By the end of the nineteenth century, almost all the great writers, artists and intellectuals had abandoned Christianity, and many had abandoned belief in God altogether. A.N. Wilson demonstrates through such diverse lives as those of Gibbon, Kant, and Marx, the doubt about religion had many sources. By 1900 the Church was vastly rich and powerful, but was seen by many as spiritually empty, however full its pews might be of a Sunday. Echoes of the death of God could be heard everywhere; in the revolutionary politics of Garibaldi and Lenin; in the poetry of Tennyson, the plays of Shaw and the novels of Hardy; in the philosophy of Hegel and in the work of Freud; in the first stirrings of feminism. Wilson's fascinating and challenging account shows how the decline of religious certainty in Victorian times had its origins with the eighteenth-century sceptics - but brought a devastating sense of emotional loss which extends to our own times.
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(197mm x 125mm x 36mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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UK Kirkus Review »
Wilson's book is a study of the great 19th-century doubters and atheists. He traces the route that each took from belief to various forms of non-belief. Some, like Thomas Hardy, were driven to atheism by the hostility of the church; others reached that destination by their own reasoning, and still others were influenced by the scientific discoveries of the time. Wilson allows them to speak and sympathetically presents the suffering that often accompanied loss of faith. It is intellectual history in the form of biography, but without the vulgarization of ideas that is often the consequence of such an approach. After a brief survey of German philosophy - Kant and Hegel - chapters are given to all the major English sages of the last century, including George Eliot, the forgotten Thomas Carlyle and the 'two prophets', Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin. Wilson concludes with some reflections on the resilience of the 'God idea', which has survived despite the best efforts of those who announced its demise. Review by Anthony Julius Editor's note: Anthony Julius is the author of T S Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - A. N. Wilson
A. N. Wilson holds a prominent position in the world of letters and has been Literary Editor of both the EVENING STANDARD and the SPECTATOR. He has written lives of Sir Walter Scott (John Llewellyn Rhys Prize) and Tolstoy (Whitbread Award) amongst others, and is a celebrated novelist.