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Evelyn Underhill and the Virgin Mary

Carol H. Poston

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Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was a guiding light in Anglican spirituality in the twentieth century, and her best-known works, Mysticism (1911) and Worship (1936) are still read and studied today. A prolific writer—theologian, poet, novelist—she is frequently anthologized. Her early life and writings—those undertaken before she became an actively-committed member of the Church of England in the 1920s—are, with the exception of Mysticism, less well-known. This article examines the early works that treat the Virgin Mary, and explain how that subject may have influenced the pacifism she later embraced. A feminist reading of those early works also suggests biographical links to her “care for souls,” or spiritual direction, and to her own family. The dutiful child of somewhat remote and distant parents, herself in a childless marriage, Underhill’s spiritual nurture by way of Mary helps explain both her spiritual growth and her role as a spiritual director to others.

 
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