Abstract

This article locates the hitherto unknown manuscript poem “Blind Zeal or Party Enthusiasm” within the political context of 1710 and, in turn, examines Henry Sacheverell’s impact on Deism and Freethought in light of “Blind Zeal.” A complete text of the poem, with certain historical and critical annotations, is offered below. Finally, I offer an interpretation of the poem that may narrow our possibilities for attribution—focusing, most crucially, on the author’s construction of the poem’s speaker: an earnest and sententious individual compelled, by the violence of the religious schisms of 1709, to a fraught meditation on brotherhood. For years, John Toland and other Freethinkers had chronicled the rise of faction, and the Sacheverell Affair seemed to bring their worst nightmares to life. The poet of “Blind Zeal” draws on these very real anxieties—using a locus communis from Virgil’s Eclogues as a classical touchstone—but offers a glimmer of optimism in his valedictory invocation of Aesop, an author imitated by both the Earl of Shaftesbury and Toland.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0383
Print ISSN
0039-3738
Pages
pp. 375-410
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-16
Open Access
No
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