Nineteenth-Century Prose

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Spring/Fall 2012, Volume 39

Volume 39, Numbers 1/2, Spring/Fall 2012

Volume 39, Numbers 1/2, Spring/Fall 2012

Forum: “The Sacralizaton of Literature in the Nineteenth Century”

William R. McKelvy, in “Children of the Sixties: Post-Secular Victorian Studies and Victorian Secularization Theory,” argues that “an increasingly secular Victorian period now noticeably jars with a new consensus” and that “the real debate about the stages and timing of religious decline in Britain is located, if anywhere, in the twentieth century and its aftermath.” W. Clark Gilpin, in “Religion and the Secular in Victorian Prose: In Dialogue with William R. McKelvy,” examines Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Thomas Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History to demonstrate “the epoch’s sense that a comprehensive worldview was fragmenting but also the sense that a cultural space – a secular space – was available in which the religious implications of that fragmenting could be the subject of imaginative literature and philosophical essays.” Colin Jager, in “Leaving for Germany: Literature, Theory, and Religion,” responds to McKelvy’s critique of the sociological explanation of religious decline by demonstrating that the “chirpy faith in free enterprise” of men like W.E.H. Lecky demanded “a critique, and the most powerful such critique comes from Marx and Weber and contemporary critics of neoliberalism – the very tradition that McKelvy links to 1960s secularization theory.” Ruth Clayton Windscheffel, in “Dancing to the Music of Time: Modernity, Secularization, and Incarnation,” emphasizes the need for historians to explain why men like Lecky and Spencer identified secularization as a key characteristic of their age, and uses Charles Gore’s life to demonstrate the kind of bridge that existed “between the Liberal Anglicanism of the nineteenth century and the Christian socialist/welfare state impetus of the twentieth.” Finally, Joshua King, in “A Post-Secular Victorian Study: Religion, Reading, and Imagining Britain,” agrees with McKelvy’s call for a “post-secular scholarship,” but wonders if the case is pushed too far in characterizing John Henry Newman, Herbert Spencer, and W.E.H. Lecky as participants in a particular kind of religious discourse motivated by religious convictions. McKelvy concludes with a “Rejoinder” to the four respondents, suggesting that he has “sought an emphatic, rather than theoretical, way to call others to think about inter-actions between and concerns shared by the secular and the religious, two concepts that have been handled antithetically too often.”

Eugenio Biagini, “Introduction: Gladstone and Religious Discourse”

The tendency to dismiss William Gladstone’s “conviction” politics is rooted in a misunderstanding of the complexity of the positions from which he started. Gladstone’s political strategy was based upon a resolve to harness intellectual and social forces unleashed by the growth of liberalism to achieve conservative goals. His populist style was deeply influenced by the religious modes of agitation typical of the Reformed tradition and Protestant revivalism. In all his political efforts, he tried to identify and interpret for contemporaries the centrality of the traditional Christian message.

Peter C. Erb, “Rhetorics of Belief: Persuasive Style in the Gladstone- Réville-Huxley Debates”

In the six-month period between November 1885 and April 1886 a debate on the rise of religion exploded in the English press. Primarily focused on the opposition of its main opponents – the British Liberal Prime Minister and theologically conservative High Churchman, William E. Gladstone (1809-1898), and the chief proponent of “new science,” Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) – the debate was prompted initially by Gladstone’s reaction to a critique of his views of religion by the French Protestant, Albert Réville (1826-1906), well-known in Gladstone’s day and although now forgotten, a central figure in establishing the liberal religious view that, in varying ways, shaped the pattern by which the Darwinian schema would be assimilated within the Christian world thereafter. This article is directed to the debate between these two men and the transition from Réville’s article to Huxley on the part of Glad-stone, as well as the implications for the ongoing debate between Glad-stone and Huxley, and science and religion.

D.W. Bebbington, “Gladstone’s Preaching and Gladstone’s Reading”

William Ewart Gladstone, the Victorian Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was also a connoisseur of sermons. He preached regularly to his own household between 1840 and 1866, usually writing the sermons on the day of their first use and sometimes amending them on subsequent delivery. They followed the cycle of the church year and concentrated on the struggle of the believer against sin. Reflecting Gladstone’s changing churchmanship over the period, the sermons also reveal where Gladstone derived his ideas. They show signs of his long-term reading as well as of the books he was currently absorbing. Among the long-term influences, the Bible was chief, followed by Aristotle and Dante in a small way and Augustine in much larger measure. Of contemporary writers, those associated with the Oxford Movement, especially Robert Wilberforce, left the greatest imprint. Among the writers whose works Gladstone was currently reading were the medieval theologian Bernard, the writer on the wrongs of women Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, and Gladstone’s friend Henry Edward Manning, later Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster. The long-term influences exercised the greater sway over the politician’s preaching.

Andrew Armond, “Gladstone’s Via Media Theory of Development”

This essay examines an unpublished manuscript in which William Gladstone mounts a rebuttal to John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Contrary to either the pure Protestant theory of development, which claims an invisible church whose membership (known only to God) is based upon an internal, individual, spiritual feeling, or the Roman Catholic theory (as promulgated by Newman), which claims a visible, apostolic, sacramental authority, Gladstone puts forth a solidly Anglican via media that attempts to moderate between these two theories.

Stephen Peterson, “The Gladstone-Ingersoll Debates in the American Periodical Press”

William Ewart Gladstone’s 1888 dispute with the popular agnostic Robert Ingersoll was among the British statesman’s historic ventures into religious controversy. Their exchange was part of a larger symposium on faith and agnosticism published in the North American Review magazine. Gladstone’s entry into the forum captivated many in the American press, eliciting numerous editorials from a wide array of opinion in newspapers and periodicals. Through an examination of those published views, this essay focuses on how Americans perceived Gladstone’s effectiveness as a Christian apologist. At a time of increasing specialization it probes the extent to which Americans believed a lay theologian of Gladstone’s stature could successfully combat the agnostic challenge. The paper further seeks to contextualize his orthodox defense of faith relative to the trends then current in higher critical theology and free-thought agnosticism. It also sheds some light on the use of religious controversy by nineteenth-century writers and editors in order to sell copy.

Clyde Binfield, “Sermons as Prose: An Independent Tradition in Context”

This paper focuses on the golden age of English Nonconformist ministry, recognizing that golden ages are myths, known only in retrospect but taking the golden age of such ministry to be in the second half of the nineteenth century. It considers the possible evidence for such an ideal, before concentrating on the evidence provided by sermons. Three ministers are selected: two Congregationalists (David Loxton, 1818-1876, and Alexander Raleigh, 1817-1880), and one Baptist (Samuel Augustus Tip-ple, 1828-1912), are selected. Loxton was a Londoner, with his main ministry in Sheffield; Raleigh and Tipple, from Scotland and East Anglia respectively, had their main ministries in London. Their social back-ground, their careers, their character and appearance, their familial and congregational credibility are outlined and their theological flavor indicated. The extent to which they were public figures beyond the immediate confines of their congregations is also suggested, with particular reference to the brush that Tipple (the least “public” of the three) had with John Ruskin in the early 1860s and 1870s. Their style and rhetoric are then examined, with evidence from Loxton’s working-men’s lecture (1853), fast-day sermon (1855), and address to fellow ministers (1875); Raleigh’s two national denominational addresses (1868) and communion sermon (1870s); and Tipple’s sequence of prayers and sermons (early 1880s-1910). For each of the three, the sermon is seen to have been a literary and intellectual creation designed to convince, convict, and trans-form.

Joseph Hardwick, “Early Victorian Periodicals and the Colonial Church of England”

The decades after 1830 constitute a period of critical importance in the history of the Church of England in the British Empire. This was the moment when Anglicans were buffeted by political changes that left the Church which had once been viewed as the empire’s “established” church  as a semi-independent institution with no privileged relationship with the British state. These changes brought with them new questions: how was the Church to govern itself, what was the nature of Anglican identity, how would the different branches of the Church be unified, and which communities should the Church serve? Did the Church’s traditional status as the “Church of the English” mean it still had a duty to minister to a wider, and rapidly expanding, colonial population? This essay shows that much of this debate was conducted in the pages of a new class of periodicals that were devoted specifically to the Church in the colonies. The significance of this literature has not been fully appreciated by historians. Focusing primarily on one publication  the Colonial Church Chronicle (first published 1847) – the essay examines the answers that a group of orthodox high churchmen gave to key questions engaging imperial Anglicans in this period, and considers whether periodicals could bring imperial Anglicans together to create a sense of “Anglican Communion,” or if print literature was another source of contestation and division in colonial Churches.

Timothy Larsen, “Biblical Commentaries as Prose”

The Victorian biblical commentary has been woefully and unjustly neglected. In the nineteenth century, authors viewed writing a biblical commentary as an effective way sometimes even the ideal way to change religious opinion in society at large. Likewise, readers often found biblical commentaries to be exciting, even potentially explosive, works. These convictions about the genre were widely held across the religious and skeptical spectrum. This article explores this largely un-mapped terrain with special reference to the lives, thought, writings, and arising controversies of the Tractarian priest and scholar E.P. Pusey; the theologically liberal Anglican bishop, William Colenso; the popular atheist leader, Charles Bradlaugh; the preeminent Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon; and the Anglo-Catholic and leading poet, Christina Rossetti.

D.H. Dilbeck, “‘The Voice of Faithful Tradition’: The Madison-Leland Legend in Nineteenth-Century Print”

This article examines the legend surrounding a famed meeting between James Madison and John Leland, a prominent Virginia Baptist minister, in 1787 on the eve of Virginia’s ratification of the federal Constitution. It was during this meeting, the common lore goes, that Madison secured Virginia Baptists’ support of ratification of the Constitution, and, in ex-change, agreed to sponsor a Bill of Rights guaranteeing religious liberty at a later date. Much has been written about the meeting itself in an attempt to distinguish fact from fiction, but this article approaches the subject from a different angle, concerned instead with the development and significance of the often-told story of the Madison-Leland meeting. By analyzing ten accounts of the meeting published in the nineteenth century, this article explores the distinct differences between accounts authored by Baptists and non-Baptists. These differences underscore the reasons why Baptists long cherished the memory of John Leland and his meeting with Madison. The meeting, to later Baptist authors, confirmed what they considered to be a critical piece of Baptist denominational identity: an unrivaled commitment to religious liberty.

Sharin Schroeder, “The Iliad and the Articles: Francis William Newman’s Reply to Matthew Arnold”

Francis William Newman’s The Iliad of Homer Faithfully Translated into Unrhymed English Metre (1856) was famously criticized by Mat-thew Arnold in On Translating Homer (1861) as “ignoble,” and the criticism stuck. The literary and theological debates of the 1860s, however, was informed by a growing uncertainty regarding the distinctions between sacred and non-sacred ancient texts, as evidenced by the uproar over Essays and Reviews (1860). The disagreement between Arnold and Newman regarding the Iliad was in fact rooted in the broader theological disagreements that were then threatening the Anglican Church, especially attitudes toward the validity and role of the Thirty-nine Articles. By re-examining the Homeric debate in its original context, this essay illuminates important complexities of Anglicanism in the 1860s and demonstrates that readings of the Iliad were dependent on religiously-granted authority.

Howard Lupovitch, “The Skeleton and the Mummy: Kohut, Kohler, and American Jewry’s Search for Authenticity”
This essay explores the polemical exchange that took place during the spring of 1885 between two leading Manhattan rabbis: Kaufman Kohler, the voice of radical Reform Judaism in America; and Alexander Kohut, the leading spokesman of moderate Reform Judaism. The article will show how the debate, which initially revolved around conflicting notions of the aims of Reform Judaism, expanded into a larger and more contentious disagreement over the legitimate rationale for changing traditional Judaism. Kohler argued that the Zeitgeist was the only necessary and relevant rationale; Kohut insisted that any and all changes must be justified within the pre-existing corpus of rabbinic literature and legal precedent. As such, this debate became a referendum on whether the ideologically-charged German-Jewish style of religious reform or the more pragmatic and moderate Hungarian Neolog style of innovation was more authentic.

Ryan McIlhenny, “‘I am not my own director’: Catholic Slavery and Protestant Freedom in George Bourne’s Lorette”

George Bourne (1780-1845) was not only the pioneer of immediate emancipation in the United States but also the first to inaugurate the ex-nun genre in American literature. A devout Protestant, Bourne argued that false religion – exemplified by Catholics and slaveholding Protestants  led inevitably to the enslavement of both body and soul. He consistently balanced his time in combating both southern slavery and Roman Catholicism, the two predominant enemies of political freedom and pure Christianity. The few historians who have examined Lorette, Bourne’s only novel, have narrowly emphasized its relevance to antebellum politics. While not shying away from such developments, Bourne’s central objective in revealing the false religion of Catholicism (as with slavery) was to present a picture of true Bible-centered Protestantism. For Bourne, physical and spiritual enslavement rested on bad theology. This essay offers a detailed discussion of Lorette as an evangelical theological drama, articulating a concept of freedom as a product of biblical faith.

Rowland Weston, “William Godwin and the Puritan Legacy”

Trained from a young age for the Nonconformist ministry, it is unsurprising that the magnum opus of radical philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836), Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), was indebted to the culture of Rational Dissent. The crucial moment in the formation of Ra-tional Dissent and that of English Protestant Nonconformity more generally was, of course, the Civil War period of the 1640s and 1650s. Yet it was not until 1815, after a decade of mostly pseudonymous writing in works of biography, fiction, and history, that Godwin began to address directly this formative period in Dissenting history. It was to prove his central preoccupation over the next 15 years. With a special focus on the novel Mandeville: A Tale of the Seventeenth Century in England (1817) and the four volume History of the Commonwealth of England (1824-28), this essay explores Godwin’s ongoing engagement with his (and Britain’s) Puritan heritage across a period of immense political and discursive change. In bequeathing tendencies both to intellectual and moral autonomy and to emotional and social detachment, Puritanism is shown to underpin the essential tensions in Godwinian philosophy, tensions most precisely delineated, if not resolved, in the genres of fiction and history.

Michael Rutz, “Joseph Ivimey’s Pilgrims of the Nineteenth Century, and Anticatholicism in Dissenting Politics”

This essay explores opposition to Catholic Emancipation among evangel-ical Dissenters through the Baptist minister, Joseph Ivimey. His 1827 text, Pilgrims of the Nineteenth Century, treats religious toleration, Protestant Dissenters, and Catholicism in an increasingly outdated perspective. During the early nineteenth century, the principled right to religious freedom became an important element of the Dissenters’ campaign against the Test and Corporation Acts.

Charlotte Beyer, “Religion and Spirituality in Willa Cather’s Journalism”
This essay explores representations of religion and spirituality in selected journalism by Willa Cather written prior to 1900. Cather is best known for her fiction; however, her oeuvre also encompasses a considerable body of journalism written over a long period of time for a variety of newspapers and journals. Cather’s journalism was part of a wider effort by women writers and professionals to gain a foothold in American public life and letters at a time of considerable upheaval within American professions and literary culture. Cather’s journalism on issues of religion and spirituality contributed in significant ways to debates surrounding the role of religion in late nineteenth-century American society. Cather’s journalism on gender, art and aesthetics, diversity, and change was in-formed ethically and aesthetically by religious and spiritual contexts, even when her own personal relationship to matters of faith was in flux. Cather’s journalism was important in the evolution of American writing on religion and spirituality, especially in the context of late nineteenth-century American women’s writing on religion.

Adam Darlage, “Heaven on Earth: George Rapp on the Destiny of Man”

Johann George Rapp (1757-1847), a radical Pietist from the duchy of Württemberg, Germany, brought his followers to the United States in the early nineteenth century and officially founded the Harmony Society in 1805. Known for their practice of celibacy and communal living, the Harmony Society succeeded as an economic and social utopia in three successive settlements at Harmonie, Pennsylvania; Harmonie, Indiana; and Economy, Pennsylvania before finally dissolving in 1905. To date, most scholars have focused either on the Harmony Society as an American utopia, or on the influences behind the thought of Rapp. They have over-looked Rapp’s only prose writing directed at an outside audience, Gedanken über die Bestimung des Menschen: besonders in Hinsicht der gegenwärtigen Zeit [Thoughts on the Destiny of Man: Particularly With Reference to the Present Times] (1824). In this essay, I examine the English translation as a piece of religious prose and offer a close analysis of its primary argument as well as its use of recurring figures of speech. I focus especially on Rapp’s use of mechanical, horticultural, and alchemical metaphors in the service of his optimistic, postmillennial claim that the destiny of man is nothing less than a “golden age” of selfless Christian communal living. Led by Rapp’s Harmony Society, this Christian community would be a “resemblance of heaven” and could eventually save all of humankind.

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