G.K. Chesterton.

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breeding of the poor and to hinting at infanticide. This is a
representative quarrel; for if the Utilitarian spirit reached its
highest point in Mill, it certainly reached its lowest point in Malthus.

One last element in the influence of Carlyle ought to be mentioned;
because it very strongly dominated his disciples - especially Kingsley,
and to some extent Tennyson and Ruskin. Because he frowned at the
cockney cheerfulness of the cheaper economists, they and others
represented him as a pessimist, and reduced all his azure infinities to
a fit of the blues. But Carlyle's philosophy, more carefully considered,
will be found to be dangerously optimist rather than pessimist. As a
thinker Carlyle is not sad, but recklessly and rather unscrupulously
satisfied. For he seems to have held the theory that good could not be
definitely defeated in this world; and that everything in the long run
finds its right level. It began with what we may call the "Bible of
History" idea: that all affairs and politics were a clouded but unbroken
revelation of the divine. Thus any enormous and unaltered human
settlement - as the Norman Conquest or the secession of America - we must
suppose to be the will of God. It lent itself to picturesque treatment;
and Carlyle and the Carlyleans were above all things picturesque. It
gave them at first a rhetorical advantage over the Catholic and other
older schools. They could boast that their Creator was still creating;
that he was in Man and Nature, and was not hedged round in a Paradise or
imprisoned in a pyx. They could say their God had not grown too old for
war: that He was present at Gettysburg and Gravelotte as much as at
Gibeon and Gilboa. I do not mean that they literally said these
particular things: they are what I should have said had I been bribed to
defend their position. But they said things to the same effect: that
what manages finally to happen, happens for a higher purpose. Carlyle
said the French Revolution was a thing settled in the eternal councils
to be; and therefore (and not because it was right) attacking it was
"fighting against God." And Kingsley even carried the principle so far
as to tell a lady she should remain in the Church of England mainly
because God had put her there. But in spite of its superficial
spirituality and encouragement, it is not hard to see how such a
doctrine could be abused. It practically comes to saying that God is on
the side of the big battalions - or at least, of the victorious ones.
Thus a creed which set out to create conquerors would only corrupt
soldiers; corrupt them with a craven and unsoldierly worship of success:
and that which began as the philosophy of courage ends as the philosophy
of cowardice. If, indeed, Carlyle were right in saying that right is
only "rightly articulated" might, men would never articulate or move in
any way. For no act can have might before it is done: if there is no
right, it cannot rationally be done at all. This element, like the
Anti-Utilitarian element, is to be kept in mind in connection with after
developments: for in this Carlyle is the first cry of Imperialism, as
(in the other case) of Socialism: and the two babes unborn who stir at
the trumpet are Mr. Bernard Shaw and Mr. Rudyard Kipling. Kipling also
carries on from Carlyle the concentration on the purely Hebraic parts of
the Bible. The fallacy of this whole philosophy is that if God is indeed
present at a modern battle, He may be present not as on Gilboa but

Carlyle's direct historical worship of strength and the rest of it was
fortunately not very fruitful; and perhaps lingered only in Froude the
historian. Even he is more an interruption than a continuity. Froude
develops rather the harsher and more impatient moral counsels of his
master than like Ruskin the more romantic and sympathetic. He carries on
the tradition of Hero Worship: but carries far beyond Carlyle the
practice of worshipping people who cannot rationally be called heroes.
In this matter that eccentric eye of the seer certainly helped Carlyle:
in Cromwell and Frederick the Great there was at least something
self-begotten, original or mystical; if they were not heroes they were
at least demigods or perhaps demons. But Froude set himself to the
praise of the Tudors, a much lower class of people; ill-conditioned
prosperous people who merely waxed fat and kicked. Such strength as
Henry VIII had was the strength of a badly trained horse that bolts, not
of any clear or courageous rider who controls him. There is a sort of
strong man mentioned in Scripture who, because he masters himself, is
more than he that takes a city. There is another kind of strong man
(known to the medical profession) who cannot master himself; and whom it
may take half a city to take alive. But for all that he is a low
lunatic, and not a hero; and of that sort were too many of the heroes
whom Froude attempted to praise. A kind of instinct kept Carlyle from
over-praising Henry VIII; or that highly cultivated and complicated
liar, Queen Elizabeth. Here, the only importance of this is that one of
Carlyle's followers carried further that "strength" which was the real
weakness of Carlyle. I have heard that Froude's life of Carlyle was
unsympathetic; but if it was so it was a sort of parricide. For the
rest, like Macaulay, he was a picturesque and partisan historian: but,
like Macaulay (and unlike the craven scientific historians of to-day) he
was not ashamed of being partisan or of being picturesque. Such studies
as he wrote on the Elizabethan seamen and adventurers, represent very
triumphantly the sort of romance of England that all this school was
attempting to establish; and link him up with Kingsley and the rest.

Ruskin may be very roughly regarded as the young lieutenant of Carlyle
in his war on Utilitarian Radicalism: but as an individual he presents
many and curious divergences. In the matter of style, he enriched
English without disordering it. And in the matter of religion (which
was the key of this age as of every other) he did not, like Carlyle, set
up the romance of the great Puritans as a rival to the romance of the
Catholic Church. Rather he set up and worshipped all the arts and
trophies of the Catholic Church as a rival to the Church itself. None
need dispute that he held a perfectly tenable position if he chose to
associate early Florentine art with a Christianity still comparatively
pure, and such sensualities as the Renaissance bred with the corruption
of a Papacy. But this does not alter, as a merely artistic fact, the
strange air of ill-ease and irritation with which Ruskin seems to tear
down the gargoyles of Amiens or the marbles of Venice, as things of
which Europe is not worthy; and take them away with him to a really
careful museum, situated dangerously near Clapham. Many of the great men
of that generation, indeed, had a sort of divided mind; an ethical
headache which was literally a "splitting headache"; for there was a
schism in the sympathies. When these men looked at some historic
object, like the Catholic Church or the French Revolution, they did not
know whether they loved or hated it most. Carlyle's two eyes were out of
focus, as one may say, when he looked at democracy: he had one eye on
Valmy and the other on Sedan. In the same way, Ruskin had a strong right
hand that wrote of the great mediæval minsters in tall harmonies and
traceries as splendid as their own; and also, so to speak, a weak and
feverish left hand that was always fidgeting and trying to take the pen
away - and write an evangelical tract about the immorality of foreigners.
Many of their contemporaries were the same. The sea of Tennyson's mind
was troubled under its serene surface. The incessant excitement of
Kingsley, though romantic and attractive in many ways, was a great deal
more like Nervous Christianity than Muscular Christianity. It would be
quite unfair to say of Ruskin that there was any major inconsistency
between his mediæval tastes and his very unmediæval temper: and minor
inconsistencies do not matter in anybody. But it is not quite unfair to
say of him that he seemed to want all parts of the Cathedral except the

As an artist in prose he is one of the most miraculous products of the
extremely poetical genius of England. The length of a Ruskin sentence is
like that length in the long arrow that was boasted of by the drawers of
the long bow. He draws, not a cloth-yard shaft but a long lance to his
ear: he shoots a spear. But the whole goes light as a bird and straight
as a bullet. There is no Victorian writer before him to whom he even
suggests a comparison, technically considered, except perhaps De
Quincey; who also employed the long rich rolling sentence that, like a
rocket, bursts into stars at the end. But De Quincey's sentences, as I
have said, have always a dreamy and insecure sense about them, like the
turret on toppling turret of some mad sultan's pagoda. Ruskin's sentence
branches into brackets and relative clauses as a straight strong tree
branches into boughs and bifurcations, rather shaking off its burden
than merely adding to it. It is interesting to remember that Ruskin
wrote some of the best of these sentences in the attempt to show that he
did understand the growth of trees, and that nobody else did - except
Turner, of course. It is also (to those acquainted with his perverse and
wild rhetorical prejudices) even more amusing to remember that if a
Ruskin sentence (occupying one or two pages of small print) does not
remind us of the growth of a tree, the only other thing it does remind
of is the triumphant passage of a railway train.

Ruskin left behind him in his turn two quite separate streams of
inspiration. The first and more practical was concerned, like Carlyle's
_Chartism_, with a challenge to the social conclusions of the orthodox
economists. He was not so great a man as Carlyle, but he was a much more
clear-headed man; and the point and stab of his challenge still really
stands and sticks, like a dagger in a dead man. He answered the theory
that we must always get the cheapest labour we can, by pointing out that
we never do get the cheapest labour we can, in any matter about which we
really care twopence. We do not get the cheapest doctor. We either get a
doctor who charges nothing or a doctor who charges a recognised and
respectable fee. We do not trust the cheapest bishop. We do not allow
admirals to compete. We do not tell generals to undercut each other on
the eve of a war. We either employ none of them or we employ all of them
at an official rate of pay. All this was set out in the strongest and
least sentimental of his books, _Unto this Last_; but many suggestions
of it are scattered through _Sesame and Lilies_, _The Political Economy
of Art_, and even _Modern Painters_. On this side of his soul Ruskin
became the second founder of Socialism. The argument was not by any
means a complete or unconquerable weapon, but I think it knocked out
what little remained of the brains of the early Victorian rationalists.
It is entirely nonsensical to speak of Ruskin as a lounging æsthete, who
strolled into economics, and talked sentimentalism. In plain fact,
Ruskin was seldom so sensible and logical (right or wrong) as when he
was talking about economics. He constantly talked the most glorious
nonsense about landscape and natural history, which it was his business
to understand. Within his own limits, he talked the most cold common
sense about political economy, which was no business of his at all.

On the other side of his literary soul, his mere unwrapping of the
wealth and wonder of European art, he set going another influence,
earlier and vaguer than his influence on Socialism. He represented what
was at first the Pre-Raphaelite School in painting, but afterwards a
much larger and looser Pre-Raphaelite School in poetry and prose. The
word "looser" will not be found unfair if we remember how Swinburne and
all the wildest friends of the Rossettis carried this movement forward.
They used the mediæval imagery to blaspheme the mediæval religion.
Ruskin's dark and doubtful decision to accept Catholic art but not
Catholic ethics had borne rapid or even flagrant fruit by the time that
Swinburne, writing about a harlot, composed a learned and sympathetic
and indecent parody on the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.

With the poets I deal in another part of this book; but the influence of
Ruskin's great prose touching art criticism can best be expressed in the
name of the next great prose writer on such subjects. That name is
Walter Pater: and the name is the full measure of the extent to which
Ruskin's vague but vast influence had escaped from his hands. Pater
eventually joined the Church of Rome (which would not have pleased
Ruskin at all), but it is surely fair to say of the mass of his work
that its moral tone is neither Puritan nor Catholic, but strictly and
splendidly Pagan. In Pater we have Ruskin without the prejudices, that
is, without the funny parts. I may be wrong, but I cannot recall at this
moment a single passage in which Pater's style takes a holiday or in
which his wisdom plays the fool. Newman and Ruskin were as careful and
graceful stylists as he. Newman and Ruskin were as serious, elaborate,
and even academic thinkers as he. But Ruskin let himself go about
railways. Newman let himself go about Kingsley. Pater cannot let himself
go for the excellent reason that he wants to stay: to stay at the point
where all the keenest emotions meet, as he explains in the splendid
peroration of _The Renaissance_. The only objection to being where all
the keenest emotions meet is that you feel none of them.

In this sense Pater may well stand for a substantial summary of the
æsthetes, apart from the purely poetical merits of men like Rossetti and
Swinburne. Like Swinburne and others he first attempted to use mediæval
tradition without trusting it. These people wanted to see Paganism
_through_ Christianity: because it involved the incidental amusement of
seeing through Christianity itself. They not only tried to be in all
ages at once (which is a very reasonable ambition, though not often
realised), but they wanted to be on all sides at once: which is
nonsense. Swinburne tries to question the philosophy of Christianity in
the metres of a Christmas carol: and Dante Rossetti tries to write as if
he were Christina Rossetti. Certainly the almost successful summit of
all this attempt is Pater's superb passage on the Mona Lisa; in which he
seeks to make her at once a mystery of good and a mystery of evil. The
philosophy is false; even evidently false, for it bears no fruit to-day.
There never was a woman, not Eve herself in the instant of temptation,
who could smile the same smile as the mother of Helen and the mother of
Mary. But it is the high-water mark of that vast attempt at an
impartiality reached through art: and no other mere artist ever rose so
high again.

Apart from this Ruskinian offshoot through Pre-Raphaelitism into what
was called Æstheticism, the remains of the inspiration of Carlyle fill a
very large part in the Victorian life, but not strictly so large a part
in the Victorian literature. Charles Kingsley was a great publicist; a
popular preacher; a popular novelist; and (in two cases at least) a very
good novelist. His _Water Babies_ is really a breezy and roaring freak;
like a holiday at the seaside - a holiday where one talks natural history
without taking it seriously. Some of the songs in this and other of his
works are very real songs: notably, "When all the World is Young, Lad,"
which comes very near to being the only true defence of marriage in the
controversies of the nineteenth century. But when all this is allowed,
no one will seriously rank Kingsley, in the really literary sense, on
the level of Carlyle or Ruskin, Tennyson or Browning, Dickens or
Thackeray: and if such a place cannot be given to him, it can be given
even less to his lusty and pleasant friend, Tom Hughes, whose
personality floats towards the frankness of the _Boy's Own Paper_; or to
his deep, suggestive metaphysical friend Maurice, who floats rather
towards _The Hibbert Journal_. The moral and social influence of these
things is not to be forgotten: but they leave the domain of letters. The
voice of Carlyle is not heard again in letters till the coming of
Kipling and Henley.

One other name of great importance should appear here, because it cannot
appear very appropriately anywhere else: the man hardly belonged to the
same school as Ruskin and Carlyle, but fought many of their battles, and
was even more concentrated on their main task - the task of convicting
liberal _bourgeois_ England of priggishness and provinciality. I mean,
of course, Matthew Arnold. Against Mill's "liberty" and Carlyle's
"strength" and Ruskin's "nature," he set up a new presence and entity
which he called "culture," the disinterested play of the mind through
the sifting of the best books and authorities. Though a little dandified
in phrase, he was undoubtedly serious and public-spirited in intention.
He sometimes talked of culture almost as if it were a man, or at least a
church (for a church has a sort of personality): some may suspect that
culture was a man, whose name was Matthew Arnold. But Arnold was not
only right but highly valuable. If we have said that Carlyle was a man
that saw things, we may add that Arnold was chiefly valuable as a man
who knew things. Well as he was endowed intellectually, his power came
more from information than intellect. He simply happened to know certain
things, that Carlyle didn't know, that Kingsley didn't know, that Huxley
and Herbert Spencer didn't know: that England didn't know. He knew that
England was a part of Europe: and not so important a part as it had been
the morning after Waterloo. He knew that England was then (as it is now)
an oligarchical State, and that many great nations are not. He knew
that a real democracy need not live and does not live in that perpetual
panic about using the powers of the State, which possessed men like
Spencer and Cobden. He knew a rational minimum of culture and common
courtesy could exist and did exist throughout large democracies. He knew
the Catholic Church had been in history "the Church of the multitude":
he knew it was not a sect. He knew that great landlords are no more a
part of the economic law than nigger-drivers: he knew that small owners
could and did prosper. He was not so much the philosopher as the man of
the world: he reminded us that Europe was a society while Ruskin was
treating it as a picture gallery. He was a sort of Heaven-sent courier.
His frontal attack on the vulgar and sullen optimism of Victorian
utility may be summoned up in the admirable sentence, in which he asked
the English what was the use of a train taking them quickly from
Islington to Camberwell, if it only took them "from a dismal and
illiberal life in Islington to a dismal and illiberal life in

His attitude to that great religious enigma round which all these great
men were grouped as in a ring, was individual and decidedly curious. He
seems to have believed that a "Historic Church," that is, some
established organisation with ceremonies and sacred books, etc., could
be perpetually preserved as a sort of vessel to contain the spiritual
ideas of the age, whatever those ideas might happen to be. He clearly
seems to have contemplated a melting away of the doctrines of the Church
and even of the meaning of the words: but he thought a certain need in
man would always be best satisfied by public worship and especially by
the great religious literatures of the past. He would embalm the body
that it might often be revisited by the soul - or souls. Something of the
sort has been suggested by Dr. Coit and others of the ethical societies
in our own time. But while Arnold would loosen the theological bonds of
the Church, he would not loosen the official bonds of the State. You
must not disestablish the Church: you must not even leave the Church:
you must stop inside it and think what you choose. Enemies might say
that he was simply trying to establish and endow Agnosticism. It is
fairer and truer to say that unconsciously he was trying to restore
Paganism: for this State Ritualism without theology, and without much
belief, actually was the practice of the ancient world. Arnold may have
thought that he was building an altar to the Unknown God; but he was
really building it to Divus Cæsar.

As a critic he was chiefly concerned to preserve criticism itself; to
set a measure to praise and blame and support the classics against the
fashions. It is here that it is specially true of him, if of no writer
else, that the style was the man. The most vital thing he invented was a
new style: founded on the patient unravelling of the tangled Victorian
ideas, as if they were matted hair under a comb. He did not mind how
elaborately long he made a sentence, so long as he made it clear. He
would constantly repeat whole phrases word for word in the same
sentence, rather than risk ambiguity by abbreviation. His genius showed
itself in turning this method of a laborious lucidity into a peculiarly
exasperating form of satire and controversy. Newman's strength was in a
sort of stifled passion, a dangerous patience of polite logic and then:
"Cowards! if I advanced a step you would run away: it is not you I fear.
_Di me terrent, et Jupiter hostis._" If Newman seemed suddenly to fly
into a temper, Carlyle seemed never to fly out of one. But Arnold kept a
smile of heart-broken forbearance, as of the teacher in an idiot school,
that was enormously insulting. One trick he often tried with success. If
his opponent had said something foolish, like "the destiny of England is
in the great heart of England," Arnold would repeat the phrase again and
again until it looked more foolish than it really was. Thus he recurs
again and again to "the British College of Health in the New Road" till
the reader wants to rush out and burn the place down. Arnold's great
error was that he sometimes thus wearied us of his own phrases, as well
as of his enemies'.

These names are roughly representative of the long series of protests
against the cold commercial rationalism which held Parliament and the
schools through the earlier Victorian time, in so far as those protests
were made in the name of neglected intellect, insulted art, forgotten
heroism and desecrated religion. But already the Utilitarian citadel had
been more heavily bombarded on the other side by one lonely and
unlettered man of genius.

The rise of Dickens is like the rising of a vast mob. This is not only
because his tales are indeed as crowded and populous as towns: for truly
it was not so much that Dickens appeared as that a hundred Dickens
characters appeared. It is also because he was the sort of man who has
the impersonal impetus of a mob: what Poe meant when he truly said that
popular rumour, if really spontaneous, was like the intuition of the
individual man of genius. Those who speak scornfully of the ignorance of
the mob do not err as to the fact itself; their error is in not seeing
that just as a crowd is comparatively ignorant, so a crowd is
comparatively innocent. It will have the old and human faults; but it is
not likely to specialise in the special faults of that particular
society: because the effort of the strong and successful in all ages is
to keep the poor out of society. If the higher castes have developed
some special moral beauty or grace, as they occasionally do (for
instance, mediæval chivalry), it is likely enough, of course, that the
mass of men will miss it. But if they have developed some perversion or
over-emphasis, as they much more often do (for instance, the Renaissance
poisoning), then it will be the tendency of the mass of men to miss that
too. The point might be put in many ways; you may say if you will that
the poor are always at the tail of the procession, and that whether they
are morally worse or better depends on whether humanity as a whole is
proceeding towards heaven or hell. When humanity is going to hell, the
poor are always nearest to heaven.

Dickens was a mob - and a mob in revolt; he fought by the light of
nature; he had not a theory, but a thirst. If any one chooses to offer
the cheap sarcasm that his thirst was largely a thirst for milk-punch, I
am content to reply with complete gravity and entire contempt that in a
sense this is perfectly true. His thirst was for things as humble, as
human, as laughable as that daily bread for which we cry to God. He had

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