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

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9780199270323: Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin
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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 in childbirth, 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 her religious 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 predator as 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 (the latter 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 great gardens of the day, at once 'little worlds' in microcosm and recreations of paradise on earth.

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"Told with perfect sympathy and backed by a profound knowledge of the period.... There is hardly a page in the book that does not offer an insight into the life of the 17th century, or a vista to be explored further." "In her subtle analysis, [Harris] places Evelyn and Blagge's relationship in the context of the post-Reformation ideal of seraphic love and in the tradition of intense friendships between men and women in religious settings.... She throws light not only on the inner lives of her subjects but also on the religion, court culture, philosophy, concepts of femininity, sexual mores, and--not least--horticulture of seventeenth-century England. With a delicate but sure hand Harris has accomplished the highest and most difficult task of the historian: she has allowed us to understand the past on its own terms. Her piercing, quietly stylish work is without question one of the best histories of the year."--The Atlantic Monthly "Frances Harris has written a breathtaking book.... This work of impeccable scholarship excavates the sensibility of the times with such discretion and delicacy that we are able to understand and enter into the relationship without scepticism.... Transformations of Love is also a fantastically good read. Harris wears her considerable scholarship lightly. She writes like an angel. She can conjure up each lived moment--with graceful ease. This is a page turner, to be read at one sitting.... We simply could not have two better books to enrich our understanding of the vibrant, complex second half of the 17th century in England than that offered by Harris and Tomalin together."--Lisa Jardine, The Times [London] "Frances Harris has now written a beautifully considered account of the amitie amoureuse that arose between these two unlikely partners. It is told with perfect sympathy and backed by a profound knowledge of the period and the archives that allows her to throw new light on Evelyn.... She succeeds so well that even a reader with no understanding of religious fervour is touched. In every aspect of the story her approach is delicate and generous and there is hardly a page in the book that does not offer an insight into the life of the 17th century, or a vista to be explored further."--Claire Tomalin, The Guardian "In this meticulous book [Harris] presents a finely balanced and doubtless definitive view of what must be one of the most complexly motivated of human relationships.... She also gives an impressively inward account of the pressures bearing down on a relatively poor Maid of Honour in the Court of Charles II."--London Review of Books "A supremely readable book.... Harris's lengthy treatment of the relationship between Margaret Blagge and Evelyn is thoughtful and persuasive.... Transformations of Love successfully recasts the infamous relationship between Evelyn and Godolphin, as well as presenting a rich and intriguing study of spiritual friendship and Restoration marriage."--Seventeenth-Century News "Excellent.... Harris successfully revises our understanding of the relationship, conducted largely at court, between the young court beauty Margaret Blagge and John Evelyn, the thinker and civil servant.... Harris adds considerably to what we know of religious life in [the court]."--Albion "Harris's book is a deeply considered and nuanced portrait of the psychology of friendship and spirituality in an age often thought to have precious little of either.... What emerges from her work is not only an intimate portrait of the relationship between Evelyn and Blagge, but also a wonderful rendering of their voices, internal and in conversation, an achievement made possible by the depth of Harris's scholarship and by the exact sense of quotation with which she constructs this story."--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 "In her subtle analysis, [Harris] places Evelyn and Blagge's relationship in the context of the post-Reformation ideal of seraphic love and in the tradition of intense friendships between men and women in religious settings.... She throws light not only on the inner lives of her subjects but also on the religion, court culture, philosophy, concepts of femininity, sexual mores, and--not least--horticulture of seventeenth-century England. With a delicate but sure hand Harris has accomplished the highest and most difficult task of the historian: she has allowed us to understand the past on its own terms. Her piercing, quietly stylish work is without question one of the best histories of the year."--The Atlantic Monthly "Frances Harris has written a breathtaking book.... This work of impeccable scholarship excavates the sensibility of the times with such discretion and delicacy that we are able to understand and enter into the relationship without scepticism.... Transformations of Love is also a fantastically good read. Harris wears her considerable scholarship lightly. She writes like an angel. She can conjure up each lived moment--with graceful ease. This is a page turner, to be read at one sitting.... We simply could not have two better books to enrich our understanding of the vibrant, complex second half of the 17th century in England than that offered by Harris and Tomalin together."--Lisa Jardine, The Times [London] "Frances Harris has now written a beautifully considered account of the amitie amoureuse that arose between these two unlikely partners. It is told with perfect sympathy and backed by a profound knowledge of the period and the archives that allows her to thrownew light on Evelyn.... She succeeds so well that even a reader with no understanding of religious fervour is touched. In every aspect of the story her approach is delicate and generous and there is hardly a page in the book that does not offer an insight into the life of the 17th century, or a vista to be explored further."--Claire Tomalin, The Guardian "In this meticulous book [Harris] presents a finely balanced and doubtless definitive view of what must be one of the most complexly motivated of human relationships.... She also gives an impressively inward account of the pressures bearing down on a relatively poor Maid of Honour in the Court of Charles II."--London Review of Books "A supremely readable book.... Harris's lengthy treatment of the relationship between Margaret Blagge and Evelyn is thoughtful and persuasive.... Transformations of Love successfully recasts the infamous relationship between Evelyn and Godolphin, as well as presenting a rich and intriguing study of spiritual friendship and Restoration marriage."--Seventeenth-Century News "Excellent.... Harris successfully revises our understanding of the relationship, conducted largely at court, between the young court beauty Margaret Blagge and John Evelyn, the thinker and civil servant.... Harris adds considerably to what we know of religious life in [the court]."--Albion "Harris's book is a deeply considered and nuanced portrait of the psychology of friendship and spirituality in an age often thought to have precious little of either.... What emerges from her work is not only an intimate portrait of the relationship between Evelyn and Blagge, but also a wonderful rendering of their voices, internal and inconversation, an achievement made possible by the depth of Harris's scholarship and by the exact sense of quotation with which she constructs this story."--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 "In her subtle analysis, [Harris] places Evelyn and Blagge's relationship in the context of the post-Reformation ideal of seraphic love and in the tradition of intense friendships between men and women in religious settings.... She throws light not only on the inner lives of her subjects but also on the religion, court culture, philosophy, concepts of femininity, sexual mores, and--not least--horticulture of seventeenth-century England. With a delicate but sure hand Harris has accomplished the highest and most difficult task of the historian: she has allowed us to understand the past on its own terms. Her piercing, quietly stylish work is without question one of the best histories of the year."--The Atlantic Monthly "Frances Harris has written a breathtaking book.... This work of impeccable scholarship excavates the sensibility of the times with such discretion and delicacy that we are able to understand and enter into the relationship without scepticism.... Transformations of Love is also a fantastically good read. Harris wears her considerable scholarship lightly. She writes like an angel. She can conjure up each lived moment--with graceful ease. This is a page turner, to be read at one sitting.... We simply could not have two better books to enrich our understanding of the vibrant, complex second half of the 17th century in England than that offered by Harris and Tomalin together."--Lisa Jardine, The Times [London] "Frances Harris has now written a beautifully considered account of the amitie amoureuse that arose between these two unlikely partners. It is told with perfect sympathy and backed by a profound knowledge ofthe period and the archives that allows her to throw new light on Evelyn.... She succeeds so well that even a reader with no understanding of religious fervour is touched. In every aspect of the story her approach is delicate and generous and there is hardly a page in the book that does not offer an insight into the life of the 17th century, or a vista to be explored further."--Claire Tomalin, The Guardian "In this meticulous book [Harris] presents a finely balanced and doubtless definitive view of what must be one of the most complexly motivated of human relationships.... She also gives an impressively inward account of the pressures bearing down on a relatively poor Maid of Honour in the Court of Charles II."--London Review of Books "A supremely readable book.... Harris's lengthy treatment of the relationship between Margaret Blagge and Evelyn is thoughtful and persuasive.... Transformations of Love successfully recasts the infamous relationship between Evelyn and Godolphin, as well as presenting a rich and intriguing study of spiritual friendship and Restoration marriage."--Seventeenth-Century News "Excellent.... Harris successfully revises our understanding of the relationship, conducted largely at court, between the young court beauty Margaret Blagge and John Evelyn, the thinker and civil servant.... Harris adds considerably to what we know of religious life in [the court]."--Albion "Harris's book is a deeply considered and nuanced portrait of the psychology of friendship and spirituality in an age often thought to have precious little of either.... What emerges from her work is not only an intimate portrait ofthe relationship between Evelyn and Blagge, but also a wonderful rendering of their voices, internal and in conversation, an achievement made possible by the depth of Harris's scholarship and by the exact sense of quotation with which she constructs this story."--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 "In her subtle analysis, [Harris] places Evelyn and Blagge's relationship in the context of the post-Reformation ideal of seraphic love and in the tradition of intense friendships between men and women in religious settings.... She throws light not only on the inner lives of her subjects but also on the religion, court culture, philosophy, concepts of femininity, sexual mores, and--not least--horticulture of seventeenth-century England. With a delicate but sure hand Harris has accomplished the highest and most difficult task of the historian: she has allowed us to understand the past on its own terms. Her piercing, quietly stylish work is without question one of the best histories of the year."--The Atlantic Monthly "Frances Harris has written a breathtaking book.... This work of impeccable scholarship excavates the sensibility of the times with such discretion and delicacy that we are able to understand and enter into the relationship without scepticism.... Transformations of Love is also a fantastically good read. Harris wears her considerable scholarship lightly. She writes like an angel. She can conjure up each lived moment--with graceful ease. This is a page turner, to be read at one sitting.... We simply could not have two better books to enrich our understanding of the vibrant, complex second half of the 17th century in England than that offered by Harris and Tomalin together."--Lisa Jardine, The Times [London] "Frances Harris has now written a beautifully considered account of the amitie amoureuse that arose between these two unlikely partners. It is told with perfect sympathy and backed by a profound knowledge of the period and the archives that allows herto throw new light on Evelyn.... She succeeds so well that even a reader with no understanding of religious fervour is touched. In every aspect of the story her approach is delicate and generous and there is hardly a page in the book that does not offer an insight into the life of the 17th century, or a vista to be explored further."--Claire Tomalin, The Guardian "In this meticulous book [Harris] presents a finely balanced and doubtless definitive view of what must be one of the most complexly motivated of human relationships.... She also gives an impressively inward account of the pressures bearing down on a relatively poor Maid of Honour in the Court of Charles II."--London Review of Books "A supremely readable book.... Harris's lengthy treatment of the relationship between Margaret Blagge and Evelyn is thoughtful and persuasive.... Transformations of Love successfully recasts the infamous relationship between Evelyn and Godolphin, as well as presenting a rich and intriguing study of spiritual friendship and Restoration marriage."--Seventeenth-Century News "Excellent.... Harris successfully revises our understanding of the relationship, conducted largely at court, between the young court beauty Margaret Blagge and John Evelyn, the thinker and civil servant.... Harris adds considerably to what we know of religious life in [the court]."--Albion "Harris's book is a deeply considered and nuanced portrait of the psychology of friendship and spirituality in an age often thought to have precious little of either.... What emerges from her work is not only an intimate portrait of the relationship between Evelyn and Blagge, but also a wonderful rendering of theirvoices, internal and in conversation, an achievement made possible by the depth of Harris's scholarship and by the exact sense of quotation with which she constructs this story."--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 "In her subtle analysis, Harris places Evelyn and Blagge's relationship in the context of the post-Reformation ideal of seraphic love and in the tradition of intense friendships between men and women in religious settings.... She throws light not only on the inner lives of her subjects but also on the religion, court culture, philosophy, concepts of femininity, sexual mores, and--not least--horticulture of seventeenth-century England. With a delicate but sure hand Harris has accomplished the highest and most difficult task of the historian: she has allowed us to understand the past on its own terms. Her piercing, quietly stylish work is without question one of the best histories of the year."--The Atlantic Monthly "Frances Harris has written a breathtaking book.... This work of impeccable scholarship excavates the sensibility of the times with such discretion and delicacy that we are able to understand and enter into the relationship without scepticism.... Transformations of Love is also a fantastically good read. Harris wears her considerable scholarship lightly. She writes like an angel. She can conjure up each lived moment--with graceful ease. This is a page turner, to be read at one sitting.... We simply could not have two better books to enrich our understanding of the vibrant, complex second half of the 17th century in England than that offered by Harris and Tomali...

About the Author:

Frances Harris is a senior curator of manuscripts, British Library, London.

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9780199252572: Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin

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ISBN 10:  0199252572 ISBN 13:  9780199252572
Publisher: OUP Oxford, 2003
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