"'Embrace not this Present World, It will kisse you, and kill you; like a Sea of Glasse':
Republican Retreat and the Publicity of Private Selves in Hugh Peter's Legacy to his Daughter, 1660

Katharine Gillespie

     1. A fairly stable consensus has emerged around the idea that a public sphere developed in England during the revolutionary and republican eras of the mid-seventeenth century rather than in the eighteenth century as Habermas claimed. The place of women in that sphere is a growing subject of debate. Scholars such as Hillary Hinds, Susan Wiseman, Teresa Feroli, Mihoko Suzuki, Shannon Miller and Catharine Gray, to name but a few, have examined the multitudinous means by which women constructed public identities through print in small but noteworthy numbers. Marcus Nevitt, on the other hand, contends that the public sphere was at that time "constructed around the public silence and exclusion of women." Male authors were hostile to women's presence within the public sphere and women were forced to negotiate that hostility by utilizing strategies such as "co-operation" with male recorders, "unseen association" with implied communities and "dialogue" (18). Women's agency within the public sphere had "less to do with self-assertion than self-effacement" (18).

     2. Nevitt builds his argument upon a series of case studies, claiming to "eschew a theoretical perspective in favor of a series of close-analyses of the historical conditions of some of the casual (and indeed less casual) negotiations of non-aristocratic women in the mid-seventeenth century" (19). However, despite a disavowal of theory in favor of historical conditions, his perspective draws from Bakhtin, quoted as saying, "I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another; I must find myself in another by finding another in myself . . . Justification cannot be self-justification, recognition cannot be self-recognition. I receive my name from others, and it exists for them" (47). Nevitt's use of this passage implies that self-effacement was not simply one strategy among many used by women to attain presence in a masculinist public sphere. Rather, it is synechdochal of women's interpellated subjectivity and indeed, as Bakhtin's use of the universal "I" suggests, of subjectivity per se. While purportedly transcending the binaries of public versus private in the study of women's complex relationship to publication, Nevitt's study inscribes the equally problematic binary of selfhood versus cooperation, collectivity, and community.

     3. Such an argument is oddly reminiscent of widely-accepted feminist analyses of methods used by male authors to achieve legitimacy and thus deserves further comment. Wendy Wall, for example, argues that men of high standing "consolidated their shaky social status as publishing writers and generated a masculine notion of authorship" by using "the female body as a medium for articulating power, whether dismembered in poetic fragments or as a corporeal sign for the text" (36). When one places Wall's comments next to Nevitt's, one confronts a paradox that continues to operate in literary treatments of early modern women: Whereas male authors are regarded as dominating or exploitative when their "use" of a female other is disclosed, women writers are viewed as self-effacing when their texts are revealed as marked by the presence of a (generally male) other. Either way, the presence of an other within a text, regardless of whether it is said to have been authored by a male or female, reveals the ontological impossibility of "autonomous" selfhood in general and of female selfhood in particular. Likewise, cooperation is defined as women strategically colluding with male power structures rather than as men and women collaboratively forming oppositional communities. This is the case despite the fact that Bakhtin may be said to enunciate the degree to which a dialogic model of self-construction makes apparent the presence of more than one self -- a community of selves -- rather than either a dominant one or an effacement of self altogether. Even if his posited self receives its "name from others" and hence "exists for them," Bakhtin arguably denominates a self that is still distinct from those "others" when he writes that "it exists."

     4. In what follows, I do not attempt to offer a theory of selfhood per se but rather to complicate the idea that the public sphere was ritually organized around the construction of male identity to the relative if not near-complete exclusion of female selfhood and that women's presence is most felt when it's being elided. The public sphere itself transcends the binaries of public versus private by representing a virtuality through which private individuals utilize private modes of production to form a critical public. Correspondingly, within this sphere, constructions of selfhood, both male and female, are not necessarily antithetical to community but are used to both constitute and oppose competing forms of community. While some men attempted to efface women's presence from the public sphere, others worked to assert it by defining women as specific types of selves conjoined to specific forms of community. To explore this further, I will examine A Dying Fathers Last Legacy to an Onely Child or, Hugh Peter's Advice to his Daughter: Written by his Own Hand, during his late Imprisonment in the Towere of London; And given her a little before his Death, published in 1660. A lifelong proponent of religious Independency, Hugh Peter preached to Congregationalist churches in Holland, England, and New England, served as an Army chaplain for Parliament in the English Civil War, worked for poor relief, raised monies for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and supported Cromwell's Protectorate long after other supporters had concluded that he'd become just another king. As his subtitle indicates, Peter penned his last words to his daughter while he was in prison, where he was placed for having championed the beheading of Charles I. Just before his text was published, he was tried and executed by Charles II. Because the Legacy is addressed to Elizabeth Peter, it provides an opportunity to explore an instance wherein a man entered into the public sphere by strategically invoking and empowering rather than suppressing a female self. In a last-ditch attempt to rehabilitate his reputation for restoration-era readers comprised both of angry royalists hostile to male republican public expression as well as republicans dejected and effaced by their experience of defeat, Peter confers upon Elizabeth the potential to achieve a version of selfhood that he tragically abandoned in his quest for public power. This version of selfhood derives from the Puritan project of destroying the "worldly self" in order to replace it with the "religious self" as it was described in Colossians 3.10. To repair his image as a king-killing Puritan zealot and die-hard apologist for the increasingly hated Cromwell -- all the things which, as Carla Pestana has written, "ensured his place on the scaffold in 1660" -- Peter represents himself as a failed "new man." In this self-representation, Peter has given in to his fallen "worldly self" by erroneously attempting to implement a more divine order on earth through acquiring and exercising power within the political sphere rather than working through humbler, more "private" means to cultivate the "godly self" and by extension the independent community of saints. He introduces his daughter as the heir to and beneficiary of this insight. She is a "godly self" in potentia who can learn from his mistakes by maintaining a critical distance from most social and political institutions. She can cultivate instead the "garden" of the individual and the voluntary association of the gathered church. While she is "named by him" and exists for him as a vehicle for self-reclamation, he also identifies himself as a vehicle for helping her attain the forms of Puritan selfhood and collaboration that eluded him. Two selves are enunciated rather than one or none and both are defined as selves vis a vis their respective relationships to God and the community of saints organized around shared devotional practices.

     5. Peter's publicity of his mutually sustaining relationship with his daughter supports Habermas's claim that "the public sphere of a rational-critical debate in the world of letters" was "an expansion and at the same time completion of the intimate sphere of the conjugal family" (Habermas 50) since it was comprised of "privatized individuals" who communicated with one another as one would in a "publikum." Peter writes to Elizabeth in the guise of both a father and a minister, thereby publicizing his private role as father and privatizing his public role as minister. At the same time, whereas Habermas claims that such individuals were deluded insofar as they "viewed themselves as independent even from the private sphere of their economic activity -- as persons capable of entering into 'purely human' relations with one another" (48) -- Peter's text develops a Puritan theory of how certain formations of social, economic, and political power provoke the self to assume a necessarily defensive stance towards a "present world" deemed to be so hostile that, as he writes to his daughter, "it will kisse you, and kill you; like a Sea of Glasse" (46). He neither elides nor is blind to the self's entanglement within the material world but represents himself, his daughter, and all people as individuals who need to unite with the divine in order to resist the attempts made by nature and society to enmesh them in a web of subjection. Peter spent a lifetime promoting this oppositional form of selfhood to others, even as he himself lost sight of it. To reclaim that commitment, he uses his legacy to make a new sort of public with his daughter: a small and intimate "private public" comprised of individuals engaged in the shared act of shunning earthly pursuits and seeking greater commensurability with Christ. The publication of his private document mirrors the way in which he imagines a community of godly Puritans -- even a tiny one -- functioning as a public icon of the virtues of worldly renunciation. While he represents the lost potential of that project, his daughter is the visible marker of its future.

     6. Born to Peter and his second wife Deliverance Sheffield in 1640, Elizabeth Peter was, as the title of the Legacy states the couple's only child (Peter had older children with his first wife) and lived with her father through much of his controversial life. She accompanied both parents to the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Peter, one of the settlement's primary investors, was appointed to secure "Useful commodities for the country" (Pestana). She and her mother returned with Peter to England in the early 1640s after Deliverance was excommunicated from the church in Salem due to mental "distraction." There, Peter added his voice to the growing movement for religious toleration and served as a chaplain in Parliament's New Model Army. After the first round of civil war ended, Elizabeth accompanied her mother back to New England. Peter intended to follow. Instead, he stayed to fight those Presbyterians who threatened his commitment to separating church from state. When the second round of Civil War broke out in 1647, Peter resumed his position as an army chaplain. Traveling with Cromwell and his troops, he allegedly lobbied to enact justice by executing the king. But Peter never attended the actual beheading in 1649, citing illness. Some speculated that Peter was the masked executioner, one of the many rumors that royalists circulated about his increasingly controversial character. Throughout the 1650s, he worked with the new government in a number of different capacities but was targeted for attack by Parliamentarians who questioned his loyalty to the increasingly unpopular Lord Protector. As had royalist parodies, much of the criticism took the form of sexual satire and mockeries of his well-known bouts with melancholy. These attacks increased when his family returned from New England, due to his wife's ongoing problems with mental illness.

     7. During Peter's imprisonment, his daughter visited him daily. Peter tried to stave off execution by arguing that, because he had not actually attended Charles's beheading, he was not guilty of regicide. On trial in October 1660, he based his plea for clemency on the argument that all his actions had been motivated by a concern for "sound Religion," "Learning and Laws," and "that the poor might be cared for" (Pestana). Found guilty of treason, he was first forced to witness the execution of his friend, John Cooke, and then was himself hanged, drawn, and quartered. His head was displayed on London Bridge and he was posthumously pilloried in the press. Indeed, his reputation was so compromised that one pamphlet claimed that "there never was a person suffered death so unpitied and (which is more) whose Execution was the delight of the people" than Hugh Peter (Pestana). Peter's wife had lived separately from him for a while before his execution and was cared for by George Cokayne's Independent church in London. Elizabeth also remained in England. In 1665 she married Robert Barker, moved to Deptford, and had eight children. She inherited a small part of her father's estate in Massachusetts after years of wrangling with royal officials who tried to seize it on the grounds that it belonged to a traitor. This, along with Peter's Advice to his Daughter, was her legacy from her father.

     8. Peter writes to his daughter in letter form, starting with an address to "My Dear Child." The private dimension of this exchange is underscored by the subtitle which identifies the document as having been "written by [Peter's] own Hand" and "given her a little before his Death." At the same time, the text assumes a more public cast by the fact of its publication and through the title which, whether composed by Peter or his publishers, defines the legacy as a manual of "advice to his daughter." The nature of this advice identifies Peter's text as a piece of the "Ego literature" that played an important role in the formation of Puritan notions of selfhood starting in the 1580s when, as Tom Webster notes, "experimental Calvinists" made "the search for the marks of election central to a practical divinity" (36). As part of that effort, a "steady stream of Protestant devotional manuals was produced, with a great deal of advice contained tending to encourage self-examination" (36). Often practiced by ministers, self-examination meant "continued and constant introspection and examination of one's conduct in all relationships, with family, parishioners, and fellow-ministers" (37). This was necessary because the self was divided into two selves, one that was "to be denied, one to be taken to Christ" (42). Within that division, there were four further branches of selfhood, the "sinful self" which is "materially corrupt" from birth; the "natural self" which provides "wisdom, understanding, and will"; the "worldly self" which is "constructed through social and economic relationships"; and the "religious self" which "performs holy duties and has virtues" (42). The task in early modern Protestantism was to use the wisdom, understanding, and will of the natural self in order to destroy the sinful and worldly selves and better approximate "the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3.10). To become the "religious self," all other versions of selfhood had to be "emptied" out and replaced "with a full God" (42). This "Self-denial" would create a "vacuum" that was to be "inhabited by divine plenitude" (43). However, because it was recognized that a complete "state of selflessness, even with the aid of the Holy Sprit," was impossible, this "preoccupation with righteousness" ultimately posited "Self" as its "end." Practicing self-denial and self-examination converted the fallen condition of selfishness into "the creation of a self-abnegating selfhood" (43). The collective search for this form of self-abnegating selfhood comprised the foundation for the independent church.

     9. Seventeenth-century Puritan ministers such as Peter did not simply model the search for this version of selfhood but also encouraged its development in others. Through keeping such private aides memoire as spiritual diaries and commonplace books, ministers attempted to attain the religious self. Through sermons and pastoral letters, they drew upon their private experiences of self-seeking to encourage members of their congregations to utilize such "technologies of the self" on their own. In 1643, Peter exhorted his New England congregants to keep a "day book" (Webster 38). Likewise, Peter's Legacy to his daughter is not just a private letter from a father to a daughter but also a "pastoral letter" from a minister to a congregant instructing her in the pursuit of godly selfhood. He draws upon his own experience as a failed revolutionary who forsook his church to seek public political power in order to identify his daughter as a worthier candidate for transcendence.

     10. His text is informally organized into three "sections," each of which signifies his interest in delineating two separate but not un-related selves in the specific context of his "experience of defeat," The first and lengthiest part consists of "the Extract of all my Experiences, so far as may Concern your self" (A4). The second is comprised of his "account of my Self and dealings, that (if possible) you may wipe off some Dirt, or be the more content to carry it; in which I shall mainly apply my self to these late troubles" (97). The third is brief and demarcated by a further shift in focus as Peter writes, "And now I must return to your self again, and to give you my thoughts about your own Condition" (115). The transition from the initial discussion of Elizabeth's self to the subsequent discussion of his own self demonstrates awareness that his experience as a condemned man mired in worldliness conditions his daughter's heightened vulnerability to external constraints. The final transition back to a discussion of his daughter's compromised situation conveys his belief that, by sharing his experiences with her, he can cultivate her understanding so that she can better bear if not liberate herself from those constraints. As he writes in the opening,

Above all things know, That nothing can do you any good without union with Christ the Head: which never can be, till your understanding be enlightened with the want of Christ, and his worth, and then that your Will be so subdued to that Light, that it draw forth choice, and consent of, and to that only good, with . . . [a] Resolution to close with him against Sin, World, Hell, Death, &c. (2).

By effacing her worldly self, she can attain a form of selfhood that allows her to assert her "choice" of and "consent" to the "only good" of Christ "the Head." Selfhood per se is not effaced; rather a particular version of selfhood is denied so that another may be asserted.

     11. Likewise, Peter's own advice is simultaneously effaced and enhanced by the fact that he next represents himself as someone who neglected to follow the advice he gives to his daughter, to his great peril. As he writes:

And herein I am the more earnest with you, because in this my Condition, I find that union with Christ, and the Satisfaction Christ hath made to his Fathers Justice, by his Active and Passive Obedience, are the only Two Pillars that must Support a Soul leaving a mortal Body. (3)

Unlike Christ, he in his present "Condition" did not obey God but rather rebelled against him by not "closing" with Christ "against the world." To redeem himself, he effaces himself by elevating his daughter into a public icon of goodness still to come.

     12. Peter's publishers are similarly aware that the pamphlet will carry the taint of its author's descent into and (inevitable) downfall within the fallen world of public political affairs and that Elizabeth's presence is required if he is to be redeemed. In their preface, they ask the reader to "Be not discouraged from reading this small Treatise, because of the unhappy End of a wearisome pilgrimage, which the Author met with in this world" (A2). They do not intend to "excuse" or "justify" his weakness but to valorize his early days as a minister, arguing that, "such was his Care (who for many years was very Instrumental in the Church of God, and a means of bringing many Souls to Christ" (A3). They paint his entry into politics as something he did "for the Good of others" (A3). However, they add, the "flame of Civil War" that engulfed the kingdom when he "came into" it "hath [con]signed him also." Thus the authors note that he now "bewails the vanity of his own Spirit" (A3) and hopes that he still "might escape everlasting flames. (A3) For them, the publication of Peter's letter becomes a means of advertising his belated renunciation of his worldly ambitions and his recovered vision of the true good. Indeed, the preface implies, publication is almost superfluous because Peter has already "entered into Rest, his Works following him" and "he is made perfect by his great Sufferings" (A4).

     13. At the same time, this prefatory endorsement does not suffice. To fully redeem him from his widely-known "sad shameface catastrophy" (A4), the publishers provide the letter itself as evidence that, in his final days, he returned to his role as minister by ministering to his daughter's salvation. To do so, they usher Elizabeth Peter into the public eye:

You will find in this Legacy, to his only Child, that he had a root of Grace, and that the Fountain was clear from which ran so savoury a stream; And that at the last when he had no hope to save a frail Body, yet he minded his own and others Souls; And that he was a Master Workman in that Mysterie wherein he had laboured successfully so many years" (A3).

Peter's "Grace" stems from his gift for preaching, best advertised by depicting him as a "master workman" rather than a failure, one whose true worth stems from his abilities in the church and a crystalline relationship with the divine that such a gift implies. This "root" can only be exposed through the publication of "this legacy, to his only Child." As the legacy is passed from father to daughter, the heavenly "stream" flows from "The Fountain" of God to Peter and then to Elizabeth. What is more, the text states, the transference of purity is only complete when the "savory stream" of the divine is extended to "you," the reader through these familial ties: "And with the same to you, except [sic] these Bonds" (A4). The public sphere itself is created through the necessary invocation rather than the exclusion of a female self.

     14. To be sure, the invocation of Peter as a father and master workman implies that, as a dominant male, he can regain authority in the public sphere by wielding it over his daughter. Her "dependency," as Habermas would say, on Peter as the head of the family is established as he enters the public sphere via his role as property-owner who possesses an intellectual "legacy" to bestow on his heir, an analogue to his estate in Massachusetts. This recalls Edith Snook's claim that women readers were "persistently infantalized" because "whatever their age," they "are said to be in need of guidance in their encounters with books, as in life" (14). At the same time, even as Peter's text fits the mold of a pastoral letter, the title's use of such terms as "dying father," "legacy" and "child" also alludes to a genre of writing that was heavily associated with women: the mother's legacy tradition. Comprised of such texts as Elizabeth Grymeston's Miscellanea. Prayers. Meditations. Memoratiues (1604), Dorothy Leigh's The Mother's Blessing (1616), and Elizabeth Joceline's The Mother's Legacie, to her Unborn Child (1624), mother's legacy texts were "books of advice and guidance" written by women facing possible death in childbirth and addressed to their existing or unborn children "who might have to grow up motherless" (Greer 11). By converting a "private document" into a public one, the mother's legacy enabled women to construct themselves as "good women" but also to attain the more forbidden status of author, thereby extending the mother's power as an advice-giver and shaper of values into a larger arena. In order to transform himself from an abject regicide back into a member of a "just generation," Peter utilizes a speech act associated with those women whose suspension between life and possible death enabled them to claim speaking authority and a sense of selfhood within the public sphere. Masculine images of fatherhood and master workman are offset not only by the allusions to the dying mother tradition contained in the title but also by the caption that accompanies a woodblock image of Peter on the title page.


Fig. 1: Frontispiece and Title-Page,
Hugh Peter, A Dying Fathers Last Legacy to an Onely Child or, Hugh Peter's Advice to his Daughter (London, 1660)


As is depicted, the caption reads, "Lo there! the Dictates of a Dying: man! Make well his note! who like th'expiring Swan Wisely presaging hir approaching Doomb Sings in soft charmes hir Epicaedium" (A1). Peter's gender is emphasized -- he is a "Dying: man!" -- and his patriarchal authority underscored - his words are "Dictates." At the same time, Peter's voice is likened to that of a mother swan who "sings" the "epicaedium" of her swan song in "soft charmes." Elizabeth is the subject of his fatherly advice but she is also a priestly witness to his adoption of a female modality, a privileged auditor of his feminized final confession as it is self-effacingly unlocked in the light of his own "approaching doom."

     15. Peter's constitution of his daughter as "onely child" -- the sole heir to his legacy -- further complicates purely hierarchical readings. As Catharine Gray has shown, mothers' legacies were not just domestic but marked by their authors' imbrication within a variety of complex social, religious, and political concerns. Dorothy Leigh's text was written as a "critical answer" to James I's Basilicon Doron, a piece of both kingly and fatherly advice directed to his son and heir Henry which was republished in 1616 in a popularized form called "The Father's Blessing" (Feeding on the Seed, 563). James identifies his "primary referent of patriarchal power" "as the son" rather than the female subject over whom he rules as a father-king, thereby "writing out the problematic mother/wife to create a purely patrilineal vision of royal power that extends from father-king to loving son-subject" (568). Leigh's text, however, displaces the image of the father-king with an image of the "zealous mother," thereby creating a "specifically feminine speaking position within public, political discourse" that "will be used by later writers -- both male and female -- to voice radical critiques of royal policy" (Feeding, 564). Peter's text may be counted among those later writers who appropriated a feminine speaking position in order to articulate a republican philosophy of social power that is hostile to both the crown and those republicans, including himself, who fell prey to the allure of patriarchal power. His text undercuts a "purely patrilineal vision" (Feeding, 568) in its willingness to acknowledge his daughter as the successor to his legacy in both senses of the term. She will take his place as an exemplar for the virtuous life and she will succeed in doing so where he failed.

     16. In seeking public favor and sympathy by creating a "father's legacy" for a worthy daughter, Peter also echoes a male-authored text which was itself drawing from both the mother's legacy tradition and James's Basilikon Doron: Charles I's Eikon Basilike. A popular text published just after the king's execution, Eikon Basilike reconstituted the vanquished king as a martyr by portraying him as a victimized father praying in private and dispensing final words of advice to his young children. A section dedicated to the future Charles II counsels the young heir in kingship with the hope that the patrilineal line will continue despite the death of the reigning monarch. Another section, however, is dedicated to and directed at the princess Elizabeth. It asks her to "remember to tell her Brother James when ever she should see him, That it was his Fathers last desire, that he should no more look upon Charles [the Second] as his eldest Brother only, but be obedient unto him as his Soveraign" (259). On the one hand, Elizabeth is represented as a mere conduit through which the male line is to be continued from father to son. But, on the other hand, she is also made central to the monarchical project in ways that involve neither rebellion nor the reproduction of heirs. Speaking in a more familiar voice, the king worries that she will forget his advice to her brothers: "'Sweet-heart you'll forget this." She replies, "No . . . I shall never forget it while I live," and then tearfully swears to "write downe the Particulars" (259). Through this exchange, Charles is humanized as a tender father and Elizabeth is cast as a purveyor of monarchical philosophy. This impression is strengthened by the inclusion of a letter entitled "Another Relation from the Lady Elizabeths owne hand" depicting the princess as having kept her promise to her father by recording what the king said to her just before he was killed. She serves as her father's martyrologist and claims to have been appointed by him as a sort of guardian of religious truth: "He bid me read Bishop Andrewes Sermons, Hookers Ecclesiasticall Policy, and Bishop Laud's Book . . . which would ground me against Popery" (260). And while she and her siblings are "commanded" to "forgive those people" who had rebelled against him, they are also instructed "never to trust them" (262). Although she will never reign, she will help safeguard the throne from future rebellions by perpetuating a culture of royal suspicion.

     17. In reconstituting the female as an ideological bulwark in the basilkon rather than a threat to it, Charles retains patriarchalism's analogy between monarchical rule and marriage and fatherhood; however, by representing the princess as voicing monarchical ideals, he ironically approximates a dominant republican trope. In Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Milton identified the private "household state" (933) rather than the court as the seat of the production of values. Mothers played a formative role in inculcating those values in their children. Similarly, in "Upon Appleton House," Andrew Marvell famously celebrates Thomas Fairfax, Parliamentary war hero and owner of the named estate, as a good republican man by noting his retreat from public life in the wake of the execution of Charles I and his creation of a model household whose survival of the civil wars is symbolized by the presence of the virginal daughter, Maria, within the fecund locus amoenus. As a wife and mother-in-waiting, she will carry on the republican creed of valuing the home rather than the court as the fount of virtue. Though in support of the opposing, monarchical cause, Charles draws on the same female domestic values. To gain sympathy from the public, Charles posits not just himself and his sons but also his daughter as "roots" of monarchical power. She is a member of his court but, as a young woman, she synthesizes household and state. Condemned to death by Charles's son, Peter reappropriates Charles's appropriation of the mother's legacy verse and uses it to cleanse himself of the "dirt" of his (masculine) rebellion and establish himself as a sympathetic father and republican martyr whose sainthood will be acknowledged and rewarded by God. But rather than representing his daughter as the heir who will perpetuate an endangered republican community through the production of virtuous children (as is proposed for Fairfax's daughter), Peter casts her as the finely cultivated offspring who will herself body forth republican ideals. Indeed, for her to carry out this role, marriage is neither required nor particularly desirable.

     18. Peter does note that he need not prepare his daughter for a "lawful Calling" (43) because she is female and hence likely to marry. He goes on to define marriage in conventional terms as "the joining together of one Man and one Woman lawfully, in an indissolvable bond, either for an help, procreation of Children (which were before the Fall) or a remedy against Sin" (44). And just as "the Husbands duty is, Love, Teaching, Providing, Honouring, &c. So the Wifes must be Subjection, suitable to that Love in all the parts of it" (44). But he subsequently endorses the "companionate marriage" by adding that "these duties need mutual supports" and insisting that the marital "yoke" must "still be lin'd with more Love, to make the draught easie" (44). Echoing Milton's "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" by lamenting the "bitterness of unequal Matches" (45), he finally writes that she might never want to marry at all: "I ever left you free, and do only marry in, and for the Lord" (45). Ideally, he concludes, she should "Let Christ be [her] Husband" (45). So Peter's advice does not observe the convention of advising his daughter to seek a husband in order to fulfill her obligations as a female who cannot pursue a "calling." Nor does he believe that her cultivation of the godly home depends upon marriage and family. Instead, he equates single life with a state of "freedom" and potentially greater proximity to Christ, the "Root" of all (16). Peter's sanctification has its own root in Christ as manifest by preaching. And his final sermon to Elizabeth cautions her against unions with others if they inhibit her from the ultimate goal, which, as we shall see, is to become her own "master workman."

     19. While Peter is neutral at best on the subject of marriage, he worries that his daughter's "present estate" is so "hopeless" that she must also prepare for a life of "service" where "Fidelity and Diligence" would become her" "duties" and her "time and parts" would then "be anothers" (43). The potential for his daughter to be forced into servitude compels him to advise her to maintain emotional distance from a fickle world that loves only "her own" (46). Children of God who renounce worldliness must regard the world as their "Enemy" (46). As Peter writes, "Embrace not this present World; It will kisse you, and kill you; like a Sea of Glasse, it soon cracks, though it glitters; and when you have iron shooes that tread upon it, how soon may you drop in?" (46). In a milieu this fragile, life as a servant exposes her to abuse. He therefore hopes that a "Faithfull Friend" (115) will help her obtain a position "in some Godly Family" (116).

     20. But Peter's topoi of contemputus mund renders even friendship ephemeral. A friend is "a great Raritie in the World" (48); however the world is so fickle that friends are "but waking dreams" (26), "Commodit[ies] so very scarce" that she must "look upon a Friend this day, as likely to be an Enemy tomorrow" (49). If Elizabeth can find a "Soul-friend" (49), whether it be a "he or she" (50), then she "shall enjoy their Experiences freely" and such a friend will be a "Master-builder or Workman," helping her weather the times "when Foundations shake" (50). The description of a good friend as a "Master-builder or Workman" echoes the preface's depiction of his ministry as a form of master workmanship, suggesting that fatherhood and ministering are both species of friendship rather than dominance. But, Peter writes, one might still "lose" both a "father and a rich friend" (28). So, even these sources of paternal care and community prove too fleeting to rely upon. Peter claims to have first-hand experience of betrayals wrought by fair-weather friends, especially when people's own "security or preferments" (49) were at stake. Friendship for him, had followed the distribution of resources hence "Fair Dove-coats have most Pigeons" and "Lost Estates know no Friends" (49). Even "Kinsman will not make it, no nor a Brother" (51). Instead, in this case, as in all others, the only enduring friendship is with Christ: "He can raise a Friend and Himself be your best Friend" (51). Peter draws upon his experience as a source of authority for his ministry. But he uses that experience to wean his daughter from the idea that she can comfortably rely upon any sources of reassurance or authority other than Christ's.

     21. Peter imagines the public sphere of books as another source for both some forms of community and the cultivation of the self's relationship with Christ. As he writes, "Hear the best Men, Keep the best Company, Read the best Books, especially make the Grounds of Religion your own" (4). He advocates the value of sola scriptura by emphasizing that she should "Be constant in Reading the Scriptures, and that with a fervent Meditation" (7). But he identifies a number of other books that will likewise enable her to make the grounds of religion "her own," including books that represent "far better helps, then from my unworthy unable self" (9). Many books he names were written by religious Independents, proponents of the belief that reading certain texts, hearing certain sermons, and keeping spiritual diaries were a necessary form of spiritual "preparation" for both men and women. By paradoxically educating his daughter into the ways of self-education, Peter envisions that he will help her to develop her own conscience. As part of this effort, he encourages Elizabeth to write, saying, "keep a Book by you (I mean it litterally [sic] in which, every Night before you sleep, you set down on the one side, the Lords gracious Providence and Dealings with you; and your dealings with him on the other side" (14). Peter's exhortation for Elizabeth to keep a spiritual diary echoes the advice he issued to his congregation years before. But his description of the projected diary's format also captures the productive paradox at work in the project of building the godly self, as the tension between the desire to efface the self and meld with God on the one hand and the construction of selfhood through that very process on the other would find a spatial analogue in the presence of the two separate but side-by-side columns juxtaposing God's "dealings" with Elizabeth's.

     22. Peter extols the virtues of the public sphere of textuality but his larger cautionary tale, about the treacherous nature of the social world, extends to reading and writing. In Areopagitica, Milton celebrated an unregulated marketplace of ideas by arguing that readers could only arrive at "the confirmation of truth" through the constant "scanning of error" (1006). Similarly, Peter warns Elizabeth to guard against "Errour" (67) by critically assessing all truth claims -- including those offered by would-be instructors on the topic of error itself. As he writes, "many more Polimicks and Disputes are Printed than profitable, every Partie striving their own advancement" (66). The "noveltie" (68) of a newly-proclaimed "gospel" (67) should be especially scrutinized by students of sole scriptura. Indulging in a bit of rare pride, he notes that his lifelong privileging of scripture was one of the few things he did right. But he also warns his daughter that, despite all scriptural advice, she will inevitably undergo her own processes of trial and error: "You must know that this work is gradual: The Ship sails through the Channel, where she may have Land on both sides, before she come to the Main; and loseth sight of all Land" (68). To achieve godly selfhood, she must become an informed and critical member of the public sphere of publication and debate.

     23. As stated, Peter believes that his "experience" will prove useful to Elizabeth. The transference of learned wisdom from writer to reader is the supposed raison d'etre of his text. But he does not see this exchange as something that effaces her as a self. Instead, as he writes in one telling phrase, he offers his experience as an "Addition" to "your Self" (12-13; emphasis added). She is conditioned by the circumstances of his life and death but she is also affected by other factors -- her gender, the condition of her mother, the vicissitudes of the world, the vagaries of human nature -- all of which render her susceptible to the ways of the worldly self. He can only help her to negotiate these volatilities by advising her to "Watch continually" (13): "My Advice is, that mainly you Watch your self in what you are, And where you are" (13-14). This "Watching" is another defensive posture that she must maintain against a fallen world. "The Flesh, and the World, in all the Pleasures and Profits of them, send up fumes to the Head, occasioning sleep" (15). As a result, "If you do not Watch, you will be Tempted, I say, Tempted" (15). Watching was a common feature of the Puritan search for the religious self. The degree to which the watcher could be female as well as male is illustrated by the plot of Milton's "Comus" wherein a young female protagonist has been separated from her protective brothers in the predatory environment of Comus's riotous woods and must face danger alone. Just as "Saintly chastity" (144) will enable her to "trace huge Forests, and unharboour'd Heaths" with "unblench't majesty" (142), so too must Elizabeth know that her "best friend" in a treacherous and tempting terrain will be "Conscience" (21). Other "friends, and world, and all," will "leave you to solitariness" (21), but "Conscience will make a soft bed for you in your greatest sorrow" (20). As Wiliam Shullenberger argues, Milton's Comus provides us with a heroine whose transformation from child into an "independent, reflective, resourceful, and conscientious moral agent of ethical Puritanism" (123) paves the way for women's participation in the emerging public sphere. Extending this project of "character formation" to his own daughter, Peter both exerts and transfers authority so that Elizabeth can survive her lone progress in the wilderness. She is a dependent extension of him only insofar as she follows his advice to develop her own internal resources.

     24. Peter implies that femininity is a liability when he writes that Elizabeth is subject to "fears to which your sex and condition prompt you" (61). But this allegation is actually attributed to her in the form of a hypothetical question: "And if you ask me (after all) what you shall do with your fears to which your sex and condition prompt you? (61). It is almost as though he imagines her objecting to his faith in her capacity for self-reliance. He comforts her by quoting Christ's admonition to "his little Flock when he sayest, Fear not" (61). And he subtly identifies with her by arguing that her fears are understandable, especially to a condemned man. Quoting Christ again, he adds, "Fear not them that can only kill the body" (61). Facing the prospect of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, Peter could almost be speaking to himself when he contends that such fears "have these roots" (62), "that the Lord would have you let go, or would part with that the Lord would have you keep" (62). Her soul is that which can never be taken away. By remembering that she always possesses "the presence and favour of God in Christ" (63); she will not fear losing the meaningless shell of her corpse. The Lord will give her "an even and equal spirit, and the root of it, Integrity" (64), a donation that transcends gender and makes its recipient "bold as a Lion." God's trials are universal: he will "either bend you, or break you; and thus hee doth with Nations, Churches, and every Individual" (65). While she is contiguous with other realms in that she is equally subject to God's tests, she is also an "Individual" who must prepare for her own trials.

     25. Elizabeth's greatest hope lies within the acquisition of "Free Grace" (74) but as Peter moves through his explanation, grace appears increasingly less free and more as something that must be actively achieved through self-discipline. He first appears to express an Arminian perspective of grace as something that is granted when requested. He describes the spirit who is "thirstie" as one who can "come freely" to Christ for relief and employs an extended metaphor of benevolent charity.

A pitiful, nasty, ragged, fatherless, friendless Child, is lying dying in a ditch: A noble bountiful hand means to save him, and adopt him; first sends a servant to awaken him, and bring him to his Court-gate; then bids another let him in, a third to wash him, and put him on clean clothes; another to read him the Order of his House; another to set him at Table with his Children; another to shew him his present, and future estate. (79-80)

He explains this anecdote as an allegory in which the noble bountiful hand stands for God, the servant who "first wakens a miserable lost sinner" equals "Humiliation," the servant who "opens the door" symbolizes "Vocation," the servant who clothes the orphan embodies "Justification," the servant who teaches him "to walk" is a figure for "Sanctification," the servant who "makes him a Brother" characterizes "Adoption," and the servant who shows him his future emblematizes "Glory" (80). Despite the fact that Peter imagines the orphan as a boy, the scenario is a poignant one to offer to a young woman who is about to lose her father. Perhaps because Peter believed that a valid form of worldly work was charity, the allegory paints a much more positive picture of society than does the rest of his text, one that almost recalls the "country house" tradition of Ben Jonson's "Ode to Penshurst" in its pastoral depiction of plentitude and benign redistribution.

     26. However, before he narrates this allegory, Peter subverts his own use of it by saying, "Thus I use to say" (79). After recounting it, he explicitly renounces it by adding, "But whilst I speak to you of Free-grace, I must let you know that in the next place I must commend unto you, accurate walking, as the fruits thereof; and for your better understanding, I commend unto you diverse of the aforesaid Books" (81). These books will instruct Elizabeth to "look within you, without you, about you, beneath you, to all and every duty; and the rather, because God's eye is ever, and everywhere upon you" (81). Like the Lady in Milton's masque, her passage through the world renders her visible not only to God but to predators and would-be emulators alike. Because she will "have bad men observing who, by your negligence, may either infest your Liberties, or infect you with their Evils or at best be harder drawn-on to the wayes of God by your careless example (81), she must not passively wait for grace but vigorously pursue it through the vigilant exercise of virtue. Grace is something she must strive to earn rather than a cost-free gift. It is a "narrow Bridge" that she needs to cross "advisedly" for, if she falls, she will recover "with much trouble" (82). Peter introduces a scenario almost designed to tempt Elizabeth into a sense of comfort that turns out to be false. By invoking it and then withdrawing it, he might almost be said to fortify her for tribulations that she will face alone.

     27. Elizabeth will be better able to cross this "narrow bridge," Peter continues, if she eschews public ambition and remains "Content in a Low Condition" (24). He recommends a book for help -- "Mr. Burroughs for Contentment" (24) -- but also adds, "my own thoughts they are these, That though many write and speak of the Contempt of the World, some cloyster up themselves from it, yet very few are Masters of This Art, which the Apostle himself had been long learning" (24). Peter's use of the term "Master" again recalls the preface's identification of him as a "Master-Workman" in his ministry. But here it also signifies his willingness to view his daughter as her own master-in-the making. Mastering the art of contentment is rare for "This Herb grows in very few Gardens" and neither "Crowns" nor "Beggars" can say that they have absolute "Content" (25). But she can succeed at imitatio Christi if she remembers that "Under-moon Refreshings, or Comforts, are too short . . . Riches have Eagles wings [and thus can swiftly fly away], and Beauty but skin-deep; Honour in anothers keeping" (25). An "other" might value her for being rich, beautiful, and honorable. But that "other" can change his/her opinion when these things fade or fall away. Then she will have only her self and Christ to fall back upon. Like Christ then, she must resist earthly temptations and keep sight of her purpose on earth for "true content" coheres within "A Naked Soul meeting with a Naked Christ" (26). This raw image recalls Job's famous declaration of worldly renunciation, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (1.21). Like Job, often imagined as a foreshadowing of Christ, Elizabeth must expect that anything she loves can and will be taken from her. In the end, she will be alone with her God -- the true "other" in the composition of the godly self -- responsible for herself and bearing her own cross.

     28. On the one hand, Peter's insistence that Elizabeth "cloister" herself is reminiscent of the patriarchal injunction for women to abstain from public life and, as he says, "Be much at Home" (34). Elizabeth should "Be content to be a shrub, Cedars will shake; and never desire to be near Greatness. Honour often dies grinning and ghastly. Our business must be our own, as well as our Crosses" (34). At the same time, Peter's words echo Thessalonians 4.11 and its valorization of the private life. As Webster writes, Foucault argued that religious modes of cultivating the self led to "the reactivation of a certain number of ancient Stoic practices" (45). Andrew Shifflett elaborates, arguing that seventeenth-century English republicans viewed the strategic retirement into a garden as a way to establish a "secure retreat" that provided "Virtue" with, in the words of Seneca, "'a more spacious field to shew herself in'" (6). The Stoic rhetoric of strategic retreat is also present in Peter's injunction for Elizabeth to "Study to be quiet, Do your own Business, work with your own Hands . . . That whilest you look too much into others Gardens, you will neglect your own (33-34). By not cultivating the garden of her own godly self, she risks harming both herself and others for the "Buse-bode and Pragmatical" is the "Plague of Man-kind" (33). Again Peter submits himself as an example of a man who excessively "meddle[d] with other mens work" (34) and was not content to "keep home, keep home" (35). The specter of Peter's experiences with Cromwell, the Civil War, the regicide, and the Protectorate haunt these words; he desired to be near Greatness and experienced the shaking of Cedars and the grinning and ghastly dying of honor, including his own. "I speak experience to you," he writes, "who never found good hour but in mine own work" (35). By his "own work," Peter refers to "works of Love, or Charity, which must be attended in their seasons, and by their own Rules" (36). In other words, just as they were for Christ, voluntary acts of giving are legitimate as one's "own business" (hence his willingness to at least provisionally entertain the equation of grace with the adoption of an orphan) but entry into the public political sphere is not. His lament for having ventured into this realm is phrased in a series of plaintive and purely rhetorical questions: "How bitter is the remembrance of good hours ill spent? How cutting of time lost? Death knows no distance; whether King, or Bishop, or Pawn, all at the end of the Game is put into one Bag, the Grave" (36). Instead of seeking to rival rulers, he should have emulated Christ in performing only "the work he was sent about" (36). Writing a dark Shakespearean paraphrase: "All the World is hung with lyes, and all of Man Proclaims so much: cloathes, Meats, Trades, salutations, yet our own Profession of Religion: All men are Lyers, and all things on this side of Christ a Lie" (37-38).

     29. Peter reflects even more directly upon his disastrous foray into politics in the second section of his legacy. In an account of his life that is both self-serving and self-lacerating, he implies that he started out well. He became a minister for dissenting churches in Holland, England, and New England, largely, he insists, at the behest of others. But when he was sent back to England to raise finances for Massachusetts and found England "embroiled in those Civil Discontents, Jars and Wars" (102), he was "forced" (102) to remain there and involve himself in public affairs. He claims that he played a much less vital role in these events than was attributed to him by his detractors. He "never had hand in contriving or acting" (103) the King's death; he was "neer in any Councils or Cabbal at any time" (103); in fact, "he hated it, and had no stowage for counsel, thinking all Government should lie open to all" (103). He was "never angry with any of the King's Party," believed the "Parliament-Authority" to be "lawfull," and had "no mans bloud' on his hands but rather "saved many in Life and Estate" (104). He did not even actively fight for a republic; instead, "The Changes grew (as you see) a Commonwealth found" (104), and after it was "altered" (105) he remained loyal to it because it he was "contented with any good Government that would keep things together" (105). After Cromwell died and his feckless son Richard assumed power, Peter "removed, and never returned more, but fell sick long, and in trouble ever since" (105). He was "private, and did purpose so to live, and so to die, having a resolution (which I kept) never to meddle with State-matters" (105). He planned to spend his old age in either England or New England and to have no further "Transactions, with Souldiers or others" (106); indeed he did not even wish to live much longer for his "head and heart" were "tired" and his "body craz'd" (106). He thought he would be spared by "the Act of Indemnity" but his reputation or "hard Character" meant that he was "excluded" (106), and so he was condemned.

     30. Peter's narrative is designed to garner sympathy, even as it might also explain why he was consistently mocked for weepy self-pity. It also carries a deep reservoir of remorse and self-blame. By not merely ministering to his daughter but also confiding these regrets to her, Peter repudiates his worldly self and begins his redemptive transformation into the "new man." His dilemma is that of the Restoration-era republican who can no longer take "pleasure in remembering any my least activity in State-matters" (110). He had spent a lifetime promulgating the idea that a "good government" was one which allowed men to "live in Godliness and Honesty . . . where men may be as good as they can, not so bad as they would; where good men and things are uppermost" (110). However, the attempt to (ostensibly) inculcate an order which provided people with the latitude to "live in Godliness and Honesty" tempted him and others like him to perpetuate the forms of power that they claimed to oppose. The rationale was that, "if good Magistrates cannot bring all to their Judgements, the Dissenters may have liberty, being kept out of Office, and want some publick Characters" (110). In himself seeking "some public character," he claims, he sought only to promote religious Independency and "good Learning" (112), "to cut off dissentions, or marks of Tyranny, which no good prince will exercise" (110-111), and to aid the poor so "that there may not be a Beggar in Israel, in England" (112). Even when he was a "Tryer of others," he never went "to judge" but rather to "hear and gain Experience" (109). However, he does "confesse" that he "might well have been spared" (109) had he realized that "a private life would have become me best" (109). A "Zeal for Quietnesse" (111) -- that is, one presumes, his desire to see religious toleration institutionalized in law -- ironically prompted him to go "traveling from my own Nest into businesse" (113) and ultimately resulted in his "Head and Heart breaking" (113). Blinding himself to the realization that the republic had merely replicated the baroque structures of court patronage, he as a Puritan and republican was ill-equipped to succeed in that corrupt realm. "I could never be fit for a Court, many wayes not fit, and am therefore grieved, that I was either constrained, or content to live, where I could do so little good" (111).

     31. He most regrets that he abandoned the private church he had been "engaged to in New-England" (108); having done so "cuts deeply" (108). He applies to himself his dark vision of human nature's tendency towards indifference to others, writing that he betrayed "the Flock" to whom he "was ordained" and which was "worthy" of his "Life and Labours" (109). At the same time, loyalty to the private church as it was gathered through voluntary association forms the major if not sole exception to his general rule of opposing collective endeavor. He should rather have confined his ambitions to preaching to his congregation, allowing that congregation to stand as a public beacon for the virtues of private action. Instead of seeking large-scale political change that would have codified the church's legitimacy, he might have remained content to tend the garden of the independent church. Invoking the Stoic's creed once again, Peter writes, "I thought my work was to serve others, and so mine own Garden not well cultivated, only this I say, I aimed at a good mark and trust the Lord in Jesus Christ hath accepted it" (114).

     32. Where he faltered, however, his daughter might still prevail. If he has any specific ambition for her, it is that she might "go home to New-England," the place of true calling that he abandoned but where she would find "a Tender Company" (117). The words "home" and "tender" are almost maternal, suggesting that the church might supply her with a mother who could supplant her own largely absent mother as well as her dead father. At the same time, the church would provide her with a "company," a society of supposed companions and equals who would prove the rare "Master-workers" and "Soul Friends" that so many others failed to be. "A little will carry us through the world, yea very little," he writes, and in New England she would finally find "Godliness with Content" (117). By resuming the life of separateness from England and existence within a smaller and, as he sees it, more godly private sphere of religious Independency that he vacated in favor of "State-Matters," his daughter would prove a far more successful Puritan and republican than he and his fellows turned out to be. His paradise lost could be her paradise regained. But only if she casts off his Satanic ambitions and assumes the humble mantle of Milton's "Saviour Meek" who successfully resists the temptations in the wilderness and "Home to his Mothers house private returned" (Paradise Regained, 782).

     33. Little is known of Elizabeth's life other than what is cited above. She did not, as her father hoped, return to Massachusetts nor did she remain single or become a servant. Instead she married, had children, and moved away from London. Given that there also appears to be no available information about her husband, Robert Barker, it is difficult to conclude that her life in Deptford represented the sort of virtuous retreat that Peter imagined. Whether or not she followed or fulfilled his vision, it's safe to say that "Elizabeth Peter" remains an enduring presence because her father "made a public" with her in order to advocate republican virtues of private life, individual autonomy, and community-formation through voluntary association. In the process, he made a community of two gody selves, constituting himself as a man reflecting on and recovering his lost principles and his daughter as a self conditioned by but also possessing the agency needed to recondition the circumstances into which she was thrust.



Go to this issue's index.



Works Cited

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Content copyright © 2009 Katharine Gillespie.