Defending Orthodoxy: Reviewing Robert Elsmere and Gladstone’s Works of Joseph Butler
Gladstone’s review of Robert Elsmere, Mary Ward’s popular novel of lost faith, appeared in the May 1888 edition of the Nineteenth Century. Ward, the niece of poet Matthew Arnold, offered her readers a sympathetic view of skepticism and rationalistic German theology. Gladstone’s review gained wide readership and sparked an important debate in the United States over liberal theology. Julia Ward Howe was among the most provocative reviewers of his review and of the orthodox Christianity he was defending. Peterson also addresses American reviews of Gladstone’s final foray into the realm of religion, his 1896 magnum opus The Works of Joseph Butler. The evangelical press fervently praised the work. The secular press, however, was largely critical of the work because he had failed to address the bishop in the context of modern scholarship.