By Sam Sackett free ebook

Both Arnold and Pater represent a response to literature which was affected by the impact of Darwinian biology on English thought, demonstrates the victory of Longinianism in the criticism of poetry, and reflects the historicism of Taine.
The immediate impact of Darwin on his contemporaries was to make them question the received interpretation of religion, for if the account of the creation in the Book of Genesis was demonstrably wrong, as it is, then the question of how much else in the Bible was capable of acceptance was re-opened as it had not been since the days of Copernicus. This earlier confrontation of science and religion, and indeed a general willingness to make religion subservient to reason by trying to find rational explanations for Biblical miracles, had led ultimately to the latitudinarianism of Archbishop Tillotson, which was still alive in the generation preceding Darwin. Arnold’s
father, Thomas Arnold, was indeed a leader in what had come to be known as the
Broad Church movement.
But for Arnold and Pater even this pale shadow of what Christianity had once been was denied by Darwin. No wonder that Arnold heard the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the Sea of Faith as it retreated “to the breath / Of the night-wind down the vast edges drear / And naked shingles of the world”; no wonder that he found that “the world, which seems / To lie before us like a land of dreams, / . . . Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, / Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain . . . .” Faced with this dreary world, in which the only certitude which could be found lay in the faith which two people found in each other – and even between them lay “The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea” – both Arnold and Pater turned to literature as a substitute for religion; their concept of literature was one which was conditioned by the Longinianism which had dominated the Western European tradition since the time of Coleridge; and they were both impressed by the historical approach of Taine.
Beginning in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the basic idea of the Greek critic Longinus – that the test of great literature was not its adherence to a predetermined set of standards but its emotional impact on the reader – had become
more and more important in English literary thought until by the early nineteenth century it was so widely accepted that it is hard to find a dissenter. In the latter half of that century the French critic Hyppolite Taine applied logical positivism to the history of
literature and gave historicism an impetus that still remains in the organization of university literature courses. Both Arnold and Pater were influenced by these developments. free ebook