Ranters, Quakers and the revolutionary public sphere
This chapter re-examines relations between Quakers and Ranters in the 1650s. Although J. C. Davis’ robust attack on the Ranters in the 1990s has been widely rebutted, it retains nevertheless an enduring influence on scholarly approaches to radical sects in the 1650s. Accounts of Ranters still focus on the small handful of so-called Ranter authors. Their broader significance is largely understood negatively, as a thorn in the side of religious and political settlement in the 1650s, or as esoteric intellectuals operating on the margins of acceptable religious doctrine. Using material from Quaker correspondence, this chapter explores the broader impact of Ranter preaching and Ranter authors on local audiences. Quakers and Ranters sought out public debate and conducted formal disputations with each other in front of religiously diverse local audiences throughout the 1650s; Quaker authors worked hard, both in print and in local meetings, to refute Ranter ideas on sin and transgression, and argued for the importance of moral regulation governed by conscience, as part of their on-going campaign for the statutory provision of liberty of conscience. Ann Hughes’ work has been pivotal in founding a scholarship that has established the vibrancy and participatory nature of religion and politics during the 1640s and 1650s. This chapter builds upon her work and argue that the public exchanges and formal debates between Ranter and Quaker preachers can be integrated into this participatory model.
This chapter examines why Montaigne, the great French Catholic writer and sceptic, was so appealing to the radical writer and Leveller leader William Walwyn. It argues that Montaigne was crucial to Walwyn’s self-fashioning, though he would not have used the term with its implications of theatrical self-presentation. Plain, direct, true to his self (especially his conscience), and made uneasy by any kind of behaviour marked by dissimulation, the ‘honest papist’ (as Walwyn characterised Montaigne) provided a kind of broad-minded, multi-vocal European model for Walwyn in his seventeenth-century world too often marred by religious enmity, suspicion, treachery and uncharitable Christian behaviour. Walwyn was making a powerful polemical point by using the ‘honest papist’ writer as a major authority on ethical, religious and political matters. Montaigne may have been ‘but a Romish Catholique’, but his essays, and the often startling perspectives they provided, offered Walwyn some of the most provocative, unorthodox observations about Christian religion and behaviour in a seventeenth-century world of Protestant divisions in which ‘pretence of pietie and religion’ (to recall a phrase from Montaigne’s ‘Of Cannibals’) was too often manipulated and where toleration itself was far from assured. Montaigne appealed to Walwyn the radical tolerationist not simply because of his irenic sensibility – as unusual as that was in his own age of religious extremism – but because of his tendency to interpret against the grain and to unsettle deeply ingrained stereotypes, dogmatic perspectives, and religious prejudices based upon claiming doctrinal infallibility.
Richard Culmer and the practices of polemic during the English Revolution
Richard Culmer – the famous Canterbury iconoclast – shares certain characteristics with the well-known Presbyterian preacher from the civil wars, Thomas Edwards. Both were controversial ministers, and both became involved in the world of print culture and pamphleteering. With both men, however, there has always been a danger that the printed pamphlets are studied in order to reconstruct their lives and ideas, or the beliefs and activities of those that they studied, in ways which left unanswered questions about the role that print played within their careers, and the ways in which they thought about its uses. Of course, pioneering work by Ann Hughes has helped to revolutionise our understanding of the print revolution, and the innovative ways in which Edwards appropriated print as part of mobilisation strategies. This piece revisits the texts produced by and about both Richard Culmer and his son, in order to deepen our understanding of the nature, practices and role of polemic during the civil wars and interregnum, not least in relation to the ways in which pamphlets deployed evidence in order to mould reputations, and did so in ways that might be thought to have resonated – perhaps in different ways – both nationally and in the locality.
The conclusion ties together the three parts of the book and reflects on the souvenir. It poses a challenge to previous scholarship that has downplayed the souvenir as an object that creates inauthentic and manufactured feeling divorced from the means of production, eliding its female-driven origins. It is argued that the souvenir only became popular and monetised in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries because women had created a market for small, inexpensive objects which recalled their travels. Men merely magnified and marketed a practice that elite women travellers of the second half of the eighteenth century had created. By viewing the souvenir through a gendered lens, we see how women of the past challenged and subverted gender norms in the pursuit of their own subjectivity.
Chapter 3 demonstrates that souvenirs gave elite women a platform to perform cultural capital for which they were well received, often leading to the establishment of salons and similar settings in which men and women could mingle and discuss experiences to which only the elite were privy. It provides an in-depth analysis of how two women, Lady Anna Miller and Hester Piozzi, used their travel collections to establish successful salons that resembled the French aristocratic salons and Italian conversazioni. Travelling a decade apart, in 1771 and 1782, each of these women held an insecure social position, the former through social status and the latter through marital status. Each sought to exploit the prestige of having undertaken a tour of Italy to establish herself more firmly in society upon her return home.
This final chapter explores why madness could evoke so much social anxiety. Fears of perceived rising lunacy rates were used as proof of over-civilization and decline. As the nineteenth century progressed, cure rates seemed to plummet, and degeneration literature flourished. Fear that madness was hereditary led to gloomy predictions about the decline of the British race paralleling conversations about urban decay and criminal classes. This chapter places medical conversations into broader cultural contexts. Particular masculine anxieties were linked to fears of overwork and the emasculated neurasthenic, the criminalized degenerate, and the alcoholic madman. A final focus on the diagnosis of General Paralysis of the Insane demonstrates the social construction of medical thinking. GPI was one of the few mental diseases that could be seen in the brain after death, and it had a relatively clear and consistent set of symptoms. Despite this, GPI was often diagnosed through lifestyle as much as symptomology. The fact that GPI seemed to affect men more than women and led to almost inevitable death made it the embodiment of degenerationist fantasies that only increased as the century progressed. Insanity was a central point of argument in theories of decline.
Chapter 5 provides an in-depth analysis of Dorothy Richardson’s private study of the physical and natural world through observation, experiment and collection – that is, her science. The single daughter of an academic family who supported scholarly endeavour, over a period of forty years, from the ages of twelve to fifty-three, Dorothy conducted her own travelling surveys of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Bath and London. This chapter shows how Dorothy adopted and adapted forms of scientific knowledge and methods from which women were usually excluded to inform her personal reflections on the travel environment, so forming a collection of observations and objects that lay somewhere between the curiosity, specimen and souvenir. It is argued that, by collecting specimens and noting down her observations during her travels, Dorothy formed a private space in which she could produce an understanding of science that was of her own making.
The final section of the book points to the significance of Edwardian thinking going into the twentieth century. The doctors deployed to treat soldiers in the First World War were largely trained in an Edwardian and Victorian medical world, and thus their understanding of men’s madness is the missing link to most studies of shell shock. This epilogue highlights the continuity of concerns over men and mental illness into the twentieth century.
Chapter 4 explores the different and competing understandings of science that intermingled during the period to reveal a more complex image of scientific collecting and of women’s role in this cultural practice – one that extends beyond the simple story of progression from the Early Modern curiosity cabinet to the Modern museum.
Chapter 7 traces the transformation of the cultural meanings of the travel souvenir from gift to keepsake. It argues that women exchanged keepsakes with each other to solidify and amplify friendships that transcended their lower status within the patriarchy. These friendships found their richest expression in travel because an object representing a friendship gains significance when that friendship is threatened by physical distance.