Edward Herbert of Cherbury and Thomas Traherne: From Self-Reflexivity to Solipsism?

Robert Ellrodt

in Seven Metaphysical Poets

Published in print May 2000 | ISBN: 9780198117384
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670923 | DOI:
Edward Herbert of Cherbury and Thomas Traherne: From Self-Reflexivity to Solipsism?

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A combined survey of Edward Herbert's prose works and his rather slender corpus of poetry sheds some light on the emergence of his mode of self-reflexivity. Herbert found it absurd to assume that there are only five modes of apprehension because we have five sense-organs. Because of his exclusive attention to the ‘inner sense’, Herbert multiplied the modes of apprehension; his discovery of subjectivity made him keenly aware of the particularity of each representation. With Thomas Traherne we move from egocentricity to a kind of solipsistic illusion, at least in his record of the alleged intuitions of his infancy. Traherne's evocation of his dreams in childhood is in accordance with the conclusions reached by Jean Piaget. The spontaneous solipsism of the infant, acknowledged by modern psychology, is linked to the poet's moments of solipsistic meditation. Had Traherne been capable of self-criticism, he might not have indulged in an exaltation of self-love. This self-centredness is characteristic of his conception of love as originating in self-love both in man and in God.

Keywords: Edward Herbert; Thomas Traherne; poetry; self-reflexivity; egocentricity; solipsism; apprehension; infancy; self-love

Chapter.  9226 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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