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Walter BesantThe Business of Literature and the Pleasures of Reform$
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Kevin A. Morrison

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620351

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620351.001.0001

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Altruism and the Monks of Thelema

Altruism and the Monks of Thelema

Ideals and Realities

(p.151) Chapter Eight Altruism and the Monks of Thelema
Walter Besant
Geoffrey A. C. Ginn
Liverpool University Press

The central concerns of Besant’s philanthropic novels of the 1880s were anticipated in 1878’s The Monks of Thelema: An Invention, his first sustained foray into social commentary. Although largely neglected by scholars, the novel is an intriguing satire that is rich with contemporary insights. In addressing the dilemmas of philanthropic activism, Besant mocks the naïve idealism associated with Oxford thinkers and undergraduates while finding positive value in their reformist schemes of liberal education for the emerging mass democracy. With the French humanist François Rabelais supplying a model for progressive liberal humanism, amid the satire Besant’s fiction develops a positive ideal of association and moral perfectibility that foreshadows his later, more celebrated work in philanthropy and social reform.

Keywords:   Walter Besant, Philanthropy, Social reform, Satire, Social idealism, Liberal humanism, Rabelais, Ruskin

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