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Coppe, Abiezer

NICHOLAS McDOWELL


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


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Abiezer Coppe (1619–?1672) was one of the most notorious religious radicals of the English Civil Wars. He was allegedly a ringleader of the group of antinomian radicals active between 1648 and 1650 who were known by their opponents as the ‘Ranters’. The Ranters were charged with believing that committing acts commonly regarded as sinful, particularly swearing, drinking, and extramarital sex, was proof of their transcendence of sin on earth and their freedom from moral law. However, the sensational, polemical image of the Ranters does not always match the evidence we have from their surviving writings of the complexity of their beliefs. Moreover Coppe's strange and powerful literary style has made him of great interest in the last 25 years to literary critics as well as to historians of religion and of the English Civil Wars; extracts from his works regularly appear in anthologies of English literature and are believed to anticipate the prophetic writings of Christopher Smart and William Blake. Coppe was born in Warwick in 1619 and educated at Warwick School, where he was apparently something of a star pupil: the diary of Thomas Dugard, the master of Warwick School from 1633, records the young Coppe's excellence in Latin and Greek ( McDowell 1997 ). Coppe was admitted to All Souls College, Oxford, in 1636, transferring to Merton College as a postmaster or scholar the following year. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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