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Victorian Jesus: J. R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity (Toronto: University of Toronto, 2017).

By Ian Hesketh
© 2017

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.

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

Available to order via University of Toronto Press

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