A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith

A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican Religious Practice in the Elite Households of Eighteenth-Century Virginia

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith
    Book Description:

    This enlightening book examines the physical objects found in elite Virginia households of the eighteenth century to discover what they can tell us about their owners' lives and religious practices. Lauren F. Winner looks closely at punch bowls, needlework, mourning jewelry, baptismal gowns, biscuit molds, cookbooks, and many other items, illuminating the ways Anglicanism influenced daily activities and attitudes in colonial Virginia, particularly in the households of the gentry.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16866-2
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-xi)
  4. INTRODUCTION. Kitchenware That Wants You to Love Your Neighbor: Household Religious Practice in Anglican Virginia
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book was conceived one afternoon almost a decade ago, as I wandered through the rooms of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. I had narratives in which to place most of the objects I saw there: salt-glazed stoneware had become popular on the Eastern seaboard in the eighteenth century because it was sturdier than delft; South Carolina produced more silverwork than its poorer neighbor North Carolina; Moravians in backcountry Carolina, because of design sensibilities they brought with them from Europe and because of trade encounters with sophisticates in Charleston and Philadelphia, prized furniture that was more elaborately upholstered...

  5. CHAPTER ONE. With Cold Water and Silver Bowls: Becoming an Anglican in Eighteenth-Century Virginia
    (pp. 27-59)

    In 1773, shortly after his wife, Ann, died, George Mason IV wrote his will. There he confirmed his son’s ownership of “a large silver Bowl given him [George Mason V] by my Mother, in which all my children have been christened, and which I desire remain in the family unaltered for that purpose.”¹ This bowl is worth lingering over, for it reveals something important about the ritual in which it was used—Anglican baptism as practiced by gentry like the Masons. Indeed, the Masons’ bowl may be taken as a synecdoche not just for household baptism but for elite Virginians’...

  6. CHAPTER TWO. Becoming a “Christian Woman”: Needlework and Girls’ Religious Formation
    (pp. 60-89)

    In 1768 and 1769, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Boush, the daughter of a prominent Norfolk, Virginia, family, stitched a remarkable pictorial embroidery. Nineteen and a half by II1/2 inches, the silk-on-silk embroidery depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac (see fig. I in the Introduction). The needlework captures the moment at which the ram, which God has sent to be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, appears; Abraham and his son are about to be spared.

    Producing this needlework was part of Boush’fs education in the arts of housewifery. The embroidery demonstrated that Boush was skilled with a needle, and that her parents could afford both...

  7. CHAPTER THREE. People of the Book: Liturgical Culture and the Domestic Uses of Prayer Books
    (pp. 90-118)

    In May 1739 Elizabeth Burks Cabell wrote a letter to her husband, William, who had been in England for almost four years. The letter was long and chatty: Elizabeth reported that on the Wednesday before Easter, she had developed a serious fever; the children had been sick, too, but none of their slaves; some of the goods William had sent from England were “received safe at home,” but the “fine linen, the quilts & the bed ticks are very much damnified,” and most of the “china ware” and glass had been broken. She reported on some business, the children’s schooling, and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR. Sarah Foote Stuart’s Fish Sauce: The Liturgical Year around the Table
    (pp. 119-140)

    For elites in eighteenth-century Virginia, the table provided a stage for numerous religious performances. For example, meals provided an occasion for prayer. When John Mason, eldest son of George Mason, recalled his childhood, he noted that his father “was always sent for when meals were served and nobody sat down until he came in. He always had grace said; most generally he performed that office himself, but sometimes [he] desired one [of] his elder sons to do so. That grace was uniformly delivered in the following words: ‘God bless us and what we are going to receive.’ ”¹ Another religious...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE. “To Comfort the Living”: The Household Choreography of Death and Mourning
    (pp. 141-177)

    We began this book with George Mason, writing his will shortly after the death of his wife, Ann Eilbeck Mason.

    Let us go now to Gunston Hall, a few months before Ann died. Ann lay languishing in bed. Her tenth pregnancy had been difficult, and the twins she had delivered in December 1772, Richard and James, had died within a day of their premature birth. Ann suffered in bed for weeks after the delivery, perhaps unable to shake her sorrow, certainly unable to overcome the “slow fever” that drained her of strength. By early March, Ann realized that she was...

  10. EPILOGUE. Lucy Smith Digges’s “Little Old Fashioned Oblong Black Walnut” Table: Household Religious Practice in Episcopalian Virginia
    (pp. 178-188)

    In the 1850s, in the middle of his tenure as the third bishop of the Diocese of Virginia of the Protestant Episcopal Church, William Meade wrote down all he knew of the history of theOld Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia.¹ Parish by parish, county by county, drawing on his own recollections and on the memories of others, Meade assembled information on countless topics: vestry resolutions, genealogy, funerals, the religious character of George Washington, daring Revolutionary War exploits, ill-advised elopements. He moved from the droll (what happened when Parson Latane offered some of his parishioners a drink) to the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 189-230)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-264)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 265-268)
  14. Index
    (pp. 269-272)