Reaction to Reform — The Legacy of Newman and Arnold

  • Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone


So spoke Pastor Thwackum in Fielding’s novel. Until well into the nineteenth century the fictional Thwackum’s opinions could serve as a concise summary of the religious atmosphere of the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which were effectively seminaries for the Church of England; between 1752 and 1765 three quarters of Cambridge graduates became clergymen.1 In the early nineteenth-century dissenters could matriculate at Cambridge but could not obtain a BA without declaring their membership of the Church of England. At Oxford a dissenter could not even matriculate. However, religious observance was not necessarily a serious business. In the early 1800s behaviour in Cambridge college chapels was often far from decorous: ‘The Dean generally goes through the first part of the service to a single auditor. Towards the beginning of the first lesson, “the students come in right frisky”; some running, some laughing, some staggering. The lessons are not infrequently read by a drunken scholar. … The rest of the men are, perhaps, in the meantime, employed in tossing the candles at each other, in talking obscenity….’ In 1813 Charles Simeon, the evangelical vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge and high-profile leader of ‘serious’ evangelical religion, said of the services at King’s College Chapel that they were almost at ‘all times.… very irreverently performed’.2


Nineteenth Century Christian Faith Christian Tradition Christian Belief Christian Religion 
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  1. 16.
    Brock, M.G.(1997), 48–9, Edinburgh Review, xlviii (Sept. 1828), 172.Google Scholar

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© Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone 2005

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  • Timothy Maxwell Gouldstone

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