[Ads-l] "amen corner" 1652; antedates OED2 1860?

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sat Oct 31 02:37:04 UTC 2015

"Tis true you put an effigies Image, or sculpture beforeevery book you write; I conceive you meane not your owne, I confesse I have[14] that in your Book at Amen Corner,but for your Silver smith and shrines you write of, I hardly beleeve you willhave one, unlesse the Midwifes you flatter so, make you one. For Amen Corner, I persuade my selfe, tis aformidable place to you, for feare of dissection, for you never durst hithertoventure your approbation there before the Doctors for your sufficiency in yourtrade you were bound to, and some-while brought up in: And for your judgementin Physick, I know you dare not come thither to the test, though you railagainst them."  William Johnson, [letter to] “Friend Culpepr” [sic], pages (13)--(14).  In _Three Exact Pieces of Leonard PhioravantKnight and Doctor in Physick ...” (London:Printed by G. Dawson, 1652 [imprint; 1651 for manuscript]).  Johnson, chemist to the Collegeof Physicians of London, was the editor of _Three ExactPieces_.  See Harold J. Cook, _TheDecline of the Old Medical Regime in Stuart London_ (Cornell Univ. Press,1986), pp. 125--126.  Antedates OED2  “amencorner” 1860--?  Some context:  Thewriter, Johnson, is defending the College of Physicians, theinstitution as well as its members and their practices, against an attack by NicholasCulpeper, who sanctions “empirics” and midwives, “irregular” practitioners.  “Amen Corner” seems here to refer to the examiners (censors)of the College of Physicians, before whom,Johnson alleges, Culpeper has not presented himself to be examined fordetermination of whether he qualifies as a “regular” physician.  Is this “Amen Corner” related to the OED’s “amen corner  n. U.S. that part of a meeting-houseoccupied by persons who assist the preacher with occasional and irregularresponses”?  I think so, although I’m incapableof articulating the argument.  Thepersons in the Amen Corner are assisting the President of the College of Physicians(the “preacher” of approved medical practice) in determining whether acandidate meets the standards.  But thereis perhaps a reversal:  In the 1651 use,the assisting persons are “regular”, not “irregular”.


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