Art, ethics, and pleasure: The influence of Ruskin on the Rev. Stewart Duckworth Headlam

2017-06-29T09:11:29Z (GMT) by Peter Yeandle
Much has been written on John Ruskin's influence on late nineteenthcentury British socialism in general, and on Christian Socialism in particular. However, little has been said about Ruskin's influence on the Reverend Stewart Duckworth Headlam (1847-1924), one of the founding fathers of the Christian Socialist "revival" in late Victorian London. One of the most colorful and controversial preachers of his period, Headlam stood bail for Oscar Wilde, took the platform with Irish Nationalists campaigning for Church disestablishment, and acted as character witness for high-profile secularists. His passion for the theatre, and ballet in particular, was met with consternation by his religious superiors and mockery by the popular press. Headlam's defense of the performing arts and the sacred vocation of artists drew from Ruskin's doctrines of beauty and meaningful labor. Although controversial, Headlam was also sincere, committed, and dedicated to the welfare of the working classes: for Headlam, Christianity and Socialism were interchangeable terms, and he felt that Christians were obliged to tend to the earthly rather than the spiritual needs of the people. He earned the respect of a great many of his peers, including Ruskin himself. Headlam should be of interest to those researching the cultural politics of late-Victorian London, especially Ruskin scholars: in all of his actions, Headlam preached the gospel according to Ruskin.

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