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Among the literary innovations of the seventeenth century—a period of rich development in English prose—was the resolve. Generally of religious inspiration, the resolve was intended as the instrument of reform of private and public morals to assist in attaining individual perfection and in establishing the ideal Christian state.

John L. Lievsay has brought together an anthology of resolves from the pens of eighteen writers, some —like Bishop Joseph Hall and Owen Feltham—familiar names to students of English literature, and others virtually unknown. Despite its popularity as a literary form during the seventeenth century the resolve quickly declined in influence and died an untimely death. Lievsay sketches the history of this once well-known form and provides critical and comparative evaluations of the writers and their works.

Until now, the only resolve writer anthologized since the seventeenth century has been Owen Feltham—admittedly the best of the “resolvers” but, according to Lievsay, not greatly superior to Hall, Daniel Tuvill, or Francis Rous. Together, the selections in this volume offer a comprehensive view of a significant yet little-known development in English letters.

John L. Lievsay has published widely in the field of seventeenth-century literature. He is James B. Duke Professor of English, Emeritus, at Duke University.

"It is cheering that such a respectably unpopular but valuable work as this can be published, and, furthermore, in such a pleasing form."—Times Literary Supplement

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Meditations, Early modern English prose, Resolves


Practical Theology

The Seventeenth-Century Resolve: A Historical Anthology of a Literary Form
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