"God is our guide! our cause is just!" the national chartist hymn book and Victorian hymnody

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Abstract

Despite the undeniable influence of hymns in Victorian culture, hymnody has remained a neglected field of criticism in Victorian studies, having been largely restricted by the conception that Victorian hymns reflected or perpetuated conservative social attitudes. This essay examines the contents of a previously unknown hymnal, the National Chartist Hymn Book, in an effort to make room in the critical understanding of Victorian hymnody for radical and working-class hymns and for what I argue was a distinctive Chartist theology. These politically conscious hymns capture the tension between Chartism's own religious sensibility and Chartist attitudes toward religious institutions. Their imagery centers on political and economic antagonisms rather than the visions of heaven and unified nature that characterize conventional Victorian hymns. I argue that Chartist hymnody is also marked by a complex relationship with Romanticism, which generates a Chartist theology that prioritizes communal feeling and action over individual subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-705
Number of pages26
JournalVictorian Studies
Volume54
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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