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Charles Dickens and the Victorian “Mormon Moment”

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AbstractThe growth of Mormonism in England in the middle of the nineteenth century presented a number of challenges relating to the cultural status of the new religion and its followers. Charles Dickens’s “uncommercial traveller” sketch describing a group of 800 Mormon converts preparing to emigrate to the United States, “Bound for the Great Salt Lake,” represents the challenge effectively. While Mormons were quickly identified by their heresies and by those qualities that characterized cultural and religious otherness, they were also observed to possess traits of Englishness, reflecting the image of a healthy working class. This article considers the tensions among these contradictory qualities and traces them to a middle-class “secular gospel” that Dickens articulates in his novels. Dickens utilizes this “gospel”—an ethic that valorizes work and domestic order as bearing religious significance—to perceive the followers of the new religion.

Affiliations: 1: Southern Virginia University

10.1163/15685292-12341297
/content/journals/10.1163/15685292-12341297
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/content/journals/10.1163/15685292-12341297
2013-01-01
2016-12-06

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