A Sincere and Teachable Heart
Richard Bellon, Michigan State University
In A Sincere and Teachable Heart: Self-Denying Virtue in British Intellectual Life, 1736-1859, Richard Bellon demonstrates that respectability and authority in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain were not grounded foremost in ideas or specialist skills but in the self-denying virtues of patience and humility. Three case studies clarify this relationship between intellectual standards and practical moral duty. The first shows that the Victorians adapted a universal conception of sainthood to the responsibilities specific to class, gender, social rank, and vocation. The second illustrates how these ideals of self-discipline achieved their form and cultural vigor by analyzing the eighteenth-century moral philosophy of Joseph Butler, John Wesley, Samuel Johnson, and William Paley. The final reinterprets conflict between the liberal Anglican Noetics and the conservative Oxford Movement as a clash over the means of developing habits of self-denial.