Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
13
THE VICTORIAN AGE

contemporary, whom we here in Oxford claim as especially our own, Lewis Carroll.

I have said or implied that the note of revolt is not characteristic of the Victorian Age. But the Victorians were not allowed to wax fat, and to bask in the sunshine of their prosperity and content, without reproof, exhortation, and even denunciation. The prophetic office has rarely in history been better filled or more faithfully exercised. Carlyle taught his contemporaries, time after time (as on a famous occasion Gideon taught the men of Succoth), with 'thorns of the wilderness and briers'.[1] Ruskin—a literary portent, if there ever was one, without pedigree or posterity, as perfect an artist in words at twenty-one as at any stage of his career—was moved by the tragic contrasts and failures of the Victorian civilization (as he saw it), to turn aside from the glad tidings of the gospel of Beauty, which he had preached with an incomparable wealth of eloquence, insight, and spiritual fervour. He turned aside that he might deliver, with the same faith and even deeper passion, to a perverse generation who had made for themselves false gods, his stern and solemn message of warning and of judgement to come. In 1860, as soon as he had finished the fifth and last volume of 'Modern Painters', he started the publication in the 'Cornhill Magazine' of 'Unto This Last', in which he exposed and denounced the current conceptions of such elementary matters as Wealth and Value. It aroused a tornado of abuse and ridicule from the orthodox economists; 'the world' (wrote one of their organs) 'was not going to be preached to death by a mad governess': and