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Quaker Studies

Abstract

In an attempt to identify a Quaker aesthetic as it applies to English meeting houses, this article draws upon the physical evidence of English Meetings past and present, upon the records of discussions preceding the design and construction of meeting houses, upon interviews with Friends at some thirty meeting houses and upon the observational and interpretative literature. The main part of the discussion is structured around the moral principles of plainness, worthiness and simplicity. A distinction is made between the effect of plainness, which has in the past been regulated, and simplicity, which is here explored as a moral attribute cultivated in the person and expressed in the building. The particular aesthetic that applies to the ordering of meeting houses, however, is the pragmatic criterion of restfulness. It is submitted in conclusion that the Quaker aesthetic is a complex and disparate phenomenon, not only because of the diversity of the religious community it serves but by reason of the range of considerations it needs to satisfy.

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