The Victorian Preacher’s Malady: The Metaphorical Usage of Gout in the Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon
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This dissertation examines the use of the gout metaphor in the life and writings of one of Victorian England’s most eminent preachers and gout sufferers, the Baptist Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). Careful scrutiny of his sermons, articles, and personal correspondence reveals both theological continuity with the seventeenth-century English Puritans as well as contemporaneous cultural currents, such as the Victorian ideal of Christian manliness and the presence of persistent tropes from England’s Georgian period. This study highlights the dramatic presentation and use of Spurgeon’s body in his preaching performances, especially in his early ministry. Spurgeon’s dramatic style, which was often pejoratively labeled as “theatrical,” and his phenomenal success, led to the construction of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Completed in 1861, this mammoth structure had a capacity to seat six thousand congregants. The architecture of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, as it was also known, contained a protruding platform and was devoid of a traditional pulpit and organ. It was truly a “preacher’s hall.” These features focused the hearers’ attention on the body of Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s platform became the scene of another drama, one that took years to play out. Gout, along with Bright’s Disease (chronic inflammation of the kidneys) took its toll on the body of Spurgeon, transforming the once youthful, energetic preacher into a soft and bloated figure that struggled, at times, even to stand through the sermon. This very public transformation was also chronicled in Victorian material culture through cartes-de visite, Cabinet cards, cartoons, and caricatures. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of gout and the contested body of Spurgeon. Particular attention is paid to the cartoon, “Parsons in the Pulpit.” The cartoon, like Spurgeon’s life, does not become intelligible unless read with gout and the notion of Christian manliness in mind.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Spurgeon's life and the influence of the puritans -- Spurgeon and the presentation of his body -- Gout's cultural metaphors and the Seventeenth Century Puritans -- Spurgeon's use of the gout metaphor and its meanings and significances -- Appendix A. Chronology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon -- Appendix B. Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Life Through the Photographer’s Lens -- Appendic C. The Contested Body of Spurgeon from Satire to Solemn Procession