‘Real Protestantism never Slumbers’: Religious and Historical Fiction

James H. Murphy

in Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596997
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191723520 | DOI:
‘Real Protestantism never Slumbers’: Religious and Historical Fiction

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Most historical fiction set before 1800 had a religious, or at least had a religio-ethno-political, basis. Early historical novels were either about justifying the Protestant settlement in Ireland or are evangelical novels. As the century wore, on Catholic writers took to composing historical novels, but mostly about the 1798 rebellion and in more political than religious terms. The historical novels of Emily Lawless in the 1890s saw the end of historical fiction as religious propaganda. On the Catholic side there was no significant religious fiction as writers were intent on asserting Irish-Catholic respectability in ways consonant with Victorian mores. By the twentieth century, in the work of James Joyce and others, Catholicism had become an inclusive way of life against which the assertive individual often needed to define him or herself, mostly by way of rebellion. Yet many of the tropes of that later fiction relied on the earlier anti-Catholic writing, the two being bridged, from her own eccentric position, by May Laffan.

Keywords: historical fiction; religious fiction; Glorious Revolution; evangelism; 1798; penal laws; Protestants; Emily Lawless; Catholics; respectability; James Joyce; May Laffan

Chapter.  9230 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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