|It means that....
Written by Caroline
(11/14/2003 9:43 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR: P.S: Can anybody tell me..., penned by Line
The eighteenth century word "enthusiasm" had some very negative connotations. It meant that a person was too carried away by emotions and fervor to actually make common-sense decisions. In the eighteenth century Church of England, any kind of persuasion and teaching was supposed to be logical, rational, and therefore not extreme in any way.
One of the main criticisms of the Wesleyan methodists and the Evangelicals was that they insisted on a "conversion"- that people really , really, felt, in their heart of hearts, that they were sorry/unworthy/etc. etc. Methodist meetings were criticised for raising the emotions of thousands of people to the extent that they fainted, wept, or screamed. Please understand , it wan't what the Methodists actually beleived that was wrong- it was the way they encouraged "enthusiasm" . Likewise, the political activity of the Catholics at the time was blamed upon "enthisiasm"- adherance to a cause beyond normal commonsense. Basically "enthusiasm" was considered a dangerous and destructive force. The Church of England actually prided itself in being "unethusiastic", and based upon rational discourse and common sense. Public decorum and polite behaviour depended upon lack of "enthuisiasm". So "enthusiasm" was definitely something to be disapproved of, in any activity in life.
Now those Cushions. The pulpit in the church was normally very high- three pulpits in one, one above the other (No I don't have picture , but I'll try to find one). The crux of the church service- the sermon, which is, of course, a rational discourse- was done in the top pulpit, with the priest looking down on the congregation. In front of this pulpit would be cushions, on which the priest could rest his notes and his arms. Obviously this particular preacher got carried away, thumping his fist on the cushions in order to make his point. In other words, his enthusiasm was showing far more than it should have done. Likewise, his enthusiasm may have got in the way of his diction, his reading aloud of the collects and prayers. Or maybe he was just not a good speaker!
Interestingly, JA showed distinct signs of disapproving of "enthusiasm"- think of Lydia Bennet and Isabella Thorpe! She certainly didn't like it in preachers. And she often commented on their presentation of their sermons- in other words their "voice" and their "enthiusiasm" .
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