Evolution and Poetic Belief: A Study in Some Victorian and Modern Writers

Evolution and Poetic Belief: A Study in Some Victorian and Modern Writers

Evolution and Poetic Belief: A Study in Some Victorian and Modern Writers

Evolution and Poetic Belief: A Study in Some Victorian and Modern Writers

Excerpt

A considerable mass of well-informed scholarship has already been devoted to the charting of evolutionary themes in English poets and writers of the last hundred years, and the influence exercised by the idea of evolution upon the literature of that period is no longer a matter of pioneer effort or learned dispute. It would indeed be superfluous to attempt another catalogue of mainly historical and ideological evidence, for such surveys have been provided in more comprehensive studies and in those dealing with individual 'poets of Evolution'.

What still remains to be done, however, is a more direct investigation of the nature and function of the evolutionary themes in writers to whom Lamarck and Darwin revealed new and significant truths about existence. There is a need to determine whether and to what extent these ideas and motifs are expressive of fundamental and coherent attitudes and beliefs. For if they are, it is obvious that they hold important clues, not only to the individual writers, but to the conditions of mind and life in their times.

Naturally, those who first explored this field have not failed to indicate the personal and poetic significance which the idea of evolution receives in the individual writers: the charging of it with religious, metaphysical and moral content; the interaction of its various direct or implicit meanings with emotional needs and impulses underlying the larger structures of their work. Yet, apart from Mr. Curtis Webster's study of Hardy, and various analyses of Meredith, and of Shaw's Life Force religion, this more intimate con-

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