By Tyson Duben
The Manliness of Christ was written in 1880 by Thomas Hughes when the “manliness” of the church began falling under public scrutiny. In particular, the nature of some of the longer robes worn by the high church priests became a joke among the magazines, like this Punch! comic that portrays the priest robes as quite flamboyant. In “Manliness,” Hughes argues the values of Christ are the epitome of what a man should be (Hughes 67). In an article entitled “The Ladies of Cavalry,” published in an 1883 issue of the Irish Monthly (an Irish-Catholic magazine), similar values are used to show a caring and loving example for women in the form of Madame Garnier. Hughes views on masculine values were not universal throughout Victorian culture and, in fact, were applied to feminine values just three years later in The Irish Monthly.
The excerpt from Manliness in the anthology Victorian Prose focuses on Jesus and his discovery that he is the Messiah from the John the Baptist. Hughes concentrates on Jesus’ struggle with accepting that he is “The Messiah” yet also accepting his responsibilities as the saviour of humanity. Hughes says Jesus’ whole life was the “assertion and example of true manliness—the setting forth in living act and word what man is meant to be and how he should carry himself” (Hughes 67). Hughes’ article helps portray the Victorian protestant view on what virtues defined manliness. These values included the resistance of temptation, enduring of suffering, and the selfless aiding of others. In the case of The Manliness of Christ, the values of Jesus are applied to protestant masculinity, while “The Ladies of Calvary” uses similar values and applies them to women, as told through the story of a Catholic woman named Madame Garnier. The article focuses on the suffering she endures, and her overcoming of her own grief to aid others in the name of God. “Calvary” talks of her expulsion from school and claims her “independent, energetic disposition henceforth flourished in the home atmosphere, which may have been more suited to it than the narrow routine and discipline of school life” (M.J.M. 484). The article goes on to describe her as a loving and devoted wife to her husband before his passing. Her life at home is said to have been a “blissful dream” (M.J.M. 485).
The author of “Cavalry” was sure to portray Garnier as a loving, caring wife as the audience they were writing for was quite different from the one Hughes wrote for in Manliness. One of the main reasons I chose the article “The Ladies of Calvary” was because of where the article was published. The Irish Monthly was an Irish Catholic monthly print that was considered a minority group publication. Manliness of Christ on the other hand was published on its own with the target audience of Anglican men. The book illustrates the manly nature of Christ’s life and the example all men should follow. Hughes does so in order to change public opinion of the “masculinity” of the church. Yet Hughes views on the values of Christ are not perceived by all Victorian’s as strictly masculine. “Calvary” uses the same values, from a completely different voice, to a completely different audience to set an example for Catholic wives. The Manliness of Christ uses the story of Jesus discovering he is the Messiah in order to demonstrate his will to endure the suffering and sacrifice of his chosen path. This story does not exist in Catholicism, or many other forms of Christian belief; at least, not in the same form. Catholics believe that Jesus was aware he was the messiah his whole life, and as a result had wisdom beyond his years (New Jerusalem Bible, Luke 2:42-49). Hughes was writing as a Broad Church Anglican, which was a denomination known for its much more liberal interpretations of the bible. The endurance of one’s suffering and fate still existed as a positive value in Irish Catholic culture, but in the case of “Cavalry,” they prove to be more desirable values for women over men.
Based on the portrayal of Madame Garnier in “Calvary” I would argue that the article was written with Irish Catholic wives in mind. In order to demonstrate an ideal Catholic wife, the text constantly depicts Madame Garnier as an exemplary example of Victorian womanhood, but never strays from the marriage she had, or her role as a moral godly centre. After the death of her husband, the author poses two roads that Madame Garnier faced: “A revolt and turning away from a God who inflicts such cruel suffering, or a generous and heroic immolation of the sufferer’s bleeding heart” (M.J.M. 485). Naturally, she chose the latter. The author goes on to say that her “great gnawing sorrow seemed to endow her with extraordinary activity” (M.J.M 485). There is a constant reminder that she accomplishes what she does from the drive she received from the death of her husband. I cannot definitively say she was not driven by the death of her husband, but it seems as though “Calvary” was written more to portray Madame Garnier in a state of constant grief over her husband than to portray own personal strength in creating a life after her husband’s death. Her undying devotion to her husband, even after death, certainly is a value that Irish Catholics would want in their wives. Madame Garnier died at the age of 42. The author describes her as “literally worn out and her strong spirit subdued” (M.J.M 486-7). Her life was 20 years of unending charity. On her death, “Calvary” claims she “was permitted to rejoin those beloved ones who proved to be such a gain to her, and for whom her deep abiding sorrow had been the secret to her untiring charity” (M.J.M 487). The article insinuating “gain” from the death of her husband twists her charitable acts into a near insult to Madame Garnier’s memory. Her charitable acts are diminished by the Irish Monthly article through the continued connection to her departed husband and her ability to perform said acts. The purpose of this continued connection implied by the text was to enforce that, unlike the actions of men, a women’s actions were invariably connected to her husband and her home, even in the event of widowhood.
The Manliness of Christ was written in defence of the Anglican church. Hughes wanted Victorians to view Jesus as manly, as already defined in Victorian culture. Yet these values appear not to have been exclusive to “manliness,” at least in the Irish Catholic community. Garnier exemplifies the same values that Jesus shows but with the undertone of what it is to be a wife, and a moral woman. Victorian culture certainly imposed certain gender roles and expectations on people of all classes, but they were by no means universal across Victorian society.
Hughes, Thomas. The Manliness of Christ, Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1880. PDF.
New Jerusalem Bible. Web. 12 March 2014 <http://www.catholic.org/bible/>
M.J.M. “The Ladies of Calvary.” Irish Monthly Nov. 1883. Print. 484-487