Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Age of Enlightenment, John Wesley, Henry Brooke, Methodist


This article examines the relationship between Methodist and sentimental discourses in the second half of the eighteenth century through the lens of John Wesley's abridgment of Henry Brooke's sentimental novel The Fool of Quality (1765-70). John Wesley's abridgment was published in 1781 under the title the History of Henry Earl of Moreland. My article is driven by the question of how a worldly Enlightenment text such as Brooke's Fool might have seemed ripe for the propagation of a Methodist theology that had abandoned the possibility of any true virtue existing in the world. In considering the relationship between Brooke's Fool and Wesley's abridgment, I hope to shed light more generally on how sentimental ideas came retrospectively to be identified with the conservative forces of Evangelical thought. I argue that sentimentality and Methodism, though apparently in many ways opposed, can be identified as part of a spectrum of ideas about human nature and about political economy that spans them both.