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THE LITERATURE OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

by Hugh Walker (1910)

CHAPTER I

THE NEW AGE

1

AT the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria the English nation grew "drunk with sight of power." There were miles of warships gathered at Spithead; feudatory princes from India and representatives of free peoples ruling over territories such as had never before owned allegiance to a single flag were assembled to do homage to the aged sovereign. The newspapers whose "frantic boast and foolish word" gave utterance to the feeling of the nation, and the nation from which those newspapers took their spirit, were not without excuse. But suddenly, upon ears still ringing with the blare of trumpets and hearts still elate with the proofs of material power, there fell the voice which proclaimed the insufficiency and the evanescence of all such power:

"Far called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!"

No more masterly expression was ever given to that sense of reaction which follows upon feverish activity and exalted hope. That such reaction must come is a law of life, and it is also a law that its depth must be proportional to the exaltation which has gone before. The mightier the wave, the greater and the more desolate is the stretch of naked shingle its reflux leaves exposed. All history shows that just as a physical stimulant exacts payment in the shape of a subsequent depression, so the ...Next Page



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