Leaders of the Victorian Revolution

Leaders of the Victorian Revolution

Leaders of the Victorian Revolution

Leaders of the Victorian Revolution

Excerpt

The prevailing conflict and confusion of opinion as to the literary and spiritual achievements of Victorian England are partly due to the fact that many of the issues then raised are still live issues, on which people differ according to natural temperament, material interests, and inherited prejudices. But the Victorian Era is now sufficiently remote for some of its issues to be judged with detachment on a basis of adequate acquaintance with what the Victorians thought, said, and wrote. They wrote (and printed) a great deal; and naturally they did not all think the same thing. Then (as now) there were those who looked back to a Golden Age in the past; those who were entirely occupied with material concerns of the immediate present; and those who pressed forward to a millennium to be reached in a not too distant future. By choice, and almost by necessity, it is with the last class that we are mainly concerned. In any age the men advocating movement, and more especially movement over ground not hitherto traversed, will have more things and more interesting things to say than the admirers of a romantic past or the mere defenders of things as they are.

In the Victorian Age there was a good deal of moving of ancient landmarks; and though there was doubtless a good deal left unmoved, it seems more profitable from our point of view to consider what the Victorians accomplished than what they left undone. If we realize how much they had to do, and how much they did, we shall have a sounder basis for consideration of what is still to do; and from an acquaintance with what they attempted and accomplished, we may gain a clearer conception of what it is possible to achieve in the immediate future.

During the Victorian Era the English developed the industrial, democratic, and humanitarian civilization, dependent upon the application of science to agriculture, manufacture, and transportation, which has become characteristic of the modern world; and their writers had a major share in the conflict between the authoritative spokesmen of revealed religion and the protagonists of scientific research which has revolutionized modern thought. The movements thus set on foot are still going on, and no man yet knows their ultimate achievements in thought and practice; but . . .

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