Professor Richard J Evans FBA I began this series of lectures last Autumn with an account of Thomas Bowdler and his prudish editions of Shakespeare 1 and the way they helped shape Victorian attitudes to gender and sexuality. Victorian became a common synonym for prudery well before the outbreak of the First World War. In the Victorian home swarming with children sex was a secret.
Lord Tennysonthe Poet Laureate Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning conducted their love affair through verse and produced many tender and passionate poems. Both Matthew Arnold and Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poems which sit somewhere in between the exultation of nature of the romantic Poetry and the Georgian Poetry of the early 20th century.
However Hopkins's poetry was not published until Arnold's works anticipate some of the themes of these later poets, while Hopkins drew inspiration from verse forms of Old English poetry such as Beowulf.
The reclaiming of the past was a major part of Victorian literature with an interest in both classical literature but also the medieval literature of England. The Victorians loved the heroic, chivalrous stories of knights of old and they hoped to regain some of that noble, courtly behaviour and impress it upon the people both at home and in the wider empire.
The best example of this is Alfred Tennyson 's Idylls of the Kingwhich blended the stories of King Arthurparticularly those by Thomas Malorywith contemporary concerns and ideas. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood also drew on myth and folklore for their art, with Dante Gabriel Rossetti contemporaneously regarded as the chief poet amongst them, although his sister Christina is now held by scholars to be a stronger poet.
The first play to achieve consecutive performances was the London comedy Our Boys by H. Byronopening in Its astonishing new record of 1, performances was bested in by Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas. GilbertOscar Wilde became the leading poet and dramatist of the late Victorian period.
Wilde's comic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnestwas the greatest of the plays in which he held an ironic mirror to the aristocracy while displaying virtuosic mastery of wit and paradoxical wisdom. It has remained extremely popular. Children's literature[ edit ] The Victorians are credited with 'inventing childhood', partly via their efforts to stop child labour and the introduction of compulsory education.
As children began to be able to read, literature for young people became a growth industry, with not only established writers producing works for children such as Dickens' A Child's History of England but also a new group of dedicated children's authors.
Writers like Lewis CarrollR.
Many of the historical changes that characterized the Victorian period motivated discussion and argument about the nature and role of woman — what the Victorians called "The Woman Question." The extension of the franchise by the Reform Bills of and stimulated discussion of women's political rights. Women, and above all mothers, were the objects of sentimental idealization in Victorian literature and poetry. Fidelity within marriage, Houghton notes, was ‘the supreme virtue, and sexual irregularity the blackest of sins Adultery, especially in the case of a wife, and no matter what the extenuating circumstances, was spoken of with horror. The question of what women could (or should) do attracted a lot of debate in the Victorian era. It's not that no one had ever thought, "Hey, why not teach women something more than drawing and music?" (See: Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman). Or that no woman had ever thought.
Ballantyne and Anna Sewell wrote mainly for children, although they had an adult following. Other authors such as Anthony Hope and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote mainly for adults, but their adventure novels are now generally classified as for children.
Other genres include nonsense versepoetry which required a childlike interest e. Compiling folk tales by many authors with different topics made it possible for children to read literature by and about lots of different things that interested them.
There were different types of books and magazines written for boys and girls. Girls' stories tended to be domestic and to focus on family life, whereas boys' stories were more about adventures. The Victorian era was an important time for the development of science and the Victorians had a mission to describe and classify the entire natural world.
Much of this writing does not rise to the level of being regarded as literature but one book in particular, Charles Darwin 's On the Origin of Speciesremains famous.
The theory of evolution contained within the work challenged many of the ideas the Victorians had about themselves and their place in the world. Although it took a long time to be widely accepted, it would dramatically change subsequent thought and literature.
Much of the work of popularizing Darwin's theories was done by his younger contemporary Thomas Henry Huxleywho wrote widely on the subject. A number of other non-fiction works of the era made their mark on the literature of the period.
The philosophical writings of John Stuart Mill covered logiceconomics, liberty and utilitarianism. The large and influential histories of Thomas Carlyle: The writings of Thomas Babington Macaulay on English history helped codify the Whig narrative that dominated the historiography for many years.
John Ruskin wrote a number of highly influential works on art and the history of art and championed such contemporary figures as J.
Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. A number of monumental reference works were published in this era, most notably the Oxford English Dictionary which would eventually become the most important historical dictionary of the English language.
Supernatural and fantastic literature[ edit ] The old Gothic tales that came out of the late 19th century are the first examples of the genre of fantastic fiction. These tales often centred on larger-than-life characters such as Sherlock Holmesfamous detective of the times, Sexton BlakePhileas Foggand other fictional characters of the era, such as DraculaEdward HydeThe Invisible Manand many other fictional characters who often had exotic enemies to foil.
Spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a particular type of story-writing known as gothic. Gothic literature combines romance and horror in attempt to thrill and terrify the reader.
Possible features in a gothic novel are foreign monsters, ghosts, curses, hidden rooms and witchcraft. Gothic tales usually take place in locations such as castles, monasteries, and cemeteries, although the gothic monsters sometimes cross over into the real world, making appearances in cities such as London.
The influence of Victorian literature[ edit ] Writers from the United States and the British colonies of Australia, New Zealand and Canada were influenced by the literature of Britain and are often classed as a part of Victorian literature, although they were gradually developing their own distinctive voices.
From the sphere of literature of the United States during this time are some of the country's greats including: The problem with the classification of "Victorian literature" is the great difference between the early works of the period and the later works which had more in common with the writers of the Edwardian period and many writers straddle this divide.
WellsBram StokerH.He is a world-renowned historian and academic, with many of his books now acknowledged as seminal works in the field of modern history.
and the way they helped shape Victorian attitudes to gender and sexuality. The popularity of Bowdler’s editions suggested that Victorian culture was characterized by a sharp distinction between men and.
The question of what women could (or should) do attracted a lot of debate in the Victorian era. It's not that no one had ever thought, "Hey, why not teach women something more than drawing and music?" (See: Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman).
Or that no woman had ever thought. The Woman Question in Victorian England As Professor Evans’s lecture emphasizes, the Victorian era also saw changes to ideas Throughout this unit, we will see many other authors reflect on and represent these debates over the place of women in Victorian society, the .
The discreet, disorienting passions of the Victorian era. Victorian Literature Defining Victorian literature in any satisfactory and comprehensive manner has proven troublesome for critics ever since the nineteenth century came to a close.
The movement roughly comprises the years from to , though there is ample . The Woman Question in Victorian Literature. BACK; NEXT ; The question of what women could (or should) do attracted a lot of debate in the Victorian era.
It's not that no one had ever thought, "Hey, why not teach women something more than drawing and music?" How does the novel answer the Woman Question? Gender has a lot to do with what Tom.