NORRIS, MALEBRANCHE, AND MARY ASTELL

The Theory and Regulation of Love. A moral Essay. In two Parts. To which are added Letters philosophical and moral between the Author and Dr Henry More ...

Oxford, Printed at the Theatre for Hen. Clements. 1688.

Small 8vo., pp. [16], 238, [10], with the licence leaf before the title-page and the terminal errata/advertisement leaf; a fine copy in contemporary mottled calf, front joint restored.

£1000

Approximately:
US $1314€1187

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First edition. John Norris (1657-1711), the last of the Cambridge Platonists, was a fellow of All Souls, a poet, and a friend (but afterwards a critic) of Locke. The Theory and Regulation of Love is dedicated to Lady Masham (Damaris Cudworth), and prints as an appendix Norris’s correspondence with Henry More, but Norris was already moving away from the Cambridge Platonists to ‘a way of writing Ethics … intirely New and unblown upon. For although the reduction of all Vertue and Vice to the various Modifications of Love be Obvious enough to any one that will consider, yet I do not know any Moralist that ever drew up a Scheme of Morality upon this Hypothesis.’

This is ‘the first of his writing to show the influence of the French rationalist philosopher Nicolas Malebranche, whom he clearly began to study at this time’ (Oxford DNB). Another admirer of Malebranche and his novel synthesis of the views of St. Augustine and Descartes was the young Mary Astell, and The Theory and Regulation of Love led to a long correspondence between Astell and Norris ‘about the love of God … the place of suffering in human life … the philosophical contradictions of living a spiritual life … and whether God or the material world was the efficient cause of all sensation. Delighted with his interlocutor, Norris asked to publish their correspondence’ (Oxford DNB). She agreed, with reluctance (‘Since the Air is so unkind, let’s keep our tender Plants beneath a Glass’), and their Letters concerning the Love of God appeared in 1695, her second book.

Wing N 1272.

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