The phrase ‘Condition of England’, first coined by Carlyle in Past and Present (1853) and used much later by the liberal statesman C. F. G. Masterman as the title of a book he published in 1909, neatly establishes the connection between Victorian Sages and Edwardian Prophets. In. a great variety of ways, especially through their concern with harmonious development and their opposition to the mechanical spirit, the modern critics of society continue the tradition created by Coleridge and the great Romantics at the beginning of the nineteenth century and carried on by the Victorian Sages, who although they may not have been capable of influencing the main course of events, provided for the age, as George Watson has suggested, ‘a counterpoint of ideas which otherwise would be lacking’. In the Edwardian Period, the centres of preoccupation remained much the same. The main objects of attack continued to be the neglect of ideas, the worship of materialism, the evil effects of industrialism, and the disintegration of the organic community. But there was change as well as continuity. The problems raised by the rapid growth of science and technology, the sudden explosion of urban population, the emergence of popular newspapers and mass advertising, the vast increase in social mobility, charted for example in Tono Bungay, gave a special urgency to later writings. One of the advantages of coming to the modern critics of society after reading some of the great nineteenth-century writers is that we are better able to see their ideas in proper historical perspective.
KeywordsBurning Europe Cage Amid Germinal
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