These are troublous times. The trouble is everywhere: in politics, in the social system, in religion. But the storm-center seems to be in the region of religion.
Guesses at the Riddle of Existence (1897, p. 96)
Goldwin Smith had always been a rather serious, sober sort of fellow. In the last twenty-five years or so of his life, however, he also became very pessimistic. Undoubtedly, this was partly a function of advancing age. Always extremely conscious of his health, he did not receive creeping old age as a friend. Correspondents and readers detected a very gloomy cast of mind in the man in his last years, even beyond his normal self-absorption. His intellect remained alert to the end, but very troubled. Two areas of thought revealed his angst most clearly—moral philosophy and the general political and social state of affairs. Alterations in Smith’s moral philosophy, it may be assumed, affected his political and social thought, as the former was the key to almost all his activities. Moral philosophy was also deeply personal and fundamentally important to his public persona. In political and social areas, however, external events no doubt played a role in his formulating new opinions on diverse issues.
The gloom that pervaded Smith’s final stages of thought was not altogether out of character with his earliest thought. His concept of