Meredith, Thomson, and Swinburne, 1867–1874

  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


‘[0]ne must, I think, be struck more and more,’ Matthew Arnold mused in Culture and Anarchy (1869), ‘to find how much, in our present society, a man’s life of each day depends for its solidity and value on whether he reads during that day, and, far more still, on what he reads during it.’1 In newspapers and especially in books, a man could gain access to the intellectual currents swirling around his private experience; he could get ‘a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits’ (5). It was a ‘time for ideas,’ Arnold thought, ‘an epoch of expansion; and the essence of an epoch of expansion is a movement of ideas’ (57). Taking the pulse of his time, he traced its quickening pressure to the idea of democracy. ‘A new power has suddenly appeared,’ he wrote, a ‘new and more democratic force,’ urging its theories of government, humanity, and social relations upon members of Parliament and members of the public (43). The ‘old middle-class liberalism’ of mid-century had been replaced by the new democratic force, still so inchoate as to be ‘impossible yet to judge fully’ (43). John Morley, editor of The Fortnightly Review, also saw new, still unformed ways of thinking about democracy on the horizon, as he wrote in 1867, ‘There is in newspapers and in social conversation—which in an ordinary way is a dilution of newspaper—a great mass of shapeless, incoherent, fragmentary, vapoury ideas about democracy.’2


Republican Politics English Poetry Poetic Form Advanced Liberalism Republican Ideal 
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© Stephanie Kuduk Weiner 2005

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