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The disillusionment of Robert Dell: the intellectual journey of a Catholic socialist

Renshaw, D. (2019) The disillusionment of Robert Dell: the intellectual journey of a Catholic socialist. Intellectual History Review, 29 (2). pp. 337-358. ISSN 1749-6985

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/17496977.2017.1370898


This article considers attempts in the late nineteenth century to bring about a confluence of Catholicism and Socialism in Britain by examining the writing and correspondence of one man, the art critic and Fabian socialist Robert Dell. Beginning with Dell’s involvement as a young man in London-based radical politics, the article examines his efforts to bring his socialist politics and Catholic faith together. Dell attempted this through stressing a narrative of Catholic collectivism, under the aegis of a benevolent Church, contrasted with a post-Reformation Protestant individualism leading to the inequities of capitalism. The appeal of Catholicism in a Victorian Britain undergoing a collective crisis of faith is addressed. The second part of the article documents the failure of these attempts and Dell’s disillusionment with the Catholic hierarchy that by 1908 had led to a complete break on Dell’s part with the Catholic establishment. The catalyst for this break was the brutal treatment of Catholic Modernists such as George Tyrrell, Maude Petre and St George Mivart by the Vatican and the English Catholic leadership. Dell’s final rejection of organised Catholicism is charted through pamphlets, newspaper articles and personal correspondence. Ultimately, the article considers how Dell’s early political and theological career reflects on the relative positions of Catholicism and socialism at the turn of the twentieth century, and more broadly the dynamics of personal belief and political allegiances.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:74079
Uncontrolled Keywords:History and Philosophy of Science, History
Publisher:Informa UK Limited


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