Victorian Doubt In God Essay Research Paper

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Victorian Doubt In God Essay, Research Paper Victorian Doubt in God: Alfred Tennyson s In Memoriam When I first got this assignment I racked my brain for a topic that would interest me as well as something I could learn from. When I came across Alfred Lord Tennyson it sparked my interest and as I read on I decided that I would write about him. My next decision was to pick one of his poems to research. I finally chose In Memoriam I read the background on it and it interested me. In Memoriam is very long so I m only going to discuss some it. But I want to begin by discussing the Victorian Doubt in God. In Characteristics , Carlyle discusses the same doubt in God that Tennyson feels in In Memoriam, a doubt that characteristically reflects religion in England under the reign of

Queen Victoria. Carlyle doubts man s beliefs because he understands man s insignificance in the realm of things and thus wonders how any of man s answers to any questions of the world could be right. He doubts many things especially God. To Carlyle, God did not represent an answer to the problems of the world: We, the whole species of Mankind, and our whole existence and history, are but a floating speck in the illimitable ocean of the All; yet in that ocean; indissoluble portion thereof; partaking of its infinite tendencies: borne this way and that by its deep swelling tides, and grand ocean currents; of which what faintest chance is there that we should ever exhaust the significance, ascertain the goings and comings? A region of Doubt, therefore, lovers forever in the

background: in action alone can we have certainty. Nay properly doubt is the indispensable inexhaustible material whereon action works, which action has to fashion into certainty and reality; only on a canvas of darkness, such is man s way of being, could the many colored picture of our life paint itself and shine. (Norton 957-958) What made Tennyson so Victorian was his ready acceptance of the mores of his day, his willingness to conform to popular taste, to write a poetry that was easily understood and enjoyed. Partly as a result of his position as a public and nationalist figure, Tennyson was by far the most popular poet of the Victorian era. No poet was ever so completely a national poet: Henry James said in 1875 that his verse had become part of the civilization of his day.

This probably explains why literary opinion turned so sharply against him in the earlier part of the twentieth century, as we reacted against everything Victorian. In a characteristically Victorian manner, Tennyson combines a deep interest in contemporary science with an unorthodox, even idiosyncratic, Christian belief. In Memoriam, which he wrote between 1833 and 1850 contains his most important confrontations with contemporary science, particularly with geology and biology. Drawing upon Charles Lyell s Principles of Geology (1830-1833), Tennyson anticipated Darwinian conceptions of evolution and their implications, such the extinction of entire species, including man. 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 . 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. Like I said earlier In