This edition of Robertson's classic work was issued under the psuedonym of M. W. Wiseman. See below.
McCabe writes about Robertson the following:
"Mr. Robertson has been the most considerable force in English Rationalism since the death of Bradlaugh, to whom he was greatly attached. His works on comparative mythology, as bearing on the problem of Christ (whose historicity he denies —see his Christianity and Mythology, 1900, and Pagan Christs, 1903), are works of impressive learning; and his Short History of Christianity (1902) and Shorl History of Freethought (2 vols., 1915) are equally
valuable on the historical side. He drastically rejects religion in every shape, and has been for decades a powerful Rationalist and Ethical lecturer. He is at the same time a very able and critical economist, a weighty writer on certain fields of English literature, a good linguist, and an outstanding figure in the political world. No man has rendered higher service to British
Rationalism in the last four decades, and few, especially among self-educated men, have attained such reputable command of so many branches of culture." Quoted from McCabe's "Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists."
Quoted from the author's "Prologue."
"THAT Man is not a veridical animal is a truth oddly lost sight of in nearly all serious modern
discussion on the course of social things. His Reverence Dean Swift, whose own intellectual
life so signally helps to prove it, laid angry stress on the fact in his bitter allegory, failing however to realise from his own habit how profoundly true was his own saying, and going on to abate its point by representing his Houyhnhnms, in contrast to man, as spontaneously truthful. Now, as we know the horse to be an animal prone to fallacy, we have really no good ground to regard him as devoid of deceit; and in any case, to conceive falsehood as a mere invention of man, like printing and gunpowder, is seemingly to favour an undue hopefulness about its withdrawal from the plot of human affairs, whether by force of that simplification of life " which some reformers preach, or of that moralisation of it which is wrought for by others. The scientific attitude towards the instinct of intellectual fraud is that of study and precaution, as of the physician towards disease. It is indeed a partial resort to this attitude that has led to our losing scientific sight of the nature of the force considered. Last century, the Christian priesthood habitually set down to "priestcraft" the progress and permanence of all religions save their own; and it has been well noted as deeply instructive that the current academic view, according to which priests as such have no craft, has arisen only since the academic priesthood itself has been tried by the code it had framed for others. Students who know perfectly well that their brothers and comrades, or it may be themselves, play the parish priest as Cicero played the augur, are naturally moved to take a new view of all augurship, as a procedure suspected to be directly inefficacious, yet gone about in a kind of ceremonial good faith and in a public spirit."
"The trouble is that such students are not psychologically consistent, and will never bring themselves to see in one light the Mexican hieratical butcher of bound victims, the Romish priest receiving the nun's vow of renunciation, and the English bishop consecrating alternately a church and a battle-flag. They will never consent to feel towards the °bishop as towards the Toltec slayer with the obsidian knife, or the priest of Dionysos in Andros who turned water into wine on the feast-day of the God, and gave out that void wine jars were filled overnight by miracle. They may declare on pressure that every tearer-out of hearts on the Mexic hill regarded his business of butchery in some high and holy light, and devoutly trusted in its supernatural necessity and efficacy; for which humane conception they find help in Flaubert's vision of the brawny black-bearded priests of Moloch, flesh-fed by many sacrifices, tossing the babes into the mouth of lurid brass, and jeering at the pale votary of the Moon-Goddess, whose very aspect put aside hope of fortune in battle. They may even contrive to conceive that the Dionysiak miracle-monger, age after age, forever felt himself to be doing a sacred
work, like some early Christian scribe piously interpolating a manuscript of the First Gospel.
The truth is that by thus violently and unscientifically assuming a perfect single-mindedness in all ancient instruments of religious delusion, they hope to save all question of the single-mindedness of the Christian priest of to-day. Yet all the while they set a difference not merely in degree but in kind between the bishop on the one hand and the medicine-man and the sacrificial priest on the other."