Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Parr, Catherine (Catharine, Katharine, Kateryn) (c. 1512–1548) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES

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Testament to Parr’s intellect and faith are her two books published during her years as queen. The first, probably written during her year as queen regent in 1544, is entitled Prayers or Meditations . This popular volume collects prayers from various sources, the bulk of them from Whitford’s translation of Thomas a Kempis’ Imitatio Christi . Scholars debate the religious affiliation revealed in the text. Yet Prayers or Meditations focuses on universals, such as affirmations of sin, frailty, and dependence upon God: “Teache me lorde, to fulfyll thy wyll, to live meekely, and worthilye before the, for thou arte all my wysedom and cunnyng, thou art he, that knowest me as I am, that knewest me before the worlde was made, and before I was borne or brought into this lyfe.” Parr emphasizes the singular soul in its private relation to God, yet she does so, as Janel Meuller argues, in such a way that “the connotations of spirituality are wrenched from the perceptibly Catholic to those of an emergent Protestantism” (1990). Yet this emergent Protestantism manifests itself not through doctrinal assertions. Instead, it is hinted at in the sensibility of the prayers, which stress the individual’s relation to God in personal and immediate terms more typical of Lutheranism than Henry’s Catholicism. Noted for her role in furthering Protestant faith, at this early date, Parr’s allegiance here is balanced between its Protestant elements and Henrician-Catholic faith.

Parr’s second book leaves little question of her Protestantism. In her Lamentations of a Sinner , written during Henry’s life but not published until after his death, Parr shows her Reformist allegiance. One of the few confessional narratives by an Englishwoman, Lamentations expresses Parr’s efforts, as William Cecil claims in the preface, “to lerne the simplicitie of the gospel.” One of the major supporters of vernacular translation, Parr demonstrates her engagement with Scripture through reference and quotation on every page. She juxtaposes the darkness of the sinner’s world to the grace of God: “I am, partely by the hate I owe to sinne, who hathe reygned in me, partely by the love I owe to all Christians, whom I am contente to edifye, even with the example of mine owne shame, forced and constrayned with my harte and wordes, to confesse. . . how ingrate, negligent, unkynde, and stubberne, I have bene to God my Creator.” Her critical eye, turned inward to examine the state of her own soul, anticipates the poetics that will emerge nearly a century later. Still indebted to Erasmian models, Parr’s Lamentations nevertheless reveals a distinctly Protestant voice, what Janel Meuller calls “an alternative model, wholly English but eclectic, that builds on Tyndalian foundations with local resources derived from Thomas Cranmer and. . . Hugh Latimer” (1988). Certainly, her religious allegiance to Protestant Cranmer and Latimer earned her enemies, and only through her skillful preservation of Henry’s affection did Parr remain free from the persecution suffered by her friend and contemporary Anne Askew.* Perhaps her self-effacement, evident throughout the Lamentations , in part, preserved her: “God knoweth of what intent and minde I have lamented mine owne sinnes, and autes to the worlde. I trust no bodye will judge I have doon it for prayse.”

In addition to writing two books, Parr was also a patron of the arts. Through Parr’s support, many of the leading Protestant humanists received appointments as tutors to noble families. In addition, she oversaw the translation of Erasmus’* Paraphrases of the New Testament into English. Nicholas Udall, one of the translators engaged for the project, wrote in the dedication prefacing the Gospel of Saint Luke that “by procuring the whole paraphrase of Erasmus to be diligently translated into English, [Queen Catherine] ha[s] minced it and made it ever English man’s meat, though his stomach be never so weak and tender.” As Udall’s claim suggests, Parr’s involvement with the world of letters, both through her patronage and through her celebrated management of her stepchildren’s education, proved influential in fostering the growth of Protestant humanist thought in England

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