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The Masonic Moment; Or, Ritual, Replica, and Credit: John Wilkes, the Macaroni Parson, and the Making of the Middle-Class Mind

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2014

Extract

On June 27, 1777, the Reverend William Dodd, “the Macaroni Parson,” Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws in the University of Cambridge; first Grand Chaplain of Modern English Freemasonry and sometime Chaplain-in-Ordinary to His Majesty; Chaplain of Magdalen House, a “Public Place of Reception for Penitent Prostitutes”; proprietor of the Charlotte Street Chapel, and a principal instigator of such other charities as the Society for the Release of Debtors and the Humane Society for the Resuscitation of the Apparently Drowned, was hanged at Tyburn for forging the signature of his patron and former pupil, Philip Stanhope, fifth earl of Chesterfield, on a bond for £4,200. Dodd's story, culminating in his trial, condemnation, and execution, despite massive efforts to procure a mitigation of the law's severity, survives best in the literary history and biography of the period. On the other hand, historians, whether political, social, or cultural, have had little or nothing to say about his predicament and suffering except as either the deserved nemesis of a swindler or an early cause celebre in the raising of public concern about the state of the criminal law. The probable reason for this neglect is that, for all the sentimental frisson which it aroused, Dodd's case was a middle-class melodrama which lacked plebeian dimension and appeal.

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Research Article
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Copyright © North American Conference of British Studies 1993

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References

1 Dodd's modern biographer is Howson, Gerald, The Macaroni Parson, a Life of the Unfortunate Dr. Dodd (London, 1973)Google Scholar.

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14 Rogers, pp. 259–303; Colley, , In Defiance of Oligarchy, pp. 138–40, 166–67Google Scholar. Despite some temporizing with Opposition Whigs, Colley treats the Steadfast as an essentially Tory organization which actively recruited a middling commercial membership for much of the mid-century from the local Tory resurgence of 1737 onward. Rogers, on the other hand, regards the Steadfast from the start as a distinct departure from earlier High Church Toryism in Bristol. Its noticeably heterogeneous membership included Quakers and Dissenters; its “Tory” phase was shortlived, and it was drifting toward an accommodation with the Union Club by the mid-1740s. This was sealed by shared reaction to the colliery riots of 1753 and set the limits of popular political manifestation in Bristol for the next twenty years.

15 Knox, T. R., “Popular Politics and Provincial Radicalism: Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1769–1785,” Albion 11 (1979): 224–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wilson, Kathleen, “The Rejection of Deference: Urban Political Culture in England, 1715–85” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1985), esp. chaps. 4–6Google Scholar. Knox and Wilson approach this process from a primarily “secular” stand-point; for its critical denominational and religious dimensions in Newcastle, Bristol, and other places, see Bradley, James E., Religion, Revolution and English Radicalism: Nonconformity in 18th Century Politics and Society (Cambridge, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Money, Experience and Identity. Manchester and South Lancashire are conspicuously absent from John Brewer's map of Wilkite activity. Manchester itself is only mentioned as the classic supporting example in the government justification of virtual representation; Brewer, , Party, Ideology and Popular Politics, pp. 175, 209–11Google Scholar.

17 Clark, J. C. D., English Society, p. 311Google Scholar.

18 Compare Bradley, , Religion, Revolution and English Radicalism, esp. pp. 405–8Google Scholar.

19 Bradley, J. E., Popular Politics, and the American Revolution in England: Petitions, the Crown and Public Opinion (Macon, Ga., 1986)Google Scholar.

20 Rogers; Wilson, , “The Rejection of Deference,” and “Empire, Trade and Popular Politics in Mid-Hanoverian Britain: The Case of Admiral Vernon,” Past and Present, no. 121 (1988), pp. 74109Google Scholar.

21 Pocock, J. G. A., “1776, the Revolution against Parliament,” in Three British Revolutions, ed. Pocock, J. G. A. (Princeton, N.J., 1980), pp. 265–88Google Scholar.

22 Bradley, Popular Politics and the American Revolution.

23 Boswell, James, Life of Johnson, ed. Hill, G. Birkbeck and rev. Powell, L. F., 6 vols.(Oxford, 1934), 3:155–57Google Scholar (September 17, 1777).

24 Compare Bayly, Christopher, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1770–1830 (London, 1989)Google Scholar; Colley, Linda, “The Apotheosis of George III: Loyalty, Royalty and the British Nation,” and “Whose Nation? Class and National Consciousness in Britain, 1750–1830,” Past and Present, respectively, no. 102 (1984): 94129Google Scholar and no. 113 (1986): 97–117, and Britons, the Forging of the Nation, 1707–1837 (New Haven, Conn., 1992)Google Scholar.

25 Cannon, John, Aristocratic Century: The Peerage of 18th Century England (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 173–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

26 The phrase is Jane Austen's per Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, chap. 3; cf. Bate, Jonathan, Shakespearian Constitutions: Politics, Theatre and Criticism, 1730–1830 (Oxford, 1989)Google Scholar.

27 For Newbury, the progenitor of Little Goody Twoshoes and Tom Telescope, see Plumb, J. H., “The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England,” in McKendrick, Brewer, , and Plumb, , eds. (n. 11 above)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 Compare discussion in Pocock, , “Clergy and Commerce” (n. 8 above), pp. 558–59Google Scholar.

29 For the Handelian commemoration, see Burney, Charles, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster Abbey (London, 1785)Google Scholar; and Weber, William, “The 1784 Handel Commemoration as Political Ritual,” Journal of British Studies 28 (1989): 4369CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The full order of masonic ceremonies in 1776, including Dodd's, sermon, is reprinted in The Institutes of Freemasonry, to Which Are Added a Choice Collection of Epilogues, Songs etc. (Liverpool, 1788)Google Scholar.

30 Dodd was here alluding to the central place occupied in masonic lore by “Jachin” and “Boaz,” the two door pillars of Solomon's Temple, the building of which occupies a place in masonic history parallel to that of the Incarnation as the central event in the Christian scheme. The difference is that, whereas the Incarnation is an act of divine redemption from the consequences of the Fall, the masonic building of Solomon's Temple manifests the preservation of a civil wisdom and perfectibility divinely implanted at the creation as a defining characteristic of humanity, which, though it may have been erased from common knowledge by the sin of Adam, had never actually been lost to its ordained masonic guardians. The trick, of course, was to make these two schemes seem to converge despite their differences, something to which not only Dodd, but other masonic clergy as well, proved quite equal.

31 For the early history of freemasonry, see Stevenson, David, The Origins of Freemasonry, Scotland's Century (Cambridge, 1989)Google Scholar; also Knoop, D. and Jones, G. P., The Genesis of Freemasonry (1947)Google Scholar. For eighteenth-century speculative masonry from 1717 (the founding of Grand Lodge) onward, the standard work is Frere, A. S., Grand Lodge, 1717–1967 (Oxford, 1967)Google Scholar; and cf. also Hamill, John, The Craft (London, 1987)Google Scholar. Also useful as a succinct summary of the factual intricacies of masonic evolution is Pick, F. L. and Knight, G. N., The Pocket History of Freemasonry, 8th ed. (London, 1991)Google Scholar. More provocative are the arguments of Jacob, Margaret, The Newtonians and the English Revolution (Brighton, 1976)Google Scholar, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans (London, 1981)Google Scholar, and Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth Century Europe (Oxford, 1991)Google Scholar. Stevenson and Jacob both have valuable discussions, drawing largely on the work of Frances Yates, of the meanings and functions of masonic ritual.

32 Shapin, Steven and Schaffer, Simon, Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life (Princeton, N.J., 1985)Google Scholar; and, on laboratories more particularly, Shapin, Steven, “The House of Experiment in 17th Century England, Isis 79 (1988): 373404CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 Greenblatt, Stephen, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago, 1980)Google Scholar; also Sharpe, Kevin and Zwicker, Stephen, The Politics of Discourse (Los Angeles, 1987)Google Scholar.

34 Compare Patterson, Annabel, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison, Wis., 1984)Google Scholar; Potter, Lois, Secret Rites and Secret Writing: Royalist Literature, 1641–60 (Cambridge, 1990)Google Scholar.

35 The following brief survey is derived from my Freemasonry and the Fabric of Loyalism in Hanoverian England,” in The Transformation of Political Culture: England and Germany in the Late Eighteenth Century, ed. Hellmuth, Eckhart (Oxford, 1990), pp. 235–74Google Scholar.

36 See the works of Philip Jenkins, cited above, n. 14. There are striking similarities between Jenkins's description of the way Swansea politics worked and Rogers's account of midcentury Bristol. The former, however, was an economic suburb of the latter, and the Beaufort presence was common to both.

37 William Preston, “Little Solomon,” arrived in London from Edinburgh in 1760. A journeyman printer by trade, he joined an Ancient lodge of Edinburgh expatriates, whom he persuaded to transfer to the Modern dispensation. Before this was finally achieved in 1772, however, the Caledonian Lodge had led a vigorous opposition to the proposed incorporation. In the same year, Preston published the first of twelve editions during his lifetime of his Illustrations of Masonry. In 1774, he joined the Lodge of Antiquity, the first of the four “time immemorial” lodges which had joined to found Grand Lodge in 1717. In 1777, after a difference over the preparation of a revised edition of the Masonic Constitutions, he and the majority of the Lodge of Antiquity seceded from the authority of Grand Lodge and reconstituted themselves as the Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent under the York Grand Lodge, dormant from 1740 to 1760, and only recently revived. The secession lasted ten years. At his death in 1818 (he was buried in St. Paul's), Preston endowed an annual series of lectures which soon became and still remain the principal oracle of masonic precept. See Frere, pp. 108–19; Pick and Knight, passim.

38 Compare Langford, , Public Life and the Propertied Englishman, 1689–1798 (n. 3 above), pp. 8284Google Scholar. Petre, who remained an active mason after his mastership, was on excellent personal terms with the king.

39 Tried during Wilkes's mayoralty, Daniel and Robert Perreau, both respected and well-connected merchants, were arrested for the forgery of bonds worth £70,000. When Daniel's mistress, a notorious courtesan called Margaret Rudd, confessed that under duress she had forged another bond not included in the indictment, she was wrongly admitted as a witness and freed on bail. If she was called in evidence and if the brothers were convicted, she could expect a pardon. After a trial marked by sensational and melodramatic revelations, both brothers were convicted, though Robert at least was probably innocent. Margaret Rudd was not called, however. At Lord Mansfield's insistence, she was therefore tried for the quite separate forgery to which she had confessed. Instead of a femme fatale sacrificing her victims to save herself, the public now saw innocence, beauty, and abused loyalty. Dressed like a puritan matron, or perhaps a female Dodd, she got off scot free after the prosecution, satisfied with the conviction of the brothers, had gone through the motions. Petitions for clemency, raised in the rather remorseful aftermath of the affair, were unsuccessful. Radzinowicz (n. 2 above), I:462; Howson (n. 1 above), pp. 127–31.

40 Howson, chaps. 12–23.

41 Ibid., pp. 66–67. Philip Stanhope, the recipient of the famous letters, was illegitimate. The fifth earl, also Philip, was the son of a distant relative.

42 Compare Brewer, John, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688–1788 (Cambridge, Mass., 1990)Google Scholar.

43 Compare Pocock, J. G. A., “Authority, Property and the Question of Liberal Origins,” in his Virtue, Commerce and History (Cambridge, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 Hoppit, , Risk and Failure in English Business (n. 6 above), pp. 4546Google Scholar. Annual numbers of bankrupts recorded in the Bankruptcy Dockets and reported in the London Gazette had remained relatively low during the previous sixty years, the decennial average being about two hundred. Even the decade of the South Sea Bubble only produced a peak of 278. The average for the 1760s was 292, for the 1770s 478, for the 1780s 539, and for the final ten years of the century 763. Moreover, within each of these final decades, the individual peak years were much higher: ca. 350 in 1769; 530 in 1772; 690 in 1777–78; 700 in 1788–89; 1,276 in 1792–93, and 863 in 1796–97.

45 Innes, Joanna, “The King's Bench Prison in the later Eighteenth Century,” in Brewer, and Styles, , eds. (n. 11 above), pp. 250–98Google Scholar.

46 Compare Raven, James, Judging New Wealth (Oxford, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sekora, John, Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought, Eden to Smollett (Baltimore, 1977)Google Scholar.

47 Howson.

48 I would like to thank John Sainsbury of Brock University, who is investigating Wilkes's indebtedness, for allowing me to make general reference to his unpublished paper on “John Wilkes: The Debtor as Hero,” which uses several case studies to document Wilkes's effect on his followers. The comments on Dodd are my own inferences about the “white collar” aspects of the crime from conversation with Randall McGowan, who is working on the general problem of forgers and forgery in the eigh-teenth century.

49 Andrew, Donna, Philanthropy and Police, London Charity in the Eighteenth Century (Princeton, N.J., 1989), esp. chaps. 4–6Google Scholar.

50 Compare Dwyer, John, Virtuous Discourse: Sensibility and Community in Late Eighteenth-Century Scotland (Edinburgh, 1987), esp. chap. 7Google Scholar, “Theory and Discourse: The 6th Edition of the Theory of Moral Sentiments.” There was a noticeable scotticization of masonic precept and leadership in the late eighteenth century.

51 Compare Collini, Stefan, “The Idea of Character in Victorian Political Thought,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 35 (1985): 2950Google Scholar. The present writer, who is not a mason, recalls a conversation, overheard while he was working in the library and museum of Grand Lodge, between another unmasonic visitor and one of the attendant tour guides, an ordinary Londoner of about sixty, formerly perhaps a policeman or noncommissioned officer in the army. Asked what masonry had done for him, the guide replied that it had helped him to “be somebody.” How? Well, it had given him “character” because among his fellow masons he had been made responsible for “public” tasks, like making a speech, which he would never have had either the confidence or the chance to do on his own.

52 Compare Brewer, , “Commercialization and Politics” (n. 11 above), esp. pp. 203–30Google Scholar on credit clubs and independence; also his discussion of the intersection of public knowledge and private interest, Sinews of Power (n. 42 above), chap. 8.

53 The best single example of this which I have so far found, appropriately in Beaufort country, is the Caermarthen Union Lodge, whose membership at the turn of the century included four local solicitors, the customs collector, three bankers, three merchants (one local, one Bristol, one London), and a magistrate from Llaugharne; Grand Lodge Library, London, Athol Registers, vol. 7, fol. 178.

54 For Sketchley, see Fenton, S. J., “James Sketchley of Birmingham,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 50 (1937): 94126Google Scholar; Poole, H., “The Sketchley Masonic Tokens,” Ars Quator Coronatorum 46 (1933): 320Google Scholar; Walker, Benjamin, “Birmingham Directories,” Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society 58 (1934): 136Google Scholar.

55 Modern Grand Masters were Cadwallader, ninth lord Blayney (1764–66), an Anglo-Irish soldier and custos rotulorum of County Monaghan; the fifth duke of Beaufort (1767–71); the ninth Lord Petre (1772–76); the fourth duke of Manchester (1777–82); the duke of Cumberland (1782–90), and the Prince of Wales (1790–1813). The Ancients were led by Scots and Irishmen throughout virtually the entire fifty years before the union: the sixth earl of Kellie (1760–65); the Honorable Thomas Mathew of Thomas Town Tipperary (1766–70); the third (1771–74) and fourth (1775–81, 1791–1813) dukes of Atholl, and the second marquess of Antrim (1783–91). As royalty's deputy, the effective Grand Master of the Moderns from 1790 onward was the Indian proconsul and soldier, Francis second earl of Moira, who procured the craft's exemption from the Unlawful Societies' Act of 1799 and was a chief architect of the union. The duke of Kent was briefly Grand Master of the Ancients in 1813. The first Grand Master of the united orders was the duke of Sussex (1813–43); Frere (n. 31 above), pp. 272–75.

56 Ibid., p. 120.

57 Though it was instituted by the Ancients and never officially recognized by the Modern Grand Lodge, the Royal Arch was extensively used in the provinces as a way of linking the two orders because modern masons were not directly prohibited from belonging to it. It found a special advocate in Thomas Dunckerley the illegitimate son of George II who was the craft's chief provincial missionary. In 1766, the newly chartered Grand and Royal Arch Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem was personally countenanced by Lord Blayney, Modern Grand Master, who became its first head; Frere, pp. 102–8, 280–81. It is an interesting thought that the post-Forty-Five ancien régime's ability to profit from “hereditary allegiance as folk culture” may have owed not a little to the activities of a Hanoverian natural son.

58 Compare James, Mervyn, Society, Politics and Culture in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1988)Google Scholar.

59 Clark, Peter, Sociability and Urbanity: Clubs and Societies in the Eighteenth-Century City (Leicester, 1986)Google Scholar.

60 Jenkins, , “Jacobites and Freemasons,” and The Making of a Ruling Class, pp. 184–86Google Scholar (both in n. 13 above).

61 Strachan (n. 13 above), p. 86. For Murray, see Bradley, Religion, Revolution and English Radicalism (n. 15 above), passim.

62 British Library, Additional Mss. 29970, Proceedings of the Royal Lodge of Freemasons at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's Street, 1777–1817.

63 Son of the vicar of Ropley, Hants; Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford, 1809; bishop of London, 1813, the year of the Masonic Union; archbishop of Canterbury, 1828, the year of Catholic Emancipation, died 1848. Compare Powell, A. C. and Littleton, J., A History of Freemasonry in Bristol (Bristol, 1910), p. 85Google Scholar.

64 Compare Jenkins, The Making of a Ruling Class, and “Jacobites and Freemasons.” Bristol masonry in fact remained relatively unaffected, unlike that of other provincial centers, by the appearance of Lawrence Dermott's Irish-derived Ancients because it was already “ancient.”

65 If it did, it probably did so indirectly, through the politics of the city's own institutions, especially the infirmary where appointments to the medical staff were elective and frequently hotly contested. In 1780, e.g., the year Burke resigned his seat rather than fight one of Bristol's most divisive parliamentary contests in the entire century, George Goldwyer started a High Tory paper, The Constitutional Chronicle, with a conspicuous masonic emblem on its front page “in hopes of making … a host of friends amongst the High Blues” for his infirmary ambitions. He was particularly keen to cultivate George Daubeny, who was returned as M.P. for Bristol by the High party in the 1781 by-election. Though he was president of the Loyal and Constitutional Club, however, Daubeny supported Golwyer's rival Joseph Metford, ”a Quaker and a Low Party man” in the infirmary contest, “an unpardonable apostacy to the cause of Church and King in those days”; see Smith, Richard, “Biographical Memoirs of the Bristol Infirmary,” 14 vols. ms.Google Scholar, Bristol Archives Office 35893/36 a-n, vol. 4, fols. 12–16. Goldwyer did in fact practice at the infirmary; so did his son, William, who founded the Bristol eye hospital and became a prominent and passionate mason.

66 Compare Barry, Jonathan, “The Cultural Life of Bristol, 1640–1775” (D.Phil., Oxford Unviersity, 1985)Google Scholar.

67 Powell and Littleton, p. 131.

To Heaven's High Architect All Praise,

All Praise and Gratitude be given,

Who deigned the human soul to raise

By mystic secrets sprung from Heaven.

Sound! Sound aloud! the Great Jehovah's Praise;

To him the dome, the temple raise.

Only truly masonic ingenuity can fit the words to the tune. Bristol was far from the only place where clerical masons were prominent. Tees and Tyneside lodges had close affiliations with the dean and chapter of Durham, not to mention the role of the cathedral choir in masonic solemnities. In Norwich, too, there was a longstanding association between the cathedral clergy and the city's lodges.

68 Born in Glamorgan, Johnes began his career as a clerk in a Bristol office and then successively as an usher in two of Bristol's several private academies. Supporting himself by working as a private tutor, he put himself through Jesus College, Oxford, and was ordained to the curacy of St. John's of which he became rector in 1779. By that time he was also chaplain to the Infirmary, keeper of the City Books and Librarian to the Library Society. He was also a member of the Bears' Club, a moderately liberal debating society which met fortnightly at the Bush Tavern during the 1790s and 1800s. In 1798 he became domestic chaplain to Lord St. Vincent and, in 1807, archdeacon of Barnstaple. He died in Exeter in 1821. Smith, vol. 3, fols. 98–110.

69 Ibid. Others present, to a total of thirty-eight, included two scriveners, a twine spinner, a cabinetmaker, a shipbuilder, a builder, an ironmonger, a haberdasher, and another tailor. The membership of the lodge at the Talbot between 1807 and 1811 shows not only the same variety lower down the social scale but also its dispersal. About half the lodge were mariners, fifty-five in all, including one from Hamburg, one in India on the Carnatic, and one in Africa on the Guinea Coast. The other half were divided between forty-four other occupations, including four accountants, six victuallers, three each of timber merchants, cabinetmakers, shipwrights, and mastmakers. There were also four “gentlemen” one of whom was styled an accountant as well, a scattering of army and militia men, customs officers, brokers, various artisan trades, including a jeweler from Sheffield, a “rectifier,” and a “moneyer.” Bristol and Clifton (eighty-three in all) accounted for just over two-thirds of the membership. The other third (thirty-nine total) came mainly from South Wales and the West of England but also included three from Wapping, two from New York, and another from “America,” one from Greenock and four from Germany (Hamburg [two], Bremen, and Rothenberg). Grand Lodge Library, London, Athol Registers, vol. 7, fols. 79, 80, 95.

70 Sharp, A., “Masonic Songs and Songbooks of the Late Eighteenth Century,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 65 (1952): 8494Google Scholar; Carter, T. M., “St. John's Lodge, Henley-in-Arden, 1791–1811,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 39 (1926): 460Google Scholar; Dudley, T. B., ed., Memoir of James Bisset, Written by Himself (Birmingham, 1904)Google Scholar; Ms volume of Bissett songs and miscellanea, 1796–1805, in the Birmingham Reference Library.

71 Colley, Britons: The Forging of the Nation, 1715–1832 (n. 24 above), chap. 6, “Womanpower.” There has not been space here to examine Freemasonry's attitude to women. On the face of it, it seems obvious that an organization dedicated exclusively to the cultural reproduction of a form of masculinity either did not have one or, if it did, merely reinforced the demarcation of separate spheres. This is debatable. Certainly, eighteenth-century Freemasonry did not begin to imagine the modern desideratum of absolute equality, public and private. Nevertheless, the craft's construction of the civil sphere and of the individual mason's role within it did not place an impassable barrier between private and civil. On the contrary, by making them interdependent, it implicitly drew the first into the second, especially as social change and the national mobilization made the latter increasingly public as well as just civil. Compare Jacob, Living the Enlightenment (n. 31 above), which develops a similar argument.

72 Andrew (n. 49 above), p. 202.

73 Inwood, Jethro, Sermons, in which are Explained and Enforced the Religious, Moral and Political Virtues of Freemasonry (London, 1799), pp. 4977Google Scholar; Sermon to Grand Provincial Meeting, Feversham, May 18, 1795, passim. Garland's Hymn is printed with Inwood's Sermon at Ramsgate, September 3, 1798, at pp. 278–79.

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The Masonic Moment; Or, Ritual, Replica, and Credit: John Wilkes, the Macaroni Parson, and the Making of the Middle-Class Mind
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The Masonic Moment; Or, Ritual, Replica, and Credit: John Wilkes, the Macaroni Parson, and the Making of the Middle-Class Mind
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