At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, April 16, 2004


Hattersley, Roy. A Brand From the Burning: The Life of John Wesley. Doubleday, $26.

Publishers Weekly: “Fast-paced and detailed…Like no other Wesley biographer, Hattersley provides the details of Wesley’s failed love affairs and his unfortunate marriage. Lively, engaging and well told, Hattersley’s biography gives us an unvarnished, warts-and-all glimpse at the life and work of one of Christianity’s great preachers and writers.” History Review: “In some respects Roy Hattersley has done an excellent job. If you want a readable, accurate and quite interesting life of Wesley, you will not be disappointed. The author has done his research thoroughly...The problem is, however, that while Hattersley is reticent about his own religious convictions he is clearly not a Methodist, indeed not even a Christian. In a way this is a strength, guaranteeing that the book is certainly not another Methodist hagiography. But there is a disastrous lack of any religious perception or sympathy. Consequently the reader remains bewildered as to how Wesley succeeded in transforming England. Nor is it clear why he was so loved as well as hated. Because it means nothing to him, Hattersley cannot grasp the impact of Wesley's offer of salvation to a bored, hopeless generation. The author is by no means at home in the eighteenth-century evangelical scene, for all his conscientious research and for all the guidance for which he thanks his Anglican and Methodist friends...Hattersley virtually ignores [the political] aspect of the story.” Christian Century: “It is clear that [Hattersley] reads his sources through the lenses of a self-confessed atheism and the secular prejudices of modern psychosocial categories. To this Methodist scholar it seems that the author portrays a "tabloid" version of Wesley's life: sensational and sweepingly judgmental; often historically inaccurate; and largely ignorant of the research of Wesley scholars over the past few decades…The great flaw of Hattersley's book is that he ruthlessly sacrifices balanced judgment and plain coherence in order to cast Wesley in the worst possible light. Historians will be constantly frustrated by the book's ubiquitous historical and typographical errors.” Booklist: “A nuanced and satisfying portrait.” Kirkus: “The author stresses Wesley's constant doctrinal shifts, most of which will be incomprehensible to modern readers not versed in theological history, and his equally vacillating relationships with women to paint an unflattering portrait of a man who frequently changed his mind and then insisted he'd believed the same thing all along. This makes it difficult to appreciate Methodism's enormous impact on English society and culture, or to have much interest in Wesley himself. Lengthy discussions of debates over Methodism's organizational structure and its uneasy relationship with the Church of England, from which it did not officially separate until after Wesley's death, are certainly necessary but not written in a manner likely to engage the general reader...Conveys the facts, but little else.” New Statesman: “A full and fair biography…[Hattersley] is particularly clear-sighted about the nature of Wesley’s theology, which was essentially conservative, and always pragmatic.”


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