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Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850
Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf

Human beings have developed a superabundance of ways of communicating with each other. Some, such as writing, are several millennia old. This book focuses on the relationship between speech and writing both within a single language, Welsh, and between two languages, Welsh and English. It demonstrates that the eighteenth-century Scottish clergy used the popular medium of Gaelic in oral and written form to advance the Gospel. The experience of literacy in early modern Wales was often an expression of legal and religious authority reinforced by the spoken word. This included the hearing of proclamations and other black-letter texts publicly read. Literate Protestant clergymen governed and shaped the Gaelic culture by acting as the bridge-builders between oral and literary traditions, and as arbiters of literary taste and the providers of reading material for newly literate people. The book also offers some illustrations of how anecdotes became social tools which used to make points not only in private correspondence but also in civil conversation in early modern England. Locating vagabonds and minstrels, and other wanderers on the margins of settled society depended on the survival of the appropriate historical record. Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. During the age of Enlightenment, intellectual culture nourished a new understanding of non-literate language and culture.

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contemporary Welsh counterparts, used the popular medium of Gaelic in oral and written form to advance the Gospel. A work such as the Rev. Ewen McDiarmid’s collection of sermons, published posthumously in 1804, spread through the Highlands and across the Atlantic, providing material for domestic and emigré Scots preachers; it thereby allowed the printed text to influence the subsequent direction of the oral art of preaching. It is an editorial tenet of this book that orality extends up and down the social ladder, though its manifestations and uses will vary according to

in The spoken word

the same period of the ‘buried’ nationalities of central Europe and the rediscovery or invention of national traditions.1 The history of decline of the other Celtic languages suggests that the resilience of the spoken word in Welsh occurred against the odds. Why was Welsh different? The history of the spoken word is inseparable not only from the interaction between different languages but also the interrelation between spoken and written forms of the same language. Wales alone among the Celtic languages developed a vigorous print culture in the vernacular that built

in The spoken word
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its instigators made significant and widely adopted contributions. While their primary interest was the improvement of standards among the lower clergy, their teachings could not but influence contemporary conceptions of episcopal authority and hierarchical status. Ideas on episcopacy were disseminated in both oral and written form, through informal conversation, oratory, correspondence and reflections as well as through published texts. Obviously, bishops like Camus and Godeau were in the best possible position to express their opinions on, for example, episcopal

in Fathers, pastors and kings

brief and spontaneous to have been part of a considered written form. The participation by advocates was thus more like a Year Book discussion in the common law (although without equivalent participation by the judges) than it was a written document to be submitted for consideration by the court. Finally, despite the formality of the records and what can be called the initial pleading, there was a fair amount of other comment in the consistory courts and some just plain chatter. A fifteenth-century York case mentioned by the way that, ‘The said official and the

in Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200–1700

phonetically (this applies whether the source was in classical or vernacular Gaelic), sometimes with accompanying translation; or to translate or paraphrase them. Gaelic oral narrative is preserved, not merely in written form, but in another language. The mechanics of composition are revealed most clearly in the Craignish History. Alasdair Campbell began with a Gaelic oral infrastructure, assimilated from boyhood onwards: rhymes and proverbs, exemplifying the ‘collective memory’; the traditions of a clutch of elite vernacular historians whom he was actively seeking out by

in The spoken word
mid-Victorian stories and beliefs

police detective was somewhere betwixt and between these groups: a leading member of the prosecution team, and, if not a scientist, a man whose forensic skill was his chief qualification for his job and the chief reason he was listened to in court. Detectives, fiction and the uncanny It is a tradition of witchcraft narratives, as with ghost stories, to present them as ‘told’, even in their written form

in Witchcraft Continued

the Parlement did not produce its remonstrance on time, then the law in question would, again, be treated as registered. Once the government had answered a remonstrance, the Parlement must register the new law without delay. In addition, the government, not the Parlement, would decide whether a remonstrance would take oral or written form. These articles permitted the royal administration to set the complete schedule under which remonstrances would be written, delivered, answered and ended. They also enabled ministers to influence the topics of remonstrances, by

in Louis XIV and the parlements
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Cautionary tales and oral tradition in early modern England

immortalized on paper, they were insistent that, once fixed in written form by the Lord’s appointment, it alone became the fount and foundation of Christian faith and truth.13 The Bible should be ‘the sole anker of our hope’, said the future Archbishop of Canterbury George Abbot; the very word Scripture itself expressed ‘the manner of delivering’ divine truths, declared the Yorkshire preacher Francis Bunny, ‘namely by writing’.14 In short, they came close to claiming that textuality was intrinsic to the sanctity of holy writ, that God’s meaning resided in the actual letters

in The spoken word

declaring episcopal jurisdiction to be held by droit divin were replaced by a relation of the Assembly’s discussions, but their ideas remained in written form as the expressed doctrine of the French clergy. Signed and approved by the deputies, the circular was even entered in the official procès-verbal. Mazarin, however, had the last word when he subsequently ordered the Assembly’s agents to delete the declaration.36 Yet despite this particular victory, the actions of the bishops throughout the battle, their fury at Rome’s attempts to encroach on their jurisdiction and

in Fathers, pastors and kings