[the first book of "George Eliot"] Critically Examined by Dr. David Friedrich Strauss. Translated from the Fourth German Edition. In Three Volumes. London: Chapman, Brothers, 1846. Original blind-stamped purple-brown cloth.
First Edition of the first book with which young Marian Evans was involved (as translator). Strauss was a theologian schooled in the philosophy of Hegel; his groundbreaking Das Leben Jesu aroused much interest because it applied the "myth theory" to the life of Jesus, treated the Gospel narrative like any other historical work, and denied all supernatural elements. Marian Evans began working on this when she was in her mid-twenties, when she joined the young circle of the Brays and the Hennells, skeptics and rationalists who encouraged her to question much of her religious upbringing. The circumstances behind this book were curious, to say the least; quoting at length from Crompton,~For some months Charles Hennell had been in love with Rufa [nickname of Elizabeth Rebecca] Brabant... But Hennell had a weakness of the lungs and Dr. Brabant had not approved of him as a prospective son-in-law... For two years the matter dragged on with Dr. Brabant adamant and the lovers equally determined. Finally, in 1843, when Rufa had been left a little money of her own, they decided that... parental approval or not they would marry... The wedding was fixed for the autumn and Marian agreed to be bridesmaid...~Both Rufa and her father were scholars. Up to the time of her marriage Rufa had been translating David Friedrick Strauss's Life of Jesus which had been published in 1842 and which had caused a great stir... But now a complication had arisen through Rufa's marriage: neither she nor her husband felt that she would have enough time to continue the work. Dr. Brabant, feeling lonely at the loss of his daughter, and perhaps impressed by Marian's studious ambitions, invited her on a visit to his home at Devizes to 'take his daughter's place'. The resulting visit... had unfortunate consequences.~Dr. Brabant, then aged sixty-three, a German scholar and a friend of Strauss, was an indiscreet, opinionated man, with a craving for adulation. Marian, aged twenty-four, was impressionable, ardent, and apt to lose her head... They read, walked and talked together and Marian never wearied of the doctor's society... Unfortunately, however, in her delight at this new friendship, she had overlooked the fact that Dr. Brabant had a wife. Mrs. Brabant, who had lost her sight, was all amiability to begin with, but, after a time, prompted by an unmarried sister who lived with them, she became uneasy. The uneasiness turned to jealousy and there was a scene. According to John Chapman [publisher of this book]... the doctor's wife declared that Marian must leave immediately and never set foot in the house again...~In spite of the unfortunate ending to Marian's friendship with Dr. Brabant he had seen enough of her to realize her intellectual capabilities. Early in 1844 his son-in-law, Charles Hennell, came to Marian and begged her to take over from his wife the translating of Strauss's Life of Jesus. Marian agreed, though not without doubts. It was an arduous task and not altogether the kind of work to appeal to her...~[By 1845] the work on the Strauss translation [which included Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as German] was becoming increasingly exhausting and Marian began to suffer again from headaches... As she got nearer to the end of Christ's story she resented Strauss more and more. She was not a Christian herself but she loved and admired Jesus and the ruthless heavy desecration of the German's way of thinking, completely divesting Christ of all divinity, caused her a profound depression...~At last, in that spring of 1846, it was finished. It had entailed two and a quarter years of labour and her financial reward for it was £20.~Even then, the book was barely published, as the people who had promised to do so had in the interim forgotten their promises. Eventually it was accomplished, with Strauss writing a new Preface, but with the provision that the translator's name not appear in the book. The Strauss translation did, nonetheless, confer upon her a certain prestige, and it did establish a valuable contact with the young publisher John Chapman. Not having quite had enough, apparently, she subsequently translated Feuerbach's THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY (Chapman 1854 -- the only book ever issued under her real name), followed in 1858 by her first original work, SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE. (A second UK edition of THE LIFE OF JESUS would not appear until 1892.)~THE LIFE OF JESUS appears in five different binding states, with priority (if any) uncertain: the two most-often encountered are dark green cloth with "Chapman Brothers" at the foot of the spines, with an undated ad catalogue at the end of Vol I (Baker & Ross's "A" binding), and this purple-brown cloth with "London | John Chapman" at the foot of the spines, without an ad catalogue (B&R's "D"). The set, still with the original pale yellow endpapers intact, is in very good, original condition: there is some wear at some corners, two rear covers have some damp-marks, and one front endpaper is likewise damp-marked; as always with this color cloth, the spines are sunned from purple to brown. Although the number of copies printed is not known, this is a rather scarce book today: most copies that surface do so rebound, and this is only the second copy in original cloth we have offered in our 35 years in business. Baker & Ross A1.1.; Parrish (VICTORIAN LADY NOVELISTS) pp 4-6. Item #12805