REVIEWS the transformative force of the American Revolution that Lawrence suggests changed the familial nature of early Methodism. That is, while American influences may have inspired the Wesleys to consider their connection as a new family, Methodism in America never did function fully as a new family, as it was born in transition. I find Lawrence's main thesis, that Methodist culture helped shape Victorian sentiment, engaging and plausible, but question the effectiveness of her focus on political and institutional history in her final chapter. Ultimately Methodists' emotionalism and their desire for spiritual soulmates were cultural, not political, acts. To fully trace these sources to an end state of companionate, romantic marriage, the final chapter might have trained more focus on the social or cultural changes in American or English life, which would help better explain how Methodism grew influential in this matter. This final political turn in the narrative, in which the fault lies with Methodist bureaucracy, not culture, also obscures the dark side of sentimentality. Methodists did have a hand in furthering companionate marriage, but their individualistic, romantic tendencies were not unmixed blessings. Lawrence suggests as much in noting that the same culture of sentimentality allowed southern
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Jul 5, 2013
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