspicion and Subversion during the English Revolution’ (forthcoming, 2018).
‘"My sick-bed covenants": Scripturalism and Exclusion in the Sickness Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England', in The People's Piety, ed. by Elizabeth Clarke and R. W. Daniel (forthcoming, 2019).
'"[W]ill you thrust me out of my owne house," Tricksters, Thieves and Basket-Sellers: Penetrating Domestic Spaces', in Door-Bolts, Thresholds, and Peep-Holes: Liminality and Domestic Spaces in Early Modern England, ed. by Robert W. Daniel and Iman Sheeha (forthcoming 2019).
‘“To make a second Book of Martyrs”: Re-Appropriating Foxe in the Nonconformist Prison Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England', in Bunyan Studies (forthcoming Autumn 2019). I was asked to contribute this article by special invitation of the Journal’s editor - Bob Owens.
‘"Free Commoners Wives": Imprisoned Religious Radicals and their Wives in Old and New England’, co-authored with Vera Camden (for Literature Compass, forthcoming 2019).