The Function of Hymns in the Liturgical Life of Malcolm Quin’s Positivist Church, 1878–1905

Paul Watt

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    The publication of Auguste Comte’s positive philosophy in the 1830s and 1840s took the world by storm and has come to be regarded as one of the principal turning points in nineteenth-century intellectual culture. A particularly large number of disciples and imitators of Comte’s philosophy sprang up all over Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. They established churches and networks in Comte’s memory and wrote tracts, pamphlets and books on history, philosophy, aesthetics, literature, theology and the bourgeoning field of sociology based on Comte’s works. One such disciple was the musician Malcolm Quin. A singer, organist and hymn-writer, Quin was one of Britain’s most eccentric and devout Comtists who preached the positivist cause up and down the country from London to Newcastle upon Tyne. So taken by Comte’s philosophy Quin wrote dozens of tracts and books on positivism as well as hymns. This presentation analyses a number of hymns by Quin and the literary and musical qualities that align them to the positive cause. I argue that Quin’s hymns are not solely manifestations of Comte’s philosophy. They are also imbued with the parlance of utility and moral progress reflecting a particularly late nineteenth century coalescence of positivist and musical discourses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51–70
    Number of pages20
    JournalYale Journal of Music & Religion
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2019

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