The good old way revisited: the Ferrar family of Little Gidding c.1625-1637

Kate Riley

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

[Truncated abstract] The Ferrars are remembered as exemplars of Anglican piety. The London merchant family quit the city in 1625 and moved to the isolated manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. There they pursued a life of corporate devotion, supervised by the head of the household, Nicholas Ferrar, until he died in December 1637. To date, the life of the pious deacon Nicholas Ferrar has been the focus of histories of Little Gidding, which are conventionally hagiographical and give little consideration to the experiences of other members of the family, not least the many women in the household. Further, customary representations of the Ferrars have tended to remove them from their seventeenth-century context. Countering the biographical trend that has obscured many details of their communal life, this thesis provides a new, critical reading of the family's years at Little Gidding while Nicholas Ferrar was alive. It examines the Ferrars in terms of their own time, as far as possible using contemporary documents instead of later accounts and confessional mythology. It shows that, while certain aspects of life at Little Gidding were unusual, on the whole the family was less exceptional than traditional histories have implied; certainly the family was not so unified and unworldly as the idealised images have suggested. Moreover, the Ferrars were actively engaged in making those images, for immediate effect and for posterity. The Ferrars' identities, corporate and individual, and their largely textual practices of self-fashioning are central to the study. Other key concerns are the Ferrars' moral and religious ideals and practices, gender in the family, and intra-familial relationships. Evidence for the thesis is drawn from family documents dating from the early years of the seventeenth century to the time of Nicholas Ferrar's death. ... The Little Academy is considered first: in this unique dialogue circle, young women discussed morally edifying historical tales, offering them a textually-mediated experience of the world and working to reinforce conventional gender roles and religious values. The final three chapters pertain to the copious and little-studied family correspondence. A chapter that develops a theory of the functions of the family correspondence network is followed by one studying the affective relationships that the celibate sisters Mary and Anna Collet maintained through their letters with their unmarried uncle and spiritual mentor, Nicholas Ferrar. These chapters consider the identities as single people that all three developed through these relationships, within the maritally-focused framework of the Protestant family. The last chapter also concerns the lives of the unmarried, examining the relationships of single male adults and their roles in the family, focusing on the friendship of Nicholas Ferrar and his cousin Arthur Woodnoth. The thesis closes by reflecting on the fact that returning the Ferrars to their seventeenth-century context reveals their multi-faceted nature, comprising ideals and identities sometimes incongruous with one another, and certainly unaccounted for in the traditional narratives. It thus demonstrates the importance of the overall project of reconceiving the Ferrars? history, which forms an original contribution to the study of the social, cultural and religious history of early seventeenth-century England.
LanguageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2007

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History
Household
Ideal
Gender Roles
Cultural History
Self-fashioning
Affective
Conventional
Piety
Mythology
Sister
Religious History
Friendship
Letters
Religious Values
Merchants
Corporate Identity
Textual Practices
Posterity
Social History

Cite this

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title = "The good old way revisited: the Ferrar family of Little Gidding c.1625-1637",
abstract = "[Truncated abstract] The Ferrars are remembered as exemplars of Anglican piety. The London merchant family quit the city in 1625 and moved to the isolated manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. There they pursued a life of corporate devotion, supervised by the head of the household, Nicholas Ferrar, until he died in December 1637. To date, the life of the pious deacon Nicholas Ferrar has been the focus of histories of Little Gidding, which are conventionally hagiographical and give little consideration to the experiences of other members of the family, not least the many women in the household. Further, customary representations of the Ferrars have tended to remove them from their seventeenth-century context. Countering the biographical trend that has obscured many details of their communal life, this thesis provides a new, critical reading of the family's years at Little Gidding while Nicholas Ferrar was alive. It examines the Ferrars in terms of their own time, as far as possible using contemporary documents instead of later accounts and confessional mythology. It shows that, while certain aspects of life at Little Gidding were unusual, on the whole the family was less exceptional than traditional histories have implied; certainly the family was not so unified and unworldly as the idealised images have suggested. Moreover, the Ferrars were actively engaged in making those images, for immediate effect and for posterity. The Ferrars' identities, corporate and individual, and their largely textual practices of self-fashioning are central to the study. Other key concerns are the Ferrars' moral and religious ideals and practices, gender in the family, and intra-familial relationships. Evidence for the thesis is drawn from family documents dating from the early years of the seventeenth century to the time of Nicholas Ferrar's death. ... The Little Academy is considered first: in this unique dialogue circle, young women discussed morally edifying historical tales, offering them a textually-mediated experience of the world and working to reinforce conventional gender roles and religious values. The final three chapters pertain to the copious and little-studied family correspondence. A chapter that develops a theory of the functions of the family correspondence network is followed by one studying the affective relationships that the celibate sisters Mary and Anna Collet maintained through their letters with their unmarried uncle and spiritual mentor, Nicholas Ferrar. These chapters consider the identities as single people that all three developed through these relationships, within the maritally-focused framework of the Protestant family. The last chapter also concerns the lives of the unmarried, examining the relationships of single male adults and their roles in the family, focusing on the friendship of Nicholas Ferrar and his cousin Arthur Woodnoth. The thesis closes by reflecting on the fact that returning the Ferrars to their seventeenth-century context reveals their multi-faceted nature, comprising ideals and identities sometimes incongruous with one another, and certainly unaccounted for in the traditional narratives. It thus demonstrates the importance of the overall project of reconceiving the Ferrars? history, which forms an original contribution to the study of the social, cultural and religious history of early seventeenth-century England.",
keywords = "Ferrar, Nicholas,, 1592-1637, Ferrar family, Little Gidding (Christian community), Families of clergy, Sex role, England, Social life and customs, 17th century, English history, Seventeenth century England, Family and gender, Early modern religion",
author = "Kate Riley",
year = "2007",
language = "English",

}

The good old way revisited: the Ferrar family of Little Gidding c.1625-1637. / Riley, Kate.

2007.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

TY - THES

T1 - The good old way revisited: the Ferrar family of Little Gidding c.1625-1637

AU - Riley,Kate

PY - 2007

Y1 - 2007

N2 - [Truncated abstract] The Ferrars are remembered as exemplars of Anglican piety. The London merchant family quit the city in 1625 and moved to the isolated manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. There they pursued a life of corporate devotion, supervised by the head of the household, Nicholas Ferrar, until he died in December 1637. To date, the life of the pious deacon Nicholas Ferrar has been the focus of histories of Little Gidding, which are conventionally hagiographical and give little consideration to the experiences of other members of the family, not least the many women in the household. Further, customary representations of the Ferrars have tended to remove them from their seventeenth-century context. Countering the biographical trend that has obscured many details of their communal life, this thesis provides a new, critical reading of the family's years at Little Gidding while Nicholas Ferrar was alive. It examines the Ferrars in terms of their own time, as far as possible using contemporary documents instead of later accounts and confessional mythology. It shows that, while certain aspects of life at Little Gidding were unusual, on the whole the family was less exceptional than traditional histories have implied; certainly the family was not so unified and unworldly as the idealised images have suggested. Moreover, the Ferrars were actively engaged in making those images, for immediate effect and for posterity. The Ferrars' identities, corporate and individual, and their largely textual practices of self-fashioning are central to the study. Other key concerns are the Ferrars' moral and religious ideals and practices, gender in the family, and intra-familial relationships. Evidence for the thesis is drawn from family documents dating from the early years of the seventeenth century to the time of Nicholas Ferrar's death. ... The Little Academy is considered first: in this unique dialogue circle, young women discussed morally edifying historical tales, offering them a textually-mediated experience of the world and working to reinforce conventional gender roles and religious values. The final three chapters pertain to the copious and little-studied family correspondence. A chapter that develops a theory of the functions of the family correspondence network is followed by one studying the affective relationships that the celibate sisters Mary and Anna Collet maintained through their letters with their unmarried uncle and spiritual mentor, Nicholas Ferrar. These chapters consider the identities as single people that all three developed through these relationships, within the maritally-focused framework of the Protestant family. The last chapter also concerns the lives of the unmarried, examining the relationships of single male adults and their roles in the family, focusing on the friendship of Nicholas Ferrar and his cousin Arthur Woodnoth. The thesis closes by reflecting on the fact that returning the Ferrars to their seventeenth-century context reveals their multi-faceted nature, comprising ideals and identities sometimes incongruous with one another, and certainly unaccounted for in the traditional narratives. It thus demonstrates the importance of the overall project of reconceiving the Ferrars? history, which forms an original contribution to the study of the social, cultural and religious history of early seventeenth-century England.

AB - [Truncated abstract] The Ferrars are remembered as exemplars of Anglican piety. The London merchant family quit the city in 1625 and moved to the isolated manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire. There they pursued a life of corporate devotion, supervised by the head of the household, Nicholas Ferrar, until he died in December 1637. To date, the life of the pious deacon Nicholas Ferrar has been the focus of histories of Little Gidding, which are conventionally hagiographical and give little consideration to the experiences of other members of the family, not least the many women in the household. Further, customary representations of the Ferrars have tended to remove them from their seventeenth-century context. Countering the biographical trend that has obscured many details of their communal life, this thesis provides a new, critical reading of the family's years at Little Gidding while Nicholas Ferrar was alive. It examines the Ferrars in terms of their own time, as far as possible using contemporary documents instead of later accounts and confessional mythology. It shows that, while certain aspects of life at Little Gidding were unusual, on the whole the family was less exceptional than traditional histories have implied; certainly the family was not so unified and unworldly as the idealised images have suggested. Moreover, the Ferrars were actively engaged in making those images, for immediate effect and for posterity. The Ferrars' identities, corporate and individual, and their largely textual practices of self-fashioning are central to the study. Other key concerns are the Ferrars' moral and religious ideals and practices, gender in the family, and intra-familial relationships. Evidence for the thesis is drawn from family documents dating from the early years of the seventeenth century to the time of Nicholas Ferrar's death. ... The Little Academy is considered first: in this unique dialogue circle, young women discussed morally edifying historical tales, offering them a textually-mediated experience of the world and working to reinforce conventional gender roles and religious values. The final three chapters pertain to the copious and little-studied family correspondence. A chapter that develops a theory of the functions of the family correspondence network is followed by one studying the affective relationships that the celibate sisters Mary and Anna Collet maintained through their letters with their unmarried uncle and spiritual mentor, Nicholas Ferrar. These chapters consider the identities as single people that all three developed through these relationships, within the maritally-focused framework of the Protestant family. The last chapter also concerns the lives of the unmarried, examining the relationships of single male adults and their roles in the family, focusing on the friendship of Nicholas Ferrar and his cousin Arthur Woodnoth. The thesis closes by reflecting on the fact that returning the Ferrars to their seventeenth-century context reveals their multi-faceted nature, comprising ideals and identities sometimes incongruous with one another, and certainly unaccounted for in the traditional narratives. It thus demonstrates the importance of the overall project of reconceiving the Ferrars? history, which forms an original contribution to the study of the social, cultural and religious history of early seventeenth-century England.

KW - Ferrar, Nicholas,

KW - 1592-1637

KW - Ferrar family

KW - Little Gidding (Christian community)

KW - Families of clergy

KW - Sex role

KW - England

KW - Social life and customs

KW - 17th century

KW - English history

KW - Seventeenth century England

KW - Family and gender

KW - Early modern religion

M3 - Doctoral Thesis

ER -