Dickens and Evangelicalism

  • Norris Pope


Charles Dickens died on 9 June 187o; three days later a country preacher labelled him a writer ‘who never ceased to sneer at and vilify religion.’ One week after this a Baptist publication asked why it was that Dickens’s ‘snivelling, red-nosed hypocrites invariably hail from Ebenezer chapel?’1 When the Methodist Quarterly appeared in September, its obituary on Dickens was generally more favourable, but the periodical felt obliged to protest against Dickens’s habit of deprecating ‘what we, at any rate, deem the essentials of true piety’:

Throughout, when dealing with these subjects, he takes it for granted that where there is any manifestation of evangelical piety there is vulgarity and hypocrisy… He has endeavoured to make ridiculous, and even worse, by his sarcasm and caricaturing, all expression in words or acts of inward consciousness of sin, or repentance, of faith in the Saviour, and especially as these views are held by evangelical Christians.2


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  1. 1.
    Quoted by Arthur H. Adrian, ‘Dickens and the Brick-and-Mortar Sects’, Nineteenth Century Fiction x (1955) p. 188.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Cf. Valentine Cunningham, Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel (Oxford, 1975) p. 48ff.Google Scholar
  3. 38.
    Sydney Smith. Works of the Rev. Sydney Smith Philadelphia, (1848) p. 68.Hansard, 3rd series, 16 May 1833, XVII I327.J. B. Sumner, Christian Charity, its Obligations and Objects, with reference to the Present State of Society (1841) pp.1835. Donald Fraser, Mary Jane Kinnaird (1890) p. 27.Google Scholar
  4. 43.
    G. W. E. Russell, A Short History of the Evangelical Movement (1915) p. 121.Google Scholar
  5. 46.
    Emily Kinnaird, Reminiscences (1925) p. 7. Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (1908) pp. 132–4.Google Scholar
  6. 67.
    Rev. J. B. Marsden, Memoirs of the Life and Labours of the Rev. Hugh Stowell (1868) pp. 358–9.Google Scholar
  7. 81.
    Quoted by W. E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years (1879) VII 220.Google Scholar

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© Norris Francis Pope 1978

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  • Norris Pope

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