Charles Dickens’s Sunday Under Three Heads.

 

As a young man, the Victorian writer Charles Dickens expressed a distaste for certain aspects of organized religion. In 1836 a law was proposed that would prohibit all work and all recreation on Sunday. The main proponent of the bill was Andrew Agnew, 7th Baronet Agnew of Lochnaw and Member of Parliament for Wigtownshire in Scotland from 1830 to 1837. Agnew stood as a moderate reformer, but soon became deeply attached to the cause of Sabbatarianism, and pressed for the banning of all secular labour on Sunday.

Under a pseudonym Timothy Sparks, Dickens wrote a pamphlet titled Sunday Under Three Heads in which he defended the people’s right to pleasure, opposing a plan to prohibit games on Sundays.

 

Look into your churches—diminished congregations, and scanty attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are becoming disgusted with the faith which condemns them to such a day as this, once in every seven. And as you cannot make people religious by Act of Parliament, or force them to church by constables, they display their feeling by staying away.

 

The Story.

Sunday Under Three Heads was written in three chapters. In the first it describes the different types of people one meets on a typical Sunday morning walk. But in the second chapter, he describes what Sunday morning would look like if the Christian “fanatics” in Parliament had been able to pass a recent bill changing the Sabbath trade laws. In the third chapter he discusses what he thinks life on Sunday ought ideally to be like.

 

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