Versions of the Self and the Politics of Privacy in Silex Scintillans
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Versions of the Self and the Politics of Privacy in Sílex Sclntlllans* by Janet E. Halley In 1655 Vaughan published the second edition of Silex Scintillans. The unsold copies of Silex Scintillans (1650) appear as Part I, preceded by revised introductory signatures and followed by the fifty-five new poems of Part II. Gone are the title-page emblem of the flashing flint and its lyric "Authoris (de se) emblema": in their place Vaughan introduces, after a printed title page, a lengthy prose preface. A radical change in Vaughan's self-representation is the most striking feature in this revision. In "Authoris (de se) emblema," autobiographical retrospection creates the context for a present instant of change, process, action. Rather than distinguish rigidly between his past and present, the speaker makes the present of the poem the moment of God's action and of the speaker's transformation: in this moment "Moriendo, revixi," "dying, I have revived."1 But the 1655 prose preface lacks any reference to the moment of conversion: instead it identifies Vaughan, with a past passive adjective, as a "Convert" of George Herbert. Condemning "idle books" and "lascivious fictions,"2 Vaughan declares that he himself was guilty of "this very sickness" until his conversion, hopes that he has "supprest [his] greatest follies," and begs that none would read those less harmful works that escaped this expurgation (pp. 390-91). He at once addresses himself to a public audience, creates himself as an authorized speaker by designing his life-story as closed, a completed conversion narrative, and evinces a readiness to revise his oeuvre in order to create the image of a new "self." Though Silex Scintillans (1655) deletes "Authoris (de se) emblema," it incorporates within itself most of the 1650 *l thank Christopher Grose and Alan Rudrum for reading earlier versions of this essay. 51 Janet E. Halley volume, and thus introduces repeated enactments of the earlier book's volatile self. In doing so, Silex Scintillans (1655) undercuts the stable, closed autobiography of its own preface. By allowing this contradiction to emerge, Vaughan is able to display the problems inherent in its political address. Though the critical habit has been to interpret Vaughan's verse in light of the conversion narrative,3 my analysis takes the conversion autobiography itself to be part of the verse. Olor lscanus provides an example of my reasons for doing so. Published in 1651 , it begins with Vaughan's dedicatory epistle dated four years earlier and a note from "The Publisher" telling us that "The Author had long agoe condemn'd these Poems to Obscuritie" and that they are now published without his approbation (p. 36). The clear implications are that the volume was written and assembled in 1 647, that Vaughan demurred its publication, and that it was printed against his wishes in 1651 . But as Harold R. Walley argues, at least five poems can be dated after 1647. Two of these are expressly Royalist elegies ("An Elegie on the death of Mr. R. Hall" and "An Epitaph upon the Lady Elizabeth"), two are eulogies of contemporary writers, Katharine Philips and William Davenant, and one poem, "Upon the Poems and Playes of . . . Mr. William Cartwright," belongs to both categories. The epistle to Davenant was probably written in 1651 afterthe appearance of Gondibertand therefore also after the first S/7ex Scintillans.* The conversion narrative can tell us the simple historical truth about Vaughan's life only if his crisis of conversion occurred before he wrote S/7ex Scintillans (1650). But Vaughan evidently continued to read secular verse and to write it in the period after his "conversion." Further, Walley, Hutchinson, and William R. Parker argue convincingly that the composer of Olor lscanus had access to Vaughan's papers, including poems that do not appear until 1678, in Thalia Rediviva: whoever it was probably enjoyed Vaughan's cooperation and confidence.5 Finally, Olor lscanus was reissued in 1679, and Vaughan claims it as his own in his letters to Aubrey (p. 688). It appears that we cannot invoke the conversion narrative Vaughan tells us in Silex Scintillans (1655) as a biographical explanation for Olor lscanus 1651 or 1679: it cannot, then, explain Silex...