The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and Their Friends, 1642-1684

The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and Their Friends, 1642-1684

The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and Their Friends, 1642-1684

The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and Their Friends, 1642-1684

Synopsis

This book is the record of a remarkable friendship between the Cambridge Platonist Henry More and one of the foremost women intellectuals of the seventeenth century, Lady Anne Conway. The letters cover a wide range of topics--personal, philosophical, religious, and social, and they give a detailed picture of the More-Conway circle which included such figures as Jeremy Taylor, Ralph Cudworth, Robert Boyle, and William Penn. This revised edition reprints all the letters from the original 1930 edition, together with Marjorie Nicolson's biographical account of Anne Conway and Henry More, with its emphasis on the personal side of their relationship. A new appendix contains important letters not included in the first edition, among them the early discussion of Cartesianism. The introduction by Sarah Hutton sets the book in the context of recent scholarship.

Excerpt

Too often, to those who view it from afar, the way of scholarship may seem like the way of the transgressor! Casual observers undoubtedly believe it only that monotonous

plain with a name of its own, And a certain use in the world, no doubt,

of which Browning wrote with some impatience, an all-too-rare eagle's feather the sole reward of arduous and trying labor. But the travelers on the plain know the fascination of the search, the excitement of opening the covers of a forgotten book, and coming upon ideas so old as to be new, the curious response which seems like reminiscence, with which, in a neglected periodical, one recognizes a familiar voice in an unsigned article, the tenseness of surmise with which at a crucial moment one turns to a manuscript, old, torn, and dirty, upon which perhaps no other eyes have gazed for centuries. Is there, one wonders, such enchantment elsewhere in the world? The scientist, to be sure, knows an interest of another kind, as he beholds enthralled the emergence from what has been of something that never was before. The musician undergoes an experience unknown to any other if "out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound but a star". But these are gods, not men! To the delver into forgotten records, the resurrector of the past, there is the added charm of reality, of tradition and reminiscence, the sadness of human forgetfulness. These people once were; they lived and aspired. If they seem to us now enchanted figures in a romantic world, it was nevertheless a world which really existed.

Sadly enough, the great discoveries of scholarship remain often for a generation or a century unknown to any save a few. The brilliant intuitions of a mind too profound for the comprehension of other men's minds, the unwearied and patient toil which labors upon a task too vast for one man's life--these in their generation have no "popular" appeal. But occasionally that whimsical and fickle Lady Fortune, with neither reason nor justice, showers upon the least deserving of her suitors more molted feathers than even the unworthy ever sought. The scholar begs for facts; he cannot ask Romance. It would have been enough for the compiler of these pages, tracking her quarry down the centuries, had she been permitted to find only what she once sought--some few letters or other documents which would establish "influences" or "sources" (words revered of "Scholarship"!). She would have been content to devote her days to "Philosophy", and to seek "Romance" between the paper covers of less learned books in the night watches. But prodigal Fortune in a merry mood showered wealth with all her many hands. For the seventeenthcentury correspondence upon which the compiler stumbled turned out to be not only extensive and full beyond all expectation, but in the truest sense, "romantic".

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