Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four Nineteenth-Century Families

Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four Nineteenth-Century Families

Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four Nineteenth-Century Families

Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four Nineteenth-Century Families

Synopsis

This is a fascinating account of the influence of evangelicalism upon eminent Victorians. Recording family life was an important ritual in Victorian households, and out of this habit grew a new literary genre, the domestic biography, extolling individual piety and domestic virtue. Using documents from the archives of the Macaulay, Stephen, Wilberforce, and Thornton families, Dr Tolley analyzes the biographical tradition and its lasting effects upon "family values."

Excerpt

Religion at Clapham encouraged the production of documentary material. Diaries, devotional journals, and memoranda of conduct were an integral part of the system, and the instinctive recourse to various forms of written self-examination was a characteristic mark of Clapham descent. The habit helped to give the Clapham faith its distinct and legible quality, and it must have increased the readiness with which many members of Clapham households became published authors, taking up their pens to defend or argue their views in a great variety of situations. But personal and devotional writing formed only a part of the archives created within these families. Just as Clapham Evangelicalism found its fullest expression in the home, so the religious urge to produce documentation expanded within the domestic framework, acquiring in the process some independence of religion pure and simple. The quotations already used will have given some idea of the wealth of the material: memoirs, accounts of family deaths, autobiographical recollections, travel journals, volumes of copied correspondence and collections of letters, notes on genealogies, and even records of documents destroyed--besides the private diaries and journals. Inherited, preserved, added to, recopied, read and discussed within the family: these documents are a rich embodiment of the domestic culture inaugurated in Clapham circles, and a fascinating monument to it.

For several generations, biography played a central role in expressing and perpetuating the values shared by the descendants of the Clapham Sect. Through Lives and memoirs they affirmed their confidence in that inheritance, both as it had influenced their own homes and for its contribution, through the work of many dedicated individuals, to the whole fabric of the nation. Here, in these domestic archives, is the raw material for the published biographies. And more than simply raw material, for the shape and style of the published works was largely determined by the contents of these collections of . . .

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