- The High Church Revival in the Church of England: Arguments and Identities by Jeremy Morris
The Church of England's High Church Revival is among the most scrutinized topics in the religious history of modern Britain. What more, then, is there to be said about it? Quite a lot, it turns out, as Jeremy Morris ably demonstrates in this collection of essays, which is a compilation of his writings on the subject from the past twenty years. Alongside scholars such as Peter Nockles and Rowan Strong, Morris has sought to broaden the historiographical terms in which the Revival is discussed, extending its chronology and geography and framing it against wider social and religious currents. In doing so, it was first necessary to deconstruct the received narrative, a version of events which routinely identifies the years 1833–45 in Oxford as of paramount importance. This narrative originated with the Tractarians themselves and has been assiduously maintained by their champions in subsequent generations. (Having welcomed hundreds of John Henry Newman devotees to Oriel College Oxford during my recent tenure there as chaplain, I can attest to the imaginative hold this "founding myth" continues to exercise over both Roman and Anglican Catholics even now.) What this dominant narrative has discouraged, however, is due consideration of alternative forms of High Church Anglicanism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the ways Tractarian ideas were taken in multiple directions thereafter. By the same token, it also emphasized, in Morris's words, that which "is unique and striking rather than what is mundane and pervasive," ironically ensuring that the Revival is presented in isolation from the very society it set out to transform (25).
As a corrective to these limitations, Morris seeks not just to fill gaps in the historical record but to take a more varied approach to the study of the Revival in its fullness. In two essays paired under the heading "Growth, Renewal, and Society," he insists on the importance of scrutinizing popular sentiment and local factors when gauging the relative success Anglo-Catholics had in embedding their principles at the parochial level. He illustrates the point by looking closely at the conditions under which Tractarian clergy pursued their cause away from the common rooms of Oxford, in such burgeoning urban centers as Leeds and Croydon. In a second pair of essays under the title "Continental Perspectives," he then shifts his focus from the local to the international. Here [End Page 91] again he identifies a dimension of the Revival too often overlooked. Morris attributes such an omission to a wider tendency among British historians to regard religious developments in England as segregated from those in Europe. Yet in reviewing the travel writings produced by high churchmen during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, he identifies among them a considerable self-consciousness about the ways their own ideas and activities intersected with the realities of continental Catholicism. To some degree, the opposite was also the case, as Morris examines the rhetorical uses that rival parties within French Catholicism made of the Oxford Movement when promoting competing visions for their own Church.
Having sought to escape the long shadow of Newman, Pusey, and Keble in his study of the High Church Revival, Morris returns to them in the book's final section. He does this, however, by first attending to one of their more neglected legacies, that of preaching. Commenting that "it is often forgotten that the Oxford Movement was not so much written as preached," Morris documents the importance its leading figures attached to parochial sermons as central to their cause (174). He also notes the impact of the Evangelical phase through which many of them had passed. This was evident in their use of expository techniques and the earnestness with which they promoted devotional practices from the pulpit. This willingness to explore influence and overlap in the thinking of Victorian High Churchmen enables Morris to trace intellectual legacies that...