Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/10

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SOME ASPECTS OF

to think that the ideal to be set before any workman, of more than average capacity and ambition, was that he might in time rise from his own class, and become an employer of workmen himself. On the whole, the general attitude of mind was one of contentment, or at the lowest of acquiescence, which at times took the more challenging note of an almost strident self-complacency: such as is sounded in those famous speeches of Mr. Lowe in 1866-7, which formed one of the favourite texts of Matthew Arnold's Epistles to the Philistines.

Such, in broad outline, was the outside atmosphere, in which the intellectual soil, with a fecundity which hardly failed for forty years, produced, in almost unrivalled profusion, the masterpieces of the Victorian Age. Nothing can be more striking, or more unaccountable upon any abstract theory, than the copiousness and the variety of its Personal resources. In a recently published volume—the most trenchant and brilliant series of biographical and historical studies which I have read for a long time—Mr. Lytton Strachey, under the modest title 'Eminent Victorians',[1] has put on his canvas four figures (as unlike one another as any four people could be), Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, and General Gordon. None of the four can be said to have contributed much of permanent importance to the literature or art or science of their time; but each of them, in his or her day, was a prominent and potent personality; and perhaps one may be allowed to say that they are in less danger than

  1. 'Eminent Victorians,' by Lytton Strachey (Chatto and Windus, 1918).