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THE LITERATURE OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

by Hugh Walker (1910)

20

Previous Page  ...Middle Ages. He was himself innocent enough of Popery, and would have been more astonished at the charge of Romanising than he probably was when Thomas McCrie denounced him for his picture of the Scottish Covenanters in Old Mortality. And yet we have testimony to his Romanising influence on the one side from Cardinal Newman, and on the other from that champion of Protestantism, George Borrow. The former in the Apologia notes the effect Scott's novels had in promoting in him a Catholic frame of mind; and the latter in the appendix to The Romany Rye denounces Scott as the man who had brought back to life again Jacobitism and Laudism and Popery. All were dead and buried, in the "home of lost causes" as elsewhere through England, till he called them from their graves. The so-called Oxford Movement, therefore, according to Borrow, was really a movement originating in the Waverley Novels. Carlyle, for his part, traces "spectral Puseyisms" to Coleridge; while others have suspected that Carlyle himself was not wholly unconnected with such phenomena. If he wished to keep his hands perfectly clean, he ought to have had no dealings with Novalis. Scornful as he was of Puseyism, where he insists that we go from mystery to mystery, that the age of miracle is not past, but that on the contrary there is miracle all around us, he is just giving expression, in his own language, to that which Puseyites were trying to express in theirs. There may be the widest possible difference in the degree of intellectual truth contained in the two forms of expression, but the kinship is none the less real. Both Carlyle and the Puseyites were in revolt against the reign of the logical understanding.

All these genealogies are instructive so long as they are taken only to indicate an affinity, but if they are pressed too far they become misleading. Notwithstanding Borrow, it is desirable still to treat the English phase of the reaction as the Oxford Movement, and to regard it, not as the effect of any single cause, but as one manifestation of a change in the human spirit so wide in its range that we might well ask where its influence is not to be found. We call it romance, and for the last hundred years romance has been everywhere. For example, the Manxman, ...Next Page




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