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Humanities 2018, 7(4), 100;

Performing Devotion: Belief, the Body, and the Book of Common Prayer 1775–1840
King’s College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK
Received: 7 September 2018 / Accepted: 12 October 2018 / Published: 17 October 2018


This article examines three texts published between 1775 and 1840 that attempt to model an ideal reading of the Anglican liturgy and to render it on the printed page, exploring the ways in which elocutionary instruction, acting theory and accounts of public worship intersect within them through the figures of inscription and incorporation. Reflecting on the choice of the famous actor David Garrick as an exemplary reader in the two later texts, and drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, it discusses how and why these texts attempt to regulate competing ideas regarding the concepts of performance, embodiment, and assembly. The argument is made that although prescriptive in their demands, to varying degrees these texts acknowledge their own insufficiencies, and recognise not merely the difficulty of the task of transposing oral performance to a series of textual signs, or of accounting for the nature of devout worship, but also a more fundamental excess and irreducibility in the constitution of the self.
elocution; speech; print; liturgy; Church of England; Garrick; theatre; performativity; assembly

1. Introduction

In 1797, a pamphlet entitled The manner pointed out in which the Common Prayer was read in private by the late Mr. Garrick, for the instruction of a young clergyman was published by one J.W. Anderson. It was at least in part a response to an earlier model presented by the actor and elocutionist Thomas Sheridan in his Lectures on the Art of Reading (Sheridan 1775). Despite the fact that early reviewers noted the ‘difficulty, or rather the total impracticality, of reporting in writing the manner in which Mr. Garrick read the Common Prayer’ (The Analytical Review, or History of Literature 1797, p. 306), Anderson’s text was republished over forty years later, as Garrick’s Mode of Reading the Liturgy of the Church of England: A New Edition with Notes, and a Preliminary Discourse on Public Reading by Richard Cull, Tutor in Elocution (Cull 1840). It would seem that in the intervening years neither Garrick’s celebrity (he had after all died in 1779) nor concerns about the quality of clerical performance within the established church had much diminished. Presumably, what another early reviewer described as the ‘singularity of an actor attending to the ceremonies of religious worship, with a view of instructing its officiates’, continued to be ‘pleasing’ even when it was no longer ‘novel’ (The Monthly Visitor and Entertaining Pocket Companion 1797, p. 378). This article explores the nature of this singularity and makes the case that whilst Garrick’s presence registers wider patterns of regulation within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century culture that are bound up with matters of speech and print, it does so in complex ways, opening up but not resolving questions with respect to embodiment, performance, and the autonomy of the subject.

2. Elocutionary Regulation

An intense interest in the practice and regulation of public speaking developed during the eighteenth century. Alongside philosophical treatises and lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres, sprang up a range of elocutionary guides designed to assist individuals in improving their performances in every situation, from parliament to the bar, pulpit, stage, and public meeting. Building on the Ramist separation of rhetoric (understood as style and delivery) from logic (responsible for the content of an oration), they focused primarily on establishing and promulgating standards of correctness with respect to one aspect of the Ciceronian five-part division: actio or pronunciation. In effect, this meant an emphasis on the skill of reading aloud but such works functioned within a wider codification of ‘standard forms of written and spoken English’ through the publication of hundreds of grammars, dictionaries, and primers (Ulman 1994, p. 26; Hickey 2010, pp. 15–16). The principles underpinning the elocutionary manuals were that: (i) it is possible to identify the qualities of ideal performances; (ii) the details of these performances can be represented textually via description, diacritical marks, symbols, and so on; and (iii) that the attentive student can improve their skills through ‘imitation, reproduction and enactment’ (DeWispelare 2012, p. 860). They are thus predicated on the understanding that elocutionary training is a ‘structured, repetitive regimen of intervention’ in which spoken performance is both `the result of an intellectual act of will but also a bodily habit’ (MacNamee 1984, p. 408). They are also dependent on the resources of print.
This vogue for elocutionary regulation both responded to and fuelled concerns about poor liturgical performance (George 2009, p. 373). Despite its multiple revisions (Jardine Grisbrooke 1958; Spinks 2008), and the fact that it was not the only liturgy being performed in the period, the Book of Common Prayer was bound up with the definition of Anglican identity against the threats of Catholicism and Puritanism, and its 1662 form was held by many to be exemplary: ‘the best and most perfect Form or Provision of publick Worship, that ever was produced’ (Caner 1748, p. 44) and the ‘proper Form of Worship for a rational and sinful Creature to offer to the great and perfect God’ (Butler 1763, p. 18); ‘a sublime and impressive composition’ (The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle 1797, p. 1037). Its delivery, however, was another matter. Some clerics such as the infamous John ‘Orator’ Henley or Dr. Henry Dodd, the ‘macaroni parson’, were criticised for pursuing popularity and wealth at the expense of sincere devotion, whilst many others were lambasted for reading and preaching in a ‘dry, methodical, and unaffecting’ manner (Goldsmith 1798, I. 139). Such complaints were longstanding. At the start of the century, The Spectator had observed that the ‘well Reading of the Common Prayer is of so great Importance, and so much neglected’ that the only ‘remedy’ is ‘to propose some Person of great Ability that way as a Pattern for them’ (Bond [1711–1712] 1987, II. 78). An actor himself, as well as an elocutionist, Sheridan took up precisely this challenge in his Lectures on the Art of Reading (Sheridan 1775), and yet Anderson remains dissatisfied in 1797, and by 1840 Cull believes still that it is ‘commonly so ill performed’ (Cull 1840, p. vii).1
Sheridan’s model was, nevertheless, a significant influence on both Anderson and Cull. His Lectures identify errors of reading that obscure or pervert what he takes to be correct interpretations of the service, as well as those likely to bore or irritate the congregation when read aloud. The method he follows is to ‘first enter into a minute examination of some parts of the service’ (Sheridan 1787, p. 118), discussing such faults as: ‘This strong stress upon the affirmative, art, looks as if there might be a doubt, whether the residence of God were in Heaven, or not’ (p. 138). He then reproduces ‘the rest, accompanied by such marks as will enable the reader, in a short time, and with moderate pains, to make himself master of the whole’ (p. 118). A range of diacritical marks are deployed to this end, including the ‘grave accent of the Greek’ (`) for ‘the emphatic words’, \\\ for a full stop, and ‘a short horizontal over the syllable’ to indicate that it should ‘be dwelt on for some time’ (pp. 121–22). More fundamentally, he advocates an intensive regime of speech training, beginning in childhood, which focuses on sound production by the lips, tongue, palate, jaw, and teeth as well as the management of breath, tone, pace, volume.
Sheridan was not unusual in this project. Another elocutionist, Joshua Steele, advances a theory of the vocal organ based on the idea of ‘musical slides’ (Steele 1779, p. 8) upon which Cull drew heavily.2 Like Sheridan, he depends on textual marks to identify correct reading and to enable its replication: ‘When the cadences of our language […] are properly marked in our way, every person initiated in the practical knowledge of music, will be able to comprehend our meaning, and to read the words according to the melody and rhythmus we shall mark to them’ (p. 18). The system of scoring he invents to achieve this comprises curved lines, dots, and squiggles on a stave indicating quarter tones, semi-tones and tones. But he too insists on the essentially corporeal nature of speech and the hearing of it: ‘Our breathing, the beating of our pulse, and our movement in walking, make the division of time by pointed and regular cadences, familiar and natural to us’ (p. 20). However, although he shares with Sheridan the desire to capture exemplary performances, he does not present his own, but rather those of famous actors, including Garrick and his role as Hamlet particularly, with a view that they should be ‘transmitted to posterity’ (p. 14). At least one review of the work considered this attention excessive in the ‘deference’ it showed to Mr. Garrick’s pronunciation’ (The Critical Review 1776, p. 217).
But fascination with Garrick’s exceptionally expressive acting, including his facial and bodily movements and his voice (Holland 2007), was in fact widespread right from the beginning of his career in 1741 and he was a direct model for a number of eighteenth-century elocutionists. James Fordyce’s An Essay on the Action Proper for the Pulpit (Fordyce 1753), Sheridan’s Lectures on the Art of Reading (Sheridan 1775) and Walker’s Elements of Elocution (Walker 1781) all praise his talent, whilst William Cockin’s The Art of Delivering Written Language; or, an Essay on Reading (Cockin 1775) was dedicated to him, along with another work by John Walker—a Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (Walker 1791). There was then some logic to Anderson’s choice of Garrick as exemplary liturgical reader. His text is interesting, though, in its approach. Presumably on account of his judgement that Sheridan was misguided in his attempt to render ‘the Clergy more correct than fervent’ (Anderson 1797, p. 5), he does not use diacritical marks to mark up a text. Instead, he prints short phrases from the liturgy between which he interpolates commentary. His remarks are not based on a single performance by Garrick, the narration is instead iterative, suggesting that the reading was a repeated act: ‘Here Mr. Garrick always stopt, and repeated—I pray and beseech you, in rather a fervent, supplicating tone and look’ (p. 12) and Mr. Garrick used to vary, in a most successful manner, his mode of beginning these sentences’ (p. 43). The text also includes recommendations by Garrick, which may or may not reflect his actual performance. For example, ‘The pauses between the different clauses’ [of the Creed—I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth] ‘Mr. Garrick advised to be as long as you can with propriety extend them.’ (p. 32). Or, of the beginning of the Exhortation: ‘when speaking the three following words, [Dearly Beloved Brethen] Mr. Garrick recommended a look, expressive of the utmost suitable gravity, to be cast slowly around the congregation, the voice rather low’ (p. 10).
An even greater number of prescriptions, such as ‘His body must be erect, but not stiff, and his voice clear, loud and powerful’ (p. 15), are not tied to Garrick at all. These comments are particularly significant because of the frequency with which they appear in relation to Anderson’s commitment to demonstrating how ‘the Service might be read with that glow of animated devotional piety befitting its sacred importance’ (pp. 5–6). The following examples demonstrate their repetitive construction and pervasive presence. Psalms ‘ought to be given with an audible dignity of voice, and with a kind of satisfactory glow of joyful expression’ (p. 20). The Litany ‘requires great fervent piety of expression’ and the ‘voice ought to be solemnly impressive’, the ‘look truly devout’ and full of the ‘zealous glow of pious devotion’ (p. 39). On this he is insistent: from ‘Grant us thy peace’ onwards ‘your delivery must possess an uncommon, and ardent glow of the sincerest devotional expression, that you can possibly call forth.—All must be devout, and warmed with the most animated piety (p. 53). And in the closing prayers, the minister should preserve ‘inviolate that pious glow of fervent expression so indispensably necessary’ (p. 62).
The address to the reader through the pronoun ‘your’, and the sense that the imperatives of ‘ought’, ‘requires’, and ‘must’ derive from the nature of the liturgy itself, combine with the absence of references to Garrick at these moments to pull the text away from a simple ‘pointing out’ of the ‘manner’ of his live performance. This is further compounded by the fact that the ‘glow’ of devotion so often invoked has a numinous quality that is not only resistant to textual representation but is also ambiguously related to the body—both of Garrick specifically and with respect to the locus of its origin and means of expression. What is more, in its essential animation, this ‘glow’ contrasts with Anderson’s acknowledgement that, at the time of the pamphlet’s publication, the ‘young clergyman’ who had through ‘frequent practical exercise’ achieved a ‘degree of excellence nearly approaching to that of his great Preceptor’ (pp. 6–7) is (like Garrick and Sheridan) dead. Indeed, the attention Anderson draws to the manner in which his text is dependent on the recovery of manuscript notes made by his friend, and then to how he has worked up these notes into a single printed text, underscores an association between inscription, the passing of time, death, and absence:
I am enabled to undertake it by the aid of some Manuscripts, lately put into my hands, containing a number of Notes and Observations made by a Clerical Friend, now no more. These Notes were originally committed to paper for the purpose of leading the Writer afterwards to ascertain the precise manner in which he had heard the Service read in private by the late Mr. Garrick.
(p. 6)
The relationship between these ideas is acknowledged contemporaneously by Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, where inscription is defined as a writing matter—‘to mark any thing with writing’, ‘something written or engraved’, ‘an obligation made in writing’—but writing is also a means of memorialisation, a mark that persists after death for futurity: ‘It is generally applied to something written on a monument’, and, as an illustration: ‘This avarice of praise in time to come/Those long inscriptions crowded on the tomb’ (Johnson 1785, n.p.). It accords too with Derrida’s observation that in this period, writing is commonly cast as a denaturing mode (Derrida 1976, p. 168). Sheridan follows such a line in his impassioned calls for attention to the arts of elocution, which to him lie at the heart of all the wider social and political ills facing the nation: ‘some of our greatest men have been trying to do that with the pen, which can only be performed by the tongue; to produce effects by the dead letter, which can never be produced but by the living voice, with its accompaniments’ (Sheridan 1762, p. xii). Thus, one interpretation we might pursue of the tension in Anderson’s pamphlet between the intangible glow of devotional fervour and the identification, transcription, preservation, and replication of the ‘precise manner’ of Garrick’s performance, is that it is similarly indicative of the work’s negotiations with such oppositions: of speech and writing, animation and death, presence and absence.
To an extent, although for different reasons, the same conclusion could be drawn of Cull’s edition. Rather than seeking proximity to the original scene of Garrick’s performance, Cull insists on distance because his aim is to ‘collect positive and exact knowledge of the science on which our art is based’ in order to ‘give to the art of reading a precision and certainty which will entitle it to the consideration of thinking men’ (Cull 1840, p. 59). Therefore, in his ‘discourse on public reading’, which prefaces the reprinting of Anderson’s complete text, Cull proposes a system based on an analogy between public reading and music and the particularities of Garrick’s voice and body are minimised in favour of an abstracted explanation of the generic capacities of the ‘vocal organ’ (pp. 10–11). He draws on Steele’s claim that ‘the Music of speech is composed of an assemblage of slides’ (p. 6) and hence can be reduced to the variations and interactions of pitch, loudness, quality, and duration. In addition, he presents his own ‘theory of rhythmus’, which posits that speech is essentially a pattern of ‘sounds, variously arranged with greater or less pauses of intermission, or silence, between them’ (p. 1). The preliminary discourse contains a series of sample prose and poetry texts ranging from Ossian and Shakespeare to the Service for the Burial of the Dead to demonstrate this systematic analysis. They are scored into bars, following the pattern of common or triple time with symbols to indicate the ‘thesis or accent’ and the ‘rhetorical pauses’ (p. 20). These are not a record of any particular live performance given by Garrick or anyone else, but rather are a set of visual instructions derived from Cull’s own analysis and opinion with no obvious recognition that these texts might be understood to differ in kind. But the discourse does recognise that speech is a corporeal activity, and breath training (p. 42) and ‘considerable practice’ are recommended to regulate and improve embodied performances (p. 46).
The main text, where Cull replicates Anderson, is similarly reliant on textual resources and notably unconcerned with devotional zeal. Here he inserts additional paratextual material in the form of footnotes. These, he claims, are designed to ‘increase’ the ‘usefulness’ of the original pamphlet ‘by the addition of such notes as would give more exactness to Mr. Garrick’s remarks’ (p. xiii). What they actually do is fit these remarks to Cull’s own theory of music, replicating the structure by which Anderson reworked an original set of manuscript notes, to render them in Cull’s version, similarly ‘partial’, in the sense of incomplete and in need of supplementation (Genette 1997, p. 319). For example: ‘Plaintiveness, grief, earnest entreaty, &c are expressed by semitones. The introduction of a few semitones will greatly enhance the expression of contrition and penitence here required. R.C’ (Cull 1840, p. 72). Such comments are asserted with confidence and authority, from a self-titled ‘Tutor in Elocution’, but the question of whether the accomplished manipulation of the vocal organ needs to be shaped to any degree by true devotion is left open: does the ‘expression of contrition and penitence’ we wonder derive from the felt experience of these emotions, or merely from the manipulation of ‘semitones’ to produce this effect?
Such questions also emerge in eighteenth-century theorisations of the affective power of the actor, to which Garrick was central, and in them it becomes evident that there is not such a simple equation to be drawn between living, embodied speech in its full presence and the dead but replicable textual letter. These eighteenth-century texts do not anticipate the full extent of Derrida’s displacement of the logocentric hierarchy, not least because they maintain a privileging of ‘idea’ over its secondary ‘printing’. However, they are shaped by figurative constructions that gesture towards an understanding of writing as a condition for oral expression, through a depiction of the body as a site of sensible impression operating at what we would today call a cellular level (Derrida 1976, p. 9).

3. The Idea Prints the Look

The rhetoric of the passions derived from Quintilian and transmitted in various forms through Aristotle, Horace, and Cicero dominated discussions of acting until the mid-eighteenth century. Its central tenet is that the speaker must feel the passion they wish to communicate at the point of its oral and bodily expression. In the writings of John Hill and Aaron Hill, whose theories of ‘sympathetic imagination’ (Wasserman 1947) regarding the art of acting were shaped substantially by reflections on Garrick, we see a new development. They combine a Cartesian model, whereby the movement of the animal spirits around the body generates effects mechanically and particular passions are tied to universal characteristics visible on the body, with new theories regarding the functioning of the nerves and the workings of sensibility. Shearer West has suggested that this convergence generates an ‘obsession with the externals of dramatic action’ (West 1991, p. 3). In John Hill’s The Actor (J. Hill 1750, 1755)—which was a paraphrased version of Rémond de Sainte-Albine’s Le Comédien (De Sainte-Albine 1747)—these various elements are clearly apparent: ‘Would the tragedian strongly impress the illusion of his performance upon us, he must first impress it as strongly upon himself; he must feel everything strongly, that he would have his audience feel’ (J. Hill 1750, p. 106). To do so successfully, the actor must possess ‘sensibility’, or in other words, the ‘disposition to be affected by the passions which plays are intended to excite’ (J. Hill 1755, p. 48). But he must also have a ‘distinguishing judgment’ and the ability to retain ‘command’ over himself (J. Hill 1755, pp. 24, 54). This command extends to the body as much as to the mind since ‘with the power of feeling he must have the power of quitting them instantaneously, or of changing one for another, or all his sensibility is nothing’ (ibid., p. 68).
The Actor also draws on the writings of Aaron Hill, an English dramatist and writer, who was one of the most prominent theatrical figures of the century, and a friend of Garrick. His most extended treatment of the subject of theatrical feeling combines, like the elocutionary works and The Actor, observation and prescription. This was An Essay on the Art of Acting; in which the Dramatic Passions are Properly Defined and Described, with Applications of the Rules peculiar to each and Selected Passages for Practice (A. Hill 1779). However, an earlier version in the form of a poem was published in 1746, and he wrote widely on the topic throughout the 1740s including in his own periodical The Prompter (A. Hill 1966). In his account, the actions and gestures of the actor’s body are the ‘mere Effect of fibrous Mechanism:—a taught, or natural, Configuration of impulsive, or remissive, Sinews.—The Idea prints the Look:—The Look adapts the Muscles’ (A. Hill 1746, p. v). This is an automatic process of inscription enacted first by the making of an ‘image’ on the ‘fancy’ which is then ‘stamp[ed]’ on the ‘fibres’ of the body (A. Hill 1779, p. 6). ‘Every passion’ he writes ‘has its peculiar and appropriate look, and every look its adapted and particular gesture’. These are ‘Nature’s own marks and impressions’. This process is outlined explicitly:
The imagination assumes the idea.
Its marks and characteristical impressions appear first in the face, because nearest to the seat of the imagination.
Thence, impelled by the will, a commissioned detachment of the animal spirits descending into the dependent organisation of the muscles, and swelling and adapting them in its progress, bends and stimulates their elastic powers into a position apt to execute the purpose (or to express the warmth of) the idea.
Thus the look, air, voice, and action proper to the passion, preconceived in the imagination, become a mere and mechanic necessity, without perplexity, study, or difficulty (A. Hill 1966, p. 140).
Hill argues that in ordinary life these expressions are generated by spontaneous feeling but that an actor produces them by a deliberate act of the imagination: ‘To act a passion well, the actor never must attempt its imitation, till his fancy has conceived so strong an image, or idea of it, as to move the same impressive strings within his mind, which form that passion when it is undesigned and natural’ (A. Hill 1779, p. 6). When this is done well and ‘natural impressions are imitated exactly by art’, he insists, ‘the effect of such art must seem natural’ (ibid., p. 15). It is on account of this seeming naturalness that the action on stage can then make an impression on the audience, moving their passions ‘by such images as imprint in the mind terror and compassion, grief and joy’ (A. Hill 1966, p. 9).
It is not only in the realm of the theatrical that these figures of corporeal impression or imprinting are pervasive. This is in large part due to their centrality in Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) (Locke [1700] 2011) as the figures by which he sought to represent the absence of innate ideas and to hypothesise instead on the acquisition of knowledge through sensory perception and reflection, by which ‘impressions’ are made on the mind as on ‘white paper, void of all characters’ (Locke [1700] 2011, p. 104). The degree to which this figure spread and persisted is evident in Johnson’s Dictionary, in its seventh edition by 1785, where he illustrates the definitions of ‘Impress’, ‘Impression’, and ‘Imprint’ with repeated quotations from Locke. For example, in relation to ‘Impression’: ‘sensation is such an impression or motion, made in some part of the body, as produces some perception in the understanding.’ Here we find an alignment of physical pressure acting upon a surface to create a mark of some fixity or durability with the action of the printing press as well as the working of the memory. The physical dimension of these verbs is stressed but there is no distinction between what is internal to the body and what is external to it. To impress is simply ‘to print by pressure; to stamp and to “fix deep”’. Equally, to imprint, is ‘To mark upon any substance by pressure’, ‘To stamp words upon by paper by the use of types’ and ‘To fix on the mind or memory’ (Johnson 1785, n.p.).
This language of impression and imprinting, in which the body emerges as a ‘shifting scene of inscription that both writes and is written’ (Kirby 1997, p. 61), also appears in relation to clerical performance. For example, James Fordyce’s An Essay on the Action Proper for the Pulpit (Fordyce 1753) describes the ‘Animal machine’, which, like a musical instrument ‘conveys clear and full whatever Notes or Measures that play upon it’ (Fordyce 1753, p. 63). He also argues ‘that almost every Sentiment and Passion have certain Accents, Looks, and Gestures appropriated to them by Nature’ and ‘when those therefore are joined with fit Words, the Impressions produced by their United Force must be strong and lively’ (ibid., p. 5). More specifically, the concept of impression is used to defend the ‘set form’ of the liturgy, against the challenge of the extemporary prayers and preaching common to dissenting groups, and most prominently the Methodists (Irwin 1711, p. vi; Butler 1763, p. 8). It is vital, one such argument goes, that ‘the same good and holy things be always inculcated and pressed upon us after one and the same manner’ as it is the ‘constant use’ of the ‘same words and expressions’ that ‘imprint[s] the things so firmly in our minds’ (Beveridge 1776, pp. 5–7).
It is illuminating to consider Anderson’s text in both contexts. He relies on the figure of impression to account for the affective power of the liturgy, but its use is complex and equivocal. There are places where he suggests that what is impressive is the content of the liturgy itself. For instance of the prayer ‘O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God’ he remarks: ‘There is something awfully impressive in this commencement […] that requires the Minister to be attentive to his method of reading it; so that it may not lose any of its force or energy’ (Anderson 1797, p. 35). Yet even in these instances, it is not quite clear if what is impressive is the act of commencing the prayer or the particular words of the liturgical text. More often the figure is associated with the quality of the reading, or what he terms ‘expression’: ‘Give the next verse great impression of delivery’ (p. 30), or, the clergyman’s ‘voice ought to be solemnly impressive, his look truly devout’ (p. 39). The ‘impressive’ quality in such instructions pertains both to the internal state of the reader with respect to the quality of his fervent devotion, and the effect the reading should have on the congregation via its external expression. However, Anderson also repeatedly invokes the double sense of the words ‘apparent’ and ‘seeming’ that Aaron Hill deploys in such as constructions regarding the actor as ‘Rightly to seem, is transiently to be’ (p. 5). Thus, he attempts to insist that genuine devotion as a state of feeling must be made visible and audible, but cannot help invoking too the possibility that liturgical efficacy may derive from a convincing performance of such devotion. For example: ‘The very commencement shews the absolute necessity of a warm and apparently sincere mode of utterance in candidly confessing ourselves sinners in the hopes of forgiveness’ (p. 39). Or, as in the following passage:
Mr. Garrick advised an occasional introduction of a slight touch of the pathetic.
But the tone you use must have nothing affected in it, or possess any resemblance to the whining cant of theatrical declamation, a mode of speaking unbecoming devotional worship.
Every line must seem to flow from the pure and sacred fountain of true piety, from a heart sincerely and ardently impressed with contrition for past offences’.
(p. 50)
For both John and Aaron Hill, the appearance of feeling in the body of the actor is derived from the actor’s experience and capacity for feeling and is thus the essence of ‘theatrical ‘truth’ (Marker and Marker 1975) rather than a mode of pretence. But this was by no means uncontentious. Moreover, it is with specific reference to Garrick that Diderot presents his challenge to this proposition in Le Paradoxe sur le comédien (Diderot [1773] 1959).3 For Diderot, it is Garrick’s trademark—a ‘spectacularly rapid visible transition from passion to passion’ (Thompson 2005, p. 140)—that proves acting to be an artificial skill under the control of the will, since Garrick could not possibly feel all of the passions he portrays in such swift succession.
Seen in this light, the choice of Garrick as a model liturgical reader is indeed ‘singular’, as reviewers of Anderson’s pamphlet were quick to observe. One writes for instance that ‘we would not wish’ that any clerical reader be ‘too servile in his observance of the directions here said to have been given by the accomplished David Garrick, lest he should unfortunately be considered rather as a stage performer, than a pulpit orator’ (The Monthly Review and Journal 1797, p. 466). Concerns about Garrick as an actor, and as a businessman in his role as manager of Drury Lane, would also have resonated with similar concerns about the genuine devotion of the congregation, who were criticised too for worshipping as a ‘mere matter of form’ (Beveridge 1776, p. ii). Beyond laments about insufficient attendance or attention, as Mark Knights has shown, debates surrounding occasional conformity ‘raised important issues’ during this period regarding matters of ‘hypocrisy and sincerity, outward appearance and inner conviction’ (Knights 2005, p. 53).4
If we believe Anderson’s preface, we might accept that he chose Garrick as an exemplar simply because of the ‘Notes and Observations’ that were put into his ‘hands’ (p. 6). Cull, however, had full autonomy in his re-editing, and it is therefore notable that he not only replicates Anderson’s text, but also reiterates in his preliminary discourse the same paradigm of ‘seeming’ authenticity and apparent naturalness with reference to Garrick:
Those who have a genius for public reading, like Mr. Garrick and other great actors, have a power to bring their minds into a certain state, as if it were acted upon by real external circumstances; and a further power to allow that assumed state of mind to express itself in those tones and gestures which belong to it, and indeed form part of that mental state.
He points to this more than once: ‘Now the priest and people really adopt the language as expressive of their own feelings toward God: and hence it should be read in those tones which completely express them; just as if the language were now spontaneously flowing from that state of mind’ (p. 44). The ambiguity introduced into the idea of devotion by this diction is significant and it is not, as will be shown, easily dismissed as an unfortunate by-product of an ill-advised choice of a celebrity as an exemplary reader, or as Cull tries to do by a reduction of liturgical performance merely to reading: ‘It is a truism, that reading is artificial speaking […] like other imitative arts’ (p. 42). Rather, the appeal of Garrick as a model for the clergy lies in, and is sustained by, the ways in which his presence encourages equivocations with respect to potentially problematic ideas regarding the experience, expression, and transmission of emotional affect in the act of public worship.

4. Liturgical Affect

The various ways in which Anderson accounts for the working of the liturgy is one manifestation of such a process. He is consistent in asserting that pious energy and spiritual animation’ are ‘essentially necessary to the proper delivery of the whole, in order to make those who are present sensibly feel the awful and sacred business in which they are engaged, and thereby render them more devout’ (Anderson 1797, p. 17). But he offers varying accounts of how this might happen. One suggestion made, following a materialist model, is that the congregation will perceive this fervour ‘sensibly’, registering it in their bodies (ibid.) But earlier he indicates a further dimension: reading ‘with that flow of animated devotional piety’ will enable the congregation to ‘receive the highest advantages, through the medium of sympathy and example’ (p. 6). Or in another formulation, ‘If the Minister delivers his part with the reverent energy, and holy zeal which he ought, it is astonishing how his example will operate upon the congregation’ (p. 34). Anderson’s diction in these explanations suggests that whilst he does understand the clerical role to involve a modelling of ideal devotion, he is also drawing on what Adam Potkay has termed the ‘Ciceronian-Demosthenic ideal of sympathetic identification between orator and audience’, which is a ‘commonplace of eighteenth-century rhetoric’ (Potkay 1994, p. 46). As another eighteenth-century writer on eloquence defines it: ‘Almost every man, in passion, is eloquent […] He transmits to others, by a sort of contagious sympathy, the warm sentiments which he feels’ (Burgh 1762, p. 264). Anderson’s insistence on the visibility of the clergyman’s fervour allows for both explanations concurrently: ‘his devoutness ought to be particularly distinguishable; and when a glow of animated devotion is discovered in him, its effect will be that of inclining the people to a close and fervent observance of the duty on their part’ (Anderson 1797, p. 28).
At other moments, however, Anderson invokes a related model drawn from accounts of oratorical eloquence but emphasises a more forceful action than that suggested by the verb ‘incline’. This occurs primarily by reporting Garrick’s ‘remark’ with regard to the psalms that ‘they contain innumerable passages which are not only exquisitely and awfully sublime, but also capable of producing the utmost spiritual effect upon the people, if read with their full and proper force by the Clergyman’ (p. 23). As a result, the reader is prompted to recall that Garrick’s theatrical performances were often described in just these terms. For example, Fordyce says of him: ‘he seems in short upon the Stage to have a kind of despotic Empire over the Human Passions’ (Fordyce 1753, p. 16). The key word here is ‘despotic’, echoing as it does the trope of irresistible power in translations of Longinus.5 Anderson gestures towards this model of sublimity when he identifies the desired effect on the congregation being ‘to fix and enchain their attention’ (Anderson 1797, p. 23) and again later, as ‘enchaining fast the attention’ rather than letting it ‘wander’ (p. 40).
Such an emphasis on sublime, irresistible power and on fervent devotional zeal takes Anderson into problematic territory with respect to the matter of its origin. The imperative that a speaker be moved internally could well have been understood in this period to shade by degrees into an account of the action of the Holy Spirit, and as such to approach the realm of enthusiasm. This was a state characterised by belief in ‘extraordinary Revelations, Inspirations, Special Directions, Missions, Calls, Exstasies, Visions, and Communications with God’ (Evans 1757, p. 73). Thus, the Methodist leader John Wesley generated hostility in his Anglican contemporaries, not for his recommendation—‘On all occasions let the thing you are to speak be deeply imprinted on your own heart: and when you are sensibly touch’d yourself, you will easily touch others’—but for his suggestion that such affective power derives from the ‘touch’ of God within the speaker and his insistence that the believer should make herself open and receptive to it (Wesley 1770, p. 5).
The possibility of a ‘sensible’ encounter with God was a defining characteristic of the Methodist movement and a key target for accusations of enthusiasm, but the distinction between Wesley’s injunction and the position of the established church was a matter of emphasis rather than theological divergence. Although it did not emerge in its full, controversial, doctrinal form until the latter part of the nineteenth century, the kenotic motif of the ’divine self-emptying’ of Christ ‘for the redemption of humankind’ is fundamental to the act of incarnation that lies at the heart of Christian theology (Dawe 1963, p. 13). As is the belief that faith and prayer should involve ‘a form of receptivity’ to divine love modelled on such a ‘self-emptying’ (Benson 2005, p. 67). Misty Anderson has shown that this was recognised but resisted by the established church, but foregrounded in Methodist devotion, which ‘emphasized a Pauline, kenotic, self-emptying Christian “I,” the self who is not autonomous, who is “not I but Christ in me” (Anderson 2012, p. 2). This conception of the devotional subject was combined with a ‘Eucharistic emphasis on the body of Christ’, an insistent use of ‘embodied language’, and a toleration or perhaps even encouragement of the physical expression of devotion in such actions of the body as fainting, crying aloud, and experiencing pain (ibid., p. 26).
Such beliefs and behaviour transgressed the norms of politeness, moderation, and rationality that were central to eighteenth-century culture and challenged contemporary understandings of both the boundedness and the autonomous agency of the subject. Methodists were a particularly conspicuous target for attack on these grounds, but in fact these concerns were far more widely diffused and ‘Warmth in matters of religion’ in all of its possible manifestations was an ‘object of regulatory discipline, especially where its effects were written on the body’ into the nineteenth century (Mee 2003, p. 13). It is not surprising, therefore, that models of liturgical reading profess to rationality and measured feeling in addition to insisting by their very form on adherence to standards of correctness and propriety. Sheridan writes: ‘How much more pleasing must it be to a pastor, when he not only feels himself the delight arising from pure and rational devotion, but reflects that he is communicating sensations of the same kind to his flock’ (Sheridan 1775, p. 188). Cull asserts that his aim is to produce a system that will ensure that ‘our public worship will more befit the reasonable service of intelligent creatures’ (Cull 1840, p. 60). And Anderson appears to make a similar statement, when he explains that by combining Sheridan’s model with his own he has balanced feeling with reason—‘The one speaks more to the heart, the other to the understanding’—and together they will ‘conjointly be of great advantage to the Divine’ (Anderson 1797, p. 8). However, his insistent and repeated invocations of the idea of fervent devotion and the animated ‘glow’ of pious zeal, align him with, or at least close to, the ‘heart religion’ of Methodist dissent (Mack 2008) and thereby render this claim less than convincing.
The choice of Garrick as a model liturgical reader does not hide or resolve these equivocations and ambivalences; it compounds them. On the one hand, his acting style is undoubtedly an antidote to dry clerical reading and the anxiety that ‘going over continually one and the same settled service’ may produce ‘drudgery and weariness’ (Sheridan 1775, p. 188). Equally, the exceptional control he exerted over the muscles of his face and body shaped his reputation as the epitome of performative skill and control, and hence he might be seen to represent the opposite of the unregulated corporeal outbursts associated with enthusiasm and the volatile crowd. Indeed, as Roach has observed, this ‘theatrical virtuosity’ was ‘the most accessible model of discipline available to the eighteenth-century public’. In his mastery of it, Garrick’s body bears the traces of the wider cultural order since ‘the virtuoso’s muscles and nerves must remember at speeds often exceeding consciousness which procedures the style authorizes and which it proscribes’ (Roach 1989, p. 109).
Yet, at the same time, Garrick’s body was also inscribed with signs of ‘social status’ that were not quite polite, because his physicality teetered on the edge of excess and always linked him to the grotesque, the carnivalesque, and to the popular pantomime tradition rather more than the more reserved art of the theatre (Sechelski 1996, pp. 373–77; O’Brien 2004). Furthermore, his Huguenot ancestry bound him to a community deemed indisputably enthusiastic, whilst contemporaries associated him with enthusiasm on the basis of his personal behaviour. For example, in a guide to fashionable London preachers, Garrick is recorded thus: ‘hearing Mr. Harrison read the song of Deborah from the Book of Judges [he] was struck with wonder, fell into a pang of enthusiasm, and could not refrain crying out (rather imprudently) “By _____ he talks with the tongue of an angel!”’ (Anonymous 1782, p. 29). And, as a performer, he was linked with the charismatic preaching of another dissenter, George Whitefield, a man whose theatrical gestures and vocal techniques were notorious (Anderson 2012, p. 31). Indeed, a fellow actor, James Quin, is said to have remarked that ‘Garrick was a new religion; Whitefield was followed for a time; But they would all come to Church again’ (Davies 1781, I. 44–45). By way of response, Garrick wrote a poem in which he depicts himself as ‘That Whitefield Garrick’ and thus a kind of field-preacher actor ostensibly responsible for the corruption of the ‘town’, the misleading of the ‘age’ and the tainting of ‘the sound religion of the stage’ (Murphy 1801, I. 32). Later in an anonymous satirical broadside The Harlequin Methodist, Whitefield is shown offering his imaginary daughter in marriage to Garrick, whose first acting role as Harlequin in The Harlequin Student underpins the connection between them on the grounds of demonstrative bodily theatricality (Anderson 2012, p. 141). In a judgment constructed in the opposite direction, when criticism arises not only about the enthusiasm of John Wesley but also about the sincerity of his claims, he is compared to Garrick. He may be successful in attracting audiences for his preaching, Horace Walpole remarked, but he is just ‘as evidently an actor as Garrick’ (Edwards 2009, p. 14).
These complexities enable Garrick to function, in Anderson’s text particularly, as a tool for the direction of liturgical reading but also for the modulation of devotional ‘warmth’. This second form of regulation works in a number of ways. As has been shown, one is to allow a question mark to hover over the degree to which Garrick’s performance of devotion was genuinely felt, such that it could not, with any conviction, be deemed enthusiastic. Another is to introduce a degree of separation between Garrick and the descriptions Anderson inserts regarding the animated ‘glow’ of fervent devotion. This is achieved in part by the numinous character of this quality. It is also generated by the grammatical untethering of these descriptions from the direct descriptions of Garrick and the introduction of a degree of uncertainty as to their origin, as well as by the framing of the text as a memorial to three men—the young clergyman, Sheridan, Garrick—now long dead. A further mode of regulation takes the form of distraction and evasion. By focusing so intently on Garrick, little room is left to consider the liturgy as public and corporate. Cull has less need than Anderson of such regulatory mechanisms given the framing of his pamphlet as a work of scientific analysis, and his lack of interest in devotional ‘warmth’. Garrick is, therefore, correspondingly less significant in his text. But he does, nevertheless, replicate some of Anderson’s evasions and distractions for his own ends.

5. Corporate Performativity

Contemporaneous sources acknowledge the necessity of assembly for communal worship and the constitution of the body of the established Church in large part by its liturgy: ‘the Form of public worship, prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, and directed by the laws of the land to be observed in all Churches and Chapels of this Kingdom in communion with the Church of England’ (Beveridge 1776, p. 3). What has more recently been termed ‘the surrender of self-determination that characterises a congregation whose actions occur according to the creative drive of the rite’ (Nichols 1996, p. 110), and which cannot therefore ‘be the monologue of a single participant’ (Jones et al. 1992, p. 22), is recognised too. Thus, for example, Francis Fox writes in The Duty of Public Worship Proved: ‘By Publick Worship I mean, the assembling of Christians together in the Church or House of God to acknowledge their dependence upon Him’ (Fox 1772, p. 6). Whilst Henry Caner’s A Discourse concerning the public worship of God insists that this worship is conducted jointly, not as ‘separate or distinct Persons, but as one great Family or Society of Brethren’ (Caner 1748, pp. 6–7).
However, whilst the title of Anderson’s pamphlet names ‘the common prayer’, it also makes clear that it is derived from a ‘private’ reading. When he does refer to liturgical worship as ‘public’, his language is conspicuous in its repetition: ‘the solemn grandeur of public worship’, ‘the awful and solemn grandeur of the occasion’, ‘the dignity and grandeur of public prayer’, ‘the sacred gravity and dignity’ of ‘the Common Prayer’, and ‘the solemn grandeur of public worship’ (Anderson 1797, pp. 48, 49, 56, 63, 77). As with the similarly repeated ‘glow’ of devotional fervour, these descriptions pertain to qualities or states beyond the representational capacity of the printed text. This insufficiency of representation is compounded by an uncertainty as to whether or not these qualities derive from or are manifested in the bodies of those assembled. We are directed to a consideration of the difference between Garrick’s reading and that conducted in a church by the fact that the ‘solemnity’, ‘grandeur’, and ‘dignity’ of public worship cannot have been present in the reading given by Garrick for the instruction of the young clergyman.
Just as Cull is not concerned with the matter of devotional fervour, so he attends little to such qualities. Rather, he wants to insist on the rationality and propriety of public worship. However, he does agree that it is corporate: ‘the reasonable service of intelligent creatures, assembled for the purpose of manifesting by their voice the mental states of confession, prayer, and praise’ (Cull 1840, p. 60). He deploys Garrick to prove that the combination of qualities identified as vital for a stage actor—‘distinguishing judgment’, ‘command’ over oneself, and ‘the power of feeling’ (J. Hill 1755, pp. 24, 54)—remain equally necessary for a minister reading the liturgy. Garrick’s virtuosity in this regard demonstrates the power of the performer to shape the unfolding scene of worship. It is not that Cull ignores the congregation. Indeed, he acknowledges the relational dynamics of ‘the occasion’ more directly than Anderson. But, as a consequence of his desire to present a set of ‘extensive means and comprehensive principles’ for a science of reading (Cull 1840, p. 59), he refuses to make room for states or affects of uncertain origin. He is confident that the minister can comprehend all aspects of the liturgy as text, and as a set of relationships, and that both can be accurately and entirely expressed through ‘speech-melodies’:
With a full perception then, of his position in relation to the people, of his and their common relation to the Creator, and of all the circumstances flowing from those relationships, the priest will compose his speech-melodies to express the sense and sentiment of the successive parts of the Church service. This will require a minute examination and searching analysis of the whole service, sentence by sentence.
(p. 45)
In differently limited ways therefore, Anderson and Cull understand the liturgy in performative terms: an assembled congregation engaged in a communal act of public worship according to a set form of utterances and actions. It could not have been anything other than obvious to them, moreover, that the liturgy of the established church also contains performatives in the sense that Judith Butler defines them: ‘statements which, in the uttering, also perform a certain action’ and are ‘implicated in a network of authorization and punishment’ (Butler 2010, p. 171). It is a ritualised activity bound up with the ‘binding’ power of wider cultural and political discourses, the efficacy of which lies in the ‘regularized and constrained repetition of norms’ (ibid., pp. 95, 171); or in other words, ‘a citational practice by which discourse produces the effects it names’ (p. xii).
The recommendations Anderson presents for the various parts of the liturgy suggest that he recognises it not as a single act but as a series of acts, some of which are shared by the minister and the congregation, whilst others are unique to one or the other. Cull replicates Anderson’s directions, but characterises these acts more directly as ‘Confession, Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving’ and ‘Invitation, Precept, and Declaration’ (Cull 1840, p. 43). However, despite the fact that they draw attention to the limitations of his text, Anderson’s insistence on the qualities of ‘glow’ and of ‘grandeur’ also reveals an acknowledgement: the liturgical occasion has a signifying power that cannot firmly be attributed to any or all of these acts, nor which can be wholly deemed the work of the divine. Noting that Derrida does not attend to the social dimension of ritualised action, Butler offers two insights that are instructive in this respect. The first concerns the ‘chiasmic’ relationship between speech and body whereby ‘Speech is bodily’ but the body ‘exceeds the speech it occasions’ and ‘speech remains irreducible to the bodily means of its enunciation’ (Butler 1997, pp. 155–56). The second considers this excess in the context of public gatherings, where she argues that ‘forms of assembly already signify prior to, and apart from, any particular demands they make. Silent gatherings, including vigils or funerals, often signify in excess of any particular written or vocalized account of what they are about.’ This ‘mode of signification is a concerted bodily enactment’ and yet it is also a ‘plural form of performativity’, which exists not within individual bodies but in the space and relation between them. It is thus less well captured by the figure of inscription or its related form, impression: ‘So this movement or stillness, this parking of my body in the middle of another’s action, is neither my act nor yours, but something that happens by virtue of the relation between us, arising from that relation, equivocating between the I and the We […] an active and deliberately sustained relation’ (Butler 2015, pp. 8–9).
In part, this analysis draws on anthropological studies of ritual, but it is most directly a response to Derrida’s argument that conventionality is not merely a matter of contextual circumstances or of intention, but rather a feature of locution itself, such that all performative utterances are fundamentally iterative (Derrida 1988, p. 318). In attending to embodiment and assembly, Butler pays greater attention to the corporeal dimension of performatives than Derrida, who is concerned primarily with a critique of J.L. Austin’s work on the force of speech acts (Austin 1962). The suggestion of a kind of subjectivity that exists between ‘the I and the We’ also further complicates the issue of intention. Thus, although the structural necessity for absence within a Derridean definition of iterability, according to which the ‘trace always figures a possible death’ (Derrida 2005, p. 158) is retained, she turns the balance of emphasis towards the presence of living bodies assembled together and the ‘active’ relation that is generated between them.
This theory of ‘performative assembly’ is also, however, embedded in the context of scholarship, such as that of Talal Asad (1993), Phyllis Mack (2003), Amy Hollywood (2004) and Saba Mahmood (2005), who have argued that the nature of religious subjectivity and its relation to practices, as well as to beliefs, are inadequately comprehended by, and in fact run counter to, liberal notions of individual autonomous agency. The intersubjectivity Butler proposes represents a challenge to this model and resonates particularly with the late eighteenth- to nineteenth-century period, not least because one point of origin for this ‘modern’ self lies in the philosophy of Locke. In this period, as has been seen, gatherings of people prompt anxiety. They carry the threat of the spontaneous and uncontrolled behavior long associated with the ‘warmth’ and delusions of enthusiasm. This association, commonly figured in terms of the spread of fire or disease, was compounded by the rupture and turmoil of the French Revolution and its mob violence, and was sustained by the widespread unrest that simmered across Europe in its wake. As Clark observes, these concerns followed a chain of connections in which the ‘Fear of enthusiasm is fear of mass cults, of crowd behaviour, of popular delusions or even insurrections’ (Clark 1997, pp. 63, 73). But this disordering capacity extended beyond the physical because, like the ‘Heart Religion’ of the Methodists (Mack 2008), the dynamics of such assemblies and the suggestion that the self may reveal itself to be porous rather than firmly bounded, and not entirely self-determining, ran counter to what Jon Mee and Misty Anderson have identified as the ideal character of the ‘public’ as it was conceptualised during this period: ‘a communion of autonomous readers’ and a ‘regulated conversation between stable subjects’ (Mee 2003 p. 30) who are ‘self-contained’ and ‘rational’ (Anderson 2012, p. 11).
Given this context, it is not surprising that neither Anderson nor Cull attends explicitly to the kind of intersubjectivity Butler identifies. Indeed, we can understand the vogue for elocutionary manuals seeking to legislate the reception as well as the production of public speech, along with what has been termed the ‘increasing acoustic regimentations of congregations and theatre and concert audiences’ of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Damousi and Deacon 2007, p. 116), against precisely this backdrop. Indeed, the logic of the genre in which these men are writing discourages such an acknowledgement; manuals designed for use by individuals to improve their elocutionary performance are predicated on a confidence not only in their own capacity to shape the behaviour of their readers, but also in that of the speaker to control an audience, whereas what Butler suggests is a kind of affect that exceeds intention and is irreducible to either the words spoken or the body that speaks them, and thus operates beyond the reach of such legislation. Texts of this kind also depend on the expression of the passions through the voice and body according to a universally recognisable pattern and as such are undermined by the invisible but actively sustained ‘relation’ between individuals that Butler posits. And yet, it is precisely intense affect of uncertain origin and ambiguous relation to what is being said and what is being done in public worship to which Anderson repeatedly draws our attention. Once again, it is in the figure of Garrick that we find the point of contact between these opposing movements of evasion and acknowledgment.
On the one hand, Anderson’s framing of the original private reading of the liturgy avoids the issue of a gathered congregation entirely. Garrick’s virtuosic skill as an actor, which Cull emphasises still further, confirms the high degree of control he exerts over his own body and the embodied responses of his audience. Yet, on the other, this same skill enables him to wield a ‘despotic’ power that is deemed sublime in its ability ‘to hurry us out of ourselves’ and to ‘drive everything out of our minds, besides the subject it would hold forth’ (Burgh 1762, p. 45). The discourse of sensibility that underpins this capacity further acknowledges the existence, and indeed desirability, of affective rather than rational relationships between attuned individuals. Whilst, in addition, Garrick’s associations with enthusiasm foreground the ‘dangerous dissolution of subjectivity’ (Mee 2003, p. 35) this religious delusion was held to involve. These gestures towards an understanding of the self as kenotic—as self-emptying and receptive—are confirmed by the theory of acting with which he was so firmly associated, since the imaginative identification at its heart depended on what we can understand as the player’s ‘conscious act of self-alienation’ (Shortland 1987, p. 106). His celebrity is instrumental too in this modulation. By their focus on the performance of the famous actor, both Anderson and Cull exploit his status as an exceptional and clearly defined subject, an individual of expertise and authority. Beyond his market appeal, which was reinforced in the years preceding Cull’s edition by the publication of a two-volume collection of his private correspondence (Boaden 1831–1832), his fame as ‘Garrick’ is in one sense a defence against the ‘risk’ that Derrida identifies as inherent to citation, but which Butler suggests is key to the performativity of assembly: that ‘the performative cannot be tied to an intending subject’ (Hollywood 2002, p. 106). Yet at the same time, the basis of this celebrity in his skill as an actor—‘a professional imitator of persons not himself’—undermines this stable subjectivity (Thompson 2005, p. 141).
The awkwardness of the fit between Garrick and the role of exemplary liturgical reader is, therefore, crucial to Anderson’s complex reflections on the nature of the liturgical act and its relation to the body. The ‘excess’ and ‘irreducibility’ that Butler identifies are signalled by the ‘singularity’ of the combination, along with the resistance of the most important aspects of Anderson’s account of liturgical efficacy—devotional ‘glow’ and the particular ‘grandeur’ of public worship—to description as much as to transcription. Conversely, it is a confrontation with the disruptive potential of these numinous qualities that Cull’s insistent confidence in the comprehensiveness of his scientific system seeks to avoid. But the tensions between absence and presence, and inscription and incorporation, that are highlighted by the framing of both narratives as posthumous re-workings of older texts and an originary performance, have deeper roots than the task of reproducing live action on the printed page. In part, they reflect the paradoxes of the liturgy itself and the multiple relationships it enacts. Arguing that there ‘is no faith unless somewhere inscribed, inscribed in a body’, Louis-Marie Chauvet has described the liturgy as an embodied practice, ‘where we learn to consent to the presence of the absence of God’ (Chauvet 1995, pp. 154–55, 265). The concepts of anamnesis and kenosis embed remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ and of his self-emptying, not only in the Eucharist, but in the devotional work of the liturgy as a whole. As a text, it does not ‘preserve a prior spoken act’ for ‘an audience that was not present’ (Day 2014, pp. 12–13), but rather ‘it is what it is when it is carried out’ through the ‘physical presence of living bodies interacting in the same general space at the same time’ (Jones et al. 1992, p. 56). Yet it is also predicated on the act of repetition (Ladrière 1973, p. 60) and is at once eschatological in its temporality and essentially ‘promissory’ in nature (Nichols 1996, p. 256).
These tensions also attend to what Butler identities as the ‘chiasmic’ relation between speech and body that pertains equally to the reading given by Garrick for the young clergyman as to the subsequent rendering of this performance in words and symbols, and then later, its reproduction in the performances of the pamphlets’ readers. This is not to ignore the differences between these three scenes, or the matter of intention. Even if we acknowledge, along with Derrida and Butler, the fundamentally iterative nature of all performatives, and in light of this we do not follow Austin in discounting as ‘hollow and void’ the ‘performative utterance[s] […] said by an actor on stage, or if introduced in a poem, or spoken in a soliloquy’, Garrick’s private reading of the liturgy remains distinct in the nature of its ‘citation’ from that which takes place in a public act of worship or in the practice readings of the pamphlets’ readers (Derrida 1988, p. 16).
The task that Anderson undertakes, therefore, appears to be one of prescriptive legislation, grounded on a naïve belief that Garrick’s exemplary reading can be rendered on the page and replicated by others in the course of their ministerial duties. But although it suits Cull’s ambitions to conceive of it this way, and to foreground the issue as one of regulating speech by print, a closer reading reveals that it is much more interesting than he gives it credit for. Deeply invested in sustaining ambivalences and equivocations, and opening up questions and possibilities, Anderson registers in the contradictions of his text a constellation of debates regarding the nature of the relationship between impression and expression, the possibility of authentic performance, the threat of intense affect and the desirability of a tightly-bounded and autonomous self. It is not then towards the materiality of the paper on which his pamphlet is printed, nor that of Garrick’s dead but posthumously animated body, that we should primarily direct our attention, but rather to the ‘excess’ and the ‘irreducibility’ that lie just beyond either, and the relation that is ‘deliberately sustained’ between both.


This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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The sections on the liturgy were subsequently extracted from the Lectures and reprinted by the Rev. R. W. Faulkener (1789, 1813), as Sheridan’s Strictures on Reading the Church Service, as discussed by Forrell Marshall (2007).
In the second edition of An Essay towards establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech to be expressed and perpetuated by certain Symbols (Steele 1775), which was published under the title of Prosodia rationalis: or, An essay towards establishing the melody and measure of speech, to be expressed and perpetuated by peculiar symbols (Steele 1779), Steele is acceding to the request of the president of the Royal Society, that he should respond to the second volume of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo’s work On the Origin and Progress of Language (Monboddo 1774). For images and discussion of these works, see (Alkon 1959).
Samuel Johnson is similarly sceptical about Garrick’s genuine feeling, as discussed by West (1991, p. 15). James Boswell equivocates on the matter via his theory of the actor’s ‘double feeling’ (Boswell 1770, p. 470).
Under the Corporation Act (1661) and Test Act (1673), oaths of supremacy, allegiance, and non-resistance, along with receiving the sacrament, were required to hold public office. Indemnity Acts did make some provision for dissenters but the acts were not repealed until the Sacramental Test Act (1828) and the Catholic Relief Act (1829). To an extent, this meant that Cull was writing in an altered climate, although the legacy of this legislation and the binding together in law of Church and State in England remained.
This treatise circulated in England in three editions: a French translation by Nicholas Boileau (1674), an English translation of Boileau by Nicholas Rowe (1736), and a direct translation by William Smith (1739).

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