William Dodsworth 1798-1861: the origins of Tractarian thought and practice in London

Young, Stephen Edward (2003). William Dodsworth 1798-1861: the origins of Tractarian thought and practice in London. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e88f

Abstract

This thesis presents William Dodsworth as a central figure in the transmission of Tractarian ideas from Oxford to London. His career reveals a unique interface between radical Evangelicalism and the first impact of the Oxford Movement on the religious life of the capital.

Dodsworth's formation is set within the variety of religious responses produced by the ideological upheaval consequent upon the French Revolution, and in particular the revival of adventism. His life-long quest for a unified theological system that would resist liberalism in church and state underlies his early involvement in the prophetic studies movement, and his enduring commitment to pre-millennialism. Dodsworth's adventism is the key to his development from Evangelical, through Tractarianism to the Roman Catholic Church. The impetus for this evolution can be traced to his association with Edward Irving and his circle. Irving's eschatology and reinterpretation of traditional Evangelicalism led Dodsworth to an incarnation-centred soteriology which enabled him to develop a new 'Catholic' ecclesiology worked out in his preaching and sacramental practice at the Margaret Chapel from 1829.

Distanced from Irving and drawn into the incipient Tractarian Movement, Dodsworth's potential for leadership was recognised by Newman, and utilized by Pusey in the establishment of Christ Church, Albany Street as a prototype of the Anglo-Catholic parish, and a first embodiment of the Oxford Movement's pastoral ideals in London.

Evaluation of Dodsworth's ministry, preaching and publications not only calls for a reappraisal of his hitherto obscured place in Anglo-Catholic history, but demands a reexamination of the origins of Tractarianism in the capital and especially its relationship to contemporary Evanglicalism. This thesis concludes with a critique of Dodsworth's contribution as an Anglican convert to the Roman Catholic Church, and offers him as a promising subject for future study of nineteenth century religious history.

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