Equal opportunity religious agony

I’m not sure what’s going on with Reading Roulette, but my random book picker seems determined to land me on works of fiction dealing with religion. First we took a look at Low Church doctrine with Steepleton: or, High Church And Low Church by Stephen Jenner, and then we balanced the ledger with William Gresley’s High Church polemic, Bernard Leslie; or, A Tale Of The Last Ten Years. Now, it seems, it’s time to visit with the Methodists.

Sort of.

Though she was a successful and popular writer in her day, there is little information available about the life and career of Marie Conway Oemler. She was born Mary Conway in Savannah, Georgia, in 1875, and did not take up writing until she was in her mid-thirties, after marrying and having two children. Once begun, however, she was quite prolific, turning out poems and short stories regularly before publishing her first full-length work, Slippy McGee (aka The Butterfly Man), in 1917. Her first novel was also her most successful, being widely praised and twice adapted into films, in 1923 and 1942.

Oemler continued to write fiction until the early thirties, when her health failed. By this time, she and her husband were living in Delaware, but they returned to the South in the hope of her recovery. Unfortunately, her heart condition grew more serious, and Oemler died in 1932.

Oemler was a Catholic of Irish descent, which throws an interesting light upon our next Reading Roulette selection, The Holy Lover. Published in 1927, this biographical novel is an account of the early years of John Wesley, in particular the time he spent in Georgia during the 1730s, prior to his return to England where, at one of the lowest points in his life, he underwent the personal revelation that led eventually to his establishment of the Methodist Church. However, though the novel describes John Wesley’s religious development as a young man, its focus is on the conflict between Wesley’s austere, self-sacrifice based practice, with its basis in celibacy, and the temptation towards love and marriage represented by the lovely young Georgian settler, Sophia Hopkey.

5 Comments to “Equal opportunity religious agony”

  1. Wesley is of current interest because Hillary is a methodist and sometimes quoted him.

    • I doubt she would quote from this phase of his life. 🙂

      (Though I understand this part of his story has recently been subject to revisionism…)

  2. This should be an interesting perspective, speaking as a Methodist. From its beginning, and in the time this was written, Methodism was considered rather lower-class.

    • I can’t speak to America but in Britain that was literally true, in that all the Dissenting religions held a higher appeal for the working classes. The Established Church was part of the traditional paternal hierarchy and operated best within rural areas, but after the Industrial Revolution there was a huge population shift into urban areas, particularly in the north, and this new working-class had no position within the old structure and became alienated.

      Hmm. As a Methodist, you might want to avert your eyes. It’s not very respectful… 🙂

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