The Brontës and Religion

By Marianne Thormählen | Go to book overview

Introduction

The Brontë sisters belong to those writers on whom so much has been written that a new full-length work calls for an explicit excuse, if not an apology. Such an excuse must incorporate the element of novelty, the raison d'être of any additional publication in an already well-researched Weld. Beyond that, the writer can only hope that the novelty will be perceived as part of a useful endeavour.

As no previous scholar has devoted a whole book to an attempt to situate the Brontë novels in the context of early and mid nineteenthcentury religion – at least not a book readily available to students and researchers – this one may lay claim to being new in the sense that it attempts to do something that has not been done before on the same scale. 1 So far, so good; but a writer who proposes to add a 'first' to a mass of scholarship and criticism that includes hundreds of books must pause to wonder whether the reason for the lack of predecessors might be that the undertaking has seemed unnecessary in the past. A natural, and somewhat disturbing, corollary is the worry that such an attitude was – and remains – justified.

That worry may be articulated in two separate queries: has enough work been done on the Brontës and religion in the existing chapters, essays and articles by various authors, so that an entire book exclusively devoted to this line of enquiry is superfluous? Is that line itself of marginal interest and hence not sufficiently important to sustain a full-length effort?

While prepared to accommodate doubts in other respects, I am confident that the answer is 'no' in both cases. Although some excellent scholarship has been devoted to religious issues with a bearing on the Brontës and their work, previous efforts have either concentrated on isolated matters or presented general overviews. Taken together, they do not yield a full and balanced picture of the theme as a whole (nor, indeed, was there any reason to expect that they would). The second query has been answered for me over the last few years by a number of

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The Brontës and Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Abbreviations and Editions ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Denominations *
  • Chapter 1 - A Christian Home in Early Nineteenth-Century England: Evangelicalism, Dissent and the Brontë Family 13
  • Chapter 2 - Charlotte Brontë and the Church of Rome 24
  • Chapter 3 - An Undenominational Temper 39
  • II - Doctrines *
  • Chapter 4 - The Brontës in the Theological Landscape of Their Time 47
  • Chapter 5 - God and His Creation 53
  • Chapter 6 - Faith and Redemption 71
  • Chapter 7 - This Life and the Next 90
  • III - Ethics *
  • Chapter 8 - Forgiveness and Revenge 119
  • Chapter 9 - The Christian Life 144
  • IV - Clerics *
  • Chapter 10 - Clergymen in the Brontë Novels 173
  • Chapter 11 - The Enigma of St John Rivers 204
  • Notes 221
  • Select Bibliography 271
  • Index 278
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