The spiritual side of Samuel Richardson : mysticism, behmenism and millenarianism in an eighteenth-century english novelist

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Dokumentart: Book
Date: 2003
Source: ISBN 90-9017087-1; gleichzeitig Univ. Leiden, Diss. 2003
Language: English
Faculty: 9 Sonstige / Externe
Department: Sonstige/Externe
DDC Classifikation: 820 - English and Old English literatures
Keywords: Richardson, Samuel , Cheyne, George
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Between 1740 and 1754 Samuel Richardson, a busy and successful printer in London, wrote three novels which were to have a major impact on European literature. Possibly as a result of the prevalent tendency of feminist and Freudian critics to secularize eighteenth-century texts and to deny any spiritual meaning to them, Richardson has most often been accused of having an obsession with sex, which has led, in the second half of the twentieth century to an avalanche of Freudian criticism, beyond the scope of this study. It is my objective, therefore, to carry out an investigation into English religious and philosophical thought during the first half of the eighteenth century focussing on Richardson, on his second novel Clarissa but especially on his third and last novel Sir Charles Grandison, which he considered to be his magnum opus. As we progress it will become clear how the mystically inclined George Cheyne, a Newtonian physician and Behmenist, was the link between certain seventeenth-century ideas as expressed by Boehme, the Quakers, Fénelon, Poiret, and those found in William Law’s works, especially after 1735, as well as in Richardson’s last two novels. Cheyne’s works clearly show that certain Enlightenment objectives were mixed with the late seventeenth-and eighteenth-century counter-movement of mystical or radical Pietism with its emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. This led to a confrontation between the defenders of Light and the defenders of Enlightenment. Richardson did not seek his friends among the leading writers of his time, because he felt that they misapplied their genius. It is essential for a better appreciation of Richardson to find out with whom he did find his friends and acquaintances whose influence stimulated him to write his three novels by which he depicted the evolutionary growth towards his own distinctive and powerful vision of a new world. In order to achieve my objective I will discuss in the first chapter Richardson’s printing career with special attention to those works which reveal his spiritual side. Chapters 2 and 3 will explore the relationship between Richardson and Cheyne, which extended over a period of about nine years, from 1734 to 1743, when Cheyne died. The aim of these chapters is to show similarities between Cheyne and Richardson’s psychological make-up and to point at instances where Cheyne may have exerted an influence on Richardson. I will put Richardson in an international context, showing his acquaintance with the works of the French Protestant theologian Pierre Poiret, who spent the largest part of his life in Holland and who influenced the whole Pietistic movement, and the Swiss Henry Wetstein, publisher in Amsterdam of Poiret, Boehme, Bourignon, Guyon and other mystics. Richardson’s familiarity with the Theologia Germanica will also be discussed as well as his interest in the East. The fourth chapter will examine the relationship between Richardson and Law, while chapter 5 will be concerned with the direct influence of Boehme on Richardson. Chapter 6 will trace Richardson’s millenarian ideas, concentrating on Richardson’s own vision or utopian dream of the preparations for a better world in Sir Charles Grandison. Finally, we will see in the last chapter how Richardson conveyed his own Utopian dream in Sir Charles Grandison, expressing his belief that the “truly pious” can be found in all Christian denominations. He even went further and suggested that the truly pious can be found beyond Christianity, which is quite an extraordinary idea for an “ordinary” printer of the first half of the eighteenth century.

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