Literature and Theatre

Edward Herbert and continental music-making
Simon Jackson

This chapter, which looks at Edward’s lute book and the continental music books of his library that he bequeathed to Jesus College, Oxford, argues that his musical activity is intimately connected with the cosmopolitan aspirations described in his autobiography. Music, for Cherbury, is far more than simple and superficial entertainment. Its practice complements his recognition of a universal human condition and the ideal of the cosmopolitan sage derived from his own brand of Stoicism. Cherbury discovers in music not the disjunction between microcosm and macrocosm, but the intertwinement of the two spheres. In the particularities and instantiations of its performance it reveals to him the universal truths his philosophy sought. Even within the walls of his private study – his microcosm – music places Cherbury in the context of a harmonious macrocosm, giving him a truly cosmopolitan perspective on the world.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Abstract only
Herbert of Cherbury’s vexed diplomacy
Nancy Zaice

This chapter explores the events of Edward Herbert’s ambassadorship, making use of primary documents rarely discussed or analyzed, reassessing the Ambassador’s integrity. This reassessment leads to new conclusions about Edward’s developing understanding of truth, conscience, and the unity of the general and personal good. Past accounts of his ambassadorship have stressed Edward’s rashness and failure as a diplomat. However, such accounts adopt historiographical approaches that tend to divorce the study of facts from philosophical and moral thought. This chapter shows, on the contrary, that Edward’s blindness or “mistakes” as a diplomat may well stem from his (perhaps excessive) faith in and commitment to a continuum between the individual conscience and the general good. The Wars of Religion taught him to distrust corrupt political and ecclesiastical bodies. Bent on a quest for peace, he placed his trust instead in truthful individuals (such as himself), thinking they might be more apt to bridge the divides created by religious strife. He provided James with useful, valid, and accurate information on European ambassadors’ visits and their implications, French views on Palatinate issues, reports of Spanish and French troop movements, Catholic influence at the French court, and the status of Protestants in France, acting in the sovereign’s stead and in the sovereign’s as well as what he considered the nation’s interest. Yet his faith in the universal individual’s conscience and actions (including his own) also led him to neglect the complexities of political representativeness, thus accounting for his diplomatic faux pas.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Abstract only
Belligerent civility in Edward Herbert’s Autobiography
Michael Schoenfeldt

Where Edward traveled frequently to the Continent, particularly France, and became a part of the European intellectual community, his younger brother George never left England. Written by a sixty-year-old disgruntled courtier under the pressures of a civil war in which the neutrality to which he aspired became impossible to sustain, Edward Herbert’s autobiography is a valuable record of the frivolous, violent, vain, yet strangely familiar world of early modern England. If The Temple is George Herbert’s lyric evidence of his struggles for spiritual submission, the Autobiography is Edward Herbert’s prose narrative of his battles to achieve social mastery. In it, Edward reveals himself to be as attentive to the nuances of social ceremony as George was to the rhythms of devotional liturgy. Both show a fine-tuned sensitivity to the nuances of behavior, appearance, and status. Together, they tell us something valuable about the hazards and prospects of selfhood in early modern Europe and how working for universal peace implied forms of war with oneself and, sometimes, with local social communities.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Anita Sherman

This chapter examines Edward’s philosophy, focusing on his understanding of conformity and consent in the aftermath of his research for his historical oeuvre: Expedition to the Isle of Rhé and The life and raigne of King Henry the Eighth. Unlike Descartes, Edward Herbert sidelines uncertainty and presents his philosophical system as a set of irrefutable propositions. In laying out the criteria for truthful cognition, he exalts conformity and consent as epistemological ideals. These ideals – when tested by the perils of praxis – will underwrite a stance of political neutrality. For Herbert, consent, even as he elides it with a sensation of internal approval, is also a cosmopolitan principle with both spatial and temporal dimensions, open to the world. Herbert gradually changes in the face of personal setbacks and turbulent public circumstances as well as owing to his intellectual work of the 1630s. Yet the seeds for this change are already present in his philosophy, growing out of the appreciation for beauty implicit in his ideals. Edward Herbert sees schooled detachment and political impartiality, the twin pillars of his philosophy, as having aesthetic, metaphysical, rhetorical, empirical, and scientific meanings that will enable peoples around the globe to live in harmony. In Edward Herbert’s optimistic imagination, cosmopolis is on the horizon, almost within reach. Most importantly, this chapter shows that while Edward has often been seen as anticipating ideas of toleration later developed by thinkers such as Locke, his own understanding of a human communion was actually more encompassing because it looked beyond the boundaries of Christendom.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
George Herbert and François de Sales
Richard Strier

This chapter questions the suggestion that has already been made of a spiritual convergence between George Herbert and St. François de Sales. The elimination of turbulence and urgency from the inner life certainly was a goal for St. François, but it was certainly not consistently or predominantly so for the George Herbert of the lyrics. But what of the “sweetness” connection? They both saw the religious life as providing pleasure, including in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. But this does not mean that their Eucharistic theologies were identical, a consideration that must enter the comparison. There is a great deal more “affliction” in the religious life as Herbert presents it than as St. François does – which almost certainly derives from “doctrine,” from differing theological pictures of the postlapsarian human self. St. François, following the Catholic and especially Teresian mystical tradition, does not want to distinguish sharply between physical and spiritual “sweetness.” Herbert is clear on the distinction, though willing to use the analogy. Herbert’s deliberately contentious view and poetry contrasts with the staidness of much of what he reacted against in continental thinking. Close analysis of these texts indicates that, contrary to much recent criticism, doctrine matters, shaping the tenor and substance of life.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters

George Herbert (1593–1633), the celebrated devotional poet, and his brother Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583–1648), often described as the father of English deism, are rarely considered together. This collection explores connections between the full range of the brothers’ writings and activities, despite the apparent differences both in what they wrote and in how they lived their lives. More specifically, the volume demonstrates that despite these differences, each conceived of their extended republic of letters as militating against a violent and exclusive catholicity; theirs was a communion in which contention (or disputation) served to develop more dynamic forms of comprehensiveness. Contributors break new ground in manuscript and translation studies (French, Italian, and Latin). The literary, philosophical, and musical production of the Herbert brothers appears here in its full European context, connected as they were with the Sidney clan and its own investment in international Protestantism. The disciplinary boundaries between poetry, philosophy, politics, and theology in modern universities in no way reflect the deep interconnectedness of these pursuits in the seventeenth century. Crossing disciplinary and territorial borders, contributors discuss a variety of texts and media, including poetry, musical practices, autobiography, letters, council literature, orations, philosophy, history, and nascent religious anthropology, all serving as agents of the circulation and construction of transregionally inspired and collective responses to human conflict and violence. We see as never before the profound connections, face-to-face as well as textual, linking early modern British literary culture with the continent.

Cristina Malcolmson

This chapter carries the discussion about love and community into the realm of the private and secular life. It discusses a work seldom broached, Edward Herbert’s unfinished play The Amazon, written as he was also completing De Veritate during his terms as English ambassador to France, 1619–21 and 1622–4. While in France, Herbert was frequently the guest of the Dukes of Montmorency, a family of Catholic moderates sometimes referred to pejoratively as “politiques” by the parti dévot, or ultra-Catholics. Edward Herbert argued against the dogma of institutionalized religion in his philosophical work De Veritate and for divorce in his unfinished play The Amazon. This essay analyzes the final “Song” in The Amazon as linking human affection with the “natural instinct” of De Veritate, a spiritual power that, for Herbert, moves both animals and humans, provides the basis for credible knowledge, and legitimizes divorce (on the grounds that too often marriage is antithetical to love).

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Sean H. McDowell

Edward Herbert considered himself a member of a European community of plain speakers, a community that values a conversational style, itself the vehicle for an understanding of what a social community is meant to do and the philosophical ideals it is to sustain. Many members of Edward Herbert’s English and French coterie found in the rhetorical writings of the Belgian humanist Justus Lipsius welcome permission to depart from an overly wrought discourse in favor of a more gallantly honest style. A key work here was Lipsius’s Epistolica Institutio, published in 1591. Style was a means of signaling one’s identity to the world; but more than that, it fostered a way of being in the world. The ideal of fellowship is linked to a self-conceived cosmopolitan directness and truthfulness.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Guillaume Coatalen

This chapter examines unexplored parallels between three French Protestant poets and George Herbert, noting signs of shared rhetorical and spiritual strategies of internal struggle. John Donne’s Sonnet XIV, “Batter my heart, three person’d God,” bears clear resemblances to Grévin’s third sonnet in the second part of the Gélodacrye. George Herbert, too, may have been influenced by some of Grévin’s sonnets, particularly when one considers the common coteries within which the Herberts and Donne moved. Close parallels in language and syntax between Herbert’s poems and poems by popular French Protestant poets of the time strongly imply influence. In all four poets, lively and contentious forms of communion are predicated on the radical inequality between the poet and God, answered by an adoptive call and look designed to transform and transport the poet and reader. Close parallels of insistent repetition, vehementia, and ternary correspondence are among the rhetorical similarities explored in detail.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters
Kristine A. Wolberg and Lynnette St. George

Comparing Herbert’s inspiration and focus in The Country Parson with that of John Calvin’s Commentaries to the Pastoral Epistles makes Herbert’s purposes, concerns, and focus clearer. He is concerned with far more than mere outward marks of religious devotion. The pastor’s construction of an outward and visible manifestation of inward states for the edification of others need not be disingenuous or insincere. The pastor struggles in communion with God in order to avoid the contempt, and cultivate the faith, of others. It is only by linking George Herbert’s writing to continental thought and theology that we can fully understand his pastoral prospects for a comprehensive Church that sustains the needs of all its members (regardless of their social belonging) at a local level as well as universally.

in Edward and George Herbert in the European Republic of Letters