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Title:Pulpit, periodical, and pen: Joseph Benson, and Methodist influence in the Victorian prelude
Author(s):Jones, Marsh Wilkinson
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Arnstein, Walter L.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Religion, History of
History, European
History, Modern
Abstract:The moral and religious ethos that permeated Victorian England was in part the result of the fervor of the Methodist movement begun in the eighteenth century by John Wesley. The continued growth and influence of Methodism in the post-Wesley era may be attributed to competent leaders, such as Joseph Benson (1748-1821), and the extensive organization that Wesley had created, including the circuit system and the use of the press to propagandize through books, pamphlets, and a monthly magazine.
Joseph Benson became a Methodist circuit rider in 1771 and controlled the press from 1804 to 1821, yet his powerful influence as a Methodist preacher and editor has never been given a scholarly treatment. A close associate of Wesley, he was chosen to be a member of the Legal One Hundred who governed the Conference at Wesley's death and he was president of the Conference two times. As one of post-Wesley Methodism's most popular preachers, he sometimes addressed crowds of over twenty thousand. During the Bristol dispute of 1794 he led the conservative Church Methodists and was against moves which suggested that the Methodists were breaking ties with the Church of England; he was one of the last leaders to contend for the methods and philosophy of eighteenth-century Wesleyan Methodism. The circulation of The Methodist Magazine rose from ten thousand to twenty-four thousand per issue on his watch, and it was one of the most widely read periodicals in pre-Victorian England. He was an able writer, serving as apologist against Joseph Priestley, as biographer of John Fletcher, and as author of a multi-volume commentary on the Bible.
Benson was influential in Methodism, and through the press, especially the magazine, he was able to extend his influence to non-Methodists as well. He and other Methodist leaders, through preaching and publication, disseminated their conservative social and political credo and may be credited in part with creating a climate in which the seeds of Victorianism could thrive.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Jones, Marsh Wilkinson
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9522126
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9522126

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