victorian era_matthew arnold

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The Victorian Era

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The Victorian Era 1832 (Passage of Reform Bill) or 1837 (Accession of Queen Victoria) 1901 (death of Queen Victoria) Early Victorian (to 1848); Mid-Victorian (1848-1870); Late Victorian (1870-1901) - major reorganization in social, political, industrial, economic, religious, and intellectual spheres (the literal and metaphorical landscape—the “way of seeing”—was changed drastically) – e.g. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published in 1859 Dido building Carthage; or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire 1815 Sunrise with Sea Monsters c. 1845 JMW Turner (1775-1851)

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Borough Patron MPs Houses in Borough Voters in 1831 Bramber Duke of Rutland 2 35 20 Callington Lord Clinton 2 225 42 Dunwich Lord Huntingfield 2 44 32 East Looe John Buller 2 167 38 Gatton Sir Mark Wood 2 23 7 Old Sarum Earl of Caledon 2 3 11 Newtown Sir Fitzwilliam Barrington 2 14 23 Plympton Earle Earl of Mount Edgcumbe 2 182 40 1832 Reform Act – changed the electorate in two crucial aspects - elimination of “rotten boroughs” – areas of low population that retained voting rights in House of Parliament (could easily be controlled by a single “patron” due to low population and lack of secret ballot) - plan to give newly booming industrial towns like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds representation in the House of Commons where they formerly had none (unlike the rotten boroughs)

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However, voting rights were still limited to property owning males (men whose property was valued at a minimum of £10) roughly 1 in 7 males had the right to vote (though the next Reform Act, in 1867, would add some 1 million voters – those even further down the economic scale – to the electorate....) Queen Victoria – 1837-1901 - ironically (?) Victoria did not support female suffrage, writing in 1870, "let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations.“ how unthinkable? ......women could not vote in federal elections in the U.S. until 1920 [ ] Queen of Great Britain…..Empress of India

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The Victorian Era - it was not necessarily the social/political/intellectual changes themselves that were alarming, it was the speed at which they could happen (and their seeming unalterability and inevitability) - what was the new status of the “self”? - could the Wordsworthian turn to a “restorative” nature function to recoup/re-unite the “self” with the “world”? (Did the world become “too much with” humanity? What was Wordsworth’s response in his 1835 sonnet, “Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways”? next slide) - industrialization (mechanization speeds production); enclosure forces agrarian populations into cities; urbanization tries to accommodate them; the middle class expands; consider the new urban landscape

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COMPOSED OR SUGGESTED DURING A TOUR IN THE SUMMER OF 1833 Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways MOTIONS and Means, on land and sea at war With old poetic feeling, not for this, Shall ye, by Poets even, be judged amiss! Nor shall your presence, howsoe'er it mar The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar To the Mind's gaining that prophetic sense Of future change, that point of vision, whence May be discovered what in soul ye are. In spite of all that beauty may disown In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace Her lawful offspring in Man's art; and Time, Pleased with your triumphs o'er his brother Space, Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime. Punch 5 February 1876 Ruskin in protest of railway extension into the Lake District.

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- as early as the 17 th century, Thomas Hobbes sees what he calls “the war of all against all” or the “war of every man against every man”; man as a purely selfish creature driven to provide for himself alone ( Leviathan , 1651 – “leviathan” suggests an external power capable of controlling this “war” – the populace enters into a social contract with a – necessarily ? – tyrannical ruler/ruling class which is “Leviathan”) - later political economists must reconcile this “war” with nascent industrialization (often conflated with “progress”); how to provide for a “community” if each individual is concerned for their own well-being alone (an idea of individualism that capitalism depends upon)

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Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776): “Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it [...] He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention . Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” Smith: “Nobody but a beggar chuses [sic] to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens.” (but cf. Genesis iv. 9 “...Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Cain to God) War of all against all reaches breaking point in Victorian period, leading to question about the status of ethics, morality, community, the environment……? The social cost of a light bulb 

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“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. ” - $3.49 $0.75 Which “costs” more? Connect to Arnold’s assertion that liberty – doing as one likes – must be conditioned by reason. (i.e. “reasonably,” we should consider social cost)

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“What the capitalist system demanded was... a degraded and almost servile condition of the mass of the people, the transformation of them into mercenaries , and of their means of labor into capital.” – Marx and Engels, Capital , vol.1 (1867) - i.e. - “the war of all against all” (Hobbes) - note Matthew Arnold’s response to the degraded condition of humanity in Culture and Anarchy Factory life cf. Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children”

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Culture and Anarchy (1869) - appeals to “right reason” as that which would lead to each individual’s “best self” (note the Romantic ideal of the infinitely perfectible human being/spirit: Godwin  Wordsworth ) - education (or “total perfection”) through exposure to “the best which hath been thought and said in the world” - a balance of “scientific passion” and “social passion” (or Hellenism and Hebraism) would counter the purely “mechanical” – i.e. that which was done for its own sake, as an end in itself - the final ideal balance of “sweetness” (beauty) and “light” (intelligence) – and these could operate outside of class interests Arnold’s great fear? 

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The Victorian Era - positivism – the belief that all knowledge must come through empirical (what William Blake called “Newtonian”) deduction; i.e. “fact” from experiment - Higher Criticism – strategies for biblical interpretation that treated the bible as an historical and literary document; argued for the bible as a collection of myths - the bible was historical (i.e. subject to history; derived from textual sources; employed literary techniques) - it was not to be taken as an accurate historical record - the bible was not the inspired word of God and therefore not a source for incontrovertible truth - “the woman question” – the public, social struggle for women’s rights; note the frequency with which women authors struggle with voice and identity (in “Cry of the Children” Browning “speaks for” the poor and the disenfranchised; in Aurora Leigh , the main character is a woman poet)

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