Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin

Hardcover | February 1, 2003

byFrances Harris

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The most controversial episode in the life of the seventeenth-century virtuoso and diarist John Evelyn has always been his passionate, complex friendship with the Restoration maid of honour Margaret Blagge, afterwards Mrs Godolphin. His 'Life of Mrs Godolphin', written after her early death inchildbirth, exalted the friendship and represented her as effectively a saint. They saw their intense friendship as platonic spiritual mentoring. Yet it is sometimes argued that what took place between them was actually a kind of seduction on Evelyn's part; that far from trying to overcome herreligious scruples about marriage to a young man she deeply loved, as he afterwards claimed, he secretly encouraged them in order to keep her in his power, and even falsified some documents to conceal this from her husband, whose patronage he sought. Was Evelyn in his way as much a sexual predatoras the Restoration rakes he professed to despise, or does the episode provide a window on an unexplored aspect of early modern spirituality? Undoubtedly there was more to the friendship than Evelyn publicly admitted, but it remains a puzzle still to be interpreted. This new study is based on Evelyn's papers, now fully accessible for the first time, and on important and hitherto unknown correspondence between Margaret Blagge and her future husband. It situates the episode fully within the pre- and post-Reformation debates concerning marriage and friendship (thelatter seen by some as 'more a sacrament' than marriage) and the long traditions of platonic love and intense friendships between men and women in religious contexts. Its diverse and vividly realized settings include the glamorous, disreputable public household of the Restoration court and the greatgardens of the day, at once 'little worlds' in microcosm and recreations of paradise on earth.

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From the Publisher

The most controversial episode in the life of the seventeenth-century virtuoso and diarist John Evelyn has always been his passionate, complex friendship with the Restoration maid of honour Margaret Blagge, afterwards Mrs Godolphin. His 'Life of Mrs Godolphin', written after her early death inchildbirth, exalted the friendship and repr...

Frances Harris is a Senior Curator of Manuscripts, British Library.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:338 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.96 inPublished:February 1, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199252572

ISBN - 13:9780199252572

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPrologue1. The Garden and the River2. Man of the Shade3. Nuptial Love4. Courtly Love5. Conversion6. Seraphick Love7. The Serpent in the Garden8. The Marriage Masque9. Godly HousekeepingEpilogueAppendicesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`eloquent, measured interpretation'Gillian Darley, Literary Review