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185 Reviews Sadler, Collins cites letters in the Nonconformist and Independent from Congregational minister Edward White, who alleged not only a deathbed conversion based on reports that George Eliot was reading The Imitation of Christ in her last hours, but also the conversion of members of the “Agnostic Party” who attended her funeral (36).That the “Imitation story” was denounced as a canard by the CatholicTimes (46–47) did not diminish the sense of eagerness on the part of the religious press to convince the public—and themselves—that so notably moral a novelist had to be one of them, even if only at the moment of death. Collins notes other attempts to reconcile the apparent contradictions in George Eliot’s life and work: the “femininity that makes her vulnerable to men’s philosophy [read positivism], but also creatively independent from it; her masculinity [that] makes her ‘her own man’ among men, but also intellectually one of them” (52). The result of these attempts is “not so much a contradiction as a loophole in which positivism is both asserted and averted” (52). Regarding the one “verifiably personal, real-life error” in George Eliot’s life, her relationship with Lewes, the Unitarian R.A.Armstrong, in a sermon printed in the Inquirer: A Religious,Political,and Literary Newspaper,and Record of Reverent Free Thought, identified this instance in which “her moral judgment had once been at fault” as the reason why she was“inclined … to clothe ever anew and present once again to the world that great and solemn lesson of which she stands the pre-eminent and inspired prophet” (67, 68). In his conclusion, Collins points out with a fitting touch of irony that “a posture not far from worship characterizes more than a little coverage of George Eliot’s death in the London religious press,” whose“most revealing moments … are those expressing or implying uncertainty, hesitation, even confusion, and an acknowledged inability to label or condemn” (71) as they attempted to deal with “the essential elusiveness of George Eliot’s ‘doctrines’” (77). This important addition to the study of the Victorian periodical press includes detailed notes and an extensive Works Cited list. Ca rol A. M a rtin Boise State University • Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith [Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Mathematics] by Daniel J. Cohen; pp. 242. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007. $50.00 cloth. Equations from God details a fascinating chapter in intellectual history: the evolving relationship between mathematics and religion inVictorian England and America.The chapter begins with Benjamin Pierce, for whom “the quest for mathematical truth and the quest to know God were identical” (43). victorian review • Volume 34 Number 1 186 It ends with the growing secularization and professionalization of mathematics characterized by Bertrand Russell’s extreme view of mathematical formalism, in which“mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true” (181).The book focuses on three mathematicians, Benjamin Pierce, George Boole, and Augustus De Morgan, but uses their histories to explore larger issues.This is an interesting and well-written book that points to important contemporary questions in the philosophy of mathematics. While reading this book I was reminded of a quotation from The Mathematical Experience (1981), by Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh: “We who are heirs to three recent centuries of scientific development can hardly imagine a state of mind in which many mathematical objects were regarded as symbols of spiritual truths or episodes in sacred history.Yet, unless we make this effort of imagination, a fraction of the history of mathematics is incomprehensible” (97).Thus this kind of book is relevant not only to an understanding of where mathematics comes from, but also, I maintain, to the discussion of the nature of mathematics and particularly to the question of why mathematics works so well in describing the natural world.Today we look at mathematics from the perspective of a complete victory of the formalists and the secularists, so it is almost impossible to imaginatively place ourselves in a time when mathematics seemed to be a way of seeing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 185-187
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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