Anatomy of a Controversy: The Debate over 'Essays and Reviews' 1860–64, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Anatomy of a Controversy

The Debate over 'Essays and Reviews' 1860–64, 1st Edition

By Josef L. Altholz


208 pages

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Controversy, especially religious controversy, was the great spectator sport of Victorian England. This work is a study of the biggest and best of Victorian religious controversies. Essays and Reviews (1860) was a composite volume of seven authors (six of them Anglican clergymen) which brought England its first serious exposure to biblical criticism. It evoked a controversy lasting four years, including articles in newspapers, magazines and reviews, clerical and episcopal censures, a torrent of tracts, pamphlets and sermons, followed by weightier tomes (and reviews of all these), prosecution for heresy in the ecclesiastical courts, appeal to the highest secular court, condemnation by the Convocation of the clergy and a debate in Parliament. Essays and Reviews was the culmination and final act of the Broad Church movement. Outwardly the conflict ended inconclusively; at a deeper level, it marked the exhaustion both of the Broad Church and of Anglican orthodoxy and the commencement of an era of religious doubt. This controversy illustrates the pathology of Victorian religion in its demonstration of the propensity to controvert and the methods of controversialists. It is both the greatest Victorian crisis of faith and the best case study of Victorian religious controversy.


'His writing is as crisp and inviting as nineteenth-century prose was long-winded and byzantine. He also has an enviable grasp of the intricacies of journalistic warfare in Victorian Britain.' Church History 'Exactly the right scholar has taken up this fascinating episode in the history of Victorian religion, and he has detailed it with exactly the right blend of understanding and detachment. This is religious, social and literary criticism as it ought to be.' Nineteenth-Century Literature In recent years no American scholar has done more than Josef Altholz to illuminate the Victorian concern with religion fro late twentieth-century readers.’ Nineteenth Century Prose

Table of Contents

Contents: On Controversy; Broad Church?; The Essayists; The Essays; Early Responses; The Great Reviews; Censures; The War of the Pamphlets; Tracts into Tomes; The Case in Court; Verdict; Appeals; Acquittal; Condemnation; Aftermath; Epilogue; The Night Battle; Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General