By Scott Black (auth.)
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68 Felltham’s final edition of his Resolves (1661) substantially revised his original short century, cutting many pieces, adding some, and substantially revising others. 69 In a sense, though, the history of Felltham’s Resolves is the whole history of the 34 Of Essays and Reading in Early Modern Britain genre, offering an example of the essay’s evolution at the level of a particular career that recapitulates the development of the genre itself. Like Montaigne and Bacon, Felltham offers an example of essays first being used to enable the uptake of what he reads and then developing into registers of that process.
Felltham lurks, unannounced, between Whitlock’s quotations of Lipsius and Cornwallis. In ‘To the Readers,’ the new preface to the second edition of the Resolves (1628),52 Felltham offers his own book as an example of what he calls a ‘running Discourse’: 28 Of Essays and Reading in Early Modern Britain I am to answer two Obiections, One, that I haue made vse of Story, yet not quoted my Authorities; and this I haue purposely done. It had beene all one Labour, inserting the matter, to giue them, both the Author, and place.
50 But for every honest reference, there’s a hidden theft, perhaps not of a rare phrase, but worth noting, if only to make a point about the irrelevance of such scholarly reading to this kind of writing. ’51 Whitlock borrows this statement about scaling down expectations, trading admiration for liking, in order to announce the mode of reading endorsed by the genre he uses, a mode of reading that foregrounds use instead of originality. This is a key feature of Cornwallis’s Essayes, as well, and especially the one Whitlock cites here (‘Of Essaies’), but I think the best way to get there is to flow through the bogs of borrowings that make up the stuff of essays in the seventeenth century.