Victorian Doubt in God

Maria Rojas (English 32, 1990)

This quote shows something of the feelings in people's minds.

We, the whole species of Mankind, and our whole existence and history, are but a floating speck in the illimitable ocean of the All; yet in that ocean; indissoluble portion thereof; partaking of its infinite tendencies: borne this way and that by its deep-swelling tides, and grand ocean currents;--of which what faintest chance is there that we should ever exhaust the significance, ascertain the goings and comings? A region of Doubt, therefore, hovers forever in the background: in Action alone can we have certainty. Nay properly Doubt is the indispensable inexhaustible material whereon Action works, which Action has to fashion into Certainty and Reality; only on a canvas of Darkness, such is man's way of being, could the many-coloured picture of our Life paint itself and shine. (Norton 957-958)

In "Characteristics," Carlyle discusses the same doubt in God that Tennyson feels in In Memoriam , a doubt that characteristically reflects religion in England under the reign of Victoria. Carlyle doubts man's beliefs because he understands man's insignificance in the realm of things and thus wonders how any of man's answers to any questions of the world could be right. Hence, he doubts many things, especially God. To Carlyle, God did not represent an answer to the problems of the world.