Why do Locke’s biographers consider his last years happy ones?

John Locke Read more from
Chapter Early Modern Philosophy

After a life of moving from one place to another, when Locke’s health began to fail in the early 1690s, he moved into the home of Damaris Cudworth, who had become Lady Masham. Biographers think it probable that he had been close to proposing to her decades earlier. When Locke joined the Masham household, he was on friendly terms with Sir Francis Masham, Damaris’ husband, and he insisted on paying one pound weekly rent, although he would have been welcome as a guest. He brought with him his personal library of 5,000 books and his personal effects, all of which were inventoried on a list that Lady Masham signed (a regular practice for Locke, whenever he moved). The country air at Oats, in Essex, was better for his lungs than London had been and he was able to continue his writing, receive visitors, and keep up his correspondence until he died.

This arrangement, however, was not without its detractors. John Edwards, who believed that Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity was a subversive and even atheistic work, referred to Locke as “the governor of the seraglio [brothel] at Oates.”


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