People of One Book
The Bible and the Victorians
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Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of Pages: 336
Width: 16.9 cm
Height: 24.2 cm
Although the Victorians were awash in texts, the Bible was such a pervasive and dominant presence that they may fittingly be thought of as 'a people of one book'. They habitually read the Bible, quoted it, adopted its phraseology as their own, thought in its categories, and viewed their own lives and experiences through a scriptural lens. This astonishingly deep, relentless, and resonant engagement with the Bible was true across the religious spectrum from Catholics to Unitarians and beyond. The scripture-saturated culture of nineteenth-century England is displayed by Timothy Larsen in a series of lively case studies of representative figures ranging from the Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry to the liberal Anglican pioneer of nursing Florence Nightingale to the Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon to the Jewish author Grace Aguilar. Even the agnostic man of science T. H. Huxley and the atheist leaders Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were thoroughly and profoundly preoccupied with the Bible. Serving as a tour of the diversity and variety of nineteenth-century views, Larsen's study presents the distinctive beliefs and practices of all the major Victorian religious and sceptical traditions from Anglo-Catholics to the Salvation Army to Spiritualism, while simultaneously drawing out their common, shared culture as a people of one book.
Larsenas careful research and accessible style will make this one of the classic works on the period for many years to come. American Historical Review This is a rich and thoroughly enjoyable book English Historical Review A learned and engaging book. Journal of Modern History Another significant contribution to this field, Timothy Larsens learned A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians successfully demonstrates the diversity of the ways that Victorians thought about and interpreted the Scriptures. The Years Work in Englishs Studies For demonstrating the surprising longevity and breadth of the Bibles cultural and linguistic influence, for its imaginative mapping of everyday Bible reading, and for introducing readers to a treasure trove of little-known primary sources, A People of One Book makes a significant contribution to the field. Nineteenth-Century Literature This is a painstakingly, formidably researched study: archives and collections of the papers and letters of several of the figures discussed have been minutely examined, as have countless newspapers and journals, magazines and tracts. Professor Larsen must have immersed himself in hundreds of sermons, biblical commentaries, essays, reviews and biographies to put together the successive case histories. And he has listened, attentively, to these different voices. The result is a recuperative work of patient synthesis, and I cannot imagine the scholar of nineteenth-century religion or literature who would not learn something new from nearly every page. Chris Walsh, Religion and Literature In his erudite treatment of these dozen representative figures, Larsen, the McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, offers a virtual survey of the Victorian religious landscape. Journal of Religion This book will be much appreciated by anyone interested in the religious world of nineteenth-century Britain. The Historian Larsen's research is impressively detailed, and this, combined with a genuine skill in writing his subjects, makes Larsen's study a fascinating personal account of Victorian public and religious figures. New Blackfriars provides valuable new insights into an already crowded field of historical study. Ian McCormack, New Directions In this excellent study the author succeeds in displaying the sheer variety of ways in which the Bible permeated Victorian life and thought. His chosen methodology is to provide case studies of representative figures from a wide range of religious and sceptical traditions, and the results are hugely rewarding ... Larsen has given us a rich work which shows how Victorian culture and society was characterised by its sustained engagement with this singular text. Journal of Ecclesiastical History The contemporary lack of biblical knowledge in Western societies is not fully appreciated until contrasted with another era when familiarity with the Bible was commonplace even among the fiercest critics of religion. In this insightful and well-researched volume, Larsen provides such a vantage point by exploring the prominence of the Bible in the cultural milieu of nineteenth-century Great Britain... Larsen elucidates the place of the Bible in the lives of both believers and nonbelievers, and he convincingly argues that the biblical text functioned as the dominant cultural reference point for the Victorians. Religious Studies Review Larsen's book brilliantly and engagingly illuminates the extent to which the Victorians were 'a people of one book' by exploring the hold of the Bible in the lives and writings of 12 representative figures. Commendably and refreshingly more than half his case studies are of women. Ian Bradley History Today an exceptionally rich and nuanced account... In addition to deepening our understanding of the Victorians - and briskly deflating widely held misconceptions left and right - Larsen's chronicle implicitly prompts us to ask questions about the presence of the Bible in our own place and time. John Wilson, Christianity Today Review This adroitly constructed work demonstrates the centrality of Scripture to nineteenth-century England, tracing this through the representatives of the rival traditions of Victorian Christianity and its critics, with a particular emphasis on women... Here is a salutary reminder to historians of the Victorian era that they may know little about the Bible which was the very foundation of the culture that they are studying: a little like researchers of ancient Rome not knowing Latin. Sheridan Gilley, Journal of Theological Studies In this superb book [Timothy Larsen]... challenges our assumptions, breathes new life into a stale historiographical orthodoxy and paves the way for important future research. That's quite a hat-trick but even more impressive is the fact that his book is sufficiently witty and accessible to appeal to a very broad readership... This is an outstanding book. The biographical studies are pithy, the learning is worn lightly, and many lazy assumptions are punctured. Catholic Herald These chapters not only shed fascinating light on the people considered, together they provide a valuable overview of the religious history of 19th century Britain... Larsen has something fresh and original to say about everyone he discusses. Church of England Newspaper This splendid volume on the religious thought of the Victorians... is hardly less extraordinary than the Book of which it speaks and the people who derived 'their common cultural currency' from the Book. Heythrop Journal A People of One Book is far-ranging. Larsen has chapters on what a vital role the Bible played among Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, Methodists, Quakers, Unitarians, Dissenters, Agnostics, even Atheists. And what is more impressive, he manages to show each of these different traditions true critical sympathy. Weekly Standard A People of One Book issues a compelling call not to ignore the Bibles role in shaping the thought and expression of Victorians of all persuasions from devout to skeptical. Presenting deeply informed but not pedantic close readings of archival as well as published material, it asks us not to set aside their Bible reading as ancillary, unsophisticated, and unimportant to their public and private lives. Rather, Larsen invites us to let the figures speak for themselves, to hear them as they give emphatic pride of place to the Bible in their thought and lives. Fides et Historia Larsen's book provides a well-researched study of the range of Victorian approaches to the Bible, enabling readers to grasp its centrality in private devotions, family worship, preaching, and public life. International Bulletin of Missionary Research Larsen's book reinforces the view that students of western history need to develop a working knowledge of the Bible. Our age is comparatively ignorant of the Bibles contents. If students do not become familiar with that book, they risk misunderstanding historical texts ... This book is a very serviceable introduction to the religious life of Victorian Britain, and it makes an appropriate plea for greater care in the study of this aspect of Victorian lives. Australian Journal of Politics and History This is a powerful book, engagingly and often amusingly written. Brian Stanley, Expository Times this excellent study ... The uniqueness of Larsen's book is its engagement with the diversity of Victorian thought John G. Maiden, Journal of Ecclesiastical History Larsen's study of the Bible in Victorian England defends a compelling thesis with professional historical research and meticulous detail. Dale B. Martin, Journal of the American Academy of Religion