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New Ages, New Opinions

Shaftesbury in his World and Today

Edited By Patrick Müller

Interest in Shaftesbury is as lively and productive today as it ever was. Indeed, the past decade has seen a veritable international renaissance in studies of his work. The various theoretical approaches of which modern critics and scholars can avail themselves are reflected in the different new interpretations we now have of Shaftesbury. This collection of essays manifests this diversity, offering a representative miscellany which covers a wide range of Shaftesbury’s own intellectual interests. The focus lies on the re-evaluations of his ethics, aesthetics, politics, religion, and literary criticism, as well as examinations of the reception of his works.
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Reading Shaftesbury in the Eighteenth Century


Lawrence E. Klein, University of Cambridge

In 1769, Robert Broadley was nearing thirty. He came from a prosperous family of merchants in the northern port city of Hull. Broadley kept a journal in which he recorded his daily activities: these suggest that, by virtue of the family’s affluence, he enjoyed considerable leisure, though in due course he would enter the family business and run it. His journal tells us about his social life, but also about his plan of literary cultivation. In that year, he was reading collections of parliamentary debates, works on British and European history, and Thomas Sheridan’s just-published A Plan of Education for the Young Nobility and Gentry. On 23 April, Broadley recorded that he had finished reading the three volumes of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, “wch [he wrote] are very valuable; − I know no Books that tend so much to make a man wiser and better. I cannot say I understood ye Author every where; − particularly in ye 3rd Vol: I was now & then embarrassed.”1 On the one hand, Broadley had confidence in the transformative power of Characteristicks, in its efficacy in shaping the self and its capacity to make a difference to the reader. On the other hand, he expressed his puzzlement about Shaftesbury’s meaning, at least in part. Broadley made clear, to himself, that Characteristicks was not an easy book to read or to understand, a response shared by other eighteenth-century readers.


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