Studies in the literary life of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury
The thesis considers his work in roughly chronological order, combining a biographical outline with detailed discussion of his major works, their origins and their influence. The first, on the poetry, takes as a starting-point his relationship with Donne, their exchange of ideas, and Herbert's commemoration of his friend in an unpublished, probably autograph volume of verse. The second takes his major philosophical work, De Veritate. and explores its development from the first manuscript (1619) to the last edition (1645), its divergences from the scholastic teaching he received at Oxford, and the response to the work among some of the leading European thinkers of the day. The third is concerned with Herbert's two works on historical subjects, one near-contemporary, the other on the previous century - the century of the English Reformation: his distinctive views on religion emerge - and hints of a cautious attempt to alert the King to the dangers of his unpopularity. The fourth and fifth chapters consider Herbert's two theological treatises. As with the historical works, one of these is addressed directly to a contemporary readership which is supposed to follow his precepts; the other is rooted in the past, less direct in its polemic, revealing a more profound and complex attitude to the problems he saw in organized religion. The last chapter is more textual than literary: it examines a much-disputed work, the Dialogue, with its manuscripts, with the aim of preparing the ground for a better edition than has yet been produced. The conclusion attempts to sum up Herbert's place in the life of the time, and his legacy to his intellectual "nepotes".