Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reading and Politics in Early Modern England: The Mental World of a Seventeenth-Century Catholic Gentleman

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reading and Politics in Early Modern England: The Mental World of a Seventeenth-Century Catholic Gentleman

Article excerpt

Reading and Politics in Early Modern England: The Mental World of a Seventeenth-Century Catholic Gentleman. By Geoff Baker. [Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern England.] (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. Distrib. Palgrave, New York. 2010. Pp. xiv, 236. $89.95. ISBN 978-0-7190-8024-1.)

This book offers the first full-length study of the papers ofWilliam Blundell of Little Crosby (1620-98), a Lancashire Catholic gentleman unremarkable for his career, wealth, or family-but who left us an archive of correspondence and commonplace books that has few equals in early-modern studies and that offers not only a rich portrait of an engaging individual but also a window onto a world.

Geoff Baker first explores Blundell's social networks of family and friends, through which he exchanged news, views, and literature and acted as a Catholic agent and patron. Through them, he also protected himself from trouble, particularly during the Civil Wars, when he faced sequestration and imprisonment as both a Royalist and a Catholic, but also from the perennial liability that came from adhering to an illegal religion. The second half of the book delves into the "approach to the world" illustrated by Blundell's commonplace books, largely private collections in which he copied out (and commented on) works of every genre on every subject from theology and natural philosophy to dueling. Baker explores how Blundell combined his commitment as a Catholic believer with his support for the "new science" movement; his interest in travel writing and ethnography; and his engagement with confessional polemic, which included producing at least one work of his own. Interesting details include Blundell's providing the Protestant Edmund Borlase with lists of (Catholic) sources for Borlase's work on the history of Ireland, hoping that his own input would "somewhat allay the spirit which poss[ess]eth his [Borlase's] party" (P-153). …

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