In my relentless pursuit of cultural relevance, I’ve been reading another novel by Sir Walter Scott. (I know it should be Fifty Shades of Gray, but I’m working my way up to it.) And what strikes me, yet again, is how all the romantic heroes of historical fiction are royalists and (inevitably) High Church. The Puritans who overthrew the king (of England, in case you were wondering) in the 1640s and started the long march to democracy in both church and state were men (and women) of high ideals, prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for what they believed, and some of them at least must have been young and good-looking. Their preference for coffee rather than ale even gives them a modern air. So why are there no historical novels in which the hero reads his Bible and says his prayers before drawing his sword and cutting some arrogant royalist lover of hierarchy down to size?

It doesn’t get any better as time goes by either. Look at Obadiah Slope, the Evangelical in Trollope’s Barchester novels. Look at Elmer Gantry in the 20th Century. I know there are Evangelicals who are like these people, but they’re not the majority, at least among Anglican Evangelicals. And there are plenty of royalists and Anglo-catholics who fulfil all the sanctimonious stereotypes associated with puritanism—but they’re never put in the novels. Perhaps I just visit the wrong book-shops, and someone can point me to a puritan hero in a book as well-written as The Bride of Lammermoor. If not, some Evangelical with a literary talent might consider restoring the balance. There might even be some money in it.

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