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Rethinking Bibliolatry: Wilkie Collins, William Booth and the Culture of Evangelicalism

by Mark Knight

In 1885 the Reverend Samuel Charlesworth produced a book for private circulation, entitled Sensational Religion. The book was written in response to his daughter marrying one of the Booth children and becoming a Salvation Army officer. Charlesworth’s experience of the movement dated back to 1870 when it was still known as the East London Christian Mission. Although the methods employed by the movement underwent little change during the 1870s, Charlesworth became increasingly concerned at the Salvation Army’s sensationalism. He wrote that:

the Army meetings seemed to me to be far too exciting, in an unhealthy unnatural form . . . The hymns, addresses, prayers and the testimonies of experience all led up to a culminating point of excitement . . . (Charlesworth, 14) 

Charlesworth’s concerns echoed the complaints of a number of Evangelical periodicals. One of the more extreme journals—the Record—argued that:

No amount of good effected (as they assert) by the Salvationists can justify the use of profane and even blasphemous language so closely connected with it, united to a style of action more suited to the pantomime of a theatre than the solemn worship of Almighty God. (cited in “Investigator”, 7) 

One of the most striking things about these criticisms is their resemblance to the attacks that Evangelicals levelled against sensation novels in the 1860s. This is not altogether surprising when we remember that, although the Salvation Army was not officially constituted until 1878, the movement had taken shape as early as the 1860s when William Booth had taken control of the East London Christian Mission.1 The methodology that began to attract widespread hostility around 1880 as the movement grew, was, in essence, one that had been developed fifteen years earlier. The sensational techniques employed by both William Booth and novelists such as Wilkie Collins in the 1860s attracted a range of criticism. At the heart of this criticism, though, was a complaint about the lack of content. As Patrick Brantlinger reminds us:

While some reviewers commend[ed] Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and other sensation novelists for providing new thrills, they rarely suggest[ed] that their fictions offer[ed] anything more than mere entertainment. (Brantlinger, 143) 

Like other critics, Evangelicals had a number of complaints to make about the use of sensation, but, at least ostensibly, the main concern that emerged was the thrilling yet superficial content. An unsigned article in The Evangelical Magazine in 1866 posed the following question:

Are those books which he [i.e. the reader] devours so eagerly sensation novels, or good substantial works, full of solid information and of right sentiments? We by no means prohibit all fiction, but we cannot condemn too strongly much of the trash which daily issues forth from the press . . . (“Character: How it is Formed and What it is Worth?”, 376)2

The concern about what people were reading provides us with a helpful starting point for a deeper analysis of Evangelical concerns about sensation. This article will begin by examining the way in which Evangelical responses to sensation were shaped by concerns over contemporary revaluations of the Bible, and then move on to consider the way in which Collins’s novels of the 1860s, particularly Armadale(1864-6) and The Moonstone (1868), addressed related issues. As we shall see, despite their differences, both Collins and Booth possessed a profound understanding of the challenges faced by Evangelicalism during the 1860s.

While readers of mid-Victorian novels had little trouble in recognizing Evangelical caricatures such as Miss Clack in The Moonstone, it was difficult to speak about Evangelicals with any precision. Since its beginnings in the 1730s with the revivalism of John Wesley and George Whitefield, Evangelicalism had transcended identifiable ecclesiological groupings. Evangelicals were to be found in both the Dissenting tradition and the Church of England (see Cunningham, Jay). They were not united by membership of a common organization, but by the sharing of similar convictions about the nature of the Christian faith. (We should note, however, the existence of the Evangelical Alliance, formed in 1846 to foster Evangelical identity and unity, though its influence during the nineteenth century is generally agreed to be relatively marginal.) In Evangelicals in Modern Britain, David Bebbington argues that there was a quadrilateral of priorities at the heart of the convictions shared by Evangelicals: conversionism, crucicentrism, activism and biblicism. While all of these beliefs were important to nineteenth-century Evangelicalism, biblicism was the key to Evangelical perceptions of their theological position. Evangelicals saw themselves as people of the Word—hence the charge of bibliolatry that was often levelled against them. Evangelical Christendom, the unofficial organ of the Evangelical Alliance, records the recommendation of the committee to include at the organization’s annual conference an address on:

The special importance at the present time of united action on the part of Evangelical Christians, in maintaining the principles and doctrines of the Word of God, against the progress of Romanism and Rationalism. (Evangelical Christendom, Apr 1868, 157). 

In the 1860s two events brought Evangelical perceptions of the Bible to the point of crisis. The first was the publication of Essays and Reviews in 1860, which, among other things, questioned the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. Evangelicals were appalled by the critical treatment of Scripture among fellow churchmen. An essay in The Christian Observer in 1860 warned:

But what is all this but a distinct rejection of the Bible, and of Christianity? If the Bible is plainly declared to have a great falsehood intertwined on every page, how is it possible to build anything upon it? (“Theodore Parker and the Oxford Essayists”, 485). 

Especial concern was generated by Benjamin Jowett in his essay on interpretation, which encouraged people to “interpret the Scripture like any other book” (Essays and Reviews, 377). The background to the second event was the increasing amount of time that Evangelicals were spending reading novels in the 1860s, a tendency that was exacerbated by the popularity of the sensation writers who followed in the footsteps of Collins. Many Evangelical periodicals responded to this trend by challenging the reading habits of their subscribers, as can be seen from an article in The Evangelical Magazine: 

What sort of books do you read? How much of the literature of the day is there, of which we may read whole columns, without there being suggested a single thought to quicken the life of our souls . . . ? . . . If we read little else . . . especially neglecting God’s own word, the flower and crown of all books, it can scarcely be otherwise than that we should have to complain of spiritual lethargy and decay. (“Cleaving to the Dust”, 792) 

The concern over Evangelical reading habits came to a head with the controversy between the Record andGood Words in 1863. A Scottish publisher, Alexander Strahan, had launched Good Words in 1860 with the moderate Evangelical, Norman Macleod, as editor. The periodical was to offer a broad Christian vision that permitted a variety of articles (including short and serial fiction) from a range of contributors. In spite of Macleod’s Evangelical credentials,3 the Record quickly launched a series of vicious attacks against the new journal.4 Three key factors help to account for this condemnation. The first was the Record’s fear that the combination of sacred and secular material in Good Words would erode the distinctions between different types of literature and confirm the implication of Jowett’s essay, that the Bible was simply one book among many. The second factor was the way in which Good Words blurred the difference between Sunday and weekday reading. Finally, the popularity of Good Words (the first issue sold thirty thousand copies and this had increased to seventy thousand by December 1862), seemed to endorse the growing status of fiction, particularly sensation fiction, among Evangelicals.5 The Record complained:

These sensation novels are one of the crying evils of the day . . . Hearers who feed on sensation tales all week, and, by the help of Good Words and other periodicals, on the Sabbath also, can ill bear the plain wholesome food of sound doctrine from the pulpit. Hearers go to church with a diseased appetite that loathes plain food and diet which is simply nutritive. They demand a stimulus; and the weaker brethren, driven to the wall to maintain a footing, supply it by anecdotes, and stories, and startling texts . . (reprinted in Good Words: The Theology of its Editor, 56-57) 

This concerted attempt by Evangelicals to delineate the parameters of ‘acceptable’ fiction helps explain the reasoning behind Collins’s foreword to Armadale in which he attacked the “Clap-trap morality of the present day” (Collins, Armadale, 5). On a superficial level, the main issue under discussion was morality, but beneath this veneer ran a deeper debate about where true authority lay. Questions about the status of the Bible left Evangelicals worrying about the implications for the wider culture. As Evangelical Christendom put it:

there has been no period since the Reformation—perhaps we might say there has been no period since the beginning of Christianity—when the Church was passing through a more anxious and interesting crisis than at the present moment. (Evangelical Christendom, Feb 1865, 103) 

The increasing popularity of fiction focussed attention on whether or not the Evangelical’s source of identity and authority was really adequate. This is a repeated subtext in Wilkie Collins’s fiction of the 1860s, from the empty symbolism of the “smart Bible” placed on the centre of Mrs Catherick’s “largest table, in the middle of the room” (Collins, The Woman in White, 494), to the way in which Betteredge looks for inspiration in Robinson Crusoe rather than the Bible in The Moonstone. Moreover, Collins’s novels of this period addressed the broader issue of narrative authority. His use of multiple narrators and a variety of narrative styles not only raised the question of where authority lay and whether or not it could be trusted; it did so during a period in which British Evangelicalism was struggling to come to terms with German higher criticism.

Evangelical fears concerning the Bible took the form of two questions that had not been asked for some time: was the Bible intelligible? and if so, was it interesting? Armadale provides a helpful insight into the first of these questions. Serialized in Cornhill Magazine, it offered an elaborate tale of betrayal, intrigue and murder, in which two young men come close to repeating the sins of their fathers as they fall for the sinister Miss Gwilt. One of the questions posed throughout the novel is whether or not the elder Allan Armadale’s deterministic reading of the Bible will be borne out by events:

I look into the Book which all Christendom venerates; and the Book tells me that the sin of the father shall be visited on the child. I look out into the world; and I see the living witnesses round me to that terrible truth. (Collins, Armadale, 47) 

As the story unfolds, we are presented with a secular parallel of the Biblical revelation. Not only does the use of letters to advance the story resemble the epistolary form of the New Testament; the narrative also contains a variety of prophetic symbols, such as the dream that the younger Allan Armadale experiences on the shipwreck. Indeed, the biblical parallel is made explicit in the build up to the dream that Armadale experiences. Armadale assures Midwinter: “here’s the vessel as steady as a church to speak for herself” (124).

However, the revelation that we find in Armadale is notably different to its biblical equivalent. For a start, the disclosures offered by Miss Gwilt are patently unreliable: Gwilt’s expertise as a forger is compounded by her admission to Mother Oldershaw that “we all tell lies at the bottoms of our letters” (162). More fundamentally, Collins’s revelation is secretive, a point which is reinforced by his repeated description of characters as “impenetrable”. Echoing the codified language of Madame Defarge, the story opens with a vision of “the strong young nurses of the coming cripples [who] knitted impenetrably” (10). Later on, the Reverend Brock struggles to make sense of the obscure events taking place around him:

Little by little, a vague suspicion took possession of him, that the whole series of events which had followed the first appearance of Allan’s namesake in the newspapers six years since, were held together by some mysterious connection, and were tending steadily to some unimaginable end. (Collins, Armadale, 76) 

In contrast to the large number of Evangelicals who presumed that the Biblical revelation was clear, Jowett had argued that the multiplicity of existing interpretations demonstrated the need for a more sophisticated hermeneutic. He wrote: “The book in which we believe all religious truth to be contained, is the most uncertain of all books, because interpreted by arbitrary and uncertain methods” (Essays and Reviews,372). In Armadale Collins concurs with Jowett’s assessment by showing the inadequacy of simplistic interpretations. The first thing that Mr Hawbury does in his attempt to explain Allan Armadale’s dream is to reject Midwinter’s naïve reliance on a supernatural explanation. And yet the allegorical reading that the doctor offers as an alternative is little better. The foolish enthusiasm with which Armadale receives the doctor’s explanation leaves the reader in no doubt as to its inadequacy: “‘Wonderful! not a point missed anywhere from beginning to end! By Jupiter!’ cried Allan, with the ready reverence of intense ignorance. ‘What a thing science is!’” (150). Aside from its reliance on a crude form of psychology, the doctor’s interpretation resembles the more fanciful allegorical readings of Scripture often delivered from Evangelical pulpits.6

Simplistic interpretations are also parodied in The Moonstone when Betteredge consults Robinson Crusoe,“the one infallible remedy” (518).7 His declaration to Franklin Blake that the line “I stood like one Thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an Apparition” is “as much as to say: ‘Expect the sudden appearance of Mr Franklin Blake’” (344), reveals a tendency to read whatever he wants into the text. A similar weakness can be found in Miss Clack, whose crude approach to interpreting texts is evident in the instructions that she gives Lady Verinder to help her read some tracts:

“You will read, if I bring you my own precious books? Turned down at all the right places, aunt. And marked in pencil where you are to stop and ask yourself, ‘Does this apply to me?’” (Collins, The Moonstone, 258-9) 

The limitations of Miss Clack’s hermeneutic can be seen from her own failure to interpret the events relayed by Godfrey Ablewhite correctly. Although she claims that she will simply “state the facts as they were stated” (237), the version of the story that she narrates recasts the morally questionable Godfrey as the “Christian Hero [who] never hesitates where good is to be done” (239). Through this episode Collins raises general doubts about the adequacy of Evangelical hermeneutics.

The difficulties involved in interpreting texts become evident in Armadale when Miss Milroy and Armadale reflect on the legalities involved in their proposed marriage. At first, the fact that Armadale does not “know anything about the law” (454) does not seem to present a major problem as he can turn to the resources of his large personal library. However, when he tries to interpret Blackstone’s law commentaries, he quickly discovers them to be “[i]nfernal gibberish” (458) and recognizes the need to go and “consult somebody in the profession” (459). This reliance on professional expertise contradicts one of the central tenets of Evangelical belief, as Elisabeth Jay explains:

Evangelical religion is founded upon a personal apprehension of God … The onus of interpreting God’s Word therefore rests firmly upon the individual and there is no appeal to any authoritative body . . . (Jay, 51) 

Evangelicals were firmly committed to the idea that as long as someone had access to a Bible and could read, they were able to understand it. Evangelical resistance to professional interpreters is encapsulated in an article in The Revival of 1866:

The truth that the Bible is self-interpreting is as precious and all-important as the corresponding truth that it is the inspired Word of God. The message from heaven would, indeed, be of no use to men if it required any interpreter besides itself. (“Unity of Creed: The Union of the Christian Church”, 71)

In the face of an effort by Evangelicals to maintain a strict belief in the self- interpreting qualities of God’s Word, critics such as Jowett pointed out that those “who interpret ‘the Bible and the Bible only’ [do so] with a silent reference to the traditions of the Reformation” (Essays and Reviews, 331). This inconsistency is something that Evangelicals were slow to acknowledge. This is illustrated by the advice that Booth continued to give his field officers some years later. On the one hand he tried to affirm the self-sufficiency of Scripture, yet on the other he insisted that it should be interpreted with the help of his own aids. Having warned his field officers against a wide range of publications, Booth provided an exhaustive list of suitable reading material:

I. Your Bible, and then the Bible, and then the Bible again.
II. Your [Salvation Army] Hymn Book.
III. General Orders, of which a portion should be read every day. IV. The War Cry and books published at our own Stores. (Booth, Doctrines and Disciplines, Section 35)

For many Evangelicals, including Booth, questions about the intelligibility of Scripture were less important than the concern that readers might not be interested in reading the Bible in the first place. This would appear to explain the method of evangelism chosen by Miss Clack in The Moonstone. She presents Lady Verinder with tracts rather than a Bible, explaining that they are “all suitable to the present emergency, all calculated to arouse, convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify my aunt” (258). Although tracts had been popular among Evangelicals for many years (the Religious Tract Society was set up in 1799), the extent of Miss Clack’s reliance on their efficacy is revealing. At the start of the nineteenth century, tracts were often used as a cheap alternative to presenting someone with a Bible, but by the 1860s the profusion of cheap Bibles made this rationale less plausible (see Marsh, 171). While Miss Clack’s use of tracts may be motivated by a belief in their ability to offer a clearer interpretation of the Evangelical gospel than the unedited Biblical text, it seems more likely that they are valued because of their supposed ability to capture Lady Verinder’s attention. One consequence of this is that the repository of truth is no longer confined to the Bible. Miss Clack confesses: “I reflected on the true riches which I had scattered with such a lavish hand . . . ” (270). Her allusion to the parable of the sower here (and elsewhere in her narrative) is particularly significant in view of the way that Jesus interprets the parable of the sower for his disciples in Matthew 13. As any committed Evangelical would have known, the seed represents the Word of God. Thus the value that Miss Clack places on her tracts is considerable. 

By making tracts a prominent feature of The Moonstone, Collins draws attention to the growing need for Evangelicals to make the Bible more appealing by repackaging it. The extent to which this repackaging required an appeal to worldly concerns is evident in the title of the tract that Miss Clack gives to Penelope Betteredge near the beginning of her narrative—“A Word With You On Your Cap-Ribbons”. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that, despite the attempt to appeal to the masses, the tracts have little or no attraction. Penelope Betteredge rejects the tract that she is given, leaving Miss Clack with no other option than to slip “the tract into the letterbox” (237) to mingle with the rest of the mail. Miss Clack’s attempts to encourage people to read her tracts become increasingly ridiculous as the novel progresses. She resorts to hiding them in the bathroom and beneath the canary cage in an attempt to “surprise” Lady Verinder into reading them (269). In describing Miss Clack’s missionary activities here, Collins highlights the hypocrisy of Evangelicals who complained about the way in which sensation appealed to “the lowest tastes of the most degraded classes” (Behind the Scenes, 6). In addition, Collins provides his readers with a useful analysis of the way in which Evangelicals were trying to adapt their message to meet the change in public tastes. When the strategic placement of tracts proves unsuccessful, Miss Clack changes the literary form, switching from “Preparation by Books”, to “Preparation by Little Notes” (273). As we have already noted, a recognition of the need to repackage the Word for the secular market lay behind the formation of Good Words in 1860.8 It was even more explicit in the methodology adopted by William Booth, who, from the beginning of his work with the East London Christian Mission, utilized sensational and dramatic techniques to attract the attention of the people that he wanted to reach. Booth later defended this methodology in All About the Salvation Army: “They are all explained by the first necessity of the movement, which is to attract attention” (11).9 In the face of considerable criticism, Booth explained that attracting attention was merely a prerequisite to presenting people with the message of the Gospel. Nevertheless, critics feared that his methodology ran the risk of subordinating the message of the Bible to the whims of his audience. Their fears were often justified, for, as Pamela Walker explains (76), “the resemblance to popular entertainment was so strong that occasionally the Army’s services were not recognized as religious.”

The problem for Evangelicals was that while publicity seemed the best way to make themselves heard, it was fraught with risks. Aside from the danger of pandering to the desires of the heathen, the use of publicity required Evangelicals to set aside the authority of the Bible and become one voice among many. Moreover, the reduction of the Evangelical Gospel to another commercial product threatened to result in the sordid glimpses of Evangelicalism that are to be found in The Moonstone and Armadale. In The Moonstone Godfrey Ablewhite’s performances on the platform of Exeter Hall help to sustain his good reputation. However, while his message convinces more people than Miss Clack’s tracts, Mr Bruff exposes him as “a smooth- tongued impostor” (317), and even Miss Clack herself describes him as speaking “with all the fascination of his evangelical voice and manner” (280). In spite of his willingness to capitalize on a succession of convincing performances, the false Godfrey Ablewhite claims to dislike notoriety, insisting that “I shrink from all this fuss and publicity” (246). The conclusion to Armadale presents us with an equally insincere advert for Evangelicalism, this time with the “born again” (583) Mother Oldershaw in the role of preacher. Mustapha cynically invites Pedgrift Senior to attend: “They stop acting on the stage, I grant you, on Sunday evening—but they don’t stop acting in the pulpit. Come and see the last new Sunday performer of our time” (674). The superficiality of Mother Oldershaw’s performance is symbolized by the make-up worn by the ladies in the front row, who are said to be in “a state of devout enjoyment” (675), and the various references to the transient world of “fashion” (674-5) that accompany this episode. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the content of her sermon consists of a “narrative of Mrs Oldershaw’s experience among dilapidated women” (675) rather than the exposition of the Word.

Although Collins’s descriptions were deliberate caricatures, he managed to capture something of the tension that Evangelicals themselves faced as they tried to come to terms with the changing status of the Bible. As people of the Word, Evangelicals wanted to reject the methodology of sensationalists such as Collins and Booth, because, as a writer in The Christian World explained:

There needs no noisy declaration, no angry controversy, to prove the unspeakable worth of Holy Scripture. The Bible is its own witness, and contains those truths which can never grow obsolete . . . (“On Books”, 458) 

And yet the growing doubts about the adequacy of Scripture, which manifested themselves in questions about its intelligibility and its interest, left Evangelicals with little choice but to rethink their bibliolatry and turn to the language of sensation to promote their beliefs. When Catherine Booth asked her fellow Evangelicals whether it had “come to pass that Christians have so little confidence in the God of the Bible, and the religion of Jesus, that they must seek an alliance between Christ and the world in order to interest their children . . . ?” (49), the only honest answer was yes.

Work Cited

Bebbington, David. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Booth, Catherine. Papers on Practical Religion. London: Salvation Army Book Stores, 1878.

Booth, William. All About the Salvation Army. London: Salvation Army Book Stores, 1885.

________. The Doctrines and Discipline of The Salvation Army Prepared for the Training Homes.London: Headquarters, 1881.

________. Orders and Regulations for Field Officers of The Salvation Army. London: International Headquarters, 1886.

________. Salvation Soldiery: A Series of Addresses on the Requirements of Jesus Christ’ s Service.London: Salvation Army Book Stores, 1882.

Brantlinger, Patrick. The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth- Century British Fiction. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998.

“Character: How it is Formed and what it is Worth?” In The Evangelical Magazine, 8 (Jun 1866).

Charlesworth, Samuel. Sensational Religion: As Resorted to in the System called the ‘Salvation Army,’ in its Influences upon the Young, and in its Effect upon the Duties and Claims of Home Life. Ipswich: 1885.

“Cleaving to the Dust.” In The Evangelical Magazine, 6 (Dec 1864).

Collins, Wilkie. Armadale. Ed. John Sutherland. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995.

________. The Moonstone. Ed. J. I. M. Stewart. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.

________. The Woman in White. Ed. John Sutherland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Cunningham, Valentine. Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

Essays and Reviews. Ed. J. Parker. London: John W. Parker & Son, 1860.
Evangelical Christendom: A Monthly Chronicle of the Churches conducted by members of the Evangelical Alliance. 1846-.

Good Words: The Theology of its Editor, and Some of its Contributors, Reprinted from the Record Newspaper. 2nd edition. London: Record Office, 1863.

Hattersley, Roy. Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth and Their Salvation Army. London: Little, Brown and Company, 1999.

“Investigator.” Behind the Scenes with the Salvation Army. London: Civil Printing Company, 1882.

Jay, Elisabeth. The Religion of the Heart: Anglican Evangelicalism and the Nineteenth- Century Novel.Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

Macleod, Donald. Memoir of Norman Macleod. 2nd ed. London: Ludgate Hill, 1877.

Marsh, Josh. Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998.

“On Books”. In The Christian World Magazine, 2 (Dec 1866) 454-8.

Peters, Catherine. The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins. London: Secker &
Warburg, 1991.

Review of The Family Shakespeare; in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read in a family by Thomas Bowdler. In The Christian Observer, 60 (May 1860).

“Theodore Parker and the Oxford Essayists.” In The Christian Observer, 60 (Jul 1860). Turner, Mark.Trollope and The Magazines: Gendered Issues in Mid-Victorian Britain. London: Macmillan, 2000.

“Unity of Creed: The Union of the Christian Church.” In The Revival: An Advocate of 
Evangelical Truth, 15 (Aug 1866) 71-73.

Walker, Pamela. “‘A Carnival of Equality’: The Salvation Army and the Politics of Religion in Working-Class Communities.” In Journal of Victorian Culture, 5.1 (Spring, 2000) 60-82.


References

  1. According to the recent biography of William and Catherine Booth: “At the end of the 1860s he [William Booth] was everywhere in the East End of London, and it was impossible to pass a public house without being urged to accept one of his pamphlets. His preachers were on every street corner and the sound of his hymns disturbed Sunday morning rest from Limehouse to Whitechapel” (Hattersley, 165). []
  2. Evangelical disquiet about the reading of novels was not new—previous generations had been resistant to most fiction. While this attitude had softened by the mid-nineteenth century, the continuing apprehension can be seen from a review of Bowdler’s The Family Shakespeare in The Christian Observerin 1860: “Is it desirable that Shakespeare should be read in Christian families? Is it becoming that The Christian Observer should write a line to promote acquaintance with the great tragic poet? We must confess that we are not prepared with a precise answer. But if Shakespeare must be read, this is the edition, and the only edition, that ought to lie upon the table of a Christian family” (360).  []
  3. Although known as a moderate, Macleod had studied under Thomas Chalmers and was one of the founding members of the Evangelical Alliance. Moreover, his theology was thoroughly consistent with the Evangelical quadrilateral of priorities outlined by Bebbington. Macleod’s enthusiasm for Evangelicalism diminished during the 1860s, but he continued to identify with this tradition.  []
  4. It is interesting to note the position taken up by other Evangelicals in response to this debate. Periodicals such as the Patriot took the middle ground, criticizing the Record’s hostility while admitting a degree of culpability on the part of Good Words.  []
  5. Mark Turner (ch. 2) discusses the way in which the competition with Cornhill Magazine encouragedGood Words to look towards secular novelists to help boost circulation.  []
  6. A good example of this can be found in Salvation Soldiery, where Booth justifies the ignorance of his Cadets by likening them to David: “David was all unskilled and undrilled in the then existing rules of war. He knew nothing of armour, and sword, and spear, and shield, and all that… So with your Cadet… He is flagrantly ignorant of grammar, logic, philosophy, knows nothing of the prevalent controversies, can hardly read his mother tongue, to say nothing of writing it” (10).  []
  7. Other critics have noted the way in which Robinson Crusoe is meant to be read as a parody of the Bible. Joss Marsh (181) describes the tendency among Victorian novelists to encode “their unorthodoxy in what we might call the heretic trope of the Book-within-the-Book”, going on to note that “Crusoe was also the classic example of fictional forgery, and as such stood in a sharply oppositional relationship to the truth of Scripture”. In a similar vein, Catherine Peters (306) suggest that “[t]he anti-evangelical theme is continued less obviously in Betteredge’s superstitious use of Robinson Crusoe as a secular bible” (306).  []
  8. As Turner (64) points out, Evangelicals began to show an interest in the potential of periodicals to broaden their appeal during the 1850s: “The Religious Tract Society, for example, began publishing two weeklies priced one penny in the early 1850s, The Leisure Hour (1852- 1908) and Sunday at Home(1854-1940)”. []
  9. Booth made a similar point in his Orders and Regulations for Field Officers of the Salvation Army:“The work of the F[ield] O[fficer] is to publish Salvation, that is to make it known, and those methods must be preferred that most effectually assist them in doing so” (280). []

Rethinking Bibliolatry: Wilkie Collins, William Booth and the Culture of Evangelicalism by Mark Knight
The Wilkie Collins Journal 03 (2000)

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