Category Archives: 1630’s

Item of the Day: William Shenstone’s Works (1764)

Full Title: The Works in Verse and Prose, of William Shenstone, Esq; Most of which were never before printed. In Two volumes, With Decorations. Vol I. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-mall. MDCCLXIV.


Ophelia’s Urn. To Mr. G——.

Thro’ the dim veil of ev’ning’s dusky shade,
Near some lone fane, or yew’s funereal green,
What dreary forms has magic fear survey’d!
What shrouded spectres superstition seen!

But you secure shall pour your sad complaint,
Nor dread the meagre phantom’s wan array;
What none but fear’s officious hand can paint,
What none, but superstition’s eye, survey.

The glim’ring twilight and the doubtful dawn
Shall see your step to these sad scenes return:
Constant, as crystal dews impearl the lawn,
Shall Strephon’s tear bedew Ophelia’s urn!

Sure nought unhallow’d shall presume to stray
Where sleep the reliques of that virtuous maid:
Nor aught unlovely bend its devious way,
Where soft Ophelia’s dear remains are laid.

Haply thy muse, as with unceasing sighs
She keeps late vigils on her urn reclin’d,
May see light groups of pleasing visions rise;
And phantoms glide, but of celestial kind.

Then same, her clarion pendent at her side,
Shall seek forgiveness of Ophelia’s shade;
“Why has such worth, without distinction, dy’d,
Why like the desert’s lilly, bloom’d to fade?

Then young simplicity, averse to feign,
Shall unmolested breathe her softest sigh:
And candour with unwonted warmth complain,
And innocence indulge a wailful cry.

Then elegance with coy judicious hand,
Shall cull fresh flow’rets for Ophelia’s tomb;
And beauty chide the sates’ severe command,
That shew’d the frailty of so fair a bloom!

And fancy then with wild ungovern’d woe,
Shall her lov’d pupil’s native taste explain;
For mournful sable all her hues forego,
And ask sweet solace of the muse in vain!

Ah gentle forms expect no fond relief;
Too much the sacred nine their loss deplore;
Well may ye grieve, nor find an end of grief —
Your best, your brightest fav’rite is no more.


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Filed under 1630's, 1760's, Poetry, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Chesterfield’s Letters to his Son (1774)

Full Title: Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden. Together with Several Other Pieces on Various Subjects. Published by Mrs. Eugenia Stanhope, from the Originals now in her Possession. Vol. I. Dubline: Printed by G. Faulkner, 1774.


London, February the 7th, O.S. 1749


Your are now come to an age capable of reflection, and I hope you will do, what, however, few people at your age do; exert it, for your own sake, in the search of truth and sound knowledge. I will confess (for I am not unwilling to discover my secrets to you) that it is not many years since I have presumed to reflect for myself. Till sixteen or seventeen, I had no reflection; and, for many years after that, I made no use of what I had. I adopted the notions of the books I read, or the company I kept, without examining whether they were just or not; and I rather chose to run the risk of easy error, than to take the time and trouble of investigating truth. Thus, partly from laziness, partly from dissipation, and partly from the mauvaise bonte of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth. But, since I have taken the trouble of reasoning for myself, and have had the courage to own that I do so, you cannot imagine how much my notions of things are altered, and in how different a light I now see them, from that in which I formerly viewed them, through the deceitful medium of prejudice or authority. Nay, I may possibly still retain many errors, which, from long habit, have perhaps grown into real opinions; for it is very difficult to distinguish habits, early acquired and long entertained, from the result of our reason and reflection.

My first prejudice (for I do not mention the prejudices of boys and women, such as hobgoblins, ghosts, dreams, spilling salt, &c.) was my classical enthusiasm, which I received from the books I read, and the masters who explained them to me. I was convinced there had been no common sense nor common honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred yeas; but that they were totally extinguished with the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer and Virgil could have no faults, because they were ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, because they were modern. And I could almost have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, very absurdly and unbecomingly for a Philosopher, says with regard to Plato, Cum quo errare malim quam cum aliis recte sentire. Whereas now, without any extraordinary effort of genius, I have discovered, that nature was the same three thousand years ago, as it is at present; that men were but men than as well as now; that modes and customs vary often, but that human nature is always the same. And I can no more suppose, that men were better, braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or vegetables were better then, than they are now. I dare assert too, in defiance of the favourers of the ancients, that Homer’s Hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the Hero of an Epic Poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defence of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w—e ; and then afterwards, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, in invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armour in the world; which I humbly ap0prehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe, clapped to his vulnerable heel, would have been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission to the favourers of the moderns, I assert, with Mr. Dryden, that the Devil is in truth, the Hero of Milton’s poem; His plan, which he lays, pursues, and at last executes, being the subject of the Poem. From all which considerations, I impartially conclude, that the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns; pedantry and affectation of learning, decide clearly in favour of the former; vanity and ignorance, as peremptorily, in favour of the latter. Religious prejudices kept pace with my classical ones; and there was a time when I thought I impossible for the honestest man in the world to be saved, out of the pale of the church of England: not considering the matters of opinion do not depend upon the will; and that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another man should differ in opinion from me, as that I should differ from him; and that, if we are both sincere, we are both blameless: and should consequently have mutual indulgence for each other.

The next prejudices that I adopted, were those of the beau monde; in which, as I was determined to shine, I took what are commonly called the genteel vices, to be necessary. I had heard them reckoned so, and, without farther inquiry, I believed it; or, at least, should have been ashamed to have denied it, for fear of exposing myself to the ridicule of those whom I considered as the models of fine gentlemen. But I now neither ashamed nor afraid to assert, that those genteel vices, as they are falsely called, are only to many blemishes in the character of even a man of the world, and what is called a fine gentleman, and degrade him in the opinions of those very people, to whom he hopes to recommend himself by them. Nay, this prejudice often extends so far, that I have known people pretend to vices they had not, instead of carefully concealing those they had. . . .

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Filed under 1630's, 1770's, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Hobbes’s Thucydides (1634)

Full Title:

Eight Bookes of the PELOPONNESIAN WARRE Written by THVCYDIDES the sonne of OLORVS. Interpreted with Faith and Diligence Immediately out of the Greeke By Thomas Hobbes Secretary to ye late Earle of Deuonshire.

Written by Thucydides, translated by Thomas Hobbes. With maps, illustrations, and errata from the first edition. Imprinted in London for Richard Mynne in Little Brittaine at the signe of :S: Paul, 1634.

From “To the Readers”:

THough this Translation haue already past the Censure of some, whose Iudgements I very much esteeme; yet, because there is something, I know not what, in the censure of a Multitude, more terrible then any single Iudgement, how seuere or exact soeuer, I haue thought it discretion in all men, that haue to doe with so many, and to me, in my want of perfection, necessary, to bespeake your Candor. Which that I may vpon the better reason hope for, I am willing to acquaint you briefly, upon what grounds I undertooke this Worke at first; and haue since, by publishing it, put my selfe upon the hazard of your censure, with so small hope of glory, as from a thing of this nature can be expected. For I know, there meere Translations, haue in them this property, that they may much disgrace, if not well done; but if well, not much commend the doer.

It hath beene noted by diuers, that Homer in Poesie, Aristotle in Philosophy, Demosthenes in Eloquence, and others of the Ancients, in other knowledge, do still maintaine their Primacy, none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any, in these later Ages. And in the number of these, is iustly ranked also our Thucydides; a Workeman no lesse perfect in his worke, then any of the former; and in whom (I beleeue with many others) the Faculty of writing History is at the highest. For the principall and proper worke of History, being to instruct, and enable men, by the knowledge of Actions past, to beare themselues prudently in the present, and prouidently towards the Future, there is not extant any other (merely humane) that doth more fully, and naturally performe it, then this of my Author. It is true, that there be many excellent and profitable Histories written since; and in some of them, there be inserted very wise discourses, both of Manners and Policie. But being discourses inserted, and not of the contexture of the Narration, they indeed commend the knowledge of the Writer, but not the History it selfe; the nature whereof, is meerely narratiue. In others, there bee subtile coniectures, at the secret aymes, and inward cogitations of such as fall vnder their Penne; which is also none of the least vertues in a History, where the coniecture is throughly grounded, not forced to serve the purpose of the Writer, in adorning his stile, or manifesting his subtilty in coniecturing. But these coniectures cannot often be certaine, unlesse withall so euident, that the narration it selfe may bve sufficient to suggest the same to the Reader. But Thucydides is one, who, though he neuer digresse to reade a Lecture, Morall or Politicall, upon his owne Text, nor enter into mens hearts, further then the actions themselues euidently guide him, is yet accounted the most Politique Historiographer that euer writ. The reason whereof I take to bee this: He filleth his Narrations with that choice of matter, and ordereth them with that Iudgment, and with such perspicuity and efficacy expresseth himselfe, that, as Plutarch saith, he maketh his Auditor a Spectator. For he settteh his Reader in the Assemblies of the People, and in the Senates, at their debating; in the Streets, at their Sedition; and in the Field, at their Battels. So that looke how much a man of understanding, might haue added to his experience, if he had then liued, a beholder of their proceedings, and familiar with the men, and businesse of the time; so much almost may be profit now, by attentiue reading of the same here written. He may from the narrations draw out lessons to himselfe, and of himselfe be able, to trace the drifts and counsailes of the Actors to their seate.

These Vertues of my Author did so take my affection, that they begat in me a desire to communicate him further; which was the first occasion that moued mee to translate him. For it is an errour we easily fall into, to beleeue, that what soeuer pleaseth vs, will be, in like manner and degree, acceptable to all; and to esteeme of one anothers Iudgment, as we agree in the liking, or dislike of the same things. And in this errour peraduenture was I, when I thought, that as many of the more iudicious, as I should communicate him to, would affect him as much as I my selfe did. I considered also, that he was exceedingly esteemed of the Italians and French in their owne Tongues; notwithstanding that he bee not uery much beholding for it to his Interpreters. Of whom (to speake no more then becomes a Candidate of your good opinion in the same kinde) I may say this, That whereas the Author himselfe, so carrieth with him his owne light throughout, that the Reader may continually see his way before him, and by that which goeth before, expect what is to follow, I found it not so in them. The cause whereof, and their excuse may bee this: They followed the Latine of Laurentius Valla, which was not without some errours, and he a Greeke Copie, not so correct as now is extant. Out of French hee was done into English, (for I neede not dissemble to haue seene him in English) in the time of King Edward the sixth; but so, as by multiplication of errour, hee became at length traduced, rather then translated into our Language. Hereupon I resolued to take him immediately from the Greeke, according to the Edition of Æmilius Porta; not refuting, or neglecting any uersion, Comment, or other helpe I could come by. Knowing that when with Diligence and Leasure I should haue done it, though some error might remaine, yet they would be errors but of one decent; of which neuerthelesse I can discouer none, and hope they bee not many. After I had finished it, it lay long by mee, and other reasons taking place, my desire to communicate it ceased.

For I saw, that, for the greatest part, men came to the reading of History, with an affection much like that of the People, in Rome, who came to the spectacle of the Gladiators, with more dlight to behold their bloud, then their Skill in Fencing. For they be farre more in number, that loue to read of great Armies, bloudy Battels, and many thousands slaine at once, then that minde the Art, by which, the Affaires, both of Armies, and Cities, be conducted to their ends. I obserued likewise that there were not many, whose eares were well accustomed to the names of the places they shall meet with in this Histroy; without the knowledge whereof, it can neither patiently be read ouer, perfectly vnderstood, nor easily remembred.

From “The Oration of the Ambassadours of CORCYRA”:

MEN of Athens, It is but Iustice, that such as come to implore the ayde of their neighbours, (as now doe wee) and cannot pretend by any great benefit or League, some precedent merit, should before they goe any futher, make it appeare, principally, that what they seeke conferreth profit, or if not so, yet it is not prejudiciall at least, to those that are to grant it: and next, that they will bee constantly thankfull for the same. And if they cannot doe this, then not to take it ill, though their suite bee rejected. And the Corcyræans being fully perswaded that they can make all this appeare on their owne parts, haue therefore sent us hither, desiring you to ascribe them to the number of your Confederates. Now so it is, that we haue had a Coustome, both vnreasonable in respect of our Suite to you, and also for the present vnprofitable to our owne estate. For, hauing euer till now, beene vnwilling to admit others into League with vs, we are now not onely suiters for League to others, but also left destitute by that meanes, of friends in this our Warre with the Corinthians. And that which before wee thought wisdome, namely, not to enter with others into League, because wee would not at the discretion of others enter into danger, wee now finde to haue beene our weaknesse, and imprudence. Wherefore, though alone wee repulsed the Corinthians, in the late Battell by Sea, yet since they are set to inuade us with greater preparation, out of Peloponnesus, and the rest of Greece; and seeing with our owne single power we are not able to goe through; and since also the danger, in case they subdue vs, would bee very great to all Greece; it is both necessary that wee seeke the succours, both of you, and of whomsoeuer else wee can; and we are also to be pardoned, though we make bold to crosse our former custome of not hauing to doe with other men, proceeding not from malice, but error of iudgement. Now if you yeeld vnto vs, in what wee request, this coincidence (on our part) of need, will on your part bee honourable, for many reasons. First, in this respect, that you lend your helpe to such as haue suffered, and not to such as haue committed the iniustice. And next, considering that you receiue into League, such as haue a testimony of it, if euer any can be so indeleble. Besides this, the greatest Nauie but your owne, is ours: Consider then, what rarer hap, and of greater griefe to your enemies, can befall you, then that that power, which you would haue prized aboue any money, or other requitall, should come uoluntarily, and without all danger or cost, present it selfe to your hands; bringing with it reputation amongst most men; a gratefull minde from those you defend; and strength to your selues. All which haue not happened at once to many. And few there bee of those that sue for League, that come not rather to receiue strength, and reputation, then to conferre it: If any heere thinke, that the Warre wherein wee may doe you seruice, will not at all bee, hee is in an errour, and seeth not, how the Lacedæmonians, through feare of you, are already in labour of the Warre; and that the Corinthians, gracious with them, and enemies to you, making way for their Enterprize, assault us now, in the way to the invasion of you heereafter, that wee may not stand amongst the rest of their common Enemies, but that they may be sure before-hand, either to weaken vs, or to strengthen their owne estate.

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Filed under 1630's, History, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Bacon’s Essayes (1632)

Full Title:

The Essayes or, Covnsels, Civill and Morall: of Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount St. Alban. With a Table of the Colours, or Apparances of Good and Evill, and their Degrees, as Places of Perswasion, and Disswasion, and their Severall Fallaxes, and the Elenches of them. Newly enlarged.

Written by Francis Bacon. Contains table and Of the Colours of Good and Evill, a Fragment. Printed in London by John Beale, 1639.

“Of Superstition”:

IT were better to have no Opinion of God at all, than such an Opinion as is unworthy of him: For the one is Unbeleefe, the other is Contumely: And certainely Superstition is the Reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: Surely (saith he) I had rather, a great deale, Men should say there was no such thing as Man at all, as Plutarch, than that they should say, there there was one Plutarch, that would eat his Children, as soone as they were borne; As the Poets speake of Saturne. And, as the Contumely is greater towards God, so the Danger is greater towards Men. Atheisme leaves a Man to Sense; to Philosophy; to Naturall Piety; to Lawes; to Reputation; All which may be Guides to an outward Morall vertue, though Religion were not; But Superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute Monarchy in the Mindes of Men. Therefore Atheisme did never perturbe States; For it makes Men wary of themselves, as looking no further: And we see the times inclined to Atheisme (as the Time of Augustus Cæsar) were civill times. But Superstition hath beene the Confusion of Many States; And bringeth in a new Primum Mobile, that ravisheth all the Spheares of Government. The Master of Superstition is the People; And in all Superstition, Wise Men follow Fooles; And Arguments are fitted to Practise, in a reversed Order. It was gravely said, by some of the Prelates, in the Counsell of Trent, where the doctrine of the Schoolemen bare great Sway; That the Schoolemen were like Astronomers, which did feigne Eccentricks and Epicycles, and such Engines of Orbs, to save the Phenomena; though they knew, there were no such Things: And in like manner, that the Schoolemen had framed a Number of subtile and intricate Axiomes, and Theorems, to save the practice of the Church. The Causes of Superstition are; Pleasing and sensuall Rites and Ceremonies: Excesse of Outward and Pharisaicall Holinesse: Over great Reverence of Traditions, which cannot but load the Church: The Stratagems of Prelates for their owne Ambition and Lucre: The Favouring too much of Good Intentions which openeth the Gate to Conceits and Novelties: The taking an Aime at divine Matters by Humane, which cannot but breed mixture of Imaginations: And lastly, Barbarous Times, Especially joyned with Calamities and Disasters. Superstition, without a vaile, is a deformed Thing; For, as it addeth deformity to an Ape, to be so like a Man; So the Similitude of Superstition to Religion, makes it the more deformed. And as wholesome Meat corrupteth to little Wormes; So good Formes and Orders, corrupt into a Number of petty Observances. There is a Superstition, in avoiding Superstition; when men thinke to doe best if they go furthest from the Superstition formerly received: Therefore, Care would be had, that (as it fareth in ill Purgings) the good be not taken away, with the Bad, which commonly is done, when the People is the Reformer.

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Filed under 1630's, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Religion

Item of the Day: Coke’s Institutes of the Lawes of England (1633)

Full Title:

The First Part of the Institutes of The Lawes of England: or A Commentary upon Littleton, not the name of a Lawyer only, but of the Law it selfe. Authore EDW. COKE Milite. The third Edition, corrected.

Written by Sir Edward Coke. A marvelous example of seventeenth-century typesetting and engraving. Plate two is “The true portraiture of Judge Littleton the famous English Lawyer.” Printed in London by M.F.I.H. and R.Y. Assignes of I. More Esquire, 1633.

From the Preface:

I shall desire, That the learned Reader will not conceiue any opinion against any part of this painfull and large Volume, vntill hee shall haue aduisedly read ouer the whole, and diligently searched out and wellconsidered of the seuerall Authorities, Proofes, and Reasons which wee haue cited and set downe for warrant and confirmation of our opinions thorow out this whole worke.

Mine aduice to the Student is, That before hee reade any part of our Commentaries upon any Section, that first he reade againe and againe our Author himselfe in that Section, and doe his best endeuours, first of himselfe, and them by conference with others, (which is the life of Study) to vnderstand it, and then to reade our Commentarie thereupon, and no more at any one time, than he is able with delight to beare away, and after to meditate thereon, which is the life of reading. But of this Argument wee haue for the better direction of our Student in his Study, spoken in our Epistle to our first Booke of Reports.

And albeit the Reader shall not at any one day (doe what he can) reach to the meaning of our Author, or of our Commentaries, yet let him no way discourage himselfe, but proceed; for on some other day, in some other place, that doubt will bee cleared. Our Labours herein are drawne out to this great Volume, for that our Authour is twice repeated, once in French and againe in English.

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Filed under 1630's, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt