There was an unprecedented intellectual and scientific advancement during the Victorian age. It was a period of intellectual ferment, and scientific thinking. Science was democratized, and more and more scientific enthusiasts dedicated themselves to the popularization of scientific works like Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. The man of science was regarded no more an academic recluse, but as a social figure exercising a deep and profound influence on the social and educational life of the age.
In spite of the advance of science and the various scientific discoveries, the general tenor of life was still governed by religious and moral consideration. The Victorians were moralists at heart, and religion was the sheet anchor of their lives. There was a marked conflict between religion and science, between moralists and scientists, each outdoing the other, but the current of religious thought was not chilled. It was an age in which Prime Ministers raised echoes of a submerged religious vocabulary in their speeches and novels. “The Oxford Movement” represents the revival of the Roman Catholic religion and the authority of the church at a time when science was challenging the religious thought of the age.
In domestic life, the Victorian upheld the authority of parents over children. In “The Barrets of Wimpole Street”, we have a vivid picture of parental authority and the subjugation of children to the will of the head of the family. Emphasis was laid on authority and reverence for the elders. Women were relegated to a lower place. They were expected to cultivate domestic virtues, rear up children and look after home and the hearth. Women were regarded as inferior to men. Education was a closed book for most of the women and the idea of establishing women’s colleges was ridiculed by Tennyson in “The Princess”.
Order, Decorum and Decency
The Victorians laid emphasis on order, decorum and decency. To talks of duty, honour, the obligation of being a gentleman, the responsibilities of matrimony, and the sacredness of religious, belief was to be Victorians. “The Victorians”, were a poor, blind complacent people”, yet they were torn by doubt, spiritually bewildered, lost in a troubled universe. They were cross materialists, wholly absorbed in the present, quite unconcerned with abstract varieties and eternal values but they were also excessively religious, lamentably idealistic, nostalgic for the past, and ready to forego present delights for a vision of a world beyond. Despite their slavish “conformity”, their purblind respect of convention, they were “ragged individualists”, given to “doing as one likes”, needless of culture, careless of a great tradition: they were iconoclast who worshiped the idols of authority. They were besides at once sentimental humanitarians and hard-boiled exponents of free enterprise. Politically, they were governed by narrow insular prejudice, but swayed by dark imperialistic designs. Intellectually and emotionally, they believed in progress, denied original sin, and affirmed the death of the Devil; yet by temperament they were patently Manichaeans to whom living was a desperate struggle between the force of good and the power of darkness. While they professed “manliness”, they yielded to feminine standards; if they emancipated woman from age old bondage, they also robbed her of a vital place in society. Though they were sexually inhibited and even failed to consider the existence of physical love, they begot incredibly large families and flaunted in their verse a morbidly over-developed erotic sensibility. Their art constitutes a shameless record of both hypocrisy and ingeniousness, and their literature remains too purposeful propagandistic, didactive, aesthetic, with too palpable a design upon the reader; yet it is clearly so romantic, aesthetic, ‘escapist’ that it carries to posterity but a tale of little meaning. Some ages are marked as sentimental, others stand conspicuous as rational. The Victorian age was happier than most in the flow of both these currents into common stream of vigorous effective talent. New truths were welcomed in free minds and free minds make brave men