Several readers have recently contacted Dissenting Experience to express their objections to a planning application for a 44m high tower directly adjacent to the Grade I listed Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. The application, which has been refused by Islington Council and is opposed by the City of London, has now been referred to the Mayor of London, who will make a decision on 8 February 2016. Readers who share the concerns raised by many of the parties involved are encouraged to write to the Mayor before 8 February. Emails should be directed to the GLA Case Officer before 8 February (firstname.lastname@example.org), quoting the reference D&P/3698 and the address (Monmouth House); emails may also be copied to Islington Council (Amandaemail@example.com). A pdf copy of some of the relevant documents is available online, and further information is available on the website of the International John Bunyan Society.
Kirsty Milne’s At Vanity Fair: From Bunyan to Thackeray, a remarkably detailed investigation of one of Bunyan’s most powerful literary images and episodes, was recently published by Cambridge University Press (May 2015).
Publisher’s note: ‘This literary history, focusing on reception, adaptation and influence, traces the fictional representation of Vanity Fair over three centuries from John Bunyan’s masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), to William Makepeace Thackeray’s own Vanity Fair (1847–8). It explores the influence of anonymous journalists and booksellers alongside well-known authors including Ben Jonson, Samuel Richardson and Thomas Carlyle. Over time, Bunyan’s dystopian fantasy has been altered and repurposed to characterise consumer capitalism, channelling memories that inform and unsettle modern hedonism. By tracking the idea of ‘Vanity Fair’ against this shifting background, the book illuminates the relationship between the individual and the collective imagination, between what is culturally available and what is creatively impelled.’
All readers are invited to attend this year’s seminars and lectures at Dr Williams’s Library (Gordon Square, London), which will be as follows:
Robert Strivens’s interesting and important study of dissenting natural theology and eighteenth-century preaching, Philip Doddridge and the Shaping of Evangelical Dissent, was recently published by Ashgate (November 2015) and will be of great interest to many of our readers.
Publisher’s note: ‘Evangelical Dissent in the early eighteenth century had to address a variety of intellectual challenges. How reliable was the Bible? Was traditional Christian teaching about God, humanity, sin and salvation true? What was the role of reason in the Christian faith? Philip Doddridge (1702-51) pastored a sizeable evangelical congregation in Northampton, England, and ran a training academy for Dissenters which prepared men for pastoral ministry. Philip Doddridge and the Shaping of Evangelical Dissent examines his theology and philosophy in the context of these and other issues of his day and explores the leadership that he provided in evangelical Dissent in the first half of the eighteenth century. Offering a fresh look at Doddridge’s thought, the book provides a criticial examination of the accepted view that Doddridge was influenced in his thinking primarily by Richard Baxter and John Locke. Exploring the influence of other streams of thought, from John Owen and other Puritan writers to Samuel Clarke and Isaac Watts, as well as interaction with contemporaries in Dissent, the book shows Doddridge to be a leader in, and shaper of, an evangelical Dissent which was essentially Calvinistic in its theology, adapted to the contours and culture of its times.’
The ‘Dissenting Experience’ research group is always pleased to accept posts from new contributors. If you work on any aspect of the literature, culture, or history of early modern religion we would be delighted to hear from you. Please send us a few sentences about your current research interests and provide an overview of the type of post you wish to provide. Categories of posts which we publish include but are not limited to the following: features (i.e. a short academic article on an aspect of your work), information about new publications, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and grants, and job advertisements. We are happy to discuss the length of your post prior to submission. Enquiries and submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We are pleased to draw attention to the launch of the Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English, which is a collaboration between the School of English and Drama and the School of History at Queen Mary University of London. The Centre’s homepage describes it as ‘an association of individuals, societies, centres, and projects with a shared commitment to the broad subject of religion and literature in English’. The website contains links to the following ongoing research projects: the Henry Crabb Robinson Project, Who were the Nuns?, the Dissenting Academies Project, Youth, Violence and Cult, and The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne. The website also hosts online publications by Mark Burden, Stephen Burley, Simon Mills, Tony Rail and Beryl Thomas, Timothy Whelan, and Tessa Whitehouse, the journal Enlightenment and Dissent, and a link to the online Surman Index of dissenting ministers.
By Mark Burden
The Puritan poet and intellectual Lucy Hutchinson’s 62-page manuscript work ‘My Owne Faith and Attainment’ (1667) has received scant critical attention; on the few occasions that it has been discussed, the text has been viewed not (as its title would suggest) as a confession of faith relating to potential church membership, but as an intellectual exercise or treatise without any obvious precedent or function. This approach to the text is doubly puzzling given that it is followed in the holograph manuscript (Nottinghamshire Archives, MS DD/HU3) by a redacted version of only 14 pages, written the following year (1668), with the title ‘A Breifer Summe of What I Believe’. Why would Hutchinson have abridged her own text so dramatically in the same manuscript only a few months later if it had been compiled solely as a private record of her faith? Furthermore, Hutchinson’s twenty-first century readers have been strangely slow to discuss these two texts in relation to the confessions of faith copied into nonconformist church books during the later Stuart period. While the critical desire to emphasise Hutchinson’s originality is perfectly understandable, we need to avoid the risk of a critically convenient double standard. For example, Hutchinson’s theological treatise ‘On the Principles of the Christian Religion’ (Northamptonshire Archives, MS Fitzwilliam misc. 793) has in recent years been viewed as a work in the tradition of the mother’s legacy, despite the fact that it lacks many of the conventions of that genre, and subverts several others; on the other hand, the similarity in content and style between church confessions and Hutchinson’s ‘Faith and Attainment’ has been dismissed on account of assumed (and rarely articulated) differences in function.
Close attention to Hutchinson’s ‘Faith and Attainment’ suggests, however, that its practical implications should not be ignored. In a little-remarked passage from the longer version, Hutchinson describes baptism as ‘an Ordinance of Christ who sent forth his Apostles to baptize all nations’, but proceeds to state that ‘divers other questions concerning the Administrators and the manner of administration I am not fully resolved in’ (DD/HU3, p. 106). Norbrook, Clarke, and Stevenson, in their forthcoming edition of Hutchinson’s religious writings, will note as an analogue the Congregational Savoy Declaration (1658), which permitted both adult and infant baptism; they will also suggest, following G. F. Nuttall, that Hutchinson’s apparent uncertainty is mirrored in a lack of dogmatism about the issue within some predominantly paedobaptist Congregational churches and some predominantly Baptist churches of the seventeenth century. These latter churches in particular are often given the somewhat anachronistic title ‘Open Communion’, by which is meant that a belief in adult baptism was not considered necessary for church membership. However, it is not possible within the apparatus of a scholarly edition to examine Hutchinson’s remarks on baptism in any detail, and Nuttall’s comments on open communion do not really help us to address the question of the influence of Baptist confessions on Hutchinson’s ‘Faith and Attainment’.
This event, held at the University of Portsmouth, 15-16 July 2016, is being convened by Dr Fiona McCall and will be of interest to many of our readers. Dr McCall writes:
‘The changes which resulted from the British Civil Wars are often seen as the first modern revolution. The establishment of a radical protestant regime in 1645, and of the English republic in 1649, were accompanied by profound alterations to the religious, social, cultural, political, financial and legal landscape. New patterns of consumption and socialisation emerged, along with the first stirrings of a scientific culture. Some embraced change, in Milton’s words, ‘musing, searching, revolving new notions … trying all things.’ Others were horrified, experiencing these as times of ‘distractions’, madness and trouble, a ‘World Turned Upside Down’. Historians continue to debate the extent of the social disruption which resulted, and the success or failure of Godly religion. Yet the consequences and personal experiences of the years which followed the first Civil war are significantly under-researched compared to its causes. The aim of this conference is to encourage contributions to redress this balance, particularly in relation to social, religious and cultural change (or lack of it) and the general impact on everyday life and on individual experience. The conference is sponsored by funding from the British Academy. Confirmed keynote speakers are Professor Bernard Capp (University of Warwick) and Dr Angela McShane (Victoria and Albert Museum).’
Call for Papers
The conference is open to scholars at all academic stages. See http://www.port.ac.uk/centre-for-european-and-international-studies-research/events/the-people-all-changed/ for further details.
Margaret Aston’s book Broken Idols of the English Reformation was published in November 2015 by Cambridge University Press and will help all of us to address key questions about the rise of nonconformity and the nature of church books.
Publisher’s note: ‘Why were so many religious images and objects broken and damaged in the course of the Reformation? Margaret Aston’s magisterial new book charts the conflicting imperatives of destruction and rebuilding throughout the English Reformation from the desecration of images, rails and screens to bells, organs and stained glass windows. She explores the motivations of those who smashed images of the crucifixion in stained glass windows and who pulled down crosses and defaced symbols of the Trinity. She shows that destruction was part of a methodology of religious revolution designed to change people as well as places and to forge in the long term new generations of new believers. Beyond blanked walls and whited windows were beliefs and minds impregnated by new modes of religious learning. Idol-breaking with its emphasis on the treacheries of images fundamentally transformed not only Anglican ways of worship but also of seeing, hearing and remembering.’
The Renaissance Society of America meets for its annual conference in Boston, 31 March – 2 April 2016. It includes a series of 5 panels titled ‘Languages of Dissent’, covering the following topics: (1) Inner Voices; (2) Translating, Labelling, Persecuting; (3) Heterodox Britain; (4) Power, Dissent, Radical Politics; (5) Art, Heritage, and Biography. Further information about the conference programme and speakers is available on the RSA website.