By J. e. Luebering
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Extra info for English Literature from the 19th Century Through Today (The Britannica Guide to World Literature)
Some of the leading ideas and phrases were early put into currency in Essays in Criticism (First Series, 1865; Second Series, 1888) and Culture and Anarchy. The first essay in the 1865 volume, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” is an 58 7 The Post-Romantic and Victorian Eras 7 overture announcing briefly most of the themes he developed more fully in later work. It is at once evident that he ascribes to “criticism” a scope and importance hitherto undreamed of. ” In this critical effort, thought Arnold, England lagged behind France and Germany, and the English accordingly remained in a backwater of provinciality and complacency.
Critics disagree as to how far so worldly a novelist succeeds artistically in enlarging his view to include the religious. These novels, too, being manifestly an ambitious attempt to explore the prospects of humanity at this time, raise questions, still much debated, about the intelligence and profundity of his understanding of society. Dickens’ spirits and confidence in the future had indeed declined; 1855 was “a year of much unsettled discontent for him,” his friend Forster recalled. Thus was the case partly for political reasons or, as Forster hints, Dickens’s political indignation was exacerbated by a “discontent” that had personal origins.
Here the poet records his intimations of a life before and beyond this life. Tennyson accepted a peerage (after some hesitation) in 1884. In 1886 he published a new volume containing “Locksley Hall Sixty Years After,” consisting mainly of imprecations against modern decadence and liberalism and a retraction of the earlier poem’s belief in inevitable human progress. In 1889 Tennyson wrote the famous short poem “Crossing the Bar,” during the crossing to the Isle of Wight. In the same year he published Demeter and Other Poems, which contains the charming retrospective “To Mary Boyle,” “The Progress of Spring,” a fine lyric written much earlier and rediscovered, and “Merlin and the Gleam,” an allegorical summing-up of his poetic career.