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that the senses seemed to set up on the basis of indisputable fact; by the increasing powers of the telescope and the microscope and the spectrum it has unfolded spheres of existence that the boldest positivism would not have dreamt of; by its attempts to get at the principle of things, it has resolved, in the ultimate analysis that transcends the senses, all matter into energy and to this it has given immortality. But for long science and the positive method were thought of as the antagonists of imagination as of faith. And idealism seemed rather a reaction than an independent and originative attitude.
6. From Wordsworth to Tennyson, from Godwin to Hawthorne, whatever views and thoughts of science poetry and fiction might adopt, however agnostic or sceptical or antagonistic they might be in the sphere of faith, they ever idealised their material
, they dealt with life as transcending all the knowledge of the senses, they found spirit the true originative element. Both poets and novelists attempted scientific problems and adopted the most advanced scientific thought; but always from the speculative and spiritual point of view. Wordsworth, for example, in his Ode on Intimations of Immortality treats heredity but resurrection of spirit; Mrs. Shelley in her Frankenstein idealises the investigations of physiology and biology and attempts to imagine the science of life as an art, the art of creation. But it would need analysis of all the poetry and the fiction of the period to follow out the idealistic attitude.
7. In the realm of faith the positive atmosphere seemed wholly antagonistic and destructive. And in the second quarter of the century, a violent reaction set in against the burden of doubt or the indifference of agnosticism. It took two forms in England; the one continued the romantic movement in religion and sought the forms and beliefs of a former period ; the other accepted reason as the final court of appeal in matters of faith as in matters of fact, but found the reconciliation of faith and fact in the ideal sphere. The Oxford High Church movement, which led so many of its foremost adherents to its logical issue, emigration to the oldest representative of Christianity, and the Broad-Church movement, which led a number to
Unitarianism, had a more immediate effect in literature than religious phenomena usually have. The fiery passion of the post-Revolution time and the centralisation of the movements in one of the English universities were the causes of this. And on the one side we have Newman and Faber, Keble and Pusey, and on the other Maurice and Jowett, Stanley and Mark Pattison, F. W. Newman and J. A. Froude, F. W. Robertson and Kingsley, Clough and Matthew Arnold. It is a noticeable feature that, though the
. Broad-Church movement never spread widely, it stirred the literary imagination to its depths; it had a far larger result in literature. The reason was that it was less of a reaction from the positive spirit of the period than of an adaptation of it to idealistic purposes. It seized upon the facts of religion and the world and spiritualised them by interpretation; it took the religious doubt that was in the very air of the time and gave it consolation and rest in broader solutions of religious problems and loftier moral aims. It used and tinged the ideas of culture more and spread farther outside the church than within it. Large sections of thoughtful men and women who had become dis-churched drew towards religion again, and read with avidity not only the discourses and productions of the Broad Church, but the more secular appeals of men like Emerson, Martineau, Carlyle, and Ruskin.
I. But it was by a more indirect way that the progress in science influenced the great bulk of the new audience. The popular mind seldom troubles itself about the spiritual meaning of a new discovery or movement. At its first approach to literary culture it is not sensitive to subtle influences from spheres outside of religious feeling. And hence the speculations of biology or the discoveries of astronomy or geology did not perturb it at first. It was through the practical applications of science that it felt the influences of the new stir of thought. The triumphs of physics and chemistry and engineering and the mechanical inventions that aided them or followed from them appealed to it at once in a striking way. It did not need much
imagination to appreciate the wonders of the new applications of steam or electricity or chemical analysis. And the popular audience was stirred to new emotional and intellectual life by them.
2. The indirect effect was still greater. Life became a swifter current both in country and city through the acceleration and cheapening of traffic and industry. And the torrent-like rush was not confined to the daily routine and external work. The mind was involved in the bustle of production and conquest. And it was the feverish quality of the new life that quickened the pulse of popular literature. Throughout the period the eagerness for news grew and spread, and developed newspapers at a rate that is surpassed only by that of the latter half of the century. And the passion for novelty drew writers into new spheres and types of literature. It was, therefore, a period of surprises both in poetry and prose. Some new poet or novelist or essayist was ever gratifying the passionate desire for something new. Some striking book was ever issuing from the press. And the press itself acquired accelerated speed in its work of publication. The annual issue of books increased in an exceptional way. And authors like Scott who had caught the ear of the new audience could make or retrieve fortunes in a few years by their literary labours. An exceptional or highly cultured note that took long to reach the mind of the people had to wait for its lucrative audience. Literature, especially popular literature, became tainted with the commercial spirit and publishers became wealthy and speculative. Books that would mediate between scientific thought or philosophy or culture and the people grew rapidly in number—what were called popular books. They were the more permanent counterpart of popular lectures, which sprang into being with the establishment of Mechanics’ Institutes not long before the Reform Bill. Circulating libraries had become a common feature of provincial towns by the beginning of the century but they appealed more to the new leisured class that had risen to comfort or wealth with the expansion of enterprise. A still wider audience was found for literature as soon as the burden of the long French wars was removed from
commerce and industry and the new applications of science and invention were allowed full scope in a demand for the concentration of artisans in towns. The minds of workmen were set free on the one hand from the stagnation of country life or on the other from the struggle for mere existence. The new masters, the new middle class, in many cases, were stirred by the spirit of philanthropy, and tried to organise elevating pursuits for the leisure of their factory hands. The Mechanics' Institute with its library, its reading-room filled with newspapers and magazines, and its courses of lectures and educative classes, was the form that had most permanent effect. It was thus that Scott's novels and Byron's poems found their
every cottage in Britain ; it
thus that so Europeanised a cynic as Byron came to condescend to simple untainted narratives in verse and to Hebrew melodies; it was thus that series of brief knowledge books became the order of the day. For the first time English literature in the sense of printed books may be said to belong to the whole people. And the wider the audience grew and the cheaper that steam and machinery and the organisation of industry made books, the more the literature came to be a possession of the people as
a whole. There were still, of course, literatures of narrow circles ; but they were more and more interpreted and influenced by the spirit of the intermediate literary world that stood between them and what corresponded to the old chap-book hawked through the streets and country districts.
I. As the period went on, the novel gradually mastered and absorbed this mediating realm. The essay and the knowledge-manual threatened for a time to act as the chief intermediaries. But as the novel adapted itself to different purposes and spheres and showed itself to be the most plastic of educators, it became supreme in national literature. Had any man a new gospel to preach, political, social, or religious, he found his largest and most attentive audience from this pulpit. His lessons sank impalpably into the popular mind. As the primitive instinct for narrative was stirred and
satisfied, the thoughts and feelings remained quiescent in its presence ; they took whatever colour the writer chose. Narrative had been the oldest method of unwritten literature for impressing or moulding the national consciousness; it was the newest method of written literature. Poetry gave up its primitive universality of power; for now, that reading had spread so widely, literature addressed the mind through the eye and not through the ear. The drama, that had taken the place of poetry as the national literature in the first strong civilisations after the arts of spectacle were developed, had prepared the way for this new form by addressing both eye and ear. Printing first threatened the empire of poetry and the drama by spreading copies of books widely. The industrial era with its cheapening of all processes, its urbanising of intelligence, and its spread of education completed the revolution, and made it clear that the literary form that was to have the widest audience must address it through the eyes alone, through books. Poetry can never regain its empire over the universal audience; for to the popular section of it an art that still retains the forms and attractions of a literature for recitation appears artificial upon paper ; the brief lyric that can be wedded to popular music and pass from lip to lip is the only poetic type that can appeal to all sections untrained as well as trained. The drama, again, needs a stage and elaborate subsidiary arts, and at best can gather only a few thousands in its theatres. It will never hold its own against a literary form that can pass into every household.
2. The modern novel is the attempt to amalgamate the essential attractions of these two primitive types, the appeal of the one to the emotions and to the love of romance, and the power of the other to concentrate life and the striking situations of life and place them before the imagination. Its description and analysis and teaching function come from poetry; its plot and dénouement, its scenic arrangement and dialogue come from the drama. "It gratifies two primitive and almost universal passions, the love of story and the love of striking scene. Hence its growing absorption of the talent of our period. Hence its use as a pulpiteering medium. Every movement, political, social,