Of this work, remarkable in so many ways, we will add but one thing more. It is marked throughout with the most serious and earnest conviction, but it is without a single word, from first to last, of asperity or insinuation against opponents; and this, not from any deficiency of feeling as to the importance of the issue, but from a deliberate and resolutely maintained self-control, and from an overruling ever-present sense of the duty, on themes like these, of a more than judicial calmness.
Ecce Homo: A Survey of the Life and Work of Jesus Christ. Guardian,
7th February 1866.
This is a dangerous book to review. The critic of it, if he is prudent, will feel that it is more than most books a touchstone of his own capacity, and that in giving his judgment upon it he cannot help giving his own measure and betraying what he is himself worth. All the unconscious guiding which a name, even if hitherto unknown, gives to opinion is wanting. The first aspect of the book is perplexing; closer examination does not clear up all the questions which present themselves; and many people, after they have read it through, will not feel quite certain what it means. Much of what is on the surface and much of what is inherent in the nature of the work will jar painfully on many minds; while others who begin to read it under one set of impressions may by the time they have got to the end complain of having been taken in. There can be no doubt on which side the book is; but it may be open to debate from which side it has come. The unknown champion who comes into the lists with barred vizor and no cognisance on his shield leaves it not long uncertain for which of the contending parties he appears; but his weapons and his manner of fighting are not the ordinary ones of the side which he takes; and there is a force in his arm, and a sweep in his stroke, which is not that of common men. The book is one which it is easy to take exception to, and perhaps still easier to praise at random; but the subject is put before us in so unusual a way, and one so removed from the ordinary grooves of thought, that in trying to form an adequate estimate of the work as a whole, a man feels as he does when he is in the presence of something utterly unfamiliar and unique, when common rules and inferences fail him, and in pronouncing upon which he must make something of a venture.