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Master and Commander questions

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Master and Commander questions

Post by nitelyechos on Wed 05 Sep 2012, 20:53

I've been wondering what exactly does Stephen Maturin mean each time he refers to James Dillon as an 'enthusiast'?
I'm aware it has to do with the complicated religious/political/catholic/protestant issues of the time, but could anyone please enlighten those of us who aren't as well versed in the political background of the 18th century?

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Re: Master and Commander questions

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 06 Sep 2012, 02:55

This is from my "premier" ( the 'most educated' member of my crew):

Enthusiast - "originally meant a person possessed by a god, and the online dictionary cites an archaic definition of 'a person of intense and visionary Christian views'. England, and much of the continent, was ripped apart by the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries (from Bloody Mary to Cromwell) and frankly, educated people were getting sick of it. Infact, the Royal Society had bylaws that anyone discussing religion or politics at a society meeting would be ejected as an 'enthusiast'.

Maturin's secretive nature could keep a close lock on his participation in the Rebellion of '98 - perhaps his use of the disdainful term 'enthusiast' reflects his concern that Dillon might be indiscrete?

Perhaps, in modern times we'd use the term True Believer to describe someone who follows 'a cause, any cause' so passionately and naively.
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Re: Master and Commander questions

Post by MattWillis on Thu 06 Sep 2012, 22:15

In the 18th Century, the term 'enthusiast' was used in a way more akin to how we would now use the term 'fanatic' or even 'extremist'. It can as 80Winters suggests be religious in nature (it was a commonly used term in this context at the time of the English Civil War and subsequent Interegnum), but by this time is just as likely to be used politically or ideologically.
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Re: Master and Commander questions

Post by nitelyechos on Fri 07 Sep 2012, 02:21

Thankyou! 80 Winters, your research is impressive and your explanation is well put. It makes much clearer the impression I got from reading the novel.
I see what you mean MattWillis, do you think Dr. Maturin was using enthusiast to mean a 'political zealot' on the catholic side of the catholic/protestant power struggle in Europe?

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Re: Master and Commander questions

Post by 80 Winters on Fri 07 Sep 2012, 05:39

nitelyechos -

Happy to be of help, and as to 'the impressive research and expanation', I quickly became aware of these unique abilities displayed by "my Premier" when she signed on for this commission 30 years ago.
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