Keeping the Ancient Way

BookKeeping the Ancient Way

Keeping the Ancient Way

Aspects of the Life and Work of Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

English Association Monographs: English at the Interface, 7


May 1st, 2021



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Written by one of the editors of the new complete works of Henry Vaughan, Keeping the Ancient Way is the first book-length study of the poet by a single author for twenty years. It deals with a number of key topics that are central to the understanding and appreciation of this major seventeenth-century writer. These include his debt to the hermetic philosophy espoused by his twin brother (the alchemist, Thomas Vaughan); his royalist allegiance in the Civil War; his loyalty to the outlawed Church of England during the Interregnum; the unusual degree of intertextuality in his poetry (especially with the Scriptures and the devotional lyrics of George Herbert); and his literary treatment of the natural world (which has been variously interpreted from Christian, proto-Romantic, and ecological perspectives). Each of the chapters is self-contained and places its topic in relation to past and current critical debates, but the book is organized so that the biographical, intellectual, and political focus of Part One informs the discussion of poetic craftsmanship in Part Two. A wealth of historical information and close critical readings provide an accessible introduction to the poet and his period for students and general readers alike. The up-to-date scholarship will also be of interest to specialists in the literature and history of the Civil War and Interregnum.

'Keeping the Ancient Way is the first book-length study of Henry Vaughan in nearly two decades and will take its place among the finest studies of the poet. [...] The book’s strength is its focus on biography and intellectual and political history in the first part and poetic craftsmanship in the second. This context provides the framework for critical readings that will be of interest to specialists in the literature and history of the Civil War and Interregnum and will be invaluable to students of Henry and Thomas Vaughan alike. Keeping the Ancient Way is a great achievement.'
Donald R. Dickson, Seventeenth-Century News

Author Information

Robert Wilcher is an Honorary Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. Prior to his retirement, he was Reader in Early Modern Studies in the English department at the University of Birmingham. He is one of the editors of the three-volume 'Works of Henry Vaughan', published in 2018.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Part One: Biographical and Historical Contexts
1. Henry Vaughan and Breconshire
2. Henry Vaughan and Thomas Vaughan
3. Henry Vaughan and the Civil Wars
4. Henry Vaughan and the Interregnum
5. Henry Vaughan and the Church
Part Two: Literary Practices
6. Henry Vaughan and the Art of Allusion
7. Henry Vaughan and George Herbert
8. Henry Vaughan and the Scriptures
9. Henry Vaughan and the Book of Nature
10. Henry Vaughan and the Practice of Poetry