Essays and Reviews is a collection of seven articles that appeared in 1860, sparking a Victorian culture war that lasted for at least a decade. With pieces written by such prominent Oxford and Cambridge intellectuals as Benjamin Jowett, Mark Pattison, Baden Powell, and Frederick Temple (later archbishop of Canterbury), the volume engaged the relations between religious faith and current topics of the day in education, the classics, theology, science, history, literature, biblical studies, hermeneutics, philology, politics, and philosophy. Upon publication, the church, the university, the press, the government, and the courts, both ecclesiastical and secular, joined in an intense dispute. The book signaled an intellectual and religious crisis, raised influential issues of free speech, and questioned the authority and control of the Anglican Church in Victorian society. The collection became a best-seller and led to three sensational heresy trials.

Although many historians and literary critics have identified Essays and Reviews as a pivotal text of high Victorianism, until now it has been almost inaccessible to modern readers. This first critical edition, edited by Victor Shea and William Whitla, provides extensive annotation to map the various positions on the controversies that the book provoked. The editors place the volume in its complex social context and supply commentary, background materials, composition and publishing history, textual notes, and a broad range of new supporting documents, including material from the trials, manifestos, satires, and contemporary illustrations.

Not only does such an annotated critical edition of Essays and Reviews indicate the impact that the volume had on Victorian society; it also sheds light on our own contemporary cultural institutions and controversies.

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