Posts Tagged ‘Literature and History’

Victorian Literature and History

August 5th, 2021

We generalise confidently about the people we call the Victorians, although a moment’s thought should make us realise how partial and unsatisfactory such generalisations are likely to be. This period is, in the first place, a very long one: Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901; a statement about the early Victorian period (1830 – 1850) is likely to need modification for the mid-Victorians (c. 1850 – c. 1870), and may not be true at all for the later Victorians (c. 1870 – c. 1890).

Some Key features of Victorian Literature

• Literary arts and entertainment: There was a huge increase in the availability of novels. They were often published in serial form in magazines, hence reached a wider audience than ever before.

• Literature was used as a means of exploring individual identity in the context of social conventions.

• Literature was used to explore divisions (between rich and poor, men and women, within the self).

• The forms of Romance and Realism were both popular and sometimes existed side by side.

• There were a number of women writers: The Brontes, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Christina Rossetti, George Elliot, and Elizabeth Gaskell. There were also more writers from non-privileged backgrounds such as Charles Dickens and H. G. Wells.

Key Stages in the Victorian Era 1837 to 1849:
• Dickens becomes a famous and highly paid novelist.
• Chartism: Working class movement calling for reform of Parliament increased voting rights (for men) and better conditions for the poor.
• 1848: Revolutions throughout Europe (not in Britain).
• 1840S: The ‘Hungry Forties’: Irish Potato Famine.
• Development of the Railway system.

Key Stages in the Victorian Era 1850 to 1870:
• The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. Increasing wealth of Britain and the British. This was the time of Expansion in the British Empire.
• Dickens established popular, cheap, weekly magazines, Household Words then All the Year Round. Novels were serialised and became affordable.
• The increased interest in natural science and ideas of evolution marked by publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859).
• Reforms improved conditions for working people and extended franchise further (1867 Reform Act)

Key Stages in the Victorian Era 1870 – 1901:
• Fin de siecle – ‘Decadence’. Oscar Wilde promotes the importance of style in literature.
• Telephones, cars, cinema, bicycles, and ‘rational’ clothes for women.
• Writers such as Thomas Hardy seek to represent taboo areas.
• The ‘New Woman’ – increased political activism made by women seeking better education, suffrage and employment opportunities.