Walton's Lives: Conformist Commemorations and the Rise of Biography

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 353 pages
This book argues that Walton's practice, in his Lives, was crucial in shaping modern expectations of biography: how it should be organised, how it should treat evidence, how seriously it should regard narrative coherence, and most particularly in the modern expectation of an intimaterelationship between author, reader, and subject. Dr Martin considers Walton's biographical ethics in relation to the tributary genres influencing him as they emerged from post-Reformation commendatory practice after 1546, most particularly classical funeral oratory and the emergent Protestantfuneral sermon, the Plutarchan parallel, the didactic Character, martyrological narrative, and finally Walton's direct model, the exemplary biographical commemoration of the conformist minister.Dr Martin considers how Walton develops his literary inheritance, arguing that his lay status required him to initiate a different kind of mediation between reader and subject from the straightforwardly imitative. Walton presents himself as a channel for the words and acts of an authoritativesubject, a preference implicitly followed both in his stress on personal connections with his subjects (which spectacularly particularizes his portraits) and in his very extensive use of their own writings. His Lives attempt posthumous autobiography. They are also considered as prominent andaccomplished examples of the many politically intended narratives which exploit a consensual interpretation of private virtue to support, without having to argue for, a sectarian interpretation of public rectitude.

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About the author (2001)

Jessica Martin, Fellow and College Lecturer, Trinity College, Cambridge.

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