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The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English

Seminar 2011

1. 12 January 2011

‘Roger Morrice’s Tract Collection and the Libraries of Dissent’

Dr Rosemary Dixon (Queen Mary)

The Presbyterian diarist and historian Roger Morrice (1628/9-1702) has been the subject of much historical scrutiny, not least as a result of the publication of his Entring Book – a political and religious chronicle of late seventeenth-century England – in 2007. This paper concentrates on Morrice’s tract collection, a large portion of which has been re-discovered very recently in the course of research for the Dissenting Academy Libraries project. The collection sheds important new light on Morrice as a collector and consumer of different kinds of printed material. The paper will describe the contents and character of the collection, its place in Morrice’s library, and its legacy after his death. Particular attention will be paid to Morrice’s use of the tract collection for his historical projects, and its effects on his conception of the histories of nonconformity, popery, and the Church of England. More broadly, the paper will illustrate the significance of books and libraries to dissenting culture at the close of the seventeenth century, and emphasise the importance of tract collections like Morrice’s as evidence for the intellectual preoccupations and reading habits of their owners.

2. 9 February 2011

‘ “A nation set up by Providence”: James Wodrow and Samuel Kenrick on National Identity’

Dr Martin Fitzpatrick (Aberystwyth)

This paper is based on the Wodrow-Kenrick correspondence. It began as an aspect (albeit minor) of a major research project on Wales and the French Revolution at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth. Samuel Kenrick’s family was from Denbighshire and had deep Welsh roots. So there is potential interest in examining his correspondence with James Wodrow to see whether he is at all affected by the growing cultural and political self consciousness in Wales in the late eighteenth century. However, after leaving Wales for Glasgow University he never returned home for any length of time and in the 1760s he settled in Bewdley, Worcestershire, as a partner with a younger brother in a tobacconist, snuff making and banking business. He lived in Bewdley for the rest of his life, close enough to maintain links with Wales. Indeed, one of the emerging results of the research project is the extent to which provincial newspapers from areas bordering Wales contained Welsh news and information, much of this in the Welsh language. Yet as regards Kenrick, little of this find its way into his correspondence. There are some items of Welsh interest in his correspondence – for example, he notes the spread of Unitarianism in South Wales. The main interest of the correspondence in broadly political terms is Kenrick’s long conversation with his lifelong friend Rev. James Wodrow over current affairs and their exploration of the differences between England and Scotland (with Wales as a barely acknowledged partner). The friends clashed in their views of the American Revolution and to a lesser extent over the French Revolution, and again more fundamentally over Napoleon. The paper will explore Kenrick’s and Wodrow’s sense of identity in the context of the rich texture of changes in the late eighteenth century, and in the process explore the significance of their use of the words English, England, British, Britain, Wales, Welsh, Scotland and Scottish over a period of half a century or so.

3. 6 April 2011

‘Student Reading in Nineteenth-Century Dissenting Academy Libraries’

Dr Kyle Roberts (Queen Mary)

Reconstruction of the holding and borrowing records of leading English dissenting academies in an innovative virtual library system offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore student reading in the first half of the nineteenth century. From modest beginnings in the wake of the Act of Uniformity (1662), the aim of dissenting academies was to provide students dissenting from the Church of England with a higher education similar to that offered by Oxford and Cambridge. By the early nineteenth century they grew into robust institutions, employing multiple tutors, occupying imposing collegiate structures, and attracting students and financial support from around the country. At the heart of the dissenting academy was its library. A number of library catalogues, loan registers, and original books from the Manchester, Homerton, and Bristol Baptist academies have survived. When reconstructed on a digital platform, these materials reveal that nineteenth-century students found in academy libraries holdings that numbered in the thousands of volumes. By focusing on the thousands of loans of library books to students in two decades, the 1830s and 1850s, this paper offers the first in-depth exploration of student reading. It will focus on the frequency of their borrowing, the titles they most actively checked out, and variations in use and interest over time and space. Many of the titles students read were for the curriculum, but evidence suggests that library collections offered a source of personal enjoyment as well. Over the years of their academy education, many students found themselves confirmed in the spiritual and vocational callings that had initially led them to seek an academy education, while others found their experience within these academies and their libraries opened up new avenues.

4. 13 July 2011

Reliquiae Baxterianae and the Shaping of the Seventeenth Century’

Professor Neil Keeble (Stirling)

Richard Baxter’s Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696) is a key text for early modern historical, ecclesiastical, cultural and literary studies but in its original printed form it is defective in a number of ways. Its text is not entirely reliable and its wealth of historical data and immediately observed experiences during the Civil Wars, Interregnum and Restoration period is very difficult to access. An editorial team consisting of Neil Keeble, John Coffey of Leicester University, and Tim Cooper of Otago University, is contracted to OUP to prepare a fully annotated five-volume edition, taking as its copy-text the manuscript where this is extant. The project is supported by three years’ funding from the AHRC. Sustained work will begin in the autumn. This paper takes a preliminary overview of the occasion and context of the original publication of the Reliquiae in 1696. It will offer some comments on the practice of history writing in the Restoration period, and on the composition of memoirs in particular, on their political and religious resonance, and on the practices of Matthew Sylvester and Edmund Calamy in preparing the Reliquiae for the press. The Reliquiae is, of course, immensely important for our understanding of Baxter himself, but this paper hopes to begin to suggest ways of understanding something of its import not as autobiography but as a publication and cultural event.


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