Get access

Pedalling the Death of a Life: A Late Victorian Variation on Dealing with Grief


  • Alan H. Cadwallader

  • Alan H. Cadwallader is a senior lecturer in Biblical Studies, Australian Catholic University, Canberra, NSW, Australia.


This article seeks to explore how one forgotten, Victorian-formed individual sought to deal privately with the death of his publicly esteemed father. Through the journey that carried a cyclist and train traveller from the north to the south of England, we discover the conjunction of athleticism and mortality, place and people, pilgrimage and passages, religion and leisure, photography and memorialisation, discipline and dissipation, networks and mourning. It provides a counterpoint to the accent on death-bed and grave in Victorian England during a time of national readjustment by arguing that the particular method of dealing with a significant death carved by Henry Westcott for himself was novel, cathartic, and yet constantly interacting with and informed by the legacy of a range of Victorian values. Those values are explored through the writings of his father, Brooke Foss Westcott, a famous biblical exegete who provided a distinctive interpretation of the key scriptural text of Victorian death: the Gospel of John, chapter 11. Those values became a legacy that is both reinforced in Henry through the death of his famous father and also subtly interrogated and eroded as Henry pedalled through the complexities of disentanglement from the paterfamilias, a journey that Henry recorded in diary and photograph.