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William Gilbert and Esoteric RomanticismA Contextual Study and Annotated Edition of 'The Hurricane'$
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Paul Cheshire

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941206

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941206.001.0001

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Decoding the Allegory of the ‘Theosophical and Western Eclogue’

Decoding the Allegory of the ‘Theosophical and Western Eclogue’

(p.184) Chapter Seven Decoding the Allegory of the ‘Theosophical and Western Eclogue’
William Gilbert and Esoteric Romanticism

Paul Cheshire

Liverpool University Press

This chapter addresses what Gilbert intended to represent through the action of his poem. An evidently symbolic young girl, Elmira, is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Her mother is drowned. Gilbert makes several references to the Eleusinian Mysteries which concern the rebirth of Ceres’ daughter Proserpina. The common mother-daughter theme suggests a parallel interplay between the living and the dead. The ancient mystery cults, and their parallels with the secret rituals associated with Masonic initiation, were of contemporary interest, as can be shown by Thomas Taylor’s Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, which was based on an exegesis of Aeneas’ descent into the underworld (Aeneid, Book VI). This method of exegesis – which had been used by Neoplatonists to unlock hidden meanings in Homer – provides a possible key to Gilbert’s allegory.

Keywords:   Eleusinian Mysteries, Initiation, Neoplatonism, Thomas Taylor

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