According to Pfleiderer, a new movement in philosophy may be said to have begun in Great Britain in the year 1825, with the publication of Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection. In Coleridge’s Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit, published six years after his death in 1834, we have a suggestion of the biblical-critical movement which was beginning to shape itself in Germany. In the same years we have evidence in the works of Erskine and the early writings of Campbell, that in Scotland theologians were thinking on Schleiermacher’s lines. In those same years books of more or less marked rationalistic tendency were put forth by the Oriel School. Finally, with Pusey’s Assize Sermon, in 1833, Newman felt that the movement later to be called Tractarian had begun. We shall not be wrong, therefore, in saying that the decade following 1825 saw the beginnings in Britain of more formal reflexion upon all the aspects of the theme with which we are concerned.
What went before that, however, in the way of liberal religious thinking, though informal in its nature, should not be ignored. It was the work of the poets of the end of the eighteenth and of the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. The culmination of the great revolt against the traditional in state and society and against the conventional in religion, had been voiced in Britain largely by the poets. So vigorous was this utterance and so effective, that some have spoken of the contribution of the English poets to the theological reconstruction. It is certain that the utterances of the poets tended greatly to the dissemination of the new ideas. There was in Great Britain no such unity as we have observed among the Germans, either of the movement as a whole or in its various parts. There was a consecution nothing less than marvellous in the work of the philosophers from Kant to Hegel. There was a theological sequence from Schleiermacher to Ritschl. There was an unceasing critical advance from the days of Strauss.