THE POLITICAL IS THE RELIGIOUS: AUTHORITY, PROTESTANT DOCTRINE, AND REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY By JOHN S. WIEHL A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2014
2014 John S. Wiehl
3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my advisor, Pamela Gilbert, for such kind guidance as I completed this dissertation. My committee members, Judith Page, John Leavey, and Jessica Harland Jacobs have also been helpful and insightful writing group have also of stages of producing this dissertation. My friends have given me countless hours o f support. I thank them.
4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page AC KNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 3 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 6 CHAPTER 1 LITERATURE, SECULARIZATION, AND THE REFORM BILL ERA ............................. 8 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 8 Organization ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 29 2 THE REFORM ERA AND HISTORIOGRAPHY ................................ ................................ 35 Introduction: British Reform History ................................ ................................ ..................... 35 Religion and Constitutionality, Governance, and Parliamentary History .............................. 42 Historians on Religion and Democracy : Doctrinal Differences ................................ ............. 51 3 CRITICISM ON ELIOT: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND A TRADITION OF REALNESS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 59 Varieties of Literary Criticism: Religion, Humanism, Eliot's Philosophy, and Political Criticism ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 59 Eliot's Beliefs and Some Recent Eliot Criticism ................................ ................................ .... 70 Mimesis in George Eliot Criticism ................................ ................................ ......................... 7 7 4 GEORGE ELIOT'S WRITING ................................ ................................ .............................. 94 Middlemarch : One vision of the Reform Era ................................ ................................ ......... 94 Bulstrode, Insincerity, and the Failings of Public Belief ................................ ...................... 104 The Absurdity of Doctrine in Middlemarch ................................ ................................ ......... 110 Time and Presentism ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 113 Adam Bede and The Importance of Right Internal Feeling ................................ .................. 118 Scenes of Clerical Life and Stasis ................................ ................................ ......................... 126 Daniel Deronda ................................ ................................ .. 128 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 135 5 CHARLOTTE BRONT'S VILLETTE AND A RELIGIOUSLY DIVERSE POLITY ...... 140 Villette 's Complicated Politics ................................ ................................ .............................. 149 Charlotte Bront and Evangelicalism ................................ ................................ ................... 154 On Crossing Boundaries and A Religiously Diverse Polity ................................ ................. 158 Narrative As Suspended Trauma ................................ ................................ .......................... 163 Villette and The Impossibility of Secularity ................................ ................................ ......... 170
5 6 RADICAL DEMOCRACY, CHARTISM, AND GREAT BRITAIN IN THOMAS COOPER'S THE PURGATORY OF SUICIDES ................................ ................................ .. 172 Predestination in Purgatory ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 182 Looking Backward, Looking Forwar d ................................ ................................ ................. 194 7 WORDSWORTH'S REVISIONS OF THE PRELUDE THE OXFORD MOVEMENT, AND THE NECESSITY OF AUTHORITY ................................ ................................ ........ 20 2 Historical Background of The Oxford Movement ................................ ................................ 20 2 The Religious and Political Revisions of The Prelude ................................ ......................... 209 8 JANE AUSTEN AND THE REGENERATION OF THE CLERGY ................................ .. 237 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 237 Qualifying Cle rgymen and Their Spouses ................................ ................................ ............ 244 Continuity Between Government and Religious Leaders ................................ .................... 254 The Rural Politics of Change ................................ ................................ ................................ 257 Remaking The Governing Class ................................ ................................ ........................... 262 Conclusion: Pastorship and Ordination ................................ ................................ ................ 267 9 CONCLUSION: DEMOCRACY'S FUTURE? ................................ ................................ .... 269 WORKS CITED ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 272 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 281
6 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE POLITICAL IS THE RELIGIOUS: AUTHORITY, PROTESTANT DOCTRINE, AND REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY By John S. Wiehl May 2014 Chair: Pamela Gilbert Major: English Religious thinking played a distinct role in early attempts to reform the British state from a semi oligarchic monarchy into something more democratic. Britain's peaceful transition from a confessional state, where those seeking political office had to be a member of the state sponsored religion, to a tolerant, multi confessional one, is one of the great vi ctories of liberalism. As such, transforming citizenship, by dropping the requirement that all participants in politics belong to a singular, state sponsored church, paved the way for future reforms and expanded citizenship: ever more groups of peo ple, such as women and non landowning men, eventually won the right to vote through Parliamentary reform much like Catholics and Dissenters in the Reform Era. Yet the process of secularization, not only in the development of public policy but also in the w ays we imagine representative democracy in a religiously diverse polity, is an incomplete one at best. This is partly because British writers and others incorporated thinking about religious doctrines into their visions of a more democratic society. The di ssertation considers how George Eliot's literary re imagination of the Great Reform Era (1828 32) from decades later has proven influential in critics' and historians' secularized accounts of the period. Looking back from Eliot's obfuscation of the role of religion in debates about democracy, the subsequent chapters illustrate how other literature imagines religious particularity or specific for ms of required beliefs, was
7 foundational for basic governance. These chapters focus on the way Charlotte Bront w rites a religiously diverse pol ity in a fictionalized Belgium, Thomas Cooper rejects Calvinist predestination in democratic debates, William Wordsworth desires greater respect for both religious and civil authority, and Jane Austen calls for continual rein vestment in the Anglican clergy. Grasping the use of Protestant doctrine in imaginations of representative democracy may help explain why Western public life seems to revisit religiously specific politics continually. With more attention paid to how people imagined Christianity shaping representative democracy we might be able to gain insight into a whole host of problems that our democracies face today like noninclusive religious plurality or an inability to export the form of democracy we practice to non Christian nations.
8 CHAPTER 1 LITERATURE, SECULARIZATION, AND THE REFORM BILL ERA the proposed series [...] will consist of tales and sketches illustrative of the actual life of our country clergy about a quarter of a century ago; but solely in its human and not at all in its theological aspect; the object being to do what has never yet been done in our Literature, for we have had abundant religious stories polemical and doctrinal, but since the 'Vicar' and Miss Austen, no stories representing the clergy like any other class with the humours, sorrows, and troubles of other men George Lewes, writing about "Amos Barton" to Blackwood, Eliot's publishe r (qtd in Haight 213) criticism is no longer going to be practiced in the search for formal structures with universal value, but rather as a historical investigation into the events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as sub jects of what we are doing, thinking, saying. Michel Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" The ceremony connected with the song was a drinking ceremony. (That is perhaps a painful fact, but then, you know, we cannot reform our forefathers.) George Eliot, Ada m Bede (482) Introduction George Eliot's position in the canon of British literature is an enviable one. Few writers were as popular in she was in her own time; also, few of her contemporaries made as much money per novel as she did. Her reputation in the century and a half since she lived has seen her importance increase; she was one of a small number of nineteenth century women novelists hugely popular on college syllabi before feminism introduced more women writers to the a cademic community. As such, Geo rge Eliot's influential depiction of rural England passed as a very realistic vision of the era surrounding th e passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832. 1 That 1 Eliot's influence with all types of critics is impressive. Literary critics, like Royal W. Rhodes in The Lion and the Cross: Early Christianity in Victorian Novels (1995), does not address Eliot's novels, but still uses her dismissal of e Eliot's consider Eliot at all (3). Historians of the nineteenth century seem to turn to Eliot more than almost any other novelist whet her or not their projects address literature pick up three histories of the century and Eliot will most likely appear in at least one of the indexes. Cultural critics from such diverse disciplines as theology also turn to Eliot. Theologian Peter C. Hodgson am not a specialist in literary criticism, but a theologian who has found in George Eliot a surprising resource for
9 her primary genre of writing was the Realist novel, or the historical/realist novel, 2 only cement ed her prominence as a truth teller in an era of sensation fiction, comic novels, melodrama, and triple decker romances. Eventually, George Eliot's narrative of religious feeling and pro democratic reforms of the first half of the nineteenth century exercised great influence a mong academics 3 Succeeding generations of academics, particularly literary critics, have looked to her novels as providing mostly historically accurate depictions of rural English life in this period. As I explain in Chapter 3, some of these highly influential literary critics were Les lie Stephen, F. R. Leavis, Blanche Colton Williams and Barbara Hardy Neil McCaw, in George Eliot and Victorian Historiography (2000) argues that Eliot's view of history so thoroughly coincided wit h the Whiggish view of history that her partial erasure of a religious past was persuasive to Whig historians. McCaw does not focus on the religious aspects of her work; rather, he looks to "the reflecting on one of the most difficult questions: whether and how it is possible to speak meaningfully of the ure critic, making intellectual critique her object in published and unpublished writings. Thus, although her thinking and writing initially and primarily operate at the level of personal experience, they develop larger resonance in the culture of her time (Fleishman 10). This dissertation traces and explains one consequence of this influence: her vision of the Reform Era and its role in literary criticism. 2 historico realist historiographical nov beyond such a broad historical realism and achieves a new (for the time) degree of historicity. In this sense Eliot defines the par ameters of what might be called the historiographical novel: all the novels (with the exception of Daniel Deronda ) are set more than a generation in the past, they deal centrally with the interaction of present and past, and they attempt to achieve a ficti onalized recreation of history much akin to that more usually associated with of critics (Leavis 22). 3 Historians today mostly tend to p resent the Great Reform Act, or the Reform Era, as not exactly marking epochal change, but still being quite influential. A smaller share of historians claim a much greater role for it. Carolyn Vellenga Berman seems to toe the line fairly carefully. She do es claim that order. The Great Reform Act thus marks a crucial moment in the history of British political altered the political landscape [...] the Reform Act of 1832 launched the so called Age of Reform, in which parliam particularly those who could he partial opening afforded by this event would reverberate in the British national imaginatio making literary critics continually return to the study of the Reform Era as epoch making.
10 method by which Eliot attempted to recreate history in her fi ctions, the influence of nineteenth century British historiography on her perception of the details and processes of History, and the ideological implications of her representation of History, particularly in terms of the politics of national and gender id can be "value laden, politically and philosophically blinkered, and often noticeably partisan" when considering the "Whiggish narrative of English national history" (32). My particul ar argument traces the ideological implications of her treatment of religion, and I attempt to expose how continuing to follow her version of nineteenth century history is no longer a politically viable option for academics who, possibly like Eliot herself would like to see the world as a secular place. I would like to suggest an alternative reading of history, presented in other literature of her er a, that shows Eliot as a writer with an active historical agenda and as one who has had extensive influence in scholarship on the era through the present day. Over the last few years, academics have increasingly commented on their own role in secularization. Vincent Pecora, in his popular Secularization and Cultural Criticism: Religion, Nation, and Modernity (2 006), is one of the leading scholars writing about secularization, which anslation, history of the West, and applies broadly to historical inquiry, philosophy, politics, and more. Further, Pecora insists that academics have contrib uted to the processes of secularization by a global age implicates us in an intellectual history that we at other times would like to disavow.
11 This history i 2). 4 Pecora is suspicious of the very basis of secular criticism; for, in his mind, secularism and secular criticism has thoroughly drawn on Christianity, its history and role in philosophy, thought, and politics. As secularism or secular criticism often casts itself as Christianity's antithesis in Western culture by presenting a worldview where religion plays only a marginal role in public life (some secularist positions even dismiss religion entirely), the intellectu al history of the movement or imperial hubris of the Western, Judeo Christian tradition, even as we worry about ignoring that tradition's role as a (perhaps the ) foundation of the secular Enlightenment, that is, the moral how morally generative Christianity has been and continues to be in his account of the West. His g want to make clear that what we may complacently understand as 'secular' about such criticism comes with certain historical and religious strings attached, that these are awfully hard to get rid a homogenized el ite, and their belief in continuing secularization as modernization (25). How this vision of the Enlightenment expands outside the West is central to his considerations. Some critics lump modernization, or modernity, together with Westernization, but drawi ng on a recent critical trend that considers modernity multiple (so not all modernities would 4 William McKelvy defines secularization one of several ways useful for my diss purposes of this study, secularization means something specific. It is a political and legal process that leads to the state relinquishing opinions on theological subjects. This approach to secularization is compatible with th e loss of 29). Viswanathan explores the notion of the state staying out of theological questions; for my thoughts on this, see below.
12 look like Western ones or Westernization) allows Pecora to discuss how secularism might come with just one sort of modernity. In any case, modernity is a key conc ept for those thinking of secular criticism, its goals, and how one might practice such criticism. Pecora identifies Matthew Arnold as a major influence in the practice of cultural criticism, which became secular cultural criticism at least partly because of his influence. Indeed, Arnold proves influential at several points in discussions of secularity, cultural criticism, and modernity. Pecora says that it's likely due to Arnold that critics became involved in secularization a modernization of culture, an difficulties posed by a secularizing process that threatened to embrace a purely instrumental or no religion anywhere can remain permanently untouched by the corrosive yet also liberating forces of secularization" (44). For Pecora, these "corrosive" forces work on "religion" in universal and destructive ways. As Pecora continues, his too monolithic vi ew of religion becomes clear especially in contrast to view of secularization. He says, "religion continues to be too basic and ubiquitous a phenomenon to be relegated to a pre degrees of secularizatio n may be the expected effects of an increasingly global economy and allow for a broader sense of how "religion" functions in non Christian ways; by almost entirely overlooking Eastern religious traditions, and their various roles in the political life of their nations, Pecora draws on too unified a notion of what religion is. 5 This unitary conceptualization 5 Pe cora has a few lists of religions that perfunctorily include "Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, animism, and so forth," but more regularly relies on statements like "[a]lmost all empirical sociologists of religion allow for the persistence of religion in what has been called cultural defense, which might at present fall under the domain of cultural and Christian religions (but especially the non monotheistic religions) (107, 16). That's not to say there isn't extensive reference to sources on other religions in his work, but a thorough investigation of just one non Western religion could have shown secularism as having far more debts to cessary in a book trying to discuss an
13 of religion his is an entirely Christian notion of religion limits understanding how secularism might interact with other world religions. If secularism and secular criticism has an essentially Christian character, as Pecora argues, it must always participate in a colonialist introduction of Christian thinking whe n practiced in non Western and non to Christian thinking, under which secularism falls, in this analysis of secularism. This universalized conception of religion, and how it responds to the forces of the Enlightenmen t, makes it a powerful force in his argument; for him, religion generates morality. He describes recognition of the morally generative force of religious belief reckoning today (44). If secular criticism, or something with no religious intellectual debts, could generate morality (which it doesn't seem to be able to do in his analysis) it might serve in the place of such a unified n 6 The focus of scholarship on nineteenth century secularization has not dealt with Victorian writers alone; critics of Romanticism have also pointed to the role it has had in scholarship on the secularizing West. Colin Jager i n The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era (2006) says that event rather than a multiple international context so fully, whereas my argument is very narrowly about the imagination of democracy in one nation. 6 Pecora's belief that secularism cannot generate morality would at least account for his insisten ce that legal codes eit her a return to a specific religious code (with the Ten Commandments in the courtroom) or a purely formal and arbitrary sense of 'legality,' in which we simply abandon the idea that political norms should not be divorced from a search for universally accep and by this I mean something with no reference to religion (so potentially atheist), philosophy could establish legality.
14 with academics who argue that literature is one secularizing factor in modernity while not considering their own implication in secularization. 7 Jager argues that posthumanist and postst demonstrate such a profound lack of awareness of their own pol itical investment in promoting a nonreligious criticism they are unaware of the challenges they face in promulgating this viewpoint. Furthermore, Jager would like to point out that: claims and assumptions about secularization must be subjected to the same sort of critical reflexivity that literary critics now habitually bring to discussions of race, class, and sexuality; we need to be alert, in other words, for the process by which norms get smuggled in as value neutral descriptors. It turns out that those who readers and interpreters. Because that belief contributes mightily to the cultural entitlement of this small group, it seems a worthwhile task to make it an object of analysis whenever we read the poetry and prose that gave birth both to it and us. (36) How this belief contributes to the entitlement of the group is not entirely clear, but the process by which literature gives birth to a contemporary criticism, critic ally reflexive about gender and sexuality, certainly is. All kidding aside, the gauntlet Jager, Pecora, and others have thrown down is straightforward: if our contemporaries value a secular criticism, one that very likely has values at odds with various re ligious movements, secular critics must own up to their political motivations in promoting non religiously inflected cultural norms. 7 t technique of linking secularization to modernization, evident in the approaches of Abrams and Hartman, wrongly supposes that modernity is a singular and historically inevitable even rather than a multiple and contingent one. Meanwhile, the posthumanist i nterventionist model characteristic of Warminski and a variety of poststructuralist critics, while admirably alert to contingency, tends to misread its own secularity as neutral and autonomous rather than as determined by the intellectual stance itself. Bo th humanist and posthumanist renderings of romanticism, that is to say, rely upon aspects of the secularization thesis that have been i charged one. This interpretation of secularity re privileges theocratic readings of culture, and seems to do so in the interests of Christianity rather than any other religion or religion generally (if such a thing can be said to exist).
15 An earlier generation of critics explicated the role of literature in universalizing secularization without as thoroughly exploring the role of the critics themselves in this process. M. H. Abrams, a central literary critic for Jager in the process of secularization, spent a great deal of energy establishing the ways Romantic era literature produced a non theological standard for literary value. In Abrams's classic Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (1973), Abrams encourages critics and readers to understand how thoroughly canonical Romanticism produced new forms of religious experience in nonreligious terms. 8 This process continued through the Victorian era in somewhat different ways; one critical commonplace suggests that Romantics rejected religious orthodoxy while the Victorians were more keen about internal debates of religious orthodo xy. In any case, Abrams argues that we patterns of Romantic philosophy and literature are a displaced and reconstituted theology, or else a secularized form of devoti onal hereditary ways of organizing experience for the conditions of reality and the universal forms of 8 Judith W. Page explores a very interesting connection between Judaism, Jews, and the study of Romanticism in the American academy in the last chapter of her Imperfect Sympathies She notes how Abrams and other Jewish critics played a central role in establishing Romanticism as a major discipline in the English literary canon during the middle of the twentieth century; this was due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was the similarity between the historical moment of great loss for Jewish people and the qualities of Romanticism. She says, postwar and post Holocaust decade, Jewish scholars also seemed to have turned to the British Romantics as voices o f inclusion: to a group of writers who valued democratic ideals and believed in the sympathetic imagination Their privileging of Romanticism was not the only effec t of their religious background, for instance Geoffrey Hartman introduced Jewish interpretive methods for studying Romanticism (185). Each critic appears to have related his (almost is the most to the Judeo Christian tradition as if it were a seamless garmen t. As I have tried to demonstrate, such linking results most often in Judaism and Jewish particularity being subsumed into Her reading throughout the book preserves a more distinct role for Judaism and insists that recovering Jewish vo ices from the era enriches our study of Romanticism. She also notes how, for these early critics of Romanticism, literary criticism before their entry into the academy was often ; Harold Bloom found the mostly Protestant criti cs of the first half of the twentieth century were divided between accepting the Puritan revolution or not (182 ; 189 ) .That religious specificity plays a major role in majoritarian literary criticism alongside the introduction of a different religious tradi tion in the study of Romanticism suggests just how thoroughly ostensibly secular cultural criticism has, at its base, semi religious motivations.
16 disappea red or became oblique in his contemporary culture (66). Indeed, Abrams is very willing to link the process of secularization in the Romantic era to patterns of culture that exist deep in and theological elements to secular or pagan frames of reference began with the establishment of Christianity, and it was assimilative process rapidly expands the frame of reference for Christianity rather than narrowing it or repurposing it beyond recognition. The analysis of secularization in the recent intellectual history I have been tracing, here, plays a major role in the project of this dissertation, yet it's not itself the primary focus of my readings. Instead, the overarching object of my analysis is the way we imagine and practice democracy. That our democratic society has been built in nations imagined as Christian, or even officially and unequivocally Chr istian, means that secularization if it can be imagined as a process whereby an explicitly Christian worldview, politics, or philosophy is replaced or subsumed by a non religious one is an integral process in the production of a non religiously affiliated democratic nation. If a nation and its imagined national character are always discretely linked to one (or a limited few) religious heritage(s), can a religiously diverse polity exist? Conceptualizing secularization as a project always influenced by Chris tianity detracts from the imagination of an expanded, non religiously specific national character. One of the most influential historians of the last twenty years, Linda Colley, argues that in the formation of Britain's national identity, as opposed to Eng lish, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish national identities, Protestantism determined how most Britons viewed their politics, and an uncompromising
17 Protestantism was the fo (18). The imagination of a democratic nation and its national character, its citizens and their ability to govern themselves through voting, civics, and elected representation, often happens in literature. Today's multi confessional world would seem to require an unfettering of the imagination to produce true religious tolerance. 9 In this dissertation, I'm concerned with how we practice representative democracy, particularly in Britain but with resonances for the rest of the West, such as the United States. Since I am an American and since this dissertation has been completed entirely in an American university it would be foolish to think that the American political context for seculari sm has little bearing on the argument contained herein. The term generall y at various points in this dissertation, for example in one reading of how Charlotte Bront's Villette (1853) imagines a multi confessional polity, but these discussions always have deep implications for democracy. Using nineteenth century literature as a conduit for thinking about democracy and the nation has a rich history. Linda Dowling's Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford (1994) opened my mind to thinking about the formation of a democratic nation and the nation's citizens through rhetoric al and imagined, or literary, means. Dowling discusses the history of what became identity politics in the formation of the British nation. This identity politics focuses on homosexuality and the role of the Greek city state in nineteenth century conceptio ns of the British polity. I've chosen to look at religion in a similar role, a role that is too often overlooked 9 often t he state sponsored or Established (meaning state religious beliefs are required for civic participation. J. C. D. Clark says that [a] confessional' state signifies monopoly, not u nanimity: outside the Church stood a kaleidoscope of substantial denominations and o ( English Society 40).
18 by twentieth and twenty first century scholars, but a vital one. The importance of a nineteenth century foundation for identity politics in th e formation of the British nation is mirrored by religion or religious debates that have a similar origin and relevance for our own present time. Dowling discusses the usage of the warrior ideal in classic seventeenth and eighteenth century republican rhet drawn from changed. She finds the Reform Act to have been an expression of a radically changed public perception of morality, civil, artistic, and otherwise, that was leaving the warrior ethos behind time, from the period abou t twe nty years before the Reform Act through the 1860s, Dowling depiction of ancient Greece from a warrior ethos to paiderastia an imagination of Greek love com bining learning or teaching and genital attraction, my project traces some religious changes in the imagination of the nation, partly to do with its national character and notion of citizenship, but always to do with its vision of just how democracy, anoth er Greek invention, could be practiced. 10 10 familiar for scholars today, a sort of catch all that includes notions like the individual political will, citizenship, confessional society. Joanna Innes and Mark Philp, in the introduction to their volume Re Imagining Democracy in the Age of Revolutions give a long, interesting description of the term beginning of the period, they say connoted not so much a specific institutional order as a cluster of political phenomena: crowd activity; popular pressure on government; demagogues bidding for crowd support; impulsive politics; coe rcion or punishment of which could lead to despotism (1) It was o
19 My argument here draws on Pecora's understanding of a secularizing trend among cultural critics through late modernity. Herein I have focused primarily on literary, cultural, and historical critics who have interpr eted George Eliot's work or have discussed the historical era she represents in her novels. Some of these critics have directly stated theological aims for their criticism, meaning they are engaging religious questions for the sake of developing religion t oday, they are advancing a religious position for our contemporary world, they are calling for a return to an earlier kind of belief, or they have a specific goal of showcasing a model of belief that they worry has disappeared. Others of these critics, who may or may not address religion, have seemingly secular goals, whereas others wholly ignore the topic of religion. Labeling each critic is not always possible: certainly some thinkers would object to being called secular even if they haven't directly stat ed a theological goal or even addressed religious topics. Yet most varieties of criticism can be interpreted to have religious or secular implications; without exploring these often implicit implications of scholarship critics will not understand their own role in the processes of secularization in democratic criticism today. Discussing all of these of terms alongside aristocracy and monarchy which described the three entities in eighteenth century governance (1 over the course of the first part of the nineteenth century that democracy and universal suffrage become linked in the publi c imaginary (6). They do acknowledge that popular revolutions have something like evolutions which, however transiently, give power to the peo ple take shape partly because some among the people think that this is within their scope: that it can and perhaps should fall to them to determine by whom and nistic but does provide a broader umbrella for our understanding today than it would have in the fifty years leading up to 1832. appropriated and redefine d by radicals who insisted on a wider electorate sharing the burdens of governance (104). He concludes hen popular pressures for reform revived in the 1810s, they drew on the language of constitutionalism and reform, and rather more rarely that of Painite republicanism, for their rallying cries, rather than on the terminology our twenty first century terminology. The chapter by Innes, Philp, and Saunders in the same collection argues that the most striking effect was the emergence of the language of democracy in popular radical discourse. Radical publicists began to argue that, insofar a s the Reform Acts had retained a wealth related franchise, they had not instituted democracy and that the post Reform policy record larger groups of reformers.
20 trends together, and identifying them where possible, provides a unique perspective on the many ways religion continues to be addressed and ignored in modernity There are several registers for my argument herein. On a first level I make a literary argument that directly addresses how we read Eliot's novels today, particularly their representation of history and religion; secondly, this leads to my argument abou t the way many earlier critics, dating from her initial publication through at least the end of the twentieth century, expansion of voting rights; finally there i s a third argument, related to both of the preceding ones, about the political consequences of accepting either Eliot's presentation of history and religion in the novels versus recognizing her presentation as having a definite political goal with specific historical targets that no longer exist. Essentially, this third argument seeks to persuade today's secularly minded critics to note Eliot's own secularized (and secularizing) presentation of history and recognize that our situation has changed. 11 This thi rd argument also occasions my interpretation of other literary imaginations of democracy from the period to illustrate how their competing visions use religion as foundational for politics, depict Protestant doctrine essential for democracy, show secular s ociety in radically different ways, or generally represent the relationship of religion and democracy differently. If the political aims inherent in presentation of history become visible then we can better understand this political mission and it s unaccomplished goals or unimagined consequences. S. A. Skinner, in his book Tractarians and the 'Condition of England': The Social and Political Thought of the Oxford Movement scholarship which has re examined ninete enth century political and intellectual culture by 11 Whether or not Eliot was deliberate in her secularizing tendencies is a question I would prefer not to answer, as it would require me to make a claim about her intentions that I do not feel is entirely possible.
21 recovering its religious or theological dimensions. Too often, certainly, twentieth century secularizing tren d among later critics has obscured debates of the nineteenth century. He economic, rather than religious and constitutional lines. The importance of religious d ifferences as a defining feature of political identity, and of religion as the currency of political discourse, today paint a picture of early democratic reforms in Britain as having little to do with the religion of the era. 12 Yet this was, in one sense, the political work Eliot's novels accomplished in the minds of several generations of secular critics. Eliot's particularized, selective presentation of history, and its wholesale acceptance by many of her critics, is not obvious as an effect of the very history it made possible; this dissertation seeks to make these processes visible. Too often her representation of the Great Reform Era as already mostly secularized was adopted by her later critics unconsciously or not. If today's critics want to understand how a further secularization could happen in Britain and America a fresh reckoning with the Christian, possibly even Protestant, under girding of the way we think, practice, and live democracy is in order. To make this argument I have occasionally had recourse to readers' responses to Eliot as her novels were published. Here, her contemporary readership can occasionally inform the disjunction between her presentati on of history and her readers' perception of it. But her reception during her lifetime matters relatively little for my argument; instead, I want to illustrate her literary afterlife for several generations of critics, point out its limitations, and sugges t how 12 This position is inh erent in any scholarly argument addressing democracy in early Britain that brackets or dismisses religion as not central enough to be the object of extensive analysis.
22 reshaping our interpretation of her novels could make her work even more relevant for cultural scholars engaged with debates about democracy today. This dissertation explains Eliot's secular vision of the Reform Era, and then digs backward historica lly through other sometimes competing literary visions of early democracy in Britain, to illustrate the method by which democracy, as we practice it today, forgot its Protestant roots. Indeed, this dissertation opens with a critique of George Eliot's seemi ngly apolitical representation of the Britain's Reform Era, the years leading up t o the passage of the Reform Act 13 By reading Middlemarch (1872), while taking quick detours into other works by Eliot, I will show how secular academics beginning with Eliot and continuing through our own contemporaries have reconstructed the Reform era from a perspective suitable to a secular political mission. Eliot's own re imagination of the period leading up to 1832 from twenty five years later (and still later on in the case of Middlemarch ) bears the marks of a political mission still viable, if incomplete, today. 14 My argument suggests that contrary to Eliot's own statement in Adam Bede present a particular version of the Reform Era (482). My central argument is that Eliot and her interpreters, in promulgating a vision of rural England as uninterested in the doctrinal debates of Protestantism during the earl y days of British democracy, have persuaded academics that much of Western democracy has no religious content 13 The importance of returning to the Reform Era was prevalent in the latter half of the c entury for intellectuals other Culture and Anarchy as notable for its power and elegance as for the questionableness of its facts, Arnold announced the imminent resurg on Arnold, see C hapter 6. 14 mi ght then conclude that the society that produces Enlightenment never fully outgrows its desire for religious sources of coherence, solidarity, and historical purpose, and continually translates, or transposes them into ever more refined and immanent, but a the influence of religion in his argument. It's worth pondering if non Christian (non Abrahamic, really) religions influence this religious inheritance much in Wes tern culture. Viswanathan makes the best addresses to this question.
23 in its practice or its dissemination. 15 Rather, by judging the prevalence of the strong religious feelings of many elected officials, the similarly religious views of much of the e lectorate, and the role of Churches in contemporary Britain and America, I would like to suggest that a revised vision of the role of Protestantism, and religious doctrine generally, in early British democracy might trigger a new way of thinking for secula r academics. One reason a fuller understanding of Protestantism seems necessary is that movements within Protestantism pushed for, and almost certainly helped secure, greater religious freedom within Britain. 16 Here my analysis parts ways with that of the e regime, which could hardly be called multiconfessional in reality, fostered political pluralisms t because the Anglican Church and Parliam ent were so fully entwined, in 1828 at the beginning of the Reform era religion and politics were one and the same. Historians of the Reform era suggest quite the opposite of Pecora's statement that political plur alism resulted from a secularizing tendency. Richard Brent, in his Liberal Anglican 15 representation of History in Romola and indeed throughout her literary course the degree of inauthenticity matters significantly; furthermore, this generalization seems inaccurate in the unique case of religious history and democracy. He also rather quickly discusses Eliot's take on Protestantism hostility towards Catholicism. And yet it does appear as if her default position, as far as religion was concerned, was that of not address the details significantly enough; her foundational experience as an Evangelical seems important in thinking of her representation of with the political and religious tensions of Ireland during this time. This amounts to a fundamental, if subliminal, acquiescence with a Protestant Anglocentrism that denies I am illuminating her attempted disavowal of Protestantism as definitional to democracy here. 16 This is mostly as opposed to France, where the Revolution took the clergy as one of its targets, and this is also in some contrast to America, where religious persecution, religious plurality, and an absence of Establishment lead sort of political tolerance that granted equal civil rights to Catholics and to the range of Protestant sects" but that this "actually achieved a more or less permanent and widespread legitimacy in the West only in the wake of the American and French Revolution toleration advanced by fits and starts.
24 Politics: Whiggery, Religion, and Reform 1830 1841 ith their sense of the religious; that the liberalism, which these politicians embodied, involved not a rejection of, but a 17 Theologically, the Whigs' sympathy for Nonconformity was a reflection of Anglican principles; Christian duty also motivated their service to the nation (14, 22, 125). 18 A belief in common truths across Christian religions made these Anglicans theologically tolerant of the Dissenters' demands (28). The toleration engendered by t hese common truths did not extend universally across the Catholic and Protestant Dissenting groups, of course. The liberalizing tendencies of these politicians were not al doctrines of [the politicians'] more articulate clerical friends, that there was indeed a connection between 19 Importantly, Brent's argument suggests a process by which political pluralism began in Britain during the reform era: the dominant, state sponsored religion gradually, through adaptation and consideration, made room for other expressions of belief. 20 17 to Russell, emph asized religious toleration and the comprehension of Protestants within the Church of England. This was possible because these divines distinguished the truths of Christianity from disputed sectarian dogmas, including the doctrine of the Trinity. Being con troversial, the latter could not be the universal touchstone of a 18 n Catholics as members of the political nation (reforms which they actively approved rather than accepted as acts of liners who felt that every reform to the Anglican chur ch was an attack on the Christian character of the nation by Dissenting or Catholic groups (28). 19 Brent continues, saying "[t]he practical political consequences which these liberal divines derived from their Christian thinking were consonant with the chu of Anglican Whiggism proves formative in questions of governance secular and religious. 20 ious conscience has led to one of the most sustained critiques of secularism as dependent on a strong state to ensure that private belief does not become public policy. However, conceptions of the state as a source of enlightened reason create a gap
25 envisaged incor pluralism is one marker of a secularizing state and so one vein of Anglicanism had the effect of producing a secularized state. 21 While this may seem like rhetorical hair splitting, it is worth repeating that for Brent contemporary religious toleration in a democratic society had its roots in one religious particularity rather than in the devaluation of religion. Judging by the evolution of Anglican religious expression and the varie d importance of different doctrines in nineteenth century church history (such as the slow decentralization of beliefs in both atonement and Christ's own divinity), it would seem that through accommodation and adoption Anglicanism took on elements of Disse nting traditions. The adoption of a tolerant attitude, then, caused changes within the state sponsored religion; this process lead directly to the state's mostly secular stance that we recognize in Britain today. 22 I quote Foucault in one epigraph to this chapter to suggest that my criticism is not meant to be a universal critique of humanity, but is rather a critique of the particular situation we find ourselves in today when we vote, donate to political causes, protest, or practice democracy betwee n modern secularism and belief communities that leaves no room for a long view of history in which heterodox sects, because they remained at odds with mainstream religious orthodoxies, were either absorbed into or marginalized by the formation of world rel igions. In relegating belief to the private domain, the secularist worldview about the role of the state in secularism and religious toleration a subject I will address mor e significantly in Chapter 3 But the formulation of dissenting religions being absorbed into mainstream sects is apropos. 21 Brent explains that a liberalizing Anglicanism, such as that represented by Russell, could affirm rel igious pluralism essential role of the church as the vehicle for saving souls, these liberals turned their attention to a consideration of th e contribution which Christianity made to the foundation of this world's civilization. This entailed the recognition that the prosperity of the state depended on the sustenance of a religion of a non dogmatic, but also orthodox, kind. These ideas were cons onant with the positions which liberal politicians avowed with regard to such religious issues as the admission of Dissenters to the universities, the withdrawal of institutionalized religion from the mechanisms of the state and the foundation of a non dog matic religious education. They are also an indication that these political stances involved a reflection on Anglicanism, and not its rejection. In so reflecting, these liberal divines and politicians provoked the anger and opposition of Tory politicians a 83). Brent ably elucidates the several concerns he lists here and, in suggesting the Tory Anglican response to liberal Anglicanism, makes the debate about secular governance implicitly about Anglicanism itself. 22 Even if the sta te is still officially connected to the Church of England.
26 generally spe aking. I hope to show the historical limits imposed upon us by Eliot's vision of democracy as contestable and potentially unstable, open to further experiments and transgressions. Vincent Pecora, who insists that critics have long held an important place i n the proces history that is not available to non secular critics, and he argues that these critical understandings of secularity are not self reflexively critical a bout the historical contingency of secularity itself (4) Critics making these assumptions routinely forget their own role in the secularization process. Making secularization a conscious process, rather than an easily forgettable framework for criticism, missing in the formulaic conception one might even say, with Said, in the 'reified object' that occupies the position of 'the secular' in 'secular criticism' is the larger, complic ated, and often minded critics, and here Pecora discusses Benjamin, Habermas, Viswanathan, and Said, alongside historical figures like Arnold and others as often quite divergent participants, ca n engage more fully in this process through a greater awareness of their own, sometimes unconscious, implication in it. If secularism owes such a thorough debt to religion, is it possible for secularism to repay this debt permanently to free itself of its entanglement? If one particularized type of religion is present at secularism's founding, will it forever haunt secularism? Is there a way to decouple this union? Or must these critics find a new way to imagine democracy, a way not influenced by secularism to shed their reliance on this religious particularity? gun studying religion again while the topic has been of less interest
27 to literary scholars (466). This is at least partly an effect of Eliot's vision of the era. Viswanathan ity [...] is driven by the motor of secularizing tendencies in the manner that radical doctrinal shifts succeeded one reducing its more variegated popular expression s and banishing the residues of the fantastic, the wondrous, and the superstitious to a pre Christian, pagan past, while consolidating selective this process Viswanathan suggests, not quite directly but rather obliquely, that secular critics have continued to rely on one, ever evolving and disappearing, particularized version of Christianity. But she complicates this understanding of secularity by suggesting th at the occult, the pagan, and the Dissenting or Nonconforming Christian religions need accounting for in the development of secularity. Could secularity have come from these places, and was it around before Christianity? This interesting call for further r esearch and study helps suggest a possible undoing of the coupling between secular criticism and Christianity. 23 My focus on secularity and the way we practice democracy means I have focused more directly on Christianity, specifically Anglicanism and the Di ssenting religions flourishing in the first half of nineteenth century Britain rather than the occult or paganism. The relationship between religion and the study of literature, as many secularist critics realize, has been complicated since at least the n ineteenth century. Viswanathan discusses how 23 alone carried the seeds of secularism within it certainly did not go uncontested in earlier scholarship, though even secularity from Islamic secularity might be useful here, but the point of finding a non religiously inflected secularity seems more import ant.
28 happens at leas t partly because, according to William McKelvy in The English Cult of Literature: Devoted Readers: 1774 1880 (2006), many nineteenth century observers claimed that additional pow er accorded authors by the changing role of literature in a democracy spawned new ways of thinking about literature and religion. McKelvy continues, saying that new literary cultures attempted to become sacred and adopted the conventions of religion (4). T he process of overlapping energies became even more entwined. As such, Viswan athan's point that of its identity, whose religious traces are no more than a historical reminder of a displaced 67) That early novels were sometimes celebrated for their didactic functions also indicates how some readers valued the moral function of novels. These scholars also appreciate how widely important the changed appreciation of literature could be for democrac y. McKelvy even says literature assumed the important position of a rival to religion when the very governance of the people was being transformed during the age of revolutions (28). Various authors and critics played a role in the process of rethinking li terature as a moral rival for religion, but few of these critics were as influential or respected as Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold's influence in the arena of secular criticism is such that Viswanathan, McKelvy, Pecora, and others all investigate or draw lessons from his thinking. Viswanathan asks "[h]ow might renewed interrogation of the Arnoldian proposition that literature succeeds
29 religion, beginning with historicization of the term religion itself, help us rethink religion's nature in more than the h question of what religion is coincides with my critique of Pecora who seems to draw on too singular a notion of religion; with secular democracy's expanding role in the world, various conceptions o f religion need consideration. For the most part, my project draws on secularity in relationship to British democratic practices. Also, here Viswanathan notes how basic terminology has taken on an Arnoldian tint. It's also at least partly due to Arnold tha t McKelvy Arnold, and other mid century critics like him, made the investigation of secularity and religion a pressing topic for literary scholars of the ni neteenth century. I have not had room to investigate Arnold independently in this project, and the attention these several scholars have already paid him will reward readers interested in his role in the secularization of literary criticism. Organization What George Eliot thought and wrote about the Reform period significantly underwrites how critics today understand the story of how literature developed after Romanticism's zenith and the ancien regime's last days during the transitional period of the Ref orm Era. The first epigraph to this chapter, from George Eliot's "irregular" spouse and informal literary agent George Lewes, suggests that from the very beginning Eliot's earliest fiction had the purpose of showing the lives of the country clergy without going into doctrinal debates or theological suppositions. Such a position suggests that doctrinal debates and theological suppositions are not part of the lives of country clergy or their congregations of her story telling; furthermore, the question of the "human" element of her fiction would have no regard for the "theological," as though theology was not a realm for the human by the first part of the nineteenth century. This at
30 least appears to be Eliot's once stated intention, whether or not it had such an effect is more debatable. In the epigraph, Lewes cites "Miss Austen," an eventual subject of my study as well, to claim a similar viewpoint on, investment in, and representation of these country lives. Here, he not only asserts one patently non doctrin al interpretation of Austen's work, but he also claims invoking sympathy, a thoroughly Romantic sensibility that some Victorians shared, it's as though Lewes wants to suggest Eliot shares literary values with Austen in addition to sharing an interest in depicting this one class of characters. Also, presenting characters this way, unlike the deeply comical and less realist Dickens and more like the Gaskell heroe s and heroines, Eliot seems to provide a fuller, truer representation of the world (Chapter 3 contains an extensive discussion of or reviewers with strong personal religious views or alienate the publisher's market. Claiming to represent reality while not engaging theological controversy has the effect of making representations of the controversy invisible and seemingly unimportant. And Lewes thinks that su ch a view will be original to "our Literature." That Eliot's artistic endeavors should thereafter almost entirely follow such a pattern and gain a popular foothold in one vision of the national, historical imagination further suggests how willingly secular critics adopted this narrative of the nation's political formation. So far I have suggested how a re engagement with Western secularity has started in some criticism, and I have briefly pointed to how Eliot's view of the Reform Era has been influential. I n the next chapter I present alternative perspectives for the context of the Great Reform Act These perspectives focus on the role of religious identification in politics to provide a counter to
31 Eliot's version of the era. I also present a quick review of historiography on the subject; historical scholarship, contra much literary criticism, engages a greater diversity of views about religion and politics in the Reform Era. The following chapter, number three, explores how literary criticism of religious to pics, humanism and philosophy, and government and liberalism has often dismissed religion as a serious influence in the West. This is a tactic that squares with Eliot's representation of the Reform Era; some critics have clearly drawn on this presentation to advance their claims. To try to clarify my argument about Eliot and her work, in the sense that she is a historical figure and a significant figure for cultural critics since her time, a section on Eliot's beliefs, religious or otherwise, follows. The l atter half of Chapter 3 details a critical tradition of Eliot scholarship that establishes Eliot as a truth teller. My argument about Middlemarch and its portrayal of religious subjects follow, in Chapter 4 ; in the novel the rarity of sincere religious fee ling, the absurdity of doctrine, and the weighty importance of the moment or event for history provide topics for what parts of Eliot's representation of the Reform Era proved influential among literary critics. I offer shorter readings of other works by E liot, especially Adam Bede (1859) and Daniel Deronda (1876) to provide a wider perspective on Eliot's literary output and to show how she portrays the era as a time that serious religious feeling has passed out of the current world. These first four chapte rs work as an overarching introduction to the rest of this dissertation. After discussing Eliot and her lasting critical influence at length, I turn to alternative literary representations of the debates surrounding the democratic reforms of 1832, and I ex plore how this literature imagined that governance, even democracy, might be practiced after these reforms. Digging backward historically from Eliot's influential presentation of the era allows me to uncover thinking about religious particularity and the f ormation of a polity that are not visible
32 post Eliot significant engagements with doctrinal debates and democracy in terms of the authority of Priests (or the church) and religiously specific understandings of free will in political self determination. B y presenting my argument in this way, I can suggest how a secular academic training may have conditioned our critical reading of the era, the reading Eliot and her critics have presented, to ignore these religious debates as being central to the imaginatio n of how we practice democracy. As such, my fifth chapter takes up the question of what a religiously diverse polity might look like; here a reading of Charlotte Bront's Villette shows how imagining multi confessionalism, a requirement of religiously tole rant democratic states, proves deeply traumatic for one subject. Villette 's narrator heroine, the eccentric and scarred Lucy Snowe, cannot imagine a marriage between her Anglican self and her Catholic fianc. His eventual drowning provides a state of traum a from which Lucy Snowe narrates the entire novel; this trauma is a metaphorical representation of how a religiously diverse citizenry affects the subjectivities of some intensely religious characters. Next, Chapter 6 on Thomas Cooper's The Purgatory of Su icides (1845) considers how free will is a necessary attribute for participants in a democracy. Cooper, a Chartist or activist for expanded voting rights, shows how very specific debates about Protestant doctrine are central to imagining democracy in his e pic poem. The requirement of free will flies in the face of the wildly popular theology of John Calvin, predestination or election (a confusing term surely for an argument about both religious doctrine and democracy with political determination). Calvinism 's popularity was greater among Methodists and Dissenters generally, but influenced a few Anglican divines. This slow march backward in time illustrates the various ways religion is held far more central in considerations of democracy than Eliot depicts an d than subsequent secular critics seem to admit. Then I analyze doctrinal debates about Tractarianism, or the
33 Oxford movement, and William Wordsworth's changes to his epic poem The Prelude (1850; completed long drafts from as early as 1805) in Chapter 7 W ordsworth appears to have developed similar concerns to the Tractarians in thinking about how grace enters humanity through Church or priest mediation as opposed to direct communication with the divine in nature. This matters because his imagination of a more authoritarian episcopal structure contrasts greatly with the democratic movements the rest of the country experienced in the years before, during, and after the Reform Era; a slow opening up of power structures is juxtaposed with Wordsworth's imagined tightening of these same structures. As this call for greater authoritarianism mirrors the Tractarians' call, both Wordsworth and these theologians find themselves developing religious doctrine that is outmoded in an expanding democracy. The final chapte r on literature focuses on Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Mansfield Park (1814), a pair of Jane Austen novels, for one last peek at how political governance required religious rejuvenation before direct democratic reforms changed the imagination and prac tice of governance; if in Austen, who wrote well before the Reform Era, we find governance being reformed through Anglican church means primarily, how can Eliot's nearly exactly opposing vision of governance and reform so regularly pass as the true to life representation of history? This final reading provides a neat contrast to the vision Eliot presents of the decades leading up to and including the Great Reform Era, particularly because Eliot positions her early work as written in the Austen tradition. Wi th Austen, however, religion provides the key to the relationship between new or rejuvenated forms of governance and democracy. In fact, every other writer I examine here shows a tighter, more vexed relationship between the two than Eliot ever portrays.
34 T here are quite a few topics deserving significant critical attention in relationship to the development of democracy in Britain that I have not been able to include in this study. The question of social class gets significant treatment here, and mentions o f gender related issues do occur, but they are not the organizing principles behind this project nor are they the direct object of its analysis. There simply isn't space here to do everything thoroughly. More's the pity, because individually or together wi th several other objects of interest, like race, regionalism, or even party politics, these topics could prove enlightening. Still, I think there is great value in considering how one tradition of literary interpretation about George Eliot has provided suc h a thorough and cohesive vision of the Reform Era; further changes in secular and democratic criticism today require a re imagination of religion and religious heritage from an early point in the history of representative democracy in the West.
35 CHAPTER 2 THE REFORM ERA AND HISTORIOGRAPHY Introduction: British Reform History As one famous historian has argued about the long eighteenth century, e agency of the State which confronted Everyman in his everyday life was not Parliament Clark English Society 320) In Britain before the Reform E ra the church and the state were not separate things but existed together. While the events around 1830 did not break the connection between c hurch and state, a major shift in their relationship occurred. This chapter looks at historical accou nts of the Reform Era and include s some cultural and literary history ( which features througho ut the rest of the dissertation) ; this chapter speaks to the fictional picture of the Reform Era. The chapters together provide two starkly different pictures of the historical moment leading up to the Great Reform Act of 1832 The first section of this chapter presents several classic takes on the Reform Era, focusing most particularly on an interpretation that highlights the interrelatedness of religion and politics in the period leading up to and during the Reform Era. I explore a few other ta kes on the era, but by focusing on the secularize d countryside appears less true to life than literary scholars have often believed ( the belief of these scholars is outli ned in the following chapter). The next two sections of this chapter discuss literary critics and historians on a variety of questions related to politics and religion in the Reform Era. Throughout my purpose is to sugges t how thoroughly politics, be they mass movements like Chartism, formal party politics such as the alignments of conservative Tories or Whigs with Dissent or Anglicanism larger political theories like liberalism, or even
36 economic public policy, all of which I discuss, ha ve religion either at their base s or how religion drives The Reform Act of 1832 changed the political landscape of Britain forever. One of the achievements of Reform was to extend the franchise to non landowning male property renters, essentially to the newly wealthy factory or business owning class and some professionals of seats to expanding metropoli tan/industrial centers. Some historians consider the Reform Era to have actually begun with the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, which along with the Catholic Relief bill of the following year, gave Dissenters and Catholics the right to vot e and sit in Parliament Groundbreaking historian J. C. D. Clark argues that became, of course, a shibboleth of Victorian society; but that does not entail that it was a major social goal, or a major engine of change, in England befor e 1830. Interest in it as a political ( English Society 548) Th is view of Reform emphasizes a major shift in constitutional and social history; not only does the changes of 1828 32 British society is obsessed by Reform when it was not beforehand. Historians generally argue that Parliamentary Reform, from the lessening and removal of religi ous disabilities for Catholics and Dissenters to the reduction of pocket boroughs and reforming representation was an interlinked process Clark presents this idea more strongly than most. He says that these three things (changes for Catholics, changes for Dissenters, changes to representation) were English Society 505) He argues that [f] ar from Emancipation being 'an aspect of the reform question', Parliamentary reform was a consequence of the shattering of the old order by English Society 548)
37 Parliamentary Reform, in terms of changing voting requirements and the redistribution of boroughs, is secondary in his account and simply a result of religious reforms. Other hi storians have produced a different view o f the Reform act as less influential or as being the culmination of decades of effort by reformers Joanna Innes, in two coedited collections, has etymologically and linguistically from the 17 80s through 1850 to s uggest how long reformist pressures and impulses took to form in t changes or reforms from parliamentary reform to church reform to moral and psycholo gical reforms, to colonial reform, and even to business reforms, many of which were imaginatively linked (Burns and Innes; Innes in Burns and Innes). This social and cultural history takes religious reform as a smaller component of a larger whole and works bringing religious questions to the fore matters greatly for understanding how literature used doctrinal specificity a nd religious con tent to imagine democracy and governance in the era. Widely influential historian Linda Colley in Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707 1837 (1992) achievements and the length of time which the system it created endured [...] in 1832 Great that the Reform Act produced the hegemonic long Victorian political and cultural era that is familiar to contemporary students of the period. While Colley is not saying that the Victorian era
38 was a static period of mono cultural dominance, her argument about the lasting impacts of the 1832 Act has considerable value for thinking of the rep resentative governmental powers it put in place. Of course, the static view of the Victorian period elides the strong currents of dissent in the era: Chartism, nascent feminism, and discomfort with some of the consequences of empire (seen in movements to ban the slave trade or reform the East India Company). These movements gained political le gitimacy much like the wealthy renters who won political representation in 1832: through pro governmental acquiescence to their demands with the result of a changed electorate and citizenry. This attempt to make a political body somewhat more representative of the populace it served changed an aspect of English (and then British) government that had been around for about one hundred and fifty years. J. C. D. Clark arg ues more from the perspective that emphasizes the discontinuity between the era before and after the Reform Act He says the century England sees in 1832 a classic crisis, but a viable social order in subsequent decade s. The historian of the long eighteenth century by contrast sees in the events of 1828 1832 a dissolution of the social order with which he is famil iar. Fa r more significant than the constructive aspects of the Act were its destructive aspe English So ciety 550). 1 Claudia Johnson describes a different way of thinking about authority in the earlier era; autonomous choice, and the limited though necessary role of authority enjoyed general currency, and the English gentry, proud of its independence and suspicious of aristocratic prejudices, was For Clark the end of the ancien regime 1 Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland, and Jane Rendall argue rather differently; they note how historians generally agree that there are more slow, continuous changes apparent in history than these sharp breaks. They find narratives of fast or sharp changes t o have wide popular appeal, even among undergraduates; they find a Of course this does not apply as well to constitutional history.
39 occurs with crystalline clarity in the Reform era of 1832; Catholics had been granted the right to vote and sit in Parliament only a few years before, as had Dissenters. was not toleration, which Dissenters enjoyed already, but the destruction of the Anglican English Society 435). 2 Cl ark's emphasis on the uniformity of religious belief and expression i n the government before the act points toward the necessary consideration of what role religiously specific beliefs have played in shaping modern democracy. 3 As I outlined above, Clark argued that religious changes in the Reform Era are the largest umbrella and the political/representative ones fall underneath it Historians of a bit later period also argue that reform of representation and the disestablishment of the church are linked, at least for Disraeli in the 1860s (Hall, McClelland, Rendall 5) Earlier in English Society he riffs that Parliamentary reform was not a subject which existed in Church which raised the most profound theoretical questions, and in England it was the In his terminology, the Interestingly, and counter quite a few other interpretations of the era, Clark argues that the change of unreformed Parli ament's legislation in favour of Protestant and Catholic Dissenters in 1828 and 1829. Such moves were not aspects of secularisation, but attempts to redefine the public role of 2 He do es not seem overly sympathetic to the plight of Nonconformists before 1832, however, and argues that English Society 31) 3 About religious and national uniformity, he says dynastic core: put simply, 'British' meant 'English', an d 'Protestant' meant 'Anglican' English Society 40)
40 English Society 33) 4 Secularity is not part of his view o f the eighteenth century. 5 Organized, Established Anglicanism is the ta rget of reform in his analysis. 6 The h istory of the Reform Era depends on later interpretations of the energ ies driving epistemic shift in the moment; Clark describes how he measurable characteristics of English society showed no fundamental discontinuity in the early 1830s, but men's perceptions of them often did. Soon, the world before 1832 was pictured as a lost worl d, to which (for good or ill) there could be n ( English Society 554) portrayed, and Clark concludes his book by pondering their perceptions. He finds a historical argument in their memories; he says many men sensed the beginning of a new era. To create and propagate such a sense was, of course, a deliberate intellectual project; not the least of its 4 He strenuously argues against the more commonly accepted notion that external pressures caused Parliament to reform itself; he says, of the public reaction in 183 1 English Society 540) 5 t is not even clear that secularisation, understood as the advance of a self sufficient materialism, yet existed; the main challenge to established religion and its social consequences came from heterodox th ( English Society 30) In fact, over the course of his century he sees very little change until the absolute end point of his analysis. He says, ideologies to a m erely pragmatic, utilitarian idiom. If questions like religious toleration were debated in Parliament in largely pragmatic terms, as questions of expediency, it was a pragmatic weighing of the probable consequences of divergent religious traditions. In tha ( English Society 316) century as fully as Clark, I obviously see something like secularization occurring at least in the later imagi nation of this era. As Clark and others argue, I find secularization to be a product of a particular religious environment. 6 His book has been criticized pretty heavily from other sorts of historians, and their discomfort with his work must be due at lea st partly to how dismissive he is of other types of historiography (Marxist, feminist, etc). Of Marxist ideas he says [c] lass formation must be postponed to the very end of our period, and even then was a direct consequence of the religious and ideologica l polemics with which this book deals. A confessional state dominated by providential status rather than contract, and structured vertically rather than horizontally, was a society fixated on the social theory of its elite, as Adam Smith classically reveal English Society 125) H e disregards the affiliation of sect or religious persuasio n with social cla ss of co urse this is easy to do when disregard ing or disdain ing the very notion of class ( English Society 37) Furthermore, the eighteenth century discu apparently only about scriptural interpretation (18). He thinks many categories of historical analysis ni neteenth century concepts and have little or no applicability to the study of the eighteenth century (3). My project is most certainly about the perspective of nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first century readers imagining 1832, and so his project and m ine may appear compatible on the surface.
41 facets was the creation of what was later characterised as the 'Whig interp ( English Society 554) Clark Era greatly aligned with the Whig inte rpretation of history. 7 Eliot appears complicit in this deliberate intellectual project, and because of her importance for literary and cultural history her depiction of the Reform Era requires the thorough investigation and explanation I provide below. T h e 1828 1832 era gave a new face to the electorate yet this new electorate did not include everyone. Women were excluded from the voting body as were, still, most non elite men. Directly on the heels of the passage of the Reform act the Chartist movement be gan. This push for universal male suffrage culminated in the (attempted) presentation of a document to Parliament on three occasions: 1838, 1842, and 1848. The document, or Charter, called for many parliamentary reforms in addition to the ones already pass ed. Among them were pay for MPs, a secret ballot, and (of their demands, the only reform not currently implemented in Britain) annual Parliamentary elections. While Parliament refused further reforms until the later 1860s, the accumulation of over a millio n signatures by the 1848 Charter suggests widespread popular support for further such reforms (Chapter Six details one religious, political debate within Chartism). Chartism had a distinctly Christian character as well. Eileen Yeo argues that many of the early Chartists worked in conjunction with different Christian groups: while various clergy and 7 Clark does have a habit of subsuming everything to religion; in his The Language of Liberty he argues that the American Revolution was ). English Dissent ers were was only when Britain's major military antagonists became, once a gain, the Catholic powers of France and Spain that the division of opinion within the British Isles over the wisdom and justice of reconquering America was Admirably he connects the war to doctrine as well. The among the American Revolutionaries, to war (5). While i ntellectually rigorous and a startling idea, these claims do seem overly reductive rather than especially illuminating in this case.
42 ministers of every faith seemed to support Chartism, it was radical Christianity that most strongly aligned with the goals of Chartism (110 112). As such, and p robably n ot surprisingly, non Establishment Protestants were more frequently part of the Chartist movement than Anglicans or Anglican ministers. Yeo further argues that: Choosing religious forms was not simply an act of political expediency; these came org anically out of Chartists' experience and served very real and important additional functions. Revolutionary confrontation is never a light hearted game. Christian Chartists must have gathered strength and felt their fears and tensions somewhat eased by as surances that they were truly the agents of God's work. (122) Importantly, people on both sides of the political divide were thinking in terms of Christianity, oftentimes with a di stinctly doctrinal character. This section has illuminated how Reform, both before and after the Great Reform Bill, had a distinctly religious character. While historians disagree on the relative importance of religion to Reform, the ones who take religion as a central object of study (Clark) see 1832 as a watershed moment in Brit ish constitutional history. In C hapter 4 I explore how Eliot presents a different vision of this era that, while it does privilege the historical moment by suggesting just how momentous the Reform Era is, discards serious religion from having any significa nt historical import. Religion and Constitutionality, Governance, and Parliamentary History This section presents different takes on the Great Reform Act from rec ent cultural theorists and historians who explore the initial and lingering effects of Reform I open with some general observations about constitutionality in the period and then demonstrate the very conception of British constitutionality as religious in bearing by the nineteenth century. Next, I explore connections between religious affiliation and party alignment. As is my argument throughout this chapter, it is striking how thoroughly religion, and religious specificity, drives politics in the era. Middlemarch and, very briefly, Felix Holt (1866) to show just how differently (and secularly) sh e depicts the
43 era. After connecting party affiliation with religious specificity I turn to exacting doctrinal takes on the politics. This moves the analysis of religious specificity into an even sharper focus, and it also moves the argument into a slightly later p eriod of constitutional reform, the 1860s. The Great Reform Act presented a significant change to the balance of powers in the Constitution of Great Britain. To understand the impa ct of these changes in the national psyche, and their importance in literature, we mus t explore the impact of the Act on the imagination of the burgeoning democracy. Lauren Goodlad, in her excellent Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character a nd Governance in a Liberal Society (2003), reminds us that governing nation and heirs to ancient constitutional liberties. By custom, by nature, by established tradition even by divine will Brito ns were, it was believed, a vanguard people, able to contrast their freedoms to the guaranteed the populace rights, which in previous eras were protections agai nst monarchical power and were now becoming protections against overreaches by the elected Parliament. Richard Br ent explains how the Reform Act was supposed to bring increased unity to the various emphasized the unimportance of distinctive local nationalisms within the liberal state [...] This revived reform doctrine viewed the constitution as a mechanism, the continuance of which depended on its equilibrium or balance university reform, and others to describe how t he state could appeal to the constitution as one way to put its finger on the scale of national unity versus local or party divisions. Constitutionality i s in flux in the era.
44 Party divisions also played a significant role in the crafting and the effect of the revised constitution. For instance, when Whig leader Lord Russell in the 1820s tried a broad appeal to lf from the Radicals by appealing to a Whig notion for the bill from both major parties in Parliament. Still, producing universal support and consensus would not be possible. One change that Reform presented worried the Tory party because it was assumed that the Whigs, who had pushed for reform, would increase their power within Parliament. Yet another group seems to have benefited; after the first election con ducted (Dodd 40). Rather than permanently giving the Whigs power, Reform had unexpected consequences; Reform did not transform the nation absolutely or immedi ately, but its effects we re felt at least by Parliament While these sixty Radicals could never command a majority in the House of Commons, sixty could tip the scales of power to one or the other of the ruling parties. The Radicals' background was not espe cially conducive to their mission of further middle class intellectual Londoners, with little knowledge of the problems of the industrial working (Dodd 46). Their la ck of knowledge of the living and working conditions of their imagined constituents did not stop them from pushing a somewhat different agenda The Radicals' agenda took state the established church as 'an organ of class government' and, in alliance with dissenters, called for a separation of Church and State and measures to diminish the income of the Irish [Anglican] ad already set the agenda of church reform as part of the Reform Era, and this happened well before the
45 Radicals came to Parliament. Little headway was made on this issue, however. But these divisions in Parliament had an increasingly religious character, according to Richard Floyd in Church, Chapel and Party: Religious Dissent and Political Modernization in Nineteenth Century England (2008). He says that during the fifteen years follo wing the Reform Act issues which thereafter divided dissen ters from the Anglican establishment (and the politically liberal from the politically conservative) church rates, for instance, education, and the disestablishment of the Church of England religious/pol itical alignment and division is below, but linking these party and belief divisions to the reform era and reform impulse is paramount. 8 Floyd argues that Dissent had a distinctive Anglicans, but also constitutional reform according to their beliefs. 9 Religious particularity drives constitutional reform. The abolishing of some rotten borough s and enfranchisement of large towns through the Reform Act had the effect of increasing Parliament's standing in the public estimation ; the public 8 Importantly, Richard Dellamora argues that had bee n a confessional state. Removal of civil disabilities against Roman Catholics posed implicit questions about the suggestive potential of far; while accurately portraying the widening of the electorate, the lasting Establishment of the Church and all that went with it (Bishops in Parliament, church ra tes, etc ) made the country quite Anglican. The nation is still officially allied with the Church of England. 9 This alignment makes what Charles Taylor says about our current era of political participation even more y, in our 'secular' societies, you can engage fully in politics without ever encountering God, that is, coming to a point where the crucial importance of the God of Abraham for this whole enterprise is brought home forcefully and unmistakeably. The few mom ents of vestigial ritual or prayer barely Taylor is right, we need to understand how one can engage in politics today without engaging the incredibly religiously freighted history of democracy; this seems like a fool's errand.
46 willingness to ask for further Reform again breaks down along religious lines The expanding electorate played at least some part in Parliament's improving reputation. Yet T. A. Jenkins, in Parliament, Party, and Politics in Victorian Britain (1996), tells us that while Parliament not ess to address petitions to it expressing a range and petitioning only increased after 1832 (Jenkins 16). The attempted presentation of the Charter, one of the most famous petitions of this era, suggests that the British public trusted in Parliamentary, established governmental means as the answer to their problems ( Jenkins 16). While the public could not sustain the reform spirit indefinitely, the idea that Parliament would respond to popular pressures became a c entral principle in Britain. Avrom Fleishman in George Eliot's Intellectual Life (2010), says that by the 1860s stand on politics in the period of the second Reform Bill was to enter into the public debate not only on the mechanics but the prin believed in the franchise as an aid to social improvement told a great deal about someone's politics. Enthusiasm for further reform seems to have broken down along religious lines as well. Richard Flo called test acts in 1828, dissenters in England had realized much of their object of civil equality. Curiously, this may have made them more, rather than less, keen fo taste of political liberty and their represe ntation only made them hungry for more, for equality in their own governance. The ideal of creating a truly representative government often meant believing that increasing the franchise would produce greater justice for all classes regardless of religious
47 In Middlemarch Eliot shows Mr. Brooke to be quite ignorant of the intentions and consequences of reform, a move he supposedly supports. Brooke says, ee with you I quite take that point of view. I should put it in that light. I should support Grey, you know. But I don't want to change the balance of the constitution, and I don't think Grey would'" (418). 10 that is what the country wants,' said Will. 'Else there would be no meaning in political unions or any other movement that knows what it's about. It wants to have a House of Commons which is not weighted with nominees of the landed class, but with represen (418). Here, Brooke is idiotically out of touch with the ramifications of the Reform Bill, and it makes his run for Parliament ludicrous. Brooke is no representative of the entire landed class, but it is occasionally tempti ng to see him as such. It's as though Eliot wants to portray the politicians or political events as being so secondary to the bulk of the plot of Middlemarch as to render them humorous. Of course, following this most obvious interpretation only allows us a one sided, political in its own 1831 Lowick was at peace, not more agitated by Reform than by the solemn tenor of the Sunday he importance of both religion and politics in one fell swoop; the town does not appear to care about the possibilities of their politics or the safekeeping of their souls. Since Eliot depicts a splintered picture of Reform and the Reform Era with religi on and politics o n vastly differe nt plane s, I need to explore what sh e says about politics on its own to present a fuller account of both politics and religion in her work Avrom Fleishman tells us th at George Eliot did not wholly sub scribe to the politica l ideal of creating a truly representative 10 The Middlemarch textual citations come from Beaty's edition.
48 government through an increase in the franchise. In Felix Holt possibly Eliot's most directly political novel since the hero is a Radical candidate for Parliament, Eliot presents a fraught picture of the 1830s. F Eliot was largely indifferent to matters of political struggle (147). After outlining Eliot's antipathy to some political struggles, Fleishman suggests Felix Holt Adding the bumbling Mr. Brooke in Middlemarch to this analysis only further suggests that Eliot had little regard for those men who dedicated their careers to public service (at least in 1832); of course neither represent s the entire class as Ladislaw might also join this group but her examples of it are decidedly a mixed lot. Eliot's distaste for the nuts and bolts of Parliamentary politics, and the practitioners of such politics, might suggest that she is basically apolit ical pragmatically. Yet, to mistake Eliot's dislike of Parliamentary politics for a disengagement with the political world is to miss out on some of the richest res onances of her vision of Reform Era Britain. 11 Some literary critics today take a more inclus ive view of constitutionality, politics, and religion than E liot provides; by pres enting analyses of constitutionality depending on religious conceptions of the state they provide a fuller take on Reform. For instance, t he constitutional 11 Amanda Anderson argues in The Powers of Distance effects of a remove. Anderson takes Elio t as a major contributor to the project of cultivating a distanced view; she discusses aspiration to essay s Anderson argues that otedness ambiguously coexists with a certain promotion of cultivated detachment, which is placed in the service of a broader historical consciousness and an ever widening Villette and Daniel Deronda are integrated below. However, thinking about Eliot as holding parliamentary politics at a distance something to be contemplated from afar is rather enlightening. I would also suggest that Eliot probably holds this view toward politics generally.
49 revisions necessar y for a reshaping of the body politic took on more th an just religious overtones; these revisions depended upon a particular alignment of specific religious doctrine. Richard Dellamora's compelling Friendship's Bonds: Democracy and the Novel in Victorian E ngland (2004) outlines the intersection of religion and friendship that affected political debate in relationship to reformist impulses across the nineteenth century. Dellamora describes how religious doctrines can become a party's political agenda. Of the 1860s, he says that the belief in justification by faith demands an unconditional commitment to uphold the principles of the English constitution. The force of this demand has a powerfully shaping impact on political subjectivities and, hence, on individual thinking about politics and the nation. Two other elements emerged as important here, one of which is conversion conscience atonement salvation that, in Gladstone's view, structures Christian belief and individual religious experience [which serve] as a paradigm for the political subjectivities of new voters enlisted as Liberals. Voters were called to intense moral reflection plus a 17). So not only is becoming politically active a religious and moral commitment, but becoming politically active as a believer in the Liberal cause is the proper expression of this religious and moral commitment. Finally, the middle class with new working class voters in moral crusades; the framing of these campaigns in religious terms; the invocation of a contest between the forces of good, on the one hand, and the By describing a religious influence on politics at this later date, when Eliot is writing, Dellamo ra helps us see why Eliot may have wanted to picture
50 religion and politics as dissociated thirty or forty years beforehand: if British democracy in the nineteenth century began without a need for specific doctrinal beliefs, it could continue to flourish wi thout them. Not incidentally, at this later date, who threatened democracy were against whom militancy This description of later politics both hinges on a doctrine ) and also describes how those imagined as Other can be made external to the state (Disraeli, etc ) and therefore democracy. esistan ce to rights for members of these two groups [Irish and Jews] analysis could more strongly say that the democratic moves of Gladstone had theocratic tendenc ies as well, since the way Gladstone practiced democracy was clearly based on his interpretation of Christianity. 12 But even Dellamora does not forget how thoroughly integral to citizenship, and therefore political participation, was one kind of Christianit y. He says, 13 National subjectivity could be denied without the proper religious credentials. 12 See Lin da Colley's Britons for more on the importance of Protestantism to national identity in Britain. 13 David Alderson talks about this alignment of nation and religion to suggest the differences Britons felt toward their was felt to have a religious destiny in the nineteenth century, it was most frequently seen as definitively Protestant; and if the empire was, for many, the expression of providence, it was uth, in contrast with the religious allegiances of the itself as a revolt from below against the deceitful, corrupt and unjust system administ ered from Rome, and it did so in the form of vernacular languages which themselves materially signified opposition to a conspiratorially secret ecclesiastical system inimical to the individual and expressing itself typically in Latin. This sense of individ ual liberation from priestly control proved to be a durable component in the demotic rhetoric of the religion, and in the Alderson's Mansex Fine (1998) brilliantly connects race, religion, and nation in an analysis of gender and individualism.
51 T he debates about the Reform Act of 1867 seemed to reanimate the spe cter of the debates from 1832 and the influence of religion on politics is far from gone As Brent pointed out above, the liberal desire for greater political rights in 1832 was aligned with Dissent. By the '60s, construction of citizenship was associated with Protestant nonconformity [...] Liberalism generally was associated with Protestant Felix Holt published during this time, even provides the metaphorical union of Dissenting Esther Lyon and Radical but really with liberal sympathies Felix Holt. But by the 1860s political society was looking more secular to observers. Still, imperia lism with religious fervor and significance. Because democratic society appears to be secular, it is easy to fail to recognize the religious character of many solicitations to political ver. Protestantism could be overcome endemic corruption in the electoral process by consolidating the new voters into a collective national subject governed by a shared sense of public duty that would be both English uld be persuasive argumentation; linking religious duty and national duty had political consequences that reverberated from before 1832. Hist orians on Religion and Democracy : Doctrinal Differences Rece nt historiography of nineteenth century Britain has illuminated the role religion played in politics and the democratic movements of the first half of the nineteenth century; historians have, on t he whole, paid more attention to the often sectarian alignment of political parties, political theories, and movements in the century. This section further details broad differences between parties and illustrates how sometimes religiously aligned politica l parties
52 and theories could have doctrinal differences at their base. Richard Floyd documents how religion played a role in specific regions of Britain; his analysis suggests that the Great Reform Act provided Dissenting groups with greater political powe (Floyd 6). Dissent had various electoral and religious goals as well. Floyd illustrates the exact issues that Dissenters pus provided them with the allies of the Whigs (Floyd 7). Importantly, Dissent grew to adopt libe ral unsurprisingly adopted many tenets of liberal ideology, even when they were apparently distinct 14 While the argument of this dis sertation does not depend upon showing how distinct political parties were al igned with religious groups (or vice versa), their apparent alignment does suggest that political reforms in this period of early democracy in Britain had a distinctly religious c haracter. And it's entirely possible that this religious character casts a ghostly shadow over how we continue to think and to practice democracy today especially if secular cultural criticism depend s reforms in t he first part of the nineteenth century. Dissenters were not the only ones taking sides, according to Floyd. He says that there was 14 Not too surprisingly, in digging deeper into the historical record, pressure can be found between political acts possibly causing distinct religious movem Nonconformity was strongest where the pressure for enclosure had been greatest (and tithes subsequently e act of consolidating economic power by the wealthy seems to have produced religious dissent among the poor.
53 association between Angli 15 The direct alignment Floyd Whigs emerged as sympathizers with Nonconformist religion, both Catholic and Protestant, willing to legislate in its interests, to encourage its adherents to participate in government and to (22). Floyd's work primarily draws upon the actions of Members of Parliament and voting patterns in the boroughs. He successfully traces thirty divided on behalf of policy and legislation favourable to religious dissent, and conservatives voted to uphold the privileged position of the indicate that different religious communities stood together in regard to political causes; the associations also suggest that the differences between Liberal or Whig causes and Conservative or Tory ones mi ght parallel doctrinal differences between the communities. As Dellamora illustrated, Anglican, not Unitarian, definitely not Catholic, and assuredly not Jewish doctrine) drove liberal p olitics. Next I explain how other historians assert that Evangelicalism describes certain economic public policies better than any other conceptual schema and still later in this section I outline how an Anglican Whiggish conception of the church state rel ationship has questions of authority, secular and religious, at its core. For instance, Boyd Hilton's The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1795 1865 (1988) has explored doctrinal connections between Dissenti ng groups and the economic policies of the government. He makes the rather startling 15 He continues, saying "Wesleyans and the older dissenting denominations were virtually one [in their support], and nothing suggests that any major conformity, while not as obviously sharing a religious culture, certainly did have similar political motives and actions.
54 claim that Evangelical thought more than political thinking lead to the adoption of laissez faire policies by the British government. He argues that entire economic polici es were based upon a desire to atone for wrongs in the world thereby ensuring salvation for greater numbers of Britons poor and rich alike. His argument details an area of intellectual history where an overlap of theological concepts and purely economic on evangelicalism to utilitarianism is of particular importance to the historian of economic thought, since 'official' political economy in the nineteenth century is generally located within the body of Benthamite i Evangelicalism could conflict with political conservativism and its familiar, Tractarianism. While this argument may tie the strings a little too tightly none of these movements (Evang eli calism, conservatism, etc.) was monolithic or unitary, so alliances on different issues each had their own peculiar characters it is a claim Hilton and these several historians more or less agree upon. Hilton describes how the Evangelical doctrine of co nversion emphasized rapid tenets of liberalism, the view that man could choose his own way amid a clash of conflicting ause wider than the political party of Whigs/Liberals, still found its greatest supporters among the Liberals. Some historians have also insisted that the cause of liberalism took on a distinctly religious character instead of being anti religious (as some assumed and others alleged) as liberalism took on causes dear to conservative Anglicans. Richard Brent traces the adoption of a specific religious perspective by liberals in the Reform Era. Brent argues Whigs and Tories both contagion of nineteenth
55 cau se (like liberalism itself). 16 century liberal Yet, the intellectual history of liberalism seems possibly roomie r than this. For Lauren Goodlad, liberalism can mean a very wide number of things as well especially since the middle of the political agendas, a set of capital ist economic ideologies, and a broad cultural investment in particularly but not only as an emerging political party identification seems to have been yoked to Whig causes. Brent's argument m ight seem at odds with the position advocated by Floyd, where Conservatives seem to have supported Anglican causes; however the breadth of Anglican opinion could have allowed for an alignment between sections of Anglicans and liberals. 16 Jonathan Sheehan's The Enlightenment Bible: Translati on, Scholarship, Culture (2005) provides a good bit of England's two great religious revivals at the turn of the century: the reinvigorated High Church movement that would culminate with the Tractarians in the 1830s and the Evangelical explosion that took place under the auspices 46). Sheehan's engaging book addresses some of the issues relevant here. theological and scriptural agenda, in England this same literary affection was embraced by a conservative and He further traces the process by which, he argues, the Bible lost its never flourished in the England, the cultural Bible, in contrast, found fertile soil later in the Age of Victoria. This cultural Bible as in Germany was built out of eighteenth century stock, built out of a conviction that a post theological Bible would be authenticated through the practices of poetry, scholarship, history, a nd pedagogy. And it was built, above all, upon the German practices and ideals of biblical scholarship that developed in the early nineteenth century as the flow of scholarly innovation reversed and Germany became the model for English scholars eager to re major role in introducing this type of biblical scholarship to Victorian England, and Eliot's own involvement in this new biblical criticism as a translator of Strauss suggests that she had something to do with this de theologizing of the Bible. And Sheehan makes a convincing case for the continued relevance of the Enlightenment Bible today, ance of the Bible not just among academics, but also among jurists, not just among doubters, but also among the devout suggests indeed that the Bible, more than practically any other single text, continues to be the repository of Western heritage. In this way, then, we are
56 The conditions of establishment brought out the particularly Anglican tones of Whiggery [tint] and that in politics this was revealed most clearly on questions involving the Chu rch of the Anglicans, regardless of political bent (Brent 3). The desire to reinvigorate the Church, to remake it for a new era, had a great deal to do with forces internal and external to the Church, and Brent suggests that the Evangelical movement played a par t in this as well (5). The wedge issues of the day, though, change in the existing balance between church and state, when they were concerned not with the internal w ell Reforms could not always benefit the Established church if they were made to meet the demands of the Non Conformists. As I stated above, this was the exact issue that Bren t says drove Conservatives away from any sort of church reform. So here the liberals and the conservative movement parted ways in terms of church reform and broadening the processes of democracy to remove over t religious particularity from the functions of the state (marriages and burials could be conducted without the exact Anglican rites, etc). Since the church existed as one arm of the state, the state's own view of theological precepts could create conflicts if ecclesiastical authority disagreed with P arliament. 17 Brent 17 According to Fleishman, Eliot did not adopt a worship of ecclesiastical authority instead of her Evangelical on that Eliot was comfortable in a middling position on church organization, accepting without fervor the Anglican episcopacy and its nationally established status (though hinting at a degree of skepticism about the arguments for its authority based on ecc (Fleishman 20). The question of church organization mattered greatly as the church was a state sponsored institution.
57 High Churchmen could not accept this arrangement (62). This subordination of religion reflected the role of Anglicanism as a creation of the m onarchy rather than suggest that the church was entirely under the control of the state. Russell here had to wade into doctrinal distinctions, denomination precipi tate conflicts with other, less fortunate, sects, since, according to Russell, though, of course lead Russell into strictly theological territory. Eventually, c entral conceptions of Christian theology were subject to increasing state scrutiny: The liberalism of [Clarke and Hoadly, eighteenth century theologians], according to Russell, emphasized religious toleration and the comprehension of Protestants within the Church of England. This was possible because these divines distinguished the truths of Christianity from disputed sectarian dogmas, including the doctrine of the Trinity. Being controversial, the latter could not be the universal touchstone of a Christian faith. (Brent 60) Having a political stake in such policies could only lead to trouble for London Parliaments, as both Scotland and Ireland had their own separate, autonomous, established religions while they lacked political autonomy. This desire to have was part of the same theological school as Charles Kingsley and the Broad Church movement. Brent notes that the government's policy here dismissed sectarian differences as endemic but found religion neces sary for the state and its citizens (66). This changed attitude about religious differences could change the relationship and power balance between Catholics and the state as well (66). Over the course of the century it became increasingly clear that the b alance of power between the church and state was shifting decidedly to the state's favor, but this shift was rigorously contested.
58 T his chapter has provided a sense of just how many different critical ideas about the Reform Era are floating in the scholarly ether: historians often note the overlap between thinking about religion and politics while literary critics just as often take assume religion and politics are atomized lored above and which I explore fully in the next chapter Secular criticism, especially that practiced by literary critics, could use a fuller appreciation of the ways Christianity has shaped secular thinking which is widely evidenced in party politics an d theories of governance from the era. In the next chapter I turn to criticism specifically on George Eliot, an influential figure for literary critics and some historians, secular and religious, in terms of their thinking about religion, democracy, and th e Reform Era.
59 CHAPTER 3 CRITICISM ON ELIOT: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND A TRADITION OF REALNESS Historians of the Reform Era have frequently highlighted the linkage of politics and religion in their work. As I turn to literary critics, who have less frequently brought a unified understanding of these fields to bear in their analysis, this chapter and the next will slowly show how this fracture is due partly to George Eliot. I investigate recent criticism on George Eliot that has explored religion and democracy; I also consider at some length the critical desire to figure out what, exactly, George Eliot believed. This investigation happens to all the authors examined in this dissertation, and I have spent the most space analyzing it regarding Eliot. El iot's depiction of political and religious questions as already long divorced by the Reform Era gets some commentary here to help account for how her view of the Reform Era has taken hold in the very way critics practice literary criticism today. The last section of the chapter examines a critical tradition in George Eliot's interpretation, beginning during her lifetime and extending far into the twentieth century, that laid the groundwork for many of the literary critics today who see religion as having li ttle influence in the politics of early democracy in Britain. Varieties of Literary Criticism: Religion, Humanism, Eliot's Philosophy, and Political Criticism Two veins of nineteenth century criticism about British literature address politics and religion atomistically, rarely bringing the two topics together. In the nineteenth century these fields were less likely to be separated; indeed the definition of modernity and disciplinarity as differentiation suggests that part of becoming modern lead s to these fields breaking apart from one another. 1 A fuller understanding of the period, then, should try to reunite these several 1 In Colin Jager's The Book of God he says as differentiation, and I will strive to distinguish it from theories of secularization that posit or predict religious th and 18 th of nature and scr ipture becomes a way to think of science and theology in roughly parallel ways. In this dispute over jurisdiction rather than over content we can see how analogy itself becomes a figure for secularization as
60 strands. A quick review of religious criticism of the period, with some focus on George Eliot, follows. Almost every recent critic agre es on one thing about the authors covered in this dissertation: none seemed to care much for doctrinal disputes. Critics repeat this refrain about almost every author now studied (with notable exceptions like Charlotte Yonge), and as it is repeated a secul ar vision of the period solidifies. According to theologian Peter C. Hodgson in Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot: The Mystery Beneath the Real attracted to Lessing's advocacy of religious tolerance, but repelled by sectarian squab bles and the century critic U. C. Knoepflmacher, in Religious Humanism and the Victorian Novel: George Eliot, Walter Pater, and Samuel Butler rationalistic and anti doctrinal. All preached an ethic based on the relativism of truth. All three began their careers by squarely rejecting the other worldliness of the religion of thei r forefathers; Gordon Haight, in his magisterial George Eliot: A Biography profoundly affected by her religious experience at Coventr y, Mary Anne showed no interest in specifically Baptist doctrines. She always regarded herself as belonging to the Church of England, of which the Evangelical party was then not far in feeling from many groups of Literature and Religio n in Mid Victorian England (2003), literary critic aversion towards evangelical doctrine, which they present as being inconsistent with sympathetic feeling based differentiation rather than secularization as tr 31). Importantly, for his argument, secularization does not transform religious conceptions of the world; instead, it uses analogy. This may seem like hair splitting again but if the religious conceptions of the world are not transfor med it's much easier to see their persistence in contemporary culture (which matters in his argument).
61 doctrines that these two authors disputed, which seems necessary since she details their engagements with such controversies as sabbatarianism and providentialism. Thus one critical commonplace of the last thirty years of criticism denies that these authors have an interest in religious doctrine; this commonplace must be soundly rejected if we are to understand their engagements with the religious debates of their day. 2 Colin Jager tries to the discussion of Romanticism in the middle of the twentieth century. He says: Reading romanticism as a manifestation of secularization, then, meant that one avoided the Weberian nightmare of modernity as soulless rationalization and mechanization; romanticism could be a carrier of cultural modernity rather than societal modernization, a technique for preserving spiritual truths while overcoming both modern bourgeois anomie and the exclusive doctrinal content that had led historically to religious conflict. (34) He further notes how hostility to doctrine developed from a Deist point of view; but this seems to beg the question of whether or not a p articularized religious perspective could dismiss doctrine, or could the perspective be differentiated from any other (43)? If doctrines did not matter to George Eliot, and we critics have accepted her vision of history as true, her depiction of a democrat ic model or social world based upon religious and doctrinal beliefs amplifies our own misunderstanding of the centrality of one kind of Protestantism to British politics. When contemporary critics dismiss analysis of specific doctrines we only reduplicate the occasional blindness of the very authors we are considering. In Middlemarch objection to Mr. Tyke's sermons, which were all doctrine, and his preference for Mr. Farebrother, 2 In the chapters that follow I address this critical blindspot as it relates to each particular author, since the blindspot has varying degrees of impor tance to my project and works somewhat differently with each author.
62 prejudice against unfamiliar doctrines as opposed to those that Farebrother preaches. What might seem like the simplest Christian ideas such as showing love in families and communities is actually specific to some forms of Christianity; not all Christians emphasize compassion, particularly when they consider people unredeemed or unredeemable (as is possible for some believers of predestination). Mrs. Farebrother finds her own faith simple and respectable, saying what is wrong, Camden. I say, keep hold of a few plain truths, and make everything square with prejudices that are normalized through churchgoing and other practices that she might not recog nize as value never was any question about right and wrong. We knew our catechism, and that was enough; we learned our creed and our duty. Every respectable Church person had the sa me opinions. But, now if you speak out of the Prayer course, the Prayer book is a consolidation of doctrine that was hotly debated long before her time, and movements to amend the Prayer book were common in the period that Eliot is representing. Critics of nineteenth century literature generally could perform more thorough doctrinal analysis. Colin Jager's comments about how critical giants of the Romantic period such as de Man, Bloom, and especial ly Abrams dismissed doctrinal analysis in the middle of the twentieth century might apply equally well to J. Hillis Miller, a critic of a slightly later period. Miller's The Disappearance of God medi eval
63 H lderlin said, he lives 'above our heads, up there in a di withdrawal of God from the world of the nineteenth century literati did not happen equally with all writers, nor does such a withdrawal mean that religious concerns were not still pressing for the writers who felt such an a bsence. Stephen Prickett in Romanticism and Religion: The Tradition of Coleridge and Wordsworth in the Victorian Church criticism and theology in the Victorian period [are] deeply [...] intertwined. The nature of literary critici sm (and the kinds of sensibility it implies) cannot be understood in the nineteenth century discovery a nd a re application of a much older Judeo least in the minds of some Romantics, was another way of experiencing the divine. The philosophical history outlined by Prickett draws on German Romanticism, which also informed Eliot's thinking greatly. Some of the major figures were Schlegel and then Strauss, who Eliot translated. If the literary culture of the period could consider writing to be a new form of religious experienc e, its literature deserves at least some consideration from a religious point of view. Thinking of literature as a way of reconfiguring religious experience does not hold equal sway among theorists of secularization. Indeed, philosophy giant Charles Taylo r, in A Secular Age and trace is one which takes us from a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among
64 options, stands in stark contrast to Knoepflmacher's version of secularization from over forty years ago. In addressing how secularity developed through humanism, he argued in Arnoldian terms that: Through the process of a dialectical balancing of the factual and the potential, the relative and the absolute, the 'sweet' and the 'reasonable,' the prosaic a nd the poetical, the 'Hebraic' and the 'Hellenic,' Victorian critics of culture and religions hoped to amass truths untainted by error and to weld them into a 'natural,' if necessarily eclectic, faith. Their humanist creeds were intended as a compromise be tween the orthodoxies of religion and science; actually, they resulted in a reduction of both. Their relativism was branded as atheistic by the Church; the conversion of this relativism into personal cults was denounced by the genuine scientist as being ta ntamount to the transformation of old myths into new allegories. (5 6) Taylor's version of the process allows for much disintegration while Knoepflmacher would like to achieve a more cohesive analysis of the process, through humanism. Humanism often beco mes a code word for a secularization of religion; according to 3 K. M. Newton outlines how Eliot engaged with these secularizing p hilosophies in George Eliot: Romantic Humanist: A Study of the Philosophical Structure of Her Novels and egotistic philosophies that could be derived from the set of ideas that [Eli ot] herself accepted, and, second, to support a humanist philosophy similar in many aspects to the moral and ial values to which she was so deeply 3 Pecora also says that "[w]hat the nineteenth century achieves, I am arguing, and what becomes so evident in Durkheim, is an understanding of the social that derives its religious content from the inner working of society itself. This 'immanent' view of sacred sociality no longer needs to refer to forces or gods or duties outside the social, for the effervescent magic produced by the social organism is all that is required to explain the r everence that individuals have and, for some, ought to have the religiou s, for Pecora, it's worth pondering if reverence can exist without reference to religion.
65 Eliot wanted to configure this brush with what Nietzsche would make into anti moral values into something still both morally and socially productive (10). Taylor also argues that humanism sufficient humanism came to be a lot like the effects of Middlemarch' s Dorothea's works, if not exactly Dorothea's intentions or spirit. As such, the novel's philosophy could be said to advoc ate a humanistic view of the world. Humanism, particularly as one potential vehicle for secularization, is a fraught subject in Eliot studies. 4 Knoepflmacher discusses humanism as it relates to Eliot and other philosophers, again drawing on the history of German Romanticism, and literati in the period. He says that from their ea rlier conception of 'culture' as a quasi religious, but essentially social and secular This view of George Eliot's late re adoption of a semi religious viewp oint or a viewpoint at least sharing some DNA with a religious perspective as opposed to a nihilistic type of atheism 4 K. M. Newton connects humanism in Middlemarch to what amounts to a theory of perception and interpretation. Middlemarch is, I believe, written from an advanced Romantic standpoint. Previous writers on the novel have shown little awareness of the deep intellectual scepticism that underlies it. It implies, for example, that there are no facts or truths which are independent of human perception or though t a nd which therefore are not interpretations; that all interpretations are determined by explicit or implicit human interests; and that all points of view, including the author's own, are partial and relative. Such scepticism could, of course, encourage subv ersive and anti humanist ideas, and one of the most interesting things about Middlemarch is how George Eliot nevertheless nineteenth century was intimately concerned with finding solely human referents for perceptions and feelings that were once associated (almost invariably) with the divine. Newton suggests that this human centering movement in nineteenth century culture was irreducibly particular as each writer can only illuminate their own perceptions and experience. As such, this definition of humanism finds secularity to be one option among many rather than universal.
66 fuels the debate of some mid twentieth century interpretations, summed up by T. R. Wright as d lived unhappily ever after is a well worn tale but 5 Wright himself finds her humanism unappealing emotionally, but he does not suggest Eliot herself is fully convinced by it. Knoepflmacher wo uld like to suggest that the absolutism of salvation and damnation still appealed to Eliot, even to the degree that she could write characters into extreme situations based on natural laws if not divine ones (31). According to him, however, this absolutist angle could and yet compelled her to abstract a fanciful relativism which would invalidate the abstractionism tinues this analysis to suggest that humanism provided a way for Christianity to remain present in the world for Eliot (60 61). All in all, Eliot's philosophical stance seems to have close ties to humanism; as one potential vehicle for her secularizing vis ion, humanism provides a compelling possibility. Considerations of George Eliot's philosophy do not always address her religious background very thoroughly. Gordon S. Haight, one of her most authoritative biographers and the critic who first described her her Evangelicalism persisted until she was twenty fai th so far into adulthood makes it all the more surprising that Valerie A. Dodd barely considers 5 I hesitate to even dignify this phrase through inclusion, but several criti cs have identified Eliot's "Strauss sickness" as part of what turned her off from Atheism. She translated Strauss and objected to his painstaking dissection of the crucifixion scene. This reticence on her part, much like her later desire not to hurt the fe elings of the faithful (which she used as justification for not taking a public stand on belief in general), has caused some of her critics to read her as actually supporting belief be it Anglican or non specific. These diagnoses of her beliefs are not exa ctly informative. It's clear that Eliot believed a variety of different things across the span of her life and she held complex thoughts and feelings about the topic of religion. Any more specific comment runs the risk of overstatement and simplification. See below for more analysis.
67 theology in her George Eliot: An Intellectual Life (1990), a critical work that addresses Eliot until around her 40 th year. Dodd discusses the role Mill and Car lyle played in shaping Eliot's novel was, for George Eliot, the most fluid genre available in which to embody a new, enlarged mode of perception, in which to contemplate the relevance could just as easily be described as religious. In an analysis of Eliot's philosophy, Dodd's lacunae Eliot's first decisive intellectual stance, and that like later st ances it was marked by distinctly 6 Dodd does consider Eliot's post loss of faith take on religion briefly. some of the writers she a 7 Here, Dodd brings together the consideration of religion in democracy, an element mostly overlooked here and elsewhere; interestingly, though, her consideration of religious beliefs happen s almost as a consequence of her interpretation of Eliot's democratic views. Some biographical insight into Eliot's early religion proves valuable in considering the e ffect it most likely had on her later writing. Haight discusses Maria Lewis, Eliot's ear ly 6 Some critics go so far as to assert that "[t]hrough a further investigation of her writing we hope to demonstrate that a cohesive mythic structure is identifiable in her fiction which has its basis in Jewish mysticism and its associated this argument pretty far, also claiming that "the myth of the golem and Jewish mysticism were exploited artistically by George Eliot, mo st obviously in her final novel, Daniel Deronda Of course, their evidence is best for Daniel Deronda Adam Kadmon and the golem of Prague as protector make the legend mea ningful in a Jewish context by attributing to it strong messianic connotations: it saves Jews from trouble and unites them with the land from which they have been exiled. A cyclical return to the Paradise in which the golem was formed is brought to the for e, and this is re enacted in Daniel Deronda 7 Of course, Eliot's entire project of writing stories of the Reform Era was rooted in nostalgia.
68 hell fire. She read her Bible constantly and taught its moral example to her pupils; she visited the sick, comforted the mourner, and embroidered slippers f 19). Haight would have us believe that Lewis passed this bucolic religion on to young Mary Anne Evans. Indeed, teaching of the early Wesleyans than the harshness of Amos Barton, who talked of nothing but Sund ay School near Griff before she was twelve years old, she was probably impelled as much her spiritual zeal cannot have counted for much. Still, Haight pres ents her as being serious about religion at this age so serious that she won't listen to a Jewish person's opinion regarding Christ (23). At least some engagement with Eliot's religion happens in texts discussing philosophy or humanism; not all texts deali ng with the changing role of the nation, the growing bureaucracy, and democracy in general take a close enough look at religion. For instance, Lauren Goodlad's Victorian Literature and the Victorian State almost completely ignores the complexity of ninetee nth century religion. Her focus on the apparatuses of state governance (the poor house, sanitary reform, education) allows her to think more directly about public policy than the very lace that the Victorian state expanded in response to the urgent social pressures of urbanization and industrialization its piecemeal and unsystematic development unaided by popular consensus or a consistent ity (or at least the idea of pastorship) does
69 come up repeatedly in Goodlad's argument, but it's almost entirely a blank idea as though all Christianity was the same with little or no variation, and without the potential to affect change. The change Goodla d describes is entirely in the state. But her insights into liberalism illuminate the discussion of how religious thinking was adopted into the emerging fields of politics, philosophy, and economics, all of which drew on varieties of nineteenth century lib eralism. the ideals, vocabulary, and assumptions to which contemporaries consciously and unconsciously ralism was for the Victorians. She liberals, most were responsive to the overall projects of liberating individuals from illegitimate authority while simultaneousl at least the Glorious Revolution, if not the Magna Carta, Parliament legitimized political authority in Britain, but legitimating work also fell to the state sponsored religion. As changes in the relationship between the church and state were registered in the national consciousness the work of legitimating the state became more difficult with an increasingly skeptical citizenry. Goodlad's focus on character allows her to develop the argumen t about liberalism's influence in the century at the level of the individual, rather than always thinking at the larger social register. She explains the work of religion as a reference point for character: To build 'character' in the nineteenth century wa s, therefore, to resist atomization and embourgeoisement: whether by fortifying the republican's virtuous citizen qualities, by developing the romantic's individuality and diversity, by strengthening the Christian's moral obligations to God and community, or as often as not by diverse appeals to all of these ends. Hence, for the purposes of this book, laissez faire economic theory is understood as an influential (but not uniformly dominant) ideology, the application of which disrupted the antimaterialist un derpinnings of liberalism from within. Although politico economic tenets were often cast as moral prescriptions, their ultimate tendency was to advance the depersonalized and
70 materialistic view of the individual against which the language of character civi c, romantic, and Christian was persistently pitted. (Goodlad ix x) Goodlad's description of the marshaling of Christian values for economic and political ends suggests how thoroughly Christian the society was. 8 Goodlad herself would seem to fall victim to Vincent Pecora's argument that academics have played a remarkable role in secularizing the world. Here, she tries to outline how a truly Christian concept redefined part of the role of the state during the cour se of the century. She describes the role of novels in the debate where 'pastorship' d xi). While she does pay homage to the Christian background of such an idea, she also wholly recruits it for a secular purpose. The state s adoption of pastorship, a distinctly Christian form, suggests how entirely Christianity forms the basis of the mode rn state, governance, and democracy. Eliot's Beliefs and Some Recent Eliot Criticism To get a fuller picture of Eliot's influential vision of the nineteenth century, I turn now to review some significant strands of criticism about Eliot and her work. One common element in Eliot criticism is asserting and evaluating her religious beliefs; critics consider either her lack of belief or her somewhat secret affirmation of Christian religious belief. There is a great deal of evidence to support various narrative s of her early conversion to Evangelicalism, her loss of faith, and her eventual softening towards a religious perspective. But critics claiming particular 8 Goodlad exp and remains a tension within liberal thinking between negative liberty (the lodestar of a free society for many radicals, free traders, and eulogists of England's national character) and positive lib erty (an idea that slowly took hold among social reformers, even those upon religious questions saliently was religious belief liberating fo r the individual or an aspect of social control? Both is probably the best answer, but academics of different stripes focus on the liberating or controlling aspects of religion in ways that are probably just as telling about the academics themselves.
71 knowledge of her beliefs make a variety of mistakes based on these claims. Can we ever faithfully re construct a historical subject's personal beliefs, especially regarding religion? Even documentary evidence of one's confessions can miss a slanted perspective from which the confession came or, quite easily, miss the context in which the confessor express es faith as a cynical power grab. So, hinging interpretations of literature on assertions of just what, exactly, Eliot believed tend to say as much about the claimant as they do about Eliot. Additionally, what Eliot believed is not nearly as important to h istorical understandings of the period as what her literature suggested was happening to modes of belief, public and private, in the nineteenth century; subsequently, claims about her beliefs tend to distract from the issue at hand. Even a critic like Neil McCaw, whose topic of historiography keeps his consideration of religion to a distance and sure knowledge while being charmed by the seductiveness of the ord ered narrative nd, in his argument, this inability allows her to have history both ways. And, in the process of this interpretation, Eliot is made to look like she would like to believe in a Christian God; she just cannot. Eliot's own dislike for taking a public stance o n belief simply amplifies the ambiguity that various critics latch onto in their attempts to explicate her beliefs. An early critic and close personal friend of Eliot's, Oscar Browning, says that she did not absolutely contradict belief in her novels out o f consideration for the feelings of her readers. He summarizes her position by that is, in prepared ground, and not to root up tares where we must inevitably ga ther all the wheat
72 with them. This conviction remained with her to the end of her life. It induced her to say nothing If this is true, Eliot's novels were occupied with s owing seed and preparing ground, not forcing growth or destroying (potentially) productive beliefs. Claims for and against Eliot's deism are made just as easily. Valerie Dodd tells us that atural in the terminology of a philosophical Christianity, noting 'the only heaven here or hereafter is to be found in conformity with the will of the Supreme; a continual aiming at the attainment of that perfect ideal, the true Logos that dwells in the bo conversion, she passed from a normal, not a fanatic, course of her l ife critics since then have had a practically compulsive tendency to talk about her personal religious beliefs and how they affected her fiction. This tendency exists in the later criticism about most writers of the nineteenth century, especially the write rs under examination in this dissertation, but is amplified in Eliot's case because of her changed beliefs and her long and remarkable engagement with religious and philosophical questions (this engagement also suggests why she is so popular among so many different kinds of critics: secular, religious, etc ). Sometimes in Eliot scholarship the claims to knowledge of her belief almost seem to creep in accidentally as though they were unavoidable considering the subject matter. Credo quia impossibile I believe because it is impossible. It is this criticism this logical fault, the belief that excavating an author's beliefs is possible (whi ch I consider a close cousin of the intentional fallacy) draws in many critics. And it seems that some
73 can only believe in George Eliot's skill in depicting faith if she, herself, had it. About Daniel Deronda's awakening to Mordecai's vision of religious h istory, U. C. Knoepflmacher says 48). While Knoepflmacher does aesthetic evaluations here and elsewhere in the course o f criticism, this particular one suggests that Daniel Deronda (1876) history could stand in for religious belief. But still this claim from Knoepflmacher als o quite plainly participates in the long standing sense that Eliot's realistic presentation of characters depended on her historical accuracy and intimate, if not personal, knowledge of the scenes she fictionalized; the last part of this chapter contains a n extensive analysis and discussion of this trend in Eliot scholarship from the time of her death until quite recently. Occasionally a statement about her belief seems more accurate, but the desire to answer the question about her faith is a specious one f antagonism that [Eliot] had previously felt towards Christianity disappeared, for it was not argument it is unimportant to assert whether or not Eliot believed any particular thing at any set point in her life. The most pressing problem concerning assertions about Eliot's faith comes from a need to use a figure from the past to reinvigorate religious fee ling today. Peter Hodgson, an admitted identify the distinctive religious and theological themes of these novels, with a view toward assessing in the final chap (29). Hodgson is an outlier, in a sense, because his purpose with the literature is not entirely that
74 of the literary critic; however, his and others' insistence on publishing works of l iterary criticism opens their work to critical examination. Almost every writer investigated in this dissertation has contemporary theologians attempting literary criticism on important theological points and with significant bias, admitted or not. S. A. S and historical (or, in this case, literary) figures from the nineteenth century, by saying that: what is a t stake is the legitimacy and remit of historical inquiry itself, when confronted with a vocal interest group whose principles and prejudices are seldom acknowledged. The difference between [Turner's biography of Newman] and the great majority of its criti cs, therefore, is not between Catholicism and Protestantism, nor even religion and secularism, but between history itself and hagiography a difference not of prejudice, but of methodology. (781) Skinner's plea for professional, trained, deliberate hist oriography to take precedence in scholarship, rather than semi trained historiography practiced with theological intentions, is one worth repeating in t he context of Eliot, nineteenth century literature generally, and religious critique. Hodgson has theol ogical intentions in his study of Eliot. He says considerable interest to theological efforts at rethinking the meaning and substance of religious ous position because creating a religiously sympathetic Eliot would appeal to some readers. He would like to theology, she abandoned the fervent evangelical faith of her youth and became a disciple of the 'religion of humanity.' Thereafter, it is thought, she lost interest in religion and turned to the attempt to show, for Ge orge Eliot the idea of God or divinity is not an illusion arising out of psychological needs but a response to something awesome, mysterious, and overwhelming that
75 reassert here that it's only because these theologians can ostensibly ferret out the truth of her beliefs that their overtly theological causes can make any argumentative headway in their audience. These theological points have political importance and mea ning for today; Skinner defends Turner's biography of John Henry Newman from multiple attacks notably unified by their Catholicism and desire to see Newman canonized. The agenda behind claims for and against Eliot's particular beliefs is less unified, but the motivations behind some criticism is fundamental condition of being human and existing morally in a tragically conflicted world. God comes forth as real in re (24). These reassertions of the cult of sensibility suggest that the ills of our contemporary world might be cured through cultivating the right emotions in the polity. That the powers of sympathy and love are frequently asserted as conservative techniques for maintaining stasis are clues to what politics this theocratic, as opposed to secular, criticism intends. Avrom Fleishman's critical model tracing out George Eliot's philosophy, and re ligious views as part of that philosophy, more convincingly provides a critical vocabulary for discussing a developmental account of her to make up her mind about religi ous matters (Fleishman 29). This self assuredness seems to have 'Evangelical' period, there is no hint of intellectual crisis in her reformed position. She simp ly
76 passes from being fully engrossed with the certitude of faith to the certainty of non (Fleishman 29 30). Fleishman's desire to trace out her intellectual affinities, with a conjoined interest in her faith, allows him to explore her responses to various religious doctrin es in a careful way. He wonders about her theology: The most obvious omission is the doctrine of atonement and its related doctrine of justification by faith the belief that Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross redeemed manki nd, or some part of it, from original sin and damnation in either of its prevalent formulations. These are the Arminian view that the self sacrifice redeemed all who are prepared to accept it, i.e., salvation by faith alone, as opposed to the Calvinist vie w, with variations, that only the elect are predestined to receive this reprieve. There is, moreover, little reference to the crucifixion or to other events in the life of Jesus, an omission particularly notable when we recall the emphasis on physical suff ering, blood and death in the hymnology and rhetoric of both High and Low Church Evangelicalism. (Fleishman 16) This sort of close doctrinal analysis of either her beliefs or her writings does not happen much elsewhere in Eliot criticism. Finally, Fleishma the novels and less on her specific belief, will help illustrate how her vision of religion became so influent ial in later understandings of the Reform Era. In this section I have commented somewhat extensively on the contemporary criticism surrounding Eliot's beliefs because criticism about nineteenth century literature and religion cannot seem to separate its t ake on literary representations of religion from quite exacting and seemingly necessary consideration of the author's ostensible beliefs. As I've pointed out throughout this short section the manner in which such beliefs are considered matters at least as much as the conten t of the analysis. What matters most for my argument is that these critics, some apparently secular and others with stated religious motivations, often engage with Eliot's beliefs to marshal her novels as evidence for their particular arg uments. This debate indicates
77 both how widely influential she has been across the critical spectrum and how this varied criticism needs historical subjects, like Eliot, to have discrete, legible religious beliefs. Mimesis in George Eliot Criticism Readers and critics have commented on George Eliot's ability to portray real characters and situations since the first publication of her work; indeed, her publisher John Blackwood's lusions of several children's names, a realistic touch. Blackwood seems to have found the details unnecessary and distracting. Still, 1930s biographer Blanche Colton Williams says Blackwood The inclusion of each child's name individualizing, differentiating, and recognizing each one as was just one indicat or of the budding novelist's interest in democracy. The fascination of readers and critics alike with Eliot's mimetic powers has also become a part of the critical commentary on her readership and criticism. David Carroll, in a 1971 review of the criticism of her work since its publication, summarizes the initial reaction to Adam Bede (1859) by saying: The extreme opposition between these two groups of critics is crystallized in their response to the brilliantly rendered scene at the Rainbow. Each reviewer, seeking final proof of his high or low estimate of the novel, turns to chapter six and out come the rustics smoking their pipes and drinking their beer. For the larger group of critics it is the perfection of Dutch realism in an English setting, for the s maller it is literal, boorish twaddle. They like it or dislike it for the same reason: it is so real. (17) The focus on the realness of her representations requires careful examination; for in allowing an s to trump a consideration of how these representations are artistic selections, with or without a political end in mind, readers can quickly
78 forget that Eliot's novels are not documentary evidence of an era or its beliefs or attitudes. 9 Another possible r eading here suggests that realism, itself, is a democratic technique. people or places who inspired Eliot's work. This focus on originals not only allows the critical co mmentary to ignore the political ramifications of choosing these people, places, or stories for inclusion in a novel but also makes their realness seem natural through simple accretion or accumulation. A bit about Eliot's own stated political aims with her art follows. The aesthetic valuation of this realness also becomes contentious among the critics who find her art lacking; some critics, unlike the ones Carroll comments on earlier, find her lack of realness reason for dismissing different of her works as valuable. The turn to criticism of her formal elements, particularly among the New Critics of the mid twentieth century, interestingly detracts from any sustained criticism of the politics of these representations by rerouting critical attention away from the historical elements of her novels, which of course passed as true to life beforehand. I conclude with a few comments on how the critical focus on realness intersects, albeit in minor ways, with commentary on the religious outlook of the novels. In the next chapter I turn to Middlemarch and the fiction generally. I've presented several of these critics from across the decades not always to show how the criticism develops, but rather so as to point up the similarities among them. I do comment on the diff erent critical movements over time, but the continuities are more striking and important for my argument. Focusing on the critics who take her fictions as true allows me to show, throughout this dissertation, how her history of the era has been too uncriti cally adopted as a 9 Dav the particular novel is a true picture of reality and whether its effect is beneficial or pernicious. On these grounds (1). This does include a political or more likely didactic concerns, but becomes secondary in many accounts.
79 caution is interesting since this qualifier follow s her own discussion of a quote from the fiction as a real thing. s pages and pages of criticism about The Mill on the Floss (1860), considering it a wholly realistic Mill on the Floss e coming between dashes cannot compete with his hundreds of words that treat multiple passages and topics from Mill as authentic history. Oscar Browning, an early biographer who knew Eliot, tells readers that Eliot herself called Adam Bede only one decade after Eliot has died. In Leslie Stephen's account, nearly every biographical fact that he mentions has a relationship to the fiction (11). F. R. Leavis, the estimable New Critic seems almost wholly concerned with the f ormal elements of her texts, even comments on the real life originals of her stories in 1947 (37). Blanche Colton Williams quite possibly takes this focus on the originals of Eliot's work further than any other critic in her 1936 biography. One instance o f this enthusiasm for blending our understanding of art and life also includes a rare qualifying statement on her part. She says, ascribe to the real woman to o much of the one imagined, family tradition acknowledges the
80 critics, across several decades, initiate and sustain a sense that Eliot, in taking these stories from the people around her, did little if nothing to reality in preparing it for public consumption as art. Browning even thinks that Adam Bede is better artistically because it is truer to life than Eliot power is due to the intensity with which it represents actual life. Here again it is probable that Leavis show in this brief sampling, the familial originals Eliot's novels depict are wholly real representations, not creations. Many of these comments deal with the early novels Adam Bede The Mill on the Floss and Scenes of Clerical Life (1859) especially. However, the later works also get analyzed according to their ability to pre Stephen discusses the historical research behind Romola (1863) and considers the historical an d background elements good because she gets them right, but the art itself suffers because Eliot didn't know these people or live in this place at the time (149 151). That Eliot returns to some of her first originals Stephen also objects to; Middlemarch 's drawn from the same original as Adam Bede, is unimpeachable, but a faint duplicate of his more highly with creating these charact ers by talking about their psychology and the role of 4). The comparison of Eliot's characters with their originals, when sustained into her later novels where the connections are less obvi ous, simply reinforces the sense that these representations need to be made more true or more real by their external non fictional referents.
81 Less obvious connections also abound in the critical drive to make every character an autobiographical portrait o Leslie Stephen even claims that The Mill represents something significantly more than a simple 10 Considering the novel a spiritual autobiography puts the question of religion front and center, but Stephen does not address it much further. Charles Gardner, in The Inner Life of George Eliot Colton Williams, additionally, can find a little bit of George Eliot in many of her characters: in Felix Holt Adam Bede contains Mary Anne E vans of evangelical days, prayer Middlemarch potential original too (190). Williams, of course, is the extreme end of this continuum of critical attention on Eliot's autobiographical tendencies. The drive to find autobiographical (familial, love life, literary) connections to characters bolsters the truth value of these characters. If these stories are simply reflections of the author's experience in the world, could they be any more real? 10 own family, she was surrounded by those strong religious influences of a Calvinistic type which so powerfully affected her mind in its first development. I remember her once telling me, when speaking of the attitude which she then held towards Christianity, how her early years had been passed amongst surroundings of the strictest world experience.
82 The critics further suggest that Eliot's knowledge of these people as characters presents a viewpoint of country vantage point as a silent, previously under bent seen to be so marked in Adam Bede when we compare him with Caleb Garth of Middl emarch is not really a strength; but George Eliot knew the country artisan at first hand and presentation of him, idealized or not, very real. Williams relates how maker who read the sheets [of Adam Bede ] while the book was in press declared the writer had been brought up quite possibly, the best summation of thi s trend while discussing Eliot's contemporary reviewers. large area of human experience from obscurity. Her picture of rural life in the Midlands at the turn of the century was another victory for the nineteenth century novel against, what George portrait of common, decent Englanders makes the fictional world presented in the novels real, true, immediate, and a seemingly non selective representation of history. The critics find such accuracy in Eliot's description of places as well, further enhancing their sense of Eliot's truth value. Browning declares that real life G practically providing a the wide gate, walk down the path to the door, and enter to the immediate left the large living room, family room of the Evanses and the 'Tullivers.' On to the kitchen. Step across the stone passage to what legend has fixed though it was built after Adam Bede's day as the Poyser
83 and fictional worlds does little to bring readers of her biography out of the tourist's mindset. Williams also makes note of how the fiction often draws on the genre of histo rical fiction, saying Middlemarch stands for Middle Mercia, Coventry memories of that time when she was ten to fourteen years ough real memories makes readers feel as though they can travel through time and space to see what life was really like in this rural, English countryside. 11 Importantly, these comments about the realness of her writing come alongside a varying level of consciousness about her writing as a selective or an act with political repercussions. s who carry out the various plots of Middlemarch may be, as I think they are, very lifelike portraits of real life, but translating and reviewing receives some c ommentary, but the notice of her novel writing as politically motivated tends to drop out. Browning points out how her translation of Strauss was, essentially, a political (and obviously religious) act; the man who paid to have it translated was Carroll smartly notes how Eliot stated a political aim for her work in Daniel Deronda ; she 33). Stephen finds the later novels less appealing, however, and it seems at least partly due to the fact that they 11 ven Dinah's 'preaching' kills interest; her words, sweet, sincere, proceed in rhythmic cadence, the more natural for the homely English of her ness of Dinah's English further roots authenticity in working class cultur e.
84 does say that she alone does religion and p hilosophy among her novel writing peers (68). This perception at least partly accounts for her continued popularity among twentieth and twenty first century critics. His aesthetic consideration also highlights another important point: these critics value her mimetic powers highly, and their fault finding with the aesthetic failings of Eliot says as much about their political preoccupations as it does with her artistic ability. In any case, a little out of touch with the actual world, and to speak from a position of philosophical detachment which somehow exhibits her characters in a rather distorting light. For that reason Middlemarch seems to fall short of the great masterpieces which imply a closer contact with the world of realities and less a differ ence between such approaches to novel writing. Critics fairly unanimously agree that Eliot is good when she's telling true stories about people without too much abstraction. For instance, about critics who loved The Mill Carroll says broken through the literary stereotype of childhood and the reviewers pay aesthetic criterion holds when the critics disagree about which exact novel is best; for insta nce, Leavis claims Middlemarch his favorite novel of hers, is entirely about characters the one thing she always gets so incredibly true to life (79). Leslie Stephen likes Mill a great deal, saying The Mill represents to my mind the more interesting. Browning blames any of her artistic errors on Lewes (143). Williams blames the originals; in Feli x Holt the defects other critics have found with the characters Williams is
85 sure to blame on the real people Eliot was representing, not the representations themselves (224). As I noted earlier, Stephen disliked the later novels he found th em too idealize d to be any good and barely spent any time talking about Daniel Deronda (191). Leavis agrees about Deronda renames Gwendolen Harleth he likes a defiance of F. R. Leavis's instruction to readers of Daniel Deronda that they should sever the Jewish part from the English p art, I maintain that we have far more to gain by reading Jewish and English discourses exactly as they appeared in their nineteenth century contexts as work, cann ot go without comment. Most of Eliot's failings Stephen Guest, Bob Jakin Apparently the masculine name wasn't enough. Tellingly, the dismissal of Eliot as just no t able to write men comes in Leavis's accounting of her work. That Leavis also supposedly sets aside historical questions to focus on the formal element of her work only deepens the irony of his position. Still Leavis has some very minimal commentary on he r social or historical position; he says that Eliot and Conrad are peculiarly alive to set during her childhood or before is telling (22). Barbara Hardy, taking a similar tac k in thinking not merely because she tries to expose the
86 Tragedy becomes universal here, and Hardy highly values this element. Questions about Eliot's artistic merit were ofte n tied to questions about her universal appeal or ability to convey a universal truth; that reviewers wanted a universal element in such a particularized, exactingly depicted place and time simply extends how this historical moment seemed timeless, ideal, and possibly even prelapsarian to the critics. Fault finding with Eliot's artistic merit did not always begin with thinking her work was not real enough; as stated above, some of her contemporary reviewers disliked her for being too true to life. Early in Eliot's publishing career, an unsigned Dublin University Magazine Review writer thinks she's not sides of human life, between careful selection and careless acc umulation of small details, between that larger insight and sterner self control, which go to the making of a first (in Carroll 153). This reviewer pointedly brings up photography that perfectly mimetic art, which Eliot appears to have emulated too highly in her creative attempts. Just a bit later in this passage the reviewer takes Eliot down for missing out on the universal elements that art should ngs of evil,' painting the bloom upon the cheek, the light in the eye of Nature, and discovering a reviewer misses in her work was the element that connected him to the experience of fullness or realized truth. Blanche Williams later talks about this same un work;
87 Of course, Williams finds the example of sermonizing in the novels, but connecti ng the universal element with the sermon simply shows how outside of time this moral element could be. She does not note that sermons are often on the occasion of holidays or contain advice for living in the contemporary world. Leavis calls Eliot's univers al element her engagement with moral questions and finds that this engagement increases her appeal as an artist (32). Hardy, also deliberately setting out to writ e tragedy, and her novels are tragedies in a strictly technical sense, not because they show pain and evil, crime and punishment, but because they impose a moral a moral truth or religious element to suggest that even though these reviewers recognize George Eliot as either an advocate of a secular agenda or, among some of the especially religious crowd, a threat to religious belief in England, her work retains a st rict adherence to social duty even if the duty is unmoored from the traditional religious foundation many expect to find underneath such exhortations. This detaching of duty from religion does seem to have worked as a secularizing tactic for many critics s ince Eliot's day; Richard Simpson noticed and loudly objected which shows how effective yet imperfect it was as a secularizing tactic. Not surprisingly, it is often the people who object to Eliot on religious grounds who also find her presentation of belie f in the novels to be less than absolutely accurate, real, or true but article in his 1971 edited collection of reviews of Eliot's work, most accurately and perceptiv ely accounts for one hardline Christian response to Eliot's work. Importantly he links the critique
88 these writers make of Eliot to their sense that she just isn't getting the religious sentiment of the era right. He says: This, some critics feel, betrays h er into several anachronisms, the most serious of which is the way she belittles the part played by Christian belief in Middlemarch. The London Quarterly Review cannot allow that 'Dorothea, not illustrating a Positivist thesis in 1876, but living her life more than a generation ago, in 1830...' would not have been a devout Christian. Now, instead of attributing this inconsistency to an oversight, the critics blame George Eliot's thesis for distorting the reality of her fictional world. (31) Here, Eliot does 12 These readers they also expected Dorothea should have believed in a different way, more me ek and less assertive of her beliefs and more accepting of the communal, standard Anglican beliefs. This notion of how people experienced belief in the past is a strong one. These readers' sense of one true religion, with one way to live this belief, is w hat confounds and frustrates their experience of reading the novel. Carroll and Simpson both quote a few lines from another article in the Westminster Review to show how, to another anonymous reviewer, Eliot disregards specific religious feelings. Carroll' s take reads : tolerant of religion only because she 'regards the numerous theological creeds, about who the clerical mind has so long disputed, as being only shells of different shape and colour, enclosing the fruit of the religious spi rit common to the human race, or as so many mental structures which 12). Here is the found ing in doctrine or even real belief. That a true religion could develop or change suggests that the external, timeless truth content it posits is neither external to the world or timeless. 12 And Leslie Stephen finds that eighteenth century England was basically a pastoral or idyll lacking any real zeal. So for him this is a fairly accurate historical picture (7 9).
89 Eliot's contemporary reviewers were objecting to the ever evolving nature of religious she sympathizes with a variety of religious forms which she herself rejects. This is only a temporary expedient: in time the shell of C hristianity will fall away and reveal the true inner nece ssary to enable people to convert their feelings into energies -'for energy results from the from the equation, the effect of these novels could change the pol itical power structure the church exercised. Richard Simpson presents one of the most astute critiques of Eliot's position from the perspective of worrying that these novels could change the power balance between church and state. Still, quite unnecessari ly, he talks about Eliot as a slave to Lewes intellectually, and their both being slaves to Comteism, Goethe, and anything else either of them considered or read (in Carroll 223, 224, 245 47). Simpson does credit her with writing novels that have a Christi an and self sacrifice for the benefit of others. In this she speaks as a Christian, even as a Catholic; for as the atheistical Buddhism is the most moral, sp iritual, and pietistic of all the religions of 247). Importantly, Simpson can differentiate and diagnose the different ways non Anglicans mimic important re ligious characteristics of the Anglican church and thereby mislead readers from the truth of Anglicanism. Also, Simpson commits the error many religious think ers do in try to
90 make atheism or positivism understandable and digestible when it often works completely outside the framework of belief, religious or otherwise. Comte, of course, sought to appropriate the very structure of religious belief. However, the important point is that Simpson understands how appealing her novels could be to a Christian audience and how deeply disturbing they might be to that very belief. Simpson also characterizes how, doctrinally, Eliot appeals to a Christian is attracted to Catholicism by its moral side probably [...] because it attaches itself to the sufferings of Christ through sympathy, while Protestantism (i n Carroll 248). By appreciating Jesus like a Catholic does, Eliot can appeal to the things that make Jesus appealing to all Christians. This often perceptive take on Eliot's novels does estimate accurately how powerful they were to become; the critical his tory after Simpson's 1863 review shows just how appealing later readers, Christian and secular, found the novels and how one common interpretation of the novels suggests that right feeling or sympathy could be found outside religious strictures. Christian theology could not claim a monopoly on self sacrifice, devotion to others, and duty. 13 13 Charles Gardner presents one striking departure from the mass of critics who mostly overlook Eliot's religious Teacher. The following study is an attempt to t race her mental and spiritual development from her earliest years to the end. The religious problem with which she struggled was, in her day, confined to the Specialists who, like her, were in advance of their time. Now, thirty years after her death, the g Gardner incorporates a sense of humor about doctrine into his analysis of Eliot's realism; his joking way of referring dren were dirty, for the languid mothers gave their strength to the loom; pious dissenting women, perhaps, who took life patiently, and thought that o trace her that the way of life is by the Royal High Way of the Cross. What Mordecai did for Judaism, she could have done for Christianity. On ly one thing more was needed. Christianity is Christ. Christ has been and is the great dynamic in g tragedy of her life, that there was none to answer her cry. When she had known the Way, she turned from it, and at the end there was no living voice to speak the word of George Eliot: A Guide Through the Critical Maze (1990), to talk of it simply as having
91 Much of this criticism is to say that readers can easily find a compelling code of ethics in in the sense that she had reflected long and seriously with all her very remarkable intellectual power upon some of the greatest problems which can occupy the mind. She had, in particular, thought of the part which is played by the religious beliefs and th religious questions of her day, and her novels' seeming presentation of a non theological answer reade rs interested in these problems. 14 Stephen also finds Eliot's atheism as representative of her path which was being taken by many contemporaries; but somethi ng must be said of her special atheism or secularity among the secular elite of Eliot's day, and presumably his own, concretizes the expectation that influential intellectual trendsetters will continue thinking in secular ways. Stephen further introduces belief and dogmatic equations that rely on fairly dubious more as sh possibly anyone's religious sense, was not real when it depended on dogma (68). Finally, Oscar Browning, one of the critics who knew Eliot personally, discusses her ethics of the now. His early accounting of her belief system accords with later interpretations of ne in just one work of Eliot criticism beyond Handley's (and this includes several other summaries of Eliot criticism). 14 Bernard J. Paris, in h is 2003 book Rereading George Eliot discusses his own belief and loss of it in Eliot's with human figures and individual experience, the novels do arrive at truths more sure than shifting theory that is, shifting mimetic truths come from psychological reality. This is a familia r argument, and it has proponents in the twenty first century.
92 her positions; as a formulation of what could be called her ethical code, it is worth quoting in its entirety as many of these critics would seem to agree with it, as an expression that could be drawn from her art and as a code worth promoting. This statement illustrates the process by which literature could take the place of religion, as it often did in the nineteenth century (see McKelvy). Browning says: She was also profoundly conscious of the little thought and value which many people set on life, how little they estimate the result of their actions in themselves and others. She feared that this was encouraged by the current theology, which looked only to future retr ibution, to reward and punishment in a heaven and hell external to ourselves, to a future state where all mistakes and accidents of this life would be comfortably set right. Let us think more of this life, she would say; here is heaven and hell enough for us. We have no certain knowledge of the details of a future life; this life we do know, and by care and watchfulness we may repress its evil and increase its good. To inculcate the importance of every action of our lives, whether as affecting the lives of others, or by the invincible force of habit determining our own; the momentous issues of the thoughts and emotions which slowly build up the human character, and which, long concealed from all eyes, suddenly leap out in the light of unexpected action; such was the kernel of her moral teaching. (149 150) This humanistic summary of her beliefs emphasizes the present world and encourages people to focus their energies not on an afterlife but instead on human suffering in the present. Coming from a novelist ski lled in the documentary art of recording the world around her, this statement presents not just an ideal for her readers to aspire to but a little bit of reality that she showed some of her characters achieving in the novels. It's a comforting philosophy, for those readers wanting guidance or answers to life's deep questions, that purports to show how already secularized the English countryside in the nineteenth century was. That these readers could be her contemporaries or her later scholars indicates how little critical distance some scholars maintained from her vision of the reform era. A major portion of the next chapter will detail various presentations of the era in George Eliot's novels to illustrate just what this mimetic critical tradition found and emphasized in her
93 work, and how a secular, non religiously influenced vision of democracy is the easy takeaway. By acknowledging her representation as one with definite political consequences today's critics can imagine competing visions of the era to get a broader sense of just how religiously inflected early democracy might have been and how these inflections persist today. George Eliot's vision of the Reform Era developed greater influence over time as her critical reputation rose between 1900 and the m iddle of the twentieth century. Her vision, especially in Middlemarch but in the fiction generally, included sympathetic portrayals of sincere characters serious about religion, but these characters are often out of their time or destined for social action not directed toward democracy or the British nation. Also insincere but powerful characters get a rough treatment in Eliot's fiction. Doctrine itself becomes a misunderstood joke, and the sense of the present time becomes all pervasive in a society renewi ng itself through social struggle and advancement. These many elements add up to a singular picture of the Reform Era that has had a great currency among literary critics, particularly those with a secular vision or agenda.
94 CHAPTER 4 GEORGE ELIOT'S WRITING chapter describes Middlemarch her final novelistic treatment of the Reform Era with its persistent denial of serious belief; she sets Daniel Deronda much later, and in it she outlines different conditions for religious belief. In Middlemarch serious religious belief is either anachronistic, being far too late in the history of humanity, or impossible to sustain without endemic corruption. Most of the young Middlemarchers have little interest in conventional forms of the church and church authority. Eliot's bleak picture for belief suggests that serious religious feeling had no chance in rural England, at least not where the forces of modernity visited Eliot does not suggest that the era of political reform or industrialization, via the railroad or other symbols of advancement, have confronted and vanquished religious superstitious belief; instead, in Middlemarch it appears that political reform and i ndustrialization came along and found nothing more than a shell of serious religiousity which, in the case of Bulstrode, collapsed under the weight of its own piety. This comforting picture of rural England has reassured generations of secularist scholars and civic leaders who would like to find less serious belief in the past, which could predict a future of even less serious religious belief. A reading of Adam Bede further demonstrates how Eliot presents religious questions as about the right kind of feel ing and as entirely se parate from political ones. I turn to the question of time, briefly, in a consideration of Scenes of Clerical Life Daniel Deronda Middlemarch : One vision o f the Reform Era Middlemarch 's "Prelude" and "Finale" set out a controlling idea for the Dorothea storyline, and this idea is the story of a secularizing world. The Saint Theresa story is familiar to
95 anyone who has studied Middlemarch : the Saint has a grea t idea, "a national idea" that leads to a "child pilgrimage," and her "passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life" (1). However we readers learn that many contemporary women, among whom Dorothea numbers, find "for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill matched with the meanness of opportunity" (1). The slippages inherent in this passage are quite remarkable; the characteriza tion of the Saint's "national idea" indicates the unity of national and religious causes that more accurately characterized the earlier time. This earlier era of monasteries may not have experienced nationalism as the nineteenth century knew it, but Eliot' s language suggests a grandness to the child's dream. Also, while Eliot does not declare that the time for these epic reformers has passed entirely, she clearly implies that the world now regards these religious devotees as confused souls. Eliot illustrate s this implication more thoroughly with the condescending (internal) dialogues of Mr. Brooke and Mrs. Cadwallader, who variously regard Dorothea as crying due to of nonsense in [Dorot hea] ways: on Mr. Brooke and Mrs. Cadwallader, as being remarkably shallow; and on Dorothea, because her seriousness about religion simply misreads the possibilities for her and for beli ef in the era. Dorothea's failings, according to her community in Middlemarch are taking her religious convictions too seriously. The novel, through its narrator and the framing commentary, adopts this same perspective in a less harsh and certainly less c omical way. Interestingly, the implication that St. Theresa and others of her ilk would fit in so poorly among the Victorians makes the spiritual founders of various church movements look ridiculous, at least to Victorians
96 happy with the status quo. The di saffected readers could easily see the joke being on their peers, and not the founders, however. Much like the history of literature, where medieval and Renaissance literature told the epic lives of royalty and then the novel inaugurated the tale of Jane Eyre verywoman, the time has passed for most of these latter day Theresas; small scale social duti es, rather than extensive reform schemes, become the stuff of everyday life. For a writer like Eliot, commonality is the currency in which literature now trades. The "Finale" tells us that a "new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conv entual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother's burial: the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are prepari ng the lives of many Dorotheas" (766). A large part of the earlier era ending and the new one beginning is the secularization of public life. The "Prelude" says that "for these later born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which cou ld perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul" (1). What "social faith" Dorothea lacks is not entirely clear; her schemes for a community in which everyone works and her long running cottage improvement plan suggest a commitment to com munity improvement. She is stymied in carrying out both plans by her male relations. Richard Brent describes how someone like Dorothea could be drawn to social action as ic life was a sense of Christian duty, of a debt owed to God for the blessings of Providence, which obliged
97 125). 1 Brent continues to suggest that the Liberal Anglica ns Whigs had distinctly invested in a theology that encouraged social improvement in the Established church: By 1834 they had acquired a doctrine which could accommodate Dissent, and hence reform, by having a highly restricted notion of what constituted th e essentials of a sound religious establishment. At the same time they justified the continued existence of such institutions by imposing on them an elevated sense of social duty. Of nothing was this more true than the Church of England, the institution wi th which the Whigs were preoccupied for much of the 1830s. It was to be preserved because a national religion was a constitutional necessity: if it was morally elevating, it secured the prosperity of the country. (63) In this political estimation, charity work was to provide an important sense of duty, even for everyday life. Dorothea's partnership with Will Ladislaw, who also has political and moral aspirations or desires to improve the lives of others, suggests how these aspirations, felt as duties, could be national or nation building. To Eliot's credit, she presents this transition to a focus on the everyday life as a sympathetic one. The final line of the "Prelude" reads "[h]ere and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving hear t beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long recognizable deed" (2). The stymied Theresa has, to her credit, much goodwill and very likely a positive impact. These tributary effects are confirmed in the "Finale," where Dorothea's life, "like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: fo r the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts" (766). And Dorothea's life certainly had meaning, 1 K. M. Newton suggests that the socially improving desires of George Eliot had connections to literary history as George Eliot be reconciled? Does she choose to ignore the dangerous and subversive potential of advanced Romantic thinking or does she believe that it can be reconciled with the moral and social values to which she was so deeply committed? I hope to show t hat the affiliation with Romanticism's subversive but also constructive potential makes her affinity for Austen even more piquant. See the circumstances.
98 even if it was that of the self sacrificial, stereotypical Victorian wife and mother. The novel Dorothea could have liked noth ing better, since wrongs existed, than that her husband should be in the thick of a struggle against them [as an MP], and that she should give him wifely help. Many who knew her, thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been ab sorbed into the life of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and Dorothea's imagined life of great public works becomes one of great private works, and teaching readers to appreciate such uneventful lives is a large part of the narrative work of the novel; politics might be important work, even if some would be practitioners like Mr. Brooke are foolish, but there is much to be done outside of Parliament as well. 2 Whether the religious feeling was disqualified because of re ligious hypocrisy or, simply, because of an epistemic shift is another thing entirely. The novel's narrative work also performs a related task: that of convincing readers that strongly felt religion has little or no place in public life, and that strongly felt religious doctrines (like those of Tyke) should give way to clergymen who feel strongly about their parishioners (Farebrother). The entire debate over who to appoint as chaplain in the new hospital, either Tyke or Farebrother, is presented as one of d octrine versus feeling, a new seriousness about religion versus forbearing pastoralism. In the debate Lydgate urges Dorothea to consider Farebrother because His talk is just as good about all subjects: original, simple, clear. I think him a remarkable fellow: 2 Eliot also allows Mr. Vincy to assert that religion should provide a central faith in humanity. Mr. Vincy discusses his son Fred to Bulstrode by fellow, when you don't know worse. It seems to me it would be a poor sort of religion to put a spoke in his wheel by refusing to say you don't believe such harm of him as y significantly more mainstream Anglican than the Calvinist influenced parts of the Church and Dissent.
99 alongside this debate, it's clear that i n Middlemarch strong religious feeling gets commuted into seemingly non sectarian social works and the tale of secularization in the English countryside that t hese duties, inspired by a religious affiliation with Church of England, seem to become doctrinally stripped of reference to a specific branch of Protestantism. But their very initiation is a religiously inspired duty. Strong religious feeling in the novel is also absent where it could provide serious economical benefits. Middlemarch illustrates this by showing a rising generation with less use for religion and religious leaders; young Fred Vincy is either unfit or unable to become a clergyman because he la cks something. By pairing his lack of strong religious feeling or vocation with the idea that the time for Saintly Theresas has passed, the novel insists that even a provincial town like Middlemarch has begun secularizing. Readers of the novel learn of Fre d's unwillingness to become a clergyman from a debate between Mary Garth, Fred's childhood love and eventual wife, and Fred's sister Rosamond, who believes that Fred should become a clergyman since he received much of the required training at Oxford. All o f the elder generation (the Garths, the Vincys) see Fred's decision not to enter the clergy as a limiting move, one that will keep him from an assured place as a gentleman who can support a family. However, Mary since he "'is not fit to be a clergyman'" (104). Mary cannot seem to give a simple or direct reason for her notion that Fred could not join the clergy beyond her sense that he is constitutionally unfit for the work. All she can suggest is that "'he would b e a great hypocrite; and he is not that yet'" (104). Eventually Fred agrees that he cannot
100 take orders. Mary clearly respects the clergy here and will not allow Fred to defile the clergy. But the duty of safeguarding and shepherding the nation's souls beco mes someone else's task. That it can never be Dorothea's task is an especially piquant irony. 3 Fred's decision not to take orders follows an extensive discussion with the Reverend Farebrother, and the discussion further confirms not only Fred's incapacity for that role but also the novel's insistence that the younger generation has little interest in the doctrines of Anglicanism. Farebrother first asks Fred what his difficulty with going into the Church is, and Fred replies, "'[m]erely that I don't like it I don't like divinity, and preaching, and feeling obliged to look serious [...] I've no taste for the sort of thing people expect of a clergyman'" (467). Not only has serious religious feeling become uncool, but the social benefits of being a clergyman a re not strong enough to induce Fred to take up such a role granted, of course, that Mary has basically told Fred that he should have no hope of her hand if he takes orders. 4 Still, Fred indicates an almost vapid disregard for consideration of Anglican doct rines. Farebrother asks him,"'[h]ave you any difficulties about doctrines about the Articles?'" (468). Fred can only respond that "'[n]o; I suppose the Articles are right. I am not prepared with any arguments to disprove them, and much better, cleverer fel lows than I am go in for them entirely. I think it would be rather ridiculous in me to urge scruples of that sort, as if I were a judge'" (468). 5 Fred any p ersonal understanding of them; his refusal to assume sacral authority turns on his inability to evaluate its basic tenets and leaves such evaluation for someone else. Then he dismisses 3 Initially, Dinah from Adam Bede stands in contrast to this. 4 That Dorothea is the only younger per son with any serious religious feeling but is barred from the clergy because of her sex indicates one possible feminist interpretation of the situation. 5 good
101 Farebrother's idea that Fred "'might be a fair parish priest without be ing much of a divine'" (468). Also, Fred's insistence that he is unfit for such duties keeps him from considering taking such a position seriously. But, when pressed, Fred considers fulfilling the role in a hollow way, saying, "'[o]f course, if I am oblige d to be a clergyman, I shall try and do my duty, though I mayn't like Dorothea's desires to lead an epic, religiously motivated life, that reputation of the cont emporary clergy cannot help but be reduced. Mary Garth's own dismissal of some of her contemporary clergy further digs at the general reputation of the clergy in the novel. She frames the question as pertaining to Fred, but cannot help delivering a critici sm of other local clergy in the course of her remarks. She tells Farebrother that "'Fred has sense and knowledge enough to make him respectable, if he likes, in some good worldly business, but I can never imagine him preaching and exhorting, and pronouncin g blessings, and praying by the sick, without feeling as if I were looking at a caricature'" (472). Her "caricature" comment parallels Fred's own description of himself as a hollow type of clergyman. Their insistence that pastorship requires genuine feelin g covers more than just the duties of a pastor to his flock; it also includes the question of Fred's consideration of the articles. Mary continues her comments to Farebrother by saying that Fred's "'being a clergyman would be only for gentility's sake, and I think there is nothing more contemptible than such imbecile gentility. I used to think that of Mr. Crowse, with his empty face and neat umbrella, and mincing little speeches. What right have such men to represent Christianity as if it were an institutio empty face further suggests that these preachers are dangerously insincere. The rhetoric of imbecility and idiocy only furthers her disdain for these caricatures of what clergymen out to be;
102 that Dissenters produced similar critiques of the clergy suggests that occasionally Dissent got Anglicanism better than the Anglican church did, itself. Fred uses his sense of "fitness" or rightness to suggest an orderly world as though Provide nce had so designed it, but Middlemarch cannot embrace Providence fully. After counted [the bills]. For they actually present the absurdity of being less than hi s hopefulness had decided that they must be. What can the fitness of things mean, if not their fitness to a man's meant humorously, and isn't really a dismissal of Providence, but it reverberates with other elements of the novel that are humorous dismissals of religious figures. The lack of fitness leads, as Mary suggests, to absurdity; that such a situation can also present atheism crystallizes the notion that seri ous religious conviction requires a fitness for such a life. That almost no young characters in the novel exhibit this fitness means that absurdity and atheism, supposed markers of modernity, are just around the corner. Neil McCaw comments on Eliot's cont inued use of religious vocabulary, notions of allusion to generic metaphysics of change such as Destiny and Providence, implies an exterior guiding force shaping historical evolution" (84). This "exterior guiding force" quite plainly references the unmoved mover. Therefore, he continues, "[i]n spite of her well known abandonment of orthodox Christianity and its inherent metanarrative, the metaphysical nature of El a central question as to the realization of a political agenda in her work. McCaw initially explores this problem by saying:
103 [t]he paradox of Eliot's use of Biblical vocabulary within the context of her self confessedly non Christian worldview is obvious. The implied parallel between the unfolding fictional narrative and an implicit biblical or Providential metanarrative is symbolic, but the philosophical rati onale behind it is unclear. Eliot appears to work very much within Feuerbachian territory, depicting a 'consciousness of God [that] is nothing else than the consciousness of the species'. Therein religious imagery can be read as merely metaphorical, as a t ropic representation of humanity. And yet, even if 'the substance and object of religion is altogether human', as Feuerbach argued, the conundrum of Eliot's sustained recourse to Old Testament language is not fully explained away. (83 84) McCaw most fully worries the question of Old Testamentary language and theology because he primarily reads Eliot as historiographer in relation to Daniel Deronda That, in Daniel Deronda Eliot presents Judaism as the religion most worthy of serious contemplation throughou t all of her novels is particularly revealing of her near fetishization of difference within Britain. Adam Bede suggests a bit of a different story, but more on that later. But the idea of a higher power, even one that might be reachable through Judaism, i s not thorough going or apparent at every turn. Instead providentially directed, implying ironic distance and sure knowledge while being charmed by the seductiven ess of the ordered narrative framework" (McCaw 86). Because Middlemarch slowly disabuses Fred Vincy of his notions of Providence the novel suggests that Providential thinking might be nave, especially as Fred rejects a clerical life. 6 6 McCaw glosses this by saying that "although Eliot's rejection of orthodox Christianity would imply an accompanying rejection of notions of provi dential interference, there was a lack of confidence as to what filled the void the loss of faith left behind. The silence left by the rejection of Christian metaphysics, the metaphysical belief. U. C. Knoepflmacher weighs in on the question of Providence in this way: Middlema rch the conditions created by the 'irony of events' stress man's dependence on the actions of his fellow man. To George Eliot, as to Matthew Arnold, a 'consciousness of the not ourselves,' of powers beyond the scope of the individual will, makes for 'right eousness.' God, immortality, providence may not exist: yet man must therefore act as if they do. The believing skeptics of Middlemarch, the Garths and the Farebrothers, are didactically rewarded by the same deterministic sequences they recognize and obey. On the other hand, the 'irony of events' is enlisted to shatter the scientific hybris of Lydgate of the fanaticism of Bulstrode. Middlemarch tests the efficacy of ethical conduct. But it separates conduct from faith in a God and reduces mystery to a verifi 13). Here, the human or humanistic centering of all experience distinctly comes through.
104 Narratives of Provi dence imply God's intentions, and critics have debated intentionality hotly in literary criticism. Critic of secularism Colin Jager would have us believe that rejection of intentionality as a critical commonplace has a distinctly secular bearing. He says that: Debates such as those instigated by Wimsatt and Beardsley bear interestingly upon theological discussions of design, for both cases employ the same logi cal structure: the intentions of a creator are said to be inferred from the evidence of the artifact, and yet in practice other kinds of knowledge are generally smuggled in: biographical and historical knowledge, in the case of an author; theological doctr ines or prior beliefs, in the case of a divinity. (Jager 182) It is almost as if the trend initiated in the nineteenth century of rejecting Providential thinking in literature has eventually colored literary criticism of the twentieth and twenty first cent uries; even if no direct connection exists here, both represent a secularizing tendency. For critics like Jager who would like to represent modernity as more religious than most critics would allow, re establishing a critical case for the use of intentiona lity in literary criticism allows him and others to argue for the intellectual likelihood of a creator. Bulstrode, Insincerity, and the Failings of Public Belief Eliot uses the plotlines around Bulstrode to suggest several things about religion and civic l eaders. The importance of sincerity in religious belief is explored, and Eliot provides a complex answer in relation to Bulstrode's self delusion. Also, the novel raises questions of religion as social control, as a type of faith in the goodness of humanit y, and as a form of power. Indeed, the novel often sets these several roles of religion at odds with each other, making unexpected pairings of issues and often providing an answer that seems commonsensical or surprisingly simple in the abstract.
105 Most reade rs consider Bulstrode to represent the height of hypocrisy, yet the narrator affect beliefs and emotions for the sake of gulling the world, but Bulstrode was not on e of them. He was simply a man whose desires had been stronger than his theoretic beliefs, and who had gradually explained the gratification of his desires into satisfactory agreement with those beliefs" (566). Bulstrode, while not a "coarse" hypocrite, is instead someone who has effectively lied to himself repeatedly about his own role versus his beliefs. Of course, the novel does not excuse his particular brand of hypocrisy, but sets it at direct odds with the sincere religious feeling embodied by Dorothe a. Eliot herself espoused interest in sincerity among Christians. In a letter, to the acceptance of any set of doctrines as a creed, and a superhuman revelation of the Unseen but I see in it the highest expression of the religious sentiment that has yet found its place in the history of mankind, and I 331). Eliot's passion for the inward li fe becomes apparent in her exploration of Bulstrode's memories. By exploring a character who wants to relive the better moments of his youth, Eliot by contras ting Bulstrode with Dorothea, who channels this high expression of religious feeling into real social action, and Fred, whose lack of this sentiment leads him away from overt piety, Eliot shows that not all of this feeling is doomed. Bulstrode hankers afte r his youthful emotions; as clever in figures as he was fluent in speech and fond of theological definition: an eminent though young member of a Calvinistic di ssenting church at Highbury, having had striking
106 experience in conviction of sin and sense of pardon" (562). Reliving the memories of his youth, before his epic swindle of Will Ladislaw's family and his involvement with shady business practices, allows Bul strode a sense of religious wholeness that he has subsequently lost. He "heard himself called for as Brother Bulstrode in prayer meetings, speaking on religious platforms, preaching in private houses. Again he felt himself thinking of the ministry as possi bly his vocation, and inclined towards missionary labor" (562). The handle "Brother" stands out, now marking his difference; instead of one in a religious community, he tries to lead a community from outside it, no longer applying the laws of the community to his own behavior. marks a real failure of religious authority and he proves irredeemable Bulstrode continues thinking "[t]hat was the happiest time of his life: that was the spot he would have chose n now to awake in and find the rest a dream [...] He believed without effort in the peculiar work of grace within him, and in the signs that God Bulstrode can on ly feel the uplifting, empowering aspect of religion now through memories of a being in a good spiritual frame and more than usually serene, under the influ ence of his innocent recreation. He was doctrinally convinced that there was a total absence of merit in himself" (476). The phrase "absence of merit" looks like small potatoes compared to reality, but it blunts the blow of his hypocrisy. Bulstrode initial ly seems far from irredeemable, but his eventual actions that lead to the death of Raffles push him far beyond the pale. Bultstrode's delusion of his current position is bolstered by the people near to him, particularly his wife, and her willing blindness to his past and her love of his fortune are indications of religious problems throughout the community and not just in individuals. Rather
107 than question Bulstrode closely about his past, his wife has turned a blind eye. Some slight information about his b usiness and marital life "was almost as much as she had cared to learn beyond the glimpses which Mr. Bulstrode's narrative occasionally gave of his early bent towards religion, his inclination to be a preacher, and his association with missionary and phila nthropic efforts" (560). Rather, Mrs. Bulstrode prefers thinking of the positive aspects of what he has contributed to her life. Indeed, "[s]he believed in him as an excellent man whose piety carried a peculiar eminence in belonging to a layman, whose infl uence had turned her own mind toward seriousness, and whose share of perishable good had been the means of raising her own position" (560). The phrase "perishable good" alludes to both the limited quantity of goodness in Bulstrode and the pecuniary benefit s of their union. Mrs. Bulstrode, like most of Middlemarch, has overlooked any negative indications of Bulstrode's past and accepted his money and profitable business as bona fides enough. Many of the characters cite religion as being important for social control in the novel; at not, that he himself was a Protestant to the core, but that Catholicism was a fact; and as to refusing an acre of your ground for a Ro manist chapel, all men needed the bridle of religion, has more to do with keeping the poor in line than with any lofty democratic ideal. The willingness of t he community to overlook Bulstrode's past, while allowing him to become a community leader, make his insincere religion an especially bad type of social control. Before any Middlemarcher knows of Bulstrode's disreputable past, but after they have assimilat was not agreeable [...] it was attributed by some to his being a Pharisee, and by others to his
108 gate as a religious question, while asserting that his opponents have a poorly vested interest in another candidate. accountableness; whereas with my opponents, I have g ood reason to say that it is an occasion for tio n of Tyke versus Farebrother within the community of Middlemarch asserts one variety of religion over another in Bulstrode's estimation, but, quite o bviously, both clergymen are Anglicans. Bulstrode, as a former Dissenter, would have had far less say in the administration of community projects had he stuck to that line of worship. Indeed, Raffles's questions about how Bulstrode worships now in Middlema rch, question, while ostensibly about Bulstrode's place of worship, reve als Bulstrode's lack of faithfulness to one type of worship as a lack of faithfulness elsewhere. Also, the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts a few years before the setting of the novel seems to matter little for multiconfessional tolerance. Raffles's suggestion that Bulstrode has dropped his non conformity simply for increased social status shows Bulstrode's self serving motives. This insincere power grab on Bulstrode's part slips past the Middlemarch rank and file due to their willful blindness. Midd lemarch also stages debates about sincerity around such questions as land, banking, and inheritance. Old Mr. Featherstone argues that Bulstrode, as a banker and businessman, has broken with traditional landed forms of power, where people historically deriv ed power. Featherstone says to Fred Vincy that Bulstrode is: A speckilating fellow! He may come down any day, when the devil leaves off backing him. And that's what his religion means: he wants God A'mighty to come in. That's nonsense! There's one thing I made out pretty clear when I used to go to church and it's this: God A'mighty sticks to the land. He promises land, and He
109 gives land, and He makes chaps rich with corn and cattle. But you take the other side. You like Bulstrode and speckilation better tha n Featherstone and land. (100) Featherstone does not consider Fred's inchoateness at his age, and warns that banking does not provide any certainty in terms of fortune. Featherstone's opinion certainly does not stand for the novel's, but the perception of falsity in occupations divorced from agriculture certainly colors Fred's storyline and serves to extend ancien regime attitudes and power structures. The novel does little to counter Featherstone's perception of the character and reputation of Bulstrode b eing tied to his profession. That Mr. Brooke is essentially a nincompoop and a landowning farmer provides a counter to Featherstone's notion, but Brooke seems sincere if not effectual. Middlemarchers connect religious doctrines to those who espouse them; as such, when the reputation of one falls, the reputation of the other takes a hit as well. So communal interpretation of religious doctrine matters more in Eliot's vision of Reform Era England than the doctrines matters themselves. While several women in the town discuss the fall of Bulstrode, Toller (680). Mrs. Plym dale provides Eliot's idea of a voice of reason, saying that "'I think we of religion, I must say, Mr. Bulstrode might have done what he has, and worse, and yet have been a man of no religion. I don't say that there has not been a little too much of that I like moderation myself. But truth is truth. The men tried at the assizes are not all over religious, I ymdale has been friendly with the Bulstrodes and allow her to speak her piece, but the communal judgment against Bulstrode and his religious principles has been made. One woman's suggestion that none shall soon follow in Bulstrode's footsteps, boasting rel igious scruples and judging other Middlemarchers, rings true.
110 The Absurdity of Doctrine in Middlemarch Early in Middlemarch Eliot begins using humorous jibes on characters who take doctrinal differences seriously, and this method of ridicule is one of sev eral methods by which Eliot depicts religion as having no serious business in public life. The first jokes of the novel come mostly at Dorothea's expense, and the joke about taking doctrines seriously is no different. In a moment of free indirect discourse think her very winning and lovely fit hereafter to be an eternal cherub, and if it were not James ima was not, frankly, quite comical (50). 7 The narrator supplies jokes about the seriousness of n a woman,' said And Rosamond, who ponders why Mrs. Waule should be in black all the time, says Mrs. Waule eflectively, as if that religious point of view for a seriousness of religious conviction makes both the serious convictions and Rosamond hilarious at the same time. Middlemarch does not stop at making serious religion humorous; indeed, any type of veneration comes in for a joke. Dorothea is found wondering about: Latin and Greek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her a standing ground from which all t ruth could be seen more truly. As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one roomed cottages were not for the glory of God, 7 Middlemarch also presents attitude as being unimportant to serious religious understanding, saying of Mrs. a neighbourliness to both rank and religion, and mitigated the bitterness of uncommuted tithe. A much more exemplary character with an infusion of sour dignity would not have furthered their comprehension of the Thirty nine Articles, and would have been le
111 when men who knew the classics appeared to concilia te indifference to the cottages with zeal for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary at least the alphabet and a few roots in order to arrive at the core of things, and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. (56) Such an absurd sug gestion, presented in this context and with this narrator, distances the reader from identifying with Dorothea. 8 Instead of an object of identification she becomes an object of pity, and readers understand her inability to act appropriately in her era is b ecause of her poorly that veneration could be. Dorothea comes to some self understanding about this quality of hers. self awareness comes too late, however, to keep her from being miserable in her first marriage. The medica l establishment of Middlemarch generally disregards serious religion as well. This disregard does not appear to take the form of the familiar science versus faith debate, as the characters concerned with science are more interested in medical care and expr ess little interest in religious distinction. By providing the medical men with such opinions, the novel is able to suggest that advanced scientific learning generally proves incompatible with faith. When Lydgate wonders, to me, if he carries some good notions along religious doctrines do not matter (148). While Lydgate is not the arbiter of truth in the novel, his opinion goes religious notions why, as Voltaire said, incantations will destroy a flock of sheep if administered with a certain quantity of arsenic. I look for the man who will bring the arsen ic, and 8 Absurd in the sense that Dorothea would very likely be unable to learn these languages; these are rather too lofty goals. The ironic distance is extended here by the consideration of the cottages as having anything to do with l earning Hebrew.
112 thorough. Other doctors prove uninterested as well. In the debate about who to appoint chaplain of no religion [...] At all events, it is certain that if any medical man had come to Middlemarch with the reputation of having very definite religious views, of being given to prayer, and of otherwise showing an active piety, there would have been a general uninterested in religious debate. The narrator says that it was: (professionally speaking) fortunate for Dr. Minchin that his religious sympathies were of a general kind, and such as gave a distant medical sanction to all serious sentiment, whether of Church or Dissent, rather than any adhesion to particular tenets. If Mr. Bulstrode insisted, as he was apt to do, on the Lutheran doctrine of justification, as that by which a Church m ust stand or fall, Dr. Minchin in return was quite sure that man was not a mere machine or a fortuitous conjunction of atoms; if Mrs. Wimple insisted on a particular providence in relation to her stomach complaint, Dr. Minchin for his part liked to keep th e mental windows open and objected to fixed limits; if the Unitarian brewer jested about the Athanasian Creed, Dr. Minchin quoted Pope's "Essay on Man". (165) One possible interpretation of this passage suggests that Minchin simply is a good business man, humoring each client in his or her own way. But there's something else going on here as well. These funny conjunctions allow the reader to see the strategies educated men have learned to deal with people who take religion seriously, perhaps too seriously, while still administering medical care. Dorothea, the character most sincere in her religious feeling in Middlemarch even evinces a disregard for doctrine; this disregard becomes more pronounced as she gains even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we woul d, we are part of the divine power against evil widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness
113 narrower'" (357). Ladislaw jumps in, willing to discuss this exact belief, but Dorothea realizes his intentions and interrupts him, saying, is Persian, or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part with e xplication of her religion as social action and dislike for knowing what a theologian might call such a desire are the grounds on which readers, if they are so inclined, can take religion in Middlemarch humanitarianism. This philosophy might even be characterized as a Broad Church philosophy. Time and Presentism The question of time in Middlemarch is complex and has been addressed from several angles by recent and contempor vision of history was distinctly Whiggish. Nor do I necessarily want to wade too deeply into the debates about Christian time regarding prophecy, millenarianism, or millennialism, as Mary Wilson Carpenter has sorted out in her book, George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History (1986). Carpenter's central a apocalyptic scheme (4). This illustration o f theories about history drew upon Eliot's earlier of inter could be
114 9 For my purposes, I'd like to draw on Carpenter's argument that George Eliot experimented with different narrative strategi es relating to time. And I would like to suggest that Eliot presents characters, particularly in Middlemarch as living in a peculiarly important historical moment, whether they realize it or not. Eliot writes the era of her novel as distant to contemporar y consciousness, but also as an era preoccupied with deep history and deep historical subjects. Her use of history suggests a n epochal role for the Reform Act The novel reads, done its notable part in develo ping the political consciousness, there was a clearer distinction of 10 people reading the novel and for several of the main characters. Casaubon explains his own lif e like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it orothea's perception of Casaubon Bossuet, whose work would reconcile complete knowledge with devoted piety; here was a modern Augustine who united the glories of doc 9 One of Carpenter's most interesting insights is her claim that George Eliot believed prophecy was essential and fiction work s to present a decidedly non Daniel Deronda emerges as rpretation an interpretation of the landscape of time as a common landscape of exile. Homelessness, disinheritance, and alienation, she suggests, are the universal condition unless bridged by a prophetic vision that perceives invisible connections and rein terprets ancient text by the dim light of our common sary and human is also always Christian. That this focus on prophecy comes from the Old Testament and in Daniel Deronda suggests how prophecy is at least as broad as the Abrahamic tradition. 10 This could also mirror the dimming of distinctions between doctr ines, but that dimming appears to be more of a dismissal.
115 marriage, this shared reverence for the past seems quite unhealthy. Dorothea's historical obsession is linked to her religiousness. At one point, she restore the times of p Movement. But Dorothea's high mindedness about religion does not very strongly overlap with Tractarianism beyond their shared interest in prim itive zeal. Over the course of the novel Dorothea has to learn to give up a too careful interest in the past though, as her eventual marriage to Ladislaw (who becomes an MP) finds her engaged intensely in the present. That Dorothea also has to abandon her plans for improvements around the estate suggests that she cannot consider the future strongly either, and that her only role in the world is in dealing with the cares of the now. The novel also presents characters obsessed with the present, and the narrat or often changed. The narrator brings up machine breaking and parliament dissolving to signpost a fairly accurate date for readers, and these events appear moment ous (321). This long passage from the novel suggests just how thoroughly and at what length the narrative worries the passing of historical time: [t]he doubt hinted by Mr. Vincy whether it were only the general election or the end of the world that was co ming on, now that George the Fourth was dead, Parliament dissolved, Wellington and Peel generally depreciated and the new King apologetic, was a feeble type of the uncertainties in provincial opinion at that time. With the glow worm lights of country place s, how could men see which were their own thoughts in the confusion of a Tory Ministry passing Liberal measures, of Tory nobles and electors being anxious to return Liberals rather than friends of the recreant Ministers, and of outcries for remedies which seemed to have a
116 mysteriously remote bearing on private interest and were made suspicious by the advocacy of disagreeable neighbors? Buyers of the Middlemarch newspapers found themselves in an anomalous position: during the agitation on the Catholic Questi on many had given up the Pioneer which had a motto from Charles James Fox and was in the van of progress because it had taken Peel's side about the Papists, and had thus blotted its Liberalism with a toleration of Jesuitry and Baal; but they were ill satis fied with the Trumpet which since its blasts against Rome, and in the general flaccidity of the public mind (nobody knowing who would support whom) had become feeble in its blowing. (324 25) The narrator here presents the uncertainty of time passing as i ntricately linked with the political questions of the day, and religious issues lined up front and center. It's as though the epoch made by Reform were momentous not just for the people present in the early 1830s but that the principles of the time were wo rth reinvestigation and reapplication. 11 Of course the over the top joke, but the seriousness with which Eliot depicts the events of the novel belies such a poss ibility. Here Eliot is both downplaying the importance of doctrine but still presenting a political philosophy based on one particular alignment of Christian theology; this central contradiction produces the necessity of my argument for critics who have va lued her vision's secularity. The importance of moments or epochal signals plays out in regard to other characters as going on a little fast! It was true enough, what Lafitte said they're in This tying of political progress to a narrative of historical development, with France serving as even though it was really undergoing tumultuous changes throughout the century, indicates how truly eventful the politics of the era were. And Eliot wants to present a vision of 11 On the topic of monumental change versus a more incremental change, see Gillian Beer.
117 history where momentousness matters. Her vision of the world relies upon major disruptions just as much as it does slow or casual progress. The narrator shows Bulstrode experiencing an event of sorts. He turns deathly pale and which shon e backward to its remembered morning: sin seemed to be a question of doctrine and inward penitence, humiliation an exercise of the closet, the bearing of his deeds a matter of private vision adjusted solely by spiritual relations and conceptions of the div (478). Bulstrode's vision of history draws upon his own understanding of his religious experiences and his own deal loud red figure had risen before him in unmanageable solidity an incorporate past which had present suggests that these occasions mark real changes in the world. And for Bulstrode, this event affects not only his theory of God but also his place in the community. Here the narrator of and hoped to have buried forever with the corpse of Raffles it was that haunting ghost of his earlier life which as he rode past the archway of the Green Dragon he was trusting that despicable, Providence's failure of Bulstrode could be interpreted widely, as a m etaphor for humanity generally speaking, in Eliot's portrait of the Reform Era. The reader's distance from Bulstrode shows how the failure of Providence for Bulstrode is simply a personal epoch. Eliot's sense of time as having general changes, distinct fro m momentous events, appears in her descriptions of various religious movements of the era. The incrementalism here shows how people could experience change in absolute terms, such as Bulstrode's swift and absolute
118 fall from grace, but others could also hav e a sense of a creeping modernity approaching. She of all anxiety, and the belief in life as a merry lot, which made a house exceptional in most county towns at that time, when Evangelicalism had cast a certain suspicion of plague infection 47). It's humorous that in this novel Evangelicalism can ruin the amusements of the provinces; could Evangelic alism single handedly kill the amusements of the provinces? Eliot's balancing of two types of history here, the eventful and the gradual, suggests a sophisticated take on time, especially in Middlemarch Importantly, Eliot presents the dynamic world as hav ing moments that recur in memories as especially notable. In one sense, my argument here is taking Eliot at her word: the events of the Great Reform Era mattered enough to deserve consideration as shaping the world. While historical change undoubtedly occu rr ed gradually and the Reform Act itself was the culmination of years of pressure, that Eliot and other later artists were so drawn to representing the era suggests that it was a historical moment worth considering for their own conception of their world. Carolyn Vellenga Berman says that the ch anges imposed by the Reform Act The other writers in this dissertation who chose to represent their own time did so often with the political reality of the Reform Era's effects as something they intended to extend, counter, humanize, or explore. But not all representations by these authors depicted history as dynamic; Villette 's state of suspended trauma, in fact, presents a vision o f stopped time. Adam Bede and The Importance of Right Internal Feeling Eliot's first full length novel, Adam Bede adopts a mournful tone to modernity and the passage of time; beginning just before the turn of the nineteenth century, the novel tells a fair ly similar story to Middlemarch where religious feeling, if not doctrine, matters. Those with real
119 religious feeling and a touch for leadership must work outside the Established church and the most positive effects of the church seem to be social control t hrough the promotion of right feelings toward authority and for one's duty. Importantly, the novel centers on Adam rather than his brother Seth; Seth spends his life caught up in questions of religion and doctrine while Adam has left off thinking too much about religious doctrines. In a way Adam Bede much more resembles Jane Austen's novels, where civil and sacred authority unite in the figures of squire and clergyman. 12 The moral failure of the Donnithorne family as an authority, however, provides a rudderl ess vision of governance. Unlike in Middlemarch where a younger generation refused religious leadership and few politicians proved worthy of providing secular leadership, a great absence of political and Parliamentary thinking in this novel leaves Adam Be de to ponder the effects of internal right feeling as the primary guide of social duty. This guide proves disastrously wrong in the case of Hetty Sorrel and Arthur Donnithorne. Adam Bede 's intense engagement with a lost era bucolic England leaves it with l ittle to say about the future of England and democracy. Eliot fingers a strange killer in Adam Bede and advancements in religion. The narrator ponders Sunday afternoons of slow walks and country living, but now wheels are gone, and the pack horses, and the slow waggons, and the pedlars [some think] the great work of the steam engine is 476). Sunday sermon if it allowed him to sleep from the text to the blessing liking the afternoon tantly, the reader should not 12 This is seen in the friendship between Arthur Donnithorne and Reverend Irwine.
120 a popular preacher, or read Tracts for the Times or Sartor Resartus is with mostly a straight face suggesting that a religious movement like Tractarianism could reshape the very way of life of English country living. The novel's fascination with religious movements is dramatized between characters as well. Arthur Donnithorne suggests he should bring pam some other books that you may like to see, Irwine pamphlets about Antinomianism and Evangelicalism, whatever they may be [hopefully] he will send me no book or pamphlet on anything that ends in ism .'" (62). Irwine will take them, even if he doesn't plan to follow them isms myself; but I may as well look with these pamphlets rather than examine them too closely, one should hold them at arm's length. Leisure, victim of such pamph lets, found out the hard way. Adam Bede has a great deal to say about the role of the clergyman in the course of the novel; the Established Church, with Irwine as a proxy, receives a fair bit of criticism. The significant criticisms of the Church and Irwin e suggest that, in doing right through promoting social duties, Irwine and country clergy generally neglecting doctrinal points of religion are the lusts of the flocks, preaching at best but a carnal and soul benumbing morality, and trafficking in the souls had no very lofty aims, no theological enthusiasm: if I were closely questioned, I should be obliged to confess that
121 saved, in his mind, without too much Ch baptism more important than its doctrine, and that the religious benefits the peasant drew [...] 65). Here, the very theatrics of baptism seem to matter more than the symbolic rebirth of the soul. in fact, which developed in striking contrast to the Latin Mass of Catholicism This opinion seems more in line with using religion as social control rather than as spiritual enlightenment or union with the divine. The narrator even imagines Irwine voicing an essential point about the role of a clergyman. The narrator imagines that religion could take in such minds was that of certain dim but strong emotions, suffusing the whole, the lived in times when great abuses flourished, and have sometimes even been the living ven if they participated in absenteeism they promoted right feeling when and where they could. As a critique of the Established Church, the narrator comes down almost overwhelmingly positive. Rather than providing a dichotomy between Established and non E stablished religious belief, or between certain doctrinal differences between the Methodists and Churchmen, the narrator also praises non Established religion in Adam Bede 13 Here again right feeling matters most. That women could preach in the Methodist co nnexion at the beginning of the novel's plot 13 The narrative shows an old ma n who finds religion, Methodism, and so is learning to read (221). The narrator was almost as if three rough animals were making humble e
122 (but cannot at the end, which Eliot does address) matters less for Eliot than their promotion of right feeling as well. One of the earliest passages of the novel, regarding the Methodism of Seth and Dinah, says feeling. Titular Adam gets to voice what probably stands as the novel's opinio n on religious doctrine. Adam explains to the narrator that: I've seen pretty clear, ever since I was a young un, as religion's something else besides doctrines and notions. I look at it as if the doctrines was like finding names for your feelings, so as got puzzling myself a deal about th' Arminians and the Calvinists. The Wesleyans, you know, are strong Arminians; and Seth, who could never abide anything harsh and was always for hoping the best, held fast by the Wesleyans from the very first; [...] I began to see as all this weighing and sifting what this text means and that text means, and whether folks are saved all by God's grace, or whether there goes an ounce o' their own will to 't, was no part nothing but what was good and what you'd be the wiser for remembering. And I found it better for my soul to be humble before the mysteries o' God's dealings, and not be making a clatter about what I could never understand. (170 171) Here, doctrinal debate in and of itself is a moral wrong; submission to a higher power, ostensibly othea's own distaste for knowing the names that describe provides reasons for sticking to one kind of belief; Seth's feeling on the matter (pro Arminianism or essentially in favor of free will rather than a belief in election/predestination) aligns him with the narrator and the implied reader. This twinning of Adam and Seth as a representative Churchman and Methodist, with the narrator not strongly privilegi ng one's belief over the other, further lessens the importance of specific doctrinal feelings and beliefs. Rather than show only one form of religion as having an exclusive hold over Truth, the narrative affirms Dissent alongside Anglicanism. Of course, in
123 showcasing these two types of religion, the narrative simply privileges the two most prevalent and intimately connected forms of religion in England; that Methodism did not formally separate from the Church of England until after John Wesley's death in 17 91 shows that not even a decade before the setting of the novel these ostensibly different religions were, in one way, quite the same. The narrative also suggests, through its representation of Dinah Morris, a Methodist woman preacher, that true religious feeling can come in a variety of Protestant forms. Dinah Morris's style of prayer involves her thinking of the people she has met, led in worship, and and Sym to feel herself enclosed by the Divine Presence; then gradually her fears, her yearning anxieties for others, melted away like ice capitalized, true, and perfect forms come from pondering the people around her and the natural rather than a specific passage of the Bible or a Church sanctioned prayer. Dinah's internal right feeling aligns with her desi re to improve the lives of others; she stays with Lisbeth Bede when her husband dies, and she helps her Aunt Poyser during an illness. Her promotion of such emotional connections among her family and friends further demonstrates that right feelings toward social duty outweighs any specific belief in the novel. As a contrast to the right feelings of Adam, Seth, and Dinah, the narrative shows Hetty Sorrel committing the murder of her infant and breaching her virtuous duty as a woman through her relationship w ith Arthur Donnithorne. The narrator casts her poor morality as a question of dreaded in life. Religious doctrines had taken no hold on Hetty's mind: she was one of those
124 numerous people who have had godfathers and godmothers, learned their catechism, been form if not in feeling (361 62). Here the influence of the Church ha s done little to help her; appropriated a single Christian idea or Christian feeling. You would misunderstand her thoughts during these wretched days, if you imagined that they were influenced either by religious fears or failed to instill the proper feelings in the secondary protagonist of the novel. However, Elio t does not show Methodist belief promoting social duty to one's betters as thoroughly as she shows Anglicanism promoting such a duty. Reverend Irwine spends a considerable amount of energy trying to keep Adam focused on his duties to others when he discove besides yourself, Adam: there are Hetty's friends, the good Poysers, on whom this stroke will fall more heavily than I can bear to think. I expect it from your stren gth of mind, Adam from your sense of duty to God and man (387). He also encourages Adam to forgive Arthur Donnithorne, who Adam blames for Hetty's downfall and crime (389). Mrs. Poyser cites he r respect for others as coming from her sense of Christian duty. In the middle of her tirade against her irresponsible landlord, Squire Donnithorne, 'ull be ar it; but I'll not make a martyr o' myself, and wear myself to skin and bone, and worret myself as if I was a churn wi' butter a coming in't, for no landlord in England, not if he was King 28). This is one of the few textual alignmen ts of secular and religious authority in the novel, and it interestingly comes as Mrs. Poyser objects to her economic
125 situation. Both failed at governing in her mind. Mrs. Poyser's comments also point up Mr. Donnithorne's failure to do his duty by Poysers' Hall Farm. The narrator suggests the respect due to the gentry transcends duty, becoming nearly divine in its own right. This moment in Adam Bede mirrors Jane Austen's use of the gentry as the governing class in England. In Austen, rather than showing a g entry and clergy class as being perfect trustees of rural morality and manners, the gentry and clergy must prove themselves worthy of their duty as communal leaders. For more on Austen see the last chapter of this dissertation. But in Eliot's vision of the awe at the sight of the gentry, such as of old men felt when they stood on tip toe to watch the and it s almost as though the problems internal to the gentry and clergy class are beyond the concerns of the average person, tip toed glimpses of their awesome power aside. Adam Bede leaves many questions about the future of governance in England unasked as Het ty's trial is almost entirely unnarrated, as are Donnithorne's plea for a transmuted sentence for her and her life as a convict. It's a question Eliot has yet to ponder at great length and the novel seems less interested in describing the changes in rural England. Instead, its focus is the inner life that in these villages where the people lead a quiet life among the green pastures and the still waters, tilli nothing wrong with her morality, her interest in doctrine, Anglican, Methodist, or otherwise, is not widely shared.
126 Scenes of Clerical Life and Stasis A quick consideration of Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life will further illuminate how Eliot employs a dynamic version of history in her longer, later novels, as opposed to her sketches which depict a more static version of rural England. Amanpal Garcha's fascinating From Sketch to Novel: The Development of Victorian Fiction (2009) traces the development of literature from a period in the 1820s and '30s, when novels were not the dominant literary genre in England, until just a few decades later when novels were the premier form. 14 Garcha describes Mary plotless, highly descriptive, and almos t temporally static rural sketches transforms rural life and landscapes into havens characterized by the 'stillness' absent from England's modern, capitalistic development themes emphasized stasis and plotlessness. Garcha c rural England that reassure readers that the countryside still cultivates values of innocence, rest, and a historicity that stand opposed to urban values of mon According to Garcha, Eliot's use of a historical setting for her sketches, where the railroad does not intrude and Reform is unmentioned, as opposed to Middlemarch might advance a culturally retrograde position. Garcha argues readers imaginatively and pleasurably to escape from modernity's pressures and more for a group of writers [including Eliot] aggressively to reject s drew upon literary history to present a world that seemed to have passed away from modernity. 14 century sketch may be seen as part of the large scale social transformations the expansion of capitalism and of the middle class that Ian Wa tt famously identifies as capitalist stasis (or at least a perception of stasis from this side of capitalism) might suggest something for readings of democracy and the novel as well. For if democracy is a term relevant to the novel and large scale social transformation in the nineteenth century, Eliot's sketches look to a world before modernity and secularity while the later novels move tow ard social change. The form of the work mirrors the direct content of the work.
127 In doing so, Eliot could show a simpler country life where religious debates were ostensibly not about doctrine but were more about the divorce, in some instanc es, of pious feeling and truly Christian acts from what appeared to be socially acceptable or moral behaviors, such as Amos Barton's treatment of Countess Czerlaski. Yet Garcha suggests that Eliot's rather late adoption of the sketch provided her with a g eneric awareness that was not necessarily present in the earlier uses of the genre. He argues that Eliot's Scenes stasis through a narrator's discourse. At the same time, it distinguishes itself by its unprecedented self consciousness about this discourse's relationship to time in particular, this discourse's Here, Eliot's deployment of the sketch appears to give her a greater purchase on how implied stasis presents a world lacking progress. Eliot, in a letter, claimed to want to preserve something about the era's religious feeling. Writing all between "bigotted churchman ship" and evangelicalism, but between ir religion and religion. Religion in this case happens to be represented by evangelicalism, and the story so far as regards the persecution is a real bit in the religious history of Eng land that happened about eight and in Haight 234 ir Adam Bede as well. The use of a real story to illustrate religious persecution allows Eliot some claim to truth that t he genre of the sketch does not exactly afford her. The most important issue, here, though is ir to a Londoner after the end of the Crimean War. Where, exactly does such religious feeling fit in to the 1860s and '70s? It will take Daniel Deronda for Eliot to figure that issue out. Blackwood,
128 and I am very glad t o see what you say on that head in your letter. I feel sure that we shall agree a serious religious opinion and an unwelcome desire to convert or proselytize, must not have real religious feeling and that Eliot shares his feeling. Daniel Deronda Daniel Deronda presents the story of serious religious belief in Eliot's contemporary time. However, Eliot's views about serious religious expression have many of the same characteristics in her contemporary period as they did when buried in the past. Much like Dorothea could be seen converting her deep convictions into social action (even if such actions were stymied by her family and friends), Deronda's belief is ignited through the adoption of a social and political cause. 15 Unlike Dorothea, however, Deronda is never r idiculed for his new beliefs nor does Eliot satirize his seriousness through supporting characters. Rather than suggest that Deronda's new found belief transforms him from a mostly secular, though taking a serious stance towards religious questions, Christ ian into a cultural and synagogue attending Jew, Eliot suggests that a long nursed spiritual kinship with Jews has transformed him, essentially on a racial level, to a sympathetic avenger of Jewish causes. 16 In this process, English/Protestant 15 Richard Dellamora states a critical commonplace by saying Eliot did not, herself, convert to Jewish belief. Eliot values Jewish tradition is not to say that she endorses orthodox Jewish belief. Jane Irwin, the editor of the notebooks in which Eliot researched the materials of the novel, argues that Eliot was drawn to Judaic tradition precisely because of its he terodoxy. In other words, Eliot (128). It's also important that Deronda, as a male character, has choice affirmed while in Middlemarch D orothea's actions are always dependent on her friends and family. Gender is a distinct factor here, in addition to religion. 16 Many have read Deronda as being brought into line with his real racial/religious heritage over the course of the novel; this readi ng, however, fails to account for the thoroughly cultural nature of Deronda's (and Dorothea's) civic sublimation of religious feeling. Neil McCaw suggests that use of Judaism by Eliot did not conform to a serious aradox, what New has called the 'inconsistency with her own agnosticism', is that this masks an oscillation between belief and doubt as to the feasibility of metaphysical assumptions. It is what Nietzsche made the centrepiece of his critique of Eliot's wor k, claiming that she wished to have the best of all
129 sensibilities notion that sincere religious choices come from incredibly non spiritual sources are explored. The Christian English characters in Daniel Deronda cannot seem to comprehend that Jewish people will not slowly assimilate with Protestantism and cultural Englishness, and some Jewish characters even ponder the process of becoming less separatist. Deronda himself wonders arned and accomplished Jews he took it for granted that they had dropped their religion, and wished to be merged in the people of their a rather sensitive take on the issue; Amy Meyrick, wonders that Myra's Jewishness "'would 17 Amy Meyrick's sense of the particular to the religion itself. Importantly, readers of the novel encounter several different opinions from Jewish characters about their own position in various na tions; Deronda's own according to Kalonymos (634). Mordecai's friend Gideon disagrees with Deronda's grandfather. elt gradually into the populations we live among. That's the order of the day in point of progress. I would as soon my children married Yet this assimilative s because I don't believe in a Jew's conversion to the Gentile part of Christianity. And now we Nietzsche all have an investment in Eliot's actual beliefs as opposed to what the effects of h er writing are. 17 Amy Meyrick is one of several Meyrick girls in a novel full of "superfluous" girls : Gwen's half sisters, Hugo Mall inger's daughters, the Meyricks.
130 cessity of political equality for free expression of their beliefs deserves noting, and the desire to remain a separate people, in some way, indicates an identity investment worth replicating. Gideon thinks le as a sort of family relations, and I am for more openly and allowing the English public to acquaint themselves with Jewish practices. 18 Deronda's desire to become a civic, early nationalist leader among the Jews does not spring up in place of another well formed career desire or calling. Instead, Eliot presents Deronda as a fertile field ready for sowing. The narrator explains that: A too reflective and diffusive sympathy was in danger of paralysing in him that indignation against wrong and that selectness of fellowship which are the conditions of moral force; an d in the last few years of confirmed manhood he had become so keenly aware of this that what he most longed for was either some external event, or some inward light, that would urge him into a definite line of action, and compress his wandering energy. He was ceasing to care for knowledge he had no ambition for practice unless they could both be gathered up into one current with his emotions; and he dreaded, as if it were a dwelling place of lost souls, that dead anatomy of culture which turns the universe into a mere ceaseless answer to queries, and knows, not everything, but everything else about everything as if one should be ignorant of nothing concerning the scent of violets except the scent itself for which one had no nostril. (320) Deronda's willingne ss to transform himself or grow into a new religion begins a transformative process, whereby religion itself grows or changes. 19 Eliot outlined her idea that religions could 18 separateness with communication. I hold that my first duty is to my own people, and if there is anything to be done toward restoring or perfe 19 In regards to Daniel Deronda Amanda Anderson argues that "[t]hrough the story of a deracinated Jew who comes slowly to learn of, and affirm, his cultural heritage, Eliot articulates a compli cated cosmopolitan ideal that promotes critical detachment not only as a means to self fulfillment but also as the basis for an ever expanding horizon of ethical and political engagement. This text ruminates powerfully on the relation between cosmopolitani sm and nationalism, promoting an ideal of Jewish nationalism informed by cosmopolitan aspiration, and engaging in a profound reflection on how different forms of affiliation to family, community, nation, and world might best be s Eliot to present a sophisticated and delicate take on the role of Judaism in modernity,
131 s to be modified 'developed', according to the dominant phrase and that a religion more perfect than any yet prevalent, must express less care for personal consolation, and a more deeply awing in Haight 412). Eliot's vision of growth applies to religions, people, and positive changes for the world generally. Eliot allows Mordecai to voice ideas of individual growth, and these are some of the lines that secure Deronda's interest in him. Mordecai says, "'I believe in a growth, a passage, and a new unfolding of life whereof the seed is more perfect, more charged with the elements that are pregnant with diviner form. The life of a people grows, it is knit together and yet expanded, in joy and sorrow toward this perfectibility means distinctly theological work here. Mordecai continues his idea, Investing this idea with a nationalistic element sugg ests that a unified religious group deserves a nation of its own; that Eliot can imagine such a place for Judaism but continually pictures a secular England suggests a lacuna in her thinking: what does growth look like in England if it always involves a tr ansmutation of religious feeling into social action? Deronda's (dis)identification with Judaism provides an answer; for Deronda's according to Anderson. In fact, she targets readings of the novel that find the Jewish elements too idealized Judaism as a mystified organic ideal, Eliot seeks to elaborate through her ideal of cosmopolitan Judaism a critical ling reading compliments my suggestion that social action is the sphere in which the later Eliot heroes and heroines practice or develop their religious feelings.
132 belief. Therefore, Deronda's leader ship of the Jews in Palestine appears more motivated by a mostly secular, but religiously Deronda, deliberately, becoming slightly paler under the piercing eyes of his questioner. 'But I w ill not say that I shall profess to believe exactly as my fathers have believed. Our fathers 20 Deronda wants to press Judaism to evolve, and he links further evolution of his people as a traditional Jewish heritage with its religious backgr ound without giving any indication of accepting Judaism ish while still lacking belief in Judaism's central truth suggests that even conversion does not guarantee wholehearted belief, and if Deronda can be Jewish without belief in the truth of the religion, the truth of Christianity seems just as unlikely to inspire belief. Deronda's identification with Mordecai appears to be the first sincere connection he feels to his religion as his relationship wi th Mirah only blossoms after he learns of his Jewish heritage. She also never discusses her belief with him beyond the fact that inspiration that I have disce rned what may be my life's task. It is you who have given shape to what, I believe, was an inherited yearning the effect of brooding, passionate thoughts in many 20 in the [ Daniel Deronda completely clear that D eronda wasn't circumcised at birth (though several recent critics think he wasn't). But, if he have been preparing me to be glad that I am the quick of his experience. 'It would always have been better that I should have known the truth. I have always been rebelling against the secrecy that looked like shame. It is no shame to have Jewish parents the shame is to disown
133 ancestors Mordeca i provides him a link to the past that becomes a link to his future. Deronda's future work with Jewish causes and the Jewish people does not mean he will forsake his Christian upbringing. He says with. The Christian sympathies in which my mind was reared can never die out of me,' said sympathetic identification with the plight of Jewish people in the f irst place; her e, one of the very doctrinal bases of Christianity, sympathy (which Richard Brent connects to civic service), provides motivation to convert away from the religion. Richard Dellamora argues that Deronda is making a choice in his decision to take up the Jew ish cause. He says: Eliot's conflation of citizenship with duty differs from subjection because it is a choice and, in that respect, achieves the objective, endorsed by Pater as the most important in modern culture, of communicating 'at least an equivalent for the sense of freedom.' What differentiates this choice from an ideological effect is the fact that the choice is heretical. Daniel's choice violates the invidious demands both of an implicitly Protestant English national identity and of a tribal Judai sm. Moreover, his choice is ambiguous about the boundaries within which he experiences intellectual friendship since the possession of his interiority by Mordecai described in the passage is so intimate that it must be both psychological and embodied. (Del lamora 141) discuss how Deronda chooses a religious belief. To the non Jewish English in the novel, Deronda's decision to support Jewish causes does appear to violate Protestant English national identity, but this British national identity also bolsters his choice. In the context of a multiconfessional state, where one's exact beliefs no longer absolutely limit one's political expression, the ability to change one's st ated belief from a majoritarian position to a minoritarian one in the name of a social cause gives Deronda increasing cultural currency. Even if Deronda gives up Christianity the Christians do not give him up. Deronda, by choosing Judaism, expands
134 the plac es of power to which he will be admitted rather than limiting them. I am not suggesting that Deronda makes a cynical power move here, but in the context of a multiconfessional state having multiple identifications could be a powerful position. Also, Derond a has frequently stated that this choice was made partly by his ancestors nursing this feeling, thereby allowing his choice to appear compelled. Deronda's explanation of his choice to Gwendolen caps the novel's dual plotlines. The dual plotlines of the no vel emphasize the duality Deronda achieves while also depicting the am possessed with is that of restoring a political existence to my people, making them a nat ion again, giving them a national center, such as the English have, though they too are scattered over onda outlines for her the social cause that compels him to invest much time and energy away from Britain and the benefits of cultural modernity. Interestingly, by pushing Deronda out into the colonies Eliot banishes him from the modern metropole where beli ef seemingly no longer exists; by sending Deronda to Israel, Eliot allows him both geographic and time travel. For Deronda's adoption of a serious religious attitude that unites some religious feeling and a genuine interest in social justice does not belon g in Britain. Eliot quashed such unity in Dorothea, making her a helpmate to someone with a mostly secular worldview. Division is the name of her era, and even Daniel Deronda's imperfect unity belongs elsewhere. These destinations may simply mirror gendere d roles for the characters, but Mirah's belief enhances her desire to follow Deronda much like Dorothea's sense of social justice conditions her adoption of Ladislaw's service to the state.
135 Conclusion George Eliot's vision of a non religious world (or at l east one with religion as more of a social matter than one of deep faith in particular doctrines that many of her contemporaries and readers felt were central to Christianity) where early democracy took root in Britain proved very influential for later cri tics who like to imagine democracy as a non sectarian political form accessible for world cultures more or less equally. But the culture of the West has not always complied with one academic view of a secular and democratic world. Vincent Pecora says that "[e]ven as enlightened, freethinking culture in the West came to be understood as the negation and replacement of a religious worldview, culture thus struggled to resist the radical less doctrinal" version of Christianity, one that formed over the course of the nineteenth century. Boyd Hilton reminds was turning men away from Christianity alt ogether, and that it was therefore necessary to through this process that one kind of Christianity made itself palatable to various denominations as part of a dem ocratic public life, and subsequently democratic culture appeared welcoming to non Christian sects even though it retained an undiscussed and undiscussable doctrinal element. Richard Brent tells how in the post Reform decades diverse Christian politics in Britain merged. He says: Many of the reforms of Gladstone's first government owe their political origins to the earlier ideas and actions of liberal Anglican politicians. Liberal Anglican schemes for forging a united, Christian, and non sectarian British nation out of the apparently antagonistic elements of Protestant and Catholic, Anglican and Nonconformist, Irish and English, High Churchmen, Broad Churchmen, and Evangelicals, were absorbed into the language and practice of British politics. (Brent 18)
136 It was in this way that Christianity in Britain, a version of Anglicanism managed to survive in politics in a multiconfessional state. 21 The awareness of the continued role of Christianity in the nation allowed for the nation to keep involving itself in the Christianity made to the success of the nation was important, from the liberals' view, in ensuring continued state funding of Christian projects. These liberals, unlike many Tories, re cognized the lasting conspirator in the business of the nation through the nineteenth century, but also one finally subordinate to political definitions of co mmunity. Another process made non Established Dissenting religions appear less heterodox, and this had a homogenizing effect on Christianity over the course of the century. Dissenting clergy became more mainstream in their outlook, and as their interests aligned themselves with the land in lieu of this annual payment, often became pillars of the local gentry, sat on the bench, and socially distanced themselv es from their flocks. It was the increasingly secular identification of the clergy with the local landowners, rather than tithes, which provoked the spread of a rural e a Dissenting minister started to look increasingly like an Anglican layperson, that Eliot portrayed in Middlemarch encapsulate a more faithless society than that which Eliot portrays 21 And the doctrinal character of this Christianity is often a non usness that is widely acceptable for most of the Western intelligentsia is the intensely private sort of belief associated with the differences.
137 But Eliot's view of England as faithless may not have matched up with her politics by the end of her life. George Eliot took a conservative turn in her later years. Gordon Haight says she quit donating small sums to revolutionary know how thoroughly conservative Marian had become. The revolutionary sentiments of those (Haight 395). A nd her Radical, Felix Holt, supported education primarily over the franchise as a means for improving the condition of the people. Her views of the working classes were far from rior to the mass of the French people [...] Here there is so much larger a proportion of selfish radicalism and unsatisfied, brute sensuality (in the agricultural and mining districts especially) then of perception or desire of justice, that a revolutionar y movement would be simply destructive not favor of women's suffrage nor employment (Haight 533, 396, 397). This right turn shocked some of her friends, like Mrs. P century of marriage outside the law [and] were more shocked by her lapse into convention. They hold wit marriage with Cross no impediment existed; so it was quite natural that she shoul d marry him in the conventional way. They were as religious, perhaps, as many couples married in Church, though neither of them would have subscribed to the Thirty his story of Eliot's life with Eliot becoming another c onventional Victorian.
138 Eliot's conventional bend at the end of her life suggests that her anti doctrinal, possibly even anti religious, vision of the Reform Era may not be as durable or a sustainable political position for academics and others who value a secular criticism; that this ostensibly secular vision of the Reform Era stems from a doctrinal specificity parading as religious neutrality undercuts the sustainability of the viewpoint as well. Vincent Pecora's goal of making critics' role in secularizat ion visible, and therefore contestable, also has the reverse potential to make it into a transformations that occur simultaneously in mind and in matter, in systems of belief as well as of the world they should know their own role in transforming social relations, communities, and systems of belief. This may mean freeing the public sphere from religious expressions. Pecora religiousness that is widely acceptable for most of the Western intelligentsia is the intensely private sort of Viswanathan seems to find it hard to imagine banishing religious thinking to the private domain as well. She says that ldview timate expression of Christianity, secularism concurs by seeking to place religion outside the public sphere, thus confining religious authority to the private domain. Having made this move, the secular narrative cannot account for challenges to that autho 76).
139 one without any real debt to Christianity, could engage challenges to its authority by non d ominant branches of Christianity is only hypothetical in this analysis; by using an expanded definition of secularity it is hard to find an outside to religious influence in philosophy, civics, or democratic political thought. Viswanathan concludes by argu ing that: I am proposing that thinking the secular through the frame of heterodoxy can evoke the dissonant strains in religious history that secularism has collectively grouped under the rubric of belief. My effort in this essay has been to probe heterod oxy in world religions as crucial to an understanding of secularism. How differently would secularism be understood if it was seen through a history omitted from its own narrative? What new terms of definition would arise from this occluded history? Is het erodoxy so resistant to stable cultures of belief that it offers a model for a more expansive idea of secularism? (476) It's as though by accepting the influence religion has had in secularism these critics (either mainstream Christianity in the case of Pe cora; Dissent, occultism, and pre Christian religions in the case of Viswanathan; here I'm only discussing her essay on secularization and not her book religious influences still hold significant sway. Maybe it's a problem of terminology; should atheism or something connoting a sheer absence of belief Western public sphere, as in a government, culture, and civic life, exist without significant and unrepayable debts to Christianity? Is such a thing even imaginable for cultural critics today? Do any of these critics want to imagine such a place?
140 CHAPTER 5 CHARLOTTE BRONT'S VILLETTE AND A RELIGIOUSLY DIVERSE POLITY This chapter the first to move away from Eliot, also moves backward in time; as I have demonstrated in the preceding chapters, Eliot's precise image of the relationship between religion and democracy became an influential narrative for many literary critics. Charlott e Bront provides the first of several counter narratives about religion and democracy in the era. By presenting the argument in this way I hope to illustrate how a more complex view of politics in the era might provide secular criticism today with more wa ys of thinking about democracy then and now. If secularity secular criticism and culture generally owe such a thorough debt to Protestantism as Pecora and others have argued, then in what ways have other writers imagined this relationship and debt? Is ther e a way we can reimagine this debt, by understanding Eliot's literary sleight of hand which made religion disappear just as it engaged doctrine, as making one kind of secularity possible? Can a new picture of religion and democracy in the era make a new ki nd of secularity possible, one with a decreased debt to Protestant doctrine? This chapter on Bront, and the chapters on Cooper, Wordsworth, and Austen that follow, provide other narratives, other foundational imaginations of representative democracy in th e first half of the nineteenth century. In Villette narrator Lucy Snowe experiences a mental breakdown of sorts; she describes the September days! How silent, ho w lifeless! How vast and void seemed the desolate premises! How gloomy the forsaken garden gray now with the dust of a town happens early in the novel, as loneliness overtakes the narrator. As George Eliot explicitly imagined English history in strikingly secular ways, where religious differences (particularly
141 between Protestant sects) matter little, Charlotte Bront presents a very different vision of secularity. Bront paints a picture of emptiness and despair when her religiously isolated narrator tries to engage with people of a different religious persuasion. While the plot of Villette is described by Lucy Snowe's distant future self, and so would suggest something about historical events or conditions, the story actually has much to say about the future of secular society in Europe. The forsaken garden scene continues, describing how gave no inducement to bear present evil in reliance on future good. A sorrowful indifference to existence often pressed on me a death of the narrator, it also applies broadly to the condition of never t god has assigned Lucy Snowe to suffering, and she ponders this assi gnment throughout the novel and not just during this mental breakdown. The end of the novel describes Snowe's eventual weepers, praying in agony on waiting shores listened for that voice, but it was not uttered not uttered till, when the hush came, some could not feel it; till, when the sun returned, his light was voice wh ispering who knows what. Charlotte Bront's Villette presents the world of an orphaned, young, Anglican English teacher named Lucy Snowe living in fictionalized Brussels. A state of suspended trauma allows
142 the much older Lucy Snowe to narrate the story of her youth before the shipwreck that killed her fianc, Catholic Paul Emanuel. According to my reading of the novel Villette works to present a non binaristic worldview by attempting to bring opposing sides of religious difference together; the failure of this attempt induces the novel to conclude that a religiously diverse polity is one model for the future. The complicated politics of contact between continental and English people suggests that the story, while set in Belgium, resonates with the situation in Britain as well. Snowe's Evangelicalism produces her subjectivity in sharp contrast to the lax Catholicism of much of her adoptive Belgian community. The novel presents religious differences that are too great to overcome rather than a dialectical proc ess whereby a Catholic and Protestant binary can produce something greater. Nor are the boundaries rendered permeable in the process. That Bront cannot produce a unified vision of the world for her heroine only shows how crushing the attempt to imagine a diverse future could be. The dark, suffocating tale does not necessarily bode well for the future of a democratic, secular, and multi confessional society. Lucy Snowe's religion often reads as pervasive piety; much of Lucy Snowe's life and work seem guide d by a higher hand or Providence, while investments in Anglicanism and an Evangelical church background motivate her actions. Recent critic Marianne Thormhlen's book argues that the divisions of religious sects in the era is particularly hard to reconstru ct and that their differences and purity are, of course, never absolute or even that clear (2). For what it's worth, Charlotte Bront's father Patrick Bront was one of the Evangelical Anglicans of his day (and it should be noted that Evangelicals, while a mong the dominant church groups by the 1840s, faced heavy opposition from church leaders in the early nineteenth century) and Charlotte Bront seems to have followed his doctrinal views. Methodism and Tractarianism as doctrines were familiar to the family but their practitioners were quickly dismissed, usually because of the
143 Bronts' social snobbery (Thormhlen 18 19). 1 Other critics have also long held that Bront's thoroughly religious background influenced much of her writing, and so they have long used religion in the criticism of her life and work; interpreting Bront's religious feelings as common for her time has been one important factor in blinding critics to the fact that Lucy Snowe introduces a virulent strain of anti sensualist, staid, and rigorous Protestant fundamentalism in the Catholic land of Labassecour (fictionalized Belgium). A second factor is that th e commentary regarding religion in the novel often centers on the novel's seeming anti Catholicism. Villette is the story of a silent but firm Evangelical insisting on the reform of central Catholic leading citizens from a secularized near hedonism (in Sno we's mind) to strict, anti sensualist piety. 2 Possibly the role of the young, religiously different person in a foreign land suggests even deeper ironies for readers of Villette And, even if Lucy Snowe may be villainous in the eyes of the characters aroun d her, the sympathy English readers feel for her might also make them sympathetic to foreign born and native Catholics living and working in predominantly Protestant Britain, England especially. So the complex emotional knots Villette presents to its reade rs require untangling to understand how the novel is the story of what religious diversity must look like in a transformed, multi confessional nation. Villette is rife with conflict and contact between Anglicans and Catholics; the insurmountable difference s between these sects become the central feature and driving factor in 1 throughout this dissertation, twentieth and twenty first century critics often agree on the confusion of sects or our own inability to parse t he differences between sects well. The difference between Methodism and Evangelicalism might be harder for readers today to detect, but Evangelicals remained firmly part of the Church of England while the Methodists had mostly detached themselves from the Church by the time of John Wesley's death much to his chagrin (and officially detached themselves after he died). The Methodist influenced rather than Evangelically influenced argument is not so widely accepted today. 2 dependent on the Catholic Church structure and leadership, as we'll soon see.
144 the failure of the novel's marriage plot. The conflicts between the Catholic citizenry of Villette and Lucy Snowe, while present from her first arrival in the town, intensify during Sno we's solo summer vacation spent at M. Beck's Pensionnat. The empty school produces an intense depression or mental disturbance, the effects of which I explored in the introductory paragraph to this chapter. After wandering the streets, Protestant Snowe fin ds herself in front of a Catholic church and seeks solace inside through confession in one of the most discussed scenes of the novel. Susan David Bernstein, whose 1997 work focuses on the confessional and nineteenth century Britain, reads the resulting mom Certainly a lack of companionship has led to her distress, 3 but seeking solace through a foreign and probab depression comes at the hands of her once familiar, but long distant godmother, the widow Mrs. Bretton. Mrs. Bretton has transplanted herself and her son, Dr. John G raham Bretton, to the town of Villette. Yet, the companionship of people of her own religious persuasion and nationality does not satisfy Lucy Snowe. For her, overcoming religious differences motivates the plot, particularly the climax of the novel where s he insists on marrying Monsieur Paul over the protestations of his entire social network. The novel's inability to depict the marriage, however, produces the melancholy of the narrator, causes the trauma that Snowe will never overcome, and leads to her ina bility to tell the story of Paul's death. Reading Villette as a narrative driven by trauma is not a new reading. Gretchen Braun's 3 Interestingly, Lucy does not befriend the cogent servant Goton (who suggests Lucy seek aid), even though Lucy's class position has fluctuated so thoroughly by this early point i n the novel that a friendship would not seem undignified.
145 Villette to systemic social trauma felt by Lucy Snowe that incapacitates her from being able to speak; Braun writes that ot only does the intensity of her grief render her inarticulate, but her losses have diminished her social and economic worth almost to the Villette a special case of Victorian fiction realist fiction even, in Braun's argument (I do not address the question of genre here). She says, V illette provides no validating closure to the attention it has lavished on Lucy Snowe for nearly six hundred pages, at least not in the terms novel readers have learned to expect: no wedding, no substantial Braun 189). 4 Braun does not consider the religious question thoroughly in her accounting of Snowe's trauma. Here I argue that Villette 's trauma narrative, which Braun elucidates ably and in great depth, comes from trying to imagine a religiously diverse po lity where cross religious romantic relationships could possibly exist. Villette Mid Victorian Anti t his chapter, yet several elements of the article keep it from illuminating religious difference in the novel. Clarke's heavy reliance on Charles Taylor's definition of secularism has occluded the analysis of what this religiously diverse polity looks like. Taylor's theory of secularism as 4 fact that as readers of realist fiction, we are awkwardly poised between our sympa thetic connection to a convincingly drawn human consciousness and our need for that consciousness to suffer destabilization, even loss, so that narration can proceed; otherwise, we would have no story to enjoy. It is certainly not my intention to imply tha t theories of narrative s requiring a different kind of storytelling that can articulate the psychic experiences of a socially marginalized subjectivity. I suggest that the narrative structur es attendant on traumatic experience provide a model for traumas that affect Snowe (social marginalization etc.) while I focus, primarily, on th e religious trauma that Snowe finds impossible to narrate.
14 6 persisting conflict driven by religious forces (and sometimes non religious/reactive forces) in modernity. 5 The addition of nonreligious worldviews in Taylor's argument, always as added possibility, does not characterize the struggles between faith based and non faith based conceptions of the world very well, nevermind Lucy Snowe's conception of the world. These conflicting forces create massive psychic trauma real and literary. And in Villette psychic trauma is the lingua franca between author and reader. 6 Furthermore, Clarke's repeated argument that Villette icts in the novel as indicative of the contemporary era in a somewhat teleological fashion (969). Clarke says that elements of secularism the disembedding of individuals from pre determined social hierarchies, the egalitarian exchange of ideas, and religi ous pluralism all characterize Villette that she was able to anticipate these developments while living in an age characterized by enormous religious tensio n and conflict 5 (subtraction), as a decrease in belief or religious faith (subtraction), and as the new place where all questioning, belief, and spirituality occur (addit ion) (970 religion. As the last definition should make clear, the secular world is where belief now occurs according to Taylor. This seems like a strange attempt to negate non religious spa ces by making them the places where religious belief also occurs. Martin Jay, in a long review of Taylor's A Secular Age side from the inevitable objection that that his contention raises, which any student of religion in a pluralist world a not fully secularized one, but with many different faiths has to acknowledge. Rather than a dearth of meaning, we are faced with a plethora of competing meanings, which defy reduction to a common denominator. Any attempt to discern an essential core of universal religious truths beneath the welter of competing visions of divinity, the sacred, and morality that jostle for acceptance must meet the sad fate ubon, when he vainly sought the 'key to all mythologies.' Taylor surely knows this he even says 'I doubt very much whether any such general theory can even be established' (679) but remains beholden nonetheless to a vision of Latin Christendom and its corr uption by excessive reform that crowds out alternative by cool headed comparisons of the competition, but only 'our sense of its inner spiri tual power' (680), which leaves 6 experience) as a parallel for the role of the reader.
147 fact, the exchange of ideas borders on forced religious conversion throughout the novel. A lso, my argument suggests that there is no resolution to the conflict between Catholic and Protestant in the novel. If anything, a simple cease fire, that can never turn into a full fledged peace treaty, occurs between the hero and heroine. There is so muc h continuity in Clarke's reading that the possibility of a social change between now and the 1850s is barely considered. In one way, Taylor's argument would seem to rese mble my own as I've suggested that conceptions of emerging democracy have drawn on rel igious institutions and thinking. Indeed, notion comes from the idea that when religious differences are tolerated among the voting eligible citizenry, these different religious institutions drive or make a communal, secular space. My analysis in the first chapter of this dissertation connected pluralism and a nascent separ ation between church and state as linked specifically to thinking by liberal Anglicans, per David Brent, not more generally to a variety of religious organizations. In this chapter, I'm examining one conception of what this secular space might look like fo r a religiously diverse population. Taylor may be on to something, however; not to put too fine a point on the idea, but it seems that only through the broadened voting rights of the polity made possible by liberal Anglican MPs can pluralism begin to exis state the details do matter. 7 Gauri Viswanathan warns that: 7 or non religious state (Taylor quoted in Clarke 971).
148 The rise of the modern state as the guarantor of rights to religious conscience has led to one of the most sustained critiques of secularism as dependent on a strong state to ensure that private belief does not become public policy. However, conceptions of the state as a source of enlightened reason c reate a gap between modern secularism and belief communities that leaves no room for a long view of history in which heterodox sects, because they remained at odds with mainstream religious orthodoxies, were either absorbed into or marginalized by the form ation of world religions. In relegating belief to the private domain, the secularist worldview inadvertently closes off historical consciousness of these complex processes. (475) Here, if reason comes from the state and the notion of the state has drawn on religious conceptions of the world, then religion seems inherent in the state's founding and regulation of state will lose access to a portion of its intellectual history and the richness of possibility that this history provides. Yet, if the state continues to engage in questions of belief, when considering the Western democratic sta te's long history with Christianity and Protestantism (indeed, Anglicanism's founding as a way for a English monarch to produce an heir/a future suggests this history is foundational for the religion and the state), the state's sponsorship of public space seems inevitability Christianity inflected. Is this an acceptable position for a religiously diverse polity today? By relegating belief to the private domain, contra Viswanathan, might we find new conceptions of the state and public space that do not depen d on belief in one kind of the supernatural? The discussion in this chapter continues my engagement with critical history on the topics of religion and democracy in relationship to nineteenth century British literature. I elucidate points from religiously focused criticism throughout this chapter to show how this critical history needs to focus on the dominant religion of the British mid century: Anglicanism. Anglicanism underwrites secularity in this era, and by focusing too significantly on excluded reli gious forms, like Catholicism, religious criticism often overlooks the form of religion
149 affirmed in secular conceptions of the state. My critique of other forms of criticism, criticism that does not take religion or secularity as the driving force of the n ovel and might be described as not connect the bleak picture of a secular Europe to religious division and conflict in earlier history they too easily over look Villette 's defining sense of loss, pain, and disillusionment. Villette 's Complicated Politics Most critics agree that the complicated and somewhat ambiguous politics of religion in Villette make understanding the novel's take on religious difference difficult if not a fool's errand. reactionaries, pious conformists and passionate dissenters [...] It reflec ts the contradictory history they lived through, as well as the conflictive vantage point from which they lived it. It also shapes the inner structure of their novels. It is not just a sociological fact, but a formative i). Marianne Thormhlen, in her study of the religion of the pitfalls make the mapping of religious associations in the novels a precarious business. Not even the distinction between the Protestant and Roman Catholic spheres is invari such as Susan Bernstein's, mirror this confusion about religions. Be rnstein writes Victorian scenes of confession I pursue in the following chapters, t o be ambiguous with respect sensitive and sophisticated take on religious difference in Villette in a way that acknowledges
150 absolutist interpretations (Catholic ism is all bad! or Lucy Snowe really wants to be a nun!) shed little light on the internal politics of the novel. 8 Still, some elements of Villette 's anti Catholicism are not very ambiguous. Lucy Snowe's attempt to explain her sense of morality to a stude nt at Madame Beck's school results in increased espionage on the part of her Catholic peers and superiors. She narrates: In an unguarded moment, I chanced to say that, of the two errors, I considered falsehood worse than an occasional lapse in church atten dance. The poor girls were tutored to report in Catholic ears whatever the Protestant teacher said. An edifying consequence ensued. Something an unseen, an indefinite, a nameless something stole between myself and these my best pupils: the bouquets continu ed to be offered, but conversation thenceforth became impracticable. As I paced the alleys or sat in the berceau, a girl never came to my right hand but a teacher, as if by magic, appeared at my left. (147) Right afterward, Snowe tells how another student says (in French) that she is going to hell, and that she would be better off burnt alive to be absolved of her Protestant heresy (148). Snowe's confrontations with Catholicism are varied, ranging from these moments of inability to communicate with her stud ents to lectures about saints meant to inspire morality and piety to run ins with a Jesuit, Pre Silas, in the confessional and in his later attempts to convert her with pamphlets, Catholic ceremonies, and the mysteries of Rome. 9 I'll be addressing these s everal 8 Diana Peschier, in Nineteenth Century Anti Catholic Dis courses: The Case of Charlotte Bront a book that could have provided an interesting account of the situation in the novel, writes that work is seen as being overtly anti Catholic. However, I believe that Bront is a novelist of such superiority that she cannot be limited by prejudice or literary genre. The various forms of writing she employs are fused and moulded into her distinctive style. Bront recognised that to communicate with her audience she had to take ad vantage of the hold which ideas such as anti Essentially, Peschier argues that even if Bront's politics aren't up to snuff she gets a pass because she's such a good writer. This transgressions. Micael Clarke has a smart take on the issue of anti Catholicism in the novels. She says that Bront's romantic interest in the man later characterized as M. Paul may have shaped the novel's attitude toward Catholics, does not account for the widespread perception of anti Ca tholicism that the novel evokes 9 Marianne Thormhlen argues that Snowe is able to forgive Pre Silas but not the other members of the Catholic t lines of Villette do not suggest that Lucy Snowe ever forgives the members of the conspiracy against her, and her loathing of
151 incidents in varying degrees throughout this chapter, but this preliminary list should provide a sense of how critics can often interpret the novel as rampantly anti Catholic. Two of these experiences of a Protestant in a Catholic land cause Lucy S nowe significant psychological trauma and illustrate the impenetrable borders between the religious sects; that one of these experiences involves direct attempts to convert Snowe only further shows how impossible imagining religious co existence could be. 10 Early in the novel Snowe must sit at Rue Fossette (184). The lecture well illustrates differences between Catholicism and Protestantism in the Anglican ima found, mainly designed as a wholesome mortification of the Intellect, a useful humiliation of the Reason; and such a dose for Common Sense as she might digest at her leisure, and thrive on as sh and Common Sense whereas Catholicism devalues these attributes of the mind and places subservience to religious authority in their place. While Snowe can dismiss more than monkish extravagances, over which one laughed inwardly; there were, besides, worse judgment (184). 11 Snowe cannot trauma helps expl ain these differences. 10 The attitude of the Meyricks of Daniel Deronda as noted above illustrates this point regarding Anglican attitudes to Jews. It might even remind English readers of the situation created by the movement to convert Jews to Christianit y. 11 that book once into my hands, turning over the sacred yellow leaves, ascertaining the title, and perusing with my own eyes the enormous fig ments which, as an unworthy heretic, it was only permitted me to drink in with my bewildered ears. This book contained legends of the saints. Good God! (I speak the words reverently) what legends
152 temples and my heart and my wrist throbbed so fast, and my sleep afterwards was so broken with excitement, that I could sit no to the second of these major experiences of a Protestant in a Catholic land. details late in the no vel attempts to convert Snowe to Catholicism after the disclosure of her romantic relationship with Paul. Indeed, Paul has been forced by the authoritarianism of the Catholic confessional to tell Pre Silas of his relationship with the Anglican (508). Snow e completes a course of reading for Pre Silas and Paul, and the entire episode is written as ually the conversion efforts cease. Yet the indelible scar left by these moments lingers. It's also quite interesting that the conversion efforts only work one way; Paul becoming a Protestant is a suggestion unimaginable because of his gender, social stand ing and responsibilities in the community, or both. So far, I have been arguing that these moments, experiences of religious difference in the novel, should not be interpreted as isolated; rather, these moments of heightened conflict are only glimpses of t he totality. In Villette relations between characters of different faiths have given critics a chance to think about how this novel, displaced onto the continent much like its narrator, still has something to say about Britain. In a highly abstracted take on the seeming anti Catholic elements of Villette church as a tyrannical institution to launch and to disguise a general critique of male domination
153 and female subordination i 12 Her suggestion that a critique of Catholic church dominated continental life has just as much to do with English life as it does European society mirrors my suggestion that Villette 's vision of secular society, or at least a multi confessional and less conflict ridden world, applies equally to Britain as it does Belgium. Essentially, the religiously diverse elements of the novel can be read as about British society. Another moment in Snowe's fai led conversion suggests how she has her own irenic ideas (the notion that various Christian religions could come together, often through the use of reason) about Protestantism, even an eventual change to Anglicanism as practiced in Britain: 13 I went by turn s, and indiscriminately, to the three Protestant Chapels of Villette the French, German, and English id est the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian. Such liberality argued in the Father's [Pre Silas's] eyes profound indifference who tolerates all, he re asoned, can be attached to none. Now, it happened that I had 12 This argument comes in the context of Be describe abuses and violations on the part of the empowered gets locked into a system whereby such disclosure itself than sustaining a stark distinction between Catholic and Protestant cultures, between the foreign training of girls in Labassecour and English conventions of feminine conduct, Villette repeatedly intertwines the oppressions of patriarchal Catholic authority with English doctrines that reinforce female repression and self Anderson, in a considerate and thought provoking reading of the novel, comments on the dangers of reading the British an Lucy and the other English characters themselves inhabit or engage forms of power that are analogous to, or just as constraining as, the forms of Villette displays a keen awareness that very fine, and potentially collapsible, distinctions may be separating different forms of detachment. Some of those distinctions are associated with differences of culture, gender, and religion, but the admission of a near equivalence of many of the English and continental practices results in an uncertain position, one that can sometimes only be indicated by negative critique of both cultures, a move of what might be called radical detachment that itself produces great psychological strain on the narrator. This is a delicate project, and the power of the novel resides largely in its exacting phenomenology of the how I disagree with Anderson's central premise that detachment is cultivated in Villette and so I can't assent to her reading of graded distinctions between types of detachment inform a thorough accounting for the novel? 13 Amanda Anderson's central argument about the novel well encapsulates Lucy Sn owe's detachment from all three of these churches, and her critical engagement with religions rather than an insular experience of one belief. She of the framework of cosmopolitan comparison to register a range of practices that rely upon cultivated distance, including
154 often secretly wondered at the minute and unimportant character of the differences between these three sects at the unity and identity of their vital doctrines: I saw nothing to hinder them from being one day fused into one grand Holy Alliance, and I respected them all, though I thought that in each there were faults of form; incumbrances, and trivialities. (513) Snowe's thinking about the eventual unity of Protestant sects suggests how her religi ous experience abroad can possibly be felt at home. That in Snowe's greatest vision for the future of her church she can imagine unions with only other Protestant churches, and not the Catholic, further illustrates just how impossible imagining a union bet ween Catholic and Protestant could be. And the affirmation of these religions, in Snowe seeking out these places of worship and returning to all of them, suggests that Villette does not only, or simply, depict anti Catholicism but validates its own particu lar type of worship through this lonely Anglican woman. Charlotte Bront and Evangelicalism Much of the critical work on religion and the Bronts, particularly Charlotte, focuses on the seemingly anti Catholic tendencies of her novels rather than the Evang elical Anglicanism her novels appear to affirm. By focusing on what the novels reject, critics miss the attempt (even if it is a failed attempt) to imagine a diverse future. Lisa Wang confirms this oversight, saying given to the anti Catholic aspects of Villette has tended to eclipse notice of the novel's engagement with religious discourse apart from the context of such 14 Within the subset of work that does consider her religious affirmations the biographical facts seem to matter a good deal; Patrick Bront had affinities with the somewhat 14 Wang's central argu ment addresses eschatological concerns, one of the central issues contemporary scholars have studied in mid nineteenth Villette's use of theological discourse within a broader eschatologi cal context fundamental to the novel's vision. It will be seen that Villette constructs a framework of specific theological reference primarily through the appropriation of certain Biblical tropes and topoi associated with concepts of the 'end'. Admittedly the novel's focus on the 'last things' is not unusual given the widespread Victorian obsession with this particular aspect of Christian belief, and given also the Adventist and Millenarian tendencies of many religious circles of the time, including the B focus on the Protestant elements that the novel affirms rather than disavows allows her fuller insight into the novel.
155 anti worldly Clapham Sect of Evangelicals (Thormhlen 2). The family's association with one of the dominant, socially acceptable persuasions of Evangelical Angli canism led to typical for the era snobberies regarding the religions gripping the working classes. Marianne Thormhlen tells are wrong in what they teach, but becaus e they are vulgar, ranting, noisy people. The contempt character (18). It's only after emerging from this milieu that Charlotte Bront lived among a predominantl y Catholic population and fell in love with a (married) Catholic man herself. As such, Villette 's fairly progressive attempt to imagine a multi confessional, possibly secular, world contrasts with interpretations that read this one element of her biography as overly determinative. If critics focused on the relationship with Hger rather than her familial background, they might conclude the novels are more about religious union. Still, relying on the biography has its limitations, no matter the conclusions. Critics also occasionally read Bront's Evangelical religious heritage as influential in not just the thematics of her novels but also in the style and mode of their writing; as such, Bront's religion becomes a totalized methodology without leaving room for consideration of how this version of Anglicanism can have specific political effects regarding secularity. Terry Eagleton thinks that the Evangelical religious inheritance was at war with the literary influences ce the quarrel between worldly and ascetic forms of religion is an important one in Charlotte's fiction, not least in its treatment of Evangelicalism, it is worth adding a digressive note on it here. In so far as Evangelicalism sets out to crush the Romant this reading Evangelicalism becomes a destructive force, one demanding restraint. Such is the
156 role of Lucy Snowe's religious affirmations in Villette 15 Christina Crosby also posits a different Villette invites a typological reading; its sustained biblical intertextuality and insistently figurative style call for an osby 114). Here, rather than suggest a sect as influential, Crosby highlights how the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura has become so internalized that extensive religious quotation becomes a system determining what counts as informed readership. 16 This typological reading does account for M. Paul's watery death as predicted by the paragraphs describing the shipwreck metaphor of Snowe's family's death, but it stops short of considering what this bleak future means for religious difference or the future o f secularism. Bront's free wheeling narrative associations developed by her interpretation and quotation of scripture have been a subject of commentary from when the novel was published; these early comments prove that religious difference and different sect specific takes on Biblical interpretation were always a thorny issue, one that Villette engaged. Negative reviewer Anne Mozley, in the High Church Christian Remembrancer wrote that Bront down every form and distinction she cannot understand, -who rejects all guides but her Bible, and at the same time constantly quotes and plays with its sacred pages, as though they had been given to the world for no better purpose than to point a witticism or furnish an ingenious 15 Micael Clarke even addresses how this tension, described by Eagleton as Evangelicalism versus Romanticism, appe the order of right thought and action, but the deeper tensions of the book validate the acceptance of passion and social nonconformity, o f anti order, and the close of the novel seems to say, not one or the other, but both 984). This interpretation of both, always, mentions the tensions inherent in the narrative without acknowledging how tension definitively characterizes almost ev ery sustained relationship in the novel, the tone, and the very method of its narration. Again, reading the novel's ending as a happily ever after secular vision neglects Snowe's overwhelming depression. 16 In a highly influential article, Rosemary Clark Bea Villette if it may be said to have a theology, is that
157 Allott 206). 17 By suggesting that this style of Biblical allusion and quotation undermines the sacred text itself, Mozley actually advocates a more static, unyielding, and potentially authoritarian interpretation of the Bible not unlike the Catholic version of Biblical interpretation that Bront and most Protestants, seemed so against. 18 Another early critic anonymously attacked Bront on multiple fronts about her religion, n the same spirit of self reliance and scornful superiority to what she considers weak prejudice, we have difference in religion treated as immaterial, and Christianity itself degraded from a revealed system of doctrine to a loose sentiment or feeling, without objective truth of any kind, and released from the disagreeable tra dismissing her gentility through a coded attack on the characters of her novels (in Allot 194). reviewer finally dis attending all kinds of public worship except the Roman, as if it was a matter of pure indifference, 194). This anonymous reviewer highlights how s/he believes the differences in Protestant sects are material suggests that any tolerance of non Anglican belie fs is unpardonable. Of course the most 17 The charge of misusing the Bible was used more regularly against non churchmen. In Adam Bede one of the lay as much o' the words o' the Bible as he does, an' could say the Psalms right through i' my sleep if you was to pinch me; but I know better nor to take 'em to say my own say wi'. I might as well take the Sacriment cup home and use it 18 fashio n of his country, is a very real and genuine feature. We quite acquiesce in her content to have him as he is, without any attempt to make him like herself. He had been educated by a Jesuit, and is still most dutiful at confession, having to go through some tribulations on account of his predilection for the English heretic, whom he endeavours in vain to convert by laying persuasive brochures in her way, which she treats with true Protestant contempt. Childlike in his faith, he is also pure in life, and the
158 significant aspect of this critique is its uneasiness with multiple religions flourishing side by side. Indeed, this very reviewer's discomfort has far more to do with an impending secularization of British society, n evermind increasing state secularization, and the tolerance such a move engenders than any inherent or absolute failing that could be attributed to Bront or her novel's narrator. On Crossing Boundaries and A Religiously Diverse Polity In Villette the po tential for a multi confessional state comes with the possibility that people will be able to cross religious borders much more freely. Of course the ability to cross borders requires that differences, in this case religious ones, be described thoroughly a nd affirmed as important or even definitive. Susan Bernstein describes how religious difference in be Catholic spectacle of affect pain and suffering as well as joy and erotic pleasure off sets the Protestant convention of self Micael Clarke explains how the religious differences between characters in the novel hit cosmic registers in addition to bodily ones, saying: t he differences between Protestan t and Catholic are profound, and central to the novel: two very different, even at times irreconcilable ways to apprehend the divine. As a whole, the novel establishes the equivalent of a secular world view; its Protestant/Catholic dialectic is resolved in a way that parallels the historical development of a secular culture in which deep faiths of radically differing kinds are able to coexist within a public sphere that is more than tolerant: a secularism that offers multiple versions of human spirituality, multiple ways in which the holy may be acknowledged, or not. (Clarke 985 86) cation of the establishment of secularism in Western Europe acknowledges how religious differences can be affirmed and not a source of great tension. But this argument does not apply well to Villette
159 where religious tension and discord are the signifiers o f meaning in the novel. Marianne Villette actually agrees with the attitudes of later ages in these matters, obviously going against the notions that prevailed in its own ti marriage plot the novel proposes a potential happy ending to the story of religious difference. The failure of this marriage plot suggests the opposite; Villette 's unhappy ending poses a unwelcom ing future for religious difference. In Villette most of the significant religious difference exists between Catholic and Protestant; the novel presents these boundaries as insuperable. Some critics, however, find these differences less than expected for the time or see a resolution of these differences developing over the course of the novel. For Thormhlen, Bront does not appear to affirm the religious view of the fact that so many readers have thought her fanatical in her anti Catholicism her mid nineteenth century rabid anti Catholicism was often the norm in Anglica n England. Susan Bernstein describes how attitudes towards Catholics spread in Britain during Bront's time. Catholic propaganda, circulated in the middle of the nineteenth century in England, propels into print descriptions of invidiou s patriarchal power, something that often goes down in silence, swept into the obscurity of domestic privacy as a so Here Bernstein connects the critique of Catholicism in Villette to a critique of the far reaching power of the Catholicism furnishes some critics perform a highly counter intuitive move and declare that L ucy Snowe secretly wants
160 to be a Catholic. Tonya Edgren view of the Roman Catholic Church is decidedly negative throughout the novel. Despite the negative depiction, however, Charlotte makes significant allowances for the f elements within Villette reveals that Lucy is actually drawn to the Catholic faith and even models (253). This is an unlikely interpretation; after all, an entire chapter of the novel is devoted to how Snowe fends off friendly (well intentioned, at least, but traumatic) attempts by Pre Silas to convert her to Catholicism after her relationship with Monsieur Paul goes public. A common but mistaken feature of the criticism of Ville tte argues that the religious differences between Catholic and Protestant exist as binaries in the novel and that through the course of the plot these binaries are either resolved or produce a new whole. This vein of criticism mostly ignores Paul's advice to Lucy before he leaves for North America. He says, charm. There is something in its ritual I cannot receive myself, but it is the sole creed for 95). 19 Micael Clarke formulates her analysis of binaries as moments that move the a position of narrow sectarianism to a more open and secular stance that says, in effect, 'not one, or the other, but both. Both Protestantism and Catholicism are 19 Adam Bede presents a similar moment between Adam seeking Dinah's hand in marriage and his guaranteeing her religious freedom. That Dinah and Adam end up happily married suggests that it comes down more positively in terms of religiously different marriages and the possibility of secularity. Of course, in Adam Bede the difference of religion is between a slightly reformed Methodist turned churchman and a Methodist, a divide much less vast than the Protestant and Catholic in Villette Adam Bede something visible only to herself. Adam went on presently with his pleading, 'And you can do almost as much as you do now. I won't ask you to go to church with me of a Su nday. You shall go where you like among the people, and teach 'em; for though I like church best, I don't put my soul above yours, as if my words was better for you to follow than your own conscience. And you can help the sick just as much, and you'll have more means o' making 'em a bit comfortable; and you'll be among all your own friends as love you, and can help 'em and be a blessing to (473).
161 divinely appointed.' Bront accomplishes this not through a vague erasure or blurring of course, this confrontation of differences happens between two characters, one of whom dies shortly afterwards; none of the other characters, Catholic or Protestant, experience this coming together of religions. The only way this reading could work would be to suggest that the paradisical coming together of Catholic and Protestant happens in the shortest possible period. Villette does not suggest this coming together is sustainable. And Rosemary Clark Beattie also his tidy distinction between liberty and authority, the Pope and the Protestant churches, is not one the Beattie's argument about the unsustainability of these religious distinctions should well note the attitude of figures entrenched in their religious positions, such as Pre Silas. Beyond Paul's eventual acceptance of Lucy Snowe's non conversion, earlier confrontations between Protestant and Catholic display intransigent attitudes about the possibility of cross religious bo undary crossing. Lucy Snowe's confession to Pre Silas hints at her unmet or unsatisfied emotional needs but she does not narrate the bulk of their conversation I should know what to say a mind so tossed can find repose but in the bosom of retreat, and the punctual practice of piety. The world, it is well known, has no satisfaction for that class of s treatment is conversion. He help you exactly the same, while opposite, of Paul's later point that Protestantism is perfect for Lucy;
162 religious beliefs neatly align with personalities or subjectivities, possibly even nationalities. Seemingly immutable personalities belong to different religious persuasions. Religious boundary crossing, as in the proposed marriage of Lucy and Paul, makes little sense if neither personality is suited for the other religion. This early contact between Lucy and Pre Silas, with his blunt attempt to convert her, followed by Paul's acceptance of her religion, shows how the novel attempts to work through this duality and finds it impossible to resolve. Critics find the apparent duality of the novel intensely productive, focusing arguments about duality on a variety of literary matters. So Clarke and C lark Beattie find resolution of duality in religious matters; still others find affirmations of duality in gender and genre concerns or even aesthetics. Robyn Warhol argues that doubleness is a tool used by women writers and characters from the period to f ight repression (870 71). 20 According to Warhol, this is part of a production of a third category beyond the binary in terms of cultural production, arguing that and unseen, and public and private, within a new institutiona l space of cultural and social visibility for both woman and novel. In this manner, the novel secures its own cultural legitimacy outline the way difference in the novel is often written as a duality their insistence on seeing the novel's action as eroding the duality or making a third better, higher, or inclusive product ignores how the conclusion of the novel, and its entire narrative style, resists this pr oduction. Lisa Wang 20 Ruth Robbins also explores the realism and gothicism distinction (215 16).
163 theological tropes and topoi in Villette is so concrete that it might be said to form a coherent narrative in itself, it is far from an indep endent one, being inextricably bound to its secular religion and secularity, two dualities which are not equatable. But the sense of the novel as operating through d ualities provides the common intellectual tradition for these analyses. Wang accurate to say that these two strands co exist within the heteroglossia of nove listic discourse in works by keeping these various dualities in play without ever truly resolving them. Narrative As Suspended Trauma The key to unlocking Villette 's meaning and duality lies in grasping that the narrative style and narrative situation itself come from Lucy Snowe's suspended trauma; this suspended trauma becomes the metaphorical reification of inter personal, cross religious relations in a se cularizing society. Trauma produced the two lives of the narrator and authors her entire story. hold two lives the life of thought, and that of reality; and, prov ided the former was nourished with a sufficiency of the strange necromantic joys of fancy, the privileges of the latter might the novel, during Lucy's stay wi th Mrs. Bretton and the introduction of characters Polly and John, suggest some perversen ess on the part of the narrator. perverseness about truthful and
164 g, plump, and happy, stretched on a cushioned deck, warmed reflect reality as: I must somehow have fallen over board, or that there must have been some wreck at last. I too well remember a time a long time, of cold, of danger, of contention. To this hour, when I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of briny waves in my throat, and their icy pressure on my lungs. I even know there was a storm, a nd that not of one hour nor one day. For many days and nights neither sun nor stars appeared; we cast with our own hands the tackling out of the ship; a heavy tempest lay on us; all hope that we should be saved was taken away. In fine, the ship was lost, t he crew perished (94). The storm metaphor invoked here is the first of many times in the novel that dangerous and painful events are rendered into metaphorical language. Braun partly explains the delay of Snowe's storytelling by saying that, rauma is preeminently understood as a threat to the self so potentially damaging that the consciousness cannot comprehend it as it occurs and Snowe cannot tell stories of loss or trauma directly and instead uses the s torm metaphor to hold the narrative together; this happens here as her entire family dies, when her depression overtakes her and she breaks down outside the Catholic church at the end of volume one, and finally when she narrates the events around Monsieur Paul's death. 21 loved dead, who had loved me well in life, met me elsewhere, alienated: galled was my inmost spirit with an unutterable Snowe's inability to narrate her story occurs partly, at least, because the imagination fails to support a happy marriage plot between Catholic and Anglican; the failure of the marriage plot 21 for this interpretation differ widely from my own.
165 here comes at the very close of the novel. 22 Few other novels of the era end somewh at ambiguously, Great Expectations excepted. The death of Paul is the final event Snowe tells, or does not really tell, the readers; 23 as such, it is the last chronological thing before her narration of the novel from much later in life. It's the trauma tha t has to be suspended for her to tell the story Emmanuel was away three years. Reader, they were the three happiest years of my life. Do you scout the paradox? Again, Snowe gives a morsel of hope to the readers who, much like herself, cannot approach the truth of the story; after telling of the total devastation of the ships in the Atlanti pause: pause at once. There is enough said. Trouble no quiet, kind heart; leave sunny those three years of waiting been the happiest of her l ife? Only in the most perverse reading of an unhappy, Bertha and Rochester style marriage could this be true. Critical interpretations of the novel are often successful based on whether or not they comprehend the extent of devastation present in these fin al moments of the novel; critics acknowledging, even tangentially, the narrator's suspended trauma engage the religious questions posed by the novel more fully. Micael Clarke tries to argue that the final lines are ambiguous and 22 Braun's take on one reason the novel ends so strangely says that for a husband to a search for a witness, Bront allows a woman not distinguished by wealth, beauty, illustrious heritage, or sparkling wit to make her perspective as central in art as it is peripheral in society. Thus, the novel is entire novel for Braun's reading, just as trauma informs my own reading. 23 The final sentence about Madame Beck, Walravens, and Pre Silas withstanding. Other events in the novel post date th is death, such as the final thoughts about John Bretton and Polly, Ginevra and de Hamal, or the lasting success of her school, but the resolution of these storylines happens while Snowe tells of their final effects on the actual narrative of the story. Ess entially, these several resolutions are codas to sub stories already told and do not bear greatly on the overarching plot of the novel.
166 this provides a path to sec n response to Victorian debates between Protestantism and Catholicism, Villette offers an open ended conclusion that comprehends the invok es the idea that there has been a resolution to a dialectical process occurring between he novel end unhappily: it signifies by its openness a future that is still working itself out, a dialectic of ideas that continues (986). Of course this reading willfully ignores not only the ending of the novel with its results from Snowe's trauma (Wang 355). Lisa Wang traces Snowe's inability to narrate the death of Paul to a theological realization: one that essentially concludes the ways of God are that there is, and can be in this world, no explanation, no comprehensible meaning, for the suffering of the righteous, for the kind of fate which occurs at the close of the novel. They are part and parcel of a universal order which does not reveal the hidden meanings of God, which is 24 Heather Glen also accounts for the years of suspenseful waiting at the end of the novel by linking this time to millenarianism (281). These incisive interpretations of the conclusion also explain the helplessness felt by Snowe that she expresses in her ton e. 24 and the waiting, the midnight vigil for the bridegroom, must continue, for Lucy has made her promise to M. Paul. The end is not yet, and God will call His servants to account. Thus the sense of profound mystery invoked by the convergence of such complex and varie d theological images and ideas at the end of Villette is one that reflects the very experience of god is traumatic.
167 The ending of the novel has an unbearably traumatic effect on the narrator. This effect isn't striven for, searched out, or wanted by her. However, Amanda Anderson reads the resulting a distinctly critical distance. Not simply looking back over her life and describing it to us, Lucy seems always already to have 25 In my reading of the novel, the distance between the narrator a nd her life story is unbridgeable; her constitution of herself as an onlooker happens simply because she cannot relive the trauma of her life by telling the story of her life directly. Yet, Anderson is certainly onto something smart about the ambivalence o f detachment is a pervasive ambivalence on Lucy's part about her own marginal status [...] In psychological terms, partly because of her own obtrusively unspecified his tory of personal loss, This accounting suggests how trauma plays into Snowe's detachment, but could even better understand her ambivalence by noting how detachme nt, as a strategy protective of a damaged psyche, is formative for her subjectivity in both positive, wanted ways and negative, unwanted ones. Detachment is not a choice she has made and her cultivation of it is not agentic, it was forced on her. Anderson compelling about Bront's contribution to the literature of detachment, apart from the considerable light it sheds on cultural forms of feminine detachment, is her rigorous 25 This reading plays int toward radical placelessness and cultivated detachment [to] make sense of Bront's complex approach to Victorian to gender much like many of the critics I surveyed. Certainly Bront's novel has much to say about gender, and while I haven't made gender an explicit focus of my analysis, it's clear that Snowe's experience cannot be detached from her gender.
168 psychological study doubly. 26 Connections between Snowe's incredibly dark tone, again an effect of her traumatic experience, and religious sentiment are often discussed in contemporary critical matter as well. Christina Crosby links her interpretation of the novel to the story of Moses dying outside of the she overcome her alienation, the perverse projections of he rself on to others, the fragmentation of her self. This is, of course, a secular salvation, more mental and emotional than spiritual, a matter suggest an overcoming of her alienation. Indeed, I read the alienation as at least partly caused by with Paul Emmanuel Crosby makes a compelling argument. Heather Glen comments o n a similar essential Villette t presence in Villette Her inner life is figured in a lurid, metaphoric language, full of personified abstractions and biblical allusions, which seems to speak of energies that threaten to burst the bounds of realism: excitement, anxiety, panic, dread, d representative woman of her era. She summarizes a vein of twentieth century feminist criticism 26 Snowe's de tachment is somewhat suspended late in the narrative when she is drugged by Madame Beck and goes revel of the scene; I drank the elastic night air the swell of sound, the dubious light, now flashing, now fading. As to Happiness or Hope, they and I had shaken hands, but just now ]midst so much life and joy, too, it suited me to be alone quite alone. Having neither wish nor power to force my way through a mass so close packed, my station was on the nderson's reading of a partly cultivated or desired distance makes even more sense.
169 that says negative mid nineteenth century reviews of Villette came from a b lindness to possibly any unwilling or hostile readers, readers who claim that the text is obscure or idiosyncratic to avoid seeing the way Lucy Snowe is not j ust a representation of Charlotte Bront, but of any woman, misreading of the position of woman in the period: such feminist i nterpretations; indeed, marginality and eccentricity become the condition of being Essentially, for these critics, Snowe's perversity levels a critique at the very patri archal culture that produces her consciousness. The traumatically induced perversity is an effect, and indictment, of patriarchy. 27 Importantly, Snowe's perversity recognizes happiness and fullness between characters of the same religious persuasion. Her l ong disquisition on the joys of Polly Home and Dr. John's life together notes at length the positivity possible for these two. She says: Without any colouring of romance, or any exaggeration of fancy, it is so. Some real lives do for some certain days or y ears actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people (to the wicked it never comes), its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of d eath, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud. 27 Critics also comment on this interpretation of Snowe as marginal or eccentric by focusing on an explicitly sexual dimension of the novel. Terry Eagleton describes how, in Charlotte Bront's several novels, the sexual dynamic is sado masochism involves taking pleasure in the disciplining or chastising of the self; and this, one might claim, is Charlotte's version of the death drive [...] in Cha rlotte's case, [it] is pressed into the service of life. I mean by this that the 'little death' of self abasement and humiliation, in the case of a Jane Eyre or t to the novels disreputable desires must be 'sublimated' by the novels' official story lines. A masochistic love of being mastered becomes a so cially acceptable respect for authority, while the desire to dominate others becomes a mark of spiritual the novel. However, it seems to me that any masochistic elements of the text are simply (erotic) responses to Snowe's traumatic experience; the trauma Snowe experiences defines her experience of sexuality.
170 I will go farther. I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey. And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature's elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God's kind attributes. (532) role throughout the telling of their happiness. She says eak the truth when I say that these two lives of Graham and Paulina were blessed, like that of Jacob's favoured son, with 'blessings of Heaven above, blessing of the deep that lies under.' It was so, for God saw that it indicates how this happiness comes from god as opposed to her suffocated, drowned, endless sorrow. Turning the page at the end of this chapter shows Snowe pondering her own role in relationship to the happiness of these two who are united in their conception of the divine. Her to come must be Protestant will burn traumatically and permanently. Villette and The Impossibility of Secularity In Villette multi confessionalism equals trauma. This dark vision for the future of the British state, both governmentally and socially, makes literally unimaginable possibilities for Lucy Snowe. As I noted in the opening chapter of this dissertation, Richard Brent argues that a liberal Anglican group of MPs made governmental secularity a reality in the Reform Era. Here, this secularity is painful; interactions between the religions or among different religious denominations fails pitifully. The social aspect of this vision signals a shift in the state as well;
171 can religious diversity make a polity stronger when imagining different sects intermingling is a real impossibility? A free exchange of ideas cannot happen when teachers constantly monitor other teachers' interactions with students and lead ers of one privileged religion are allowed innumerable conversion attempts. If anything, Villette should provide a cautionary tale to readers about how not to secularize. But the question of secularity as a time, not a space or necessarily a form of gover nment or even a style of multi religious interactions, remains for a novel so animated by a suspension of trauma. Between Lucy Snowe's engagement and the time Paul boards a ship to return to Villette years, occupied by work, building a small school, letters from Paul, but generally unworthy of comment, get short shrift in the telling of her story. Is this meant to be the time of secularity? Is it a time unworthy of comment between the rapturous prologu e to their engagement and the unnarratable death of Paul? Rather, if anything, secularity is waiting for the shoe t o drop; the story ends, the evil junta of Beck, Walravens, and Silas expire peacefully and time seems to have stopped for Lucy Snowe. No long er waiting for her lover to return and finding little worth narrating in her professional life, Lucy Snowe leaves readers unsatisfied, metaphorically jilted at the altar of the marriage plot. As such, secularity is an incredibly painful time, or mode of ex istence, for the religious reader. Does the shoe ever drop? Or does secularity require a different subjectivity, one not fit for either Catholicism or Protestantism? Pre Silas and Paul theorize that Lucy's subjectivity is fit for one of these religions, c ertainly, but what subjectivity is fit for secularity? Villette does not hazard an answer.
172 CHAPTER 6 RADICAL DEMOCRACY, CHARTISM, AND GREAT BRITAIN IN THOMAS COOPER'S THE PURGATORY OF SUICIDES This chapter moves backward in time from Villette and Eliot both. Here, in a narrative poem engaged with the political debates of the 1840s, a different picture of secularity emerges. Democracy in this poem develops with exacting Protestant doctrinal condi tions. As one of the most overtly political narratives under investigation here, it's interesting that it also most directly and explicitly depicts doctrinal debate. Eliot's vision of democratic changes in the era strongly contrasts with Cooper's depiction of the debt secularity owes to Protestantism. Thomas Cooper's The Purgatory of Suicides presents two intertwined narratives: a waking story, the autobiographical narrative of Cooper's imprisonment for inciting a riot and a dreaming story, wherein he list ens to an extensive conversation between the souls of historical figures residing in purgatory. In the dream half of the poem, the suicides discuss their theories of life and governance. The conversation progresses as these souls discover an end to their s tay in purgatory, the development of a just vision for human society. The current critical conversation about the poem focuses on the overtly political aspects of the poem with scholars engaging Cooper's fight for expanded voting rights for the working men of England. 1 Yet, few recent scholars discuss the implications of the souls' purgatory in a religious context; since Cooper claims religious skepticism from somewhere around the time of the poem's composition and for the next several years of his life the theological conditions that make such a purgatory possible seem to be less important in interpreting the symbolic suggestions of the poem. Still, Cooper 1 [i] n The Purgatory of Suicides Cooper was able forcefully to articulate issues at the heart of his Chartist republicanism: the power of labor, the link between economic exploitation and monarchical and aristocratic government, and the ideological oppressi on of compelling account of the political theory expressed in the poem. This chapter shows how that political theory depends on a specif ic form of religious belief for its full expression.
173 conceived of the poem before his period of religious skepticism, spent much of his later years lecturi ng on the existence of god, and openly depicts religious debate in the poem ( The Life 115). Of course, only certain religions believe in a purgatory, and even within this subset only a few imagine condemnation for the specific crime of suicide. These Chris tian constraints shape the entire narrative of the poem. 2 In presenting the purgatory and its many speakers, Cooper depicts varying religious viewpoints that were hotly debated in his era. These contentious discussions, from within Protestant Christian se cts to wider debates between Christians and non Christians, appear explicitly and metaphorically as the poem progresses. This chapter focuses on Cooper's depiction of a Calvinist belief in predestination versus a looser concept of salvation through belief or good works, represented as free will. Cooper's poem envisions how these beliefs should be theoretically integrated into a Utopic polity, or a nation of much more equal citizens. 3 By eliminating the radical bent of Calvinism, Cooper presents a type of re ligious feeling seemingly more compatible with his contemporary vision of democracy. 4 Therefore his vision actually privileges one type of Protestant religious feeling (which looks like ostensibly anti doctrinaire 2 The belief in purgatory is even more specifically a Catholic belief, but in this chapter I'm focusing on the debates internal to Protestantism rather than Catholicism. As a poem where the authority of p riests is abused at great length and all the spirits are seemingly encouraged to participate in debate about political theory, the poem seems less engaged with Catholicism. In fact, the poem's political theory seems to have dismissed Catholicism entirely. 3 Pamela Gilbert most fully explores the Utopic angle of the poem; she says that it and another epic Chartist poem history, as well as the epic tradition" (27). See her work for a thorough accounting for the Utopic elements of the poem, especially time and history. 4 Victoria Morgan and Clare Williams comment on this particularly Victorian need to unify religious belief by saying in which there was an increased diversity in religious groups as much as increasing secularization, was one that opened up a uniquely dynamic dialectical space in which such 'unity' vides one narrative of secularization
174 Methodism) over others. 5 In this chapter, I argue that the dominant strand of religion in Cooper's Utopian vision presents a limited vision of theological diversity in England and suggests that in his vision of a post apocalyptic, class free England there is only room for one religion, one unified form of religious belief. This religious belief requires free will or at least a disregarding of predestination, the idea that one's actions and destiny are foretold by a higher power. Recent scholarship on The Purgatory of Suicides places the poem in se veral major contexts, but almost all current scholars read the poem as directly engaged with the politics of Chartism. 6 Chartism was a push in the late 1830s through the 1840s to extend political rights or votes to all British men, regardless of property o wnership, and to reform parliament generally. 7 Cooper's arrest and imprisonment (when he wrote the poem) on charges of inciting an 1842 5 nd as we shall see, the manipulation of time, as well as space, was crucial in these works, which addressed questions that were not simply political, but, in their origins, theological as well" (30). I'm not so certain that the nation is destroyed in Coope r's poem nationality, maybe, but not the tools of the nation or nation state since Cooper imagines Chartists must address the state or parliament for relief of the exploited poor. In The Purgatory the suicides find their way out of a purgatory of stopped time through debate. Gilbert worries the question of particularity versus universality [for her, as specific identity constructions versus a universal history; here important in that the particular constraints of Britain in 1844 (the historical situation o f the Chartists) requires statist intervention, universal in that this intervention may liberate these souls from purgatory and into a different kind of history] in much greater depth. 6 Indeed, Stephanie Kuduk's 2001 article discusses the poem's artistic/ poetic merits while arguing for the poem to be appreciated as a worthy artistic statement, not just a political one, but she discusses the dialogic nature of thought and debate and political theory to make her point; Isobel Armstrong's discussion of The Pu rgatory in her massive Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics considers the poem in the context of Matthew Arnold's thought and the politics of mid century poetry generally; Pamela K. Gilbert's recent article discusses the poem in relation to Chr istian eschatology as part of political or social theory. Gilbert is one of the few scholars to worry the Christian elements of the poem with any thoroughness she focuses primarily on the Christian theory of time or history in the poem, while I'm investiga ting a specific doctrinal debate in the poem. 7 probably take his religious views from Paine's Age of Reason the millennium was Eliot m ight have someone like Cooper in mind in her novel writing only further suggests how extensively she could Adam Bede 482 ).
175 Chartist riot looms heavily over nearly every reading of The Purgatory of Suicides 8 Roy Vickers discusses Chartist poet ry and Christianity, even the doctrine of election, but not in relationship to Cooper. Rather, he discusses poet Ernest Jones, and defines election somewhat differently; here, "Christian identity is based on one's personal sense of election, which for some is attained through grace, while for others being 'worthy of God' means recognising and acting on their calling to undertake particular obligations, so securing their place among a wider chosen predestination, as my argument suggests, election in Vickers's argument refers primarily to the sense of Christians and Jews as the chosen people. 9 8 Cooper did not only write The Purgatory ; he was frequently employed as a journalist before his imprisonmen t, long after his release he published five books, and he also wrote an autobiography. Cooper's later published work defenses of Christianity and attempts to integrate scientific thinking and advancement under Christian theology has received some commentar y as well, particularly from theologian Timothy Larsen. While I have eschewed discussing the religious beliefs of authors throughout this dissertation, Cooper did write an autobiography discussing, at least in part, his religious beliefs, and so I have inc luded a quick summary of those beliefs here. As I've said elsewhere, I do not think an attempted reconstruction of these authors' beliefs should affect or determine our interpretation of the literature. Cooper wrote his autobiography near the end of this l ife, after returning to religious belief, and he seems to seek absolution for lecturing against Christianity and theology in general (316). Indeed, the biography takes a not unsurprising tone as Cooper discusses greatly regretting his short period of lectu The Purgatory of Suicides in prison (261 atheism and even read a large chunk of the Bible in Hebrew whilst imprisoned and composing The Purgatory (262, 253). While it seems that the reader can trust Cooper to be as honest as possible about his periods of belief and disbelief, faulty memory and a desire to reconstruct his life unde r a less heretical light should not be discarded in thinking about his mental state during the composition of the poem. The religious aspects of Cooper's life are numerous and Cooper's autobiography often reads like a catalog of diverse religious experienc es. A Quaker parentage, an early exposure to Primitive Methodism, a familiarity with Jonathan Edwards's followers, interaction with Anglican curates, and an experience as a Methodist preacher all add up to a high level of doctrinal familiarity and a variet y of communal worship practices. To varying degrees, these various religious experiences play themselves out in Cooper's poem, even if he was consciously anti orthodox at the time of its composition. Primitive Methodism probably has the greatest influence in his early life. 9 Vickers discusses the way election, in Jones, works to separate or distinguish him and other Chartist leaders, saying of his election convinced Jones of his political calling, demonstrating the importance of this narrative to political election in Jones's poe try equates with the radical political mission Chartist delegates felt as advocates on behalf of their constituents, while energising the relationship between personal poetic vocation and the 'communitarianism' that characterised the plebeian romantic sens the movement than Jones.
176 Few other scholars discuss Chartism an d Christianity together, although Eileen Yeo's 1981 article on Chartis m and religion well establishes the context of religious debates and the Chartist movement. Yeo argues that while Chartists claimed Christ as the original Chartist, a laborer stripped of political rights, they were denounced by much of the Anglican clergy. She Christian Chartists must have gathered strength and felt their fears and tensions 10 The battle over the space of the church and whether or not Chartists could use church property for their meetings drove many regional wedges between Anglicanism and the working class Chartists. 11 Importantly, Primitive Methodism, Cooper's sometime denomination, supported Chartist struggles. 12 In terms at least partly denominationa l, Yeo says that was not simply an act of political expediency; these came organically out of Chartists' cials in south Lancashire hounded radicals out of their worship and 10 Vickers discusses how, in Ernest Jones's work, Chartist poetry performs a morally justifying claim on Christianity that exposes moral problems among the upp principled basis of Chartism to the morally debased privileged classes. His poems show how Christian discourses could act as important authorities by which the working classes might jus tify their fitness for the franchise, using the Bible as an argument for complete political renewal, Jones's nonconformist Christianity was a major pillar in his ent harnessed the morally productive power of Christianity to push for greater rights for the working classes. It's interesting that this turns much Christian feeling (about submission to one's betters and duty) on its head. 11 In terms of community formati on and political meetings, Yeo argues that form of meeting offered some protection from the authorities: but the outdoor sermons did not take place only in places where meetings had been outlawed, nor were they on ly cover. Religious forms could serve several purposes at once. From June the Chartist grass roots were increasingly being organized into Methodist type class groups, which formed a tight and invisible organizational network which could generate simultaneo us action in the way that nity building tool much like religious identification and corporeality. 12 Yeo interprets the Stephensite struggle particularly interestingly Stephens was a radical minister who spoke contemptuously of mill owners and was arrested for sedition. Chartists began a defense fund and Primitive Methodists were among the most generous contributors, in terms of their offering the use of their chapel as a meeting place for St ephens supporters (114 17). Doug Hempton also discusses how closely Primitive Methodism and Chartism were aligned ( Methodism 211 Methodism 213).
177 Sunday schools. This experience certainly pushed many working people into the infidel camp, but it also provoked many radical Christians to spell out a counter tly] dissenting Wesleyans had little use for Chartism. Cooper's response to such pressure in The Purgatory much like in his biography, is to imagine and try vari ous new forms of belief and worship and to imagine expanding communities of believers. In doing so, he moves beyond only Chartist concerns and finds answers for ethical questions about governance in preexisting forms of religious faith. In the desire to re make English religious belief into a unified, coherent whole, Cooper's vision neatly mirrors that of other Victorian thinkers, not least of whom was Matthew Arnold. Arnold, writing Culture and Anarchy (1867 69) a couple decades after Cooper's poem but with a surprisingly similar desire to explore unified national belief, makes no bones about how the state should reflect, even craft, such unified belief. 13 Additionally, for Arnold, religion should be tame; he argues for a symbiotic image of citizen and state sharing or reciprocating in religious doctrine, saying: The State is of the religion of all its citizens, without the fanaticism of any of them Those who deny this, either think so poorly of the State that they do not like to see religion condescend to to uch the State, or they think so poorly of religion that they do not like to see the State condescend to touch religion. But no good statesman will easily think thus unworthily either of the State or of religion. (154) Here, crafting a national religion and a government are projects for good statesmen, much like Cooper imagines statesmen debating religious precepts and political theory simultaneously. 13 Isobel Armstrong re ads Cooper's poem through the lens of Arnold in her Victorian Poetry First, she characterizes class cosmogony, challenging classical and Christian orthodoxies by appropriating the epic (for Arnold the bastio n of privileged European culture), fusing epic with a Dantesque visit to purgatory, and rewriting history and political relations in a 'historical romance', as Cooper calls it, which is an
178 Arnold's model significantly depends on a Christian conception of religion, and this Christian conception re quires communality. 14 The years following the Great Reform Era showed writers, statesmen, and people generally worrying the question of how a religiously defined nation could ve effect to Christianity, even more specifically Anglicanism, deserve s state support and development in Arnold's argument. Arnold's insistence that the state reflect the unified belief of its people has not escaped writing focused on religion much of it dedicated to the proposition that the dissenting sects of Protestant Britain had reduced themselves to an irrational theological dogmatism (derived largely from Calvin) by ignoring the natural morality and desire for righteousness ex emplified by the life attack on Calvinistic dogmatism. It's as though this belief in predestination a truly Christian conception of the world hinders some Diss enters from participating in the political life of the nation. If democracy requires such a narrow outlook, how could a Christian British state accept 14 Richard Brent discusses the question of communal, national belief in relation to many pressing questions of the Dissenters to the political nation, while continuing t heir exclusion from the national provision for higher education. The contest in the 1830s occurred over what form that provision should take: whether religious diversity and doctrinal purity should be preserved by the maintenance of sectarian institutions, of whether a truly national diminishing of the importance of the church led to a revaluation of the relations between church and state. Arnold argued that since the church did not possess divinely ordained powers, there were no grounds, in the long run, for its independence from the state. Its aim was not to mediate between man and God, but to effect a practical improvement in the moral l imagines for the state in relation to religion; I'm suggesting that scholars now need to consider how the state increasingly accommodates religious divers ity in this era and how this accommodation and engagement happens when one religious particularity underwrites conceptions of that state.
179 something like a Buddhist conception of the world if predestination caused such consternation? Arnold pra ises the unifying aspects of a national religion that he thinks lead to religious religious moderation, and a help towards culture and harmonious perfection. Inste ad of bawling for his own private forms for expressing the inexpressible and defining the undefinable, a man Cooper's vision of a national religion isn't exactly a n Established one, like Arnold's, but the example of Arnold helps illuminate how Cooper's concerns about religion and democracy are prevalent throughout British culture in the era. Cooper's idea of how to produce a just society draws on theories of governa nce and religion that must align for the spirits to escape purgatory. In advocating a universal type of belief, like Arnold, Cooper provides both explicit and metaphorical takes on unity in The Purgatory According to the soul of Lycurgus, the spirits must New lights on truth may issue from their rays / Of cogitation; and some joint consent / Accrue to spirits from the co nfluent blaze / The act of uniting their thinking eventually ends their purgatory. In addition to the spirits coming together and sharing a unified vision to escape purgatory, Cooper repeatedly cal ls to the working people of England to unite against the structures of oppression. The opening lines read 'Toil we no more renew, / Until the Many cease their ves becomes the shout of one man literally calling the working class of England into action (or inaction, as the situation implies). working men must com e together to fight oppression, but the ruling spirits of yesteryear need to
180 agree. 15 It's as though the shades of kings, philosophers, and the like must find a communal theory of governance alongside the workers of Britain; one of the ancient rulers of Rom e, Otho, says To sordid selfishness, and empty glare / Of unsubstantial shows: our brotherhood / With man demands it: while our thrones have stood / Thus mystically radiant, clouds of gloom / Have enwrapt mi brotherhood across the spirit/flesh divide; more importantly, though, Otho's theory of the general good emphasizes the good of the many and notes the grandeur formerly only for a few. Directly following his (and a few othe decked their glowing brows, / And joy beams from the Spartan's count'nance broke, / That seemed a peerless light to circumfuse / econom generally. In addition to unity helping overcome class differences, Cooper looks for global unity and also considers historical religious conflict. Even though he fo cuses on the plight of the working class English, he suggests that the true revolution comes with global awareness, calling 16 Here 15 The rulers at one point talk about managing starving peasants by feeding them (35 37). Antony uses the example of Ro me to discuss how democracy means little without food; political equality requires some level of economic / A creature who will whine to win the crumb / His tyrant's dog re fuses! If the bold / Democracy of buried Rome, controlled, / Ev'n by earth's Monarchs, we create / Anew, your strength! Not fabling sage or bard, / But we Fate's darlings 36). 16 Th e shades of colonized places must forgive, but not forget, the colonialist Europeans in Cooper's account. Near the end of the poem, Montezuma, who Cooper notes refused to convert to Christianity, ends up with a very forgiving
181 and elsewhere, throughout the poem, Cooper links a critique of religion or priests to his critique of the class structure. He argues that these religions and their promulgators support state or monarchical subjection, and it's ironic that priests appear to be the one group almost entirely excluded from Cooper's unity. In Book the Second, Cooper showcas palmer, santon, hermit [who] raised / A di This now nonsensical war of religions provides a nice cover for Cooper who will engage doctrinal debate in Book the Third and elsewhere; as a distraction, the religious war fought by highly different religions Jew, Moslem, fakir, Templar neatly disguises the fact that Cooper argues for a specific version of Protestantism, which discards predestination in favor of free will, as the foundation of an improved nation and theory of governance. Book the Nin th contains women forgiving each other for past wrongs and it's as though women, by virtue of their gender, are directly implicated in Christian forgiveness as a project of the nation as they overcome these national and religious injustices. The wife of As drubal says spirit. He imagines the future generations of his people requiring his forgiveness of the Europeans for their productive society. He says: Natheless, my brothers, I with ye rejoice That after Earth's long ages of dispute, Conquest and blood, the gentle, healing voice Of Goodness do th prevail. Murders pollute My ancient clime no more; and, though the foot Of strangers treads upon our fathers' dust, Since they have learned to live like brothers, mute The Mexican shall be of wrongs that thrust His people from the soil: deeds bl oody and unjust. (278)
182 ours the theme more welcome, sisters mine, / To picture the blest future and prepare / Our spirits for the rest the rest divine / The persecuted, hence, shall ever share / Ev'n with their persecutors: for the slayer / Shall with his victims join her spee ch seems to indicate the increased injustices experienced by the Jews at the hands of ease [Barona] plucked, and did retain; / But, to the Christian gave a lily predict a unity for the washed out of theories of governance for the successful combination of spirits in purgatory. Predestination in Purgatory Cooper devote s the whole purgatory section of Book The Third to a dialogue between the traitors Judas Iscariot and Lord Castlereagh which contains the extensive debate about predestination, free will, and which theory of subjectivity best fits modern democracy. 17 Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ, leading to his crucifixion; Castlereagh betrayed Ireland (in the nineteenth century working class historical imagination), which lead to years of economic strife and dire poverty in Ireland. These two are united because of t heir status as traitors, but also 17 Stephanie Kuduk argues that in this section Cooper collapses some of his biography, particularly the story of his sal ary, the stock villains of radical verse, give way to past historical actors, Judas and Castlereagh, whose accounting of blame is historically and ethically complex. Through the dialogue, Cooper finds a way of explaining the issues raised in the exordium, his mother's toil, the power of the sun streaming through his window, and the difficulty and necessity of ass igning blame for 'common wrongs Here the social and personal collapse and these specific actors take on a larger portion of blame
183 because they both blame fate, destiny, or a lack of human agency for their actions. 18 The narrator prefaces the purgatory section with his most atheistic commentary, declaring that he loves Christ but thinks that the promis t a cradle 19 Cooper's narrator also suggests that the story, which he judges ultimately oddly insincere on the part of the narrator; he soon e ncounters the traitors arguing over their prospects of eternal salvation and happiness in life after death. Even if belief, in and of itself, is less central here, Christianity plays a major role. 20 In placing blame for his class's social situation, Cooper uses specific forms of belief, or religious doctrine, to contest and re solidify a version of just governance and its attendant subjectivities. Free will vanquishes predestination in Cooper's vision of social justice. 21 18 Later charge St. Augustine, the author of the famous 'Confessions,' with the chief blame of all the extravagancies of high Calvinism. By their own account it was from studying him that Luther, Calvin himself, and other Reformers, Reformers wrongly introduced to Christianity via St. Augusti ne. Cooper's blaming St. Augustine for the doctrine is especially piquant. 19 George Eliot's feelings toward the crucifixion story (who, coincidentall y, was translating Strauss on the crucifixion as Cooper was in prison composing his rhyme). 20 the dynamic of belief gives voice to and reloca tes the individual struggle within a wider cultural context, both role in constructing subjectivity, absent or present. 21 Interestingly, rec ent (42). Cooper didn't allow these things to coexist. In other discussions of the 1840s and predestination, Rebecca Styler, while focusing on Elizabeth Gaskell, discuss es Anne and Emily Bront: doubts, formed the basis of a growing number of attacks on Calvinist orthodoxy i n the 1840s, not only from Unitarian voices. Humanist criteria weighed Christianity against ethics, and found it wanting [...] Gaskell likewise evaluates Calvinism's moral logical. A theology must be mistaken, she suggests, if it permits the excommunicatio n
184 By describing Iscariot and Castlerea gh as especially wretched in purgatory, the narrative suggests their shared sin treachery, and a related desire to shirk the blame for their guilt onto a higher power is of the worst order. The narrator can even read Iscariot's pain on his countenance. The description, one of the earliest stanzas in the conversation, sets up some of the theological issues present: It was a look unique in wretchedness: Such as, in land of penance, could be worn By none but him who, in his heart's excess Of ill, his gust for guilt, engrained, inborn, Betrayed to shameful death, and vilest scorn Of butchering priests, the Being who only sought To Bless mankind and die! The look of lorn Remediless woe with which that face was fraught Needed no speech to tell it marked Iscariot (88) Iscariot himself will make. His role in the history of Christianity matters greatly as well; he is the narrator's visitation, Judas's visage changes from entirely frightful to partially enlightened and beautiful, but this change will not last. 22 explicitly political ones. Styler's overarching argument is that Gaskell's "treatment of the witch trials also addresses religious debates of her own times. Calvinism, the prevalent theology of Salem, was again a powerful influence in nineteenth century orthodoxy. Through her tale, Gaskell offers a critique of the moral ethos produced by a Calvinist world view, and promotes the Unitarian ideals of rational religion and universal benevolence through the figure of 22 The shift from unattractive to pretty is one of the ways Cooper marks progress in telling the story of how these suicides find their way out of a ghostly purgatory. It's interesting that in Claire Williams's discussion of Thomas Carlyle and his book Chartism she traces out Carlyle's lacking sense of self (or ghostly/shade like self) in relation to labor. She sa momentarily realized as a complete human being, a sense of entirety that was paradoxically only possible when the phantasmal presence of gnawing thoughts and feeling concerns of Chartists, makes one unghostly; Cooper's imagination of his ghosts working to end their stay in
185 again and again in his taunting of Castlereagh and in the defense of his own actions. At one my pirit could Iscariot resist his action? Free will doesn't come into play here. The Calvinist question of election the doctrine that a set number of souls are set t o enter Heaven, that these souls have been marked for their destiny before birth, and that these souls will be in Heaven regardless of their actions on earth plays itself out in Judas's arguments. For Calvinist election or predestination believes that the soul has no choice or ability to effect a change in its final place, be it heaven, purgatory, or hell. 23 Judas Iscariot's claim to freedom from guilt based on the doctrine of election is a complicated accounting for blame and does not go unchallenged by his comrade in purgatory, Lord Castlereagh, who also claims to be guilt free because of his lack of control over his actions. As Judas shifts blame for his human sins onto god contradictory thoughts on human agency emerge; little remains absolute as Judas's case for election shifts and evolves over the course of his argument with Castlereagh. Early on, Judas claims Destiny's child, Judas tries to shift responsibility for his crime onto something, anything else. Not long after, Judas makes his strongest case for election, saying purgatory is pretty direct: the work of rulers and philosophers is to imagine rule and pra ctice governance, which is exactly what their conversations in purgatory entail and what leads to their emancipation from purgatory. 23 In addition to the doctrine of election, another question of Calvinism is appropriate to consider in relation to The Purg atory. Calvinism had lessened considerably [... and that the world is a sinful place. Judas Iscariot, as a character, owes something to the doctrine of total depravity (as will be seen through my reading).
186 his blame. Yet these claims make little progress in the discussion between Castlereagh and Iscariot; rather, their thundering back and forth at each other seems to build intensity as each makes his claim for innocence. Castlereagh asks Iscariot how he can blame god and, as a result of this blaming, not feel shame knowledge by thy sinful soul / Of God's foreknowledge can of guilt divest / Thy mind? His knowledge did not thee c because god had foreknowledge of an event the knowledge does not excuse the guilt of the sinner. Historian Richard Brent discusses the way divines of the era wor ried these interrelated questions; he says, freewill and in divine foreknowledge. The latter doctrine did not imply, as the Calvinists Cooper practically illustrates Copleston's exact train of logic in this passage with the conversation between the traitors; Judas's hewing so closely to the track of the Calvinists suggests how literally The Purgatory engages these questions. 24 Iscariot isn 't convinced by Castlereagh so quickly, however, and Castlereagh continues, expounding on the reasons for Iscariot's treachery; by having recourse to reasons or excuses for his actions, Judas does not just shift the blame from himself to god but also sugge sts that even if he deserves some blame for his role betraying Christ it cannot be entirely his fault. He still wants petty pelf, base, sordid thing! / Tha t spiritual leprosy, which stole / Daily, through all thy 24 Brent continues, say antinomian doctrine that Christ made all righteous by his sacrifice. Arnold argued in a similar fashion in his issue of election a nd antinomianism suggests several nineteenth century thinkers considered the subject of religion essential in regards to democracy, both literally and figuratively.
187 do not excuse Iscariot, and the cover Iscariot claimed begins to disappear. Castlereagh is not fin ished, arguing: Proclaimed He not thy treason while it germed Within thy heart shut up? yea, ere a word Forth budding from the hell sown seed confirmed Thy foul intent? Perditioned, curst, abhorred, Thou wast, before thy mother's womb was stored With Of the Most High witness His own record! That though shouldst breathe solely to do that deed, And on thy traitorous soul th' undying worm should feed! (104) Here, the sin exists inside Judas and is proclaimed only after ward; he deserves punishment regardless of god's proclamation. The argument for election that Judas tried to make will not square with the advancing vision of justice in The Purgatory In another attempt to mitigate blame, Judas advances a different spin on the argument of election, where other people are to blame for each other sins instead of god. This further sharpening the conflict of free will or responsibility and determinism runs afoul of Castlereagh's admonitions. Here, Judas finds a way to blame Castlereagh for the faults of others. Judas wants to find justice in the world for people who have been hurt by Castlereagh much like he found justice for himself by saying that god had appointed his sins. Judas blames Castlereagh, saying torturer! while they moil unfed, / If poor men sink in vice; if, 'midst their toil, / So ill requited, grovelling thoughts are bred / In Labour's children; if th' uncultured soil / Of their neglected minds base weeds defile, Here, Judas accounts for the material consequences of Castlereagh's actions through the lives of workers or subjects he
188 The trampled toilers'? Or / Their lordlings'? who, while they, as thou, revile / And taunt the trampled ones, trample them more; / And hug, themselves, the vice they charge their slaves to 6). Here Judas clearly holds Castlereagh accountable for the trauma he has caused the poor, and, through a neat trick of blame accountability vices away from themselves. The exploitation of the working class by the wealthy, in addition to foreknowledge, provides Judas cover; neither will survive the discussion, and beautification of the souls, as they unite to escape purgatory. Judas's partial acceptance of blame becomes quicksand for his argument, and this partial acceptance partial denial soon swallows other mitigating factors he would like to claim. He repeats that he should not have to perform penance while arguing that Castlereagh should be or at least that Castlereagh should feel the sting of his conscience (102). Judas also thinks he's in a better position than the narrator, since Judas believes in Christ and eternal life while the narrator the soul's self (89). Here, Cooper's soul has committed this crime, unlike Judas's foretold treachery. As an allegory for any soul, Judas thinks that belief matters greatly, but belief as a prerequisite for salvation is secondary to a predetermined election. In a differe nt interpretation of the Judas section, Stephanie Kuduk reads Judas's argument less as a denial of culpability than as accepting partial blame for some of his wrongs committed. She says Judas specific historical actors are culpable for the 'wrongs' of hunger and exploitation. Judas' analysis of blame is also philosophical and theological, for he, too, has been guilty of a want of compassion and sympathy. He believes that his betrayal of Jesus began long before the eve of Here, Kuduk analyzes the few moments Judas questions his own
189 though, unless god is blameworthy. Judas's questioning his actions relating to Jesus's compassion has little to do with the overarching reasons for his eternal damnation; rather his sting of conscience comes from his knowledge of human suffering. In a world where no one can know who has been chosen to ascend to heaven or descend to hell all should hel p the poor, as he chastens Castlereagh. Predestination does not preclude smaller acts of kindness. 25 In discussing agency the traitors' complicated accounting for blame extends to Castlereagh's arguments as well. Castlereagh's claim for attenuated guilt has the added stipulation that he experienced a disturbed mental state. This claim comes both on its own and in Romance details Castlereagh's perspective on his li fe and how he came to commit suicide. It relates the story of Castlereagh's time visiting a wealthy estate and his visitation by a familiar, the Radiant Boy, which he claims to have seen again in Parliament later in life (93 97). 26 Castlereagh even wants to blame the familiar for driving him to suicide. He will try to adopt Judas's argument that his actions were controlled by Fate (93). While Castlereagh will not tolerate Judas's talk about destiny, he says he had his own experience with Fate foretelling his 25 Richard Dellamora presents a slightly later take on this coming toget her of agency and belief in the context of semi theological governance; his discussion of Gladstone, like my discussion of Arnold, points to the larger culture's obsession with thinking of democracy and religion as intimately related. He says later in life moderate Anglican evangelical views, emphasizing justification by faith and the overwhelming importance for salvation of Christ's Atonement while playing down the Calvinist idea that nonbelievers are condemned to hell. In particular, he believed in the need for individuals to recognize the consequences of original sin and to experience conversion in order to be saved. In addition to faith, however, Gladstone believed in the necessity of individual agency both in the exercise of consci Here, Dellamora outlines points Judas explores; both believe in agency if not free will, Judas in a significantly more limit ed way. 26 Cooper provides a massive, two plus page footnote explaining the historical story of the Radiant Boy and Castlereagh. Castlereagh, the historical figure, experienced madness and paranoia at the end of his life; stories of his life often cite an u nwelcome visit from a ghost, compelling Castlereagh to act badly (or against the interests of the Irish).
190 supernatural? / Shall I the sentence of eternal wrath / Acknowledge just since dreams, prophetical / Of what I should be, nnot fathom that his time in purgatory is a just punishment as the Radiant Boy has controlled his actions. He tries to vain, that fair viceregal dress / sighting of the Radiant Boy suggests that this sighting could lead to a grand destiny more easily than a bad one; the host finds only Castlereagh is to blame for messing up his destiny. He s ays, thyself! Know, thou has seen the Radiant his sighting in the way the host intended. A stark point of difference between the traitors' argum ents is how each accounts for the justice of his punishment in purgatory. Judas, as we have seen, will not accept blame, but Castlereagh says he must partly accept the blame but not the punishment for his actions. He says, of mental liberty ber eft / In life; my will, Mind's pilot, all enthralled; [...] shall I, appalled / With fear of justice, from His sentence shrink? / The weakest worm on earth that ever crawled / Would not, thus impulsed even to the brink / Of life, consent to its own curse, and, most hideous creature in purgatory, that's Judas), Castlereagh's appeal against his punishment participates in a dialogue about the nature of justice an d blame which Judas will not engage. Here, free will matters the most; understanding the justness of one's punishment also matters, if somewhat less. The Romance works in telling ways in the poem: as a narrative within a narrative, the Romance seems to present another literary style, one that was somewhat outdated by the early
191 was soon overtaken and used less frequently; and as a story with a content that can not be taken too seriously in the scientific realism of the nineteenth century. The supernatural happenings of the story, like those popularized by Le Fanu later in the century, at this historical juncture more strongly place Castlereagh's disturbed mind i n the context of Browning's eccentric or mentally ill narrators or mentally ill characters from novels. But both cases of predestination or election and the possibility of mental incapacity cut to the heart of a central tenet in religious thinking: the wil l. For election and mental illness both claim to control elements of the soul or body that should be under the control of each person, people who, in Cooper's theory of a democratic and more just world, can be shaped by education and taught to reason. That one could potentially lose autonomy according to one theological belief stands in the way of ascendant rationality; this interferes with the democratic process and theories of democratic governance. The will must control decision making for this justice t o work, and therefore democratic thinking discards religions and religious beliefs that deny such self control and self determination, such as predestination. Furthermore, by couching Castlereagh's claims to a loss of will in the superseded poetic style of Romance, Cooper suggests theologies that incorporate predestination may have passed their sell by date as well. 27 The power of the will runs contrary to Judas Iscariot's every description of his own experience of purgatory and how he tries to frame Castle reagh's as well. Judas claims that god 27 Castlereagh's story as a Romance, which was also the predominant mode of storytelling in his lifetime. They say what appeared as a new world and/or a new form of belief, while sti ll living within the constraints of an old one, ving fo r ce behind different literary genres.
192 draws out the type of suffering each suicide experiences, and argues against Castlereagh's attempts to bargain with god on the issue (99 100). He claims that surrendering to the conscience, when it leads to suffering for the traitors, is one of the steps to salvation. 28 The passiveness of surrender clearly describes Judas's prescription for thinking about their rebel, said Iscariot, / That curse waits not thy blind arbitrament: / 'Tis fixt with mine; in vain we seek to blow / The sentence from His book: our fatal lot / Is cast, (99). Furthermore, Judas sees his entire life as having been made for this one action for which he and the fated nature of his actions is the question of Judas's motive. For when Castlereagh confronts Judas with the question of Judas's payment for his actions, Judas no longer seems to have been a bystander held hostage to preordained actions. His story acts as a possible warning to the working classes since money played a role in Judas's decision to betray Christ (105). As such, Judas's claim to a destined fate, the argument for predestination, begins to collapse. The short but important period where Judas is no longer pained but beautiful sign als the error of his arguments; before his beautification, Judas returns to an earlier argument in a last te claim that someone in Judas's role is necessary for the theory and history of Christianity (without a betrayed Christ there could be no death of Christ and therefore no eternal salvation for every other Christian) also does not absolve 28 Judas thinks that reflection and guilt will work on Castlereagh, producing suffering and, eventually, release; it is upon thee, till thou wail
193 Judas ethically. Judas eventually accepts blame for his actions; at the apotheosis of this change in boast were vain for Hell's self y, performed after his transformation from terrible looking to lovely, suggests just how central discarding the idea of predestination in favor of something like free will is to Cooper's vision of a just society. The transformation to beautiful (or, at the writhed: no more outgleamed / From the Jew's eyes a wild demoniac flame: / Calm and subdued, speak volumes f or the righteousness of his newly accepted blame. Directly after Judas claims ck into a hideous shape (108 109). Judas's expectation of a divine blessing partly triggers his change. Castlereagh rails against him again, Judas tosses off a few final barbs, and the narrator reawakens, ending the discussion of predestination. We are lef t with an incomplete conversion; Judas has flirted with a new form of belief but nineteenth century usefully draws on the several meanings collapsed within the w ord. Conversion could mean a switching of faiths (from Catholicism to Anglicanism for instance), or the adoption of a new belief or doctrine (predestination), or could refer to a spiritual journey, particularly for evangelical faiths, in which one accepte d Jesus Christ as savior (8). Importantly, Judas does not make any of these conversions completely. Complete conversion happens later in the poem, even though we do not see him again, when the shades decide to adopt millennialism as a belief; the entire na
194 process is a repudiation of the rejected hermeneutic or mode of belief [...] Repudiation is so vital as it emphasizes the separation between the identity of the past and present as con verts wish to establish the integrity of their new religious selfhood and to maintain the sincerity of their blame is what beautifies him and erases the p ain from his countenance. But that he cannot convert his belief completely stalls the process of progress for the shades on their eventual movement into a millennial mode. That their eventual progression entails repudiation (of olute, unaccountable monarchy; of beliefs) further supports the reading of The Purgatory as being intimately engaged with questions of faith and doctrine. Looking Backward, Looking Forward Cooper's engagement with the doctrine of predestination, somethin g his contemporary writers of literature and political theory also wrestled and discarded, 29 demonstrates his interest in the places Christian theology had been and suggests that his imagination of democracy might require new takes on Christian theology and doctrine for the future. The mostly backward look of The Purgatory into Christian differences over doctrinal debate engages Dissenting history in terms of fracture and denominationalism. For a poem so centrally obsessed with unifying the dead and the livi ng, men and women, rich and poor, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and other representatives of world religions, colonizer and colonized, the production of fault lines along older, denominational divides, suggests unity comes only on certain terms: the terms o f an increasingly dominant religion, doctrinally Christian and unified in imagination only. In this section, I will explore the way denominational history produces these fault lines, and then I will 29 Again, see Styler for a discussion of predestination in terms of literary writers in relation to Gaskell primarily, but also two of the Bronts. In terms of political theory, I mean Arnold and Copleston.
195 question the subjectivity this imagination of democracy s eems to require. For while Cooper can imagine specific identity formations like gender and class being unimportant to his universalism, and even shows devotees of various religions coming together, belief does not take on the qualities of these specificiti es; essentially, while women can be women coming together with men in universality, Calvinists cannot be Calvinists and come together with Anglicans or Methodists in universality. Some specificities must change; practitioners of a more just political theor y must be willing to give up belief in certain doctrines. Belief, as malleable and theoretical in Cooper's construction, must become one universality. The history of denominations in nineteenth century Britain, especially regarding fractures over belief in predestination, is as much an eighteenth century story as a nineteenth. This reach into past denominational fracture by Cooper mirrors his use of historical figures throughout The Purgatory ; recent and ancient suicides debate in a space, at least temporar ily, outside of time. David Hempton, in works on the history of religion, addresses issues of denominational infighting by the Methodists, the Primitive Methodists, and the Calvinists; Calvinists were devoted to predestination as a doctrine while the other groups formed and reformed themselves based at least partly on their beliefs regarding predestination. 30 John Wesley's rejection of predestination was foundational for the split of Methodism from Calvinism; Cooper's rejection of the doctrine of predestinat ion in The Purgatory doubly repeats this foundational splitting and reformation (22). Later, Wesleyan or conventional Methodism lost members in the early part of 30 These d octrinal disputes between Arminian Methodists and Calvinists seemed to become less important by 1790s but they revived in a debate about a larger, Christian generalist missionary organization in 1813 (Hempton, Methodism 73, 97). That such an issue of religious particularity ceased to cause extensive religious debates by the middle of the nineteenth century but could generate literary responses shows how engrained such debates could become.
196 interest in revivalism during the years around Cooper's birth ( Methodism it was as much an expulsion of religious styles as it was of pe ople. 31 Consequently another Methodist group, the Primitive Methodists, developed outside the main connexion, thereby denomination, or at least the integration of n ew worshipers, commonly happened through the rejection of a style of worship or a mode of belief; contradictorily, Cooper's poem requires the spirits coming together to escape purgatory. It's as though Cooper wants to reshape historical events rather than expulsion, communion to suggest that the incipient democracy in Britain requires a different history. Primitive Methodists were something akin to tent revivalists, where many were welcome and the experience of conversion was central; less affluent social groups were particularly drawn to this form of worship, and the unevenness of its appeal suggests how the search for a universal form of worship is nearly impossible. Tent revivalism shadows Cooper's narrative of debate and epiphany for the spirits. Gareth Lloyd traces the explosion of the doctrinal debate into a public issue a bit earlier in the century, and he argues that the tent revivalist form of worship became issue, one on which there could in reality have been no long term compromise within a single Evangelical movement. The Anglican church had traditionally contained Arminians and nglican unity 31 Gareth Lloyd says that the argument between the Wesleys and th than his older brother John but a preacher in his own right, was often more friendly with George Whitefield (the leading Calvinist) and his supporters from the 1750s on; this caused John Wesley no small irritation (57). The splitting of families over religious doctrine highlights the importance that specific religious doctrines have in forming religio us, and political, polities.
197 (57). Here, the nascent fault line over predestination only fully fractures when something like the form of worship changes in addition to the content of the belief. The process of fracturing occurred unevenly across the British countryside. Regional differences mattered quite strongly; non Wesleyan Primitive Methodism provided an outlet in some regions of England, particularly in rural areas (Hempton The Religion 6). Denominationally, Eileen Yeo notes that some chapels gave up the connexion o f Wesleyan Methodism and continued on as political meeting places and Primitive Methodist chapels (117). Importantly, historiographers often read Calvinism and Methodism as opposed or fighting for dominance over similar social groups in the decades leading up to, and during, the Chartist struggles, at least in the trans Atlantic perspective (Hempton The Religion 14). Historically, the denominationalism of the period mattered beyond just the pulpit and the pasture. Hempton argues for a broad sense of the wa y seemingly small, internal debates within a congregation could play out in politically significant ways. He argues that the larger backdrop of Methodism should be used to analyze political events happening among members of the sm and political radicalism are generally portrayed as polar opposites which the English working classes oscillated to and from, or as uncomfortable Religion 142). That Methodists were often pol itical radicals suggests that the attempted separation of politics from religion, either in its representation or in its practice, was not an easy task. Hempton continues, saying sm in its undermining of the control mechanisms of the Established Church, but many of the conflicts supposedly fought out between Methodists and radicals were often fought out within the Religion 142). Hempton's description of ex ternal debates actually being
198 internal debates writ large suggests something for Cooper's Purgatory ; when Cooper depicts predestination on its way out through the Judas/Castlereagh dialogue, he's not only suggesting a new way of thinking the democratic. He 's suggesting that the congregation needs to change internally; all believers must come around to this faith. The nature of their religion changes. Methodism becomes a new thing. 32 Now we can more clearly see politics and religion shifting together. In the twenty first century they can seem atomized; such is distinctly not the case for Chartist imaginat ions of democracy in nineteenth c entury Great Britain. Today, we need to see better how belief informs and complicates political action. The issue of the Cha rter, proffered public advice to Parliament about the voting rights of skilled workers, must be read at least partially as a church matter or a church action in the political realm. Toleration of beliefs other than one's own quickly emerges as a political issue in this context, as historically the British plotted a map of slowly increasing toleration for non Protestant minorities in the nineteenth century. But this does not mean that all of Protestantism was treated equally within the electorate; discussion of non Protestant forms of belief doesn't even happen in The Purgatory Hempton directly addresses religious tolerance, a quality represented in the poem through the various figures like the Jewish woman, Barona, but tolerance would seem to have little im port if Cooper's vision of democracy requires subjects 32 Isobel Armstrong takes up this idea in Victorian Poetry thought is, for the truly political writer, Cooper suggests, perpetually redefined in different historical s ituations. Nothing could be further from Arnold's dread of hyperactive reflection than this perpetual conflictual redefinition of the content of thought as real dissidence. Cooper's huge and turbulent poem stands as a critique of this retreat into the poli tics of liberal detachment. The Purgatory of Suicides both thematises and represents through its structure the 17). Yet, in the end, Cooper's poetry may not political struggle that produces a new polity solidified around one form of worship or belief. It's interesting that Cooper does not mention the Reform Act of 1867 in his a utobiography; Armstrong's analysis of his spent political capital on this next expansion of the electorate might have been further illuminated by his thoughts on the subject. Yet, Cooper doesn't mention it he seems un engaged with the struggle.
199 was sheltered under the umbrella of a relatively tolerant Chu Methodism was able to e ffect something approaching a relations revolution in English society. No religious movement did more [...] to open up the possibility of a more pluralistic society in which the right to hold, and crucially, to propagate religious opinions, was protected b The Religion 141). The political effect of Methodism in Britain, where one religious, non dominant particularity widens the possibilities for other congregations, demonstrates how fully engaged religions must be in democracy. Cooper, in showing how Methodism discards predestination to become more democratic, might be modeling how other religions become more suited to democracy. However, as I noted earlier, the depiction of Jews, Buddhists, etc ., only shows them as social identities with historical b aggage that they overcome in the course of the poem; their beliefs, as complicating democracy or as having a bearing on their political fitness for democracy or any form of ief in free will is a must, religion and politics must fully engage each other. In an important way, we are now back to Matthew Arnold. In Culture and Anarchy he argues that hole and corner for ms of of democracy, coming together via the description of the role of state religions and mild dissent is that of the moderate, liberalist, well educated citiz en. For Cooper, as his characters reject a belief in predestination they take on an Arnoldian balanced character that allows them to control or moderate religious passions. As such, the oft mentioned dogmatic principle' of do gmatic principle of democracy and the democratic citizen, seems to elide the fact that a sound rejection of any dogma (except the state approved one) is a dogmatic principle of its own (Tate 4). Here, for Cooper's Utopian vision, a dominant, dogmatic strai n of
200 religion requires specific theological beliefs; diverse takes on democracy just do not seem to work. Democracy is a theological construction. Different particularities, discarded in this democratic process, need another political organization. The pu rpose of looking at the ways religious particularity plays out in the nineteenth century is, at least partly, to shed light on the ways similar arguments might have an effect today. It seems probable that religious developments today reflect specific soci al or political positions much as they did in the nineteenth century. Hempton reminds us that and poverty lived in a symbiotic relationship. In England, too, early Wesleyan and later Primitive Methodist revivals were part religio ( Religion 63). But have questions about specific doctrines like predestination dropped out of consideration in our contemporary statecraft? Or, do they still tend to enter it more obliquely, through po licy developments incubated in places of worship or through literary visions of political progress? The debate about predestination did not die with the eighteenth century founding of Methodism; disputes about religious doctrine do not easily disappear, and it became an appropriate topic for Cooper to address a century later in his poem. Cooper's use of the history of Methodism remains somewhat opaque; is Cooper trying to suggest that there is only one form of belief appropriate for democracy? The answer seems to be yes; or, better questions might be, does democracy require certain philosophical and religious under pinnings to work imaginatively? D oes a democratic subjectivity require a reshaping of religious categories of thought? As The Purgatory looks ba ck into Christian differences over predestination, does this vision of Dissenting history require certain answers about fracture and denominationalism versus unity, a lack of agency versus unmitigated free will, to provide a specific democratic politics of
201 the future? As I discussed in the last chapter on Bront, democracy seems to inflict trauma on non statist or not Established religious believers. Cooper's vision for democracy laudable in many ways, compelling for its emphases on unified congregations, m ulti vocal contributions, and truly worldwide attempt at inclusion cannot achieve a perfect state for religious particularities beyond his imagination (or those excised by his imagination). The subjectivities required for full participation in his democrat ic process cannot possibly be universal. Can a theory of democracy not require a specific form of belief? The next chapter about Wordsworth's Prelude explores another set of beliefs, a discreet philosophy of authority and democracy that also looks into a h istory not necessarily fit for the emerging representative democracy of Great Britain. The final chapter of this dissertation on Jane Austen describes her vision of non democratic governance, which insists that religion and politics are inextricably linked
202 CHAPTER 7 WORDSWORTH'S REVISIONS OF THE PRELUDE THE OXFORD MOVEMENT, AND THE NECESSITY OF AUTHORITY This chapter examines Wordsworth's poem, The Prelude which he wrote and then revised for decades; the process b egan long before the Reform Act and ended after its passage. The poem's intricate vision of politics coming from or being founded in religion contrasts highly with Eliot's narrative of the era. This chapter is the first to examine any lines composed befor e the passage of the Reform Act and, along with Austen's novels, provides yet another complication to the narrative of politics and democracy in pre Reform Era Britain. Moving from Cooper's imagination of the 1840s and Chartism to Wordsworth's significantly less democratic vision of West ern nations shows how writers across the political spectrum thought of politics and religion as intricately linked; this different conception of political life served diverse ends. Historical Background of The Oxford Movement The Oxford Movement or Tracta rianism was an internal push for reform within the Anglican church; it occurred a few years before Chartism and had a much more conservative orientation. The Tracts for the Times were originally a series of essays and sermons on Anglican theology, history, and practice that circulated among a set of undergraduates, young scholars, and parish preachers at Oxford beginning in 1833 with Tract 1 and culminating in 1841's Tract 90 both written by John Henry Newman. Newman, who followed several fellow Tractarian s to Roman Catholicism in 1845, was recently (September 2010) beatified. Before Newman wrote ish Oxford scholar John Keble, The Christian Year (1827). The two became f riends in around 1828 and were eventually leaders of the Oxford Movement. The Tractarian essays published from 1833 onward argued for a more stringent application of Anglican doctrine in parish ritual practice, church organization and leadership, and theol ogy. Many of the Tractarian essays argued
203 for a more Rome like centralization of authority on every level of church organization. Recent The Oxford Movement in Context argues for a reading of Tractarianism as more continuo us with the aims of the eighteenth century's High Churchmen and the High Churchmen of their own time than the traditional reading of the Oxford Movement as a insistence on the duty of obedience and on the horror of rebellion as a form of blasphemy, stemmed from theological principle; it was but 'one inseparable branch of the universal doctrine elationships between parishioners and preachers, preachers and bishops, bishops and the head of the church, and the Anglican church and the worldwide one; 1 the writers advocated a move to stressing greater authority on every level. 2 Basing much of their i deas on seventeenth century divines, Tract writers like Keble, Newman, Hurrell Froude (a student of Newman's and advocate of celibacy in the Movement), William Palmer (another friend of Newman's and scholar of the early English rituals and liturgy), and Ed ward Pusey (holder of a Hebrew Professorship, later convert to Tractarianism, and first acknowledged author of a Tract, #18, the others being published anonymously) 3 drew on this earlier era's theology that also responded to a greatly shifting political realm. For the earlier 1 As in the universal Christian church, other branches being the Protestant churches of Germany, France, and even the Eastern Orthodox. 2 Yet, if the Tractarians think that something like increased ritualism during a church service is important to their ishops, but submission had to be on their terms. This discrepancy between high Episcopal theory and an almost Congregationalist or Presbyterian practice became an lerance in practical terms. 3 Maybe only incidentally, Pusey denied any connection between The Tracts for the Times and the Reform Act (Nockles 67).
204 writers also lived in an era of great change: the Glorious and bloodless Revolution of 1688 installed a new, constitutionally Protestant monarch at the end of a century of major political and religious turmoil. force, a quest for holiness through self ( 184). Its effectiveness in persuading parishioners and other pastors to join in this asceticism, renewed spirituality, and support for uncompromising doctrinal positions is debatable, and Nockles concludes that the Movement was effective at least among the Churchmen of the 1830s and 18 Tractarian High Churchmen were undogmatic, but that, once other political props of establishment had been removed in 1828 33, dogma assumed a greater importance as a test of churchmanship t (311). Nockles continues, arguing of the doctrinal temperature of the Church of England; highlighting in an often provocative way theological issu doctrine reflects a push for theological purity; yet, theological purity in this era has wider implications than just for forms of worship or specific religious communities. Rather, as thirty of could initiate a shift in the government or could converse ly reflect a shift in the governance of the nation. The increasingly complex relationship between the established church and the government caused Hurrell Froude, the author of Tract 59 explicitly about the final appointment o
205 Political and theological concerns are thickly entwined in this era. Nockles makes a specific argument about the relationship between the political and theological over the course of the century. Logically, he says: One consequence of the constitutional revolution between 1828 and 1833 for the Church of England was that religion and politics could no longer be presented as but 'two aspe cts of the same thing'. The gradual divorce of the two in subsequent decades made it increasingly difficult for later generations of High Churchmen to appreciate the mental framework within which the pre Tractarian High Church operated. For the Orthodox pr ior to 1828, political concerns were a necessary ingredient of churchmanship and were perceived as a legitimate sphere for the application of principles which were essentially theological. In the much altered political climate of the second half of the cen tury when the Church of England's constitutional status had suffered erosion, the Church's theology necessarily carried less of a political load. As a result, the centrality of the political interests of pre Tractarian High Churchmen came to appear anomalo us. (Nockles 44) Yet, a counter intuitive reading of the situation is possible and perhaps productive. 4 Rather than that politics in the period after the Oxford Movement had adopted particular doctrinal positions that were masked as political. Essentially, i assertion of one kind of doctrine over the political which had already chosen a doctrinal position unlike, or even opposite to, its own. That the Oxford movement failed in many of its goals only suggests that the hardline (pro authority, pro ceremonial import) doctrinal positions it advocated were replaced by a more egalitarian dissenting doctrine in thinking about the nation's politics. One elem ent of this doctrinal warfare that previous High Churchmen and Oxford in Orthodox political theology which perhaps most distinguished pre Tractarian High 4 genesis of
206 Churchmen from other church parties was an almost mystical, sacral theory of monarchy According to Church: the leader of the church could trace his authority through succeeding generations of Archbishops to Paul, the original leader of Christianity. So the head of the church had a divinely ordained or inspired role, and this mirrored the monarch's sacral role. Partly because the monarch had lessened political influence as a cons equence of the Great Reform Act the Tractarians adopted this theory of monarchy and reverence for authority generally. 5 Some writers, here an unknown layman in Tract Five, argued for a relationship with specific limits between the head of the state and th e state's church. As part of a larger argument, detailing strictly defined roles between levels of church authority and reading church history to claim we are not thence to infer that she [ the Church] gave, or that she could give, to an earthly monarch, or to his temporal legislature, the right to interfere with things spiritual, with her Doctrines, with her Liturgy, with the ministration of her Sacraments, or with the positions, relative to each other, of her Bishops, Tracts 13). His investment in keeping decisions about church doctrine entirely in the hands of the ecclesiastical body and not popular or monarchial bodies reflects a concern that church leadership could easily be brushed aside just as the ancien regime appeared to be superannuate d in the wake of the Reform Act Determination of the citizenry, the voting and political body, was at stake. That changes in the political body (due to the seating of Bishops in Parliament) were either already changes in the church structure or laid the groundwork for 5 As people further away from the landed gentry and nobility had the right to vote (and increasing political agency) y decreases. For the monarch could name people to the House of Lords through the creation of titles and the Lords often had a great hand in choosing the candidates for office in the Commons. As the factory owning class became directly represented in Parlia position was reduced.
207 such changes only exacerbated the Tractarians' felt political necessity of a return to the politics and society of the early days of the Christian church. Yet the mo narch and the church appeared to have somewhat similar ontologies when compared to the rest of society. The non earthly, semi spiritual nature of the monarchy could have a parallel in the establishment of the church, which the Tractarians viewed as eternal and Erastian, 6 moral protest against the apparently popular notion that the Church of England was but a human establishment, subservient to the material and secular interests why the Movement was unsuccessful in increasing the importance of its own doctr inal positions: the Reform Act represented a theory of monarchy that reflected its nature as a human construction. The anonymous writer of Tra ct 10, even without drawing attention to the supposedly divine nature of the monarch, emphasizes the distant authority of the monarchy. He writes, here is a temptation which comes on many men to honour no one, except such as they themselves know, such as have done favour or kindness to them personally. Thus sometimes monarchy was not recognized as outside of mere mortal contempt, if the monarchy was not ho ly, could the body of the church be a holy, eternal creation and not simply the product of humanity? Tractarian High Church identification with monarchy always had both an important theological basis and practical religious ap effects in changing this theoretical understanding of the church and the monarch. 6 Erastrianism, here, roughly means that political beliefs trump theological ones; it's the theory that the church has roots in the world of people, not divinity, and therefore people (through politics and the state) should have final control in theological or church affairs.
208 What felt like an impending split of the church and state then, if not in the absolute term of Establishment or non Establishment but i n more relative terms, surprised the High Church movement. The Hackney Phalanx, a group of High Church precursors to the Tractarians, but tical ascendancy and in effective control of ecclesiastical patronage, [and] the union of church and state appeared to be working more in the church's interests [...] at any werful in politics and guaranteed incredible income for the church. Seemingly in contrast to this, Froude and others surprisingly argued against Establishment because they felt they were under the thumbs of Parliament (Nockles 80). Yet, Nockles observes th establishmentism of the Tractarians was essentially a tactical weapon. It became pronounced only at times of particular Tract 59 hardly seems opposed to Establishment, but does argue for a relat ionship between Church and state that gives the Church all the protections of state authorization and provides little authority for the state. 7 The unknown writer of Tract Five agreed in spirit, saying that the church and the state were intimately connect ed. Because of a deep historical connection: the civil rulers of our country recognised the principle that a Christian nation should, as such, consider itself a branch of the Apostolical Church of Christ; they therefore acknowledged, and gave temporal dig nity, and a voice in the general councils of the state to her ministers; privileges which they to the present day enjoy. And the Church, on her part, the above principle having been adopted by the State, acknowledged the head of that State, the King, to be her temporal head; investing him with that general supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs, which he already possessed in civil. (13) 7 It might be obvious already, but the writers of the Tracts were not entirely unified in positions, political or theological, and they were often in dialogue with each other about the evolving role of the church in the post Reform Act era. Of course it's their overarching continuities that have led to much of the scholarship on the Tracts.
209 The interlocking relationship between the church and the state had a deep connection that could not be ended simply by disest ablishment and seeming religious neutrality. For the foundation of the modern democractic state had religion behind it and nothing, it seems, can separate the two. This dissertation seeks to examine the potentially invisible religious particularity behind conceptions of modern democracy. Throughout, I have insisted on an understanding of the Protestant doctrinal conceptions present in debates about democracy, from the first part of the nineteenth century to today. These religious conceptions matter for furt her attempts to make a contemporary democratic state receptive to religious diversity and opinion; today, the question of whether or not our contemporary democracy can have a non theological foundation is one certainly worth pondering. The Religious and Po litical Revisions of The Prelude Wordsworth completed a full length draft of his masterwork, The Prelude in 1805. This draft followed several earlier shorter drafts, and has been the text many contemporary scholars turn to as they teach and research Words worth and Romanticism since Ernest de Selincourt published a text based on the 1805 draft in the 1920s. Yet, the nineteenth century readership knew The Prelude of 1850, one Wordsworth had revised successively over the decades between 1805 and 1850. 8 Wordsw orth, with his daughter Dora serving as his primary scribe, produced a The Prelude in 1838 and 18 39 (which Wordsworth continued to annotate and which served as the basis for 1850 ). The date of this final major revision comes in a unique his torical moment: the passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832 was the culmination of decades of political pressure by the non noble but wealthy business class in Britain. As we have seen, Reform responded to questions of who has the right to govern, who has political self 8 The earliest date of composition for any lines that found their way into The Prelude seems to be 1797.
210 determination, and who should be allowed a say in the project of the nation. Attitudes to authority shifted across the political and religious spectrum. It was at the end of this decade of political strife (the failed Charter of 1838 insiste d on a further re imagination of political agency) that Wordsworth settled on a final version of The Prelude. 9 This chapter explores what shifts in attitudes to authority are present in Wordsworth's revisions of The Prelude and whether or not they mirror other shifting contemporary attitudes. The Oxford Movement, or Tractarianism, exerted considerable influence among conservative Anglican s in the wake of the Reform Act As a push for doctrinal reform within the church its co nnections to the political life of the nation are infrequently discussed except in terms of its reactionary nature. Yet the interlocking attitudes to authority in politics and religion should be plainly obvious: at the end of the ancien regime the Establis hed religion was a political force, and the government had legitimacy at least partly because of the official religion of the state. The political event most often linked to analyses of The Prelude is quite obviously the French Revolution, which Wordsworth comments on explicitly and at great length in the poem. This political commentary will receive some brief analysis in my discussion, but the specifically British context of the Reform Act and the Oxford Movement will be my focus. 10 Peter Nockles 9 Textual scholars often reject much of the 1838/39 Prelude (MS E) because of inconsistencies by one of the scribes and a realization that William Wordsworth did not closely supervise this formalization of his notes on an earli er draft. So, many turn to MS D from 1832 or MS C for portions that MS D is missing. The dating of these manuscripts, while important, does not necessarily change the overall position I'm advocating: Wordsworth shared similar concerns to the writers of The Tracts for the Times and imagined similar responses to these problems. Wordsworth's changes over the course of the teens, twenties, and thirties add up to a final picture greatly different from his first draft. 10 Wordsworth interestingly bemoans the lack o f influence clergy had in Parliament in a letter to Southey from around the beginning of the reform era in mid December 1828 (Hill The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth III Part I : 1821 1828 687). Another letter from a few weeks earlier carries th ese same complaints and Wordsworth ex presses disapproval for the Reform Act later on, and draws on Burke as his inspiration for this position (Hill Letters of William Wordsworth: A New Selection 253). I address James K. Chandler on Burke's influence over Wordsworth below, but I present these interesting personal comments on the political situation less as
211 suggests t (323). 11 The influence of French politics on Wordsworth, the Anglican Church, a nd British society generally further indicates the intertwining aspect of social attitudes. 12 This chapter traces one of these changes in social attitudes: a parallel insistence on a greater sense of, and respect for, authority from the wider Oxford Movemen t to Wordsworth's final draft of The Prelude. The claim that the Tractarians and Wordsworth reacted in similar ways to the changing political landscape suggests how poetry, religious thinking, and politics are mutually influential. There are no one way str eets of influence in the outline of how thinking about authority changed during the Romantic and early Victorian eras. Of later poets and church leaders, literary critic Robert Ryan says ive] judgment of those two Church leaders [Keble and Kingsley] on Wordsworth was their perception 13 Also, Nockles s dynamism, imbued with biographical support for my position per the revisions of The Prelude than as representative of one Anglican's High Church thinking per the changing social and electoral world. 11 Nockles's The Oxford Movement in Context and S. A. Skinner's Tractarians and the 'Condition of England' are excellent starting points for information on the Oxford Movement/Tractarianism. Nockles focuses on the continuities of Oxford Movement thinking with earlier High Church thinkers (and places the Tract writers in relationship to other Anglican movements) while Skinner argues that the Tractarians were not detached from social concerns but were actively engaged in thinking through the problems of the British nation. 12 Colin Jager notes that much important scholarship on Wordsworth by critics like Bloom, Abrams, and Hartman ue for the Wordsworth who composed the 1805 Prelude but does not function as well in a reading of The Prelude as a historical artifact that bears the marks of many decades of revision. Jager's like thought and metaphors in their work their contribution to secularization should be criticized and probably rejected. 13 t is difficult to distinguish between the political and the religious a spects of the cultural transformation experienced by English society at the beginning of the nineteenth century [...] Perhaps because British history demonstrated that religion was not the antagonist of social change but rather its most potent stimulus [.. .] the Romantic poets accepted the role of religion as a dynamic ideology behind social and political 4). My argument jibes with Ryan's, even though I depart with him methodologically (he is concerned with aesthetic value).
212 the spirit of Romanticism, proved to be the winning, almost secret power which enabled the Movement to capture the hearts as well as minds of the rising generation in the Oxford of the 14 The success of one side of the m ovement, poetry, in changing social attitudes helped the success of another element of the same movement, theology. Arguing that Wordsworth and the Oxford Movement reacted to the politics of the era in a similar way does not equate with claiming that Wor dsworth was a conservative Anglican with Catholic Church like tendencies. 15 Stephen Gill, a leading Wordsworth scholar today, suggests that our contemporary British and American scholars want to claim Wordsworth for their own positions: as Anglican leaning 16 But Gill notes that several of Wordsworth's 1830s era works were influenced by the Anglican C hurch. He says: Ecclesiastical Sketches (1822), the essay presented as a 'Postscript' to the Yarrow Revisited collection (1835), and many of the memorials of the 1837 Italian tour published in Poems, Chiefly of Early and Late Year s (1842), were evidence of [Wordsworth's] interest in the evolution of the Anglican Church, of his reverence 14 Linda Dowling poi Waterloo and pre Reform Bill periods had through repetition and accommodation and as Trygvy Tholfsen has argued, through their assimilation to a familiar langua ge of Romantic aspiration been seemingly brought to a governmental reform rather than only radically oriented. 15 Wordsworth was actually quite anti Catholic in ter ms of his personal opinions. 16 material which allowed Wordsworth to reconcile himself with Christianity. But Wordsworth never reconciled himself with p uritan emphases such as eternal punishment, an extreme extension of the doctrines of original sin and atonement. The French Revolution presented Wordsworth with the opportunity to fashion an Orthodox Christianity which nevertheless had disposed of atonemen in secular eras (340). Deboo would like Anglicans today to pay attention to t is only now, I hold, that the Anglican tradition is beginning As such, it medieval forms of Christianity has more than just faith in its target. In an era when religious diversity only seems to increas e every day in Britain, the States, and elsewhere a call to return to an era of public burnings for apostasy and monastic control of much local governance seems particularly xenophobic. Deboo is one of several critics wanting to reinvigorate our own era wi th religious forms from yesteryear; I comment on this position more thoroughly at the end of the chapter.
213 for its social function, and of his growing sense of its importance as a conduit for spiritual values in the decade following the triumph of Reform. (205) Furthermore, Gill accepts that the influence of Wordsworth's brother Christopher along with Newman and K eble attempting to bring Wordsworth around to Oxford Movement like views may have had some effect on his poetry; if these several factors did not, the young Frederick Faber certainly did (207 210). 17 Faber was a young scholar (b. 1814) when in the mid '30s he became convinced of the truth behind Tractarianism. Faber was also a poet, resident clergy in the Lake District, and Wordsworth's friend; when he followed on Newman's heels as a convert to Rome he lost Wordsworth's respect. Gill further claims that Wor dsworth's poetry at times was directly influenced by Faber, who was present at Oxford during the circulation of the Tracts Gill's work draws on B. W. Martin's analysis of the poetic influence of Wordsworth on Keble and Faber. Martin says, oubt that Wordsworth was a major poetic influence on both Keble and Faber; conversely, as Wordsworth became more closely concerned with church affairs he fell under the Gill mor e ordsworth revised existing poems into greater conformity with an Anglo Catholic interpretation. In two cases there is documentary evidence that Faber was the specific cause and in the third it is most likely that neglects extended analysis of The Prelude ; yet, The Prelude bears many markers of change toward a greater respect for authority civil and religious. 18 17 the man and the work ). The influence here is completely mutual. 18 Nancy Easterlin's tries to address questions about Wordsworth's views in a decidedly anti post structuralist way. Her insights about The Prelude explore the wo rkings of epistemology and religious experience in an incredibly subjective manner and dismiss political concerns
214 The analysis that follows focuses on a few positions that Wordsworth adopts in his revisions of The Prelude positions that writers of the Oxford Movement also took. 19 First I address how Wordsworth chops away at the rampant egotism of the 1805 Prelude in order to make room for more than just himself in the retelling of his life; the new presentation of his life's details make room for more true priests. For in the 1805 Prelude Wordsworth has assumed the role of priest for himself too often, and this false role contrasts with the rigid respect for clerical orders demanded by the Tractarians and Wordsworth in their response to the shifting political landscape. Similarly, an increased respect for the liturgy as having real effects and a heightened reticence to present himself as performing ceremonies mirrors the Oxford Movement's respect for the ritual forms of religion. Then I address the interlocking nature of politics an d religion in Wordsworth's vision across eras (and in imaginations of early church and English history) to account for why an analysis of the church in Wordsworth is almost automatically also an analysis of the state. Finally, a consideration of contempora ry scholarship on Wordsworth and religion will provide a commentary on the role of, or possibility of, secularization in a democratic world. 20 A comparison between two portions of the 1805 and 1850 Prelude will highlight some of the changes that take place in the shift to a greater emphasis on the power of the creator and a explicitly and implicitly throughout the book. Yet, Easterlin does manage to consider Christianity a more advanced position than pantheism or monism and thereby imports a particularly piquant pro Christian bias in her attack on Freudian psychology as just too atheist (102; 20 21). Overall, she'd like to suggest that Wordsworth provides a good guide for our own religious journeys. 19 Wordswo rth and the Victorians analyzes the composition of the pamphlet Contributions of William Wordsworth to the Revival of Catholic Truths defense of the incendiary Tract 90 Wordsworth did not want to take sides publicly in the debate, but some of his friends felt that he had. 20 democratic society. He wants poetry to save us. Such a po sition is only possible if we believe the doctrine of original sin, that humanity is already damned (26).
215 he mind of man is framed even like the breath / And harmony of music. There is a dark / Invisible workmanship that re conciles / 55). Whereas by 1850, immortal Spirit grows / Like harmony in music; there is a dark / Inscrutable workmanship that 44). These parallel lines from Book First come directly before the much discussed late night boat stealing scene where Nature leads the young Wordsworth into a sublime (and probably sexualized) encounter with herself. That Wordsworth here reorients the opening of such a memorable moment in an attempt to blur the intense focus on himself suggests that he wants to emphasize the nonhuman power pres init ially emphasizes the human's ability to see but then again alters the notion to make sight revised power insists on engagement but not comprehension. The obfuscatio n also serves to remind readers that not all processes religious here, but political as well are easily understood by all. Wordsworth seems to be evoking a god of mysterious ways whose methods should not be questioned. means! But I believe / That Nature, oftentimes, when she would frame / A favor'd being, from his earliest daw n / Of infancy doth open out the clouds / As at the touch of lightning, seeking him
216 / With gentlest visitation: [...] Does it delight her sometimes to employ / Severer interventions, 372). Compare this to the later, more employ! / Whether her fearless visitings, or those / That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light / Opening the peaceful clouds, or she may use / Severer interventions, ministry / More palpable, as 356). 21 rather than allo wing for any pantheistic or naturalistic meanings to color his singular intentions. 22 description highlights several of the motives Wordsworth kept in mind as he revised the poem. Wordsworth's egoism in this particular poem kept him from publishing it during his lifetime (or his fear of the public revelation of his egoism) He planned to publish it once he was able to finish The Recluse of which The Prelude was t o form a part. His own sensitivity to charges of egoism account for the lessening of his self longer open for his infancy so centrally in the revision. But this self erasure has somewhat 21 A brief note on M. H. Abrams's central argument about The Prelude from his Natural Supernaturalism might prove instructive. For Abrams argued that much of the poetry of the Romantic era was a secularizing force; Christian conceptions of the world and the place of humanity in it were giving way to literary and non Christian thinking. And elements of Christianity were being repurposed for secular use. In The Prelude The Prelude of 1805 had no need for an external Redeemer, because in that poem the function had been vested in a Wordsworth's mind. 22 argues that Wordsworth himself finds the Bible inherently i nteresting and, to a degree, allows characters in his poem to have the same perspective when they The Book of God McCracken, drawi that the Bible's interest to Wordsworth resides in its stock of poetic imagination, its stock of dramatic imagination, and its power to engage the ible as well as contemplating Nature led The Prelude deserves consideration as an element of religious expression, yet I have focused on the expressly religious language in The Pre lude and the role of the poet within nature in analyzing the religious positions taken throughout The Prelude
217 broader conseque nces than simply lessening the reader's distaste for Wordsworth's vanity: the lack of any object/agent for Nature to smile upon refocuses the poetic heft onto Nature herself. The sense of a communion with Nature, or of Nature animating any works completed by Distance from the divine, respect, and the inability of human self determination become apparent in this moment. Erasing the self, particularly the layman's self, from a central place in religious ritual practice is a major thrust of The Tracts for the Times The early tract No. 12: Richard Nelson I checks any notion that religious services can be conducted without a priest. Yet, this tract celebrates the role of a well read parishioner educating other parishioners outside of religious services but with some guidance from a preacher. Both this tract and Wordsworth's shifting position react to the notion that laypeople might step outside their proper boundaries in ov er zealous worship. Apparently, laypeople should recognize what they can contribute and stay out of where they do not belong. The respect demanded for the clergy in this formulation of religious Prelu de Other early tracts address the possibility that a layperson would overstep boundaries. No. 11: The Visible Church provides extensive criticism of people who do not submit to the authority of their local clergy. It reads, in part: To proceed, consider the following passage: "Obey them that have rule over you, doubtless in a manner really actuated by Christian principle, who yet wander about from church to church, or from church t o meeting, as sheep without a shepherd, or who choose a preacher merely because he pleases their taste, and whose first movement towards any clergyman they meet, is to examine and criticize his doctrine: what conceivable meaning do they put upon these word s of the Apostle? Does any one rule over them? do they in any way submit themselves ? ( Tracts 7)
218 This tract and others like it address an evil that the writers of the Tracts wanted to eradicate: the lack of hierarchies among some congregations in Britain. Some Dissenters' church organization allowed unordained elders a large role in local ministries, with often as much influence as that of the priests. The Tract writers at least wanted to warn any English Anglican congregations from attempting to institute a less stratified organization. And the advice applies broadly: parishioners need to learn to keep their heads down and not wander from congregation to congregation. The writer emphasizes submission and rule to advocate a clear form of church organization that demands respect for authority. Submission in The Prelude often comes through re role in nature and human society. Wordsworth's partial self erasure, often in passages invoking religion, happens consistently in the rev isions between 1805 and 1850. A typical example, 1805 11.233 34) becomes (1850 12.184 85). Here the subtracting the self coincides with the addition of religious piety and a spiritual agent. Wordsworth's approach to solving the problem of an unchecked egoism involves invoking holine ss and doctrine. Alone, this casual switch might not indicate an alignment with the aims of the Oxford Movement, but Wordsworth carefully reduces his self The Oxford Movement gre atly exalted the role of the clergy in relationship to his flock; more than just a shepherd herding a flock, a clergyman could provide access to grace through ritual performance (liturgy, baptism, etc. ) because of the sacrament. As such, Nockles's suggesti
219 primarily directed. All who in the context of the challenge of Dissent and Whig ecclesiastical reform in the early 1830s felt conservatively disposed in religion and poli tics, rallied to the landscape (274). Wordsworth's abnegation of his earlier self characterization as a priest aligns him more squarely with the Tractarian's chan ging thought. Practically the opening of The Prelude (1805) poetic numbers came / Spontaneously, and cloth'd in priestly robe / My spirit, thus singled out, as it might seem, / 64). The slight change by 1850 reflects a hesitancy to prophecy: poetic numbers came / Spontaneously to cloth in priestly robe / A renovated Spirit 54). No longer does Wordsworth directly claim his spirit wears a priestly robe, but instead claims that the robe covers a spirit that he hopes was his. This small change reflects larger thinking about the role of the priesthood in society and the respect due to clergy. o other authority than his own good pleasure, [a layman might] proceed to baptize, or to administer the bread and would be nothing short of a mockery of that gr eat and awful Being, of whose gifts these sacred argument. The writer further details and separates the responsibilities of the several levels of clergymen and bishops. This anonymous layman also strongly advocates for the absence of politics in religious affairs by arguing that Parliament cannot make one a priest (2). The Prelude
220 by 1850 practically bears out the exact concern of laymen assuming priestly roles, and the related concerns of Tract Five 's author cannot be entirely absent from Wordsworth's thinking. Again, I'm not suggesting that Wordsworth has this Tract in mind when revising The Prelude but Wordsworth is responding in similar ways to the threat of social change as the writers of the Tracts did. Asserting the necessity of increased respect for priests registered a protest with the changing political landscape of Gre at Britain. For the first time men who did not own a literal stake in the nation had a say in their gov ernance as the Great Reform Act of 1832 allowed some non landowners the vote in elections for the House of Commons. Rather than having Members of Parliam ent being, essentially, appointed to their positions by the wealthiest elite much like members of the Anglican clergy found themselves in possession of their offices and livings through the kindness of the elite, the new Members of Parliament were more sub ject to the approval of their constituents as Dissenting ministers were subject to the approval of their parishioners. Such an erosion in the power of the elite to govern the nation and to provide spiritual guidance for their renters provoked a massive ret hinking of politics and religion. In The Prelude frequently does Wordsworth make sweepi ng claims for a priestly role for Nature. For example, 1850 but he cuts
221 role, but it cannot sanctify in the revision. 23 Not incidentally, sanctification was a major question in the minds of the Tractarians. Nockles says: The doctrine of Justification represented the main source of theological dispute between Protestants and Roman Catholics at the Reformation. Protestants decisively repudiated what they regarded as the Roman Catholic doctrine of merit and notion of an inherent or infused r ighteousness in man attainable through obedience and good works. Following Luther, the Reformers held a forensic doctrine of Justification by Faith alone whereby righteousness was imputed to man. Faith, it was insisted, was not a work. (256) Here, justification is the process by which humanity has the possibility of being saved, whereas d not rendered in any way dependent on either individual good works or the efficacy of the sacraments. Justification was doctrinally acceptable role for nature i n the revision; the historical differences between Catholicism and Protestantism of achieving redemption through works or faith peeks through the pages of The Prelude in Wordsworth's revisions. The liturgical emphasis on the ability of the priest to perf orm all powerful holy rituals will be considered a bit later in this chapter, but Wordsworth invokes increased consideration for ministrations ( 1805 10.682 / 1850 11.96). While Wordsworth does not revise all mentions of holy orders in The Prelude for instance the 1850 23 On the question of sanctification regarding another passage in The Prelude Nancy Easterlin says, Wordsworth's uses of religious lang uage seem primarily rhetorical and literary rather than traditionally religious [...] Wordsworth invokes typology in the process of expressing undiscoverable meaning. In this case, Wordsworth seems to have chosen religious language for its sanctifying prop (104). Easterlin might provide some insight into the sanctifying language of 1805 but by 1850 sanctification is mostly sidelined.
222 shift slightly (4.334 45). By 1850 this blessedness is characterized as r of course but he insists that he takes his poetic vocation as seriously as any clergyman could take his job. Wordsworth still recognizes that the stakes for a c lergyman are higher (a failed poet only ruins himself and maybe his family, not his entire community's eternal souls), but he wants to find a language to describe his own semi anointed role. This increased respect for holy orders comes because of their i ncreased importance in Wordsworth's changing mind. In an 1805 description of a metaphorical shepherd as priest, 66). The shepherd's role as l eader morphs into a stricter role by 1850. The lines then read 72). Now the shepherd acts as a ruler in addition to a guide; the shepherd also now belongs to God or Christ. The representation of a stronger priest follows a description of the possibly damaging effects of a priest on his flock; this cautionary description is almost entirely newly formed as an appropriate lead out from a (also newly minted) pan egyric for Edmund Burke. 24 In 1805 24 Robert Ryan reminds us that t such an identification between Church and State in the national consciousness and to defend the ecclesiastical establishment as an indispensable barrier against revolution. The strategy was successful; religion became an increasingly important factor in the revolutionary debate, one that grew in significance as the prevailing revolutionary ideology in France became more militantly anti The Prelude Burke's argument for a religious sta te cannot be far from Wordsworth's mind. James K. Chandler, in Wordsworth's Second Nature makes the argument that Wordsworth's thinking was aligned with Burke's from the beginning of his poetic career, obvious in 1793's Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff an d long before his great decade of poetic composition (1797 1807). This argument runs rather against the grain of much of Wordsworth studies which see a young radical, and possible revolutionary, who became conservative and fairly anti democratic in old age Yet, Chandler seems to be arguing that while Wordsworth may have disagreed with Burke's conclusions about the French Revolution in his youth, he
223 follies: other public Shows / The Capital City teems with, of a kind / More light, and where but did the Pulpit's oratory fail / To achieve its higher triumph. Not unfelt / Were its admonishments, nor lightly heard / The awful truths delivered thence by tongues / Endowed with various power to search the soul; / Yet ostentation, domineering, oft / Pour 50). The critique of showy priests typifies much Tractarian thinking, 25 but Wordsworth stresses the danger to the flock and the priestly abuse of power in the revision because of the reverberations such co rruptions might cause. 26 A strong critique of the church follows this passage; a potentially corrupt priest also poses a great threat in Oxford Movement Anglican thinking. For unlike Evangelicalism, which often valued justification and redemption through fa ith alone, this brand of Anglicanism placed much of the Church's redemptive power in the hands of the liturgical officiant. The liturgy and rituals passed grace on to the penitent; faith alone would not render the sinner sanctified. Wordsworth also place s increasing emphasis on the power of the liturgy while revising The Prelude Stephen Gill, the leading Wordsworth scholar, gives us this analysis per Wordsworth's shorter late poetry; when prodded Wordsworth: did agree with many of Burke's tenets; furthermore, Wordsworth even adopted Burke's line of thinking about thinking across great p eriods of time rather than a theory that sees any political expression as a temporary assemblage of attitudes that are each subject to change, but Chandler's argument does work as a nice corrective to ell 25 reverence and an avoidance of show. There was a consciously anti Evangelical animus to the Trac tarian presentation outdoor tent revivalist meetings, for instance became doctrinal points of difference, styles could become doctrinal as well. 26 James Eli Adams points to how the piety of T ractarians could be read as a dandy's performance in Dandies and Desert Saints
224 responded with three sonnets, serving, he said 'to qualify or mitigate the Condemnation which by conscience I am compelled to pass upon the abuses of the Roman See' and with a further six upon church services, which he thought desirable 'wanting to complete the notice of the English Liturgy'. Though Faber complained that they did not come up to his wish, the new sonnets colour the latter part of the sequence strongly, revealing how far the poet had moved towards Faber's goal that he should become 'more affectionately disposed towards authority & dogma '. (my italics 214) that he has responded directly in the Ecclesiastical Sonnets suggests an openness to revision elsewhere. The use of liturgical reference and lang uage is less striking in The Prelude than in references to other doctrinally specific issues like the role of priests or the ancient church. In 1805 / Observance 06 207). These lines are cut by 1850, which suggests that Wordsworth reserves actual, priest led worship. In addition to an increased respect for the liturgy, Wordswor th wants to hedge his bets in terms of the likelihood that he will be branded a pantheist or atheist, since no Some of the opening lines in The Prelude receive revision per liturgical doctrine, but these revisions might work in a slightly different pattern than most of the other revisions relating to religious expression. Wordsworth retains a reference to the beginning of the era of his 54). This co opting of the religious life to describe his own less than priestly vocation does not entirely survive. Yet, by 1850, Wordsworth has employed a more strictly religious vocabulary. He says
225 (1850 1.44 45). Here, the invocation of religious music as a descriptor for his poetry and the opting of the liturgy by the non clerical Wordsworth. Rather unlike the rest of the revision s that seem in lockstep with the Oxford Movement, this one presents Wordsworth as an active Priest of nature. A few telltale (rather than the earlier declaration ) and so becomes more tentative. Furthermore, rather than music and so assumes the role of hymn writer, which is not a strictly clerical position. The revision ary pattern here in terms of the liturgy is more fraught than other examples and reveals that Wordsworth did not respond to the changing social landscape in lockstep with the Tractarians. The liturgical elements of The Prelude overlap at least once with a focus on an ancient, if not Christian, church: in a vision of an ancient rite, Druids perform a ritual sacrifice around one of England's mysterious, man made stone formations. Wordsworth displaces his sense of the early church onto the non Christian Drui ds rather than early Christianity in Britain probably because early Christianity in Britain would have to be rendered an unsavory Catholic, and if Wordsworth tried to represent early Christianity elsewhere in the world he would lose the connection to the p articularized English geography that animates many of his early memories. 1850 includes one salient extra line compared to 1805 which directly connects Wordsworth to the imagined Druidic event (13.320). As such, deep religious history matters more for Wordsworth by 1850. The Tractarian emphasis on one vision of the ancient Christian church, with its religious fervor and assumed episcopal lineage, was a
226 significant part of their claim for authority. For a direct li ne from the current head of the church, traced back through the Reformation to the Roman Catholic C hurch and then to the first Pope, and Christ himself, provided unadulterated authenticity. As such, the expanded references to Druids and the ancient church in The Prelude (1850) work as a displaced contemporary anxiety about the loss of the authority of the Anglican C hurch in early nineteenth century Britain. 27 As references to Druidic rites makes clear, the displacement is across both history and faith. The versions, also picks up a mention of Druids by 1850 ( 1805 114; 1850 107). Writing ancient priests into The Prelude produces several resonances with the Oxford Movement. History, widely construed, begins to take on meanings at both the personal level and for the nation as a added meanings when considering the Tractarians use thei r version of ancient history as a guide the ones performed in early Christian churches. 28 27 Compare William A. Ulmer's own take on the state of religiously oriented contemporary scholarship on Romanticism is everywhere marked by e xtreme forms of displacement and poetic conceptualization whereby the actual human issues with which the poetry is concerned are resituated in a variety of idealized localities.' This opposition of history to idealization has encouraged the attitude that t he spiritual proclamations of a Romantic text are precisely what we are not interested in that those affirmations are not historically authentic in their own right abandons much specificity in doctrinal analysis for a thesis that essentially argues that Wordsworth is Christian (Anglican, even) throughout t Doctrinal accommodation had been an unofficial Anglican policy from the time of early Latitudinarian consolidations. In its conservatism, the Anglican Church resisted doctrinal reform, of course, cherishing its ideological differences from dissenting sects. But Anglican officials traditional ly displayed considerable tolerance and flexibility regarding membership 24). This consideration of doctrine includes the convenient dismissal of any particular analysis of doctrine. Of course, my argument suggests that this blindspot serves to normalize the doctrinally specific positions leftover in our own imagination of democracy. 28 specific position can be read th is a formal strategy of the text itself signalling Wordsworth's wider concerns about language and violence, rather
227 Bishop Bull's take on ancient liturgies in Tract 64 uses evidenc Liturgies agree in this Form of Prayer almost in the same words, but fully and exactly in the same sense, order, and method; which whosoever attentively considers, must be convinced that this order of prayer was delivered to the s everal churches in the first plantation and settlement of somewhat early tract already shows the reactionary turn the Movement took to discredit claims that it was too heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism, but the emphasis by Bishop Bull on the absence of historical contingency for the liturgy suggests a unified, pure church that has survived intact from earlier eras. 29 The felt need for continuity reveals Tra ctarian nervousness about changes in the political and religious settlement of the era. And Tract 64 builds on the work in Tract 63 that attempts to prove the four structures of the liturgy at use throughout the Christian world derive from four writers wor king roughly contemporaneously in the very early years of Christianity as the liturgies have all the same basic elements just in different orders. This led Bull and others to posit the existence of one foundational liturgy. Their insistence on a universal form of liturgical worship that centers on a leading divine and survives fairly unchanged from deep history reflects the Tractarian assertion of one irenic version of history for a political and religious hegemony that appeared to be slipping away. than a furtive attempt to bury history. In the final part, I suggest that the Simplon Pass episode offers a crossing of the Alps crossing th e Alps offers a critique of the sort of allegorical readings of apocalypse which both in Wordsworth's day and our own religious and the political in a rare and salient way among scholars of Wordsworth and religion. 29 This of course reveals tension inherent in Christian thought when compared to the more common use of linear, eschatological history.
228 The f ocus on the ancient church as a guide for the contemporary one is plain in Wordsworth's appeal to schoolmasters who he fears profane religion in forcing it upon their charges. Here, the anxiety about political change seems less displaced and significantly more direct, as Wordsworth calls on the populace for a different kind of worship. After a wistful description of his inability to excel at studying books as he excelled in the study of nature, Wordsworth says: But spare the house of God. Was ever known The witless Shepherd who would drive his flock With serious repetition to a pool Of which 'tis plain to sight they never taste? A weight must surely hang on days, begun And ended with worst mockery: be wise, Ye Presidents and Deans, and to your Bells Give sea sonable rest; for 'tis a sound Hollow as ever vex'd the tranquil air ( 1805 3.415 423) The revised version contains a significant appeal to the religious fervor of ancient times and emphasizes the temporally contingent world. In the revised version, Wordswo rth describes the we continues with a parallel passage on the evils of enforced religious observance (original emphasis retained 3.403): But spare the house of G od. Was ever known The witless Shepherd who persists to drive A flock that thirsts not to a pool disliked? A weight must surely hang on days begun And ended with such mockery. Be wise, Ye Presidents, and Deans, and till the spirit Of ancient Times revive, and Youth be trained At home in pious service, to your bells Give seasonable rest, for 'tis a sound Hollow as ever vexed the tranquil air; And your officious doings bring disgrace On the plain Steeples of our English Church,
229 Whose worship, 'mid remotest Vi llage trees, Suffers for this. ( 1850 3.408 421) 30 we that centers in the home and that Wordsworth fears has been lost to apathy and the regulations of eference to the ancient church acts as a cure missing from the first description of an ailing church, and while Wordsworth does not invoke truly millenial rhetoric, the cure suggests a shared necessity of historical progress. As a conservative, nostalgic m ovement, Wordsworth's invocation of the ancient church aligns the poem more directly with anti progressive political thinking. That this statement refers to politics just as broadly as it does to church reform will become even more apparent after an analys is of the potential for political change that Wordsworth discusses in relation to the French Revolution. Wordsworth begins the description of his time in France with one of the most significant metaphors invoked throughout The Prelude that of a river. Yet this description seems different, as several lines describe the river that bends back upon itself in both 1805 and 1850 but Wordsworth's nostalgia for the earlier era is more evident by 1850 because of added lines that describe a backward looking traveler These lines help distance the later anti revolutionary Wordsworth from the earlier Wordsworth who identified with revolutionary feelings and values, if not means. The displacement of anxieties about the changing political landscape of early nineteenth ce ntury Britain to invocations of early Christian church history takes on further meanings as Wordsworth's traveler looks back upon a just 30 The last four lines are essentially unchanged.
230 has gained the brow / Of some aerial Down, while there he halts / For breathing t ime, is tempted to review / The region left behind him; and if aught / Deserving notice have escaped regard, / Or been regarded with too careless eye, / Strives, from that height, with one, and yet one more / Last look, to make the amends he may, / So have 1850 9.9 17). For with these words the poet will now move into a direct consideration of the political landscape of pre Revolutionary and Revolutionary France. The Prelude can be read as a political poem detailing one nature enthusiast's rea ction to the French Revolution and its causes; this reading, while illuminating, suggests that religious doctrine would have little import in its interpretation. Yet, the politics advocated by Wordsworth throughout the poem is based on particular ideas of religious expression. The sense that religious particularity shapes much of the political statements made by Wordsworth does not change significantly from 1805 to 1850; if anything, the already religious/political poem of 1805 becomes simply more religious in its foundation for political thought. The insight that religion drives politics in The Prelude underscores my argument that the incorporation of religious doctrine similar to that of the Oxford Movement has political motivations. These political motiva tions are mostly reactionary; that this form of religious doctrine is being left behind by the formation of a new national voting body is part of the reason those in authority feel the need to assert the rights of authority even more strongly. Wordsworth 's vision of politics becomes clear in an analysis of the nation and its citizens. A passage from the 1850 version of the poem well illustrates one of two semi contradictory ideas that Wordsworth holds in play throughout The Prelude concerning the role of equal citizens in the reformed nation. After discussing academic/Cambridge life, Wordsworth writes: That we were brothers all In honour, as in one community,
231 Scholars and Gentlemen; where, furthermore, Distinction lay open to all that came, And wealth and titles were in less esteem Than talents, worth, and prosperous industry. Add unto this, subservience from the first To Presences of God's mysterious power Made manifest in Nature's sovereignty, And fellowship with venerable books, To sanction the proud workings of the Soul, And mountain liberty. It could not be But that one tutored thus should look with awe Upon the faculties of man, receive Gladly the highest promises, and hail, As best, the government of equal rights And individual worth. ( 1850 9.227 2 43) 1805 and this increased emphasis on the sometimes intangible but often defining quality particular to the gentleman scholars who comprise his community suggests political exclusi vity. These ideas of excl usivity versus universality will often create a contradiction in the political vision of The Prelude this most just government bears Wordsworth's repetition in The Prelude. 31 Indeed, as Wordsworth discusses the role of individual men in forming the new nation, he cannot help but attribute the qualiti es necessary for this nation themes, / Man and his noble nature, as it is / The gift which God has placed within his power, / His blind desires and steady faculties / Capable of clear truth, the one to break / Bondage, th e other to build liberty / On firm foundations, making social life, / Through knowledge spreading 31 The new lines [t]o presences of God's mysterious power / originally 1805 (238 39). That Wordsworth has broken apart God and Nature into s eparate and interacting entities suggests a revised notion of grace, a subject worth more extensive consideration.
232 ( 1850 9.354 363). Here the class bound exclusivity of some of hi s other statements seems less integral, and this move matches a slightly later call for an end to poverty and for greater self governance ( 1850 9.520 532). Doctrine drives this push for universality in terms of self governance; in another passage all souls have the same internal (God given) guidance to discriminate between right and wrong, and this power demands greater equality. 1850 reads: undisturbed of right and wrong, / Of life and death, in majesty severe / Enjoining, as may best promote the aims / Of Truth and justice, either sacrifice, / From whatsoever region of our cares / Or our infirm affections nature pleads, / Earnest and blind, against the stern de 1850 10.182 90). Here Wordsworth argues that even if human actors have been misle d, an internal voice shall guide them to truth and justice. These lines, new to 1850 further underscore how central belief is for Wordsworth's political imaginary. P ossibly as a model for how Wordsworth envisions breaking down some of the class barriers inherent in the exclusivity model of governance that I have been outlining, Wordsworth discusses his friend Michel Beaupuy in particularly religious and class bound te birth he ranked / With the most noble, but unto the Poor / Among mankind he was in service 1850 9.302 306). That Wordsworth has imagined charity work in terms of t he duties of a religious order suggests the slippery, probably dissoluble division between religion and governance. The vows he has imagined Beaupuy taking would lead to a lifetime devotion to the poor; as such, Beaupuy resembles one of the priests Wordswo rth has accorded extra respect in 1850 (and rather interestingly Wordsworth allows the Beaupuy to keep a priestly role while having eliminated basically all references to himself as such). The extra governmental role Beaupuy assumes here
233 accords with a vis ion of landed gentry caring for their dependents. This, of course, reduces the role of the state in favor of a church supported hierarchy. The valuation of the church over the state becomes apparent in the 1850 version of the poem as Wordsworth berates re volutionary forces for meddling in church affairs. Wordsworth uses all new lines in 1850 to call for reason to equalize the relationship between monarch and peasant. Then, after defending the monks of Grande Chartreuse, who Wordsworth says have been unjust ly expelled from their monastery, Wordsworth views the outdoors with refreshed uplifted eyes beheld, / In different quarters of the bending sky, / The Cross o f Jesus stand erect, as if / Hands of angelic Powers had fixed it there, / Memorial reverenced by a thousand Storms; / Yet then, from the undiscriminating sweep / And rage of one State 1850 6.481 89). Miraculously, as the government i oversize crucifixes appear to Wordsworth in what had seemed to be an open, empty expanse. This seemingly fantastic visitation provides no better moment to criticize over reaching, indiscriminate governmental fo rces that should not interfere in church affairs. Wordsworth also accounts for the loss of national pride as a falling away from God in another passage that appears similarly in 1805 and 1850 ( 1850 10. 300 314). I hope that by highlighting Wordsworth's depe ndence on religious thinking and particularized religious doctrine throughout the revisions of The Prelude that I have suggested how important it is to consider the political and religious vision of The Prelude as inextricably linked by the 1850 edit. That Wordsworth takes increasingly similar positions to the Oxford Movement as time progresses should further indicate how Wordsworth thinks of politics and the French Revolution in narrowly religious terms. The too great possibilities of monumental chang e
234 in the face of the Reform Act of 1832 drove Wordsworth and the writers of Oxford Movement tracts to advocate a kind of respect for authority that would not again accurately characterize the interactions between citizens and their government. Importantly, Word sworth's call for a greater deference to authority turns on a conception of free will, much like Thomas Cooper's rejection of predestination, which I discussed in the last chapter, also requires a specific conception of the will. Cooper's vision of democra cy demands that each voter exercise free will, as a theological imperative, to secure greater equality for all while the later Wordsworth expects free will to lead to deference, strong authority, and unitary political and religious governance. They share t he notion that the political and religious are linked, even if they come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. The political implications of scholarship on religion are ever apparent today; several of the theologically minded critics cited in the footnotes to this chapter have obvious agendas regarding the role of Christianity in the contemporary world. These critics attack secular university goals and religiously neutral policies that support diverse expressions of religious belief in our universi ties, and by extension, the world at large by advocating theological goals in readings of nineteenth century literature and religion. That the people who take Christian revivalist religious positions are also the primary group who study nineteenth century literature and religion is further a matter for concern. If Christian revivalists are the only ones who take religion in politics seriously they exert great historical power that cannot be dealt with simply by denying the importance of religion today. Elio t's vision of the Reform Era might suggest that her contemporaries, which include twenty first century scholars if we put too much stock in her vision, disregard religion in public, political life. That a significant number of these scholars are working ag ainst the idea that Western society ever secularized, along with a public that continues
235 to profess high levels of belief and politicians who espouse dominant Christian beliefs (either sincerely or ambitiously), suggests that secularization happened among a relatively small group of thinkers. And not all academics secularized: recall Pecora's notion of secularity as always already Christian. I'm obviously asking for a different definition of secularity. The secular class of political leaders, academics, an d artists may have set the tone for much of the long twentieth have much dominance in the popular political realm and is almost certainly losing ground in the Habermasian public sphere. T he lack of secularity in our form of government means dispiriting things if the state wants to promote a vibrant, religiously diverse populace. Much like S. A. Skinner asks for renewed, non theological but academic interest in Newman and the Oxford Movemen versus Hagiography: The Reception of Turner's Newman appreciate seeing a greater body of scholarship on the intersection of religion and politics in the nineteenth century. About loud and basically univocal Catholic critics of Victor Turner's massive hat is at stake is the legitimacy and remit of historical inquiry itself, when confronted with a vocal interest group whose principles and prejudices are is] between history itself and hagiography a religion are far from united, their work often harkens back probably unintentionally to methods of conceiving the int eraction of politics and religion in Wordsworth's own work. Seeking a greater understanding of the role of religion in the nineteenth century, during early struggles for democracy, shall only help critics today understand their own role in the continuing p roj ect of democracy. My next, penultimate chapter on Jane Austen explores her method for rejuvenating a linked religious and political leadership. This analysis should further clarify how
236 difficult it is for academics today to dislocate a democratic theory of governance from a specifically Protestant formulation of politics, especially if we are too invested in Eliot's vision of this era.
237 CHAPTER 8 JANE AUSTEN AND THE REGENERATION OF THE CLERGY Introduction A counter intuitive reading of George Eliot begins this dissertation, and a more directly intuitive reading of Jane Austen concludes it. By reading Eliot against the grain, I have been able to expose what looks like a discrete political agenda regarding th e disappearance of Protestant doctrine in the creation of a new governmental form for Britain, representative democracy. Of course I am not arguing that Eliot intended such an outcome; rather, her narratives had a different kind of initial reception, one t hat encouraged her contemporary readers to see their recent history in one particular way. This version of their history, incredibly secularized in governance, was fairly anti doctrinal or anti theological. And now, in the early twenty first century, her n ovels and short stories continue to occlude the vision of secularist critics who cannot always comprehend the place Christian religious thinking occupies indefinitely in our political life, British and American. Jane Austen's novels provide a counterpoint to Eliot's writing about the Reform Era. Austen's novels were written about twenty years before Eliot sets Middlemarch but they provide a picture of Georgian and Regency era England with which Eliot herself wrestled. Eliot biographer Gordon Haight tells u 1857 the Journal shows [Eliot and Lewes] reading aloud every one of [Austen's] novels except Pride and Prejudice which may simply have missed mention. George Eliot had read many of them before, and Lewes was one of the Lewes promoted the idea that Eliot was engaged in a similar project of representing the clergy could not possibly have read Austen's Mansfield Park (1814), with its extensive discussions of
238 the dangers of non resident clergy and the discontinuation of daily familial prayers, and represented her project as similarly anti theological with a straight face. While these religious questions are more technically about the health of the church (or the religious/spiritual health of the community the church serves) rat her than theological or doctrinal disputes, such questions are linked at least in Edmund Bertram's mind, but more on that later. 1 Austen does question the health of the clergy and the relationship between the church and the community it represents, and by doing so at least obliquely touches theological debates. Reproducing a stable, wealthy class of the clergy is a direct concern in at least two of Austen's novels, Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Mansfield Park Skirmishes in Austen criticism about whethe r or not she writes of a static semi oligarchic gentry, with or without an approving gaze, suggest that recent critics highly value her perspective and want to marshal her as evidence for or against political agendas active today. 2 In this 1 manners I speak of might rather be called conduct, perhaps, the result of good principles; the effect, in sho rt, of those doctrines which it is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe, Gene Koppel in The Religious Dimension of J ane Austen's Novels seem s to miss this point. He says, of religion in Jane Austen's novels has long perplexed critics. Though Jane Austen seldom deals with religion directly, and never (she would laugh at the thought) with theology, a great writer whose artistic and moral visions are so obviously and inextricably joined is bound to cause her readers to speculate on whether or not there is a she is suggesting a stricter adherence to doctrines or a greater doctrinal purity, again at least in Edmund Bertram's mind (Edmund does not absolutely stand in for the author, but his eventual reward of a happy marriage to a woman no less than an Austen h eroine, does suggest some alignment between his vision of morality and the novel's). She might even be arguing for a reinvigoration of such doctrines or possibly the inadequacy of these doctrines in the first place since they have not kept the church as he althy as it needs to be. All of these possibilities suggest that Austen's work does, in fact, have theological implications. 2 Recent critics trying to argue against semi leftist identity politics and Marxist scholarship seem to use Austen, particularly Au sten and religion, to make sweeping claims. I've used the footnotes, and some of the body of this chapter, to illuminate their positions. These attackers see unity of religious feeling, morality, and governance in Austen that the twenty first century lacks ; furthermore, they use Austen to suggest that our century should return to such unity. Michael Griffin makes an especially acid attack, saying, female victimhood and disadvantage tend to either overlook or to do wnplay the fact that Austen's novels contain (19). The corollaries to such an argument might be rather difficult to digest: since women can oppress men under patriarchy, patriarchy is not really a problem for women? women should accept such a system and seek to manipulate it much like some men? Of course Griffin is not saying these things, but the value system underlying his reading definitely needs i
239 conclusion I wou ld like to argue that her novels represent a continual remaking of the clergy or gentry class. 3 Rather than focus solely on the male characters who become clergy, Edmund Bertram and Edward Ferrars, I argue that Austen puts these two, their potential spouse s, and other potential clergy/spouses through several tests to determine their fitness for the office and whether or not they deserve the rainbow and sunshine endings that characterize marriage plot novels. 4 Importantly, I'm regarding the step into the cle rgy (or marriage with a clergyman) as a reward for righteous behavior; the assumption of sacral authority marks a success in these novels. 5 either her moralism or her con cern for individual happiness [but] for the most part, have not Essentially, virtue is rewarded with happiness and happiness is rewarded with virtue. The idea centering her novels in the consciousness of unempowered characters that is, women [...] instead of vindicating the Jaco explore those aspects of traditional institutions marriage, primogeniture, patriarchy which patently do not serve 3 somewhat interchangeably, for reasons that will become clear later in the chapter 4 Mansfield Park and many of the characters male and female and, crucially, ordination, and there are several senses in which it is, then the reader should understand that in the apostolic tradition of the Anglican Church ordination is about bestowing the gift of God the Holy Spirit on an ordinand to empower him (and now her) to exercise a priestly sacramental ministry in the church. But before ordination there is the t esting of vocation the calling to priesthood and certainly it is the testing of Edmund's vocation that neglected in the criticism of the novel. 5 I n this chapter I'm only making brief reference to the clergy in other novels, such as Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice who seems wholly unfit for the clergy; Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland of Northanger Abby (1818) will receive some brief discussi on later. Claudia Johnson points to novelists on the other side of the Jacobin/anti Jacobin position, conservative novelists have little choice but to idealize authority per se the authority of laws, of conventions, of customs, and, critiqued authority in the interest of improving, rather than undermining, it. Johns feminine tradition of political novels, [were] highly informed and often distinctively flexible, rather than ferociously partisan, in their sympathies [and that] Most of the novels written in the 'war of ideas' are more compl icated and less
240 that ri ght morality and religion overlap in Austen's novels and life is fairly widely accepted; that this overlap leads to happiness for her characters usually follows in critical arguments. Bruce virtue with happiness also r uns contrary to critics who think that religion merely provides a cover ntral to Jane Austen's fictional world; that it does not have a merely symbolic or even social function (though religion and morality are often spoken of together): and that without religious conviction there can be neither growth in an individual nor sust extreme point here, but her idea conveys the seriousness that imbues religious belief in Austen. 6 Additionally, I'd like to suggest that Austen is so busy making the case that her gentleman clergy character s need the guidance of a proper wife that the contingency of this governing elite is not truly contemplated; for while individual characters may fall from grace, such as Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park their falls do not threaten the classes they represen t. Widespread immorality could suggest hollowness or rottenness in a class, but Austen never allows an entire class or even an entire family to fall; the Crawfords may be immoral, but their sister Mrs. Grant retains respectability. 7 Also, I argue that acco rding to these novels it is not that 6 Felicia Bonaparte interestingly suggests something further about morality in Austen's work. She says Austen might seem like she's anti Essentially, Austen seeks to find a balance between personal freedom and duty. 7 Here I'm departing from Claudia Johnson, who argues that the Crawfords of Mansfield Park are mostly rotten. In and emotionally identified with the benighted figures who coerce and mislead her. This painful and richly problematic identification makes Mansfield Park Austen's most, rather than her least, ironic novel and a bitter
241 the clergy have all the right powers, interests, and concerns but that all the right feelings and concerns should be vested in the clergy; essentially, Edward Ferrars and Edmund Bertram become clergymen as a reward for their right feeling, civility, and civil duty. Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price can marry these good men because of their right feelings, civility, and proper attitudes to their duty. Taking these characteristics into their role as clergymen, and sussing ou t proper wifely support for their calling, makes for a clergy deserving of its social role and influence in Austen's Georgian England. In the highly didactic process of demonstrating and rewarding the ideal characteristics of the clergy, Austen brushes aga inst the doctrines, structures, and casual practices of the Established church. The novels present overt and covert comments on these doctrines, structures, and practices that paint an interesting picture of governance in the country counties of England. A lso, the continuity between the government and religious leaders is readily apparent in her novels; governance and religion are often interchangeable here. In showing how the governing class remakes itself in each generation, Austen's novels also occasiona lly give a fleeting view of what a changing England might look like; these often frightful suggestions show just how badly the governing class is needed for stability and a peaceful existence. Throughout, this dissertation has approached more recent criti cs writing on religion and politics as part of the question for how we continually justify the study of nineteenth century British literature, and how we use it to understand the ways politics are continually inflected with dic elements of the novels and downplays their role as comedies with happy endings. In setting Mansfield Park apart from the novels of her anti Jacobin patriarchal family nurtured moral sentiments, and that the same affections that make us dutiful children and feeling siblings make us obedient subjects and responsible members of our neighborhoods. But in Mansfield Park confidence in the moral tendencies, (99). This reading quite rightly points to the problems of family but seems to ignore how Austen charts a way forward for the plot of her novel and the cour se of the nation; see below for a further discussion.
242 religion in our representative democracy. Previous critics writing about Austen and religion or politics have focused on a variety of approaches, some proving especially relevant to my discussion for how critical approaches today need to account for their own investments in theologicall y oriented or secularly oriented criticism. For instance, Irene Collins's biographical takes illuminate Austen's deep connections to the clergy class. Peter Knox Shaw in Jane Austen and the Enlightenment emphasizes the connection between Austen and the Enl ightenment tradition, saying Enlightenment, more particularly from that sceptical tradition within it that flourished in England and Scotland during the second half of the eightee with religion as a target for investigation rightly considers the centrality of religion to philosophy and politics in Austen's era. He also reads Fanny and Edward in Mansfield Park as having Evangelical leanings or as Austen's critique of Evangelicalism (174). 8 The engagement with Evangelicalism is repeated in other critical takes. For instance, Anne Crippen Ruderman also ever Ruderman is also the critic who argues that pleasure and virtue are intimately intertwined in Austen's work. However, Austen's dislike of the evangelical novel ist Hannah More suggests a send up of Evangelicals is more likely (Tomalin 232, 321). I do not follow these critics too closely by arguing that Austen was Evangelical, but her characters in Mansfield Park certainly could be her take on Evangelical doctrine 9 Granted, readings like Knox Shaw's have to assume 8 He's drawing on the classic argument by Marilyn Butler in her Jane Austen and the War of Ideas 9 Peter Knox Shaw provides excellent insight into how readings of Austen's religion can mistake the occas ional overlap of Christianity and the Enlightenment to produce strangely out of touch insights, but while doing so he makes far too definite claims about Austen's own religious beliefs that are plainly inaccessible to our contemporary audience. He conclude among the least proselytizing of Christian novelists, and may, without ever having ceased to believe in the utility of
243 Austen's disapproval of Fanny's religious feeling to read Fanny as an Evangelical character whom Austen critiques, and my reading suggests that Fanny and Edward's eventual happy ending reward shows more authorial approval than critique. My goal here is to suggest how thoroughly early democratic thinking in Britain relied on Protestant doctrine. This is part of an attempt to rethink how secularism, a revised definition of secularism according to the criti cs discussed in the first several chapters of this dissertation, came to intellectual dominance in the West and to explore possibilities for furthering its cause. Throughout this dissertation I have commented on how different critics over the past few deca des have often missed the point when trying to write about religion in the nineteenth Anglicanism, and to show the traces of its presence in the novels, especially in those p laces much fuller and more accurat e sense of Austen's work if [critics today] know the values she held and on what foundational religious ideas those values are thoughtfully crafted methodology and stated reasons for considering such a subject stand in contrast to readings from critics who over the last two decades seek to use Austen to validate their own contemporary beliefs and prejudi ces. 10 Finally, one of the best insights of Michael belief, have been something of a private s suggestion seeps into the criticism of many of the authors in this dissertation but it almost certainly reflects a desire on the part of contemporary critics to make these author s more and more relevant for a secular era. Pointing this out, lived her life believing wholeheartedly in Unitarian truth; I find all such c omments simply impossible to prove or disprove. Ruderman also falls into the trap of making claims about Austen's beliefs (127). 10 White is able to sidestep many errors by calling out what, exactly, she is not doing with her project. She says that try to reanimate Austen as though they can reveal Austen's thinking about today's problems and then suggest that we contemporary readers should f Swithin, I hold no intention of rebuke for modern revelers (or readers); after all, the particulars of Austen's religious inheritance are long gone, even in much of modern Chris
244 Griffin's Jane Austen and Religion directly complements what I would like to say about Jane relationship betwe literary commentaries into distinct secular and religious spheres. Austen's social commentaries 11 My argument draws on elements of the work of all these critics, and I hope to showcase how in two Austen novels religious particularity regarding democracy disappears much like it does in Eliot's novels. The reasons f or these disappearances directly contr adict each other however, as Austen sublimates the question of why Christianity is central to political governance because the answer is wholly obvious to her readership ; later, Eliot tries to erase these specifics by ignoring, misrepresenting, or distort ing them. Qualifying Clergymen and Their Spouses Finding the debates over distinctly religious matters in Austen requires some uncovering, as contemporary critics, in league with Austen, tend to draw attention away from such matters. remain unchanged, much of the foundational worldview of the Georgian Anglican Chu rch and that of contemporary Christians differs considerably, and the presumptions each hold about the social and cultural role of the church are ies to forget how much continuity can exist (or some critics want to exist) between thinking about religion then and now. 11 Other recent critics of Austen cruise over some methodological potholes when trying to describe religion and literature; these misste ps point to larger fault lines in the practice of a democratically oriented and inclusive criticism. For instance, Michael Griffin runs afoul of the limits of contemporary literary criticism, arguing that measure of literary maturity is not the genre a novel belongs to, or a novel's degree of psychological probability, but left leaning critics 's intelligent and approving representation of a highly gendered and religious and capitalist world view they disagree with and wish to censure or discredit quite th the lacuna characte rs and are rewarded with the highest degree of love that she can imagine within marriage reflect the erary commentaries into distinct secular and religious spheres. Austen's social complementary to my own work, our reasons for asserting such an overl ap between the social sphere and the religious are, quite possibly, diametrically opposed.
245 Laura Mooneyham White says that one of the reasons today's Christians and those of Austen's every reason to trust in the truth claims of Christianity; their dilemmas were not doctrin al but with Gene Koppel who also suggests that Austen's concern is not with anything doctrinal or theological. 12 If Austen has no direct concern with Anglican theology it's not because Anglican theology is of no import to her; rather, many of her characters must wholly embrace Anglicanism, and their interiority as believing subjects is never questioned. Unlike Elizabeth Gaskell in North and South Austen never p ortrays a crisis of conscience about the 39 articles or any of the basic Christian beliefs that her lay characters must profess. And because of this all encompassing representation of believers Austen, in a way, manages to wade into Anglican theological de bate. Not believing or true dissent does not even merit representation and by extension, existence. Many critics agree, however, that Austen explored elements of Evangelicalism in at least one of her novels, Mansfield Park Peter Knox Shaw says that today complexity of her treatment. But contemporaries who were versed in the criticism of the revivalist movement would have found it difficult to miss. Particularly sensitizing was the common charge that Evangelicals repressed their emot ions, and indulged in moral absolutism at the cost of self during the course of the novel makes Fanny learn to express her emotions while not blurring the knowledge in the process. As such, 12 Gene Koppel would like us to recognize that respect for private property is natural and necessary for the good or moral life (2). Furthermore, he finds Austen's ar distinctly theological criticism ties value to religious feeling.
246 Fanny becomes schooled in the proper manners of the Anglican community, which she already embraced theologically. Austen rewards characters with either a place in the clergy or as a cle rgyman's spouse, and here Fanny's testing and change determine her reward. Other characteristics that Austen rewards are, not surprisingly, a desire to be a clergyman, an significantly, as oratory is devalued while the novels value good intentions that are followed by good actions. 13 Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park reward good behavior with promotion into the clergy as a tactic of community building. 14 A nne Crippen Ruderman remarks on the politics of saying (Ruderman 4). is the body of all church members and faith is not an individualized category (34). And recent critic Lesley Willis notes how the two novels under discussion here are linked in thinking about Sense and Sensibility comes closest to Mansfield Park in demonstrating both that religion vitalizes and sustains community and that lack of religious faith, and the morality whic individualistic trends are also commented upon by Nancy Armstrong, who usually argues that (1811 18) re present the perfect synthesis of desiring individual and self governing citizen, they 13 See Emma 's Mr. Elton for an unworthy, pompous clergyman his unworthiness is tied directly to his poor second choice for a wife. 14 Northanger Abbey works somewhat similarly, but since Henry Tilney is already a worthy clergyman and the novel only really tests a nd improves Catherine Morland, it is not under such close scrutiny here.
247 to increasing social pressures. Armstrong continues, saying this historical m oment changed unemployed laborers in the industrial centers of England, and any number of social factors that sorely challenged the fantasy of a society composed of self heady times required more than just a rethinking of the individual. These social upheavals required a reinvestment in contemporary governing and clergy systems. Since the French Revolution, social change was always on the horizon, but the threat of revolution did not always look like the French one. Indeed, Michael Griffin suggests that ware that the deontological methodology of divine command had puritanical overtones reminiscent of the civil war and was therefore a source of landed charac ters, take on these threats to the social order in a minute way. By showing a threatened but regenerating community highly dependent on an established social order the novels suggest that through continual emotional reinvestment in community leaders the po litical forces of modernity, or at least the politically dangerous ones, might be kept at bay. 15 Northanger Abbey 's Catherine Morland learns her lesson about emotional attachments the hard way. The detrimental effects of gothic novel reading (most certainly a modern genre) have overexcited her imagination by suggesting General Tilney could have killed his wife. His son, 15 Claudia Johnson argues that this emotional investment is exactly the problem in some Austen novels, and can be read as an attack on larger issues of governance beyond familial matte compelling rhetorical structures conservative novelists build, to suggest, as Austen, among many others, frequently does, that fathers, sons, and brothers themselves may be selfish, bullying and unscrupulous, and that the 'bonds of domestic attachment' are not always sweet, is to attack the institutions which make morality possible and so to family ca n hopefully reform the state as well.
248 Catherine's soon to be fianc, Henry Tilney, must teach her to take these modern emotions in stride, balancing them against her knowledge of the Christian world they live in. He says: 'You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am suspicions you ha ve entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are connive at them? Could they be perpe trated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay every thing open?' (195 96) While Genera l Tilney does turn out monstrous, he is not a murderer. His Catherine links Englishness with Christianity, and might as well read Anglican ism as her perception of the world depends on Abbeys and continental Catholicism. Drawing on the in struments of Foucaultian modernity (surveillance) and Arnoldian nationalism (newspapers, literature), Tilney re orients Catherine Morland's affective bonds to the gentry family as the bearer of worthiness and virtue. Tilney's inherent goodness does not rec eive as thorough a testing, though, as characters in other Austen novels. Sense and Sensibility plays a delicate game asserting the (comparative) goodness of one character after another only to have this goodness tested and rejected. Willoughby fails this test as does Lucy Steele; Lucy also threatens the goodness of Edward, as his marriage to her could have indicated an inability to choose a proper and fitting spouse. Edward appears to be the third character about to fall from grace, and indeed his redempt ion in the novel's logic happens mostly because while he remains faithful to his engagement to Lucy Steele she does not. Just before their engagement is widely known, but after Willoughby has proven insidious, Marianne performs an act of overt, hyperbolic he has the most delicate conscience in the world; the most scrupulous in performing every
249 engagement however minute, and however it may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearfu l of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, of so, particularly in his dealings with Lucy. 16 However, he has been less t han honest with Elinor both with her and with himself. Later, as he and Elinor conduct a postmortem of their early ingly enough, his transgression against the rules of courtship was not enough to disqualify him from a happy ending. Edward deserves a happy ending at least part l y because he tried to follow his conscience, and his conscience (a malleable, trainable thing enough to think, that because my faith was plighted to another, there could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour. He cannot sustain this risky business, however. Even though he is not a neophyte in love, he is only freshly in danger of losing control of his heart. The dangerous situation las ts, Edward says, got. After that, I suppose, I was wrong in remaining so much in Sussex, and the arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it, w ere no better than these: The danger is my 71). 17 Edward's selfishness and 16 This open affection also contrasts highly with that always repressed by Fanny (never mind Elinor), whose inability to express her emotions is a mark of her Evangelical u must be no The open expression of her feelings binds their family of whom she thinks he will soon be a member and class together tightly. 17 Here Edward's attempt to understand his feelings through reason run in opposition to Elinor's reasoning herself into the proper feelings. This contrast of opposite styles seems to unite them. Colonel Brandon resembles Elinor in my reading as well. Michael Griff
250 endangerment of others is the lynchpin in understanding how centrally care for a community takes precedence in the novel's visi onary reproduction of the clergy class. His coming to consciousness about this selfishness proves his worthiness. 18 The choice of becoming a clergyman, rather obviously, provides another key indicator of the fitness of any individual for ascension to the st atus of moral guide. Edward's brother Robert can only laugh at the thought of Edward being a preacher (308). This provides a chance for in silence and immovable gravity, the conclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from ating unfitness for the clergy, disdaining another's choice of the clergy as a profession indicates one's moral hollowness. Mansfield Park 's Mary Crawford exclaims surprise at Edmund's choice of the clergy as a profession and later teases him that she woul d never dance with a clergyman (113, 277). Mary's initial shock leads her to suggest that the clergy is the worst choice of a respectable Austen establishes in the parsonages of Delaford and Mansfield represent reason tempered by feeling, which is appropriate to a clergy couple that is meant to be a sign of the c is opposed to feeling tempered by reason in the other marriage (Griffin 34). 18 Sense and Sensibility there are no dependable norma tive centers no sane Gardiners or hale Crofts who serve as havens from the fatuity and vitiation rampant elsewhere. Edward Ferrars certainly cannot serve in this capacity, for his own derelictions are part of the problem. And the other eligible figure, Col of the idleness endemic to landed gentlemen as presented in Sense and Sensibility Although Edward, unlike Willoughby, is still under a parent's thumb, he too is holding out for an inheritance that will give him the money and the independence he needs to sustain, not an extravagant, but still a rather aimless life as a private gentleman. In the meantime, he expresses no interest in the energetic management of a country estate and discloses no enthusiasm or talent for a profession, not even the 58). Edward actually wants to be in the church and despises his own idleness, vowing to raise his children exactly the opposite of his own upbringing (132 133). My sense of Edward's worthiness, I must admit, comes at least partly from Ang Lee's film which did not exist when Johnson wrote this book. There is considerable textual evidence pointing to his worthiness however.
251 profession. 19 that was always the lot of the youngest, where questionable characters of his own status (116). As such, both novels turn on families or individuals disliking the clergy as not cool enough, and the critique of a morally deficient gentry also allows the novels to showcase the few members of this class worthy of respect and the power leading a spiritually sound community. The few characters who think preaching might be chic tend to focus on the power and showmanship of oratory. But the novels devalue this perspective. As such, the ideal preaching becomes a matter of connecting emotionally or psychically rather than through rhetorical manipulation. Henry Crawford considers preaching because of the effec t it has had on himself as such attention rather than a desire to must have a London audience. I could not preach, but to the educated; to those who were capable ; this love of preaching as an egocentric show directly corresponds to h is desire to act in the private theatrical (346). Crawford therefore wants only the most fashionable people to hear him; his desire to have his composition judged rather than felt indicates egoism rather than a desire to help or improve. Crawford concludes this damning 19 In addition to Mary in Mansfield Park being an unfit marriage partner a t least partly because of her preferred career for her husband, Anne Steele of Sense and Sensibility also proves unfit to be a proper wife because of her hyper sexual fascination with beaux. Somewhat fittingly, she does end up with a doctor, a less respectable one never thinks of married men s being beaux they
252 perhaps, once or twice in the spring, after being anxiously expected for half a dozen Sundays together; but not for a constancy; it would not do for a c selfishness contrasts with the simple desires of Edmund and Edward to lead country parishes without rhetorical flourish neither seem particularly capable of such witticisms or oratory anyway. Both disclaim oratorical abil ities as opposed to other characters in the novels like Henry Crawford Edward's speechlessness when Elinor advises him of the living Colonel not hurry when the object is only to prevent my saying a bon mot, for there is not the least wit in my nature. I am a very matter of fact, plain spoken being, and may blunder on th e borders of a rhetorical abilities that rhetoric and oratory seem to have few positive powers. Mansfield Park celebrates an investment in pastorship; from early in the novel, Edmund takes a particular interest in seeing Fanny treated well in her adoptive home. He looks out for her emotionally by helping her write to her brother, is a family man when compared to his profligate brother Tom, and seeks remedy fo 98). It is through his influence that Fanny goes to Sotherton on a pleasure excursion and has a horse for exercise (103, 64 65). These early signs of his nurturing abilities indicate his later po tential to provide guidance to a community: spiritual, moral, and even economic as the responsibilities a pastor embraced in a village could be multiple. Still, Edmund has a few blindspots in his early care of Fanny and his youthful morals. He promotes the ever selfish and prideful Mrs. Norris as a guardian to Fanny, and his eventual choice to act in the play that he has
253 scolded his sister about marks what might be his lowest point morally (55 57, 161). Some critics have noted that Edmund's decision to act in the play comes from sexual jealousy arguing that he denies an intrusion by neighborhood families by inserting himself into the play, thereby keeping Mary Crawford from flirting with another man. Indeed, the narrative voice seems to take Fanny's judgment al stance about Edmund's acting (173 7). However, the novel finally comes down on his side; an endogamous marriage between himself and Fanny, the banishing of the Crawfords from the scene, and another Price sister brought into the Park shows a bruised but intact ruling family for the neighborhood. Fanny really questions his judgment in eventually taking a role in the proposed play, but it is possible to read his choice as an unselfish sacrifice of his own moral goodness when placed in a position of awkward power sharing with his brother, the eventual leading gentry to his role as clergy. 20 Interestingly, their roles perfectly reflect the Erastian arrangement of Anglican Church being subordinate to Parliament and the state generally; Tom's status as landowner, with Edmund's living essentially his gift, demonstrates the hierarchy of power in the countryside. 21 Henry Crawford's flirtatiousness presents the Mansfield Park family with one thorny situation after another, testing the suitability of both Fanny and Edmund. And it is in Edmund's bad interpretation of Fanny's dropped hints that he might make his biggest error in pastorship. When Fanny charges that there was something possibly salacious between Maria and Henry, 20 more complex than this suggests, demonstrating rath and, ultimately, their inseparability from concrete social relations. This, as I have been suggesting, is in keeping f theatricality in Anglican terms demonstrates how thoroughly religion permeated every part of life in the era. 21 Edmund finally gets around to askin g Fanny to marry him, the narrator intrudes with an unwontedly Sternean garrulity that obliges us to consider their alliance as a perfunctorily opted anticlimax the narrator washes her hands of, rather than a properly wished for and well deserved union tow ards which the parties have been moving all mine. See below.
254 Edmund cannot properly interpret her meani ng (354). And Fanny cannot convince Mary Crawford that her brother had poor intentions. She says, situation rings true. She continues, saying, woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander by can judge ans to her auditors. By allowing them to continue in ignorance rather than heed her call for closer moral consideration she allows evil to perpetrate her world. Granted, with Mary Crawford, Fanny's ability to make Mary see the light is nearly impossible; a fter all, Mary may rely upon Henry for future economic support. Continuity Between Government and Religious Leaders As the previous section made clear, the continuities between religious and governmental leaders were especially prevalent in the early nine teenth century; in rural areas the pre Reform 'squarson' (i.e., squire/parson) alliance was central to rural administration, and the health of rural agriculture affec ted the squire and parson both, the former through rents and the latter through the squire was to the nation as the parson was to the Anglican Church. Michael Griffin argues and parish, were related to each other in an organic way be of public importance and were not considered to be matters of private observance or
255 22 Austen's novels highlight the importance of an honest, engaged, and unselfish clergyman for these rural parishes where religion was of a central public importance, and perha ps not surprisingly the role of the landowner receives critique as well. The relationship between the clergy and the landowners at the end of both Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park has familial connections as well; in one instance, sisters are marri ed to the squire and clergyman and in the other the squire and clergyman are brothers. These kinship bonds suggest an even closer alliance between the church and state than the usual nsolidation of power. magistrate and the landowner strengthened the hand of the clergyman, the clergyman 23 This c onsolidated power could exist The Races of Men Saxon is the integration of religion with the rest some instances, then, people under the tightly held rural regime could feel a liberating freedom while still doing their duties. Mansfield Park 's Edmund Bertram takes these charges seriously; wi thout a real investment in the system the village elite cannot sustain it. Part of his address to Mary Crawford 22 Later, Griffin says that Sense and Sensibility tion of England' novel, written from a genre informs governance, religious and secular. 23 si xth of English parishes, the parson also functioned as gave the clergy considerable sway in the governance of country parishes.
256 about the role of the clergyman involves trying to explain to her just how influential such a role can be. He says: The nothing of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well as the the never A clergyman cannot be high in state or fashion. He must not head mobs, or set the ton in dress. But I cannot call that situation nothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importance to ma nkind, individually or collectively considered, temporally and eternally which has the guardianship of religion and morals, and consequently of the manners which result from their influence. No one here can call the office nothing. If the man who holds it is so, it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear. (116) Mary Crawford cannot understand the responsibility of such a position partly because she does not feel an y such influence in her own life. Also, if Edmund can be taken as voicing real consequently of the manners which result from their influence my italics 116). Here, if these novels can be read as commenting on the manners of the gentry class, they must also be commenting indirectly on the religion and morals of the class. Mansfield Park may not be explicitly commenting on theological or doctrina l concerns, but, again, these issues are not absent either. Sir Thomas may represent a moral force in the novel as the person who shuts down the Thomas is on e of the first of those fathers we find in nineteenth century novels who take the fictional place of God, so that when he leaves for Antigua, God may not be entirely dead, but he e Crawfords indicate Importantly, as part of the gentry family none of his children are much subject to the guidance or care of the Mansfield parish clergy: Mr. Norris and Dr. Grant are mere suggestions in the text, a blank and a gourmand who play no role in the action of the story. In this situation the squire
257 should exercise better care of his family's morality, and below I will remark on his summation of his da ughters' bad conduct. Bonaparte concludes that Sir Thomas's real problem is that he has will never again assume moral supremacy in his house, nor does Austen want him to. Something cannot adequately guide his adult children into the future. The reader is left with Edmund and Fanny as moral guides in the church, and a reform ing Tom as the squire to be. This picture of rural England appears incredibly fragile but with potential. The Rural Politics of Change Considering the remarkably interwoven squirearchy and clergy, it is not surprising that neither group embraced democrat ic or economic reforms, or secularization. Furthermore, radicalization among the rural working classes was far from the norm; the low population density kept like minded people from banding together in mass opposition to the status quo. It was a different story in the cities, and in Austen's novels London represents a place of unpredictable change and lax morals. And as I note below, at least one character (Fanny) imagines these lax morals as connected to a lack of Anglican church attendance and belief. So while Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park busily showcase the reproduction of the governing rural gentry, no serious external threats to this class's existence appear. That a good chunk of Sense and Sensibility occurs in London makes this remarkable. Democratic and egalitarian reforms internal and external to Britain were thoroughly unpopular within the Church and in the gentry. Laura Mooneyham White says it might surprise not only did eighteenth century Anglicanism not e mbrace democratic and egalitarian forces but further that it considered the democratic impulse specifically un
258 5). These anti egalitarian impulses of Anglicanism stemmed from t he church's hierarchy consisting exclusively of the Oxbridge educated elite. But late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain, even in the rural areas, could not ignore the revolutionary actions across the pond and on the continent. White further r eminds us that Revolution and its aftermath because she was a highly patriotic daughter of Albion. Importantly, she would have understood the French Revolution in terms of its direct effects on the Church and its in the church explains how what the church thought of the French Revolution was also likely he French Revolution as a serious threat to its existence, given the new French government's hostility to and persecution of established religion, including the execution of hundreds of priests, monks, Anglican clergymen, these executions must have been particularly worrisome. 24 Even though democratic and egalitarian changes were unpopular among the gentry, Austen's novels showcasing the reproduction and reformation of the clergy class necessarily depict ed changes, even improvements, to how the class governed, inspired, and existed in and of condition of fallen humanity in both neoclassical and scriptural t erms; and [...] social engineering 24 Roger E. Mo ore makes some interesting points about Northanger Abbey the other Austen novel featuring a clergyman as husband for the heroine. First, he finds the spirit of her snarky, adolescent History of England as informing the novels particularly as a critique of the destruction of the monasteries by Henry VIII (56). Also, he argues that Austen consistently looked at revolutions in religion skeptically. Particularly, he argues that Austen's family was pro nk critically about England's religious past and to question the Whig view of the Reformation as an inevitable, and positive, part of the nation's forward Catholic, while Northanger Abbey a novel deeply engaged with the Gothic (perhaps entirely parodically) comes o f f as not really anti Catholic at all (72 73). Austen even had a family member (a cousin's French husband) guillotined during the French Revolution (Tomalin 84).
259 contribute to order and well he case a bit (and might be a touch anachronistic), these novels certainly provide a template for improvements in the attitudes of the gentry. Griffin, however, conservati ve appeals to maintain the status quo of a static, comfortable, semi feudal, and rural people who know their place and are happy to keep it. On the contrary, a close reading of the novels suggests that, like Christian scripture, they reveal a high degree of social and economic and moral upheaval, and a great amount of mobility, both upward the novels does seem fairly accurate; of course, none of the protagonists of the novels do any downward movement nor does the fall of Maria Bertram threaten her ability to survive or force her into a nything so detestable as work. But there is something missing from his reading; he (16). The strong desire for change represented in these Austen novels has les s to do with reshaping the electorate or granting greater rights to disenfranchised classes than it does with reshaping and reforming the gentry class. Social movement as in an individual's ascending or descending the classes has nothing to do with systemi c change or democratic reforms. Indeed, readers encountering a moral character ascending class rungs or an immoral one descending the classes might likely reinforce their faith in the status quo. The countryside setting of much of these novels also contras ts with the scenes in cities in terms of moral ascendency or laxity.
260 Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park present the countryside as having a greater chance of maintaining a healthy and just clergy than a city might. Nearing the conclusion of Mansfield Park comparative lack of Anglican churches. And in one of Mary Crawford's conversa tions about becoming a clergyman she suggests to Edmund that the situation of the clergy is quite different y ] ou assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has been used to hea r given, or that I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it turns on the high society of London; amon g villagers, the country clergy would mix frequently among the genteel. Mary, ever the indicator of a flawed moral compass, continues by wondering have the sense t o prefer Blair's to his own, do all that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a preaches on a Sunday and then disappears for the following six days. 25 But Edmund has a e preacher can be effective and can lead from within the community (117). 25 Such a s uggestion Sir Thomas mocks in his digression on the evils of anti absenteeism. He says, Edmund ride over every Sunday, to a house nominally inhabited, and go through divine service; he might be the clergyman of Thornton Lacey every seventh day, for
261 The rural part of England also has a better chance of exhibiting a moral national character, one that is a direct product of the doctrines of Anglicanism, at least in Edmund's estima manners I speak of might rather be called conduct, perhaps, the result of good principles; the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe be every where found, that Edmund makes a claim central to religious thinking in the early part of the nineteenth century: that sound doctrines lead to good principles which in turn lead to good conduct and manners. In this perspective the very core of English culture is Anglican doctrine. Improvements to the morals of any locale might be traceable to the very doctrines of the Anglican church. This sense of t he nation being made moral and unified by a religious character, one that depends on doctrine, is something Eliot seems to react against; this reaction is partly by showing very moral characters who live outside the Anglican church (like Adam Bede 's Dinah) or very immoral characters like Anglican moralist hypocrites (like Middlemarch 's Bulstrode). In the countryside, resident clergy tried to maintain the morals of the community, and Mansfield Park presents definite ideas about clerical absenteeism. Sir Tho mas directly states his strong objections to absenteeism when discussing Edmund's impending move to Thornton Lacey. Sir Thomas dislikes losing the liveliness of his son, saying eight miles, will be an unwelcome contraction of our family circle; but I should have been deeply one of the Crawfords provides the counterpoint to Sir Thomas's argument. But Sir Thomas goes easy on Henry and h is objections, saying thought much on the subject, Mr. Crawford. But a parish has wants and claims which can be
262 known only by a clergyman constantly resident, and which no proxy can be capable of satisf ying good a clergyman can do must come from his residence among his parishioners; the preaching of the sermon seems almost secondary. Sit Thomas concludes, sayi ng nature needs more lessons than a weekly sermon can convey, and that if he does not live among his parishioners, and prove himself, by constant attention their well wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or the concerns of Mansfield Park ; the eternal souls of the parishioners are at stake, but the health and eternal well being of Edmund's soul is also at stake. The strict attention to duty benefi ts the clergyman's soul and the clergy's reputation in the nation. The regeneration of the nation begins with internal improvements to the class of the clergy. Remaking The Governing Class Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park present a similar central problem: how does the gentry and clergy class remake itself in a time of increasing pressure from both within England and abroad? While such social pressures of Austen novels occasionally seem opaque, the love stories never disappear. As such, the answer to this question, from both novels surveyed here, is that the gentry and clergy class remake themselves by doubling down on virtuous and righteous characteristics that get vested in characters who become clergy and marry clergy. Importantly, the novels als o connect virtuous behavior to mainstream Anglican doctrine. The cycle of renewing the gentry and clergy class works reciprocally with the cycle of keeping the church healthy; the Establishment investment of virtuousness (through right doctrines) in people leads to an investment of righteous human capital in the Church. 26 The conclusions of these novels would 26 renewing the estate, as a metaphor for the state, and renewing the parish, as a metaphor for the established church,
263 suggest that the clerical leaders of provincial life guard the future against frightful or rapid change; the narrator has granted deserving characters a leading role in their communities and, under the stewardship of a couple like Elinor and Edward Ferrars, nothing could go that bad, could it? Importantly, MPs like Palmer or Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility or Lords like Sir Thomas from Mansfield Pa rk who have a real ability to affect legislative change or provide civic leadership, demonstrate less of an interest in engaging with the people they govern. Other critics have made similar arguments about the process of social renewal in Austen's work. Claudia Johnson's excellent Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel makes this argument more in reference to another Austen work, but her larger point about Austen being a tad progressive, in imagining slow social changes, rings true with my argument. She says propounded by anti Jacobin novelists without seeming necessarily to imply a Jacobin wish to see novelists: collapse the antithetical structures that conservative apologists employ in order to validate their ideas. Their novels complicate the simpler world of Burkean fiction, where fathers are judicious and clergymen pious; where the duties of daughters are clear, and where wives are either grave and good or petulant and power hungry; where villains and heroes occupy entir ely different moral universes, and where right and wrong are mutually exclusive categories (23) Here, the politics of Austen novels are sophisticated and social renewal is gradual. However, as some of the notes make clear, I disagree with Johnson's take on the heroes of the two novels under discussion. Rather than seeing these heroes as unworthy or lacking merit, they learn much are two necessarily interdependent things. This is why the spiritual underpinning of Edmund's vocation and ordination is integral to every other theme in the novel; and why it is so important that ultimate ly Edmund deficient Crawfords to prove his worth as a clergyman. Their reform seems beyond the question.
264 like the heroines. The novels comedies, most assuredly require happy endings that these improving clergymen can provide by marryin g the narratively focalized heroines. Michael Griffin does helpfully suggest that personality, family, community, and church. In Georgian England these things were still understood to be related to each has the unfortunate implication that Austen novels demonstrate correct arrangements with little room for improvement. Griffin also recognizes how Austen uses marriage, a conventional and and clerical marriages are significant [...] because, in the context of the unregulated capitalism that dominated Georgian England, the gentry couple and the clergy couple are the two most becomes apparent as he continues that t showing mor al improvements. The characters vested with the potential for positive change often stand in contrast to the elder generation. In the Sotherton chapel scene, Fanny Price compares positively to Mary Crawford but also to Mrs. Rushworth and her late husband. Mrs Rushworth describes her always read in it by the domestic chaplain, within the memory of many. But the late Mr. se from daily observance could easily be fixed under
265 is som ething in a chapel and chaplain so much in character with a great house, with one's ideas of what such a household should be! A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of Fanny has nostalgia for the custom here; and, t he striking image of an entire family, along with their many servants, gathered for a daily public/private moment of worship shows how thorough going such a concept of belief was as a corporate or communal thing rather than an individual one. Her first experi ence of the chapel is disappointing not only 'This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. helpful information about the use of the room falls flat, as well; Fanny expects s omething awful purpose, compared to with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppo se, in the parish church. There you must look 11). Fanny's entire experience of touring the chapel proves her worthy, while that of Mary Crawford suggests her lack of proper notions about religious observance. T he novel allows Mary to expand on her reasons for thinking that a common daily observance proves displeasing. Through the entire speech Mary's lack of seriousness and utter dismissal of the potential for communal prayer to enliven genuine solemnity proves her unfitness for marriage with a clergyman. She cheekily wonders that: [a] t any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Every body likes to go their own way to chuse their own time and manner of devotion.
266 The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint, the length of time altogether a formidable thing, and what nobody likes: and if the good people who used to kneel and gape in that gallery could have foreseen that the time would ever come when men and women might lie another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with a headach, without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed, they would have jumped with joy and envy. Cannot you imagine with what unwilling feelings the former belles of the house of Rushworth did many a time repair to this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs. Bridgets starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different especially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at and, in those days, I fancy parsons w ere very inferior even to what they are now. (111 112) Mary's disastrous take on how the attendees of the service value time in bed over prayer, along with her licentious suggestion that the young women of the Rushworth house were certainly considering the sexual merits of the chaplain, describes a room full of people exactly like her. That Edmund does not see her faults quite as strongly as Fanny does only proves how dangerously close he is to failing the test of whether or not the clerical life suits him. Edmund's response to Mary highlights how anyone can be subject to a wandering mind, but how that even a wandering mind is a debility of those who have not tried to focus. He says, at times the difficulty of fixing our thoughts as we c ould wish; but if you are supposing it a frequent thing, that is to say, a weakness grown into a habit from neglect, what could be expected from the private devotions of such persons? Do you think the minds which are suffered, which are indulged in wanderi (112). By pointing to Mary's illogical suggestion, Edmund tries to bring reason into consideration. For the rationality of his religious position could become obvious to anyone willing to engage their better judgment. Mary, of course, declines. Here again the inadequacy of private worship shared by Edmund and Fanny can lead a family and its close community into greater mo ral rectitude. And this increased morality could reestablish a status quo lost by the latest Mr.
267 Rushworth when he left off the daily prayers. This return to a time of greater religious conformity would also seemingly ward off contrary reformist impulses. The lack of morality displayed by the Bertram daughters, Maria and Julia, not only proves them unfit for the clergy life but seems to stem from their lack of regard for religion, their untested belief, and their poor daily conformity with a purposeful life The novel allows Sir principle, active principle, had been wanting, that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers, by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been That Edmund's home is less than ten miles from Sir Thomas, compared to much more for the other married cl ergyman hero with a living father, Henry Tilney, also suggests Sir Thomas can improve himself, while General Tilney may not be able to. Sir Thomas's notice of his daughters' poor religion also provides this sense. Marianne from Sense and Sensibility might have been taking this advice herself. In trying to sublimate the heart's desire for an old love, she says shall be regulated, it shall be checked by religio such, the conclusions of both novels suggest that a greater religious feeling could have saved the missteps of the family or can save the family from future errors. Religion as a moral guide is highly import ant, but moral guidance is not its only use. Conclusion: Pastorship and Ordination In Victorian Literature and the Victorian State Lauren Goodlad details the ways pastorship came to dominance as the metaphor for the state's role in an expanding bureaucra cy left to the discretion of voluntary and local efforts
268 investigating were prescient, then, in terms of thinking of how t he state might move forward as a unified government and religious entity. Of course, the role of religion in the formulation of later models of pastorship has begun to disappear, and simply the form of the concept remains. Yet, as Felicia Bonaparte argues, in Austen's works the very form takes on a distinct relationship with God. Austen famously told her sister Cassandra that her next novel, what came to be Mansfield Park was going to be about ordination (Bonaparte 48). And in Mansfield Park Edmund Bertra m how pastorship might ever lose its quasi divine mission. Goodlad tells us that John Stuart Mill's contemporaries imagined: rantor of private property and, to a certain extent, as a neutral seat from which the civilized character of enlightened gentlemen might be gradually diffused. It was not until after World War I that the state was viewed as a bureaucratic structure through which to implement the policies of professional experts. To the contrary, Mill's contemporaries fought zealously to reserve that function for themselves; to safeguard the personalized quality of pastoral power, or from another view to neglect pastorship a ltogether. (31) Pastorship, then, is the bifurcated tension point on which models of the state developed in the later nineteenth century. Bonaparte continues, telling us how this development contrasts with the spirit of Romanticism, though, whereby ordinat ion, has an inward character as opposed to place where the true spirit of religion as St. Francis reconceived it intersects in historical time with the inw extension pastorship, was also a technique for imagining the rejuvenation of the community as I've shown. For only through improving the quality of the clergy internally do t he nation's prospects look up. As such, the representative demo cracy that the Great Reform Act of 1832 begins to describe looks less like a religious vacuum than the adoption of a new political theory under a continually revised conglomeration of Protestan t doctrine and theological concepts.
269 CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSION: DEMOCRACY'S FUTURE? In this dissertation, I have explored the problem of a religious inheritance in how we imagine and practice democracy. In nineteenth century Britain, governance was intimately t ied to religious institutions; Anglicanism, Dissent, and Protestantism generally contributed to literary imaginations of the developing democratic state in the Reform Bill Era and in later accounts of the period. George Eliot's influence among literary sch olars and, to a lesser degree, historians has shaped our critical view of the period. Yet her picture of a rural England, where problems of governance and religion are considered quite apart from each other, contrasts greatly with the other literature of t he period, especially as we moved back toward the Reform and pre reform period. Returning to poetry by William Wordsworth and Thomas Cooper alongside novels by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bront has allowed me to illustrate the ways a Christian religious her itage truly influenced literary representations or imaginations of democracy. This religious heritage influenced democratic thinking about governance, authority, free will, and multi confessionalism; these several issues, while not an exhaustive list of th e role religious thinking played in the democratic imagination, highlight how broadly and deeply Protestantism colors democracy in the period. Contemporary scholarship on secularism is beginning to question the older, received notion of secularity transfor ming a religious heritage into a distinctly non religious world. This scholarship investigates the now antiquated definition by suggesting several things: the world is not a singular place and modernity is multiple, religious conceptions of the world survi ve alongside new secular ones, those most invested in secularity academics among them see secularity as a value neutral and ostensibly objective vantage point, and some secularity may come from Christianity but it also could have preexisted Christ and draw n on heretical or pagan
270 religious forms in addition to the Abrahamic religions. Still, the scholarship investigating secularity from these several angles does not always thoroughly account for its own intellectual consequences; when investigating the contr ibution of Protestantism to democratic thinking, the analysis of secularity as religiously inflected might warp the scholarship by reinscribing Protestant doctrinal biases in contemporary culture and practices of democracy. This account of secularism is es pecially troubling as religiously oriented criticism, which we might expect to balance the weakness of other literary criticism in this regard, does not deal well with the implications of multi confessionalism in the contemporary world. Most religiously or iented criticism about the period has many of its own theological commitments and contributes more to hagiography, even theology, instead of historical or literary inquiry. Is there a way secular criticism can account for the influence of Protestantism in the development of modern governance and democracy that also accounts for the necessity of a sensitive or tolerant democratic imagination for the multi confessional state? In projecting forward, for scholars today, can we find, name, and de scribe the many ways nineteenth century literature imagined political theory as religious belief? Is divorcing democracy from religion possible? This dissertation insists that as we make any further commitments to democracy, as a worldwide phenomenon and a political theo ry worth promoting, we must ruthlessly consider our investments in historical representations of such politics. Charlotte Bront's dark picture for the future of a secular, religiously diverse state need not be ours, but we must accurately describe her vis ion to know how ours must differ. Thomas Cooper might have produced a more compelling vision of democracy for a religiously diverse state had the specifics of Calvinist worship not colored his imaginative lenses. William Wordsworth's changing reflections o n religious authority did not have to distort the earlier image
271 of political agency apparent in his poem. And Jane Austen's marriage of civil and religious authority must cite irreconcilable differences in a multi confessional state. But George Eliot's vis ion of a secular Reform Era, a burgeoning democracy absent of theological content, which has dominated scholarly understandings of the period for so long, has also proved unsatisfactory in this regard: entirely disregarding the production of democracy in a theologically rich philosophical environment does not account for the role religious difference plays in a newly formed state. New investigations and considerations of democracy that are attuned to religious difference require ever increasing effort to ac count for the role Protestantism played in early imaginations of democracy. If scholars today cannot engage the rich history of Protestantism in nineteenth century imaginations of democracy in a non theological way we may unintentionally reduplicate the pr oblems I have described here. Democracy seems to be a project worthy of the effort.
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281 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH John S. Wiehl received a master's degree, in English, from the University of Kansas in 2007. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 2014.
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