Nineteenth Century Studies: Coleridge to Matthew Arnold

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The late Professor Basil Willey's important and influential inquiry into the history of religious and moral ideas in the nineteenth century has become (since its first appearance in 1949) a seminal study for all students of English literature and the history of ideas. Instead of surveying a complex nexus of ideas from a single vantage point, the author examines a shifting succession of beliefs. Religion and ethics are both the clue to those beliefs and an index of their fluctuations, and Professor Willey offers a lucid exposition and impartial evaluation of the issues raging at the heart of Victorian life: progress, original sin, enlightened self-interest and the moral imperative. Individual chapters are devoted to Coleridge, Thomas Arnold, Newman, Carlyle, Bentham, Mill, Comte, George Eliot and Matthew Arnold. Professor Willey's particular achievement is to have clarified and reanimated these controversies so as to show their continuing relevance.