«DEMOCRATIC AND POPULAR REPUBLIC OF ALGERIA MINISTRY OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH MENTOURI UNIVERSITY OF CONSTANTINE FACULTY OF LETTERS ...»
... the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes-the legal subordination of one sex to the other –is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor desirability on the other. (3) In addition, the expansion of services in late Victorian economy generated a need for women employment as secretaries and as office clerks, these in turn helped women to set feet in the men‟s sphere of duty. Despite the fact that respectable jobs were given to Victorian women, their conditions did not improve well and the road to emancipation still seemed impassable. However, if Victorian education did its best to keep women submissive, it was the sole responsible of the creation of self-awareness in the ranks of women. Thus, women began to seek independence and freedom from the conventional role that they had traditionally been assigned. The feminists of the Langham Place Circle of the 1860s, Jessie Boucherett, Adelaide Proctor and Emily Davies, who joined the circle in the 1860s, emphasised the importance of widening the scope of employment for women and most importantly, on education reforms and the improvement of the quality of secondary and higher education for middle class girls. The majority of the feminist during this era worked ceaselessly realise the dream of an independent and free women.
Although the nineteenth century feminist movement was exclusively a middle class one and the working class women‟s question remained untouchable, from the 1860s onwards a growing number of middle class feminists spread the idea of converting this category of downtrodden women to the religion of the movement. However, with the advance of women‟s trade unions, the working class women sought to divorce themselves from the male‟s assistance and from the heavy reliance on the middle class women. The foundation of Women‟s Trades Council in 1882 by Emma Paterson was meant to make the detachment of working class women from reliance in all its forms real and absolute.
The acquisition of higher academic degrees and the occupation of key positions in society, made women of the fin de siècle more respected and revered not only indoors, but also outdoors. At the height of the 1890s there was a lot of talk in the press of a more liberated and independent „New Woman‟. A term introduced by G.B. Shaw in The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891), to celebrate the emergence of the „Unwomanly Woman‟ who appeared more emancipated and modern in her behaviour (ibid 187-188). The „New Women‟ found expression in many novels of the fin de siècle, among them Thomas Hardy‟s Jude the Obscure, in which the heroine Sue seeks not only to free herself from male‟s domination, but also from the conventionality of Victorian marriage. Therefore, the ambitions and the beliefs of Victorian women was a source of their strong will and not that of feebleness, and never in history had the male‟s supremacy been questioned in many aspects like this one (Gourvish 208).
B. Material Progress and Optimism in the Victorian Age The technical and material achievements of the Victorian Britain, due to scientific discoveries and technological inventions, made of Queen Victoria‟s reign uniquely an era that held much promises in its gleaming progress and optimism. Hence, the Victorians did not hesitate to welcome this age with their faces smiling and with their hearts aching with faith in the Industrial Revolution and in the philosophies on which it leaned. This stemmed from the fact that, the Industrial Revolution brought new and more effective techniques and led to the improvement of the living standards, the availability of goods, and made Britain the “hub of the universe” (Thomson 100).
The coming of railways in 1830s was one of the greatest achievements of the industrial revolution and was in itself a “revolutionary symbol” (Hobsbawm 55). Railways made travelling from once remote place to another easier, and the transportation and the distribution of goods, newspapers and letters faster and securer. In so doing, railways contributed to the creation of a „national consciousness‟ by interconnecting all parts of the country to a one region with one culture and economy. Furthermore, railways encouraged tourism, put an end to regionalism and opened ways to isolated areas (Damrosch 750-751).
Thus, railways, as a symbol of progress, contributed not only to the economic boom, but also to the unification of Britain into one single region and culture. The booming industry continued to provide Victorians with more technologies, which accelerated the pace of their life and strengthened their self-confidence. Thanks to the first Atlantic steamship, the dynamism of foreign trade paved the way of businessmen to huge markets to export surplus product and import raw materials to feed local industries. The Victorian Age provided the middle class with a wide-range of equipments of modern life such as: washing and sewing machines, canned foods, skin creams, typewriters, illustrated magazines and newspapers, especially after the invention of the sun-picture, ready made clothes....etc. (ibid 572). For the ambitious middle class, the inventions of the age provided them with all means of life and expanded the horizons of their „culture of consumerism‟.
With the decline of agriculture, many peasants flocked to the cities seeking for jobs and opportunities. This, in turn, led to the growth of cities, the increase of the industrial output and the spread of racial and cultural diversity. London became the target of many immigrants and visitors coming from Europe and from different parts of the world. Despite snobbery and social paradoxes, the city of London grew not only in size, but also in the diversity of cultures and races, a typical character which allowed her to be “the capital of human race” (Harris 22).
The Victorians and especially the growing middle class, in addition to their selfless devotion to the “gospel of work” (Damrosch 569), were idiosyncratically tasteful of the revolutionary architectural styles and fashionable clothes. In architecture their houses featured distinctive styles such as: Gothic revival, Neoclassical, Egyptian and Moorish architectures. As to fashion, men and women wore stylish clothes such as: waistcoat, jacket and cravats for men, and women inside wore: crinolines, corsets and underpants (ibid 572).
The opening of the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851 was an “opening of the golden age of Victorianism” (Thomson 100). The Crystal Palace witnessed the gathering of people from different parts of the world to see the technical and scientific achievements of Britain. Consequently, Britain became the “focus of the world.” (ibid 100) and the exhibition
reflected its greatness in different aspects:
The rising merchant middle-class, the development and the triumph of liberalism, the growth of empire overseas generated a search for profits, a pride in the nation‟s power, a veneration of the respectability and a form of material pragmatism which were among the characteristics of the British genius and were symbolized in 1851by the Royal Exhibition, a
The implementation of the laissez-faire doctrine became something of a “necessary myth in the Victorian society” (Gilmour 12). Thus, “optimistic social” prophets [exorcised the government bogeyman and]1 envisioned all classes reaping the fruits of the industrial revolution” (Damrosch 571). Samuel smile, one of the worshipers and ardent defenders of the complete laissez-faire, claimed that “competition was the great social law of god” (Briggs 135). It was a belief that government must not intervene in a way to shape economy, and that businessmen who espoused this religion are obliged to know how to “paddle [their] own canoe[s]” (Mathias 355) in the vast ocean of free trade, so as not to fall in the sharp tooth of sharks2. For those who possessed an “entrepreneurial ideal” (Claeys 235) and business qualities, the Victorian Age allowed them to again profits, status and promised them with an everlasting happiness. With a combination between materialism and religion, the Victorians and especially, the middle class sought to enjoy worldly happiness trough business profits and looked for another day in paradise through churchgoing. However, by the second half of the century there emerged new attitudes towards religion, which “shocked the godly” (Porter It means they freed business from government interventions.
Those businessmen who accepted free competition had to be thrifty so as not to be driven to bankruptcy.
298), and pessimistic views on life that opened the way to “pain and sorrow [to] knock at [the Victorian] doors more loudly than pleasure and happiness” (Huxley 31).
C. Doubt and Pessimism in the Victorian Age Despite their commitment to rigid morality and to “moral Puritanism”3 (Hobsbawm 62), the Victorians were deeply affected by the doubts and uncertainties that characterised their age. For the first time in the 1840s, a minority of well prominent intellectuals began to question and doubt Christianity and dared to express their unbelief publicly. Charles Hennel‟s An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of Christianity1838 and J.A. Froude‟s The Nemesis of Faith 1849 can be taken as examples of the first intellectuals to convey doubt and “crisis of faith” 4(Gilmour 85) of the mid-Victorian period. Moreover, the origin of the Victorian “apostasy” 5(Lerner 155) can also be associated with the application of the new scientific methods to the study of the Bible, and it can also be attributed to the development of biology and geology, both of which contributed to “the discovery of the rational order which pervades the universe”(Huxley 7). The traditional and fictional character of biblical accounts of creation was turned on its head by the advance of science, which emphasized the belief in equations that are more accurate rather than in blind and orthodox beliefs in man‟s made myths. Yet it is worth mentioning that, the first generation of Victorians to feel reluctance to Christianity, or to have what Tennyson called in his elegy In Memoriam “ honest doubt”( Briat 205),did not lose faith in the optimism of their epoch. So, they endeavoured to find a new faith in the worldly religions like August Comte‟s “religion of humanity” (Gilmour 88).
More disturbing to the Victorian ethos, was the publication of The Origin of Species by Darwin in 1859. Unlike other books of the Victorian period, The Origin of Species brought The principles of Puritanism such as; hard work, thrift, religion, earnestness and so on.
The Victorians were caught between progress and regress over religious matters, that is, whether to stick to religion or to relinquish it.
The abandonment of a belief especially, religious one.
sudden and unexpected changes to the British society and came in to a “deliberate confrontation with the forces of tradition, conservatism and especially religion”( Hobsbawm 304). On one side, the book was received with too much scorn and criticism. In other side, many Victorians greeted it with a “hearty welcome” (Thornley 138) and made of it a substitute of the bible, which they no longer trust or believe in. After years spent in scientific observations and inquiries, Darwin realized that the world and the variety of the living beings within it were not the creation of a divine power, but a pure product of nature through natural
selection. He says in The Origin of Species:
When we reflect on [the struggle for existence], we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply. (129) Here Darwin stresses the idea that all the living beings are condemned to struggle for existence and that nature ensures only „the survival of the fittest‟6 and that the well-adapted are the happiest survivors. Thus, human beings, as their fellow beasts, are also included in this risky competition, and that if in the past they used to believe that they are protected by „the invisible hands of god‟, now it became a matter of struggle “in a world bereft of the guiding hands of Providence” (Moore 1).
Darwin argues that man lives in indifferent and cruel universe and that those who can not endure the struggle “the world would not hold them.”(117). Darwin went so far as to claim in his The Descent of Man published in 1871,that man is descended from apes. A position, which appointed him the worst enemy of the most enshrined beliefs of his contemporaries. As a result, Darwinism echoed in all the corners of the Victorian society, and led to the overthrow of the literal truth of genesis, God‟s Providence, the position of nature and the place of human beings as „the centre and raison d‟être of creation‟(Darwin 15).
Indeed, Darwin succeeded in hypnotising the Victorian consciousness, and turned “firm This phrase was coined by Herbert Spencer religious conviction” (Harris 37) upside down, which led to the rise of Agnosticism.