L&T Archive 1998-2003

Jane Austen's Religion..a reading list

A request from Pablo has jogged me into doing something that has been at the back of my mind for some time, namely, post a list of stuff that I've been looking at with regard to the Church of England in JA's time, and how it applies to her work. Since we are also discussing JA's reading this month, perhaps it might also generate some comments on where Mary Bennet gets her pompous quotes from, or exacly what Mary Crawford meant by "private devotions" and whether that's the same as Marianne Dashwood's "private contemplation".

Books about Religion(all available at amazon.com)
Collins, Irene. 1994. Jane Austen and the Clergy. Hambledon Press. ISBN:1852851147
This book is a vivid description of what it was like to be, or live with , a clergyman, and clarifies a great deal about JA's religion that mystifies most people. I heartily recommend it, yet again.

Cragg, Gerald R. and Newby, Robert Church and the Age of Reason 1648-1789 (Pelican History of the Church, Vol. 4).Viking Press.ISBN: 0140137610
This book is an over view of everything that happened in Christian thought , word and deed , right up to 1800. It's very turgid prose, but it tells an awful lot. If you want to know about Laudians, Deists, and why the world is like a watch, read Cragg. Book 5 in the series, The Church in the Age of Revolution 1800 to the Present Day by Alec Vidler, basically says that not much changed in the mainstream Cof E world between 1800 and 1825, but it is interesting if you want to know about Catholic Emancipation, the difference between the Clapham Sect and the Clapton Sect, and how JA's Church differed from that of, say Thomas Hardy's, later in the century.
Both these books come as paperbacks or hardbacks.

Books that JA used in her religion

The Bible She would have known the one known as the Authorised version, or the King James Bible, which was standard provision in all English Churches. In Cof E churches today, the Bible on the Lectern contains the Apochrypha, but it is almost never used. I think , but I don't know for sure, that JA would have been aware of this section.

The Book of Common Prayer This was actually more important for everyday use than the Bible, being a programme of services and prayers for the church year. JA seems to have known it off by heart- she occasionally quotes from it in the novels, and if she couldn't make the second Sunday service for any reason, took pains to read it privately at home. TBOCP is still in use, and hasn't changed a great deal since her time. Some bits that she knew were removed in the 1850's and 60's, such as the prayer for Charles the Martyr, and the Commemoration of November 5th, and some bits were added in the 1920's, such as special prayers for the Airforce, but the differences between 17th and 20th Century language should make them quite clear. There is an on-line edition of TBOCP at http//www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/
HC's great work, the Jane Austen Information Page, has some interesting comments about TBOCP in JA's novels. That's probably the best place to sart, actually, as it also has a list of lit.crit on the subject of religion, too.

Sermons such as those by Fordyce , Lampooned in P&P2, were an integral part of religious experience. Many sermons were printed and published for mass usage. Most of these have almost no biblical references at all . They were overwhelmingly concerned with Morality , i.e., the way that people should behave. They were written largely by men who cut their eye teeth on Caesar and Cicero, and who read Plato and Aristotle and Thucydides and Pliny in the original, and who strove to emulate these classical scholars in style and content. (I've recently been re-reading Plato myself, and am amazed at how 18th-century he seems ;-) )
Sermon-writers admired by JA include Archbishop Thomas Secker, who wrote Lectures on the Catechism of the Church of England 1770.
James Fordyce published The Character and Conduct of the Female Sex 1776 and Sermons to Young Women 1766. Can we assume that his was pompous posturing, only to be admired by Mary Bennet?
Unfortunately, none of these worthy gentlemen seem to have been re-published in the last 50 years( are you surprised?) and as far as I know they are not on-line either.

The Austen family is also known to have enjoyed poetry for its religious content, and here the works of George Crabbe and William Cowper come to mind. Some of their poetry is on-line, and you can find it by looking at Barbara's Literary Companion, which is linked to the Home Page, The Quick Index and the Library Board. Both poets are available at Amazon, but I'm not in a position to recommend any particular book, I'm afraid- I still don't know nearly enough about them.

Finally, there exist journals and writings of Non- Cof E churchmen of the period that can shed some light on the question of what JA believed and why. John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, always intended to reform the C of E from within, and his journals and lectures are full of little tidbits about beliefs, manners, ceremonial and habits that he considered wrong, and why. So in a backhand sort of way, you can absorb a fair amount about JA's church from him. His writing is often featured in 18th century literature anthologies, but one day, when I have some money, I'm going to get one of these books from Amazon..........
John and Charles Wesley : Selected Prayers, Hymns, Journal Notes, Sermons, Letters and Treatises by Frank Whaling (Editor), Charles Wesley (Photographer), Albert Outer (Designer)
(December 1988) Paulist Press; ISBN: 0809123681

The Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion and Certain Related Open Letters (The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 11) by John Wesley, Gerald R. Cragg (Editor), Frank Baker Abingdon Press; ISBN: 0687462150

Thomas Gisborne, an Evangelical parson wrote a couple of texts which impressed JA, once Cassandra had induced her to read them, that is. His An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex wa s printed in 1797, and An Enquiry into the Duties of of Men in the Higher and Middle Classes of Society( in 1800?) . Like the other sermons, though, it seems that they not to be easily found on-line. Sorry.

At present I really don't feel capable of explaining a religion that thought of the universe as one gigantic clockwork machine, didn't sing hymns, and had parsons keep maypoles in their gardens. However, I'm trying to learn. If anyone else wants to discuss this topic, give me some advice, or expand on what I've written here, I'd be really glad!

I hope that helps, Pablo.
I shall conquer this

Messages In This Thread

Jane Austen's Religion..a reading list
Another good book I've found
Many many thanks! :)
Religious texts and their influence of Jane Austen
Sorry, I forgot what I was going to add :-( nfm
no hymns?
Great Minds Think- and Post- alike ;-) (nfm)
very interesting!
"All People that on earth do dwell"
Catholic vs. Protestant hymns; Emma 3
Protestant varieties of Christians and music
But that's a metrical psalm!
Well, I DID warn you that I was untutored! ;-)
Hymns, Psalms and other church music
Old Hundredth and other things...
Canting Priests and Old Hundred tunes
*Chanting* Priests, surely ;)
On the Spot!
psalms, etc.
Tuna him (an aside).
"All O' My Love, All Of My Kissin'......"
Six-five special comin' down the line...
'He wishes to remedy this evil by a little laudable emulation...'
This Cooper
The clockwork universe
clockwork theology
God active in the mechanical universe
In Austen's day nearly everyone was a Creationist. Darwin was later
You Asked about Anyone Today
Spooky action at a distance?
What it has to do with Jane Austen
Quite Right.
I'll bet that your microscope is smaller than the Cern
Caroline, thanks for a very good read.
Oh what a bore i am.
If K. & I agreed terms, I think we could agree elsewhere NFM
:D You can have that encomium back any time you like (nfm)
Not at all: You could play the encomium in Darcy's band if Liz agrees.
Then we could all do The Floral Dance! :-D (nfm)
Sweeping generalizations can create sweeping problems and I am sorry
No railways, though
Austen and Darwin