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Madam BritanniaWomen, Church, and Nation 1712-1812$
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Emma Major

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199699377

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199699377.001.0001

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Protestant Nunneries, Polygamy, and Christian Heroes

Protestant Nunneries, Polygamy, and Christian Heroes

‘One good thing’: An English Convent

(p.97) 3 Protestant Nunneries, Polygamy, and Christian Heroes
Madam Britannia

Emma Major

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses eighteenth-century interest in Protestant nunneries, and considers the problems presented to writers of Christian heroes faced with such virtuous women. It begins by outlining some responses to convents and proposals for Protestant female communities by writers such as Mary Astell, Margaret Cavendish, and William Law. The female communities in Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison, and the difficulties of representing a strong hero surrounded by women, form the focus for the next two sections of this chapter. Thomas Amory’s topographical writings and eccentric memoirs are then explored, focusing on his fascination with female communities and his taste for serial marriages. Amory uses the exemplary women he encounters on his rambles to promote the virtues of Unitarianism and in effect offer a Unitarian Britannia.

Keywords:   convents, polygamy, Samuel Richardson, Thomas Amory, travel writing, Protestant, Unitarian, female communities, Mary Astell, William Law

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