Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Critical Introduction by A. I. Fitzroy
Owen Felltham (1602?1668)
[Owen Felltham was born early in the seventeenth century. Very little is known of his history, even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. He was the son of one Thomas Felltham of Suffolk, gent., and it is inferred was attached to the household of the Earl of Thomond. He appears to have been happily married. He seems to have had a liberal education, and to have been possessed of means. He is supposed to have died about 1677.]
THE MOST celebrated of the writings of Owen Felltham is his little volume of Resolves, divine, moral, and political. In addition to this he wrote a Brief character of the Low Countries under the States, some lay sermons or Practical Reflections on certain Scripture texts; poems, and letters.
Part of the Resolves was written in his nineteenth year. It is uncertain when the little book first made its appearance; the earliest edition we possess is the second, published in 1628, and it is supposed that the first had appeared some two years previously.
Felltham writes pleasantly and well. Each essay or resolve is well turned, and in itself a work of art. Like most of his learned contemporaries he adorns his pages with classical allusions and quotations, but not oppressively so. He was censured for not giving his references. He defended himself against this charge somewhat curiously, saying that he did not profess to be a scholar, and for a gentleman he held such accuracy a little pedantical.
His style is easy without being colloquial; dignified without being stilted. It is that of an amiable, pious, sensible man of the world, who aimed at as much virtue as was conveniently practicable; and who, without affecting to be a saint, patiently endeavoured not to be too much of a sinner.
His sentences are never lengthy nor involved, and always perfectly intelligible. There is no loftiness of diction, neither is there any attractive homeliness. Sustained, harmonious, dignified, he inspires our respect, if he does not win our love.
Ignorant as we are of his whole life, ignorant even of the dates of his entering and leaving the world, we yet feel as we close this book of his Resolves, written primarily for his own guidance, and modestly offered to the world, on the chance of possibly helping others, that we know and like the man with his quiet, sensible spirit, and earnest gentlemanlike utterance.