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The Victorian Age
The Rede Lecture for 1922

written by "Inge, William Ralph, 1860-1954"
...Oxford, were at this time so cut off from the Continent that the isolation of the English Tractarians was not at first felt;[Pg 45] and the constructive work of philosophers and critics on the Continent was spurned as ‘German theology.’ So when Newman at length took the perhaps logical step of joining the Roman communion, the movement broke up, and its ablest members turned against it with the anger of men who feel that they have been duped. Neither science nor criticism could be disregarded any longer. English scholars began to read German, as Carlyle had exhorted them to do; and everybody began to read Darwin. There arose among the educated class an attitude towards religion which we may call very distinctively Victorian. Carlyle remained a Puritan, without any dogmatic beliefs except a kind of moralistic pantheism. Ruskin was a Protestant medievalist, who admired everything in a medieval cathedral except the altar. Tennyson and Browning were ready to let most dogmas go, but clung passionately to the belief in personal human survival. Tennyson’s famous lines ‘There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds’ have been[Pg 46] wittily parodied by Samuel Butler: ‘There lives more doubt in honest faith’ etc. The sentiment in Tennyson’s lines may be easily defended; but it must be confessed that ‘honest doubt’ was something of a pose at the time. In reading such men as Clough, or Henri Amiel, the average man becomes impatient, and is inclined to say ‘Why can’t the fellow make up his mind one way or the other, and get started?’ They carry suspension of judgment to the verge of futility, and though they obviously suffer, one does not feel very sorry for them. It is the opposite failing from that of Macaulay, who as a historian suffers from a constitutional inability not to make up his mind on everything and everybody. Matthew Arnold is also a...

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