Saturday, 21 April 2018

GEMMS Online Launch

GEMMS is excited to announce the launch of our website and online database on April 21, 2018. The website is freely available through Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance hosted by the University of Toronto ( The website provides information about the project as well as links to related resources and access to the database. The database currently includes bibliographic information about 10,882 sermons and 55 reports of sermons from 680 manuscripts in 22 repositories in the United Kingdom and North America. These numbers are continually growing as our team adds new data.

GEMMS Advanced Search

Recently, our Research Assistants in England, Catherine Evans and Hannah Yip, have been conducting research at repositories including the London Metropolitan Archives, Sheffield Archives, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Thoresby Society Archives. Over the next several months, Jeanne and Anne will be travelling to libraries and archives in Ireland, Scotland, and London. Meanwhile, our Iter Fellows, Adam Richter and David Robinson, have been busy adding data from North American repositories and expanding location and biographical data in records.

GEMMS Manuscript Record

Our two main emphases over the coming year are making sermon scholars aware of this new resource and facilitating processes to allow these scholars to contribute their own data.

Public access to the database will be launched at the Canada Milton Seminar on April 21 in a presentation conducted by the Iter Fellows ( We are grateful to Professor Paul Stevens for offering us this opportunity. On May 28, Jeanne and Anne will introduce the project at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in a joint session of the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies and the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities ( Catherine Evans and Mathilde Zeeman are currently organizing a one-day workshop, “Early Modern Sermons: Performances and Afterlives,” on November 2, 2018, at the University of Sheffield (proposals are due by May 21, 2018 to where Catherine and Hannah hope to introduce the database to more scholars in the UK.

Our second focus is on enabling all users to be able to contribute data to the database. At this stage, contributors may download and fill in a template on the website and submit it to the project via email ( GEMMS Research Assistants will then enter the information in the database, and contributors will be acknowledged for their contributions. At a later date, we hope to update this process to make it easier for contributors to submit data.

The GEMMS project was formally launched on May 4, 2017, at Dr. Williams’s Library in London, and we are grateful to the staff there, especially Jane Giscombe and Dr. David Wykes for their enthusiastic support of this initiative. Jane created the design for the website home page, while Dr. Jon Bath and Dr. Brent Nelson at the University of Saskatchewan designed the website and database and have worked tirelessly to create an effective user interface. Iter has supported this initiative with research fellowships as well as providing ongoing hosting of the site, and we appreciate the ongoing support we have received from Dr. William Bowen and Dr. Ray Siemens. Members of our board have offered helpful feedback as well as contributing data, while our research associate, Dr. Jennifer Farooq, continues to efficiently perform administrative tasks and supervise our research assistants.

Friday, 23 March 2018

GEMMS Launch in Toronto and Online

GEMMS is looking forward to our launch, taking place on 21 April 2018 at the Canada Milton Seminar in Toronto.

The seminar is hosted by the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto.  Our presentation will be from 9:oo to 10:00 am in Old Victoria College Room 115. We hope to see you there!

For more details, see the seminar program at:

If you can't make it to Toronto, please join us on social media as we also launch GEMMS online. The GEMMS website and database are ready to go and will be accessible online from 21 April.

Our database now includes information on almost 700 manuscripts and over 10,000 individual sermons. The manuscripts range from beautiful fair copies of complete sermons to notebooks containing hastily scrawled notes by auditors. While most were preached in the British Isles, a few come from North America. GEMMS now includes manuscripts housed in repositories in England, Wales, Scotland, and the United States.

What comes next?

Following our launch, the database – via our new website – will be available to researchers for searching, as we continue to add new records. Users will be able to search the database for sermons by specific preachers, on specific texts or on specific occasions, as well as by date and preaching location. Users also will be able to search by sermon type (notes, outlines, drafts, autograph copies), repository, and genre (e.g. funeral sermons). The website includes Search FAQs and a Search Guide to help refine your searches. We anticipate that in the following months researchers will let us know what features they find useful and suggest future enhancements and searching capabilities.

Users also will be able to contribute their own data by submitting a form available on the website. GEMMS researchers will enter your data and publicly credit you for your contribution(s).

This is only the first stage in our plan for engaging with sermon scholars. We are working on the next stage, which will allow users contributing data to retain their own collections within the database, as well as to offer corrections and additions to existing records. Our hope is that this stage of the project will provide opportunities for researchers to share information and collaborate in new ways across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.

As we attempt to engage with researchers who will find our data useful, we encourage them to visit our social media sites and spread the word via Twitter about our new resource. (@GEMMS_sermons).

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Funeral Sermons for Women: Celebrating GEMMS Sermon #10000

GEMMS has now added its 10,000th sermon, a funeral sermon commemorating Bridget, viscountess Beaumont, who was buried at South Carlton, Lincolnshire, on 1 June 1640. Since funeral sermons are among the most common sermon genres in the database (258 to date), this one is an appropriate choice to mark this milestone in our progress. These artefacts add substantially to the study of funeral sermons in general, and especially of women as subjects of sermons, a study that has generated vigorous historiographical debate about their value as historical and biographical sources.[1] In examining a religious culture where women were regularly praised in funeral sermons (often commissioned by their grieving husbands) for their domestic virtues (as good daughters, wives, and mothers) and as models of pious “mediocrity,” one can only celebrate access to an increasing archive of sermons that have survived in manuscript, although never printed. This sermon is one of 84 funeral sermons for women currently in GEMMS, and these sermons may help develop and complicate our understanding of this elusive and disputed genre.

This sermon also illustrates the mysteries that remain to be unravelled as researchers use the GEMMS database to locate and examine the sermons themselves. Both library catalogues and the headings of sermons provide varying amounts of preaching information, often frustratingly incomplete. While most preachers and auditors of funeral sermons did record the subject’s name, often along with the date and location of the sermon, many subjects of manuscript funeral sermons have left no other traces of their lives. For example, we are unlikely to learn much about the Mrs. Roe (or Row) whose funeral sermon was preached by Nathaniel Harding in Plymouth on 7 December, 1690 (GEMMS-SERMON-003708), although we can use the sermon to confirm and/or qualify conclusions about the generic characteristics of funeral sermons.

The situation of GEMMS-SERMON-010000 is more unusual: an identifiable subject commemorated by an obscure preacher. The sermon appears in the British Library’s Sloane MS 1470, and the library’s manuscript catalogue provides a full description of both the sermon and its accompanying material:
A Commemoracion of the Right Honourable the Lady Bridget Viscountess Beaumont, the truly pious, virtuous and loyal consort of the Right Honourable Sapcotes Lord Viscount Beaumont of Swords, delivered at her funerall in the parish church of South Carlton, (the antient burying place of her worthy progenitors) upon Munday the first of June, anno Domini, 1640, by John Hodgson, Rector of Motton; written Aug. 3 1658, by me Wm. Bannister.' ff. 249-267.
Prefixed are dedicatory letters from Wm. Bannister, to Mrs. Anna Simpson, dat. London, 3 Aug. 1658, and from John Hodgson to Sir Thomas Monson, Bart., dat. Motton, 19 Jan. 1640; and at the end are two letters from the last named writer upon the same date, the first to Thomas, John, and Elizabeth, children of Sapcotes Viscount Beaumont of Swords, by Bridgett, daughter of Sir Thomas Monson, Bart., the second to Ursula, wife of Sir John Monson, K. B.[2]
The deceased was the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Monson and the first wife of Sapcote Beaumont, whom she married on 28 May, 1632, as well as the mother of three children. Her father was a man of some notoriety. Having risen to prominence in Lincolnshire under Queen Elizabeth, he had progressed to national offices under James I through the patronage of Henry Howard, earl of Northampton. His rising career hit a snag, however, when he was implicated in the Overbury affair after fulfilling Frances Howard’s request that he recommend Richard Weston as Overbury’s keeper. Although pardoned in 1617, Monson never quite got his career, or his finances, back on track.[3]

The preacher, John Hodgson, cannot be identified with certainty. The catalogue record identifies him variously as rector of Motton or Moulton, Lincolnshire, but he does not appear in the list of ministers at Moulton in The Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd). He cannot be the John Hodgisson appointed rector at Morton in 1562, but the name may suggest a family connection to this area.[4] The most likely candidate for the preacher of this sermon seems to be a John Hodgson ordained by William Laud and instituted rector at Burton by Lincoln in 1628. As Burton was the home of the Beaumonts it seems reasonable that the local rector would have been selected to preach the funeral sermon at nearby South Carlton, where Lady Beaumont was buried among her ancestors.

The various dedicatory letters Hodgson prepared in January 1640/41 suggest that he hoped either for encouragement to print the sermon or for some other form of patronage. If these were his motives, however, it is odd that he addressed these letters not, as might have been expected, to the widower, but to the deceased’s father, her sister-in-law, Ursula Monson, and her three children. With the possible exception of Ursula Monson, none of these individuals were in positions to assist the preacher. Thomas Monson, who was in poor health, would die in May 1641, while Lady Beaumont’s children were all under eight years old. Ursula’s husband, however, would become Sir John Monson when he inherited his father’s baronetcy a few months later, and had already established his loyalty to Archbishop Laud by participating in a controversy over John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, and would offer legal advice to Charles I during the civil wars.[5] Although the sermon never seems to have been printed, if the identification of Hodgson above is correct, then he may have received some benefit from the sermon, since in 1642 he resigned at Burton to become rector of Donington, Lincolnshire, where he apparently remained until 1669.[6]

The sermon’s paratexts present other puzzles involving the motives of William Banister (1614/15-1685) of Turkdean, Gloucestershire, who copied the sermon eighteen years later, on 3 August, 1658, and penned a new dedication to a Mrs. Anna Simpson. The occasion may have been the death of Sapcote Beaumont that year, but Banister’s connection to the deceased and her family is unclear, although there may be a family relationship through a Dorothy Banister in the sixteenth century, whose first husband was Thomas Monson of Belton.[7] Anna Simpson remains unidentified. The fact that the sermon was recopied and newly dedicated is important in revealing how complex the transmission history of such a text might be. Even if we cannot yet identify motives and connections to explain the fact, we can register this history, and investigate further into the ways in which this manuscript found its way into the Sloane collection.

The library catalogue describes Lady Beaumont in conventional terms as a “truly pious, virtuous and loyal consort” to her husband. One additional piece of information provided by the manuscript heading is the biblical text, 2 Corinthians 4:17 (For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison), which also seems conventional rather than offering any clues about the deceased. Only a reading of the sermon and the paratexts will show whether Hodgson’s commemoration reveals anything of her as a person.

While some of the funeral sermons for women in the GEMMS database commemorate upper class women like Bridget Beaumont or the wives of well-known preachers, such as Philip Henry’s wife Katherine,[8] we hope that the database’s identification of sermons preached for Mrs. Roe and other anonymous women – few of which would ever be printed – will increase our understanding of funeral sermons for women, of their transmission in manuscript, and of a religious culture with roots in a wider range of classes, social contexts, and religious piety than hitherto known to scholars.


[1] Patrick Collinson, “‘A Magazine of Religious Patterns’: An Erasmian Topic Transposed in English Protestantism,” in his Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London: Hambledon Press, 1983), 499-525; Peter Lake, “Feminine Piety and Personal Potency: The Emancipation of Mrs. Jane Ratcliffe,” The Seventeenth Century 2 (1987): 143-165; Eric Carlson, “English Funeral Sermons as Sources: The Example of Female Piety in pre-1640 Sermons,” Albion 32.4 (2000): 567-97; Lyndell O’Hara, “Far Beyond Her Nature and Sex”: The Making of a Protestant Hagiography, 1590-1640, PhD diss. (Fordham University, 2006); Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, Religion, and the Family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford: OUP, 1998); Jeanne Shami, “Reading Funeral Sermons for Early Modern English Women: Some Literary and Historiographical Challenges,” in Arthur Marotti and Chanita Goodblatt, eds., Religious Diversity and Early Modern English Texts: Catholic, Judaic, Feminist, and Secular Dimensions (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2013), 282-308.

[2] British Library, “Sloane 1470,” in Explore Archives and Manuscripts, (Accessed 16 July 2017).

[3] Alastair Bellany, “Monson, Sir Thomas, first baronet (1563/4–1641),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: OUP, 2004; online edn, Jan. 2008. (Accessed 16 July 2017).

[4] Moulton (CCEd Location ID: 172889),” and “Morton (CCEd Location ID: 8335),” The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd) (Accessed 17 July 2017).

[5] Bertha Porter, “Monson, Sir John, second baronet (1599–1683),” rev. Sean Kelsey, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: OUP, 2004; online edn, Jan. 2008. (Accessed 17 July 2017).

[6] This information is pieced together from three separate records in the CCEd (Person IDs 80933, 98863, and 146188). The date of resignation from Burton by Lincoln (20 April 1642) in record 98863 matches the date of institution at Donington in record 146188, which indicates that the records refer to the same person. He also may be the John Hodgson admitted to Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1623 who graduated BA from Clare College (1626/27) and MA in 1630 (A Cambridge Alumni Database, [Accessed 17 July 2017]).

[7] The marriage produced two daughters, Margaret born in 1562 and Dorothy born in 1574, A. R. Maddison, Lincolnshire Pedigrees (London: Harleian Society, 1902), 2.681.

[8] There are two funeral sermons for Katherine Henry in GEMMS: two witnesses of a sermon by Samuel Benion (GEMMS-SERMON-002401 and GEMMS-SERMON-007569) and one witness of a sermon by Matthew Henry (GEMMS-SERMON-oo7570).

~ Anne James and Jeanne Shami

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Job Opportunity: GEMMS Research Assistant in the UK

Deadline extended: Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2017.

The Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons project is seeking a student enrolled in a UK PhD program in a related field of study (including but not limited to early modern English literature, social, political, and religious history, theology, and book history) to assist with data collection. The duration of the position is twelve months, with a 3-month probationary period. There is a possibility of extending the contract. We estimate that the researcher will work approximately 20 hours per month during the term of the contract, though the number of hours is negotiable with the principal researchers.

The purpose of this project is to develop a group-sourced online bibliographic database of early modern (1530-1715) sermon manuscripts in the UK and North America. The role of the Research Assistant is primarily to collect metadata for the database in selected UK repositories identified by the principal researchers. The Research Assistant also may have the opportunity to present research, contribute to social media to promote the database, and conduct workshops for groups of potential contributors and users.


Collect metadata on sermon manuscripts at libraries and archives in the UK (repositories to be selected in consultation with the principal researchers) and enter this data into the database.

Advise principal researchers of difficulties encountered and significant discoveries of additional materials.

Check and correct data currently in the database. 

Write posts for the GEMMS blog based on sermon manuscripts examined.


The Research Assistant will be compensated £15/hour to a maximum of £3600 plus travel expenses as required. In consultation with the principal researchers, the student will develop a mutually beneficial research schedule.


Candidates must be enrolled in a PhD program in a related field at a UK university. Candidates whose work involves substantial use of early modern sermons in manuscript will be preferred.

Candidates must also be willing to travel within the UK to conduct research and internationally to attend conferences.

Candidates must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing and must be able to work well independently.

Candidates must have accurate word processing skills and be attentive to detail. Familiarity with databases is an asset.

Some knowledge of Latin and/or Greek would be useful.

Application Procedure:

Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2017. We anticipate hiring to be completed in November and work to begin in January 2018, though an earlier start date may be possible.

Please submit a cover letter outlining your qualifications and availability, a current CV, and the names and contact details for two referees to or or by mail to Jeanne Shami or Anne James at: 359 Administration-Humanities Bldg., University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Pkway, Regina, SK, S4S 0A2, CANADA

Thursday, 9 March 2017

GEMMS Announces Database Launch

GEMMS is looking forward to our official launch, taking place on 4 May, 2017 at Dr. Williams's Library, London, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. 

If you plan to attend, please register by sending a message to

Our database now includes information on almost 500 manuscripts and over 6500 individual sermons. The manuscripts range from beautiful fair copies of complete sermons to notebooks containing hastily scrawled notes by auditors. While most were preached in the British Isles, a few come from North America. All manuscripts included to date are housed in the UK.

What comes next?

Following our launch, the database – via our new website -- will be available to researchers for searching, as we continue to add new records. Users will be able to search the database for sermons by specific preachers or on specific texts, as well as by date and preaching location. It should also be possible to search by sermon type (notes, outlines, drafts, autograph copies), repository, and genre (e.g. funeral sermons). We anticipate that in the following months researchers will let us know what features they find useful and suggest future enhancements and searching capabilities.
We will also begin developing plans for the next phase, which will allow other researchers to share and store their own data as well as to offer corrections and additions to existing records. Our hope is that this stage of the project will provide opportunities for researchers to share information and collaborate in new ways across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.

As we attempt to engage with researchers who will find our data useful, we encourage them to visit our social media sites and spread the word via Twitter about our new resource. (@GEMMS_sermons).

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A Glimpse of Early Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland: Celebrating GEMMS Sermon # 5555

This blog post marks a significant milestone for the GEMMS research project. With well over five thousand sermons now entered into our online bibliographic database, this post shines a spotlight on GEMMS sermon # 5555. This sermon illustrates the broad scope of the project, which encompasses not only manuscripts from the British Isles, but also many fascinating records of preaching from the North American colonies. Sermon # 5555, and the wider collection to which it belongs, offers a rare glimpse of preaching in early Newfoundland, which would become part of Canada more than two centuries later in 1949.

During the early eighteenth century, the Anglican clergyman, Jacob Rice (1683-1728), served as minister of St John’s, Newfoundland. The son of Thomas Rice of Newcastle, County Cardigan, Wales, he matriculated at Jesus College, Oxford, on the 13th of March 1699/1700 aged seventeen and received his BA from Magdalen Hall on the 16th of March 1703/4.[1]  Later that year he returned to Cardiganshire to take up a curacy, but in 1705 he was appointed as missionary at St John’s to replace John Jackson, who had served as chaplain to the British garrison since 1701.[2]  A letter of royal appointment by Queen Anne, dated May 1705, survives amongst Rice’s scribal remains. This document declares that Rice was ‘to be Chaplain to the Garrison or Garrisons’ in Newfoundland. A further surviving letter of appointment by the Bishop of London, dated the 3rd of June 1705, states that ‘Jacob Rice Clerk’ was ‘to be admitted to the Ministerial Function in the Province of Newfoundland in America’, having vowed to ‘conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England’.[3] On account of his failure to provide the necessary testimonials prior to his departure for Newfoundland, Rice failed to receive any financial support from The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.[4]  After residing at St John’s for a number of years, Rice relocated to serve as chaplain to the English garrison at Placentia. Unfortunately, the exact year of this transfer remains uncertain; Rice was still living in St John’s in 1712, but by early 1725 he appears to have taken up an appointment as Rector of North Cray, Kent, England. On his death in September 1728, Rice left £10 to his female servant and the remainder of his estate to his niece, who acted as sole executrix of his will.[5]

Figure 1: Letter of appointment by the Bishop of London. © The Bodleian Library. MS. Rawl. E. 173, ff. 18v-19r.

Two volumes of Jacob Rice’s early eighteenth-century sermons survive in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, as manuscripts Rawlinson E. 173 and Rawlinson E. 174. The first volume contains thirty-three separate sermon entries, six of which bear dates ranging from the 4th of April 1705 to the 23rd of May 1706. Only one sermon, preached on 1 Corinthians 11:29 (‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lords body’), is explicitly identified as having been preached at St John’s on the 10th of February 1705/6. On this occasion, Rice’s intention was to educate his congregation concerning exactly ‘what is required of them who come to the Lords supper’ (MS. Rawl. E. 173, fol. 198r).  Alongside a number of funeral sermons, this volume also contains a sermon on Joel 2:18 (‘then will the Lord be Jealous for his Land, & pity his people’) which was preached at a fast on the 4th of April 1705. According to Rice’s text: ‘the Government upon this day commands upon pain of such punishment as it may justly inflict’ that all must ‘sanctify a fast’ in accordance with their duties ‘as Englishmen and Protestants’ (fols. 183r-188v).

The second volume of Rice’s sermon manuscripts contains another thirty-three entries. One of this number, preached on Proverbs 10:9 (‘He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely’), is dated the 4th of November 1705 and is identified as ‘the first sermon I preacht at St Johns’ (MS. Rawl. E. 174, fol. 209r). Twelve further entries in this collection bear precise dates, ranging from the 11th of November 1705 to the 4th of August 1706. Nine of the sermons are said to have been preached at St John’s, but Rice also preached at Portsmouth, Gosport and Stoke during August 1705. Again, a number of the entries in this collection are funeral sermons, including one that was preached at the funeral of a merchant, Mr Yeates, on the 3rd of July 1706 (fol. 89v). There are two interesting instances of the same funeral sermon being preached on the deaths of more than one individual, and there are also three clear examples of occasions on which Rice preached two sermons on a particular text on the same date. For example, he seems to have preached on the divine inspiration of Scripture (according to 2 Timothy 3:16) on both the morning and afternoon of a single day (fols. 185r-190v, 191r-196r).

One of Jacob Rice’s sermons is GEMMS sermon # 5555, which spans folios 216r-218r of his first volume of sermon notes (MS. Rawl. E. 173). It was preached on the 23rd of May 1706 at the funeral of a woman named Hannah, the wife of Mr [John?] Mitchell. On this solemn occasion, Rice chose to preach on Matthew 3:8 (‘bring forth fruits meet for Repentance’). This verse forms part of a speech which John the Baptist addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees who witnessed him baptizing in the river Jordan. Rice began by outlining his interpretation of this Biblical narrative, observing that these Pharisees and Sadducees (a ‘brood of venemous miscreants’), alarmed by forewarnings of ‘dreadfull vengeance’ awaiting their generation, feigned repentance and sought out John’s baptism by water. They desired this ‘outward badge of penitents’ despite lacking any true desire to turn from sin. According to Rice’s interpretation, John refused them baptism on account of their hypocrisy, but offered assurance that this ‘sacrament’ was freely available to all who demonstrated true repentance by their actions.

Figure 2: Beginning of the funeral sermon for Mrs Hannah Mitchell. © The Bodleian Library. MS. Rawl. E. 173, f. 216r. 

On the basis of this Scriptural account, Rice sought to illustrate two points of doctrine; first, ‘what this Repentance is of which he exhorts them to bring forth the meet fruits’ and, secondly, ‘the necessity of bringing forth such fruits’. Rice defined repentance, or μετάνοια, as ‘a sincere and through [sic] change of mind’, a willful resolution to leave off vice and forsake a sinful course of life. This, Rice insisted, is necessary for ‘the satisfaction of God’, since it is on account of the merits of Christ’s death that our repentance is accepted in lieu of our punishment. Only a repentance which bears fruits that lead to personal amendment and to the amendment of others can be acceptable to God. Moreover, these fruits of repentance are essential for ‘the satisfaction of our own consciences’, providing a comforting reassurance of the sincerity of our penitence.

In the final section of this funeral sermon, Rice briefly turned to consider its subject, Mrs Hannah Mitchell, whom he praised as ‘a woman of a kind and obliging temper, modest in her converse’ and, as far as he could tell, ‘of a very good moral life’. His decision to preach on Matthew 3:8 is explained by his subsequent account of having baptized Mrs Mitchell on her deathbed:
She had the misfortune to be brought [to Newfoundland] by sectaries which kept her from the common advantage of a X.tian, which by reason of her modesty which I presume had got a little the upper hand of her she never imparted to me till she lay on her death-bed, where she received the b[enefit]e of Baptism.
Hannah’s sincere repentance was evidenced in her way of life, which, according to Rice, differed markedly from that of the majority of the inhabitants of Newfoundland. From a full assessment of Rice’s sermons, Geoff Peddle has concluded that the Anglican cleric considered the Newfoundlanders amongst whom he ministered to be in desperate need of spiritual reformation.[6] Yet Hannah Mitchell:
had live[d] a considerable time in this countrey without addicting her self to those vices (shame on them) that seem by its so common use to be peculiar to the place, she being a modest, sober, chast, quiet woman, & I hope she has her due reward in Heaven.
Figure 3: End of the funeral sermon for Mrs Hannah Mitchell. © The Bodleian Library. MS. Rawl. E. 173, f. 218r.

Although, as a rule, Rice’s funeral sermons contain only the slightest details concerning the lives of their subjects, he did frequently conclude with brief eulogies of this kind. At the funeral of James Vickers on the 8th of March 1705/6, Rice followed up his sermon by advising his congregation to imitate the ‘honest and upright life and conversation’ of the deceased (MS. Rawl. E. 174, fol. 51v). However, on another occasion, he concluded what appears to have been a funeral sermon on Luke 13:5 with a declaration that his subject had failed to display true repentance, concern for God’s commandments or any desire for Grace. Thus, Rice could:
only hope that God who has shewn mercy in midst of Judgment to many & great sinners has in his great and most condescending Pity received our deceased Brother into his eternal Rest (MS. Rawl. E. 173, fol. 25r).
 Jacob Rice’s extensive collection of sermons constitutes a fascinating window onto the style and content of early eighteenth-century Anglican preaching. These manuscripts supply some evocative insights into the condition of the Anglican Church in Newfoundland in this period and the pastoral approach of missionary preachers. The GEMMS team are eagerly awaiting the launch of our online bibliographic database in spring 2017 when these, and many other early modern British and North American sermon manuscripts, will become more easily accessible for researchers.

All images reproduced with the kind permission of the Bodleian Library.


[1] Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714..., vol. 3, edited by Joseph Foster (Oxford, 1891), p. 1250.

[2] Carson I. A. Ritchie, ‘Rice, Jacob,’ in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2 (University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003) (accessed October 12, 2016); Geoff Peddle, ‘The Reverend Jacob Rice: Anglican Ministry and Preaching in Early Eighteenth Century Newfoundland’, MA thesis (Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996), pp. 9, 15, 20.

[3] Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. E. 173, fols. 10v-11r, 18v-9r.

[4] Ritchie, ‘Rice, Jacob’; Peddle, ‘The Reverend Jacob Rice’, pp. 22-5.

[5] Ritchie, ‘Rice, Jacob’; Peddle, ‘The Reverend Jacob Rice’, p. 26; Falconer Madan, A Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford..., vol. 3 (Oxford, 1895), p. 273; The National Archives, PROB 11/624/333.

[6] Peddle, ‘The Reverend Jacob Rice’, p. 100.

~ Lucy Busfield