Stuart Headlam's Radical Anglicanism: The Mass, the Masses, and the Music Hall

By Arnstein, Walter L. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Stuart Headlam's Radical Anglicanism: The Mass, the Masses, and the Music Hall


Arnstein, Walter L., The Catholic Historical Review


Stuart Headlam's Radical Anglicanism: The Mass, the Masses, and the Music Hall. By John Richard Orens. [Studies in Anglican History.] (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 2003. Pp. xii, 184. $29.95.)

The nineteenth-century Church of England encompassed a spectrum of religious attitudes that included dour High Churchmen such as Edward Bouverie Pusey (who unlike John Henry Newman and others did not convert to Roman Catholicism), pious Low Church evangelicals, and liberal Broad Churchmen who reconciled their teachings with those of Charles Darwin and kindred scientists. Stuart Headlam (1847-1923) fitted none of these categories. Instead, this graduate of Eton and Cambridge became "the most bohemian priest" (p. 1) in the history of his church. He denned himself as a Catholic who welcomed elaborate ritual; he preached "universal salvation" in the slums of London's East End; he invited "wicked" music hall dancers to the Church and Stage Guild that he founded, and he saw joy rather than vice in popular amusements. He also instituted the egalitarian Guild of St. Matthew and edited the Church Reformer; he fostered the education of the poor as an elected member of the London County Council; he welcomed the socialist revival of the 1880's and 1890's, and he served for a decade as a member of the executive committee of the Fabian Society; he concluded his life as president of the London Shakespeare League. He also scandalized his church superiors by becoming the friend and defender of a notorious atheist, Charles Bradlaugh, and by providing bail for the imprisoned Oscar Wilde.

Basing himself on Headlam's published writings, on church archives, and on relevant monographs, Orens has provided the first modern biography of Headlam, and he has done so in an admirably compact, fair-minded, well-documented, and readable manner. …

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