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The Holy and the Daemonic from Sir Thomas Browne to William Blake

The Holy and the Daemonic from Sir Thomas Browne to William Blake

Copyright Date: 1982
Pages: 406
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    The Holy and the Daemonic from Sir Thomas Browne to William Blake
    Book Description:

    Focusing particularly on literary texts, but including biographical and intellectual background, this study examines numinous feeling as it is recorded by a number of seventeenth and eighteenth-century writers: Browne, Drydcn, Pascal; Pope and Swift; Hume and Johnson; eight other poets, including Watts, Smart, Cowper, and Blake; and four novelists, including Richardson, Radcliffe, and Monk" Lewis. Professor Stock demonstrates that the Enlightenment was far more complicated than can be grasped by an exclusive focus on its rationalism and skepticism.

    Originally published in 1982.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5705-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Plates
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTORY: The Demons and the Scholars
    (pp. 3-8)

    I have indulged here an interest in two subjects that may seem ill-sorted: the non-rational or supranatural side of religious experience and the “Age of Rationalism.” Most experts on the eighteenth century trace there a lively campaign by some intellectuals to secularize man’s view of himself and the world. God as First Cause or Clockmaker was tolerated—so long as he did not meddle with the cosmic machinery and was not required too often to wind the Clock. But the full depth and range of religious experience was rationalized away or derided as superstition and fanaticism. Modern scholars may celebrate...

  5. CHAPTER I The Plurality of Brave New Worlds: the Numen and the Lumen
    (pp. 9-23)

    When InThe TempestMiranda marvels at the diversity of life beyond her island home, she exclaims; “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” “Tis new to thee,” says Prospero, mingling paternal affection with a dulcet irony. Although his rejoinder is less often quoted than Miranda’s interjection, one is apt to recall it when encountering yet another inventory of “new world-views” hatched by the Enlightenment, the Restoration, or the Renaissance. In fact the idea of a “brave new world” is nowadays seldom treated with much grandiosity or hopefulness. The title of Louis I. Bredvold's belligerent tory study,...

  6. CHAPTER II High Doctrines of the Holy: The Supposed Fideism of Sir Thomas Browne, Dryden, and Pascal
    (pp. 24-60)

    Donne’s contemptuous dismissal of the new philosophy had behind it the authority of a strong character, but less robust souls craved a more methodical attack. The defenders of religion can be classed as follows. There were the Deists, who attempted to ground religion on reason. At best a shivery compromise with rationalism, Deism failed to flourish and was moribund by the middle of the eighteenth century. Opposing the Deists were Fideists, for whom, despairing altogether of reason, supernatural revelation and dogma were the foundations of faith. But Fideism is a radical position, as close to skepticism as Deism to rationalism....

  7. CHAPTER III The Witch of Endor and the Gadarene Swine: The Debate over Witchcraft and Miracles in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
    (pp. 61-116)

    On 13–14 March, 1664/65 ,at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, Rose Cullender and Amy Duny were tried and convicted for bewitching several children. The judge was Sir Matthew Hale, renowned for his learning and his moderation. The evidence was of a sort familiar to students of the New England trials: hysterical fits, unaccountable afflictions such as lameness, untoward events such as the vomiting of pins and nails, the appearance of some specters and a great toad that, when cast into the fire, exploded with a preternatural flash and sharp report. A contemporary account mentions the testimony of one “Dr Brown...

  8. CHAPTER IV Propping with a Twig: Rationalism and Daemonianism in Pope and Swift
    (pp. 117-160)

    In the preceding chapters I have tried to pick a bit at some lax assumptions. I have argued that the Restoration “Fideists,” though skeptical of reason, made much use of it in their religious writings, that the believers in witchcraft considered themselves empiricists and moderates, that some of the skeptics were occultists and, far from being tolerant, were often disagreeable zealots. Browne, Dryden, and Pascal, the believers in witchcraft and miracles, should all be seen, against their age, as reasonable travelers of the middle way. But I have also allowed that the skeptics did indeed lay the groundwork for what...

  9. CHAPTER V Terror and Awe in Mid-Century Poetry: Watts, Akenside, Thomson, Young
    (pp. 161-200)

    In the preface (1709) to hisHoiae LyricaeIsaac Watts claims for the province of poetry “the scenes of religion in their proper figures of majesty, sweetness, and terror!... the inimitable love and passions of a dying God; the awful glories of the last tribunal; the grand decisive sentence, from which there is no appeal; and the consequent transports or horrors of the two eternal worlds.” As a catalogue of those scenes omitted fromAn Essay on Man,this is admirable, although a few of them are to be found in the pejorative passage on Superstition. But what Pope was...

  10. CHAPTER VI Skeptical and Reverent Empiricism: Hume and Johnson
    (pp. 201-258)

    Nearly exact contemporaries , Hume and Johnson are both vibrantly empirical, moderately skeptical, mistrustful of social and political innovation and religious enthusiasm, alert to the sophistries of self-deception. Like most exceptional thinkers, they resist the established categories. Hume’s recognition of the limits of reason distinguishes him from the rationalists, whose premises, indeed, he seriously defies. Johnson’s religious views, intricate and scrupulous, separate him from the apologetics, so often equivocating, aesthetic, or sentimental, to which many pious writers of the time resort. I have grumbled in previous chapters about the exaggerating of an “intellectual crisis” supposed to have occurred in the...

  11. CHAPTER VII Spiritual Horror in the Novel: Richardson, Radcliffe, Beckford, Lewis
    (pp. 259-313)

    Plenary studies of the Gothic novel get off to a very lame start with an obligatory inspection ofThe Castle of Otranto, published on Christmas Eve,1764, and written by that elsewhere very lively antiquary and epistolist Horace Walpole. Such studies then try to explain the great popularity of that uncommonly silly book by discovering that it was a Iongyearned-for reaction against arid and passionless neo-classicism. Thus, even the best of the studies wind up contrasting the Gothic writers with the earlier “Augustans” who “dared not step outside the sparkling life of their trim and brilliant salons.” That timid and...

  12. CHAPTERVIII Religious Love and Fear in Late Century Poetry: Smart, Wesley, Cowper, Blake
    (pp. 314-373)

    The early aesthetics of terror and awe, the bourgeoning cult of horror and the sublime: these throw some light on mid-century poets and late-century novelists. Since mine is neither a philosophical nor a social study, I have blinked the question whether these theories were propelling public taste and the writers who gratified it or were but canalizing that taste. We seem unable to sort out that matter with respect to our own time, and are not apt to settle it for the eighteenth century. It is no less difficult to say with any exactitude how these four poets connect with...

  13. EPILOGUE: The Next Stage
    (pp. 374-386)

    Such is the ideology of Weston, zealot of scientism, declaimed just before he is commandeered by Legion and falls to the ground in convulsions; for him, personally, the next stage is daemonianism. Like Blake, Weston denies the dualism of good and evil, disdains routine morality, venerates energy and force. With Jung, he conjectures that the holy and the daemonic, anciently joined and since divorced, may be reconciled in some new state as yet unexemplified in any sublunary cult. Weston, in fine, is one species of the modern sensibility, and has all the whig critic’s confidence in progressive enlightenment and naturalism:...

  14. INDEX
    (pp. 387-395)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 396-396)