It would be impossible to conclude the story of England's Nineteenth Century without saying something about its literature, its art, and its science. It would be impossible also, in the space at our command to attempt anything like an adequate exposition of such a subject. The literature of the century may be divided into two great portions, that which belonged to its opening years, and that which belongs to the reign of Queen Victoria. All that we value of Sir Walter Scott and of Jane Austen came after the opening of the century. The same may be said of Byron, of Shelley, of Wordsworth, and of Keats. Perhaps not quite the same is to be said of Coleridge, "the rapt one with the godlike forehead, the heaven-eyed creature," as Wordsworth called him; or of Southey; but the most that we value in both writers and in Crabbe makes part of the century's history. Lamb, " the frolic and the gentle," to use Wordsworth's language again, began early in the century and has been seen by men still living. Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, had done his work before the Queen offered him the place of Poet Laureate on Wordsworth's death. English poetry holds no higher names than those of Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. In later days we have had Tennyson, Robert Browning, Mrs. Browning, Thomas Hood, Sir Henry Taylor, Philip James Bailey, Matthew Arnold, Dante Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Swinburne, Lord Lytton, Walter Savage Landor, " Owen Meredith," Austin Dobson, William Allingham, Clarence Mangan, and many younger poets, who have not yet perhaps quite given their measure. After the days of Walter Scott, the literature of fiction came for awhile to a pause. It seemed as if fiction were waiting for a fresh breath of life, or were seeking for a new direction. The age contented itself for a season with such reflections of Walter Scott as were found in the now forgotten romances of G. P. R. James - James of the " solitary horseman."
Then came Bulwer-Lytton's novels of fashion, sentiment, politics and highwaymen, and some of Disraeli's brilliant studies from parliamentary life and political action. At last the new breath came into fiction when Dickens told of the middle classes and the poor, and Thackeray pictured the life of the West-end and society. As Mr. George Gissing says in his remarkable study of Dickens : " Thackeray and Dickens supplement each other, and, however wide apart the lives they depict, to a striking degree confirm each other's views of a certain era in the history of England. These two men, each a master and without a rival in his own field, created the fiction of Queen Victoria's reign, and were followed by numberless imitators, until imitation in each path grew fainter and feebler, and at last left no footprint behind." The novels of Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Mrs. Gaskell sought and found new fields of life-study and are destined to an enduring name in literature. Charles Kingsley, Captain Marryat, Whyte Melville, Anthony Trollope, Charles Reade, Wilkie Collins, R. L. Stevenson, and William Black, each won for himself - in his own sphere - a distinctive place; and so, too, did the dashing author of " Charles O'Malley," the brilliant and popular Irish story-teller, Charles Lever. We purposely abstain from any attempt to chronicle the names of living writers whose very names would make a lengthened catalogue, even if it were only to enclose a list of those who showed genuine reality and merit. We must, however, mention such novelists as George Meredith, Blackmore, Thomas Hardy, George Gissing, and Rudyard Kipling. We have had all sorts of novels; the novel of sensation, the novel of scenery, the novels of town life and country life, the psychical novels, the novels with a purpose, the novels with a problem; and in later days some successful attempts to revive the story of adventure by sea and land.
Among the historians and biographers of the century we have to reckon Hallam, Grote, Carlyle, Macaulay, the elder Mill, Freeman, Froude, J. R. Green, Stubbs, Gardiner, Kaye, Malleson, Lecky, Bryce, and John Morley. Among essayists, Sydney Smith, Charles Lamb, and again Macaulay and Ruskin, and again Stevenson, still stand unrivalled. Science, mental, economic, and physical, can boast the names of writers like Richard Owen, Charles Darwin, Huxley and Tyndall, Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Whately and Herbert Spencer, to select a few of the better known names. In painting, the early part of the century claims such masters as Constable and Wilkie, Turner, Mulready, Etty and Maclise; while the reign of Queen Victoria enjoys the fame of Fastlake, Millais, Leighton, Ford Madox Brown, Watts, Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt, and Dante Rossetti. Nor must we forget to speak of the new work of illustrative art which was developed to enrich and illumine the kindly satire of genial Mr. Punch, and the names of such men as John Leech, Tenniel, and George Du Maurier. We have had great sculptors too - -Chantrey, the two Westmacotts father and son, Boehm, Woolner, the poet sculptor, Gibson, Onslow Ford, and Foley, of whom it was well said that he would have been accounted a great sculptor even among the Greeks of the classic days. In art it should be said there is no such thing as steady progress, or, indeed, progress that can be measured at all. Science expands her domain year by year, and will go on making new discoveries and finding fresh fields of labour for ever. But Art makes herself manifest by fits and starts, and has her periods of action and reaction. The world sees no advance upon Homer, and Sophocles, and Dank-, and Shakespeare; will see no advance on Goethe and Shelley, or, to come later still, on Tennyson and Browning. In dramatic art the century cannot indeed boast any great comedies like those of Sheridan and Goldsmith, but during the latter part of the century there has been a very healthy reaction against a practice which had for many years been reducing the English stage to a mere medium for reproductions from the French.
Thomas William Robertson revived the natural and wholesome practice of seeking for the materials of English drama in English life, and the revival has been steadily maintained by Mr. Arthur W. Pinero, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, and others. On the stage itself the century saw the whole success of Edmund Kean, and later it had Macready, Phelps, Charles Kean, Ellen Tree, Helen Faucit, and many other brilliant actors and actresses. In our own time we have men like Henry Irving, Charles Wyndham, Beerbohm Tree, J. L. Toole, and Johnston Forbes-Robertson and many others; women like Ellen Terry, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and many others too. The best that can be said for the art of England's Nineteenth Century is that it has fairly held its own, that it has made its mark on the world, and that, so long as England's Augustan age is remembered and written about, the age of Victoria will be recorded with honour. But if the work of the artist cannot be expected to make progress, we at least have a right to say that the number of readers and of admirers, the number of men and women who love to read books and look upon statues and pictures, is growing by leaps and bounds. Education has spread itself in England in a manner which would have seemed incredible, had he been foretold of its growth, to Brougham when he was promoting the " Penny Cyclopaedia for the diffusion of useful knowledge,' and when he proudly boasted that " The schoolmaster is abroad." The real growth of popular education may be said to be the chief pride of the Victorian age. The whole history of the Nineteenth Century, as we have endeavoured to trace it, is one of growth. We have shown how reform succeeded reform, how time-dishonoured anomalies and iniquities of legislation have been abolished, how the laws that made men poor and kept them poor, that made freedom to enjoy life only the monopoly of the class, and left the poorer citizen to be a mere toiler in suffering and the dark, have been gradually changed and obliterated by a legislation of freedom - a legislation which cannot, indeed, bring about absolute social equality and strives after no such idle and futile object; but a legislation which aims at setting every one free to make the very best of his own conditions of life, to develop his intelligence, and to add by honest endeavour to his own daily comfort and happiness. The great Italian statesman, Count Cavour, once said that the happiness or the misery of a people was all only a question of good or bad government - that is to say, of good or bad legislation. That was a generous and exalted utterance; but, of course, we must not take it by its literal meaning. What it meant in spirit and in sense was, that bad legislation can go far to thwart the most splendid gifts of climate and of soil, and of physical manhood. " Only in law," said Goethe, " can the spirit of man be free;" but the law must deal equally, as far as it can, with those who are to be endowed with that spirit of freedom. The story of England's Nineteenth Century will be read with little intelligence indeed if it be not read with that understanding and that appreciation. It is the story of a struggle towards the light, a struggle impeded by many obstacles and broken by many disasters, and with much sad confusion and temporary reaction now and then, but still a struggle towards the light. If such be, on the whole, the record and the lesson of the century now drawing to a close, it may be fairly said that it could not have a nobler epitaph.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 1828-1882.
Lord Kelvin. 1824.