Clerical satires with anxious depictions of religious devotion poured forth from British presses in the eighteenth century, a period of conversation about whether secularism and toleration could be seen as the hallmarks of a modern culture. The images in this essay represent this abundant clerical satire; they are drawn from the Lewis Walpole Library holdings at Yale University and were the basis of a gallery show, Sacred Satire, which I co-curated with Cynthia Roman in 2011. Through these images, I illustrate the tension between an understanding of religion as part of a traditional past and of religion as a collection of new evangelical Christian movements and practices including “human” hymns, evangelical preaching, religious life beyond the parish, “heart religion” or “primitive Christianity,” and working-class enthusiasm. Clerical figures such as George Whitefield and John Wesley loom large in the visual satires of modern religion and the implicit questions it raised about the relationship of belief to modernity.


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