• Norris Pope


‘It might be laid down as a very good general rule of social and political guidance,’ Dickens expostulated in 1848, ‘that whatever Exeter Hall champions, is the thing by no means to be done.’1 If many of Dickens’s contemporaries would have agreed with him, many others, and especially those with ‘Gospel sympathies’, would not. Exeter Hall was the great moral stock exchange of the evangelical world; and in the eyes of ‘serious Christians’, for whom religion meant evangelical religion, Exeter Hall was the accepted monument to the missionary and charitable zeal of English Protestantism. ‘From this centre will issue forth mighty waves of influence,’ one evangelical wrote, ‘that will reach to the uttermost parts of the earth, and affect the condition of the ignorant, the needy, the oppressed.’ ‘Thousands have thronged this hall, endured fatigue even to exhaustion, and have retired,’ another evangelical reported (without any intention of irony), ‘thanking God for the brightening prospect of the improvement and redemption of mankind.’2


Distribution Society Religious Society Charitable Reading Political Guidance Moral Laxity 
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  1. 3.
    See, for example, Noel Gilroy Annan, Leslie Stephen: His Thought and Character in Relation to his Time (Cambridge, Mass., 1952) p. I to.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    F. Morell Holmes, Exeter Hall and its Associations (1881) p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity (7th edn, 1829) pp. 21, 94–5.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    John Bird Sumner, Three Charges Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Chester, in the Years of 1829, 1832, & 1835 (1835) I, p. 16.Wilberforce, op. cit., p. 103.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Rev. Thomas Gisborne, Friendly Observations Addressed to the Manufacturing Population of Great Britain (3rd edn. 1827) pp. 15, 17, 29–30.Google Scholar
  6. 24.
    M. T. Sadler, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Michael Thomas Sadler (1842) P. 132. (This work was compiled anonymously for the evangelical publisher R. B. Seeley.)Google Scholar
  7. 34.
    Percy Fitzgerald, Memories of Charles Dickens (1913) pp. 178–9.Fitzgerald also confirmed the claim that the Cheeryble brothers were based upon the Grant brothers of Manchester, although he made it clear that Dickens had never met or seen them: cf. Percy Fitzgerald, The Life of Charles Dickens as Revealed in His Writings (1905) II 131–2.Google Scholar

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© Norris Francis Pope 1978

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  • Norris Pope

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