Victorian Period – a Time of Change (1837 -1901) Essay

“All art is at one time surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their ain hazard. Those who read the symbol do so at their ain hazard. ”–by Oscar Wilde. Preface. “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The Victorian Period revolves around the political calling of Queen Victoria. She was crowned in 1837 and died in 1901 ( which put a definite terminal to her political calling ) . A great trade of alteration took topographic point during this period–brought about because of the Industrial Revolution ; so it’s non surprising that the literature of the period is frequently concerned with societal reform. “The common perceptual experience of the period is the Victorians are “prudish. hypocritical. stuffy. [ and ] narrow-minded” ( Murfin 496 ) . As Thomas Carlyle ( 1795-1881 ) wrote. “The clip for levity. falseness. and idle babble and play-acting. in all sorts. is gone by ; it is a serious. sedate clip.

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Literature of the Victorian Time period:

It is of import to recognize from the beginning that the Victorian period is rather long. Victoria’s reign lasted over 63 old ages. longer than any other British sovereign. The Victorian epoch lasted approximately twice every bit long as the Romantic period. Keeping in head that even the comparatively short Romantic period saw a broad assortment of separating features. it is logical that much longer Victorian period includes even more assortment. Actually It forms a nexus and passage between the authors of the romantic period and the really different literature of the twentieth century. The nineteenth century is frequently regarded as a high point in British literature every bit good as in other states such as France. the United States and Russia. Books. and novels in peculiar. became omnipresent. and the “Victorian novelist” created a bequest of plants with go oning entreaty. Many novels were published in consecutive signifier. along with short narratives and poesy. in such literary magazines as Family Words. Below are a few of the notable features which appear frequently adequate to be deserving adverting. but surely do non embrace the entireness of the period.

The thrust for societal promotion often appears in literature. This thrust may take many signifiers. It may be chiefly fiscal. as in Charles Dickens’sGreat Expectations. It may affect get marrieding above one’s station. as in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. It may besides be rational or education-based. Typically. any such effort to better one’s societal standing must be accompanied by “proper” behaviour ( therefore assisting to supply the period with its stereotype ) . The period saw the rise of a extremely idealised impression of what is “English” or what constitutes an “Englishman. ” This impression is evidently tied really closely to the period’s theoretical accounts for proper behaviour. and is besides tied really closely to England’s imperial endeavors. Many settlers and politicians saw it as their political ( and sometimes spiritual ) responsibility to “help” or “civilize” native populations in colonised parts.

It was therefore of import to hold a theoretical account which provides a set of criterions and codifications of behavior. and the idealised impression of what is “English” frequently provided this theoretical account. Later Victorian authorship saw the seeds of rebellion against such idealised impressions and stereotyped codifications of behavior. These “proper” behaviours frequently served as topics of sarcasm ; Oscar Wilde’s dramas are an first-class illustration. The ulterior old ages of the Victorian period besides saw the rise of aestheticism. the “art for art’s sake” motion. which straight contradicted the societal and political ends of much earlier Victorian literature. One of the absorbing ways of nearing the Victorian period is to analyze the influence of these ulterior developments on the Modernist period which follows.

The Novel

The nineteenth century saw the fresh become the prima signifier of literature in English. The plants by pre-Victorian authors such as Jane Austen and Walter Scott had perfected both closely-observed societal sarcasm and escapade narratives. Victorian novels tend to be idealized portrayals of hard lives in which difficult work. doggedness. love and fortune win out in the terminal ; virtuousness would be rewarded and offenders are appropriately punished. They tended to be of an up nature with a cardinal moral lesson at bosom. assorted with a heavy dosage of sentiment. While this expression was the footing for much of earlier Victorian fiction. the state of affairs became more complex as the century progressed. Charles Dickens was inordinately popular in his twenty-four hours. with his characters taking on a life of their ain beyond the page. and he remains one of the most popular writers of this epoch. His first existent novel. The Pickwick Papers. written at merely 25. was an nightlong success. and all his subsequent works sold highly good.

He worked diligently and prolifically to bring forth entertaining composing the populace wanted. but besides to offer commentary on societal challenges of the epoch. The comedy of his first novel has a satirical border which pervades his Hagiographas. These trade with the predicament of the hapless and oppressed and stop with a shade narrative cut short by his decease. The slow tendency in his fiction towards darker subjects is mirrored in much of the authorship of the century. and literature after his decease in 1870 is notably different from that at the start of the epoch. William Makepeace Thackeray [ 1811-1863 ] was Dickens’s great challenger at the clip. With a similar manner but a somewhat more degage. astringent and biting satirical position of his characters. he besides tended to picture state of affairss of a more in-between category spirit than Dickens.

He is best known for his fresh Vanity Fair. which is besides an illustration of a signifier popular in Victorian literature: the historical novel. in which really recent history is depicted. By contrast. the novels of Anthony Trollope [ 1815-1882 ] are light of touch. pleasant. amusing. and exhaustively healthy. They make no effort to sound the deepnesss of character or either to propound or work out jobs. Away from the large metropoliss and the literary society. Haworth in West Yorkshire held a human dynamo of fresh authorship: the place of the Bronte household.

Anne. Charlotte and EmilyBronte had clip in their short lives to bring forth chef-d’oeuvres of fiction although these were non instantly appreciated by Victorian critics. Wuthering Highs. Emily’s merely work. in peculiar has force. passion. the supernatural. heightened emotion and emotional distance. an unusual mix for any fresh but peculiarly at this clip. It is a premier illustration of Gothic Romanticism from a woman’s point of position during this period of clip. analyzing category. myth. and gender. Another of import author of the period was George Eliot. the anonym of Mary Ann Evans. who wished to compose novels which would be taken earnestly instead than the love affairs which adult females of the clip were supposed to compose.

Children’s literature

The Victorians are sometimes credited with ‘inventing childhood’ . partially via their attempts to halt kid labor and the debut of mandatory instruction. As kids began to be able to read. literature for immature people became a growing industry. with non merely established authors bring forthing plants for kids ( such as Dickens’ A Child’s History of England ) but besides a new group of dedicated children’s writers. Writers like Lewis Carroll. R. M. Ballantyne and Anna Sewell wrote chiefly for kids. although they had an grownup following. Other writers such as Anthony Hope and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote chiefly for grownups. but their escapade novels are now by and large classified as for kids. Other genres include nonsensical poetry. poesy which required a child-like involvement ( e. g. Lewis Carroll ) . School narratives flourished: Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Kipling’s Stalky & A ; Co. are classics.


After the turbulences of the romantic period. Poetry became slightly institutionalised in the Victorian epoch ; Alfred Tennyson held the poet laureateship for over 40 old ages. Some poesy. extremely regarded at the clip. such as Invictus. is now seen as chauvinistic and declamatory but poesy could besides be a powerful voice of unfavorable judgment. as with Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade. a ferocious onslaught on a military blooper. Amusing poetry abounded in the Victorian epoch. fueled by an insatiate demand for content from literary magazines. Magazines such as Punch and Fun teemed with humourous innovation and were aimed at a knowing readership. The most celebrated aggregation of Victorian amusing poetry is the Bab Ballads. Husband and married woman Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning conducted their love matter through poetry and produced many stamp and passionate verse forms. Both Matthew Arnold and Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote verse forms which sit someplace in between the jubilance of nature of the romantic Poetry and the Georgian Poetry of the early twentieth century.

Arnold’s works hearken forward to some of the subjects of these ulterior poets while Hopkins drew inspiration from verse signifiers of Old English poesy such as Beowulf. The reclaiming of the yesteryear was a major portion of Victorian literature. with an involvement in both classical literature but besides the mediaeval literature of England. The Victorians loved the heroic. gallant narratives of knights of old and they hoped to recover some of that baronial. courtly behaviour and affect it upon the people both at place and in the wider imperium. The best illustration of this is Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King which blended the narratives of King Arthur. peculiarly those by Thomas Malory. with modern-day concerns and thoughts. The Pre-raphaelite Brotherhood besides drew on myth and folklore for their art with Dante Gabriel Rossetti contemporaneously regarded as the main poet amongst them.


In play. travesties. musical burlesques. extravaganzas and amusing operas competed with Shakespeare productions and serious play by the likes of James Planche and Thomas William Robertson. In 1855. the German Reed Entertainments began a procedure of promoting the degree of ( once risque ) musical theater in Britain that culminated in the celebrated series of amusing operas by Gilbert and Sullivan and were followed by the ninetiess with the first Edwardian musical comedies. The first drama to accomplish 500 back-to-back public presentations was the London comedy Our Male childs by H. J. Byron. gap in 1875. Its amazing new record of 1. 362 public presentations was bested in 1892 by Charley’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas. After W. S. Gilbert. Oscar Wilde became the taking poet and playwright of the late Victorian period.

Wilde’s dramas. in peculiar. stand apart from the many now forgotten dramas of Victorian times and have a much closer relationship to those of the Edwardian playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw. many of whose most of import plants were written in the twentieth century. Wilde’s 1895 amusing chef-d’oeuvre. The Importance of Being Earnest. was the greatest of the dramas in which he held an dry mirror to the nobility while exposing virtuosic command of humor and self-contradictory wisdom. It has remained highly popular.

Supernatural and antic literature

The pre-Victorian Gothic narratives of the late 18th century left Victorian readers with a gustatory sensation for the cryptic and antic. These narratives frequently centered on epic characters such as Sherlock Holmes. Sexton Blake. Phileas Fogg. and other fictional characters of the epoch. such as Dracula. Edward Hyde. The Invisible Man. and many other fictional characters who frequently had alien enemies to foil. These narratives finally developed into the separate genres of Crime and Mystery. Horror and Science Fiction that have remained popular to the present twenty-four hours.