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'A Double Delight': Spiritual experiences of recovery from illness in Early Modern England, c.1580-1720

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Recovery from illness was an event of profound religious significance in early modern England, because it was believed to be ordained by God. This paper investigates the perceived impact of bodily recovery on spiritual wellbeing, and asks how patients and their loved ones reacted to the belief that ultimately it was the Lord who had raised them from the sickbed. While historians have explored religious interpretations and experiences of sickness, little attention has been paid to reactions to divine healing. Across the Protestant spectrum, the spiritual experience of getting better was shaped by an ‘art of recovery’, a set of moral duties and devotional practices derived from Scripture, which were supposed to be performed in the wake of illness. These included resisting sin, cultivating ‘holy affections’, and joining together in collective praise. When patients were able to meet the requirements, recovery was a ‘double delight’ – their souls as well as their bodies were better. But, on those occasions when they failed, the joy of recovery was significantly undermined. Through such discussions, the paper brings together the histories of devotion, emotion, medicine, and music.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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