VICTORIAN ENGLAND THE Evangelical discipline, secularized as respectability, was the strongest binding ...
VICTORIAN ENGLAND THE Evangelical discipline, secularized as respectability, was the strongest binding force in a nation which without it might have broken up, as it had already broken loose.
For a generation and more the static conception of society' had been dissolving because society itself was dissolving. 'A nobleman, a gentleman, a yeoman,' Cromwell told one of his Parliaments, 'that is a good interest.' But the good interest was splitting into a hundred aristocracies and a hundred democracies, button-makers and gentlemen button-makers,' all heels and elbows, jostling, pushing, snubbing, presuming.
On the whole, the articulate classes, whose writings and conversation
make opinion, were gainers by the change-ithas been estimated, for example, that between 1815 and 1830 the purchasing capacity of the classes above the wage-earning level was all but doubled-and the Victorian belief in progress was bottomed on the complacency which comes of steadily rising incomes and steadily improving security. Mixed with this, no doubt, was the vulgar pride in mere quantity, the thoughtless exultation of a crowd in motion.
But no one can read for long in the literature of the thirties and forties without touching a finer and deeper pride, portentously draped in tables of trade and revenue and the publications of the Useful Knowledge Society, but glowing with the authentic sense of war and victory, man against nature, and reason against the traditions of the elders. Great things are done when men and mountains meet - To travelers descending from the moorlands, the smoke and roar of Lancashire seemed like the smoke and roar of a battle-field, and the discipline of the factories like the discipline of a great army....next page >>