[The Victorian Web derives from a body of interlinked documents on Brown University's IRIS Intermedia system, a rich hypermedia environment created in 1988, long before the World Wide Web. Mr. Caperton's essay exemplifies work written online by one of a pioneering group of students at Brown University who used it in a survey course. GPL]

Decorative Initial Both Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins address thegrowing impotency of organized religion that was present in the Victorian era. Scientific discovery, especially evolution, had found explanations of the dynamics of the universe which debunked what the church offered. This crisis is perhaps summed up best by the great controversy when Bishop Colenso published in 1862 The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Examined. This book questioned the justice of the church, which was forcing ministers to except the scripture literally. As Voltaire once said, "If God did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent him." Human beings hunger for an understanding of why things are as they are. Organized religion had simply been bested in performing that function by the natural sciences. Consequently, its popularity dropped considerably. Such an understanding had prompted Comte's philosophy of Positivism, which asserted that mankind was progressing from a point when it would rely on science for understanding instead of "superstition".

There was clearly a crisis going on. Hopkins, a Catholic priest who was asked to write by the authorities of the church, addresses it directly in "God's Grandeur". He asserts that stress or pressure creates a higher beauty in all things, especially the church. Therefore, one should worship.

It gather's to greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men now not reck his rod?

In Memoriam presents the long struggle of a man trying to make sense of a world and a God that has taken his friend. In the process the concept of typology incorporates evolutionary thought into the Christian mythos. In that way, Tennyson presents for the reader a way to hold on to traditional systems of faith without rejecting the notions that science offers.


Victorian Web Biography Victorian Religion

>Created 1989; last modified 15 April 2001
Thanks to Susan Jeffers for pointing out a broken link.