The Evangelicals’ far-flung humanitarian concerns prompted them to found literally hundreds of philanthropic and missionary organisations, some with dense networks of local branches and committees reaching across the country. The diversity of these causes, as well as their individual limitations, may be inferred from this small selection of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century societies, some of whose titles are as long as their constitutions:

The Ladies’ Association for the Benefit of Gentlewomen of Good Family, Reduced in Fortune Below the State of Comfort To Which They Have Been Accustomed;

The Friendly Female Society, for the Relief of Poor, Infirm, Aged Widows, and Single Women, of Good Character, Who Have Seen Better Days;

The Guardian Society, for the Preservation of Public Morals by Providing Temporary Asylums for Prostitutes;

The London Orphan Asylum, for the Reception and Education of Destitute Orphans, Particularly Those Descended from Respectable Parents;

The National Truss Society for the Relief of the Ruptured Poor;

The Society for Returning Young Women to their Friends in the Country;

and the Royal Humane Society (to restore “persons in a state of suspended animation”).

Seemingly, the Evangelicals had a society to cover every contingency.

Richard D Altick, Victorian People And Ideas (1974)

2 thoughts on “Societies

  1. I’ve got that book! He wrote another excellent one you might like to find in the London Library – the massive ‘Presence of the Present’. I’ll leave you find what its about, but I found it riveting. Full of tiny brilliant details…

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