restricted access On Language, Theology, and Utopia by Francis Lodwick (review)
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Francis Lodwick. On Language, Theology, and Utopia. Ed. Felicity Henderson and William Poole. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 437pp. Cloth, $225.00, ISBN 978-0199225910.

Although we know few details of his life, we do know that Francis Lodwick (1619–1694) played a prominent role in the seventeenth-century philosophical language movement, a movement that sought to create an a priori language, known in the seventeenth century as a “philosophical language.” Such an endeavor aimed for what might be called a linguistic utopia resulting from the creation of an auxiliary language similar to Esperanto, a universal language developed in the nineteenth century and still in use today. But Lodwick also wrote on topics other than language and linguistics, as is suggested by the title of a new collection of Lodwick’s writings, On Language, Theology, and Utopia. This edition updates the only other modern edition of Lodwick’s printed works, found in Vivian Salmon’s The Works of Francis Lodwick: A Study of His Writings in the Intellectual Context of the Seventeenth Century (1972). Edited by Felicity Henderson and William Poole, the current book provides a much needed update to Salmon’s edition in addition to access to numerous texts absent in Salmon’s book. Lodwick’s works have now received well-deserved critical and editorial attention, and Henderson and Poole have provided a convenient way to examine all of Lodwick’s works that should result in new ways of understanding the utopian nature of his writings.

The volume’s introduction totals sixty-five pages and includes a rather extensive biography of Lodwick that greatly supplements the thin and cursory Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on him. The editors provide details about his early years and his parents’ involvement with the London Dutch company, his life as a merchant, and his election to membership in the [End Page 235] Royal Society. Many critics have noted that the multilingual Lodwick owned around five thousand books, which Henderson and Poole note was “a very substantial collection for a non-aristocratic reader of the period” (15). As is the case for his early and adult life, few data exist about Lodwick’s death, as neither he nor his wife left behind wills, and their three sons died before their father died in 1694.

The first of the three sections of this volume, “Language Planning,” includes the three works Lodwick had printed during his lifetime: A Common Writing in 1647 (the first English-language work printed about a philosophical language); The Ground-Work, or Foundation Laid (or so intended) for the Framing of a New Perfect Language in 1652; and An Essay Towards a Universal Alphabet in 1681, printed again in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1686. All three of these are available in Salmon’s volume. But Lodwick also left behind a massive collection of manuscript writings, which today reside largely in the Sloane collection of the British Library, and the transcriptions of these manuscripts are the real treasure of this volume.

The section entitled “Theology” arguably provides the most illuminating of the previously unavailable texts by Lodwick, as none of his theological texts have previously appeared in print. Lodwick’s religious writings address a wide range of topics, from scriptural exegesis to commentary on the sacraments of the Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps more importantly, however, Lodwick’s writings on religion frequently employ legislative and even utopian language to describe God’s Kingdom. In one of the texts in this section, for instance, Lodwick in essence argues that if Christians submit to God’s will, they can “maintain religious peace and harmony” (211). In several other of his religious writings Lodwick’s legislative language suggests that his conception of the Kingdom of God requires strict adherence to divine law, in effect creating a legal and spiritual utopia, a place “in a state of Eternall blisse and peace” (176).

Lodwick’s fame, however, derives not from his religious texts but from his writings on philosophical languages and linguistics. Lodwick’s utopian A Country Not Named, the third section of this volume, deserves more attention as well. Poole has previously provided an edition of...