Saturday, 11 September 2010


The articles on Elizabeth Gaskell in the Church Times are now available to non-subscribers:
The first is by Ann Peart, who was Principal of Unitarian College Manchester (well after my short time there).

There is an assumption in the article as you read it that her father was a radical Unitarian minister but that she attended an ex-Presbyterian chapel that became Unitarian. Obviously there is a matter of timing and specifics to the locality here, but many Unitarian chapels were ex-Presbyterian and such didn't prevent their engagement with radicalism. They didn't have to have other denominational origins or be brand new in order to be radical. The moderation and even conservation in religion of many an ex-Presbyterian chapel (but hardly moderate when they set off) was often after the Unitarian denominationalist period and measured against that and all its controversy (regarding other denominations and trust funds and narrowness regarding the Bible). I write this recognising that I do so up against what Ann Peart wrote, and she does know what she writes about! My case is evident, however: note how, herself, Elizabeth Gaskell was clearly caught up commenting against that denominationalist and belief competition going on, against which she (like the romantics) was waiting for something more generalist, as was supplied later downwind from the Anglican Catholic Oxford Movement and Victorian Gothic.

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