Reading Sensations in Early Modern England by Katharine A. Craik (auth.)

By Katharine A. Craik (auth.)

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In truth’, then such feelings are ‘easily . . bewrayed’. 28 This dynamic reciprocity between poems and readers contributes in important ways to Puttenham’s central preoccupation in The Arte: the facility of poetry to inspire virtue among Englishmen. 29 Both Puttenham and Sidney invoke from Horace’s Ars Poetica the stories of Orpheus and Amphion in order to describe how music and poems bring about ‘the mollifying of hard and stonie hearts’, civilising those without natural feeling. 30 Again following Horace, Sidney argues that poetry’s sweetness and usefulness are inseparable, for delightful poetry works by ‘moving to well-doing’.

87 A preacher fails in his duty when he ‘takes off the edge of the Word’, for he ‘ought not with filed phrases, and mellow mouthed words tickle their eares, but with terrors and feares pierce their hearts’. His sermon painfully ‘prickes’ listeners, for if words are ‘not sharpened, and pierce not as nails, they will hardly be felt by stony hearts’. 88 The believer’s ability repeatedly and habitually to feel pain in response to God’s Word binds him fi rmly to the Christian community, for the visible signs of these afflictions are witnessed by other Christians who assess thereby the sincerity of each other’s faith.

At the same time, he advises them to become shrewd readers of others’ passions. Wright warns his readers frankly that they are unlikely ever to achieve unassailable control over their emotions whilst in company, and suggests that the best course of action is to compensate as best they can for inevitable failure. ’ One method is publicly to deplore that same passion, thereby convincing others one is unlikely ever to fall foul of it. 38 Encountering books was one experience among many in which reason struggled to maintain control.

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