Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-8cclj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-28T20:42:23.483Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Who still has ‘sweetness and light’ in studies of Victorian culture and politics?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Mark Francis
Magdalen College, Oxford


Image of the first page of this content. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.'
Historiographigal Review
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Gombrich, E. H., Ideals and idols, essays on values in history and in art (London, 1979), p. 25.Google Scholar

2 Anthony, Kenny, Victorian values, ed. Smout, T. C., published for The British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 219.Google Scholar

3 Patrick, Scott, ‘English studies and the cultural construction of nationality: the Newbolt report examined’, Culture and education in Victorian England, Bucknell Review, edited by Patrick, Scott and Pauline, Fletcher, London, Associated University Presses, 1990, pp. 224–30Google Scholar. The Newbolt report received considerable attention during the 1980s. See, for example, Chris, Baldick, The social mission of English criticism, 1848–1932 (Oxford, 1983)Google Scholar, and Terry, Eagleton, Literary theory: an introduction (Oxford, 1983).Google Scholar

4 Nicholson, Peter P., The political philosophy of the British idealists, selected studies (Cambridge, 1990), p. 10.Google Scholar

5 Frank, Turner, ‘The Victorian crisis of faith and the faith that was lost’, Victorian faith in crisis, essays on continuity and change in nineteenth-century religious beliefs, eds. Helmstadter, Richard J. and Bernard, Lightman (London, 1990), p. 11.Google Scholar

6 Patrick, Brantlinger, ‘How Oliver Twist learned to read, and what he read’, in Culture and education in Victorian England (eds. Scott, and Fletcher, ), p. 72.Google Scholar

7 Reed, John R., ‘Learning to punish: Victorian children's literature’, in Culture and education in Victorian England (eds. Scott, and Fletcher, ), p. 103.Google Scholar

8 Judith, Stoddart, ‘The formation of the working classes: John Ruskin's “Fors Clavigera” as a manual of cultural literacy’ in Culture and education in Victorian England (eds. Scott, and Fletcher, ), pp. 4950.Google Scholar

9 John, Ruskin, Praeterita (London, 1949), p. 5.Google Scholar

10 There is a dissident thesis about liberalism given by John Robertson which takes Adam Smith's Wealth of nations, stripped of any accompanying legal or moral philosophy, as the canonical text for Victorian liberalism. This thesis is that Smith's government had a primary task to protect itself against the anti-social order of the capitalist order. ‘The legacy of Adam Smith: government and economic development in the Wealth of nations’, in Victorian liberalism, nineteenth-century political thought and practice, ed. Richard, Bellamy (London, 1990), pp. 21–2 and 35.Google Scholar

11 Mary, Poovey, Making a social body, British cultural formation, 1830–1864 (Chicago, 1995), pp. 31–2.Google Scholar

12 Ibid. p. 99.

13 Ibid. p. 33.

14 As John, Robertson (in Victorian liberalism (ed. Bellamy, R.), pp. 1820)Google Scholar had argued that Duncan Forbes, Donald Winch and Knud Haakonssen have over-emphasized the importance of natural jurisprudence for Smith. Whether or not this is judicious, Robertson is in a strong position when he adds that Victorian readers of The wealth of nations were ignorant of its philosophical context.

15 Matthew, Arnold, Culture and anarchy, ed. Super, R. H. (Ann Arbor, 1965), p. 88.Google Scholar

16 Ibid. p. 93.

17 Ibid. p. 131.

18 Marc, Demarest, ‘Arnold and Taylor: The codification and appropriation of culture’, in Culture and education in Victorian England (eds. Scott, and Fletcher, ), p. 31Google Scholar. In hammering home his charge that Arnold's culture was a transcendent one, Demarest rouses historical echoes of Matthew Arnold's earlier critics who accused him of transcendalism. (See Super's, R. H. notes to Culture and anarchy, p. 363.)Google Scholar

19 Matthew, Arnold, Culture and anarchy, p. 192.Google Scholar

20 A detailed analysis of Arnold's rhetorical techniques can be found in Chris, Baldick'sThe social mission of English criticism, 1848–1932 (Oxford, 1983), pp. 1842.Google Scholar

21 This point was suggested by George, Levine's ‘Scientific discourse as an alternative to faith’, Victorian faith in crisis, pp. 240–1.Google Scholar

22 Mill, John Stuart, ‘Civilization’, Essays on politics and society, collected works of John Stuart Mill, XVIII (Toronto, 1977), 119.Google Scholar

23 Biancamaria, Fontana, ‘Whigs and Liberals: the Edinburgh Review and the “liberal movement” in nineteenth-century Britain’, in Bellamy, , ed. Victorian liberalism, p. 51.Google Scholar

24 Mill, John Stuart, A system of logic, collected works of John Stuart Mill, VIII (1974), 890–2.Google Scholar

25 Mill, John Stuart, On liberty and other essays, ed. John, Gray (Oxford, 1991), p. 66.Google Scholar

26 Mill, John Stuart, Essays on politics and society, collected works of John Stuart Mill, XIX (1977), 374–5.Google Scholar

27 Fontana, , ‘Whigs and Liberals’, p. 49.Google Scholar

28 Thomas, Carlyle, On heroes, hero-worship on the heroic in history, Thomas Carlyle's works, IV (1905).Google Scholar

29 Michael, Timko, ‘Thomas Carlyle and Victorian culture’, in Culture and education in Victorian England (eds. Scott, and Fletcher, ), p. 23.Google Scholar

30 Ibid. p. 19.

31 Richard, Bellamy, ‘T. H. Green and the morality of Victorian liberalism’, Victorian liberalism, p. 132.Google Scholar

32 Ibid. p. 134.

33 To say ‘she or he’ is to raise the issue that in the Victorian period, ‘she’ was an individual for writers such as J. S. Mill, but not for others such as Carlyle.

34 Stefan, Collini, Public moralists, political thought and intellectual life in Britain, 1850–1930 (Oxford, 1991), pp. 56–8.Google Scholar

35 Ibid. p. 3. Also see p. 56.

36 Ibid. p. 4.

38 Ibid. p. 63. See Michael, Freeden'sPolitical concepts and ideological morphology’, Journal of Political Philosophy, II.2 (1994), 140–64Google Scholar. Freeden attempts to reconcile the disparate descriptive and normative studies by historians and political philosophers. He also has a forthcoming book on ideology.

39 Collini is suspicious of the motives of some modern literary critics who dwell at length upon the literature they profess to despise. Public moralists, p. 372.

40 Collini's, analysis (Public moralists, pp. 3549)Google Scholar of the salary levels of leading Victorian minds is, as he himself remarks, only suggestive. He does not analyse the income of writers and academics who were not members of elite institutions such as the Athenaeum. This means that while the figures are interesting they cannot be correlated with productivity, political opinions, or even greed. For example, the well-known grasping pluralism of H. S. Maine, who died leaving £46,000, is not compared to other heads of Oxbridge colleges nor to others who pushed themselves forward for lucrative positions such as a seat on the India Council.

41 Matthew, Arnold, ‘The function of criticism’, Lectures and essays in criticism, ed. Super, R. H. (Ann Arbor, 1962), p. 271.Google Scholar

42 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 58.Google Scholar

43 Ibid. p. 65.

44 Ibid. pp. 63, 98.

45 Ward, W. R., ‘Faith and fallacy: English and German perspectives in the nineteenth century’, Victorian faith in crisis, pp. 5960.Google Scholar

46 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 189.Google Scholar

47 Turner, Frank M., Contesting cultural authority, essays in Victorian cultural life (Cambridge, 1993), p. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

48 Collini, , Public moralists, pp. 45, 247–50.Google Scholar

49 Collini's own Arnold is complex. He hints that he is unenthusiastic and not one of Arnold's ‘most devoted champions’, but slyly ends his conclusion on the Arnoldian legacy with a fragment of poetry suggesting that ‘[His] battle is ours too’ [Stefan, Collini, Matthew Arnold, a critical portrait (Oxford, 1994), p. 119].Google Scholar

50 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 372.Google Scholar

51 Ibid. p. 220, n. 57.

52 Ibid. p. 203.

53 Ibid. p. 247.

54 Turner, , Contesting cultural authority, pp. 175–8, 201, 262–83Google Scholar. George Levine offers a critical perspective on Turner's views (‘Scientific discourse as an alternative to faith’, Victorian faith in crisis, p. 237).Google Scholar

55 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 255.Google Scholar

56 Collini is extremely conscious about the problems of the historiography of Mill, especially when it comes to the efforts of conventional historians of political thought (ibid. p. 329).

57 Mill, John Stuart, Essays on quality, law and education, collected works of John Stuart Mill, XXI (1984).Google Scholar

58 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 128.Google Scholar

59 Byatt, A. S., Passions of the mind, selected writings (London, 1991), p. 15.Google Scholar

60 Christopher, Harvie, The lights of liberalism: university liberals and the challenge of democracy, 1860–86 (1976).Google Scholar

61 Collini, , Public moralists, p. 129.Google Scholar

62 However, Nicholson does offer convincing reasons for sharing Collini's concern that modern scholars have often overlooked the political dimensions of Victorian morality.

63 Christopher, Harvie, ‘Gladstonianism, the provinces, and popular political culture’, Victorian liberalism, p. 156.Google Scholar

64 Nicholson, , The political philosophy of the British idealists, pp. 108–9.Google Scholar

65 One of the few weaknesses in Nicholson's work is his attempt to re-start the nineteenth-century debate on whether the British Idealists were Hegelian. To suggest that, despite their own disclaimers, they were Hegelian does not produce helpful discussion. Bradley, in particular, is obscured by this claim. The chief reason for rescuing Bradley from this presumed association with Hegel is that the latter despised the vulgar for thinking abstractly, while the former built his moral philosophy upon what the vulgar thought.

66 Ibid. p. 25.

67 Ibid. p. 16.

68 Ibid. p. 216.

69 Bosanquet was accused by contemporaries such as L. T. Hobhouse of recommending despotism. However, Nicholson clears him of this charge and attempts to reinstate him in his rightful place as a liberal whose theoretical politics rested upon an individual who was integrated into his culture. This claim has to be taken with some care, because, while it is true that his idealist theory could lend itself to a liberal notion of self-development, in some of the public debates of the late nineteenth century Bosanquet seemed to be allied with views on character and morals which were then made common among contemporary conservatives than liberals.

70 Ibid. p. 199.

71 Ibid. pp. 60–1.

72 Ibid. p. 63.

73 Ibid. pp. 111–15.

74 Ibid. p. 130.

75 Mill's greatest influence on Hayek was in his refusal to construct a philosophical system. Like Mill, Hayek felt relaxed with the fact that inconsistencies might exist between philosophical discourses on different subjects. In the area of politics, Hayek was more critical of Mill. In his 1973 article on liberalism he berated the later Mill for turning away from the path of English liberalism.