Father Figures: Paternal Politics in the Conversion Narratives of Thomas Gage and James Wadsworth
This chapter explores how two seventeenth-century converts to Protestantism, Thomas Gage and James Wadsworth, employ father figures as a powerful and multivalent anti-Catholic trope in their conversion narratives. Gage’s The English-American and Wadsworth’s The English Spanish Pilgrime recount how they came to reject the faith of their biological fathers but both men also spent considerable time within Catholic institutions modelled on paternal hierarchies: the Jesuit and Dominican orders. As such, they compose elaborate chains of paternal association which encompass God, the Pope, monarch, magistrate and confessor in order to identify the language of Catholic fatherhood with a perversion of familial roles. I argue that these diverse father figures operate as a way of organising and justifying their conversions to Protestantism.