Robert W. Daniel

‘Piety, but Quietly: The Devotional Soundscape of Dissenting Households’


It was a common maximum about and amongst religious Dissenters that they possessed ‘houses full of auditors’. This is not surprising, their homes, after all, were little churches, and after the Restoration, they became, increasingly, much more than that, little communes bursting to the brim with the sounds of conventicles, conferencing, thanksgivings, prayer meetings and what one pamphleteer called incessant ‘hymiyfing’, whose conspicuous and consistent acoustic landscape was somewhat akin to the domestic confraternities and theological seminaries fostered within the houses of early modern recusants. This paper seeks to explore how sound and silence both enabled and disabled the pious practices of men and women living in Dissenting households. Moving from the quieter to the noisier, from the private to the more public, it explores four pivotal spaces used for spiritual exercises: the closet, the bedchamber, the study, and the parlour. In doing so, this paper evinces how godly religious devotions were often contingent upon, and susceptible to, the acoustic porosity of early modern domestic spaces.


Dr Robert W. Daniel is Associate Tutor in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where he holds the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. His research examines the religious and literary culture of post-Reformation Britain, with an emphasis on cross-denominational practices. He is the Managing Editor of Bunyan Studies: The Journal of Reformation and Nonconformist Culture and General Secretary of the International John Bunyan Society. His recent publications include: Protestant Devotional Identities in Early Modern England (Manchester University Press, 2020), and Liminality and Domestic Spaces in Early Modern England (Early Modern Literary Studies: Special Issue, 29, 2020).

The International John Bunyan Society

A society dedicated to the study of the life and times of John Bunyan (1628-1688)