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Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis

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Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis

Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis

Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis describes an ideal London. As the City of Peace, London becomes New Jerusalem, in which urbs, communitas, and res publica combine in a unified vision of religious and civil peace. Adams communicates this interpretation of God’s will with London’s familiar terrain, making his doctrine more understandable to his audience. Simultaneously, Adams invests London’s space, inhabitants, and government with divine meaning. However, beneath Adams’s attempts to glorify the city, the reader can detect undercurrents of unease. Ultimately, Adams’s London is two-faced: it is both glorious and disquieting, holy and unholy, unified and divided.
Adams was a prolific and popular seventeenth-century preacher and author; he produced nineteen collections of sermons and three treatises between 1612 and 1652. At the height of his popularity, Adams preached on several occasions at Paul’s Cross. In 1625, he read sermons for the lord mayor’s election and the bishop of London’s visit. He also spoke at Whitehall two days after the death of King James. Reportedly called the prose Shakespeare of Puritan theologians by Robert Southey DNB, Adams developed a highly satirical prose style that drew on contemporary dramatic conventions.
In an era characterized by religious contention, Eirenopolis advocates that peace be the paramount aim of religion. It is a thoughtful work for and about the citizens of early modern London. By using familiar London landmarks, it illuminates how citizens might become better city-dwellers. The frequent use of Latin, along with Biblical and classical allusions, implies an ecclesiastical audience, but the inclusion of translations and verse glosses suggests that Adams intended his text to reach a popular readership as well.
Eirenopolis’s central conceit is the association of London’s urbs with various peaceful themes. The city walls are allegorized as Unity and Concord, Bishopsgate as Innocence, Ludgate as Patience, Aldgate as Beneficence, Cripplegate as Recompense, and the Thames as Prosperity. These associations suggest that the City of Peace, or New Jerusalem (6), is realized within London. The new names of these urbs invest the architecture of London with divine meaning. The walls no longer merely delineate the boundary of London proper; they unify the inhabitants as a holy body (31). The association of Bishopgate with the clergy serves as a physical reminder of the blamelessness of God’s servants (43). Ludgate’s prison is no longer a mere jail for freemen and clergymen; it becomes a place where Londoners learn to patiently suffer the world’s ills (20). Aldgate, with its statues of Peace and Charity and its proximity to two almshouses, becomes a model of divine charity. Cripplegate, which was apparently named after its crippled beggars, is invested with the virtues of compensation and renewal following sin. Finally, the Thames, as the provider of commerce and material goods, becomes the Ocean of God’s Bountie (168).
While London as an urbs is generally eulogized, Adams includes two representations of evil and civic strife: Newgate and Moorgate, symbols of Contention. Newgate, as London’s oldest prison, represents the birth of strife (92) in London, while Moorgate, as a location for the banishment of all those fitter for the societie of Moores and Pagans (91), represents all that is alien to London.
These contentious gates operate solely as portals out of the city. All of the symbolic elements of the city structure function as agents of movement: the virtuous gates as inward thresholds, the walls as prohibitors of movement and upholders of the status quo, and the contentious gates as means of expulsion. The Thames occupies a dual position, with its capacity to [come] flowing in with Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] commodities, [and go…] loaden backe with Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] injuries (166). Effectively, virtue is presented as something that exists outside of London and therefore must be imported; conversely, the city itself produces nothing but vice. This treatment of the urbs of London, as both a worldly expression of God’s will and a producer of strife and filth, signals the text’s ambivalence about the city.
The city walls, even as they form the urbs, simultaneously denote the border of a totalizing communitas of London citizens. In his description of the walls as Unity and Concord, Adams proposes that it is in a Citie, as in a Bodie (31). As a unified physical body, citizens must all…exercise their functions for the good of the whole (34). Individual differences are permitted, for some are stronger, as the armes and legges (32), but all must combine to provide for the supportation of the weaker (32). It is not merely through entering the urbs of the city, but by sacrificing private desires for the general good that the faithfull citizens of Peace (33) are determined. However, the city as a connected body of disparate members is not merely the ideal condition of the Holy City; it is an unavoidable condition of city life. Whether in practice the London body pursues the good of all its component members, or chooses to starue the whole Body, to fatt a toe (34), is uncertain. Once again, despite Adams’s predominantly laudatory tone, his trepidation regarding London’s actual merit emerges as he concedes that Many euill men may haue one will in wickednesse (39). Furthermore, it becomes apparent that the fundamental reason for civil unity is to protect the city from an enemie’s entrance (38). Far from being united, Adams’s Londoners constantly threaten to pecke out one another’s eyes (40). London is no longer a New Jerusalem, but a composite Judah and Israel that, in warring against itself, is overcome by enemies (43). The undercurrent of strife once again corrupts the holy and perfect city of peace.
Adams’s representation of London as res publica also corresponds with the general tendency of Eirenopolis to depict London as the City of God in miniature, while concurrently revealing an embedded trepidation regarding its virtue. If the ruler of New Jerusalem is God, then the ruler of London must be a little God (126); the section on the Prince of Peace (126) is essentially an extended tribute to King James and an argument for his divine right to rule. In the City of Peace, all must obey (126) both the God-on-Earth of the King, and the Gospel-on-Earth of the law (138). London becomes an amalgamated expression of the royal court and the court of law, attended by Plenty Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] her Treasurer, Liberalitie her Almoner, Conscience her Chancelor, Wisdome her Counseller (188). Adams explicitly upholds Magistracie, or [the] lawfulnes of authoritie (110); at the same time, he expresses distrust regarding the legal process. In a lengthy diatribe against lawyers and legal abuses, Adams depicts London’s res publica as infested with a smooth-fac’d company (91) of civil antagonists. Language saturated with references to feeding, diseased bowels, and foul air (108–10) denotes a res publica that is not a reflection of the Gospel, but instead a disorder in the body of London.
The London of Eirenopolis is a complicated tangle of urbs, communitas, and res publica. London, an amalgamation of New Jerusalem and Babel, is both divine and dangerous. Adams employs London as an analogy in order to clarify his opinions regarding holiness and peace, and his treatise demonstrates considerable theological knowledge and an unquestionable desire to contribute to social well-being. However, more than a model for peace, Eirenopolis provides a revealing indication of early modern confusion regarding this changing city. Adams’s concluding image of London is as Solomon’s Jerusalem verified, but his most apt image of London might be his allusion to anamorphic pictures: London is like certain Pictures, that represent to diuers beholders, at diuers stations, diuers formes Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents.[…] Looking one way, you see a beautifull Virgine: another way, some deformed monster (166).

Textual Note

Eirenopolis: The Citie of Peace. Surueyed and commended to all Chriſtians (STC 112) was printed in octavo format in 1622 by Augustine Matthews for John Grismand. It was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 3 May 1622. The imprint line tells us that the book was to be ſold at his This text has been supplied. Reason: The text is not clear for some reason not covered by other values of @reason. Evidence: The text has been supplied based on evidence internal to this text (context, etc.).Grismand’s Shop in Pauls Alley, at the Signe of the Gunne. According to the English Short Title Catalogue, only three copies survive; they are held by the British Library, the Bodleian, and the Huntington Library. Our text is a semi-diplomatic transcription of the EEBO digital surrogate of the Bodleian copy.
The sermon was later reprinted in the folio collection of Adams’ works: The Workes of Tho: Adams. Being the Svmme of His Sermons, Meditations, and other Divine and Morall Discovrses (1629; STC 105).

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MLA citation

Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis. The Map of Early Modern London, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 26 Jun. 2020,

Chicago citation

Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis. The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 26, 2020.

APA citation

2020. Critical Introduction to Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London. Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

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Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

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T1  - Critical Introduction to
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T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
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DA  - 2020/06/26
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 


RT Web Page
SR Electronic(1)
A6 Jenstad, Janelle
T1 Critical Introduction to
          Thomas Adams’s Eirenopolis
T2 The Map of Early Modern London
WP 2020
FD 2020/06/26
RD 2020/06/26
PP Victoria
PB University of Victoria
LA English
OL English

TEI citation

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