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The Victorian Crisis of Faith as Crisis of Vocation

  • Jeffrey von Arx

Abstract

Much of the understanding we have of the Victorian crisis of faith is shaped by the literature of conversion and reverse conversion: autobiographical accounts like Newman’s Apologia, barely concealed autobiography like Froude’s Nemesis of Faith, or novels of conversion like Mrs Humphry Ward’s Robert Elsmere. These personal or personalised accounts focus on the crisis of faith as an issue of conscience and intellectual integrity: the protagonist must ask whether it is ethical to assent to religious doctrines that one has ceased to believe. The answer, of course, in good conscience can only be no, and yet the decision to abandon the creed in which one was raised is always a process of agonised soul-searching and deeply-felt personal loss.

Keywords

National Politics Christian Belief Religious Doubt Good Conscience Early Impression 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Leslie Stephen, ‘Some Early Impressions’, National Review, 42 (1903) 214.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F.W. Maitland, The Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen (London, 1906) 146.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Leslie Stephen, Mausoleum Book, MS, 3, British Library, Add. MSS 57920; published in Sir Leslie Stephen’s Mausoleum Book, ed. Alan Bell (Oxford, 1977) 3.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Sheldon Rothblatt, The Revolution of the Dons (London, 1968).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    A.J. Engel, From Clergyman to Don (Oxford, 1983).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    ‘A Don’ [Leslie Stephen], ‘University Organisation’, Fraser’s Magazine, 77 (1868) 144.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Noël Annan, Leslie Stephen (New York, 1984) 29–34.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Anthony Russell, The Clerical Profession (London, 1980).Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    For Stephen’s own view of these controversies see his Life of Henry Fawcett (London, 1885) esp. 110–11.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    ibid., 105.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    See ibid., 102 ff., for details of Stephen’s participation in the reform of Trinity Hall in this period.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    ibid., 90, 114.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    In ‘Some Early Impressions’, Stephen recalls that while he was active with Fawcett in the cause of freeing fellowships from restrictions, ‘some people were beginning to talk about “endowment of research”’. He goes on to mention Mark Pattison’s book on ‘academical reorganisation’ and in another place (his essay ‘University Organisation’) J.R. Seeley’s essay ‘Liberal Education in the Universities’ as being characteristic products of this group. But Pattison’s book did not appear until 1868, and Seeley’s essay was published in 1867 in Essays on a Liberal Education, ed. F.W. Farrar (London, 1867).Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    W.R. Ward, Victorian Oxford (London, 1965).Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    Leslie Stephen, ‘The Religious Difficulty’, Fraser’s Magazine, NS 1 (1870) 623–34.Google Scholar
  16. 39.
    Leslie Stephen, ‘Matthew Arnold and the Church of England’, Fraser’s Magazine, NS 2 (1870) 426.Google Scholar
  17. 40.
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  18. 41.
    ibid., 162.Google Scholar
  19. 42.
    ibid., 161.Google Scholar
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    Leslie Stephen, ‘Are We Christians?’ Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking (New York, 1877) 152.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard J. Helmstadter and Bernard Lightman 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey von Arx

There are no affiliations available

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