Thomas Becket
in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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Becket was widely commemorated in nineteenth-century England: Gladstone, Dickens, Freeman, Dean Stanley, Trollope, Scott, Tennyson, even Daniel O’Connell, were not only acquainted with Becket's story but made significant contributions to the debate over his legacy. His lives and letters formed the object of a massive editorial enterprise. The sites associated with his life and martyrdom, particularly Canterbury Cathedral, became significant stopping off points on the Victorian tourist trail. Large numbers of new churches, both Anglican and Catholic, were dedicated to his memory. The depiction of his life and martyrdom became an iconic image. This chapter thus surveys an enormous and underexplored subject, ranging over Becket’s status as a touchstone for High Anglican or Catholic sympathies; Hurrell Froude’s rediscovery of Becket and its place in the ideas of the Oxford Movement; the degree to which the editorial work on Becket's legacy was crucial to the emergence of scholarly standards in the presentation of medieval texts and to the rediscovery of English historical sources still lurking in continental libraries; how the fallout from Newman's mmove to Rome continued to colour popular approaches to Becket; his acceptance as a Catholic or Anglo-Catholic saint; and the ways in which all of this was reflected in popular literature.

Editor: Gareth Atkins


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