20 MAY 1922, Page 20


THE Rede Lecture on The Victorian Age, delivered by the Dean of St. Paul's at Cambridge on May 9th, has been printed (Cambridge University Press, 2s. 6d. net). It will please older readers and amuse the younger generation for whom the world began in 1901. Dr. Inge's conclusion that " the Eliza- bethan and the Victorian Ages will appear to the historian of the future as the twin peaks in which English civilization culminated" is an attractive subject for debate. From the material standpoint there is much to be said for his view. We bad " a long start, industrially, over all our rivals " in Europe, and America had not yet begun to compete in manufactures. The Dean's remark that " our labour was then cheap and good, our manufacturers capable and energetic," in so far as it suggests odious comparisons with the present, is hardly justified, though it is true that the British working-man does not realize the ever- increasing intensity of the foreign competition that we have to face. On the intellectual side, the Victorian Age was fortu- nate in possessing many great men. Dr. Inge's whole-hearted admiration of Tennyson is clearly expressed :-

" His technique as a writer of verse was quite perfect : our newest poets prefer to write verses which will not even scan. He wrote beautifully about beautiful things, and among beautiful things he included beautiful conduct."

The Dean goes so far as to tell " those who are disposed to follow the present evil fashion of disparaging the great Victorians" to set up in a row the portraits of Tennyson, Darwin, Gladstone, Manning, Newman, Martineau, Lord Lawrence, Burne-Jones and others, and to " ask themselves candidly whether men of this stature are any longer among us " :—

" I will only ask you to agree with me that since the golden age of Greece (assuming that we can trust the portrait busts of the famous Greeks) no age can boast so many magnificent types of the human countenance as the reign of Queen Victoria." That is a matter of opinion ; some of us would vote for the Age of Cromwell, some for the Italian Renaissance, some for

the days when Reynolds and Gainsborough could transfigure very ordinary men and women by their skill with the brush. The Dean's enthusiasm is none the less attractive. All we would say is that one may admire the Victorians, who lived in peace, paid low taxes and had no telephones, without necessarily despairing of our sorely-tried Georgians, who have borne a war and the troublesome aftermath of war with commendable equanimity.