“There of rapid scientific and industrial progress or the

lives more faith in honest doubt,

me, than in half the creeds.”

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( In Memoriam, Section:
XCVI, Line : 3374-3375)



As a consequence of rapid
scientific and industrial progress or the theories of Evolution and Communism,
Victorian people and of course the literary writers are consigned to reach the
acme of religious confusion or spiritual loss or conflict between faith and
doubt. It is an admitted fact that the Victorian people and writers are divided
into two idealistic worlds. So if one group goes in the favor of faith or
religion, the other is of course in the favor of doubt. So conflict in
ideologies is a must. As much ink is spilled over writing or enough debate is
tabled regarding this very issue, the topic conflict between faith and doubt or
science and religious places in the different sorts of Victorian literary
devices especially in the Victorian poetry as “Poetry is the criticism of
life.”6 This is because, Hugh Walker comments; ‘it is curious that in the
year 1850 both Tennyson and Browning produced poems in which the religious
elements is more prominent that it is in anything they had previously written.”
7 Needless to say hundreds of books like ”History of the Conflict between
Religion and Science” (1875), Origin of Species (1859) and” The Warfare of
Science with Theology in Christendom (1876) by John Draper, Andrew  Whites and Charles Darwin respectively are
written on this conflict . This is why, being the Children  of the time. Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning,
Alfred Tennyson and Cristina Rosette’s poetry started concerning  with this very conflict and of course it
becomes the mirror on which Victorian faith and doubt are clearly reflected. To
lament on the loss of faith, Matthew Arnold “who chastises and instructs the
reader on contemporary  social
issues,”8 says in his poem :


“The Sea of Faith 

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore 

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. 

But now I only hear 

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, 

Retreating, to the breath 

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear 

And naked shingles of the world”.


(Dover Beach, Line: 21- 28 )


In these quoted lines, making
an explicit comparison between Victorian religious faith and sea, Arnold, in
truth, laments over the transition from the age of faith into the age of
skepticism, uncertainty or turbulence. The sea of faith, to Arnold, was full in
past. It had flown with great energy and left it vigorous waves on the sea
shore. But now the poet hears the melancholic sounds of withdrawing waves. More
clearly, religious faith of the Victorian people is replaced by agnostic,
atheistic or skeptic thoughts.

Again, Matthew Arnold
explicates the religious doubt or spiritual loss of modern man of Victorian age
in his poem. As he states:


“……this strange disease of
modern man,

With its sick hurry, its
divided aims

heads o’ertaxed, its palsied hearts,”

(The Scholar-Gipsy, Line:



This disease, actually,
indicates the religious or spiritual bareness and the victory of the
irreligious or doubtful thoughts or immoral actions. Which is why, the poet
instruments the Scholar Gipsy to escape from the world in which doubt and
immorality prevails over faith and spirituality.


Likewise, Alfred Lord
Tennyson considered to be one of the most well-liked British poets during more
of Queen Victorian period 9 questions faith in God, in nature and even in
scientific without any hesitancy in his poetry. In the truest sense of the
term, we observe that Tennyson  possesses
mixed feeling about scientific progress. This is why Tennyson acknowledged 

evolution as progress and
concerned about this conflict with the Christian scripture theory of creation
like most of the Victorian people whose faith is being tempted by Charles
Darwin’s  theory of Natural Selection. In
this connection, Tennyson sometimes goes in the favors of religion and same
times is in the  favor of doubt or  religion. He is, actually, in between. This
is because, Tennyson exposes his sufferings 
from the conflict  of faith and
doubt in his poetry. In the poems ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ “and ‘Locksley Hall’ the
speakers are wild to abandon modern society and return to a savage lifestyle in
the jungle. In the poem, ‘In Memoriam’ the Victorian poet concerns with this
idea saying

“We have but faith we cannot

 For knowledge,…”

( In Memoriam: Line: 21-22)

  But in every poems Tennyson seems to arrive
at the conclusion that we should have faith in scientific progression  and of course in our religion .He is ,in
fact, reluctant to reject belief and to accept knowledge as the path of
solution for the Victorian crisis of faith. In truth, he is keen  to reconcile Victorian belief with knowledge.
So it can be noted that Tennyson wants to solve the problem originated  from the Victorian conflicts of faith and
doubt  reconciling his faith with
knowledge. In a similar manner the Victorian crisis of faith and doubt has been
clearly appeared in the poetry of Elizabeth 
Barret Browning, one of the most prominent of the Victorian poets.  Her very poem ‘The Cry of the Children’ speaks
about the suffering and faithlessness of the Victorian people through child
labor. Even though Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘Dover Beach’  discusses the Victorian crisis of faith from
the spiritual point of view. Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem ‘The Cry of the
Children’ concerns with this very issue from practical point of view. Children
ask help to God but he doesn’t pay need to them.


“Is it likely God, with any
around Him,

Hears our weeping anymore”

( Line: 227-228 )

But this scene is somewhat
different for the dead girl. She looks happier because she is now out the
industrially developed Victorian society. And she has not to been compelled to
do lot of works in mills and factories around fourteen to fifteen hours with
little wages. In truth, the children symbolizes the  working class people, the worst sufferers of
the Victorian society. This industrial unscrupulous  society is established through the blood and
sweat of the working classes people. Truly, the children are innocent but they
are forced to go against the God. As the poem states:

“How long,” they say, “how long, O cruel

   Will you stand, to move the world, on a
child’s heart, — 

                          (‘The Cry of the
Children’: Stanza: xiii, Line : 33-34)

This is because, the faith of
Victorian children declines. Again the poet says:

“But, no !”
say the children, weeping faster, 

He is speechless as a stone ;…..

Do not mock us ; grief
has made us unbelieving — 

look up for God, but tears have made us blind.” 

Do ye hear the children
weeping and disproving,” 

          (‘The Cry of the Children’: Stanza: xi, Line :
125-126 &131-133)


Here, we are not considering all
Victorian people to be atheist. Because loss of faith doesn’t mean
atheism.  It, to us, means the Victorian
conflict between faith and doubt. Because scientific discoveries,
industrialization, and  the theory of
evolution and communism make the people skeptic regarding religion and even in
science .