Owen Felltham Criticism - Essay

Anonymous (essay date 1840)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Anonymous. “Advertisement.” In Resolves Divine, Moral, and Political, by Owen Felltham, pp. vii-xii. London: Pickering, 1840.

[In the following unsigned introduction to a nineteenth-century edition of the Resolves, the critic praises Felltham's work, stressing its value for “improving our understanding, and strengthening our virtue.”]

Of the numerous works of sterling merit which, after enjoying a long season of popularity, have sunk into comparative forgetfulness, none is more deserving of revival, or more sure to obtain, eventually, a permanent place in the literature of England, than the Resolves of Owen Felltham.

Though entitled Resolves, because at the conclusion of each article, the author forms some resolution, founded upon his own precepts, the volume consists of two hundred, or a “double century,” of Essays on the most important objects of life, exhibiting a profound knowledge of the human heart, and inculcating, in nervous, and often eloquent language, pure morality, warm benevolence, and natural, fervent, and practical piety.

In the opinion of a competent critic,1 the Resolves bear

a frequent resemblance in manner, and still more in matter, to the Essays of Lord Bacon; like whom, Felltham often brings the imagination of the poet, to aid the wisdom of the philosopher; and contain more solid maxims, as much piety, and far better writing, than in most of the pulpit lectures now current among us.

Of Felltham's personal history very little is known. He was the second son of Thomas Felltham, of Mutford in Suffolk (the descendant of an ancient family in Norfolk, who died at Babram, in Cambridgeshire, in 1631, aged 62), by his wife Mary, daughter of John Ufflete, of Somerleyton, in Suffolk.

According to a pedigree in the Harleian MS. 5861, he married a daughter of the ancient family of Clopton, of Rendlehall, in that county; but it may be inferred, that his wife died before him, and that he did not leave any children, as he bequeathed all his property to his nephews and nieces. On the 4th of May, 1667, he made his Will, which was dated at Great Billing, in Northamptonshire, where his patron, the Earl of Thomond, had a mansion; and probably died shortly before the 22nd of April, 1668, on which day his will was proved. That document is extremely characteristic of the author of the Resolves, and will be found in a subsequent page.

In a letter addressed to “Lord C. J. R.2,” he says, he had been “put upon a trial for vindicating the right of the ancient inheritance of my family, gained from me by a verdict last assizes,” and that fact perhaps affords a clue to some particulars of his life, which his biographers may follow with advantage.

Felltham does not seem to have been a member of either University, which would agree with the observation in his preface, that he did not “profess himself a scholar,” had he not said, in explanation of this expression, on its being quoted to his disparagement, “a scholar's life was not my profession, for I have lived in such a course as my books have been my delight, but not my trade, though perhaps I could wish they had.” It has been surmised that he lived in the family of the Earl of Thomond, as gentleman of the horse, or secretary; and in the dedication of the later editions of the Resolves, to the Countess Dowager of Thomond, he remarks, that “most of them were composed under the coverture of your roof, and so born subjects under your dominion.”

The following epitaph, which he wrote for himself, entitled, “Quod in sepulchrum volui,” seems to have been the one alluded to in his Will, which, with several passages in his writings, prove that he was a Royalist; and it is extraordinary, that a man of such talents, a gentleman by birth, and moving in good society, should not have been more frequently mentioned by his contemporaries:—

Postquam vidisset rotantem mundum,
          Imaque summis supernatantia,
Prosperum Tyrio scelus imbutum,...

(The entire section is 1728 words.)

Hugh Walker (essay date 1928)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Walker, Hugh. “Miscellaneous Essayists of the Seventeenth Century.” In The English Essay and Essayists, pp. 62-6. London: J. M. Dent, 1928.

[In the following excerpt, Walker concedes that although the themes of the Resolves were seldom profound, the literary style of the work occasionally does achieve the mastery of Francis Bacon's essays.]

While, in the early part of the seventeenth century, the delineation of characters was the most popular exercise of the essayists, it was not the only one. The instrument which Bacon had introduced could be put to many uses, and among the writers of miscellaneous prose there were a few, apart from Jonson, who trod...

(The entire section is 1489 words.)

R. Balfour Daniels (essay date 1940)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Daniels, R. Balfour. “Resolves of a Royalist.” In Some Seventeenth-Century Worthies in a Twentieth-Century Mirror, pp. 140-44. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1940.

[In the following essay, Daniels examines several of Felltham's poems, proverbs, and essays, arguing that while his style is not great, it is often engaging.]

Although the death of King Charles I caused many of his adherents to denounce the Roundheads and eulogize the King, no one seems to have gone further than Owen Feltham, who in writing an epitaph on that monarch “Inhumanly murthered by a Perfidious Party of His Prevalent Subjects,” declared, “Here Charles the...

(The entire section is 903 words.)

Jean Robertson (essay date May 1943)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Robertson, Jean. “Felltham's Character of the Low Countries.Modern Language Notes 58, no. 5 (May 1943): 385-88.

[In the following essay, Robertson discusses various editions of, as well as the influence of, Felltham's A Brief Character of the Low-Countries on subsequent travelogues, arguing that Felltham's work was probably the first description of a nation using the character form.]

The Theophrastian Character was expanded in various ways in the second half of the seventeenth century. Fewer collections of short characters appeared, and their place was taken by descriptions or pamphlets such as The Character of a Low Churchman, The...

(The entire section is 1268 words.)

Jean Robertson (essay date May 1943)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Robertson, Jean. “The Poems of Owen Felltham.” Modern Language Notes 58, no. 5 (May 1943): 388-90.

[In the following essay, Robertson discusses several poems by Felltham that did not appear in his Lusoria and reprints “The Elegie on Mris. Coventry,” which previously had been unavailable.]

In Lusoria, first printed with the revised folio edition (the eighth) of the Resolves,1 Felltham collected together forty-one poems most of which had been written at a much earlier date. There are only four poems known to be by Felltham that are not included in Lusoria. In Fasti Oxonienses (II, 454) Anthony à Wood gives an...

(The entire section is 983 words.)

Jean Robertson (essay date April 1944)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Robertson, Jean. “The Use Made of Owen Felltham's Resolves: A Study in Plagiarism” Modern Language Review 39, no. 2 (April 1944): 108-15.

[In the following essay, Robertson cites numerous examples of how selections from Felltham's Resolves were plagiarized by subsequent writers.]

There is no evidence to show that the publication of Owen Felltham's Resolues Diuine, Morall, Politicall in 16231 caused any stir in the literary world; but their reception must have been sufficiently warm to warrant the publication of Resolues A Duple Century one new an other of a second Edition in 1628. The demand for this volume...

(The entire section is 5107 words.)

Douglas Bush (essay date 1945)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bush, Douglas. “Essays and Characters.” In English Literature in the Earlier Seventeenth Century, 1600-1660, pp. 190-92. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945.

[In the following excerpt, Bush points out the literary and thematic characteristics that made Felltham's Resolves popular.]

The didactic motives of so much secular prose make it hard to distinguish the essay from kindred forms, and it is almost impossible to separate the religious essay from its congeners. Even within fairly strict limits we find such various names as Breton and Brathwait, Joseph Hall and Fuller, and Drummond and Browne, but here we may pass by these men of many books for a less...

(The entire section is 691 words.)

George Williamson (essay date 1951)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Williamson, George. “Pointed Style after Bacon.” In The Senecan Amble: A Study in Prose Form from Bacon to Collier, pp. 201-03. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1951.

[In the following excerpt, Williamson argues that Felltham's Resolves drew upon Senecan style and wit, in both their pithiness and their gravity.]

Owen Feltham, who bears the clear imprint of Baconian imitation, speaks of style in his essay ‘Of Preaching’, which was added to his Resolves in 1628. His preferences in style are plainly Senecan:

A man can never speak too well, where he speaks not too obscure. Long and distended clauses, are...

(The entire section is 784 words.)

McCrea Hazlett (essay date November 1953)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hazlett, McCrea. “‘New Frame and Various Composition’: Development in the Form of Owen Felltham's Resolves.Modern Philology 51, no. 2 (November 1953): 93-101.

[In the following essay, Hazlett analyzes the changing style and structure of various editions of the Resolves publishing during Felltham's lifetime, noting how the work moves from short, personal resolutions to longer, more persuasive essays.]

Between 1623 (when the book was entered in the Stationer's Register) and 1709 there appeared twelve distinguishable editions or issues of Owen Felltham's Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political.1 Four of these are of...

(The entire section is 5377 words.)

Ted-Larry Pebworth and Claude J. Summers (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Pebworth, Ted-Larry, and Claude J. Summers. Introduction to The Poems of Owen Felltham, 1604?-1668, edited by Ted-Larry Pebworth and Claude J. Summers, pp. iv-x. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973.

[In the following excerpt, Pebworth and Summers acknowledge that while Felltham's poetry was not the greatest of his age, the author of the Lusoria should be commended for the work's range, subtlety, and lyric beauty.]

Owen Felltham (or Feltham), recognized by Anthony à Wood as one of the poets who were in the 1630's “the chiefest of the nation,”1 is today known almost exclusively as the author of Resolves:...

(The entire section is 2160 words.)

Laurence Stapleton (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Stapleton, Laurence. “The Graces and the Muses: Felltham's Resolves.” In The Elected Circle: Studies in the Art of Prose, pp. 73-92. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Stapleton lavishes praise on the Resolves, disagreeing with scholars who have disparaged Felltham's use of metaphors.]

Little is known of Owen Felltham; but in an age when most writers supported themselves by some other profession, many as clergymen, his lot was to become steward of an estate.1 As a boy of perhaps twenty he had published a small book, Resolves, destined to be reprinted, with additions and changes, eleven...

(The entire section is 6286 words.)

Ted-Larry Pebworth (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Pebworth, Ted-Larry. “Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political,” “A Brief Character of the Low-Countries,” and “The Poetry.” In Owen Felltham, pp. 26-35; 71-85; 86-126. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1976.

[In the first excerpt below, Pebworth concentrates on the religious themes in Felltham's Resolves. In the second, he discusses the influence and themes of A Brief Character of the Low-Countries. In the third, he discusses Felltham's poems on religion, politics, and love.]


In its totality, Resolves: Divine, Morall, Politicall is a collection of two hundred...

(The entire section is 16795 words.)

Ted-Larry Pebworth (essay date winter 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Pebworth, Ted-Larry. “An Anglican Family Worship Service of the Interregnum: A Cancelled Early Text and a New Edition of Owen Felltham's ‘A Form of Prayer.’” English Literary Renaissance 16, no. 1 (winter 1986): 206-33.

[In the following excerpt, Pebworth argues that Felltham's “A Form of Prayer” had been printed in at least some copies of the 1661 edition of the Resolves, leading to the conclusion that the author's liturgical challenge to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was a product of the Interregnum and not the Restoration, as previously assumed.]

For two hundred fifty years, scholars and critics of the essayist and poet Owen...

(The entire section is 9843 words.)