Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/21

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17
THE VICTORIAN AGE

though it was being sapped and slowly undermined. The invaders came from two very different camps—one set, in the guise of allies who claimed that their weapons were better up to date; the other set breathing open defiance, and bent upon conquest and annexation. The former arrayed themselves under the banner of Herbert Spencer, one of the notable men of the Age, who devoted himself to the things of the Intellect with a single-mindedness, and an indifference to the world, the flesh, and the devil, which recall the lives of the early Renaissance scholars. After an unconventional and fragmentary education, he began active life at the age of seventeen in the first year of the Queen's reign as a railway engineer.[1] By sheer force of intellect and character, incredible industry, magnificent intrepidity, and, one must add, colossal self-confidence, he was able, before he was forty, to conceive and draw up, in prospectus form, a scheme of Synthetic Philosophy, which for range of compass is bold to the limits of audacity, and to the working out of which he devoted all the remainder of a long and strenuous life. I will reserve anything that I have to say of him and his associates, the Evolutionists, until we come later on to a still greater name—that of Charles Darwin.

The open assault upon the fashionable cult of Mill came (as I have said) from a different camp, and had its head-quarters here in Oxford. I leave on one side (for it was a mere episode) the rather dreary dialectical campaign, in the fifties and the early sixties, over the Limits of the Knowable, in which Hamilton and

  1. 'An Autobiography,' by Herbert Spencer (Williams and Norgate, 1904).