HALL, Joseph

HALL, JOSEPH Occasionall meditations by Ios. Exon. Set forth by R.H.

London, printed by M[iles] F[lesher] for Nathaniel Butter, 1633


12mo.pp. [xvi], 348, [xx]. A-Q¹². Roman letter some Italic, with box rule. Title within charming architectural woodcut border, small woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, near contemporary autograph of ‘Degorry Polwhele’ at foot of t-p, C19th engraved armorial bookplate ‘Parminter’ with motto ‘Deo Favente’ on pastedown, John Sparrow’s acquisition note “J. S. from R G-H 1968” above, Robert S. Pirie’s bookplate on rear pastedown. Light age yellowing. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary English vellum over thin boards, remains of ties, a little soiled.

Third and final edition, considerably enlarged from the previous two, of this important work of meditations, full of the the epigrammatic concision and wit that are the hallmark of Hall’s work in the genre. The first edition contained 91 meditations and this is enlarged to 140. These meditations differ from his earlier works in that they focus on observations from nature and moments that occur in every day life. “The Occasional Meditations show the latest development of Hall’s meditative practices. In order to gain inspiration, Hall went directly to nature. He turns from focusing on scripture or other heavenly things to mediation on nature. This is different from the Lutheran tradition because it goes against the sola scriptura tradition….the meditations can focus on any object in nature… This focusing is the starting point for leading the reader to a religious or spiritual experience.” Darrau: ‘The Reception of English Puritan Literature in Germany.’ These meditations range from such as “Upon the hearing of the street cries in London” to “Upon the sight of a great Library”.

“Bishop Hall’s The Art of Divine Meditation (1606, 1633) and the three editions of Occasional Meditations (1630, 1631, 1633) warrant .. recognition. Contemporaries noted their influence or praised “the divine, and eloquent Contemplations, and occasional Meditations of Doctor Hall”; and modern scholars emphasise Hall’s importance in the development of Protestant meditation. .. The genre commonly associated with Hall and practised by other seventeenth century authors turns on a distinction from formal meditation. By its nature, contemporary commentary notes, the occasional meditation resists the formality of the meditative practice variously described as set, solemn, or deliberate. Bishop Hall stresses “there may be much use, no rule” for the meditative mode that depends upon “suddain invention not composed by study.” It is essentially occasional or, in the often-repeated synonyms, extemporal, sudden, quick, rapt, and ejaculatory. Hall offers the further distinction between meditation “either extemporal and occasioned by outward occurrences offered to the mind; or deliberate and wrought out of our own heart. .. Hall’s fundamental distinction between the extemporal and the deliberate“outward occurrences offered to the mind” as opposed to those “wrought” from the heart, refines the accepted belief that meditation in general was a “bending of the mind” upon spiritual concerns. Later commentaries on the occasional meditation note a characteristic “sudden fixing of the mind,” a “profitable minding,” or a “serious bending of the mind.” Some attempt is also made to differentiate meditation from study, which turns on the difference between the head and the heart or discovering the truth as opposed to improving the truth spiritually.” Raymond A. Anselment ‘Robert Boyle and the Art of Occasional Meditation’.

Joseph Hall (1574-1656), Bishop of Norwich, poet, moralist, satirist, controversialist (against Milton, i.a.), devotional writer, theological commentator, autobiographer and practical essayist, was one of the leading hommes de lettres of the Jacobean age. He was at the centre of public life under James I representing that King at the Synod of Dort in 1618, assisting in his negotiations with the Scots and in Lord Doncaster’s French embassy and was foremost among the defenders of the temporal and spiritual powers of the Bishops in the Puritan Parliament of 1640-41. However, it is as a writer that Hall is now remembered. Fuller called him ‘the English Seneca for his pure, plain, and full style’. While Hall may not have been the first English satirist, as he claimed, he certainly introduced the Juvenalian satire into English.

The National Archives at Kew record the will of ‘Degory Polwhele, Doctor of Physic of Golden, Cornwall’ dated 1673.

ESTC S103720. STC 16689. Not in Pforzheimer or Grolier.
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