I have been pleased enough with a 3-day review of writings by Richard Whately (1787-1863) to want him and his school on the front end of my project of cultural archaeology. My aim in this project is to appreciate some under-appreciated Christian thinkers whose work has become submerged or ‘lost’ beneath other and stronger (not more worthy) religious and intellectual trends.
My long century is shaping up to extend roughly from 1820-1940. I will eventually be focused on the later half of my period, works c.1875-1935 which I judge to be more valuable than Whately’s though no less submerged; but it was important for me first to find a theoretical ‘early strata’ for my project.
Richard Whately was elected Fellow of Oriel college, Oxford, in 1811; his first major work, The Use and Abuse of Party Feeling in Religion, reproduced his Bampton lectures of 1822. Whately became a prolific and respected author and the acknowledged leader of what has been called the early Oriel School or the Noetic school in English theology and philosophy. This group, including the older Edward Copleston and the younger R.D. Hampden and Thomas Arnold, and others, was a spiritual force at Oriel College and at Oxford until Whately was effectively taken out of the local picture in 1831, when Lord Grey dispatched him to Ireland as Archbishop of Dublin, an office he held I think until his death in 1863.
Shortly after Whately’s departure to Dublin, a second Oriel group caused such a stir in their rising as to eclipse the writing of the Noetics in the public eye. This later group included John Keble, John Henry Newman, and Edward Pusey, and others who comprised the Anglo-Catholic ‘Oxford Movement ‘. These later thinkers need no archaeology – they have their fame – which contributed not a little to the relative obscurity of the Noetics. But the dialectic between them will give me opportunity to take into consideration the ‘greater names’ from time to time.
In an earlier post I signaled my esteem of Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a religious thinker who enabled many nineteenth century minds to maintain their bearings as Christians even in their criticism of Christianity. My archaeology of obscure men will take in the stream of Coleridge’s thought initially through the work of Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855). Hare, who lectured at Cambridge in the 1820s and 30s, will allow me to bring that University into the picture. In America, my project will find its origin in the writing of Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) and others like him.
Warning: thinkers like Richard Whately (and others among my unknowns) don’t usually generate broad or flattering Google searches (food for gossips and wikipediacs). Too often the antique quality of minor traits and opinions of early modern minds can be falsely accentuated and give to postmodern eyes the appearance of a quirky or unenlightened personality. Of course that’s a large factor in the present obscurity of my unknowns, which in my opinion they do not deserve.