George M. Trevelyan notes in his History of England:

“But though Shakespeare may be in the retrospect the greatest glory of his age, he was not in his own day its greatest influence. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the book of books for Englishmen was already the Bible, although the Authorized Version that is still in use was only drawn up by James I’s Bishops in the years immediately following her death. For every Englishman who had read Sidney or Spenser, or had seen Shakespeare acted at the Globe, there were hundreds who had read or heard the Bible with close attention as the word of God. The effect of the continual domestic study of the book upon the national character, imagination and intelligence for nearly three centuries to come, was greater than that of any literary movement in our annals, or any religious movement since the coming of St. Augustine. New worlds of history and poetry were opened in its pages to a people that had little else to read. Indeed, it created the habit of reading and reflection in whole classes of the community, and turned a tinker [John Bunyan] into one of the great masters of the English tongue. Through the Bible, the deeds and thoughts of men who had lived thousands of years before in the eastern Mediterranean, translated into English during the period when our language reached its brief perfection, colored the daily thought and speech of Britons, to the same degree as they are colored in our own day by the common-place of the newspaper press. The Bible in English history may be regarded as a ‘Renaissance’ of Hebrew literature far more widespread and more potent that even the Classical Renaissance which, thanks to the reformed Grammar Schools, provided the mental background of the better educated. The Bible and the Classics together stimulated and enlarged the culture of the British, as their ocean voyages stimulated and enlarged their practical outlook on life.”

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