'Some unpublished letters from John Knox to Christopher Goodman'

Jane Dawson

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The unexpected discovery of five unknown letters from John Knox to his English friend and ally Christopher Goodman, all dating from the period 1566-9, elucidates several aspects of the Scottish Reformer's later career. The provenance and appearance of these letters, four of which survive only as eighteenth-century transcripts, are described in Sections I-IV. Section V discusses the significance of the letters. It is argued that Knox was strongly tempted by the prospect of a mission to Ireland, jointly with Goodman, in 1566; that Goodman persuaded Knox to adopt the radical Puritan position in the English Vestiarian controversy; that Knox became increasingly pessimistic about the ecclesiastical and political situation in Scotland in the late 1560s, notwithstanding the elimination of Mary, Queen of Scots (whom Knox described as 'that cursed Jesabel') from the Scottish scene; that Knox maintained a range of contacts that provided him with extensive and up-to-date information about affairs in England and Ireland as well as in Scotland; and, especially, that Knox retained to the end of his life a perception that the Protestant Reformation constituted a 'British', rather than a specifically Scottish, phenomenon, in which the three countries making up the British Isles were inextricably interlinked as Protestant evangelists of all nationalities worked together to establish the new religion. The letters themselves (with one additional letter derived from the same archival source and written by Knox's secretary Richard Bannatyne to Goodman) are reproduced as accurately as possible in the Appendices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-201
Number of pages36
JournalScottish Historical Review
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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