It is the 2nd of February 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1864.
Today we find ourselves in Great Britain again. Being 1864, we are squarely in the Victorian era. For the purposes of information, entertainment, and to introduce our remembrance for today, let's break down the Victorian era in Britain!
The easy parts: named for Queen Victoria, the period roughly parallels her reign, think: around 1820 to about 1914. This is the high point of the British Empire. The so-called "Empire on which the sun never set" covered about 1/5 of the planet, and 1 in 4 people owed their allegiance to the British Crown.
It was an increasingly stratified society, not only in terms of class but equally in gender. In polite society, the upper and lower classes did not mingle, neither did the sexes.
The state's power grew during this time, as it did concomitantly with the increased right to vote. Public health and public education became national priorities.
The Church of England, nominally led by the Queen, saw the growth of both Latitudinarianism and the Oxford movement. Latitudinarianism allowed for the embrace of low church evangelicalism, while the Oxford movement introduced a high church tradition that would become Anglo-Catholicism.
And this church of England was not your grandfather's church. The last person put to death for heresy was Thomas Aikenhead back in 1697. Now you had Methodists rubbing shoulders with Baptists and Roman Catholics. The church would be divided over the new theories and speculation coming from Charles Darwin. The Evangelical crowd followed the anti-evolution party headed by Samuel Wilberforce. It wouldn't be a big deal for most in the church until the Americans and their press frenzy a few decades later.
The press was embracing the "new journalism," which sought to tell brief, titillating stories on cheap paper for reading on trains, the new fashionable and fast way to travel. Although accounts of "Railway madness" would pop up, claiming that riding a train, even once, could send men insane.
The tail end of the era coincides with the Industrial Revolution and all that entails, Children in mines, Dickensian headmasters, and many people wearing black. After all, anyone going outside near an industrial center would come home with soot on their clothes, and so it was easier to dress in black. But they had legitimately weird and dark practices. For instance, postmortem photography was popular. This is the practice of posing a recently dead person, as if they were alive, for one last family picture. Bizarre Taxidermy, mediums, and spiritualists further revealed a culture obsessed with the macabre and dark.
As you might know, this is the golden age of the ghost story, and few genres didn't get the ghost treatment. Dickens was known for his Christmas ghost stories, and his serial publications often included ghost stories from friends and other established writers. One of his most popular was “The Haunted House,” a story told by himself and five other authors for a Christmas edition of his paper. "The Ghost in the Picture Room" was a chapter in the story written by Adelaide Anne Procter. If this is a household name where you come from, congratulations, you have a household steeped in the knowledge of once extremely popular writers who have fallen into obscurity. And it's a shame. Today, we will remember Adelaide Anne Procter, one of the most famous Victorian poets who was a devout Catholic and advocate for the poor and distressed.
Adelaide was born in 1825 into a house of poets. Her father, Bryan Waller Procter, was a poet under the nom de plume, Barry Cornwall. The Procter house was filled with poets and authors from Wordsworth to Dickens, and they would often bring their works to read aloud, here the young Adelaide took to writing her own poetry. Fearing that Dickens would publish her only on account of her father's friendship with him, she submitted poems to his periodical under the name "Miss Mary Berwick." Dickens was so taken by the poems he took them to the Procter's to share. Adelaide had to confess that she was the author.
With a conversion experience in her 20s, she joined the Roman Catholic Church and devoted her attention to the poor and destitute, especially former ladies of the night. She continued to write and sell her poems to support her charitable activities. She was also said to have been the favorite poet of Queen Victoria. Her charitable activities soon took up her life. Dickens wrote that she was,
"Perfectly unselfish, swift to sympathize and eager to relieve, she wrought at such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season, weather, time of day or night, food, rest. Under such a hurry of the spirits, and such incessant occupation, the strongest constitution will commonly go down... And so the time came when she could move about no longer and took to her bed."
That night came on this, the 2nd of February in 1864 when Adelaide Anne Procter died. She was only 38 years old.
The reading for today comes from Adelaide Anne Procter, "The Shadows of the Evening Hours."
The shadows of the evening hours
Fall from the darkening sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
The dews of evening lie;
Before Thy throne, O Lord of heaven,
We kneel at close of day;
Look on Thy children from on high,
And hear us while we pray.
The sorrows of Thy servants, Lord,
O do not Thou despise,
But let the incense of our prayers
Before Thy mercy rise.
The brightness of the coming night
Upon the darkness rolls;
With hopes of future glory chase
The shadows from our souls.
Let peace, O Lord, Thy peace, O God,
Upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears, and perils, Thou
Our trembling hearts defend;
Give us a respite from our toil,
Calm and subdue our woes;
Through the long day we labor, Lord,
O give us now repose.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of February January 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man whose favorite Victoria's include: The Queen, The Beckham, and the Vampire from The Twilight Series, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.