Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Robert K. Lapp


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, review, Anna Letitia Barbauld


The subtitle of this long-awaited, monumental biography of Anna Letitia Barbauld, Voice of the Enlightenment, captures both McCarthy's achievement as a scholarly biographer and the vital relevance of Barbauld's wide-ranging and lucid articulations of Enlightenment values in Britain. McCarthy's twenty years of meticulous scholarship have literally brought to revisionary light what we need to know about a woman of letters uniquely positioned to propagate the impulses of the Enlightenment in education, literature, political debate, and religion. As McCarthy points out in his preface, "[Barbauld's] story is part of the story of Protestant Dissent's campaign for equal political rights, and both belong to the story of reforms struggle against 'Old Corruption"' (xix). McCarthy can thus make a convincing case for the urgent importance of Barbauld's multifaceted liberalism in a twentyfirst century of renewed "religious bigotry . . . and predatory warmaking" (533).