The most important fact about the controversy over Essays and Reviews is a negative and unrecorded fact. The failure of argument, the essential absence of discourse, in the greatest of Victorian controversies suggests some reflections about the nature and function of Victorian controversy. Despite the futility of controversy, and its inherently ephemeral character, Victorians controverted with great zeal and utmost seriousness. The struggles between the High and Low Church parties would erupt periodically into controversy. From the mid-century there was recognized a danger from 'rationalism' without and within the Church, fuelled by 'doubt' and leading to 'infidelity'. The 1860s were the optimal period for widely read periodical controversies: the repeal of the 'taxes on knowledge' in the 1850s had cheapened periodicals, especially newspapers, but the 'yellow press' had not yet developed to turn them from their original seriousness. The Essays and Reviews controversy was notable for the way in which it spun off side-controversies and agglomerated to itself other controversies.