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Jenna Townend

The interpretive generosity of The Temple and the capacity for its appeal to consistently cross denominational and political boundaries are the matters explored in this essay. In past assessments of Herbert’s reception during the mid-seventeenth century, there has been a strong focus on how writers took inspiration from him as a way of responding to the English Civil War within their religious lyrics, as in the cases of Henry Vaughan and Christopher Harvey. This essay not only brings to light new examples that can contribute to the conversation surrounding how Herbert’s poems were transformed by loyalist and dissenting readers, but also shows that we have neglected two other key areas where Herbert’s poems were appropriated within this context: prose texts and poetic forms. By broadening our understanding of how the appeal of The Temple can be understood within other forms of writing by Herbert’s admirers, and by examining their appropriative strategies, it is possible to elucidate new detail concerning the roles that Herbert played in the expression of devotional identities during the 1640s–50s.

in People and piety
Scriptural patterns and model piety in the early modern sickchamber
Robert W. Daniel

This essay explores how the acts and attitudes during infirmity, in manuscript and printed accounts by both men and women during the seventeenth century, were often theologically cohesive. Patients demonstrated a precise and widely shared biblicism – that is to say, they used the same scriptures – in their sickbed writings. This created a common devotional identity that ran across denominational, social and political lines, and at times crossed the confessional divide. By identifying and examining these shared scriptural patterns, one sees how the ill incorporated broad and attested doctrinal behaviours during their illnesses. This essay also demonstrates how popular sickbed piety was as likely to reject as to reflect the devotional models espoused in printed ‘how-to’ manuals.

in People and piety
Deathbed narratives and devotional identities in the early seventeenth century
Charles Green

This essay surveys a cross-section of deathbed narratives printed in English between 1592 and 1646, about individuals from a spectrum of social classes and confessional identities. It has two chief objectives, out of which come two main arguments. The first is to read behind some of these works and into the discursive and polemical contexts that, it is argued, first catalysed their publication. The second is to offer a fresh account of the deathbed narrative as an emergent devotional subgenre that combined many shared features across the confessional divide that gave rise to it (whilst remaining highly expressive of devotional identity): a didactic purpose informed by ars moriendi precedents, a specific narrative arc, inventive and extensive uses of print, and a flexible prose style shaped by a number of biblical, dramatic and literary analogues.

in People and piety
Murderers, martyrs and the ‘sacred space’ of the early modern prison
Lynn Robson

This essay examines how early modern prisons in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could sometimes serve as sacred spaces. Through an engagement with elite and popular texts, this research draws the frequent connection between profane incarceration and the consecration of space achieved by an individual’s pious actions: self-examination, religious conversation, praying, reading and writing. It further posits that prison texts themselves, that recorded these devotions, might have been read more than other traditional Protestant works, thus propelling godliness across thresholds: from the prison into the booksellers, and finally into the home.

in People and piety
Abstract only
Protestant devotional identities in early modern England

In 1615 the clergyman Jeremiah Dyke exclaimed ‘surely wee never beginne to know Divinitie or Religion, till wee come to know our selves’. His clarion call, and the ‘devotional turn’ in early modern historiography, urges us to look anew at how ordinary men and women lived out their faith in painstaking and sometimes painful ways. People and Piety is an interdisciplinary edited collection that investigates Protestant devotional identities in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Divided into two sections, it examines the ‘sites’ where these identities were forged (the academy, printing house, household, theatre and prison) and the ‘types’ of texts that expressed them (spiritual autobiographies, religious poetry and writings tied to the ars moriendi), providing a varied and broad analysis of the social, material and literary forms of religious devotion during England’s Long Reformation. Through archival and cutting-edge research, a detailed picture of ‘lived devotion’ emerges. From the period’s most recognisable religious authors (Richard Baxter, George Herbert, Oliver Heywood and Katherine Sutton) to those rarely discussed and recently discovered voices (Isaac Archer, Mary Franklin and Katherine Gell), this book reveals how piety did not define people; it was people who defined their piety. Contributors include internationally recognised scholars from either side of the Atlantic: Sylvia Brown, Vera J. Camden, Bernard Capp, John Coffey, Ann Hughes, N. H. Keeble and William Sheils. To those studying and teaching religion and identity in early modern England, and anyone interested in the history of religious self-expression, this book will be a rich and rewarding read.

David Manning

Working with the understudied writings of the ‘little academy’ convened by the Ferrar family at Little Gidding (c.1631–33), this chapter explores how oral, handwritten and printed discourse became devotional by the grace of God and in the presence of God. Drawing on a hybrid blend of Humanist, post-Calvinist and Arminian influences, the Ferrars’ cerebral musings foraged the past to feed their present, as part of a cycle of theological, social and textual reappropriation. This research challenges and complements current thinking about the materiality of devotional culture. It also provides a unique insight into the trajectory of devotional endeavours from minority to mainstream, and how these were dissected and assimilated by the industrious learners at Little Gidding.

in People and piety
Grief and passion in the devotional poetry of Richard Baxter
Sylvia Brown

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’.

in People and piety
Brian Hoggard

This chapter presents the results of a survey of United Kingdom museums and archaeological establishments, and introduces the current facts and theories about these artefacts. The artefacts concerned provide physical evidence of the continuation and survival of counter-witchcraft practices before, during and after the witch trials. The archaeological record illuminates historical understanding of witchcraft and the popular fear of misfortune by providing primary physical evidence of individual actions, and therefore requires more consideration from those researching the cultural history of witchcraft and magic. Objects such as witch-bottles, dried cats, horse skulls, shoes, written charms and numerous other items have been discovered concealed inside houses in significant quantities from the early modern period until well into the twentieth century. All these archaeological finds provide material evidence for the continued preoccupation with witchcraft and evil influences from the early modern period through to the early twentieth century.

in Beyond the witch trials
Open Access (free)
Witchcraft and magic in Enlightenment Europe

This book looks at aspects of the continuation of witchcraft and magic in Europe from the last of the secular and ecclesiastical trials during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, through to the nineteenth century. It provides a brief outline of witch trials in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland. By the second half of the seventeenth century, as the witch trials reached their climax in Sweden, belief in the interventionist powers of the Devil had become a major preoccupation of the educated classes. Having acknowledged the slight possibility of real possession by the Devil, Benito Feijoo threw himself wholeheartedly into his real objective: to expose the falseness of the majority of the possessed. The book is concerned with accusations of magic, which were formalised as denunciations heard by the Inquisition of the Archdiocese of Capua, a city twelve miles north of Naples, during the first half of the eighteenth century. One aspect of the study of witchcraft and magic, which has not yet been absorbed into the main stream of literature on the subject, is the archaeological record of the subject. As a part of the increasing interest in 'popular' culture, historians have become more conscious of the presence of witchcraft after the witch trials. The aftermath of the major witch trials in Dalarna, Sweden, demonstrates how the authorities began the awkward process of divorcing themselves from popular concerns and beliefs regarding witchcraft.

Open Access (free)
A male strategy
Soili-Maria Olli

The concept of the Devil's pact was a prominent theme in early modern European theology. Central to the debate was the idea that witches and magical practitioners of all types gained their powers from selling their soul to the Devil. The Devil's pact was considered the gravest of crimes and was punishable by death. The Devil's pact trials highlight the differing conceptions of female and male satanic relationships, and the way in which that fundamental tool of the Enlightenment enabled a wider section of society to engage with Satan rather than reject him. The characteristics of male contact with the Devil differed significantly from perceptions at the time of female relationships with the Devil, whether in the context of witchcraft or possession. Witchcraft accusations apart, women actually resorted to the Devil for personal gain, but adopted a different strategy from that of men, which was consequently open to different interpretation.

in Beyond the witch trials