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Early Victorian essayists.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo

An American essayist, poet, and abolitionist, Emerson visited England in 1833 at the start of his career. During that trip he made the acquaintance of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and developed a friendship with Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle's letters to Emerson over their lifetimes generated many of Emerson's "human Portraits, faithfully drawn."


Lasting from 1837 to 1848, Chartism was the movement to extend voting rights to the working class. The name of the movement came from the 1838 "six-point People's Charter," which demanded universal suffrage (for men), secret-ballot voting, annual elections, equal electoral districts, no property qualifications for members of Parliament, and payment for service as a member of Parliament. Three "Charter" petitions (1839, 1842, 1848) were presented to Parliament for approval, but the petitions made no impact on the government.

Oxford Movement/Tractarianism

A religious force within the Church of England, the Oxford Movement generally dates from Keble's 1833 sermon at Oxford titled "National Apostasy." The movement preached that the Church had an independent spiritual status, was a direct descendant of the medieval Catholic church, and represented a "middle way" between "Roman" Catholicism and Protestantism.

Tracts for the Times, were the treatises of the movement. Many of them were written by John Henry Newman, then vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford. The issues discussed in the tracts had a great influence on religious and intellectual life in Britain. In literature, the revival of interest in the medieval church profoundly influenced the Pre-Raphaelites and Tennyson.

Clapham Sect

Taking their name from that of the London suburb where they lived, the Clapham Sect was a group of wealthy Church of England businessmen and their families. The Clapham Sect were conspicuous defenders of the poor, the oppressed, and the unfortunate. The sect's influence on British culture and on the establishment of charitable acts in the Anglican church far outlasted the Evangelicalism of the period.

William Wilberforce, who fought to abolish slavery, Edwin Chadwick whose specialty was public health, and the earl of Shaftesbury who led the campaign to reform factory conditions and limit working hours were all Clapham Sect members. Distinguished twentieth-century writers such as Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster were descendants of Clapham Sect members.


The Evangelical Movement began in the eighteenth-century Church of England as a reaction against spiritual complacency and the emotional coolness of an easygoing religious deism. It manifested a spirit of Christian philanthropy inspired by John Wesley's work among the poor. Anglican Evangelicalism is chiefly important in the history of English culture for the moral tone it lent society. The Evangelicals undertook to reform the morality of the middle class to which they belonged, the working class over whose morals they exercised a special guardianship, and most of all the aristocracy, which was felt to be worldly, cynical, and immoral.

Bentham, Jeremy

Bentham was an influential philosopher, economist, and political theorist. Though he was active in parliamentary reform, he is most widely known as the founder of utilitarianism.


Utilitarianism is a system of ethics wherein "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." This ethical system contends that the rightness or wrongness of an action must be judged by its consequences. Jeremy Bentham was the founder of this school of thought, and James and John Stuart Mill became its best-known advocates.
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Title Annotation:Literary Names and Terms: People and Places; writer Ralph Waldo Emerson; Chartism; Oxford Movement; Clapham Sect; Evangelicalism; utilitarianism
Author:McCoy, Kathleen; Harlan, Judith
Publication:English Literature from 1785
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Victorian Age (1837 to 1901).
Next Article:Major Victorian poets.

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