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 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."
"…[a] careful and detailed study of the production, promotion, and reception of this mid-century, bestselling work…."
"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."
"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".