Do Romance and Religion Mix?

Almost everybody knows the old maxim about avoiding the topics of religion and politics if you want to make friends. I figure since I talk about 18th century politics quite a bit on this blog, I might as well go all out and add a post on religion.

Pride of Baltimore II
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ths ship served as the model for the ship
in Sea Wolf's Surrender. Most of the
story occurs aboard ship so it was great to
have the opportunity to tour the vessel at
the Tall Ships Festival in Duluth, MN
a couple years ago.
As I was editing Sea Wolf’s Surrender the other day, I started thinking about whether I should make at least a passing reference to my hero, the captain of a privateer, conducting Sunday services. While it doesn’t play a part in the story, historically speaking, it would have been a defined part of his weekly routine.

Update: Sea Wolf's Surrender is now complete and released under the much more romantic (according to my publisher) title of Caution to the Wind.

 In Le Chevalier I don’t have my characters spend time in church, but my hero, le Chevalier de Mont Trignon, is clearly Catholic from a couple of references he makes. In the late 18th century, France was a Catholic country, so it only made sense, and I think it added to the believability of the character.
According to the CIA’s fact book, more than 80% of France is still Catholic, so not even the French Revolution could wipe out their beliefs, although the revolutionaries certainly tried! (To my knowledge, the CIA does not track how many French men and women actually attend church so the statistic might be a tad inflated.)

My heroine in Le Chevalier, Alexandra Turner, is a little more lax in her religious views, but this plays into the plot as she has a childhood friend, a Quaker, who is intent on marrying her. Since my story is set in Philadelphia, the Quaker religion just naturally played a role in defining one of my secondary characters. Admittedly, I had to do quite a bit of research in this regard in an effort to get the pertinent details right. Still, I think the time spent doing the research only added to the depth of the character.

Assembly of Quakers
Source: Wikimedia Commons
This image is int he public domain in the US
because its copyright has expired.

Quakers were rather unique in the 18th century as
they allowed women to conduct services.
 Anyway, as I was pondering whether to add a reference to Sunday services in Sea Wolf’s Surrender, I started thinking about how few books in this genre, 18th century historical, even reference God let alone have their characters attend services. (Wedding ceremonies don’t count.)

 It seems to me, it would be such a large part of 18th century life, it would be hard to avoid it without losing a sense of the period. Certainly, the church was a part of society. Part of being wealthy in 18th century America meant buying your own pew in church. As an act of charity, a well-to-do family might also buy pews for the poor who would have had to stand otherwise.

I guess I can somewhat understand the 18th and 19th century English historical not including God as a part of the daily life of their characters. According to one statistic, 44% of people in England in 1851 did not attend church. I wish I had direct dates to compare apples to apples, but the information can be tough to find. Nevertheless, if you compare that to churchgoing in America in 1700-1740, an estimated 75-80% of Americans attended church. That doesn’t count the Deists like Jefferson and Adams who believed in God, just not the traditional Christian concepts.

My point is only that it seems more natural to avoid all mention of the heroine’s chamber pot (although details like that seemed to be mentioned more and more) than to avoid mentioning their religious beliefs.


Additional Information
UK Census 1851
Church attendance by country - current
Religious affiliations of the founding fathers – scroll down on this one and you can see the specific religions practiced by each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Free Methodist Church – Something I didn’t know…One of the reasons for adding the word “Free” was because they did not charge for pews like the main Methodist Church and other Churches of the time.

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