Luther’s Table Talk in Revolutionary England

As this opening illustration attests, the English translation of Martin Luther’s Table Talk (Tischreden) is as much a monument to the memory of the German reformer as a record of his beliefs and teachings. While many of the German and Latin editions of this work showed Luther in conversation with companions and fellow reformers, here he is depicted alone, surrounded by symbols of his achievements and special status. The goose behind him represents the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, often portrayed as forerunner and foreteller of Luther and his teachings. This was Luther mythologised, but it was also Luther re-remembered in a new context. First approved by Archbishop Laud and then, after his death, by the order of the House of Commons, it bore many traces of the turbulent times surrounding its publication. Through careful alterations of the original text, Luther’s own views on the Eucharist were made to more closely resemble those prevailing in seventeenth-century England. It thus sought not just to preserve the memory of Luther over one hundred years after his death, but to refashion him for the religious politics of the 1640s and 1650s. CL

Dris. Martini Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia; or, Dr. Martin Luther’s Divine
Discourses at his table, &c … (London: William Dugard, 1652), title page.

CUL: Syn.3.65.3

Further Reading

Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies (London, 1953), chapter 3.

Alec Ryrie, ‘The Afterlife of Lutheran England’, in Dorothea Wendebourg (ed.), Sister Reformations/Schwesterreformationen (Tübingen, 2010), pp. 213–34.

Theodore G. Tappert (ed. and trans.), Table Talk (Luther’s Works, vol. 54; Philadelphia, 1967).

Carl R. Trueman and Carrie Euler, ‘The Reception of Martin Luther in Sixteenth- and Seventeeth-Century England’, in Polly Ha and Patrick Collinson (eds), The Reception of Continental Reformation in Britain (Oxford, 2010), pp. 63–81.

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