When Marian Evans’ novel, ‘Adam Bede’, came out in 1859 it made the name ‘George Eliot’ justly famous. Her novels soon took their place amongst the finest in the English language. To discerning readers, however, Marian’s scepticism indicated a growing problem about Christianity and the church. Both had been on trial for some time but now British intellectuals were jumping ship. Marian herself had abandoned evangelicalism in 1841 and within five years had taken responsibility for the translation of Strauss’ ‘Das Leben Jesu’. It was her way of publicly endorsing the idea that Jesus was not the divine, miracle-working Son of God she had previously worshipped. Another 1859 publication, Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, pointed in the same direction: from the ‘scientific’ point of view divine creation, too, seemed dubious.
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