Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 118 / Number 3
Pursuing Happiness in Colonial Virginia: Sacred Words, Cheap Print, and Popular Religion in the Eighteenth Century
- Jacob M. Blosser, pp. 210–45
This article uncovers a cultural definition of the pursuit of happiness in colonial Virginia's orally delivered Anglican sermons and in its widely circulated almanacs and newspapers. The author maintains that in the century before 1776, the Anglican concept of "virtuous happiness" saturated the colony's homiletics and its secular cheap print. Describing virtuous happiness as an ideological colloquialism that gave meaning and purpose to colonial life, the article demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between sacred orality and secular cheap print in the creation of popular religious meaning. The article traces the origins of virtuous happiness to Archbishop John Tillotson's popular Restoration homiletics, shows its incorporation in generations of Virginia Anglican sermons, and demonstrates its articulation in the colony's most popular forms of secular cheap print. By expanding historiographical conceptions of Anglican ideology to include a previously unstudied concept that bridged sacred and secular society, the article contributes to a renewed understanding of the cultural centrality of the established church in colonial Virginia.