Christopher Tolley examines the writing of biography in four Victorian families: the Macaulays, Stephens, Thorntons and Wilberforces. Their fathers had been memebers of the prominent group of evangelicals and philanthropists known as the Clapham sect, and their histories were shaped by a cultivated and demanding brand of evangelicalism, which left its mark even when the parental faith was lost. The family biographers celebrate this common legacy, testifying to the
success of the evangelical movement in its campaign on behalf of domestic piety. The tradition of biography is given fact and form by the wealth of documentation produced within evangelical homes, to which later generations added their significant contribution.
Dr Tolley draws extensively on unpublished material in the family archives, discusses the uses and conventions of nineteenth-century domestic biography, and explores its close relationship with other kinds of private family writing. The result is a fascinating account of the influence of evangelicalism upon eminent Victorians.