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Reading the Psalms with Athanasius and Seneca: Stoicism and providence in the Earl of Clarendon's Contemplations

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The Earl of Clarendon's Contemplations and Reflections upon the Psalms of David remains a relatively undiscovered work, which is surprising given the unique perspective it offers on the personal faith and devotion of such an influential figure of the seventeenth century. This article therefore considers the ethos of the Contemplations and seeks to place it within its broader intellectual context. In particular, it considers three central aspects of the work – its roots in the Athanasian tradition of reading the Psalms, its distinctive Royalist Providentialism and its links to Christian Neo-Stoicism. The main thesis of the article is that it is through these three overlapping contexts, all of which can be shown to stem from the ideology of the Great Tew Circle, that Hyde's religious convictions should be construed. In this light the Contemplations emerges as a work truly Renaissance in character.

Keywords: Athanasius; Clarendon; Neo-Stoicism; Psalms; Royalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Edinburgh

Publication date: April 1, 2011


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