The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: A Sect in Action in Eighteenth-Century England

The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: A Sect in Action in Eighteenth-Century England

The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: A Sect in Action in Eighteenth-Century England

The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: A Sect in Action in Eighteenth-Century England

Synopsis

This is the first detailed study of the operation of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, an important group in early Methodism. Alan Harding explores how the Connexion developed locally; the identity of its preachers and their training; the religious and social origins of those who joined its congregations; and the relationship between central direction and local initiative. The book examines the Connexion's attitudes to the Church of England and also to Dissent, to whose revival in the later eighteenth century it made a significant contribution. It considers the Connexion's relationship with other sections of the Revival, and reflects on the doctrinal issues that divided it from Weleyan Methodism.

Excerpt

There is something quaint, almost picaresque, about the notion of a titled woman founding her own denomination. It seems the stuff of the historical aside, not of serious mainstream research. Possibly this somewhat eccentric image has been partly responsible for denying the Countess's Connexion its rightful place in the study of the eighteenth-century Revival. Nor was the Connexion helped by the fact that the principal nineteenth-century biography of the Countess (A. C. H. Seymour, The Life and Times of the Countess of Huntingdon (London, 1839)) is lengthy, complex and notoriously confused, while at the same time giving the appearance of having said all that could be said on the subject. For the 150 years following the publication of Seymour's Life and Times, there was no significant new work published on the Countess or her Connexion, although a number of academic theses on aspects of her work started to appear from the 1950s.

The position began to change significantly after the archives of Cheshunt College, the successor institution to Lady Huntingdon's own foundation, Trevecca College, became available to scholars from the later 1960s. There had hitherto been no shortage of manuscript material on the Countess and her Connexion, but most of it was scattered and fragmentary, each collection reflecting only individual aspects of her life and work. The Cheshunt archive, however, is of a different order. Although there are some discernible gaps, the collection contains a major part of the correspondence that Lady Huntingdon received during the last twenty-five years of her life, and reflects a wide range of her contacts, interests, and activities. Much of it is repetitive, and that is its strength, since it allows clear patterns to emerge, and shows what life was like day-to-day for the Countess and those

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