“Victorian” is now commonly used as a depreciatory-epithet, and yet we shall search the history of the last thousand years in vain for a period of more important social, political, and industrial changes than those carried on in the Victorian Era. The changes in the spiritual sphere were no less significant. Professor Henry Sidgwick, a singularly acute and subtle observer, writing to Tennyson's son for the Biography published in 1897, said of the sixties:—
During these years we were absorbed in struggling for freedom of thought in the trammels of a historical religion : and perhaps what we sympathize with most in “In Memoriam'' at this time, apart from the personal feeling, was the defence of “honest doubt,” the reconciliation of knowledge and faith in the introductory poem, and the hopeful trumpet-ring of the lines on the New Year—
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace,
and generally the forward movement of the thought.