John Keble and the rhythm of faith

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Abstract

In his 1846 essay on Keble, John Henry Newman reviewed the reception of The Christian Year since its publication in 1827 with some nostalgia:

Much certainly came of the Christian Year: it was the most soothing, tranquillizing, subduing work of the day; if poems can be found to enliven in dejection, and to comfort in anxiety; to cool the over-sanguine, to refresh the weary, and to awe the worldly; to instil resignation into the impatient, and calmness into the fearful and agitated – they are these. 1

After nearly two decades, The Christian Year was still one of the most popular books of the day: almost every literate Victorian household would have possessed at least one copy. 2 It was strongly identified with comfort and religious reassur- ance. Newman wrote to Keble that his hymns had provided solace for his dying sister: ‘No one can fully enter into their meaning but those who have been in deep affliction’. 3 Ruskin similarly claimed that he failed to understand the appeal of these poems until he read them under the influence of ‘painful feeling’, when they suddenly became ‘very useful to me’. 4 Robert Wilberforce quoted them at his wife’s deathbed. 5 Newman’s comments on Keble, however, emphasise not only the consolatory aspects of his poetry, but also its active role; it is the subject of his verbs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-150
Number of pages22
JournalEssays in Criticism
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2003

Keywords

  • poetry
  • religion
  • Tractarian
  • Victorian

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