More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters

More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters

More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters

More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters

Excerpt

In the Preface to Nineteenth Century Studies(1949) I said that I hoped to write a sequel which might 'fill in some of the gaps and bring the story down to the end of the century'. The present volume is only a partial fulfilment of that hope. Its central theme is 'the loss of faith', or (as it might often be called) the re-interpretation of current orthodoxy in the light of nineteenth century canons of historical and scientific criticism. I have not attempted to be exhaustive, nor have I harped incessantly on the central topic. Instead, I have tried, in six fairly detailed chapters, and using a method partly biographical and partly critical, to illustrate some phases of Victorian liberal thought from a group including historians, theologians and men of letters.

I hope to have presented these writers as more than a mere set of 'worm-eaten' period pieces. If faith today has recovered tone and confidence, it owes this largely to the work of these pioneers who compelled it to abandon many impossible positions. Even now this debt is not always properly acknowledged, and some of the 'liberal' or 'agnostic' criticisms are conveniently forgotten rather than properly faced. It may be that the liberal tradition--not in its older form, but chastened by twentieth century experience--is due for a revival.

My acknowledgments are due, and are gratefully given, to the Principal and Fellows of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Miss Margaret Deneke, for permission to include (in Chapter II) parts of my Deneke Lecture (1952) on Tennyson; to the Oxford University Press and Dr R. Hale-White for permission to quote from the works of William Hale White and Mrs Dorothy V. White; to Messrs Macmillan and Sir Charles Tennyson for permission to quote from the works of Viscount Morley and from Sir Charles Tennyson's Alfred Tennyson; and to the Stanford University Press for permission to quote fromWilfred Stone Religion and Art of Mark Rutherford (1954). I should like to record here also (as . . .

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