The Puritans, asserting their liberty to restrain tyrants, found the Hebrew history closely symbolical of their feelings and purpose; and it can hardly be correct to cast the blame of their less laudable doings on the writings they invoked, since their opponents made use of the same writings for different ends, finding there a strong warrant for the divine right of kings and denunaation of those who, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, took on themselves the office of priesthood, which belonged of right solely to Aaron and his sons, or, in other words, to men ordained by the English bishops. -- George Eliot, "The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!"


decorated initial 'H'

Decorative initial by W. M. Thackeray for Vanity Fair

olitical applications of religious typology exemplify an area of Victorian thought in which authors commonly extend or secularize this form of symbolism . We may properly speak of a "secularized" or "extended" typology when any of the defining elements of the orthodox form of this kind of biblical symbolism have been modified. Perhaps the most common change observed in political typology involves the christological reference, which authors frequently redefine in terms of something they wish to aggrandize, such as Tudor England, contemporary Italy, or the Victorian working classes. Such secularizations of typology do not depend upon the religious belief of the author who employs them, and they occur both in the works of Swinburne, who was an atheist, and Mrs Browning, who was a believing Christian. Furthermore, although, as we shall observe, such secularized figuralism generally characterizes Victorian use of types for political purposes, certain applications do take strictly orthodox forms. After examining a few instances of orthodox political types, we shall be better able to discern what occurs when authors transform them into secularized or extended versions.


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Print version published 1980; web version 1998