By W.R. Owens
The 2013 number of Bunyan Studies is now in press and will be available in early March. It is a special number marking the one hundredth anniversary of the death of the novelist William Hale White, better known by his literary pseudonym ‘Mark Rutherford’. White was born in Bedford on 22 December 1831, and died in Groombridge in Kent on 14 March 1913. It is appropriate that he is being commemorated in Bunyan Studies, because his parents were prominent members of Bunyan Meeting and White himself attended it every week up until he was about seventeen. Among the last things he wrote was a book-length study of Bunyan, published in 1905. He is best remembered for the six novels he published between 1881 and 1896: The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881); Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance (1885); The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887); Miriam’s Schooling (1890); Catherine Furze (1893); and Clara Hopgood (1896).
Hale White is the most important novelist of the nineteenth century to have emerged from a Nonconformist background and to have taken Nonconformist life and experience as his main subject. His readership has never been large, but his work has been admired by many distinguished writers, including Arnold Bennett, Edmund Gosse, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, John Middleton Murry, André Gide, Edward Upward and George Orwell. The essays collected in this special number cover a wide variety of topics. Four essays deal with the novels. W. R. Owens’s introductory essay emphasises the central role of the individual conscience in Clara Hopgood; Valentine Cunningham discusses White’s relationship to earlier Dissenting writers, particularly in their shared engagement with the English Bible; Roger Pooley focuses on The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane; and Max Saunders explores the early novels as examples of ‘autobiografiction’. Two essays take as their subject White as a literary critic. Catherine Harland provides an overview of his range and interests as a critic, while Vincent Newey considers the significance of John Bunyan in relation to three major nineteenth-century studies of Bunyan. The question of White’s religious thinking is taken up by Jean-Michel Yvard, who argues that it may best be described as ‘religious agnosticism’. Early scholarship on White is discussed by Nicholas Jacobs, who draws attention to two European studies, and by Michael Brealey, who writes about the first PhD thesis on White in English. The collection of essays ends with a reflection by Mark Crees on what White’s life and work mean to him, prompted by a visit to his grave.
Some of the essays originated as papers delivered at events organized during 2013 to mark the centenary, in particular a Symposium held at Dr Williams’s Library, London on 22 June 2013. This was organized by the Mark Rutherford Society; for details of its activities and interests please visit http://www.concentric.net/~djfrench/.
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