Sylvia Brown
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‘Whom I never knew to Poetrize but now’
Grief and passion in the devotional poetry of Richard Baxter
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Published in the year of his wife Margaret’s death, Poetical Fragments (1681) was linked to the dissenting clergyman Richard Baxter’s ‘sorrows and sufferings’ as a bereaved husband, but also those of his wife stretching back to when she was a member of his flock in need of spiritual consolation, and finally those of the ‘near Friends in Sickness, and other deep Affliction’ of the title page. In both the Poetical Fragments and later Additions (1683), Baxter made a special plea for ‘passions’ as a key part of devotional identity: they were both the motive for spiritual song and an essential for spiritual life, without which ‘it will be hard to have any pleasant thoughts of Heaven’. This essay explores how ‘passions’ applied to the evolving devotional identity of Baxter himself and how Baxter used personal loss to present to his readers a new kind of practical divinity: consolation – of self as much as others – through a poetics of the ‘passions’.

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People and piety

Protestant devotional identities in early modern England


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