361 CHRONICLESnCut-Flower Moralistsn”Tell me, can you 6nd indeednNothing sure, no moral plannClear prescribed, without your creed?”n-Matthew ArnoldnLeslie Stephen: The GodlessnVictorian by Noel Annan, Chicago:nUniversity of Chicago Press; $14.95.nMarriage and Morals Among thenVictorians by GertrudenHimmelfarb, New York: Alfred A.nKnopf; $19.95.nAwaiting trial for a murder he did notncommit, Dmitri Karamazov is visitednin jail in the closing pages of Dostoevsky’snThe Brothers Karamazov by thenprogressive intellectual Rakitin. Rakitinntries to explain why modern ethics nonlonger needs religion. “What will becomenof men then . . . without God andnimmortal life?” Dmitri wants to know.nRakitin answers that “one can love humanityninstead of God.” Dmitri remainsnunconvinced: “Only an idiot can maintainnthat.”nIf we accept Dmitri’s harsh verdict—nand it is surely Dostoevsky’s own—thennwe can hardly reach a more favorablenopinion of many of the most prominentnleaders of Victorian culture. For by thenlate 19th century, many leading Victoriansnshared Matthew Arnold’s convictionnthat religion had lost its credibility for theneducated mind and that hereafter ourn”sense of conduct” must be shaped byn”the social idea,” expressed in greatnworks of literature and art. As much asnthey disagreed on other things, Arnoldnand Carlyle, Eliot and Hardy, Shaw andnMorris, Meredith and Mill all agreed onnthe need for a new moral affirmation notnrooted in Christian faith. Leslie Stephen,nrenowned during his years at Cambridgenas a “muscular Christian,” came finallynto declare: “I now believe in nothing,nbut I do not the less believe in morality.”nSimilarly, George Eliot found God “inconceivable”nand immortality “unbelievable,”nbut Duty remained “peremptorynand absolute.” In the same vein, somenscant paragraphs after rejecting “thenBryce Christensen is editor of ThenFamily in America.nby Bryce ChristensennChristian Mythus” as implausible, Carlylenaffirmed the one precept still bindingnupon “him who gropes painfully in darknessnor uncertain light . . . ‘Do the Dutynwhich lies nearest thee.'”nIn his graceful and meticulously researchednbiography of Leslie Stephen,nNoel Annan allows us to see up-closenthe effects of this profound shift in moralnthinking in the life of one prominentnVictorian, “a representative, not an aberrant,nfigure.” On the other hand, in thenlucid and insightful essays of Marriagenand Morals Among the Victorians,n4, . ^ i,n’ ‘ ‘ jtn’-‘«. ‘ “• .”n• ..<nnnGertrude Himmelfarb traces the broadernintellectual and social implications of thisncultural sea change. Both books can onlynenhance the already distinguished reputationsnof their authors as intellectualnhistorians. Together they provide a tellingnportrait of a generation that largelynsucceeded in standing at moral attention,nlike rigid tin soldiers, but whose childrennbroke ranks and started a social riot.nHimmelfarb views Victorian morality asn”all the more admirable . . . because itntried to maintain itself without the sanctionsnand consolations of religion,” yetnthere is no escaping the conclusion shenreaches after tracing the metamorphosisnof this morality “from Clapham tonBloomsbury”: “Late-Victorian moralityn. . . was too impoverished, too far re-n> r-; •n^’^’V-‘l-^n