Catholicism and Nonconformity in Nineteenth-Century ‘Jewish Conversion’ Novels
This article examines English Evangelical novels focused on the conversion of Jewish characters, published from the 1820s to the 1850s. It concentrates particularly on the way these novels emphasised the importance of the Church of England in constructing national and religious identity, and used Jewish conversion as a way to critique Catholicism and Nonconformity. Jewish worship, rabbinic authority and Talmudic devotion were linked to Roman Catholic attitudes towards priesthood and tradition, while Jews were also portrayed as victims of a persecuting Roman Church. Nonconformity was criticised for disordered worship and confusing Jews with its attacks on respectable Anglicanism. As a national religion, novelists therefore imagined that Jews would be saved by a national church, and often linked this to concepts of a national restoration to Palestine. This article develops and complicates understandings of Evangelical views of Jews in the nineteenth century, and their links to ‘writing the nation’ in popular literature.