Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/13

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9
THE VICTORIAN AGE

epoch-making of them all) Darwin's 'Origin of Species'. Even this marvellous and almost unexampled array gives an inadequate idea of the resources of Victorian genius when the Age was at its zenith. For, within the same ten years, we have the first published poems of Matthew Arnold and William Morris, Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice', the first novel of Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Gaskell's 'Cranford', Mill's 'Liberty', and the best work of Charles Kingsley. Kingsley, by the way, at the close of the decade, was on the eve of the ill-advised adventure which, to the lasting benefit of all lovers of the purest and finest English prose, was the occasion for the appearance in 1864 of Newman's 'Apologia'. The stream, if never afterwards quite so full and strong, did not dry up; it was for years later being constantly reinforced and vitalized by new tributaries, down to the very confines of the Victorian Age.

The wind blows where it lists: and no theory of causation with which I am acquainted—whether of heredity, or environment, or of any combination or permutation of possible or imaginable antecedents—can adequately account for these indisputable facts. It is right, moreover, to record, that the Victorian public, the men in the street at whom Matthew Arnold gibed, the subscribers to the circulating libraries, which then went far to make or unmake the fortunes of an author, were neither unappreciative, nor exclusive in their appreciations. It is true that the two greatest of the women writers of the age—Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot—were, at the outset of their careers, roughly handled by the orthodox and fashionable critics. But both came very soon into their own. In the case of another pair of