"Man doth not live by bread alone." The enormous material progress of this country during the last sixty years - imperfectly indicated by the fact that during the last forty years the taxable income of the United Kingdom has been considerably more than doubled - would be but a barren theme of rejoicing, if there were signs among us of intellectual or spiritual degeneracy. The great periods of English history have been always fruitful in great thinkers and great writers, in religious and mental activity. Endeavouring to judge our own period by this standard, and making a swift survey of its achievements in literature, we do not find it apparently inferior to the splendours of "great Elizabeth" or of the Augustan age of Anne. Our fifth Queen-regnant, whose reign, longer than that of any of her four predecessors, is also happier than that of the greatest among them, can reckon among her subjects an even larger number of men eminent in all departments of knowledge, though perhaps we cannot boast one name quite equal to Newton in science, and though assuredly neither this nor any modern nation has yet a second imaginative writer whose throne may be set beside that of Shakespeare.

We excel in quantity, indeed; for while, owing to the spread of education, the number of readers has been greatly increased, the number of writers has risen proportionately; the activity of the press has increased tenfold. Journalism has become a far more formidable power in the land than in the earlier years when, as our domestic annals plainly indicate, the Times ruled as the Napoleon of newspapers. This result is largely due to the removal of the duties formerly imposed both on the journals themselves and on their essential paper material; and it would indeed "dizzy the arithmetic of memory" should we try to enumerate the varied periodicals that are far younger than Her Majesty's happy reign. Of these a great number are excellent in both intention and execution, and must be numbered among the educating, civilising, Christianising agencies of the day. They are something more and higher than the "savoury literary entremets" designed to please the fastidious taste of a cultured and leisured class, which was the just description of our periodical literature at large not so very long ago. The number of our imaginative writers - poets and romancers, but especially the latter - has been out of all proportion great. We give the place of honour, as is their due, to the singers rather than to the story-tellers, the more readily since the popular taste, it cannot be denied, chooses its favourites in inverse order as a rule.

When Her Majesty ascended the throne, one brilliant poetical constellation was setting slowly, star by star. Keats and Shelley and Byron, none of them much older than the century, had perished in their early prime between 1820 and 1824; Scott had sunk under the storms of fortune in 1832; the fitful glimmer of Coleridge's genius vanished in 1834, and a year later "the gentle Elia" too was gone. Southey, who still held the laureate-ship in 1837, had faded out of life in 1843, and was succeeded in his once-despised office by William Wordsworth, who, with Rogers and Leigh Hunt and Moore, lived far into the new reign, uniting the Georgian and the Victorian school of writers. Thomas Hood, the poet of the poor and oppressed, whose too short life ended in 1845, gives in his serious verse such thrilling expression to the impassioned, indignant philanthropy, which has actuated many workers and writers of our own period, that it is not easy to reckon him with the older group. His song rings like that of Charles Kingsley, poet, novelist, preacher, and "Christian socialist," who did not publish his "Saint's Tragedy" till three years after Hood was dead.

There has, indeed, been no break in the continuity of our great literary history; while one splendid group was setting, another as illustrious was rising. Tennyson, who on Wordsworth's death in 1850 received at Queen Victoria's hand the "laurel greener from the brows of him that uttered nothing base," had published his earliest two volumes of poems some years before Her Majesty's accession; and of that rare poetic pair, the Brownings, each had already given evidence of the great powers they possessed, Robert Browning's tragedy of "Strafford" being produced on the stage in 1837, while his future wife's translation of the "Prometheus Bound" saw the light four years earlier. The Victorian period can boast no greater poetic names than these, each of which is held in highest reverence by its own special admirers. The patriotic fervour with which Lord Tennyson has done almost all his laureate work, the lucid splendour of his style, the perfect music of his rhythm, and the stinging sharpness with which he has sometimes chastised contemporary sins, have all combined to win for him a far wider popularity than even that accorded to the fine lyrical passion of Mrs. Browning, or to the deep-thoughted and splendid, but often perplexing and ruggedly phrased, dramatic and lyric utterances of her husband. All three have honoured themselves and their country by a majestic purity of moral and religious teaching - an excellence shared by many of their contemporaries, whose powers would have won them a first place in an age and country less fruitful of genius; but not so conspicuous in some younger poets, later heirs of fame, whose lot it may be to carry on the traditions of Victorian greatness into another reign.

There are not a few writers of our day whose excellent prose work has won more of popular favour than their verse, which notwithstanding is of high quality. Such was the "unsubduable old Roman," Walter Savage Landor, a contemporary of Byron and Wordsworth, who long outlived them, dying in 1864. Such - to bring two extremes together - are the critic and poet Matthew Arnold, the poet and theologian John Henry Newman. Intimately associated in our thought with the latter, who has enriched our devotional poetry with one touching hymn, is Keble, the singer par excellence of the "Catholic revival," and the most widely successful religious poet of the age, though only very few of his hymns have reached the heart of the people like the far more direct and fervent work of the Wesleys and their compeers. He is even excelled in simplicity and passion, though not in grace and tenderness, by two or three other workers in the same field, who belong to our day, and whose verse is known more widely than their names.

We have several women-poets who are only less beloved and less well known than Mrs. Browning; but so far the greatest literary distinction gained by the women of our age and country, notwithstanding the far wider and higher educational advantages enjoyed by them to-day, has been won, as of yore, in the field of prose fiction. More than a hundred years ago a veteran novelist, whose humour and observation, something redeeming his coarseness, have ranked him among classic English authors, referred mischievously to the engrossing of "that branch of business" by female writers, whose "ease, and spirit, and delicacy, and knowledge of the human heart," have not, however, availed to redeem their names from oblivion. For some of their nineteenth-century successors at least we may expect a more enduring memory.

Numerous as are our poets, they are far outnumbered by the novelists, whose works are poured forth every season with bewildering profusion; but as story-tellers have always commanded a larger audience than grave philosophers or historians, and as our singers deal as much in philosophy as in narrative, perhaps in seeking for the cause of this overrunning flood of fiction we need go no further than the immensely increased number of readers - a view in which the records of some English public libraries will bear us out. We may therefore be thankful that, on the whole, such literature has been of a vastly purer and healthier character than of yore, reflecting that higher and better tone of public feeling which we may attribute, in part at least, to the influence of the "pure court and serene life" of the Sovereign.

This nobler tone is not least perceptible in the eldest of the great masters of fiction whom we can claim for our period - Dickens, who in 1837 first won by his "Pickwick Papers" that astonishing popularity which continued widening until his death; Thackeray, who in that year was working more obscurely, having not yet found a congenial field in the humorous chronicle that reflects for us so much of the Victorian age, for Punch was not started till 1841, and Thackeray's first great masterpiece of pathos and satire, "Vanity Fair," did not begin to appear till five years later. Each of these writers in his own way held "the mirror up" to English human nature, and showed "the very age and body of the time his form and pressure," with manly boldness indeed, but with due artistic reticence also; each knew how to be vivid without being vicious, to be realistic without being revolting; and despite the sometimes offensive caricature in which the one indulged, despite the seeming cynicism of the other their influence must be pronounced healthy. Thackeray did not, like Dickens, use his pen against particular glaring abuses of the time, nor insist on the special virtues that bloom amid the poor and lowly; but he attacked valiantly the crying sins of society in all time - the mammon-worship and the mercilessness, the false pretences and the fraud - and never failed to uphold for admiration and imitation "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever thing are pure, whatsoever things are lovely." And though both writers were sometimes hard on the professors of religion, neither failed in reverence of tone when religion itself was concerned.

The sudden death of both these men, in the very prime of life and in the fulness of power, was keenly felt at the time: each had a world-wide fame, and each awakened a blank, distressful sense of personal loss in his many admirers as he was suddenly called away from incomplete work and faithful friendship. Contemporary literature has not benefited by the removal of these two men and the gradual diminishing of the influence they so strongly exerted while yet they "stood up and spoke." The work of Charlotte Bronte - produced under a fervent admiration for "the satirist of Vanity Fair," whom she deemed "the first social regenerator of his day" - is, with all its occasional morbidness of sensitive feeling, far more bracing in moral tone, more inspiring in its scorn of baseness and glorifying of goodness, than is the work of recent Positivist emulators of the achievements of George Eliot. Some romances of this school are vivid and highly finished pictures of human misery, unredeemed by hope, and hardly brightened by occasional gleams of humour, of the sardonic sort which may stir a mirthless smile, but never a laugh. Herein they are far inferior to their model, whose melancholy philosophy is half hidden from her readers by the delightful freshness and truth of her "Dutch painter's" portraying of every-day humanity, by her delicately skilful reproduction of its homely wit and harmless absurdity. Happily neither these writers, nor the purveyors of mere sensation who cannot get on without crime and mystery, exhaust the list of our romancers, many of whom are altogether healthful, cheerful, and helpful; and it is no unreasonable hope that these may increase and their gloomier rivals decrease, or at least grow gayer and wiser.

There are many other great writers, working in other fields, whom we may claim as belonging altogether or almost to the Victorian age. Within that period lies almost entirely the brilliantly successful career of Macaulay, essayist, poet, orator, and historian. For the last-named role Macaulay seemed sovereignly fitted by his extraordinary faculty for assimilating and retaining historical knowledge, and by the vividness of imagination and mastery of words which enabled him to present his facts in such attractive guise as made them fascinating far beyond romance. His "History of England from the Accession of James II," whereof the first volumes appeared in 1849, remains a colossal fragment; the fulness of detail with which he adorned it, the grand scale on which he worked, rendered its completion a task almost impossible for the longest lifetime; and Macaulay died in his sixtieth year. Despite the defects of partisanship and exaggeration freely and not quite unjustly charged upon his great work, it remains a yet unequalled record of the period dealt with, just as his stirring ballads, so seemingly easy of imitation in their ringing, rolling numbers, hold their own against very able rivals and are yet unequalled in our time.

Macaulay was not the first, and he is not the last, of our picturesque historians. It was in 1837 that Carlyle, who four years before had startled the English-reading public by his strangely worded, bewildering "Sartor Resartus," brought out his astonishing "History of the French Revolution" - a prose poem, an epic without a hero, revealing as by "flashes of lightning" the ghastly tragedy and comedy of that tremendous upheaval; and in 1845 he followed up the vein thus opened by his lifelike study of "Oliver Cromwell," which was better received by his English readers than the later "History of Friedrich II," marvel of careful research and graphic reproduction though it be. To Carlyle therefore and to Macaulay belongs the honour of having given a new and powerful impulse to the study they adorned; dissimilar in other respects, they are alike in their preference for and insistent use of original sources of information, in their able employment of minute detail, and in the graphic touch and artistic power which made history very differently attractive in their hands from what it had ever been previously. Mr. Froude and Mr. Green may be ranked as their followers in this latter respect; hardly so Mr. Freeman or the philosophic Buckle, Grote, and Lecky, who by their style and method belong more to the school of Hallam, however widely they may differ from him or from each other in opinion. But in thoroughness of research and in resolute following of the very truth through all mazes and veils that may obscure it, one group of historians does not yield to the other.

And the same zealous passion for accuracy that has distinguished these and less famous historians and biographers has shown itself in other fields of intellectual endeavour. Our Queen in her desire "to get at the root and reality of things" is entirely in harmony with the spirit of her age. In scientific men we look for the ardent pursuit of difficult truth; and it would be thankless to forget how numerous beyond precedent have been in the Victorian period faithful workers in the field of science. Though some of our savants in later years have injured their renown by straying outside the sphere in which they are honoured and useful and speaking unadvisedly on matters theological, this ought not to deter us from acknowledging the value of true service rendered. The Queen's reign can claim as its own such men as John Herschel, worthy son of an illustrious father, Airy, Adams, and Maxwell, Whewell and Brewster and Faraday, Owen and Buckland and Lyell, Murchison and Miller, Darwin and Tyndall and Huxley, with Wheatstone, one of the three independent inventors of telegraphy, and the Stephensons, father and son, to whose ability and energy we are indebted for the origination and perfection of our method of steam locomotion; it can boast such masters in philosophy as Hamilton and Whately and John Stuart Mill, each a leader of many. It has also the rare distinction of possessing one lady writer on science who has attained to real eminence - eminence not likely soon to be surpassed by her younger sister-rivals - the late Mrs. Mary Somerville, who united an entirely feminine and gentle character to masculine powers of mind.

Only to catalogue the recent discoveries and inventions we owe to men of science, from merciful anaesthetics to the latest applications of electric power, would occupy more space than we ought here to give. All honour to these servants of humanity! We rejoice to find among them many who could unite the simplest childlike faith with a wide and grand mental outlook; we exult not less to find in many Biblical students and commentators the same patience, thoroughness, and resolute pursuit of the very truth as that exemplified by the devotees of physical science. God's Word is explored in our day - the same clay which has seen the great work of the Revised Version of the Scriptures begun and completed - with no less ardour than God's world. And what vast additions have been made to our knowledge of this earth! We have seen Nineveh unburied, the North-West Passage explored, and the mysterious Nile stream at last tracked to its source. To compare a fifty-years-old map of Africa with one of the present day will a little enable us to estimate the advances made in our acquaintance with the Dark Continent alone; similar maps including the Polar regions of North America will testify also to a large increase of hard-won knowledge.

Exploration - Arctic, African, Oriental and Occidental - has had its heroic devotees, sometimes its martyrs. Witness Franklin, Burke and Wills, and Livingstone. The long uncertainty overhanging the fate of the gallant Franklin, after he and the expedition he commanded had vanished into the darkness of Arctic winter in 1845, and the unfaltering faithfulness with which his widow clung to the search for her lost husband, form one of the most pathetic chapters of English story. The veil was lifted at last and the secret of the North-West Passage, to which so many lives had been sacrificed, was brought to light in the course of the many efforts made to find the dead discoverer. As Franklin had disappeared in the North, so Livingstone was long lost to sight in the wilds of Africa, and hardly less feverish interest centred round the point, so long disputed, of his being in life or in death - interest freshly awakened when the remains of the heroic explorer, who had been found only to be lost again, were brought home to be laid among the mighty dead of England. The fervent Christian philanthropy of Livingstone endeared him yet more to the national heart; and we may here note that very often, as in his case, the missionary has served not only Christianity, as was his first and last aim, but also geographical and ethnological science and colonial and commercial development. We have briefly referred already to some of the struggles, the sufferings, and the triumphs of missionary enterprise in our day: to chronicle all its effort and achievement would be difficult, for these have been world-wide, and often wonderfully successful. Nor has much less success crowned other agencies for meeting the ever-increasing need for religious knowledge, which multiply and grow in number and in power. Witness, among many that might be named, the continuous development of the Sunday School system and the immensely extended operations of the unsectarian Bible Society.

Great advances have been made during this reign in English art and art-criticism, and more particularly in the extension of real artistic education to classes of the community who could hardly attain it before, though it was perhaps more essential to them than to the wealthy and leisurely who had previously monopolised it. The multiplication of Schools of Design over the country, intended to promote the tasteful efficiency of those engaged in textile manufactures and in our decorative and constructive art generally, is one remarkable feature of the time, and the sedulous cultivation of music by members of all classes of society is another, hardly less hopeful. In all these efforts for the benefit and elevation of the community the Prince Consort took deep and active interest, and the royal family themselves, from Her Majesty downwards, highly cultured and accomplished, have not failed to act in the same spirit. But the history of English nineteenth-century art would be incomplete indeed without reference to two powerful influences - the rise and progress of the new art of photography, which has singularly affected other branches of graphic work; and the career, hitherto unexampled in our land, of the greatest art-critic of this, perhaps of any, age - John Ruskin, the most eminent also of the many writers and thinkers who have been swayed by the magic spell of Carlyle, whose fierce and fervid genius, for good or for evil, told so strongly on his contemporaries. Ruskin is yet more deeply imbued with his master's philosophy than those other gifted and widely influential teachers, Maurice and Kingsley; and yet perhaps he is more strongly and sturdily independent in his individuality than either, while the unmatched English of his prose style differs not less widely from the rugged strength of Carlyle than from the mystical involution of Maurice and the vehement and, as it were, breathless, yet vivid and poetic, utterance of Kingsley. When every defect has been admitted that is chargeable against one or all of this group of sincere and stalwart workers, it must be allowed that their power on their countrymen has been largely wielded for good. Particularly is this the case with Ruskin, whose influence has reached and ennobled many a life that, from pressure of sordid circumstances, was in great need of such help as his spirituality of tone, and deeply felt reverential belief in the Giver of all good and Maker of all beauty, could afford.

We have preferred not to dwell on one department of literature which, like every other, has received great additions during our period - that of religious controversy. A large portion of such literature is in its very nature ephemeral; and some of the disputes which have engaged the energies even of our greatest masters in dialectics have not been in themselves of supreme importance; but many points of doctrine and discipline have been violently canvassed among professing Christians, and attacks of long-sustained vigour and virulence have been made on almost every leading article of the Christian creed by the avowed enemies or the only half-hostile critics of the Church, which the champions of Scripture truth have not been backward to repel. Amid all this confusion and strife of assault and resistance one thing stands out clearly: Christianity and its progress are more interesting to the national mind than ever before. It has been well, too, that through all those fifty years a large-minded and fervent but most unobtrusive and practical piety has been enthroned in the highest places of the land - a piety which will escape the condemnation of the King when He shall come in His glory, and say to many false followers, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not."

These dread words are not for those who have cared as our Sovereign Lady and her beloved ones have cared for the sick and the suffering and the sad; who have bound up the heart-wounds of the widow and the orphan and ministered to their earthly needs; who, like our lost Princess Alice and her royal elder sister, have tended the victims of war, shrinking from no ghastliness or repulsiveness, no horrors of the hospital where victor and vanquished lay moaning in common misery; or, like their queenly mother, have shed the sunshine of royal smiles and soothing words and helpful alms upon the obscurer but hardly less pitiable patients who crowd our English infirmaries. In her northern and southern "homes" of Osborne and Balmoral the Queen, too, has been able to share a true, unsophisticated friendship with her humble neighbours, to rejoice in their joys and lighten their griefs with gentle, most efficient sympathy. It was of a Highland cottage that Dr. Guthrie wrote that "within its walls the Queen had stood, with her kind hands smoothing the thorns of a dying man's pillow. There, left alone with him at her own request, she had sat by the bed of death - a Queen ministering to the comfort of a saint." It was in a cottage at Osborne that the same gentle and august almsgiver was found reading comfortable Scripture words to a sick and aged peasant, quietly retiring upon the entrance of the clerical visitant, that his message of peace might be freely given, and thus allowing the sufferer to disclose to the pastor that the lady in the widow's weeds was Victoria of England. These are examples, which it would be easy to multiply, of that true oneness of feeling between the lofty and the lowly which is the special, the unique glory of Christ's kingdom. May our land never lack them; may they multiply themselves to all time.

The best evidence of the truth of the Gospel is admittedly its unequalled power of lifting up humanity to higher and yet higher levels. In many and mighty instances of that power our age is not barren. And in despite of the foes without and within that have wrought her woe - of the Pharisaism that is a mask for fraud, of the mammon-worship cloaked as respectability, of scepticism lightly mocking, of the bolder enmity of the blasphemer - we cannot contemplate the story of Christianity throughout our epoch, even in these islands and this empire, without seeing that the advance of the Faith is real and constant, the advance of the rising tide, and that her seeming defeats are but the deceptive reflux of the ever-mounting waves.