Aimed at children, The Juvenile Missionary Magazine was a periodical that contained missionary intelligence and news, interspersed with illustrations. It was published monthly.
The edition shown here dates from 1844. During this period a variety of similar magazines were available, many of which were for an adult audience.
As a Protestant evangelical revival swept Britain from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, British missionary work gained a large and zealous following. This magazine, produced to raise funds as well promote their beliefs, was published by the London Missionary Society, an organisation formally established in 1795 'to spread the knowledge of Christ among heathen and other unenlightened nations'. Principally, missions were funded by charitable subscriptions to missionary societies. The Society’s work was predominantly carried out in the South Pacific and Africa, while other groups sent out frequent missions to India. Often, these countries were British colonies.
To the modern reader, the language and illustration used in 19th-century mission discourse now appears offensive and culturally insensitive.
Mission in the Brontës’ writings
Missionary intelligence evidently kindled the Brontë siblings’ imaginations. Their writings are peppered with specific missionary terms: ‘suttee’, ‘heathen’ and ‘Juggernaut’ appear in Jane Eyre and Branwell’s Angria writings. Further still, Jane Eyre’s St John Rivers sets out to live and work as a missionary in India, a life which Jane ultimately rejects. In using such language does Brontë collude in imperial discourse, or is mission treated more ambivalently, being associated with such morally doubtful characters as Mr Brocklehurst and St John?
Beyond their reading, it is likely that the Brontës learnt about mission from their reverend father, who may have also helped prepare missionaries.