Victorian Jesus: J.R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity
Ecce Homo: A Survey in the Life and Work of Jesus Christ, published anonymously in 1865, alarmed some readers and delighted others by its presentation of a humanitarian view of Christ and early Christian history. Victorian Jesus explores the relationship between historian J. R. Seeley and his publisher Alexander Macmillan as they sought to keep Seeley’s authorship a secret while also trying to exploit the public interest.
Ian Hesketh highlights how Ecce Homo's reception encapsulates how Victorians came to terms with rapidly changing religious views in the second half of the nineteenth century. Hesketh critically examines Seeley’s career and public image, and the publication and reception of his controversial work. Readers and commentators sought to discover the author’s identity in order to uncover the hidden meaning of the book, and this engendered a lively debate about the ethics of anonymous publishing. In Victorian Jesus, Ian Hesketh argues for the centrality of this moment in the history of anonymity in book and periodical publishing throughout the century.
- Series: Studies in Book and Print Culture
- World Rights
- Page Count: 288 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
"…[a] careful and detailed study of the production, promotion, and reception of this mid-century, bestselling work…."
David Finkelstein (University of Edinburgh)
Canadian Journal of History
"The way the chapters on Seeley’s anonymity are written is so absorbing that, at times, I could even feel the tension provoked by his concealing the authorship of Ecce Homo from his family and colleagues. … Hesketh not only deals with the conception of history and its methodology emerging from Seeley’s books, but he also concretely shows the entanglement of morality, scientificity, and religious views in nineteenth-century Britain. His book will appeal to historians of the modern period … as well as to cultural and literary scholars interested in book history and in intellectual and religious history; all will find it a very accurate and at the same time captivating study. It could be described as the intersection between the biography of Seeley and the ‘biography’ of his Ecce Homo".
Laura Meneghello (Siegen University)
"A strength of Ian Hesketh’s Victorian Jesus is its insightful exploration of the entire phenomenon of anonymous publishing with all its rewards, pitfalls and changing conventions."
Timothy Larsen (Wheaton College)
Times Literary Supplement
"Victorian Jesus provides an excellent, interesting, and well-written account of Ecce Homo, nineteenth-century publishing, and a contentious religious milieu. As such, the book will be useful to a variety of scholars…[I]t represents a fine addition to University of Toronto Press’s ‘Studies in Book and Print Culture’ series."
Andrew C. Russell (Bethel University)
Newman Studies Journal
"Ian Hasketh’s Victorian Jesus: J. R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity is simultaneously a study of Victorian religious debate and a case study in the role of the author and publisher in the Victorian book trade."
SEL Autumn 58 4 Omnibus
"This book will appeal to historians of the modern period – specifically to historians of religion – as well as to cultural and literary scholars interested in book history and in intellectual and religious history; all will find it a very accurate and at the same time captivating study."
Laura Meneghello, Siegen University
Isis, vol 109:4
"By firmly grounding an important individual case in its cultural and commercial contexts, Victorian Jesus marks a substantial advance in the history of Victorian religious publishing, which is still understood more in outline than in the kind of depth that Hesketh offers in this book."
Joshua Bennett, Christ Church, Oxford
Journal Of Ecclesiastical History, vol 70 no 2, April '19
"…Hesketh’s meticulous synopsis will drive you to read or re-read Ecce Homo. Victorian Jesus is itself a Seeley-esque mine of detail, but always deftly written. The production of the book is first rate too, with the kabbalistic logo of the Macmillans (beautifully explained inside) resplendent on the dust jacket."
Julian Thompson, Regent's Park Colleg
Notes and Queries, vol 66 no 2, June '19
"Hesketh has made an important contribution to the intellectual-spiritual history of the Victorian era in a most engaging and perceptive way that is unexpectedly instructive for scholars of nineteenth-century British history today. Altogether an excellent book."
John A. Moses
Journal of Religious History
"Hesketh’s unearthing of the forgotten controversy of Ecce Homo not only recovers this ‘discussion about Christianity and authorial identity’ but does so in a way that vividly realizes the complexity and urgency of the religious debates that animated the period. The result is an impressive example of historical reconstruction that will be of interest to Victorianists and book historians alike."
University of Toronto Quarterly
"This monograph makes a substantial contribution to the field of book history, but also offers valuable insights into the impulses of the Victorian Broad Church. Publishing, marketing, reader reception, intellectual history and theology come together in this analysis of Seeley’s fraught yet optimistic efforts to transcend the sectarian battle lines of the day."
English Historical Review
"Victorian Jesus is a first first-rate piece of work, and is important for examining the intersection of the history of religious thought and the history of the book. It is a model of its kind for integrating print culture and the history of religious thought. I was deeply impressed."
Bernard Lightman, Department of Humanities, York University
"Victorian Jesus is unarguably a very significant and original contribution to the limited literature on Seeley, and Hesketh knows the Seeley and Macmillan papers inside out. This well well-written book is a specialised, but not at all a ‘hermetic’ volume and it should interest a very broad range of nineteenth-century scholars."
Michael Ledger-Lomas, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, King’s College
"Hesketh deftly integrates book history and the study of religious culture into a compelling analysis of Seeley’s theological and historical writing. … Hesketh’s lively prose provides readers with penetrating and intriguing insights into Seeley’s career, the dynamics of literary marketing in mid-Victorian Britain, and the changing religious and ethical landscape of the second half of the nineteenth century. Victorian Jesus successfully utilizes its tightly focused scope to offer truly valuable insights to all students of Victorian Britain and is deserving of just such a broad audience."
Patrick J. Corbeil, St. Mary’s University, Calgary
Author InformationIan Hesketh is an ARC Future Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland.
Table of contents
Prologue: The Forgotten Story of Ecce Homo
Chapter 1: Authority and Authorship
Chapter 2: By the Author of Essays on the Church
Chapter 3: Father and Son
Chapter 4: The Victorian Jesus
Chapter 5: A Dangerous Book
Chapter 6: Vomited from the Jaws of Hell
Chapter 7: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing
Chapter 8: Shrewd Conjecture
Chapter 9: White Lies
Chapter 10: Behold the Man
Chapter 11: Behold the Historian
Chapter 12: Fulfilling a Promise
Chapter 13: By the Author of Ecce Homo
Chapter 14: Remembering the Author of Ecce Homo
Epilogue: Anonymous Publishing and Universal History
Subjects and Courses