John and Mary Fletcher
in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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This chapter examines the development of a Methodist hagiography which had its roots in the teachings of John Wesley, but developed under the auspices of succeeding generations of Methodists in the nineteenth century. Amongst those most commonly hailed as ‘Methodist Saints’ were the Anglican-Methodists John Fletcher (1729-1785) and Mary Fletcher (née Bosanquet, 1739-1815). Because of their longstanding and frequently acknowledged status as ‘saints’ by Methodists, John and Mary Fletcher offer the best view into the development of a Methodist ‘sainthood’ over the course of the nineteenth century. While John Wesley’s views of the subject have been well studied, this chapter focuses upon the means by which his successors built upon, altered, and broke away from his teachings following his death in 1791. In doing this it argues that the recounting of the lives of those considered to be representatives of early Methodist piety was central to the denominational histories which shaped Methodist identity. Even though a strong current of anti-Catholic sentiment ran through early Methodism, biographies – or more accurately, hagiographies – of ‘pious Christians’ to be read in Wesley’s Societies eventually came to form a de facto ‘canon’. Methodists also made pilgrimages, collected relics and produced memorials, monuments, and likenesses of their pious heroes.

Editor: Gareth Atkins

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