Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/18

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SOME ASPECTS OF

even Thackeray himself, and his astute publisher, became so much alarmed that, after three instalments had appeared, they stopped its further publication in their Magazine.[1] Ruskin was always inclined to regard 'Unto This Last' as his highest achievement in point of style, and his judgement is confirmed by two such accomplished critics as Mr. Frederic Harrison and Mr. Mackail. What is more important, he never flinched from his new mission, and continued to the end of his days, with an ever-growing following, not for the sake of destruction only, but of reconstruction also, to bombard the citadel of Victorian Economics. Matthew Arnold, a fine poet and an unsurpassed literary critic, also became one of the Prophets. What drove him into the pulpit was, not so much moral resentment at the social paradoxes of his time, as intellectual irritation and impatience at the stupidity and sterility of contemporary life. The whole community—upper, middle, and lower classes—Barbarians, Philistines, Populace—seemed to him to be equally wanting in the 'one thing needful'. But the Philistine bourgeoisie became his favourite target, with their narrow intellectual and spiritual outlook, their barren daily treadmill of routine, their absorption in superficial goods, their smug and sordid self-complacency. He might have taken as his text a pregnant sentence which is to be found in one of Bishop Butler's Sermons: unfortunately (as I think), though Arnold was not without the traditional Oxford regard for Butler, his favourite episcopal writer was Bishop Wilson—a man of a very different stamp. 'It is

  1. The whole story is well told in Cook's 'Life of Ruskin', vol. ii, ch. I.