The Victorian Vision: Studies in the Religious Novel

The Victorian Vision: Studies in the Religious Novel

The Victorian Vision: Studies in the Religious Novel

The Victorian Vision: Studies in the Religious Novel

Excerpt

The Victorian age saw the transformation of the religious novel from a literary outcast into a most respectable and widely fashionable form of fiction. Religious novels of that time were not, as mid-twentieth-century readers might imagine, novels merely coloured by Christian thought and feeling, interpreting characters and events from a Christian standpoint; they bore a far more distinctive label than that. Nor were they just novels about clerical life, like those of Anthony Trollope (who, from a spiritual point of view, did not penetrate very deep beneath the surplice). To the Victorian reader religious novels meant "theological romances", "Oxford Movement tales", novels of religious propaganda designed to disseminate a variety of forms of Christian belief, and assorted spiritual biographies in fiction, including converts' confessions of all kinds, from the apologies of ardent agnostics to the testimonies of Catholic "perverts".

Frequently topical and controversial in character, and usually written with a very strong moral purpose, these stories were at first highly suspect on account of their inevitable mixture of the sacred and the profane. When George Eliot in . . .

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