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Catechizing at Home, 1740–1870: Instruction, Communication and Denomination

  • Mary Clare Martin (a1)

Abstract

Catechizing played an important part in domestic religious education in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as in the better documented early modern period. However, its significance has been neglected in comparison with family prayers (often deemed to be an expression of patriarchy), Sunday observance or even private prayers. This article analyses the incidence of catechizing across religious denominations in Britain from 1740 to 1870, and within selected overseas missionary families. Drawing on a wide range of personal memoirs, the article analyses the range of contexts and relationships within which catechizing could occur. These included not only household worship (which could be conducted by women) but also relationships between siblings. It demonstrates that catechizing could provide opportunities for asking questions and spending ‘quality time’ with parents and / or children, rather than embodying an alienating form of rote-learning. The article therefore challenges many stereotypes relating to family domestic education, relating to themes such as patriarchy, denominational difference and adult-child interaction.

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Corresponding author

*University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, 10 Park Row, London, SE10 9LS. E-mail: mm91@gre.ac.uk.

Footnotes

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I am grateful to members of the Education in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar at the Institute for Historical Research, where this paper was first presented, on 4 November 2017, for their comments and questions, as well as to participants at the EHS Summer Conference.

Footnotes

References

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1 Green, Ian, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2000), 191–3. The Prayer Book Catechism of 1549 was enlarged in 1604 and revised in 1661–2: Green, Ian, The Christian's ABC: Catechisms and Catechizing in England, c.1530–1740 (Oxford, 1996), 71–4, 122–3; Jacob, William, The Clerical Profession in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1640–1840 (Oxford and New York, 2007), 236–41.

2 Green, Print and Protestantism, 190; Mandelbrote, Scott, ‘The Bible as Didactic Literature’, in Pennell, Sara and Glaisyer, Natasha, eds, Didactic Literature in England, 1500–1800: Expertise Reconstructed (Aldershot, 2003), 75137, at 92.

3 Wallace, Charles Jr, ‘Susanna Wesley's Child-rearing Letter’, in idem, ed., Susanna Wesley: The Complete Writings (Oxford, 1997), 367–76, at 371–2, 378; Green, Christian's ABC, 17–21, 62, 71, 279.

4 Green, Print and Protestantism, 191–3; idem, Christian's ABC, 43, 83–6.

5 Green, Christian's ABC, 266–74; Mandelbrote, ‘Bible’, 92–4.

6 Tovey, Phillip, Anglican Confirmation, 1660–1780, Liturgy and Worship Series (Aldershot, 2014), 195–6, 230; Jacob, Clerical Profession, 237–42; Snape, Michael, The Church of England in an Industrialising Society: The Lancashire Parish of Whalley in the Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge, 2003), 20–2.

7 McCann, Philip, ‘Popular Education and Social Control: Spitalfields, 1812–1824’, in idem, ed., Popular Education and Socialisation in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1977), 140, at 24; S. Frith, ‘Socialisation and Rational Schooling: Elementary Education in Leeds before 1870’, ibid. 67–92, at 78; Hilton, Boyd, The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1795–1865 (Oxford, 1988), 33; Davin, Anna, Growing up Poor: Home, School and Street in London, 1870–1914 (London, 1996), 115; Horn, Pamela, The Victorian Country Child (Kineton, 1974), 134–5.

8 de Bellaigue, Christina, ‘Faith and Religion’, in Heywood, Colin, ed., A Cultural History of Childhood and Family, 5: The Age of Empire (Oxford and New York, 2010), 149–66, 306; Tosh, John, A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle Class Home, 1830–1914 (London and New Haven, CT, 1999), 37, 91–3, 147; Davidoff, Leonore and Hall, Catherine, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class (London, 1987), 89, 109; Gill, Sean, Women in the Church of England from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (London, 1994), 66; Bebbington, D. W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London, 1995; first publ. 1989), 66, 105.

9 Fyfe, Aileen, ‘Reading Dissenting Children's Books in Late Eighteenth-Century England’, HistJ 43 (2002), 453–73, at 470; Amies, Marion, ‘Amusing and Instructive Conversations: The Literary Genre and its Relevance to Home Education’, HE 14 (1985), 8799, at 91–2; Cohen, Michele, ‘The Pedagogy of Conversation in the Home: “Familiar Conversation” as a Pedagogical Tool in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century England’, Oxford Review of Education 41 (2015), 447–63, at 454.

10 Jacob, W. M., ‘“Conscientious attention to publick and family worship of God”: Religious Practice in Eighteenth-Century Households’, in Doran, John, Methuen, Charlotte and Walsham, Alexandra, eds, Religion and the Household, SCH 50 (Woodbridge, 2014), 307–17, at 312; Gregory, Jeremy, Restoration, Reformation and Reform, 1660–1828: The Archbishops of Canterbury and their Diocese (Oxford, 2000), 238; Harvey, Karen, The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2012), 46–7.

11 Fletcher, Anthony, Growing up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600–1914 (New Haven, CT, 2008), 99106, 245. For a reiteration of the ‘separate spheres’ thesis, see James Marten, ‘Family Relationships’, in Heywood, ed, Cultural History, 19–38, at 21.

12 Porter, Roy, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1988; first publ. 1982), 165–6.

13 Davin, Anna, ‘What is a Child?’, in Hussey, Stephen and Fletcher, Anthony, eds, Childhood in Question: Children, Parents and the State (Manchester, 1999), 1536, at 22.

14 Ariès, Philippe, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, transl. Baldick, Robert (Harmondsworth, 1973; first publ. 1962), 122–4.

15 Jacob, ‘“Conscientious attention”’, 307–12.

16 For example, Jackson, Thomas, The Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers, 6 vols (London, 1838–64).

17 Jordanova, Ludmilla, ‘Children in History: Concepts of Nature and Society’, in Scarre, Geoffrey, ed., Children, Parents and Politics (Cambridge, 1989), 324, at 5; Hindmarsh, D. Bruce, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2005), 293319.

18 See Jones, Robert Tudur, Congregationalism in England, 1662–1962 (London, 1965), 171; Ingram, Robert G., Religion, Reform and Modernity: Thomas Secker and the Church of England (Woodbridge, 2007), 81; Gregory, Restoration, 238; Green, Christian's ABC, 43.

19 Hopkins, Eric, Childhood Transformed: Working-Class Children in Nineteenth-Century England (Manchester, 1994), 144.

20 Gregory, Restoration, 238; Jacob, Clerical Profession, 238; Green, Christian's ABC, 122.

21 Watts, Michael, The Dissenters, 1: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), 423.

22 Wallace, ed., Susanna Wesley, 371.

23 Everett, James, Adam Clarke portrayed, 2 vols (London, 1843–4), 1: 1415, 38.

24 Fletcher, Growing up, 99.

25 Jackson, Lives, 5: 1–2, 218.

26 Memoirs of Dr Joseph Priestley to the Year 1795, written by himself, with a Continuation to the Time of his Decease, by his Son, Joseph Priestley, and Observations on his Writings, by Thomas Cooper … and the Rev. William Christie (London, 1809), 5.

27 Fletcher, Growing up, 249, 115, 117, for Hester Thrale's children; Manchester, JRL, Fletcher-Tooth Papers (hereafter: MAM, Fl), Box 23, manuscript autobiography of Mrs Mary Fletcher, Part 1, 1; Chester, Cheshire RO, Journals of William Charles Cotton, vol. 11, fol. 3, June 1846 (Microfilm 3).

28 Bamford, Francis, Dear Miss Heber: An Eighteenth-Century Correspondence (London, 1938), 2; White, Florence, A Fire in the Kitchen: The Autobiography of a Cook (London, 1938), 43; Sandford, Ernest Gray, ed., Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends, 2 vols (London, 1906), 1: 19.

29 Henry Venn to Stillingfleet, Joseph, 25 January 1785, in The Letters of Henry Venn, with a Memoir by John Venn (Edinburgh, 1993; first publ. 1835), 429.

30 Green, Christian's ABC, 271–4.

31 London, Museum of London (hereafter: MOL), Young Education Scheme (hereafter: YES), 48.85/6, Schemes of lessons, 1825–31.

32 MOL, YES, 48.85/6, List of books; The Catechism broke into Short Questions; to which is added an Explanation of some words, for the easier Understanding of it: Together with some Prayers for the Use of Charity Schools (London, 1830 edn).

33 MOL, YES, 48.85/6, Schemes of lessons, 1825, 1827.

34 Shore, Margaret Emily, ed., The Journal of Emily Shore (London, 1891), 27–8 (23 December 1832).

35 Carswell, Catherine MacFarlane, Lying Awake: An unfinished Autobiography and other Posthumous Papers (London, 1950), 35.

36 Tovey, Anglican Confirmation, 199, 249, 257, 316, 334.

37 Mary Clare Martin, ‘Children and Religion in Walthamstow and Leyton, 1740–1870’ (PhD thesis, University of London, 2000), 358–66.

38 Newman, John Henry, Apologia pro Vita Sua (London, 1890 edn), 1.

39 Adami, Marie, Fanny Keats (London, 1937), 277–9.

40 Coleridge, Christabel, Charlotte Mary Yonge: Her Life and Letters (London, 1903), 119.

41 Oxford, Bodl., MS Acland d.118, fol. 113, Agnes Cotton to William Charles Cotton, 1844.

42 Bamford, ed., Dear Miss Heber, 2; Everett, Adam Clarke portrayed, 1: 14–15; Gray, Almyra, ed, Papers and Diaries of a York Family, 1764–1839 (London, 1927), 21; Shore, ed., Shore Journal, 27–8 (1832).

43 MOL, YES, 48.85/6, Schemes of lessons, 1825–8; Langdon, Life, 67; Peterson, Jeanne, Family, Love and Work in the Lives of Victorian Gentlewomen (Bloomington, IN, 1989), 36; Cambridge, Selwyn College Library, ‘Reminiscences by Mrs S. H. Sarah Selwyn, 1809, 1867, with an Introduction and Notes by Edith Evans, typed from a Typescript held by the Library of the Auckland War Memorial Museum’ (January 1892), 7, online at: <http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/037748>, last accessed 8 September 2018; Coleridge, Yonge, 96; White, Fire, 43; Fletcher, Growing up, 239, 228; Langdon, Roger, The Life of Roger Langdon, told by himself, with Additions by his Daughter Ellen (London, 1909), 23–6, 67.

44 Fletcher, Growing up, 130.

45 Tosh, Man's Place, 90–3; Hardyment, Christina, Dream Babies: Child Care from Locke to Spock (Oxford, 1984), 3145; Davidoff, Leonore, Fink, Janet and Holden, Katharine, The Family Story: Blood, Kinship and Intimacy (London, 1999), 125, 149.

46 Tosh, Man's Place, 90–3; Davidoff, Fink and Holden, Family Story, 125, 149.

47 Fletcher autobiography, Part 1, 1; Gray, ed., Diary, 21.

48 White, Fire, 43.

49 Mandelbrote, ‘Bible’, 94.

50 Everett, Adam Clarke portrayed, 1: 14–15.

51 Sandford, ed., Temple Memoirs, 18.

52 Gordon, Eleanor and Nair, Gwyneth, Public Lives: Women, Family and Society in Victorian Britain (New Haven, CT, and London, 2003), 140, 47; Cheshire RO, Cotton Journals, vol. 11, fol. 3, June 1846 (Microfilm 3).

53 Henderson, Thomas, The Missionary's Wife (London, 1855), 99.

54 Langdon, Life, 23.

55 Fletcher, Growing up, 239, 222, 228.

56 Ryan, Linda A., John Wesley and the Education of Children: Gender, Class and Piety (London and New York, 2018), 44.

57 Adami, Keats, 71–2. The Keats siblings were orphans after the death of their father in 1804 and their mother in 1810.

58 MOL, YES, 48.85/6, 1825.

59 White, Fire, 43.

60 Bodl., MS Acland d. 189, fol. 114, Agnes Cotton to William Charles Cotton, 7 February 1847.

61 Bamford, Dear Miss Heber, 2.

62 Bodl., MS Acland d.106, fol. 36, Sarah Angelina Acland to Mrs Sarah Acland, 2 May 1858.

63 Taylor, ‘Memoirs’, 1: 23–5.

64 Meyer, Louisa Clara, The Author of The Peep of Day: Being the Life Story of Mrs Mortimer (London, 1908), 8; Green, Christian's ABC, 228.

65 Richardson, Alan, Literature Education and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice, 1780–1832 (Cambridge, 1994), 6477.

66 Cohen, ‘Pedagogy as Conversation’, 447–63.

67 Fyfe, ‘Reading’, 470; Amies, ‘Amusing and Instructive Conversations’, 91–2.

68 Mandelbrote, ‘Bible’, 92; Tovey, Anglican Confirmation, 197, 231.

69 Isaac Watts, Catechisms: Or, Instructions in the Principles of the Christian Religion and the History of Scripture, composed for Children and Youth, according to the different Ages. To which is prefix'd a discourse on the Way of Instruction by Catechisms, and the best Manner of composing them (London, 1730), 17; Green, Christian's ABC, 271.

70 Green, Christian's ABC, 272.There were no ‘proofs’ or Scripture references in his version for young children.

71 Stevens, Sylvia, Quakers in Northeast Norfolk, 1690–1800 (Lampeter, 2012), 273; Wallace, ed., Susanna Wesley, 371; Gregory, Restoration, 273–8; Green, Christian's ABC, 228.

72 [John Wesley], Instructions for Children, 4th edn (Dublin, 1744).

73 Jacob, Clerical Profession, 237; William Wilson, The Instructor: Conducted by the Parochial Ministers of Walthamstow 1 (1836), 210.

74 MOL, YES, 48.85/6, 1825, Rule 1.

75 Green, Christian's ABC, 122, 228.

76 Fletcher autobiography, Part 1, 1.

77 Ibid. 4, 5.

78 Watts, Dissenters, 1: 426–8.

79 Gray, ed., Papers, 21.

80 Cited in Sangster, Paul, Pity my Simplicity: The Evangelical Revival and the Religious Education of Children, 1738–1800 (London, 1966), 41–2.

81 Henderson, Missionary's Wife, 100.

82 Wallace, ed., Susanna Wesley, 371.

83 Bowdler, Thomas, Memoir of John Bowdler, Esq. (London, 1825), 20.

84 Stevens, Quakers, 273; Darby, Abiah, Useful Instruction for Children, by way of Question and Answer (London, 1763), iii, v–vi.

85 Haldane, Elizabeth Sanderson, ed., Mary Elizabeth Haldane (1825–1925): A Record of a Hundred Years (London, 1925), 45.

86 Everett, Adam Clarke portrayed, 1: 14–15.

87 Shore, ed., Shore Journal, 27–8 (23 December 1832).

88 Sandford, ed., Temple Memoirs, 1: 16, 19. There were eight surviving children, born between 1806 and 1823.

89 Maitland, Frederic W., Life of Leslie Stephen (London, 1906), 25.

90 Cheshire RO, Cotton Journals, vol. 11, fol. 3, June 1846 (Microfilm 3).

91 Wilberforce, Bertrand A. H., A Memoir of Mother Frances Raphael, OSD (Augusta Theodosia Drane): Sometime Prioress Provincial of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of S. Catherine of Siena, Stone; with some of her Spiritual Notes and Letters (London, 1895), xx.

92 Coleridge, Yonge, 17.

93 Edward Ranulph Kenyon, ‘Letter to my Grandchildren’, 5, in private hands.

94 Frances Margaret Taylor, ‘Memoirs, Book I, 1894–1927’, 23–5, in private hands.

95 Walthamstow, Waltham Forest Archives, Acc. 10185, Joel Johnson memoir, 1731; Green, Christian's ABC, 80–3.

96 Deacon, Malcolm, Philip Doddridge of Northampton, 1702–51 (Northampton, 1980), 67, 158 n. 67.

97 Mandelbrote, ‘Bible’, 92.

98 Darby, Useful Instruction, iii, v, vi.

99 Memoir of the late Eliezer Cogan, from the Christian Reformer for April 1855 (London, 1855), 5; Priestley, Memoir, 5.

100 Meyer, Author, 8–9.

101 Henderson, Missionary's Wife, 100.

102 Wyon, Olive, The Three Windows: The Story of Ann Hunter Small (London, 1953), 10.

103 Kennedy, James, Memoir of Margaret Stephen Kennedy (London, 1892), 235.

104 Everett, Adam Clarke portrayed, 1: 14–15.

105 Churton, Edward, Memoir of Joshua Watson, 2 vols (London, 1861), 2: 1116.

106 MOL, YES, 48.85, List of books, 1825.

107 Russell, George W. E., The Household of Faith: Portraits and Essays (London, 1902), 240–1.

108 Kew, TNA, Sharpe Papers, Box 13/91, William Sharpe memoir, fol. 33.

109 Fox, E. J., Memoir of Mrs Eliza Fox: To which Extracts are added from the Letters and Journals of her Husband W. J. Fox (London, 1869), 89; Fletcher, Growing up, 254.

110 Maitland, Stephen, 25.

I am grateful to members of the Education in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar at the Institute for Historical Research, where this paper was first presented, on 4 November 2017, for their comments and questions, as well as to participants at the EHS Summer Conference.

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