Lucy Hutchinson, John Owen's congregation, and the literary cultures of nonconformity

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This article advances the reconstruction of the ‘literary culture of nonconformity’ by examining activities of memorializing and collecting within the congregation with which Lucy Hutchinson was associated in the 1670s. This congregation, led by John Owen, retained a distinctive political culture. In spring 1673, its female adherents included the widow and daughter of former members of the Council of State, while the 15 men in membership included one former Lord Chancellor of Ireland, two members of the first Protectorate Parliament, three former Major-Generals, other former officers, several of whom after the Restoration had been imprisoned, as well as a younger man who would be elected to the three Exclusion Parliaments. Their literary work provides a critical context for Hutchinson’s projects in collecting, writing and translating in the 1670s. Throughout this period, and thereafter, congregants kept commonplace books with political, theological and biographical materials, gathered collections of transcriptions of Owen’s sermons, and took notes on his published works, largely independently of one another, while engaging with the broader literary and scientific cultures of the period. This activity paralleled that of Hutchinson, who nevertheless retained a critical distance from the fellowship with which she associated. But the evidence of these commonplace books speaks to the difficulties of the situation of dissent and suggests that some members found the congregation’s religious expectations increasingly difficult to sustain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of English Studies
Early online date01 Feb 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Feb 2022


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