Pandit and pulpit : teaching the Victorians--Harriet and James Martineau



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Scholars usually study the nineteenth century Victorian intellectuals Harriet Martineau and James Martineau as individuals rather than as brother and sister. The complexities of motivation and causality in the Martineau story can be better understood, however, in the context of their relationship. A parallel examination of their lives from the formative years to full intellectual development reveals a sibling dynamic that propelled their careers and magnified philosophical differences. To comprehend their initially mutual goal—teaching the progressive values that shaped Unitarianism—and to observe the maturing of their youthful visions is to understand two individual responses to the tensions that shaped their era. Mapping the turning points in their lives from the opening of the nineteenth-century to the late 1870s—the period their Unitarian values and faith converged, then diverged—illuminates the landscape of Victorian religious thought and teaching. The Martineaus helped shape and cultivate that landscape. The first chapter discusses the Martineau chronology in the context of the Victorian age, examines their Unitarian background, and introduces the methodology of “collective memory,” “interpretive community,” and “iconography.” The next four chapters trace the development of their respective careers and teaching functions. Included are examinations of their education within the Norwich Unitarian circle of their birth, the greater Unitarian community, their quests for an audience, and their patterns of professional and domestic relationship. Attention to the Martineaus’ diverging missions illustrates the conflict and deterioration of their relationship. The final chapter considers the Martineaus’ efforts in Autobiography and Biographical Memoranda to shape the way they would be remembered. Appendices include a historiographical essay detailing possibilities and limitations of current studies, a parallel chronology, a table of the periodical contributions, and a partial list of James’s sermons and college addresses. The dissertation concludes that an analysis of the sibling dynamic, catalytic to the Martineaus’ intellectual evolution and careers, illuminates the teaching function at the heart of their lives.