The Making of John B. Gough (1817-1886): Temperance Celebrity, Evangelical Pageantry, and the Conservatism of Popular Reform in Victorian Society
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The dissertation is partly a biography of John Bartholomew Gough, a transatlantic temperance celebrity and one of the most popular itinerant lecturers of the Victorian era. It is also a social history of Gough's supporters and opponents, an intellectual history of the friction he incited between the temperance and prohibition factions, and a cultural history of the paradoxes inherent in the popularization of evangelical temperance reform. By focusing on the controversies surrounding Gough and through analysis of newspapers, pamphlets, memoirs, and private diaries and correspondence, the dissertation reconstructs the deepening socioeconomic and ideological fault lines that came to define the temperance movement in the mid-19th century. It re-evaluates the connections between evangelical temperance and radical reform issues, such as abolition and women's rights. It argues that Gough's rise to stardom was intertwined with the coming-of-age of the conservative evangelical mercantile class, and that the evangelical temperance ethos he championed became popular, as it was being diluted and commodified as a marker of social respectability and detached from social and political action. The dissertation examines closely the ideological origins of the evangelical retreat from legislative prohibition in the late 1850s and illuminates, through Gough's involvement, the transatlantic reverberations of the collapse of the alliance for prohibition. The dissertation also studies Gough as a cultural phenomenon. It investigates how and why Gough's clerical supporters tried to defend and justify his dramatic lectures while denouncing the theater. Drawing connections between the popular lecturer and the evangelical preacher, the dissertation suggests that the clergy's formulation of Gough's "anti-theatrical drama" and their obsessive defense of his authenticity signified an ambivalent acceptance of Realist theater and a deep-seated moral anxiety created by the tensions between the Puritan legacy and the new liberal theology. By tracing the (auto)biographical remaking of Gough's public image and his influence in the elocution movement after 1860, the dissertation examines the Christianization and domestication of the self-made man, the tensions between authenticity and refinement in the new elocutionary "science," and the merging of Gough and his brand of temperance advocacy into moral entertainment and the Victorian mainstream.
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