“A valuable portrait of religion and society”

“Hardy deserves to be as well-known as Parson Woodforde.”

Professor William Gibson gives an emphatically positive assessment of both the usefulness of Mary Hardy’s record and Margaret Bird’s commentary in his book review of Volume 3 of Mary Hardy and her World which has appeared in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 72, issue 1 (January 2021), pp. 206–7. The opening part of his review is freely accessible online.

He considers that “It is difficult to decide whether Bird’s or Hardy’s is the greater achievement.” The volume “provides an extraordinarily rich portrait of Norfolk life” in the diarist’s period.

The review continues:

Indeed she [Margaret Bird] makes a splendid assessment of the later Georgian Church of England rooted in the data garnered from ecclesiastical records. At the core of this picture is the centrality of the parish and of faith in this period.

New movements in society

However new movements and itinerancy by roving preachers were also afoot: “Bird shows the strength of the Evangelical Anglican and Wesleyan Methodist pull on Norfolk people”, who were keen to “see and hear a range of preachers and their energetic sermons”.

William Gibson concludes:

Hardy deserves to be as well known as Parson Woodforde. The achievement of this volume is remarkable . . . [It forms] a valuable and detailed portrait of religion and society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Other book reviews can be found on the reviews pages of Mary Hardy and her World and The Diary of Mary Hardy.

Mary Hardy and her World-v-3-back-jacket

The back cover of Volume 3 shows the diarist’s young daughter Mary Ann Hardy. She was to follow her mother in abandoning the Church of England in favour of Methodism. The mediaeval glass is in Mary Hardy’s childhood parish church at Whissonsett, Norfolk

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Pre-publication article

Rowan Mantell highlights some intriguing features of Mary Hardy’s record:  250-year-old diary