great problem of modern life--poverty in the midst of plenty. You tell us, these new-comers say, that our old institutions have served us well. We reply that they are serving us very ill today. You tell us that you are prepared to improve them. We reply that your Education Acts, your Trade Union Acts, your County Council Acts, none of them goes to the root of things. We do not want improvements. We want change.

And now you see the tide turning. Throughout the Victorian age, our political ideas were ascendant: it was to England that all political reformers looked, while from foreigners we had nothing to learn. But when we come to social and economic ideas, the influence is the other way. It is we who look abroad, to America, to Germany, to France. And as European liberalism evolves towards socialism, so does ours. But always with that difference, which we have noticed so often, when European ideas have to be fitted into the island framework.

But will the framework hold them, or will the explosive elements in the new doctrines shatter it to pieces? Are socialism and parliamentary methods really compatible? Are you in your heart convinced that self-government is better than good government? Can you make the welfare of the people your aim without sacrificing their liberty? Can you bring progress under control and not take the heart out of the pioneer, so damping initiative and responsibility together? It is in questions like this that you hear late-Victorian liberalism--the liberalism of men who had grown up under the influence of Mill and Morley--taking its stand, measuring itself against the new ideas: questions which they have left us to answer.


THE HAPPY FAMILY1

SUPPOSE you fell asleep tonight and woke up in 1860. What is the first thing you would notice? It depends, of course, where you woke up. But if it was in a town there can be little doubt as to the answer. The noise--the noise of the traffic, of

____________________
1
A broadcast delivered on 20 May 1946

-116-

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Victorian Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Victorian Centenary 13
  • The Age of Tennyson 46
  • Eyes and No Eyes 70
  • Thackeray 74
  • Mr and Mrs Dickens 79
  • The Schoolman in Downing Street1the Two Mr Gladstones, by G. T. Garratt. 82
  • Mr Gladstone 90
  • The Happy Family 110
  • The Greatest Victorian 116
  • The Mercian Sibyl 129
  • The Victorian Noon-Time 133
  • Sophist and Swashbuckler 142
  • The Faith of The Grandfathers 146
  • Tempus Actum 153
  • B. A. Kohnfeldt 158
  • Katherine Stanley And John Russell 162
  • Maitland 173
  • Topsy 178
  • The New Cortegiano 183
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