Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

Great advances have been made during this reign in English art and art-criticism, and more particularly
in the extension of real artistic education to classes of the community who could hardly attain it before,

though it was perhaps more essential to them than to the wealthy and leisurely who had previously

monopolised it. The multiplication of Schools of Design over the country, intended to promote the

tasteful efficiency of those engaged in textile manufactures and in our decorative and constructive art

generally, is one remarkable feature of the time, and the sedulous cultivation of music by members of all

classes of society is another, hardly less hopeful. In all these efforts for the benefit and elevation of the

community the Prince Consort took deep and active interest, and the royal family themselves, from Her

Majesty downwards, highly cultured and accomplished, have not failed to act in the same spirit. But the

history of English nineteenth-century art would be incomplete indeed without reference to two powerful

influences - the rise and progress of the new art of photography, which has singularly affected other

branches of graphic work; and the career, hitherto unexampled in our land, of the greatest art-critic of

this, perhaps of any, age - John Ruskin, the most eminent also of the many writers and thinkers who have

been swayed by the magic spell of Carlyle, whose fierce and fervid genius, for good or for evil, told so

strongly on his contemporaries. Ruskin is yet more deeply imbued with his master's philosophy than

those other gifted and widely influential teachers, Maurice and Kingsley; and yet perhaps he is more

strongly and sturdily independent in his individuality than either, while the unmatched English of his

prose style differs not less widely from the rugged strength of Carlyle than from the mystical involution

of Maurice and the vehement and, as it were, breathless, yet vivid and poetic, utterance of Kingsley.

When every defect has been admitted that is chargeable against one or all of this group of sincere and

stalwart workers, it must be allowed that their power on their countrymen has been largely wielded for

good. Particularly is this the case with Ruskin, whose influence has reached and ennobled many a life

that, from pressure of sordid circumstances, was in great need of such help as his spirituality of tone, and

deeply felt reverential belief in the Giver of all good and Maker of all beauty, could afford.

We have preferred not to dwell on one department of literature which, like every other, has received
great additions during our period - that of religious controversy. A large portion of such literature is in its

very nature ephemeral; and some of the disputes which have engaged the energies even of our greatest

masters in dialectics have not been in themselves of supreme importance; but many points of doctrine

and discipline have been violently canvassed among professing Christians, and attacks of long-sustained

vigour and virulence have been made on almost every leading article of the Christian creed by the

avowed enemies or the only half-hostile critics of the Church, which the champions of Scripture truth

have not been backward to repel. Amid all this confusion and strife of assault and resistance one thing

stands out clearly: Christianity and its progress are more interesting to the national mind than ever

before. It has been well, too, that through all those fifty years a large-minded and fervent but most

unobtrusive and practical piety has been enthroned in the highest places of the land - a piety which will

escape the condemnation of the King when He shall come in His glory, and say to many false followers,

"I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger,

and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not."

These dread words are not for those who have cared as our Sovereign Lady and her beloved ones have
cared for the sick and the suffering and the sad; who have bound up the heart-wounds of the widow and

the orphan and ministered to their earthly needs; who, like our lost Princess Alice and her royal elder

sister, have tended the victims of war, shrinking from no ghastliness or repulsiveness, no horrors of the

hospital where victor and vanquished lay moaning in common misery; or, like their queenly mother, have

shed the sunshine of royal smiles and soothing words and helpful alms upon the obscurer but hardly less

 

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