Middlemarch and the New Humanity

  • Ruth apRoberts


In the face of some recent studies which perceive continuities from the Romantics through the Victorians to the modern, Michael Timko proposes a new view of the ‘charter’ or ‘style’ of the Victorian period as distinctively its own.1 First, as has been rather generally observed, the Victorian age marks a more evolved self-consciousness, as the first age of ‘transition’, ‘between two worlds’, and this self-consciousness lends urgency to self-definition. Second, says Timko, and this has not been so generally observed, it is an age in which epistemological concerns take precedence over metaphysical. Third, Darwinism (understood as pre-Darwinian), forces a new confrontation of nature and a redefinition of humanity in its ‘natural’ context. In the 1830s, Timko observes, Kant’s line of thought seemed to be taking hold, putting ‘Natural Theology’ in doubt, and insisting on solipsistic and cultural limits to our knowledge. Kant contrasts phenomena— données in space and time, knowable to our senses — with noumena — things in themselves such as ethics or ultimate reality, which we cannot know. Coleridge is concerned with how phenomena and noumena can be brought together. The Victorian concern is whether they can be brought together.


Ultimate Reality Natural Theology Cultural Limit Organic Filament Epistemological Concern 
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  1. 1.
    Michael Timko, ‘The Victorianism of Victorian Literature’, New Literary History, 6 (Spring, 1975) 607–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    First published 1849; Poems, ed. Kenneth Allott (London: Longmans, 1965), p. 54.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Johann Gottfried von Herder, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Leipzig, 1784).Google Scholar
  4. Translated as Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man by T. Churchill (London, 1800), p. 123.Google Scholar
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    Hillis Miller, The Form of Victorian Fiction (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), p. 5.Google Scholar
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    Middlemarch, ed. G. S. Haight (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956), 11:70.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    W.J. Harvey indentifies Casaubon’s subject as the tired old eighteenth-century idea that all pagan myth is corruption and diversification of the Genesis narrative.‘ The Intellectual Background of the Novel: Casaubon and Lydgate’, Middlemarch: Critical Approaches to The Novel (University of London: Athlone Press, 1967), pp. 25–37.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gordon S. Haight and Rosemary T. VanArsdel 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth apRoberts

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