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The Seventeenth-Century Resolve

The Seventeenth-Century Resolve: A Historical Anthology of a Literary Form

Edited by John L. Lievsay
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 224
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    The Seventeenth-Century Resolve
    Book Description:

    Among the literary innovations of the seventeenth century -- a period of rich development in English prose -- was the resolve. Generally of religious inspiration, the resolve was intended as the instrument of reform of private and public morals to assist in attaining individual perfection and in establishing the ideal Christian state.

    John L. Lievsay has brought together an anthology of resolves from the pens of eighteen writers, some -- like Bishop Joseph Hall and Owen Feltham -- familiar names to students of English literature, and others virtually unknown. Despite its popularity as a literary form during the seventeenth century the resolve quickly declined in influence and died an untimely death. Lievsay sketches the history of this once well-known form and provides critical and comparative evaluations of the writers and their works.

    Until now, the only resolve writer anthologized since the seventeenth century has been Owen Feltham -- admittedly the best of the "resolvers" but, according to Lievsay, not greatly superior to Hall, Daniel Tuvill, or Francis Rous. Together, the selections in this volume offer a comprehensive view of a significant yet little-known development in English letters.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6363-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The seventeenth century, it is commonly agreed, witnessed a rich development in the writing of English prose. Old and familiar forms were pushed into a greater prominence: history, fictional narrative, biography, sermons, conduct-manuals, works of utilitarian instruction. And new forms, such as the essay and the “character,” were either then invented or enormously popularized. These two latter, at least, have received adequate attention at the hands of critics and literary historians. With another seventeenth-century prose innovation, the “resolve,” the case is different. It is the purpose of the present work to supply an anthology of representative resolves, a cursory history...

  5. Meditations and Vowes Divine and Morall
    (pp. 10-22)
    Joseph Hall

    In meditation, those which begin heavenly thoughts and prosecute them not are like those which kindle a fire under greene wood and leave it so soone as it but begins to flame, leesing the hope of a good beginning for want of seconding it with a suitable proceeding. When¹ I set my self to meditate, I will not give over till I come to an issue. It hath beene said by some, that the beginning is as much as the midst; yea, more then all: but I say the ending is more than the beginning.

    I have often wondred howe...

  6. Christian Purposes and Resolutions
    (pp. 23-34)
    Daniel Tuvill

    Man’s intention without God’s assistance availeth nothing. Peter was but a while forsaken, and howsoever he did abound with love and zeale, yet was hee notwithstanding supplanted by the enemy. His faith was overwhelmed with feare; hee forsooke him for whom he swore to dye.¹ God’s assistaunce without man’s intention profits as litle. For what action, circumstaunce, or exhortation could be thought requisite for the reclayming of Judas,² which Christ omitted? But al was to no purpose; hee was a devill, and so he dyed. And heereupon the Lord himselfe complaineth in the 23. of Mathew,Hierusalem, Hierusalem, which killest...

  7. Meditations and Resolutions, Moral, Divine, Politicall
    (pp. 35-46)
    Anthony Stafford

    When I consider in what estate man was created, I cannot but thinke of his folly; who, through a false hope of knowing good and evill, lost the enough of good hee had and found too much evil.¹ This makes mee call to minde the vaine ambition of those who seeke to prie into that unrevealed (and therefore inscrutable) knowledge of the Deity: uppon whom God looking down, saies in a pitifull derision (as hee did to Adam)Beholde,the menare become as one of us.²This meditation stretcheth-out it selfe, and biddes mee also consider the arrogancie of...

  8. New Essayes: Meditations and Vowes
    (pp. 47-62)
    Thomas Tuke

    The law saith: Doe this, and thou shalt live. It rests not in faith, but exacteth action; and promiseth life to them which keepe it. It allowes not infirmities, but requireth all perfections; and if a man £aile but in one point thereof, it denounceth a curse unto him. Alas then what are wee, what shall become of us, who are grievous and continuall sinners? Our very justice being strictly sifted by the law, which is the rule of justice, would bee found injustice;¹ and that would be contemned in the strict judgement of the judge, which is commended in...

  9. I Would and Would Not
    (pp. 63-67)
    Nicholas Breton
  10. Meditations of Instruction, of Exhortation, of Reproofe
    (pp. 68-74)
    Francis Rous

    If every thing bee desirable according to the benefit thereof, then either prosperitie or adversity may be loved, and neither deter minately hated or condemned. For either is very profitable to a man, and most commonly, adversitie. Let us therefore cease to despise it in others, or impatiently to beare it in our selves, since adversitie hath whipt many to heaven, when prosperity hathcoached² more to hell. Let us leave off, with children onely to desire pleasant things, and growne into men in Christ, let us desire wholesome things.³ It is better in good sadnesse to be saved, then in...

  11. Essaies upon the Five Senses
    (pp. 75-79)
    Richard Brathwait

    I offered before the sacrifice of my teares; now remaines the prosecution of my resolves: that as the first were symbols and signalls of my conversion and contrition, so the latter might be persuasive motives of my firmer resolution. Dry be those teares of repentance, which are not seconded by a zealous continuance; sith the perfection of vertue is perseverance;¹ and fruitlesse is that zeale, which like the seede in the parable, is either by the thornie cares of the world choaked, by the heat of persecution parched, or by the stonie impenitencie and obduracie withered: I will therefore a...

  12. Resolves: A Duple Century
    (pp. 80-111)
    Owen Feltham

    What a skeyne of ruflled silke is the uncomposed man? Every thing that but offers to even him intangles him more, as if, while you unbend him one way, he warpeth worse the other. He cannot but meet with variety of occasions, and every one of these intwine him in a deeper trouble. His waies are strew’d with briers, and he bustles himselfe into his owne confusion. Like a partridge in the net, he maskes1 himselfe the more by the anger of his fluttering wing. Certainely, a good resolution is the most fortifying armour that a discreete man can weare....

  13. Christian Observations and Resolutions
    (pp. 112-122)
    William Struther

    The workes of the most part of men tell that they thinke not of heaven, or that such a heaven as they minde is on earth: they seeke earthly thinges and compt their happinesse by their obtaining, and their miserie by their want. Riches, honour, fame, pleasure, etc., are the hight of their reach, and that not in a small measure as passengers for the way, but excessively as possessors of their end: no care of another life, because no minde of it. Or, if the thought of heaven bee forced upon them, it is soone banished by the strength...

    (pp. 123-131)
    Joseph Henshaw

    Sleepe is but death’s elder brother,¹ and death is but a sleepe nicknam’d; why should I more feare to goe to my grave, than to my bed, since both tend to my rest? When I lye down to sleepe, I will thinke it my last, and when I rise againe, account my life not continued, but restor’d.

    To doe any thing to thinke to bee talk’d of is the vainest thing in the world; to give almes, and aske who sees, loseth the prayse and the reward:³ I may bee seene to give, I will not give to be seene....

    (pp. 132-143)
    Arthur Warwick

    It is the over curious ambition of many to be best or to be none:¹ if they may not doe so well as they would, they will not doe so well as they may. I will doe my best to doe the best, and what I want in power, supply in will. Thus whils I pay in part, I shall not bee a debtor for all. Hee owes most that payes nothing.

    Pride is the greatest enemy to reason, and discretion the greatest opposite to pride. For whiles wisdome makes art the ape of nature, pride makes nature the ape...

    (pp. 144-151)
    John Saltmarsh

    Lord, here are two wayes, the one a way of declination, the other of exaltation; the one a broad, a wide, a loose way, a way wherein a soule may be too free, too licentious, too too¹ straying and excursive; the other a narrow way, a strait way, a way to keepe in and hedge in a Christian passenger;² such a way as will make him gather up his passions, and gird up his affections, that they bee not excessive nor exorbitant, nor too breaking forth into the broad and open way of wickednesse. Lord, how easie is it to...

    (pp. 152-160)
    Thomas Manley

    Who would ever trust him that loves to break the trust reposed on him, and will never do any good, unless it be to satisfie some private ends, some selfe-interest? As¹ such men deserve not to betrusted, so neither ought they to live, for in stretching my conscience to harme others, I deceive my self, and while I strive by wicked and sinister ends to rob others of their hoped and sought earthly good, I barre my self from an everlasting, by shutting heaven against my self. As I would not promise more then I mean to perform, break my...

  18. An Humble Apologie for Learning and Learned Men
    (pp. 161-166)
    Edward Waterhouse

    Me thinks I hear one bethinking¹ me this motion, and taxing me as too bold to crave this boon for the clergy, while the gifted men (as the term is) who are all honey and no gall, all gold and no drosse, all beauty and no deformity in their eyes, stand competitors: as if I were injurious to beg away the children’s bread for aliens from the Common-wealth of Israel, and men without God in the world, who are formalists, worldly wise, enemies to free grace, and branded by such like insinuations.

    Truly, were the ministers such, I would confesse...

  19. KAINA KAI IIAAAIA. Things New and Old
    (pp. 167-170)
    John Spencer

    It is the relation of a gentleman, that seeing a jer-falcon let fly at a heron, he observed with what clamour the heron entertained the sight and approach of the hawke and with what winding shift he strove to get above her, labouring even by bemuting his enemie’s feathers to make her flag-wing’d, and so escape; but at last when they must needs come to a necessitated encounter, resumingcourage out of necessity, he turn’d face against her, and striking the hawke through the gorge, both fell down dead together.¹ This fight doth much resemble some great suit in law, where...

  20. Meditations Divine and Morall
    (pp. 171-180)
    Henry Tubbe

    Boldness is an ornament to a vertuous man; but when ’tis put on to boulster up a vicious act, nothing more odious. Bashful vertue ’tis a foolish sin, and bold vice is a sinful bravery. Too much modesty intangles the soule with many impediments; and overdaring drives headlong into infinite dangers. Remorse for sinning is a divine grace, but to be ashamed of goodnesse is the next way that leads to impiety. How many good natures have betray’d themselves for want of courage to deny an unreasonable importunity? As I would not stubbornly reject the worst request, so I shall...

  21. Historical Contemplations ... and Occasional Observations
    (pp. 181-186)
    Caleb Trenchfield

    Agesilaus playing¹ with his young son, and riding upon a reed to make him sport, was dirided by one of his familiars as being too vaine; to whom he answered,hold thy peace till thou thy self art a father, and then we will heare thy advice.When we meet with infirmities which have befallen some of the servants of God in their exigencies, we are ready to deride their weaknesse, or suspect their sincerity; but let us suspend our judgements till our soules be in their soules’ stead.

    The Minturnians² changing their purpose of slaying Caius Marius into purposes...

  22. Light in the Way to Paradise
    (pp. 187-192)
    Dudley North and Fourth Baron

    I have read in an Italian writer¹ of some estimation to this effect, that a desire and endeavour of attaining fulness of power over others, is very commendable, because it giveth men some measure of likeness unto God, the fountain of all perfection, one of whose chief attributes is his omnipotence. The assertion admits of some justification, as I conceive, but not the reason, for though we may take God for our pattern, in respect of his ethical and intellectual excellences (if I may so call them,) yet it savours too much of the Luciferian presumption,² to bear an emulating...

  23. Works Cited
    (pp. 193-196)
  24. Index
    (pp. 197-211)