Thursday, September 28, 2017

Jacob on Edmund Waller

Edmund Waller was born in 1606 at Coleshill between the borders of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He was born into a wealthy family, including Sir Hardress Waller, Sir William Waller, and her mother who was the sister to John Hampden. Most of Wallers early childhood was spent attending High Wycombe grammar school learning from the Eton scholar Gerard Dobson. After furthering his education at Eton and Cambridge he finished his gentleman’s education at Lincoln’s Inn in 1622. Waller began his career by entering parliament for Amersham and then, shortly after, “gained a seat at Chipping Wycombe in his native Buckinghamshire”. Only to then return to Amersham. During that time Waller inherited an estate estimated to be worth up to £3,500 a year and, 4 year later, married a wealthy London heiress by the name of Anne Banks. However, their marriage was short lived as Banks died during the birth of Dorothy Sidney who Waller would take care of for the remainder of the decade. Dorothy would be an inspiration to some of his poems as she would be referred multiple times in his poems as Sacharissa. Waller also wrote poems over past events that took place including when Prince Charles escaped a shipwreck on the Spanish coast in 1623 and the duke of Buckingham’s assassination in 1628. He would also go on to join the literary circle of the 2nd Viscount Falkland at Great Tew to publish several different political works. This would also help him become an orator for John Aubrey and the 1st Earl of Clarendon Edward Hyde who claimed he had “‘a graceful way of speaking” and an “excellence and power of wit”. This would continue on until 1643 when Waller would become involved in a conspiracy to take over London which would become known as the “Waller’s Plot”. However, he would soon make a full confession of the plot and buy his way out of execution. Then, after being exiled for 8 years, Waller returned to France and Switzerland. After returning to Parliament for Hastings in 1661 and Saltash in 1685, Waller died of dropsy on October 21st, 1687. He was buried in Beaconsvile and various portraits of him are preserved at the National Portrait Gallery and at Rousham House located in Oxfordshire.


Megan on Anti-Catholicism in Seventeenth-Century England

Anti-Catholicism in Seventeenth-Century England (Megan Baeumler)

The strength and persistence of anti-Catholicism (which is roughly defined as any hostility towards Catholics or opposition to the Catholic Church, its clergy and its adherents) at all levels of society was one of the most striking features of seventeenth century England. But England has had a long standing tradition of Anti- Catholicism that started way before the seventeenth century. When the Parliament of Henry VIII in 1533 passed a law that renounced any papal jurisdiction over the English Church and declared the king to be its sole head. Also known as the English Reformation. It lasted until Mary I (Bloody Mary) took the throne and retuned Catholicism to England. During and after her reign a deep hostility towards Catholicism emerged (due in part by Mary killing those who refused to renounce their religious beliefs, around 300 Protestants) when Elizabeth took the throne in 1558 she was renowned as the Protestant savior when she permanently  re-established Protestantism in England.  But that didn’t stop Catholic threats and plots from happening. Examples being Catholic assassination attempts on Elizabeth and the Gunpowder plot of 1605 (which was a group of Catholics that conspired to blow up the king and members of Parliament). After the Gunpowder plot Anti- Catholicism activity decreased but did not disappear.

During the Restoration England Catholics lived under Penal laws passed by Parliament that were to force those (Catholics) to conform to the protestant religion. They were charged a monthly fine if not present during Anglican services, being a priest, hiding a priest and convert one to the Catholic faith were all treasonable offences. Along with that they were not allowed to have arms, transfer property or hold a military/political position.  Despite the severity of the laws they were rarely enforced, except during times of political upset.  Like during Charles I personal rule from 1629-1637 and under the Long Parliament in the early 1640's to name a few. Despite the laws Catholics and Protestants lived in peace with one another in their communities. But the Catholics families in England were slowly declining during the Restoration period. The major factor towards this decline was the social pressure to take part in the political life of England (one had to be Protestant to take part), because of this catholic family heirs, such as the Marquis of Winchester and the Earl of Shrewsbury joined the Anglican Church.

The Popish plot  in 1678, an alleged plot by Jesuits, with the blessing of the Pope, to murder Charles II, and put his Catholic brother and heir, James the Duke of York, on the throne so he could re-establish Catholicism in England. The plot was well liked throughout the people of England.  The thought of "No Popery" appealed equally to everyone from the wealthiest lord down to the working class.  It was one of the basic underlying and re-occurring themes of the seventeenth century. The intensity of anti-Catholic fears rose and fell according to the political situation of the time. In the late 1660's and during the 1670's, the intensity of anti-Catholicism was on the rise again due to the pro-French policies of Charles II's government, especially its foreign policy.

In the end Anti- Catholicism doesn’t go away in England and continues to be a problem in the 18th century as well.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rachel on Mary Astell

Mary Astell (Rachel Vachon)

Mary Astell is widely known as the “first English feminist” nowadays, but in her time she was simply considered a philosopher and rhetorician who strongly advocated for women’s education and sometimes quarreled with other philosophers such as John Locke and John Norris. Born November 12, 1666 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Mary spent her childhood getting a proper education because her Uncle, Ralph Astell, thought that it was incredibly important that Mary go out into the world with as much knowledge and knowhow as he was given when he was a child. She learned French, Latin, and studied in theological doctrine - or the belief that Christ is both the son of God as well as the man Jesus - along with philosophy, and the two are more often than not inseparable from one another in her works. In her early twenties, she moved to London and began writing as a full time job.

From the very beginning she held nothing back in her published works: penning A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest anonymously, at first, in 1694 and then Letters Concerning the Love of God in 1695 with John Norris, a Cambridge educated Platonist. In A Serious Proposal, Mary argues against the popular belief at the time that women we dull witted because they lacked the ability to be educated - instead stating that she believed it was their lack of access to quality education that made most women the way that they were, not because they were unable to learn. She implored women to seek a life of knowledge rather than a life as a slave to society and or her husband, but did not outright denounce marriage altogether. In her opinion, if a man and a woman could come into a marriage on an equal footing intellectually, then there would be a true mutual respect for one another between the two of them and the marriage would prosper. But if the woman would have to sacrifice her intelligence for the comfort of her husband, then Mary believed that it was a better idea to remain unmarried until a better man came along and focus solely on studying in the meantime.

And this was not the only time Mary proposed an idea that seems contrary to things we hear about today. For example, rather than rejecting Christianity for logic like many other enlightened individuals of her time did or even advocating for women’s rights despite her faith, Astell actually used her faith and understanding of rationalism to established arguments around firmly held misogynistic interpretations of the bible as well as beliefs in philosophy. In her conversation with John Norris through letters, which later became Letters Concerning the Love of God after John was able to convince her to publish them, she utilized her understand and belief in Descartes’ theory of dualism - the idea that one’s mind and one’s body are two separate beings - to explain why women were important to the religion and how claiming that they were inferior to men in any way was an insult to God.

To summarize a portion of her theory as best as I can: Mary believes that God is the infinite and incorruptible mind - a being of perfect wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, intelligence, presence, power, and self-existence, while human minds are finite, naturally incorruptible beings that are sometimes hindered by human bodies which are finite, naturally corruptible beings. God, who is more of a collection of ideas than a physical person, needs the adoration of the human mind, but in order to instill a need for community and comradery between the human bodies, he creates each human mind differently so that it can only understand a handful of his ideas on it’s own. That way the human bodies must come together in order to understand him and love him completely through education and discussion. But because human bodies are corruptible (society forces one sex to behave one way while the other can behave differently), and the mind, though incorruptible, is only finite and at the mercy of the human body, society is unable to come together as a whole to adore God properly. She argues that it is not God who intended for women to be inferior to men, and it is not women who see themselves as inferior to men, but rather men themselves who force women into this role by conditioning the society as a whole - in effect damaging everyone’s relationship with God and hurting, or at the very least insulting, God’s very existence and plan in general.

Mary continued to expand upon and explore her theories in later books, Some Reflections upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Duchess of Mazarine’s Case; Which is Also Considered published in 1700 and The Christian Religion, As Professed by a Daughter Of the Church of England in 1705, and acted upon them in her personal life as well. She never married out of fear of being coerced into giving up on her philosophies, instead focusing her efforts on creating a sanctuary of sort for women where they could contemplate and live simply either for a short time or permanently as an alternative to marriage. She raised money and planned the curriculum for a charity school at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, but unfortunately developed breast cancer and passed away in Chelsea in 1731 at the age of sixty-five. Her legacy continues on, though, in the theories that she helped shape, the societal changes that she was a catalyst for, and in the writers/philosophers who followed her.

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Paige on Nell Gwyn

Nell Gwyn (Paige Hill)
Nell Gwyn was born 2 February1650. She was the daughter of a Welsh army officer who died in debtor’s prison and an alcoholic mother who fell drunk into the Thames and drowned in 1679.  Nell grew up carrying drinks to customers in a brothel, but no one is completely sure if the establishment was owned by her mother. She would eventually be introduced to the theatre at thirteen when she sold oranges at the King’s theatre.  She would get her first break on the stage when she was fourteen. Eventually she would perform next to Charles Hart, who would be the first of her three lovers.  She would even appear in some of John Dryden’s plays. A few of them were Secret Love, and An Evening’s Love. Apparently, her first appearance on the stage was in December of 1665. After her time as the mistress of Charles Hart she would have a tryst with Lord Buckhurst in 1667. In 1669 she would become the mistress of Charles II, whom she jokingly called Charles the Third because her first two lovers also went by the same name. At this point in her life she was only seventeen to Charles II thirty-seven years of age. And even though she would be the mistress of a King she would continue her career on the stage until her first son was born. Her son’s name was Charles Beauclerk who was the 1st Baron Heddington and Earl of Burford, and would later become Duke of St. Albans. Her second son James died in 1680. She would be one of thirteen mistresses of Charles II, but she would also be considered well-liked by the masses, unlike Charles other mistresses. She was smart, sarcastic and witty. Although, she was illiterate. Nell was never into politics like some of his other mistresses which apparently was something the King really enjoyed about her. Being Charles’s mistress meant that she could live extravagantly as she entertained the King and his friends. Unlike some of his other mistresses, Nell was said to be faithful to the King during their affair and even after he died. The king did ask his brother, James II, to take care of her, and he would do so by settling her debts and giving her 1500 pounds a year. She was so much in debt that she was in deep trouble with her creditors. She wouldn’t live long after the death of Charles the second, dying just two years later.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kathye on Anne Killigrew

Mris. Anne Killigrew (Kathye Macias-Ramirez)


Born in 1660 in London at the start of the Restoration to an upper class family, Anne Killigrew lived a short life as an English poet, painter and supposed maid of honor to Mary of Modena. What is known about Killigrew, is known through the recorded lives of her family, her poems, and an ode to her by Dryden. She was secretly christened, for common prayer was not openly allowed. Killigrew’s family “. . .was closely involved with royalist politics,” her father, Henry Killigrew, was a clergyman appointed Master of the Savoy Hospital in Westminster. After being chaplain to James, Duke of York. The family was also involved with the theatre, her uncle and father in particular wrote plays. Though there is no evidence of the type of education she received, her understanding and inclusion of “. . .Greek and Roman mythology and of biblical history,” give an idea that her knowledge extended beyond conversational. Killigrew also ‘moved in court circles,’ and was said to have been a “maid of honour to Mary of Modena, wife of James, Duke of York,” however no record was kept to confirm the appointment. Nevertheless, her poems were circulated throughout court circles in manuscript. This circulation of poems was common in order to reach “‘fame’ or recognition by. . .peers.” The poem, Upon the saying that my verses were made by another, shows Killigrew’s motivation to be recognized for her work. After her death, her father asked Dryden to write an ode to the memory of his daughter. Dryden describes Killigrew as a blossoming prodigy that did not live to her potential, while also commemorating her father’s skill as encouragement to Killigrew’s work. A few months after her death her father published a book of her poems concluding what would be known of Anne Killigrew. 

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