British Library Contains an online exhibit documenting the advent of photographically illustrated books, including nearly 1, early prints on a variety of subjects. The project was completed in It describes pamphlet collections , has links to catalogues and digitised pamphlets , and provides resources to assist those wanting to use pamphlets within their research or teaching.
NINES - Nineteenth-century Scholarship Online The Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship is an organization that publishes and provides enhanced access to digital research on the 19th century and serves as a peer-reviewing body for digital resources in this area. The site is worth a look for online researchers, although, as the author notes in his bibliography, serious scholars should consult an original copy of the materials referenced. Compiled by the staff of the journal Victorian Studies and representatives from the Victorian Division of the Modern Language Association.
The Victorian literature page links to general information sites on Victorian literature, electronic resources for nineteenth century studies, Victorian authors, works, and projects, journals, listservs, newsgroups, and conferences. Advanced search and browsing is available, as well as the ability to create a free account with which the user can set up folders, save searches and letters, and create e-mail alerts.
The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online Comprehensive site containing more than 90, pages of searchable text and more than , electronic images. Includes many signed and annotated copies of texts and many are available in languages other than English. Men, revolting from this polite and monotonous world, are trying desperate expedients.
But they are all wrong; the age is against it. Try to get out of modern democratic uniformity and decorum and you may as well try to get out of your skin. Stevenson was driven to playing at Robinson Crusoe in the Pacific, and Mr. Rudyard Kipling once seemed bent on dying in a tussle with Fuzzy-Wuzzy in the Soudan.
But it is no good. A dirty savage is no longer a romantic being. And as to the romance of the wigwam, it reminds me of the Jews who keep the Feast of Tabernacles by putting up some boughs in a back yard. But let us have no pessimism also. The age is against the romance of colour, movement, passion, and jollity. But it is full of the romance of subtle and decorous psychology. It is not the highest art: it is indeed a very limited art. But it is true art: wholesome, sound, and cheerful. The world does not exist in order to supply brilliant literature; and the march of democratic equality and of decorous social uniformity is too certain a thing, in one sense too blessed a thing, to be denied or to be denounced.
An age of colour, movement, variety, and romantic beauty will come again one day, we know not how. There will be then a romance of passion and incident, of strenuous ambition and mad merriment. But not to-day nor to-morrow. Let us accept what the dregs of the nineteenth century can give us, without murmuring and repining for what it cannot give and should not seek to give. In this little series of studies, I shall make no attempt to estimate the later literature of the Victorian Age, nor will I at all refer to any living writer. Nor shall I deal with social and moral philosophy, poetry, art, or religion.
I propose to look back, from our present point of view, on the literature, in the narrower sense of the term, produced in the earlier part of the Queen's reign. It is now for about half a century that the world has had all that is most masterly in the work of Thomas Carlyle. And a time has arrived when we may very fairly seek to weigh the sum total of influence which he left on his own and on subsequent generations. We are now far enough off, neither to be dazzled by his eloquence nor irritated by his eccentricities.
The men whom he derided and who shook their heads at him are gone: fresh problems, new hopes, other heroes and prophets whom he knew not, have arisen. Our world is in no sense his world.
And it has become a very fair question to ask--What is the residuum of permanent effect from these great books of his, which have been permeating English thought for half a century and more? It is a rare honour for any writer--at least for one who is neither poet nor novelist--to have his productions live beyond two generations, and to continue to be a great literary force, when fifty years have altered all the conditions in which he wrote and the purposes and ideas which he treated. It cannot be said that Carlyle's effective influence is less now than it was a generation ago.
It has lived through the Utilitarian and Evolution movements and has not been extinguished by them. And Thomas Carlyle bids fair to enter into that sacred band whose names outlive their own century and give some special tone to their national literature. The survival of certain books and names from generation to generation does not depend on merit alone. Burke's diatribes on the French Revolution affected the history of Europe; though no one denies that they were inspired by passion and deformed by panic.
Books which exert a paramount influence over their contemporaries may die down and be known only in the history of literature. And books, again, of very moderate value, written by men of one-sided intellect or founded on somewhat shallow theories, may, by virtue of some special quality, or as embodying some potent idea, attain to a permanent place in the world of letters. Many a great book ceases very early to command readers: and many books continue to be read although they are far from great. The first question that arises is thisDo the chief works of Carlyle belong to that class of books which attain an enduring and increasing power, or to that class which effect great things for one or two generations and then become practically obsolete?
It would not be safe to put his masterpieces in any exclusive sense into either of these categories; but we may infer that they will ultimately tend to the second class rather than the first. In these we have a mass of pregnant and ever-fertile thought in a form that is perennially luminous and inspiring. It can hardly be said that even the masterpieces of Carlyle--no!
Not of such is the Kingdom of the literary Immortals. On the other hand, if these masterpieces of sixty years ago are not quite amongst the great books of the world, it would be preposterous to regard them as obsolete, or such as now interest only the historian of literature.
They are read to-day practically as much as ever, and are certain to be read for a generation or two to come. But they are not read to-day with the passionate delight in the wonderful originality, nor have they the commanding authority they seemed to possess for the faithful disciples of the forties and the fifties. Nor can any one suppose that the next century will continue to read them, except with an open and unbiassed mind, and a willingness to admit that even here there is much dead wood, gross error, and pitiable exaggeration. When we begin to read in that spirit, however splendid be the imagination, and however keen the logic, we are no longer under the spell of a master: we are reading a memorable book, with a primary desire to learn how former generations looked upon things.
Thomas Carlyle, like all other voluminous writers, wrote very much that cannot be called equal to his best: and it cannot be denied that the inferior pieces hold a rather large proportion of the whole. Nothing is less fatal to true criticism than the popular habit of blindly overvaluing the inferior work of men of genius, unless it be the habit of undervaluing them by looking at their worst instead of at their best. Now, what are the masterpieces of Thomas Carlyle? But, as we look back on them after forty or fifty years of experience, we find in them too much of passionate exaggeration, at times a ferocious wrong-headedness, and everywhere so little practical guidance or fruitful suggestion, that we cannot reckon these magnificent Jeremiads as permanent masterpieces.
Who reads every word of these ten volumes? Who cares to know how big was the belly of some court chamberlain, or who were the lovers of some unendurable Frau? What a welter of dull garbage! O, Thomas, Thomas, what Titania has bewitched thee with the head of Dryasdust on thy noble shoulders? In the Life of the Puritan hero we have a great purpose, a prolonged homily, a magnificent appeal against an unjust sentence passed two hundred years before by ignorance, bigotry, and passion. The literary interest never overpowers the social and political, the moral and the religious purpose.
With his own right hand, alone and by a single stroke, he completely reversed the judgment of the English nation about their greatest man. The whole weight of Church, monarchy, aristocracy, fashion, literature, and wit had for two centuries combined to falsify history and distort the character of the noblest of English statesmen.
- Primary Sources.
- The Ohio State University Press: Victorian Studies!
- Similar Books.
- English 651: Studies in Victorian Literature: Home?
- U2 - The Best of 1990-2000 Songbook: P/V/G.
- Illustrated Victorian Fiction - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature!
- More Books by Frederic Harrison;
And a simple man of letters, by one book, at once and for ever reversed this sentence, silenced the allied forces of calumny and rancour, and placed Oliver for all future time as the greatest hero of the Protestant movement. There are few examples in the history of literature of so great and so sudden a triumph of truth and justice. It is not the "Life" of Cromwell: it was not so designed, and was never so worked out.
It is his "Letters and Speeches," illustrated by notes. The constant passage from text to commentary, from small print to large, from Oliver's Puritan sermonising to Carlyle's Sartorian eccentricities, destroys the artistic harmony of the book as an organic work of art. The "Life" of Cromwell was in fact never written by Carlyle; and has yet to be written. Never yet was such splendid material for a "Life" prepared by a great historian. Here is the Sage of Craigenputtock at his best, at his grimmest, and, we must add, in his most incoherent mood.
Another and a more serious difficulty is this. And of such, how many entirely understand the inner Philosophy of Clothes, and follow all the allusions, quips, and nicknames of Sartorian subjectivity. The first class of successful candidates, one fears, would be small. A book--not of science or of pure philosophy, or any technical art whatever--but a book addressed to the general reader, and designed for the education of the public, and which can be intelligently digested and assimilated by so very few of the public, can hardly be counted as an unqualified success.
It has the essential character of an epic, short of rhythm and versification. And it produces on the mind the effect of a poem with an epic or dramatic plot. It is only a reader thoroughly at home in the history of the time, who can resist the poet's spell when, at the end of Part III. As a matter of real history, this is an arbitrary invention. But the French Revolution does not stop there, nor did the "Whiff of Grapeshot" end it in any but an arbitrary sense.
When the poet tells us that, upon Napoleon's defeating the sections around the Convention, "the hour had come and the Man," and that the thing called the French Revolution was thereby "blown into space," nothing more silly, mendacious, and "phantasmic" was ever stated by sober historian. Its passion, energy, colour, and vast prodigality of ineffaceable pictures place it undoubtedly at the head of all the pictorial histories of modern times. And the dramatic rapidity of its action, and the inexhaustible contrasts of its scenes and tableaux--things which so fatally pervert its truthfulness as authentic history--immensely heighten the effect of the poem on the reader's mind.
Not that Carlyle was capable of deliberately manufacturing an historical romance in the mendacious way of Thiers and Lamartine. But, having resolved to cast the cataclysm of and the few years before and after it into a dramatic poem, he inevitably, and no doubt unconsciously, treated certain incidents and certain men with a poet's license or with a distorted vision. This too is more apparent toward the close of his work, when he begins to show signs of fatigue and exhaustion.
Nay, it is to be feared that we are still suffering from the outrage committed on Victorian literature by Mr. Mill's incendiary housemaid. We may yet note marks of arson in the restored volume. At the same time, there are large parts of his work which are as true historically as they are poetically brilliant. Part I. The whole description of Versailles, its court, and government, of the effervescence of Paris--from the death of Louis XV.
Part II. And Part III. It would need an essay, or rather a volume, on the French Revolution to enumerate all the wrong judgments and fallacies of Carlyle's book, if we bring it to the bar of sober and authentic history. First and foremost comes his fundamental misconception that the Revolution was an anarchical outburst against corruption and oppression, instead of being, as it was, the systematic foundation of a new order of society.
Again, he takes it to be a purely French, local, and political movement, instead of seeing that it was an European, social, spiritual movement toward a more humane civilisation. And next, he regards the Revolution as taking place in the six years between the taking of the Bastille and the defeat of the Sections by Bonaparte; whereas the Revolution was preparing from the time of Louis XIV.
Next to the capital mistake of misconceiving the entire character and result of the Revolution, comes the insolence which treats the public men of France during a whole generation as mere subjects for ribaldry and caricature. From this uniform mockery, Mirabeau and Bonaparte, two of the least worthy of them, are almost alone exempted. This is a blunder in art, as well as a moral and historical offence.
The personages and the events of the French Revolution in fact succeeded each other with such startling rapidity and such bewildering variety, that it is difficult for any but the most patient student to keep the men and the phases steadily before the eye without confusion and in distinct form. This Carlyle has done far better than any other historian of the period, perhaps even better than any historian whatever.
That so many Englishmen are more familiar with the scenes and the men and women of the French Revolution than they are with the scenes and the men and women of their own history, is very largely the work of Carlyle. It being then clearly understood that Carlyle did not leave us the trustworthy history of the French Revolution, in the way in which Thucydides gave us the authentic annals of the Peloponnesian war, or Caesar the official despatches of the Conquest of Gaul, we must willingly admit that Carlyle's history is one of the most fruitful products of the nineteenth century. No one else certainly has written the authentic story of the French Revolution at large, or of more than certain aspects and incidents of it.
How infinitely better do we now, in , know Dante and Shakespeare, Cromwell and Napoleon, than did our grandfathers in ! Who, nowadays, imagines Mahomet to have been an impostor, or Burns to have been a mere tipsy song-writer? But in the true nature of these men was very faintly understood. Few people but soldiers had the least chance of being called "heroes," and the "heroic in history" was certainly not thought to include either poets, preachers, or men of letters. To judge fairly all that Carlyle effected by his book on Heroes we must put ourselves at the point of view of the time when it was written, the days of Wellington and Melbourne, Brougham and Macaulay, Southey and Coleridge.
All this Carlyle felt as no Englishman before him had felt, and told us in a voice which has since been accepted as conclusive. How far deeper is the view of Carlyle about some familiar personality like Johnson than is that of Macaulay, how much farther does Carlyle see into the Shakesperean firmament than even Coleridge! How far better does he understand Rousseau and Burns than did Southey, laureate and critic as he was hailed in his time.
The book is a collection of Lectures, and we now know how entirely Carlyle loathed that kind of utterance, how much he felt the restraints and limits it involved. And for that reason, the book is the simplest and most easily legible of his works, with the least of his mannerism and the largest concessions to the written language of sublunary mortals. Nearly all the judgments he passes are not only sound, but now almost universally accepted. To deal with the heroic in history, he needed, as he said, six months rather than six days. It was intended, he told his hearers, "to break ground," to clear up misunderstandings.
It has done this: and a rich crop has resulted from his ploughshare. Nothing but a few sketches could be compressed into six hours. But it is curious how many things seem omitted in this survey of the heroic. At the age of forty-five Carlyle had not recognised Friedrich at all, for he does not figure in the "Hero as King. Still for all that, he remains "our last great man. To make Hero-Worship close with the installation of Napoleon as "our last great man," was to expose the inherent weakness of the Sartorian creed--that humanity exists for the sake of its great men.
The other strange delusion is the entire omission from the "Hero as Priest" of any Catholic hero. Not only are St. Bernard, and St. Francis, Becket and Lanfranc--all the martyrs and missionaries of Catholicism--consigned to oblivionbut not a word is said of Alfred, Godfrey, St. Louis, St. Ferdinand, and St. In a single volume there must be selection of types.
But the whole idea of Hero-Worship was perverted in a plan which had no room for a single Catholic chief or priest. Discarding the creed, the practice, and the language of Puritanism, Carlyle still retained its narrowness, its self-righteousness, its intolerance, and its savagery. The moralist, to whom John Knox was a hero, but St. Bernard was not, but only a follower of the "three-hatted Papa," and an apostle of "Pig's-wash," was hardly the man to exhaust the heroic in history. In the "Hero as Man-of-Letters," Carlyle was at home. If ever pure letters produced a hero, the sage of Chelsea was one.
With Johnson, with Rousseau, he is perfectly rational, and the mass of literature which has accumulated round the names of these two, only tends to confirm the essential justice of Carlyle's estimate. Nor need we dispute his estimate of the vigour and manliness of Burns. It is only when Carlyle describes him as "the most gifted British soul" in the eighteenth century--the century of Hume, Adam Smith, Fielding, and Burke--that we begin to smile. Burns was a noble-hearted fellow, as well as a born poet. But perhaps the whole cycle of Sartorian extravaganza contains no saying so futile as the complaint, that the British nation in the great war with France entrusted their destinies to a phantasmic Pitt, instead of to "the Thunder-god, Robert Burns.
It is incoherences of this sort which undo so much of the splendid service that Carlyle gave to his age. But we are not willing to let the defects of Carlyle's philosophy drive out of mind the permanent and beautiful things in his literary work. The idea of embedding a living and pathetic picture of monastic life in the twelfth century, and a minute study of the labours of enlightened churchmen in the early struggles of civilisation--the idea of embedding this tale, as if it were the remains of some disinterred saint, in the midst of a series of essays on the vices and weaknesses of modern society--was a highly original and instructive device, only to be worked to success by a master.
And the master brought it to a delightful success. In all his writings of thirty volumes there are few pages more attractive than the story of Jocelin of Brakelond, Abbot Hugo, Abbot Samson, and the festival of St. Edmund, which all pass away as in a vision leaving "a mutilated black ruin amidst green expanses"--as we so often see in our England to-day after the trampling of seven centuries over the graves of the early monks.
And then, when the preacher passes suddenly from the twelfth century to the nineteenth, from toiling and ascetic monks to cotton spinners and platform orators--the effect is electric--as though some old Benedictine rose from the dead and began to preach in the crowded streets of a city of factories. Have we yet, after fifty years of this time of tepid hankering after Socialism and Theophilanthropic experiments, got much farther than Thomas Carlyle in his preaching in Book IV. What truth, what force in the aphorism"To predict the Future, to manage the Present, would not be so impossible, had not the Past been so sacrilegiously mishandled; effaced, and what is worse, defaced!
Here, as so often, Carlyle just missed a grand truth to which his insight and nobility of soul had led him, through his perverse inability to accept any systematic philosophy, and through his habit to listen to the whispering of his own heart as if it were equivalent to scientific certainty. It would impress us much more than it does, were it not already become the very basis of all sincere thought about social problems and the future conditions of industry.
But it is not, as we have seen, a work of art, or even an organic work at all, and it cannot compare in literary charm with some other of the author's works. It has done its work with masterly power; and its work will endure.
And some day perhaps, from out these materials, and those collected by Mr. It is true that Carlyle's determination to force Oliver upon us as perfect saint and infallible hero is irritating and sometimes laughable; it is true that his zeal to be-dwarf every one but Cromwell himself is unjust and untrue; and the depreciation of every man who declines to play into Oliver's hands is too often manifest. It may be doubted if any later book will be permanently counted amongst his masterpieces.
The world had been fully enlightened about Wind-bags, Shams, the approach to Tophet, Stump-orators, Palaver-Parliaments, Phantasm-Captains, and the rest of the Sartorian puppet-pantomime. There was a profound truth in all of these invectives, warnings, and prophecies. But the prophet's voice at last got so shrieky and monotonous, that instead of warning and inspiring a second generation, these terrific maledictions began to pall upon a practical world. Certainly no man of sense can find any serious guidance on any definite social problem from these "Pamphlets" of his morbid decline.
Carlyle at last sat eating his heart out, like Napoleon on St. His true friends will hasten to throw such a decent covering as Japhet and Shem threw around Noah, over the latest melancholy outbursts about Negroes, Reformers, Jamaica massacres, and the anticipated conflagration of Paris by the Germans. It is pitiful indeed to find in "the collected and revised works," thirty-six volumes, the drivel of his Pro-Slavery advocacy, and of ill-conditioned snarling at honest men labouring to reform ancient abuses.
It is perilous for any man, however consummate be his genius, to place himself on a solitary rock apart from all living men and defiant of all before him, as the sole source of truth out of his own inner consciousness. It is fatal to any man, however noble his own spirit, to look upon this earth as "one fuliginous dust-heap," and the whole human race as a mere herd of swine rushing violently down a steep place into the sea.
Nor can the guidance of mankind be with safety entrusted to one who for eighty-six years insisted on remaining by his own hearth-stone a mere omnivorous reader and omnigenous writer of books.
Childhood in Victorian Literature - Victorian Literature - Oxford Bibliographies
Carlyle was a true and pure "man of letters," looking at things and speaking to men, alone in his study, through the medium of printed paper. All that a "man of letters," of great genius and lofty spirit, could do by consuming and producing mere printed paper, he did. And as the "supreme man of letters" of his time he will ever be honoured and long continue to be read. He deliberately cultivated a form of speech which made him unreadable to all except English-speaking readers, and intelligible only to a select and cultivated body even amongst them.
He wrote in what, for practical purposes, is a local, or rather personal, dialect. And thus he deprived himself of that world-wide and European influence which belongs to such men as Hume, Gibbon, Scott, Byron--even to Macaulay, Tennyson, Dickens, Ruskin, and Spencer. But his name will stand beside theirs in the history of British thought in the nineteenth century; and a devoted band of chosen readers, wherever the Anglo-Saxon tongue is heard, will for generations to come continue to drink inspiration from the two or three masterpieces of the Annandale peasant-poet.
Macaulay, who counted his years of life by those of this century, may fairly claim to have had the greatest body of readers, and to be the most admired prose-writer of the Victorian Age. It is now some seventy years since his first brilliant essay on "Milton" took the world by storm. The editions of it in England and in America are counted by thousands; it has six translations into German, and translations into ten other European languages. It made him rich, famous, and a peer.
Has it given him a foremost place in English literature? Here is a case where the judgment of the public and the judgment of experts is in striking contrast. The readers both of the Old and of the New World continue to give the most practical evidence that they love his books. Macaulay is a rare example of a writer all of whose works are almost equally popular, and believed by many to be equally good. And yet some of our best critics deny him either fine taste, or subtlety, or delicate discrimination, catholic sympathies, or serene judgment. They say he is always more declaimer than thinker--more advocate than judge.
The purists in style shake their heads over his everlasting antitheses, the mannerism of violent phrases and the perpetual abuse of paradox. His most indulgent friends admit the force of these defects, which they usually speak of as his "limitations" or his "methods. How he would himself have revelled in the paradox--"that books which were household words with every cow-boy in Nevada, and every Baboo in Bengal, were condemned by men of culture as the work of a Philistine and a mannerist"; "how ballads which were the delight of every child were ridiculed by critics as rhetorical jingles that would hardly win a prize in a public school"; "how the most famous of all modern reviewers scarcely gave us one example of delicate appreciation or subtle analysis"; how it comes about "that the most elaborate of modern histories does not contain an idea above the commonplaces of a crammer's textbook"--and so forth, in the true Black-and-White style which is so clear and so familiar.
But let us beware of applying to Macaulay himself that tone of exaggeration and laborious antithesis which he so often applied to others. No one denies that Macaulay had a prodigious knowledge of books; that in literary fecundity and in varied improvisation he has rarely been surpassed; that his good sense is unfailing, his spirit manly, just, and generous; and lastly, that his command over language had unequalled qualities of precision, energy, and brilliance.
These are all very great and sterling qualities. And it is right to acknowledge them with no unstinted honour--even whilst we are fully conscious of the profound shortcomings and limitations that accompanied but did not destroy them. In a previous paper we discussed the permanent contribution to English literature of Thomas Carlyle; and it is curious to note how complete a contrast these two famous writers present. Carlyle was a simple, self-taught, recluse man of letters: Macaulay was legislator, cabinet minister, orator, politician, peer--a pet of society, a famous talker, and member of numerous academies.
The one hardly ever knew what the world called success: the other hardly ever knew failure. Carlyle had in him the elements that make the poet, the prophet, the apostle, the social philosopher. In Macaulay these were singularly wanting; he was the man of affairs, the busy politician, the rhetorician, the eulogist of society as it is, the believer in material progress, in the ultimate triumph of all that is practical and commonplace, and in the final discomfiture of all that is visionary and Utopian.
Carlyle's gospel is full of passion, novelty, suggestion, theory, and social problems. Macaulay turned his back on social problems and disdained any kind of gospel. He had no mission to tell the world how bad it is; on the contrary, he was never wearied with his proofs that it ought to be well satisfied with its lot and its vast superiority in all things to its ancestors. The great public, wherever English books penetrate, from the White Sea to Australia, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, loves the brilliant, manly, downright optimist; the critics and the philosophers care more for the moody and prophetic pessimist.
But this does not decide the matter; and it does not follow that either public or critic has the whole truth. And if the only books were such "purple patches" of history as Macaulay left us, with their hard and fast divisions of men into sheep and goats, and minute biographies of fops, pedants, and grandees, narrated in the same resonant, rhetorical, unsympathetic, and falsely emphatic style--this generation would have a very patchwork idea of past ages and a narrow sense of the resources of our English language.
There is room for both literary schools, and we need teachers of many kinds. We must not ask of any kind more than they can give. Macaulay has led millions who read no one else, or who never read before, to know something of the past, and to enjoy reading.
He will have done them serious harm if he has persuaded them that this is the best that can be done in historical literature, or that this is the way in which the English language can be most fitly used. Let us be thankful for his energy, learning, brilliance. He is no priest, philosopher, or master. Let us delight in him as a fireside companion. In one thing all agree--critics, public, friends, and opponents. Macaulay's was a life of purity, honour, courage, generosity, affection, and manly perseverance, almost without a stain or a defect.
His life, it was true, was singularly fortunate, and he had but few trials, and no formidable obstacles. But, so far as his traditions and temper would permit, his life was as honourable, as unsullied, and as generous, as ever was that of any man who lived in the fierce light that beats upon the famous. We know his nature and his career as well as we know any man's; and we find it on every side wholesome, just, and right. He has been fortunate in his biographers, and amply criticised by the best judges.
His nephew, Sir George Trevelyan, has written his life at length in a fine book. There is but one voice in all this company. It was a fine, generous, honourable, and sterling nature. His books deserve their vast popularity and may long continue to maintain it. But Macaulay must not be judged amongst philosophers--nor even amongst the real masters of the English language. And, unless duly corrected, he may lead historical students astray and his imitators into an obtrusive mannerism. Let us take a famous passage from one of his most famous essays, written in the zenith of his powers after his return from India, at the age of forty--an essay on a grand subject which never ceased to fascinate his imagination, composed with all his amazing resources of memory and his dazzling mastery of colour.
The passage is familiar to all readers, and some of its phrases are household words. It is rather long as well as trite; but it contains in a single page such a profusion of historical suggestion; it is so vigorous, so characteristic of Macaulay in all his undoubted resources as in all his mannerism and limitations; it is so essentially true, and yet so thoroughly obvious; it is so grand in form, and yet so meagre in philosophic logic, that it may be worth while to analyse it in detail; and for that purpose it must be set forth, even though it convey to most readers little more than a sonorous truism.
There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation.
No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable.
The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth, to the farthest ends of the world, missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age.
Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated her for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendancy extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which, a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe.
The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all the other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St.
Here we have Macaulay in all his strength and all his limitations.
Studies in Early Victorian Literature by Frederic Harrison
The passage contains in the main a solid truth--a truth which was very little accepted in England in the year a truth of vast import and very needful to assert. And this truth is clothed in such pomp of illustration, and is hammered into the mind with such accumulated blows; it is so clear, so hard, so coruscating with images, that it is impossible to escape its effect. The paragraph is one never to be forgotten, and not easy to be refuted or qualified. No intelligent tiro in history can read that page without being set a-thinking, without feeling that he has a formidable problem to solve.
Once a charter was obtained, there was little government regulation, as laissez-faire and private ownership had become accepted practices. The different lines typically had exclusive territory, but given the compact size of Britain, this meant that multiple competing lines could provide service between major cities. George Hudson — became the "railway king" of Britain. He merged various independent lines and set up a "Clearing House" in which rationalized interconnections by establishing uniform paperwork and standard methods for transferring passengers and freight between lines, and rates when one system used freight cars owned by another.
By , rates had fallen to a penny a ton mile for coal, at speeds of up to fifty miles an hour. Britain now had had the model for the world in a well integrated, well-engineered system that allowed fast, cheap movement of freight and people, and which could be replicated in other major nations. The railways directly or indirectly employed tens of thousands of engineers, mechanics, repairmen and technicians, as well as statisticians and financial planners. They developed new and more efficient and less expensive techniques. Most important, they created a mindset of how technology could be used in many different forms of business.
Railways had a major impact on industrialization. By lowering transportation costs, they reduced costs for all industries moving supplies and finished goods, and they increased demand for the production of all the inputs needed for the railroad system itself. By , there were 13, locomotives which each carried 97, passengers a year, or 31, tons of freight. India provides an example of the London-based financiers pouring money and expertise into a very well built system designed for military reasons after the Mutiny of , and with the hope that it would stimulate industry.
The system was overbuilt and much too elaborate and expensive for the small amount of freight traffic it carried. However, it did capture the imagination of the Indians, who saw their railways as the symbol of an industrial modernity—but one that was not realized until a century or so later.
Medicine progressed during Queen Victoria's reign. Although nitrous oxide , or laughing gas, had been proposed as an anaesthetic as far back as by Humphry Davy , it wasn't until when an American dentist named William Morton started using ether on his patients that anaesthetics became common in the medical profession. Anaesthetics made painless dentistry possible.
At the same time sugar consumption in the British diet increased, greatly increasing instances of tooth decay. This gave rise to "Waterloo Teeth", which were real human teeth set into hand-carved pieces of ivory from hippopotamus or walrus jaws. Medicine also benefited from the introduction of antiseptics by Joseph Lister in in the form of carbolic acid phenol.
The Victorian era was a time of unprecedented population growth in Britain. The population rose from Two major contributary factors were fertility rates and mortality rates. Britain was the first country to undergo the demographic transition and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. Britain had the lead in rapid economic and population growth. At the time, Thomas Malthus believed this lack of growth outside Britain was due to the ' Malthusian trap '. That is, the tendency of a population to expand geometrically while resources grew more slowly, reaching a crisis such as famine, war, or epidemic which would reduce the population to a sustainable size.
Britain escaped the 'Malthusian trap' because the Industrial Revolution had a positive impact on living standards. In the Victorian era, fertility rates increased in every decade until , when the rates started evening out. One is biological: with improving living standards, a higher proportion of women were biologically able to have children.
Another possible explanation is social. In the 19th century, the marriage rate increased, and people were getting married at a very young age until the end of the century, when the average age of marriage started to increase again slowly. The reasons why people got married younger and more frequently are uncertain.
One theory is that greater prosperity allowed people to finance marriage and new households earlier than previously possible. With more births within marriage, it seems inevitable that marriage rates and birth rates would rise together. This is indeed a crude measure, as key groups and their fertility rates are not clear. It is likely to be affected mainly by changes in the age distribution of the population. The Net Reproduction Rate was then introduced as an alternative measure: it measures the average fertility rate of women of child-bearing ages.
High rates of birth also occurred because of a lack of birth control. Mainly because women lacked knowledge of birth control methods and the practice was seen as unrespectable. The mortality rates in England changed greatly through the 19th century. Environmental and health standards rose throughout the Victorian era; improvements in nutrition may also have played a role, although the importance of this is debated.
With a healthier environment, diseases were caught less easily and did not spread as much. Technology improved because the population had more money to spend on medical technology for example, techniques to prevent death in childbirth, so that more women and children survived , which also led to a greater number of cures for diseases. However, there was a cholera epidemic in London in —49, which killed 14, people, and another in killing 10, Reformers rushed to complete a modern London sewerage system.
Gothic Revival architecture became increasingly significant during the period, leading to the Battle of the Styles between Gothic and Classical ideals. Charles Barry 's architecture for the new Palace of Westminster , which had been badly damaged in an fire , was built in the medieval style of Westminster Hall , the surviving part of the building. Gothic was also supported by critic John Ruskin , who argued that it epitomised communal and inclusive social values, as opposed to Classicism, which he considered to epitomise mechanical standardisation.
The middle of the 19th century saw The Great Exhibition of , the first World's Fair , which showcased the greatest innovations of the century. It was condemned by Ruskin as the very model of mechanical dehumanisation in design but later came to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography , showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art with Queen Victoria being the first British monarch to be photographed. John Everett Millais was influenced by photography notably in his portrait of Ruskin as were other Pre-Raphaelite artists.
It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl. The long-term effect of the reform movements was to tightly link the nonconformist element with the Liberal party. The dissenters gave significant support to moralistic issues, such as temperance and sabbath enforcement. The nonconformist conscience , as it was called, was repeatedly called upon by Gladstone for support for his moralistic foreign policy.
The rise of the middle class during the era had a formative effect on its character; the historian Walter E. Houghton reflects that "once the middle class attained political as well as financial eminence, their social influence became decisive. The Victorian frame of mind is largely composed of their characteristic modes of thought and feeling". Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle class home and lifestyle.
Previously, in town and city, residential space was adjacent to or incorporated into the work site, virtually occupying the same geographical space. The difference between private life and commerce was a fluid one distinguished by an informal demarcation of function. In the Victorian era, English family life increasingly became compartmentalised, the home a self-contained structure housing a nuclear family extended according to need and circumstance to include blood relations. The concept of "privacy" became a hallmark of the middle-class life.
The English home closed up and darkened over the decade s , the cult of domesticity matched by a cult of privacy. Bourgeois existence was a world of interior space, heavily curtained off and wary of intrusion, and opened only by invitation for viewing on occasions such as parties or teas. In Thomas Barnes became general editor of The Times ; he was a political radical, a sharp critic of parliamentary hypocrisy and a champion of freedom of the press.
It spoke of reform. Russell wrote immensely influential dispatches on the Crimean War of —; for the first time, the public could read about the reality of warfare. Russell wrote one dispatch that highlighted the surgeons' "inhumane barbarity" and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops.
Shocked and outraged, the public reacted in a backlash that led to major reforms especially in the provision of nursing, led by Florence Nightingale. The Manchester Guardian was founded in Manchester in by a group of non-conformist businessmen. Its most famous editor, Charles Prestwich Scott , made the Guardian into a world-famous newspaper in the s.
The Daily Telegraph in became the first penny newspaper in London. It was funded by advertising revenue based on a large audience. Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban areas the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the Factory Act limited the working week to Furthermore, a system of routine annual holidays came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class.
By the late Victorian era the leisure industry had emerged in all cities. It provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theatre. By football was no longer the preserve of the social elite, as it attracted large working-class audiences. Average attendance was in , rising to 23, in Sports by generated some three percent of the total gross national product. Professional sports were the norm, although some new activities reached an upscale amateur audience, such as lawn tennis and golf.
Women were now allowed in some sports, such as archery, tennis, badminton and gymnastics. The very rapid growth in population in the 19th century in the cities included the new industrial and manufacturing cities, as well as service centres such as Edinburgh and London. The critical factor was financing, which was handled by building societies that dealt directly with large contracting firms. Kemp says this was usually of advantage to tenants. Clean water, sanitation, and public health facilities were inadequate; the death rate was high, especially infant mortality, and tuberculosis among young adults.
You are here
Cholera from polluted water and typhoid were endemic. Unlike rural areas, there were no famines such as the one which devastated Ireland in the s. Wage rates improved steadily; real wages after taking inflation into account were 65 percent higher in , compared to Much of the money was saved, as the number of depositors in savings banks rose from , in , to 5. These problems were magnified in London, where the population grew at record rates. Large houses were turned into flats and tenements, and as landlords failed to maintain these dwellings, slum housing developed.
Kellow Chesney described the situation as follows: "Hideous slums, some of them acres wide, some no more than crannies of obscure misery, make up a substantial part of the metropolis In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people of all ages may inhabit a single room. These included a large expansion in workhouses or poorhouses in Scotland , although with changing populations during the era.
The early Victorian era before the reforms of the s became notorious for the employment of young children in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps. Reformers wanted the children in school: in only about 20 percent of the children in London had any schooling. By about half of the children between 5 and 15 were in school including Sunday school.
The children of the poor were expected to help towards the family budget, often working long hours in dangerous jobs for low wages.
Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers , shoe blacks, or sold matches, flowers, and other cheap goods. Working hours were long: builders might work 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter, while domestic servants were theoretically on duty hours a week. Mother bides at home, she is troubled with bad breath, and is sair weak in her body from early labour. I am wrought with sister and brother, it is very sore work; cannot say how many rakes or journeys I make from pit's bottom to wall face and back, thinks about 30 or 25 on the average; the distance varies from to fathom.
I carry about 1 cwt. As early as and , Factory Acts were passed to limit the working hours of children in factories and cotton mills to 12 hours per day. These acts were largely ineffective and after radical agitation, by for example the "Short Time Committees" in , a Royal Commission recommended in that children aged 11—18 should work a maximum of 12 hours per day, children aged 9—11 a maximum of eight hours, and children under the age of nine should no longer be permitted to work. This act, however, only applied to the textile industry , and further agitation led to another act in limiting both adults and children to hour working days.
Victorian morality was a surprising new reality. The changes in moral standards and actual behaviour across the British were profound. Historian Harold Perkin wrote:. Between and the English ceased to be one of the most aggressive, brutal, rowdy, outspoken, riotous, cruel and bloodthirsty nations in the world and became one of the most inhibited, polite, orderly, tender-minded, prudish and hypocritical. Historians continue to debate the various causes of this dramatic change. Asa Briggs emphasizes the strong reaction against the French Revolution, and the need to focus British efforts on its defeat and not be diverged by pleasurable sins.
Briggs also stresses the powerful role of the evangelical movement among the Nonconformists, as well as the Evangelical faction inside the established Church of England. The religious and political reformers set up organizations that monitored behaviour, and pushed for government action. Among the higher social classes, there was a marked decline in gambling, horse races, and obscene theatres; there was much less heavy gambling or patronage of upscale houses of prostitution.
The highly visible debauchery characteristic of aristocratic England in the early 19th century simply disappeared. Historians agree that the middle classes not only professed high personal moral standards, but actually followed them. There is a debate whether the working classes followed suit. Moralists in the late 19th century such as Henry Mayhew decried the slums for their supposed high levels of cohabitation without marriage and illegitimate births.
By contrast in 21st century Britain, nearly half of all children are born outside marriage, and nine in ten newlyweds have been cohabitating. Crime was getting exponentially worse. There were 4, arrests for criminal offenses in , tripling to 14, in and doubling to 31, in in England and Wales.
Slowly capital punishment was replaced by transportation, first to the American colonies and then to Australia,  and, especially, by long-term incarceration in newly built prisons. As one historian points out, "Public and violent punishment which attacked the body by branding, whipping, and hanging was giving way to reformation of the mind of the criminal by breaking his spirit, and encouraging him to reflect on his shame, before labour and religion transformed his character. The reaction from the committee set up under the commissioner of prisons, Colonel Edmund Frederick du Cane , was to increase minimum sentences for many offences with deterrent principles of 'hard labour, hard fare, and a hard bed'.
Historian S. Checkland says, "It was sunk in promiscuity and squalor, jailers' tyranny and greed, and administrative confusion. By the s the prison population was over 20, By the Victorian Era Penal transportation to Australia was falling out of use since it did not reduce crime rates. The reforms were controversial and contested. In era a series of major legislative reforms enabled significant improvement in the penal system. In , the previously localized prisons were nationalized in the Home Office under a Prison Commission.
The Prison Act of enabled the Home Secretary to impose multiple reforms on his own initiative, without going through the politicized process of Parliament. The Probation of Offenders Act of introduced a new probation system that drastically cut down the prison population, while providing a mechanism for transition back to normal life. The Criminal Justice Administration Act of required courts to allow a reasonable time before imprisonment was ordered for people who did not pay their fines.
Previously tens of thousands of prisoners had been sentenced solely for that reason. The Borstal system after was organized to reclaim young offenders, and the Children Act of prohibited imprisonment under age 14, and strictly limited that of ages 14 to The principal reformer was Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise.