The Paradigmatic Angel in the House: The Virgin Mary and Victorian Anglicans



The figure of the Virgin Mary was symbolically charged and highly visible in Victorian England.1 A marker of Roman Catholicism in England since the Henrician schism and the ensuing Protestantization of the Church of England, she became even more controversial in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, as members of the Oxford Movement revived and expanded the Marian devotion of the seventeenth-century divines.2 Other Anglicans challenged this revival and accused the Tractarians of leaning towards Rome or even of being secret Roman Catholics. So pronounced was the anxiety aroused by the Virgin Mary that in 1845, the year that John Henry Newman and other prominent Anglicans converted to Roman Catholicism, John Keble, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, was persuaded by friends not to publish a Marian poem, ‘Mother out of sight’, for fear that it might signal a sympathy towards Roman Catholicism.3


Female Virginity Maternal Role Feminine Ideal Ideal Woman Model Mother 
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  1. 2.
    The resurgence of Roman Catholicism, which began with Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and continued with the wave of the conversions to Roman Catholicism by prominent Anglicans at mid-century and the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in 1850, also contributed to the Virgin Mary’s prominence, for both the converts and the newly appointed Cardinal of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman, emphasized Marian devotion. For more on Roman Catholicism and the Virgin Mary in Victorian England, see John Singleton, ‘The Virgin Mary and Religious Conflict in Victorian Britain’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 43, No. 1 (January 1992), 16–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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