This collection of essays examines the place of ‘saints’ and sanctity in nineteenth-century Britain. It argues that holy men and women were pivotal in religious discourse, as subjects of veneration and inter-confessional contention. Protestants were as fascinated by such figures as Catholics were. Long after the mechanisms of canonization had disappeared, they continued not only to engage with the saints of the past but continued to make their own saints in all but name. Just as strikingly, it claims that devotional practices and language were not the property of orthodox Christians alone. Even in an age of confessional strife, doubt and secularisation, devotional practices and language remained central to how both Christians and their opponents reflected on that changing world. Making and remaking saints is significant, then, because until now no-one has explored how sainthood remained significant in this period both as an enduring institution and as a fruitful metaphor that could be transposed into unexpected contexts. Each of the chapters in this volume focuses on the reception of a particular individual or group. Together they will attract not just historians of religion, but those concerned with material culture, the cult of history, and with the reshaping of British identities in an age of faith and doubt
to develop rather than to debunk.
It might seem perverse to start from the premise that saints mattered in nineteenth-
centuryBritain because they had never really gone away. Relics, shrines, images
and festivals stood condemned by Protestant reformers, and their insistence on the
sainthood of all believers cut sharply against the idea that the Church could single
individuals out for special treatment. ‘Whatever else the Reformation was,’ writes
Eamon Duffy, ‘it represented a great hiatus in the lived experience of religion. It dug
cast doubt upon the moralistic
and spiritual arguments which are encoded in writings by the
supporters of naval suppression. The Royal Navy’s mission to
eliminate the Atlantic slave trade helped to keep alive a culture of
anti-slavery in nineteenth-centuryBritain, but its place in the
hearts and minds of the people that created that culture was never
secure. The rise of racial
Visualising the aged veteran in
masculinity and nation
Michael Brown and Joanne Begiato
In December 1914, the British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee
(PRC) issued a poster entitled ‘The Veteran’s Farewell’ (figure 5.1). By
this point of the First World War, following the First Battle of Ypres
(October-November 1914), the small, professional British Expeditionary
Force had effectively been wiped out, and the British army was increasingly reliant on civilian volunteers. The PRC had been established on
, British Christians of the nineteenth century were free from the lure of idolatry,
and could build their religion instead on the firmer foundations of biblically prescribed
facts and practices.53
These confessional battles were not the only means by which Claudia became part
of the historical-cultural complexion of nineteenth-centuryBritain. In literature,
Claudia’s romantic life story could be used as a vehicle to teach readers about the
horrors of paganism and immorality, and to suggest, if not prove, one possible narrative of early Christian
(1764–1823) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97). See Melman, The Culture
of History: English Uses of the Past, 1800–1953 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006),
23 Booth, How to Make It, pp. 148, 125–7, 160–5.
24 Fry’s journal, 14 April 1817, cited in Fry, Memoir, I: p. 261.
25 Randall McGowen, ‘A powerful sympathy: terror, the prison, and humanitarian reform in
early nineteenth-centuryBritain’, Journal of British Studies, 25 (1986), 312–34.
26 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (1975;
and Magic: Reformation Representations of the Medieval
Church (London: Routledge, 2005), esp. pp. 92–105; Arthur F. Marotti, Religious Ideology
and Cultural Fantasy: Catholic and Anti-Catholic Discourses in Early Modern England (Notre
Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), pp. 16, 213–14 n. 28.
10 Clare A. Simmons, Reversing the Conquest: History and Myth in Nineteenth-CenturyBritish
Literature (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990), esp. pp. 113–39.
11 Ibid., pp. 114–17.
12 George, Lord Lyttelton, The History of the Life of King Henry the
naval officers played a prominent role in nineteenth-centuryBritish expeditions to Africa. John Barrow, Second Secretary of the
Admiralty until his retirement in 1846, was the key promoter of
British expeditionary activity to Africa (and the Antarctic) in the
early nineteenth century and was later one of the founders of the
RGS. 3 The Society itself
‘Experience’ became a keyword in the science and history of religion and in Protestant apologetics during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, allowing Christian teachings that had been discredited to be restated as a ‘direct rendering in intellectual terms of religious experience’. This chapter argues that Paul became a particularly suggestive symbol of this turn to experience. All debates about sainthood involve the question of how to relate the experiences of exceptional individuals to human beings as a whole. Paul was both within and outside such debates, because his name was shorthand not just for a human being but for a cluster of proof texts and by extension for the authority of Scripture. The more that Paul’s mind could be understood as the product of a particular time and place, the harder it became to present him as a timeless authority. This chapter tracks the shift away from Protestant enlightenment views of Paul that portrayed him as a sensible man to whom extraordinary things had happened. By the later nineteenth century Paul disappeared as an authority but was reinstated as a more complex figure whose experiences bespoke the ways in which the seen and unseen, the finite and infinite could mingle in human experience.
From the 1830s to the mid 1880s, Victorian Christians fiercely debated whether the Virgin Mary was – as Catholics said – a sinless ever-virgin mother who was Jesus’ closest confidante and a model for all Christians, or whether Protestants were correct when they described her as an ordinary woman who had other children and who had no special role in Jesus’ life or in the devotional lives of believers. Revived confessional conflict helps to explain why the Virgin Mary became a controversial figure in England at this time. I have explored this already in Victorians and the Virgin Mary (Manchester, 2008). This essay extends that work, considering debates about Mary in the context of anxieties about female power, politics and women’s maternal roles. That debates were at their most intense when Queen Victoria occupied the throne is deeply suggestive. In surveying Victorian attitudes to Mary, both Protestant and Catholic, this chapter seeks to place religious contention in context of these broader concerns.