This article focuses on the idiosyncratic conception of happiness Sir Kenelm Digby develops in the letters he wrote after the death of his wife in 1633. It contextualises Digby's vision of happiness through an examination of the different traditions he revisits and appropriates to develop his personal and subjective ethics of self-care, mainly Renaissance Neoplatonism, the idealisation of conjugal love, the idealism of Italian poetry, and an ascetic model of widowhood linked to the tradition of spiritual mourning. It analyses how Digby's conception of happiness, through its vindication of subjectivity and excess, challenges the early modern ethos of consolation and speculates on the reasons that may have led Digby to present his readers with such an extraordinary self-portrait.
Dr Paula Barros is senior lecturer at Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier 3 and member of the Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Age and the Enlightenment (IRCL, UMR 5186). Her research focuses on early modern emotions and religious history. She has published several articles and co-edited two collections of essays on these topics. E-mail: email@example.com