Oh, how plans fall apart! I was originally going to do my project on the portrayals of Catholic females by Catholic authors in the 19th century. However, after stumbling across a work of historical fiction by Cardinal Wiseman, my research project has taken a rather abrupt u-turn. The featured image above is from the 2012 reprint of the novel.
Written at a seminal moment in English Catholic history, with the reestablishment of the Church’s hierarchy there, Fabiola is a strange text in of itself. It’s a part of a small segment of fiction by a church official, chiefly concerned with theoretical musings, with an ultramontanist(pro-Pope), anti-Protestant lean. Wiseman’s other works of fiction called The Witch of Rosenburg and The Hidden Gem, A Drama in Three Acts are the only others I’ve found. First discovered in a primary source (a collection of works written by Catholic authors up to that point in England, Ireland, and America), I then tracked down a version of Fabiola in HathiTrust.
So far, I’ve been reading my main primary source as a reflection of the author’s worries and hopes for English Catholics at the time. I believe he’s using the Early Church as an analogy for their present situation. Studying the history of this book will be a challenge but, one I hope is rewarding in the end. Below is the cover of the 1880 version published in New York that I’m reading. As I read through the actual text, its impact as a cultural work has raised some interesting questions.