Preaching Religion, Family and Memory in Nineteenth-Century England

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Abstract

This article explores the religious selfhood of an exemplary Bible Christian woman, Mary Thorne (1807–1883). Founded in 1815 as a splinter group of Wesleyan Methodism, the Bible Christian denomination invoked an epistemology which stressed the correlation between religious and familial obligations. A close study of Mary Thorne's private writings suggests the tensions which existed within this ideal at the level of everyday life. Her writings open a window on a religious woman's negotiation of her public identity alongside her experiences of marriage, sexuality and motherhood. They show the impact of age, life cycle and memory in the process of self-imagining and commemoration. Critically, they also show how dependent Thorne's self-realisation and presentation were on material signs of her identity. In understanding the varying constructions of Mary Thorne's religious selfhood, I argue we might more fully understand the material cultures that underpinned evangelical religion and domesticity in nineteenth-century Britain.

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