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

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John Evelyn ranks with his friend Samuel Pepys as one of the best loved of English diarists. This is an absorbing new study of the most controversial episode of his life: his passionate "seraphic" friendship with Margaret Godolphin, a maid of honor at the Restoration court of Charles II. Set against the vivid background of the court and the great gardens of the time, Transformations of Love provides new insights into the sexual and spiritual worlds of early modern England. ...
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Overview


John Evelyn ranks with his friend Samuel Pepys as one of the best loved of English diarists. This is an absorbing new study of the most controversial episode of his life: his passionate "seraphic" friendship with Margaret Godolphin, a maid of honor at the Restoration court of Charles II. Set against the vivid background of the court and the great gardens of the time, Transformations of Love provides new insights into the sexual and spiritual worlds of early modern England.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199270323
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Prologue 11
1 The garden and the river 15
2 Man of the shade 35
3 Nupital love 64
4 Courtly love 91
5 Conversion 123
6 Seraphick love 148
7 The serpent in the garden 187
8 The marriage masque 214
9 Godly housekeeping 244
Epilogue 282
App. A: Note of sources 303
App. B W. G. Hiscock, John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin 306
Select bibliography 310
Index 325
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