Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

the Broad Church party of the day and its leaders: Stanley, Jowett, Maurice, and the rest. Then came the magniloquent epigram, 'Man, my Lord, is a being born to believe'. And, finally, he proceeded to dispose of Darwin and his school. 'What', he asked, 'is the question now placed before Society with glib assurance the most astounding? The question is this—Is man an Ape or an Angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the Angels.'[1] There was nothing more to be said. The meeting broke up, their faith reassured, their enthusiasm unrestrained. There had been no victory so complete since 'Coxcombs vanquished Berkeley with a grin'.

It is difficult now to believe, and it had become difficult long before the curtain dropped on the Victorian Age, that the conclusions of Darwin, whether warranted or not by the evidence, should have been supposed to imperil, or even to affect, men's conceptions of the real place of Man in the hierarchy of Nature. Within the technical domain of Biology, it is possible that Darwin raised more questions than he settled. There have been in that area ever since a succession of sects and schisms which almost recall the early centuries of the Christian Church; though, happily or unhappily, the Biologists cannot summon a General Council to define the orthodox faith and to anathematize the heretics.

But in the general sphere of thought, Huxley, the purity of whose Darwinism no one could call in question, put the matter on its right footing in the Romanes

  1. Buckle's 'Life of Disraeli,' vol. iv, p. 370, sq. There is an interesting account of the scene by a non-academic eyewitness in Plowman's 'In the Days of Victoria' (John Lane, 1918), pp. 144-6.