History of Victorian Period

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This age is named after the name of Queen Victoria who reigned over England from 1837 to 1901. It may be noticed that though Queen Victoria came to power in 1837 , the Victorian Era began in 1832 , five years before the accession of Queen Victoria, because the literary features of the new age become obvious during 1832. The 12 years from 1848 to 1860 , of this age is called the Age of the Pre-Raphaelites because the artists of that time followed the art forms used before the Period of Raphael (1483-1520), the Italian artist. D.G. Rossetti, W. H. Hunt and J. Millais formed this group and later on C. Rossetti , W. Morris and A. Swinburne joined them. Originally it was a movement for the painters but eventually these ideals took the shape of a literary movement. Medievalism, symbolism, sensuousness, truthfulness and simplicity are the main features of the Pre-Raphaelites. The last two  decades (1880-1901) of this period is called the  Age of Aestheticism. In reaction against the Victorian moral obsession it was held that the art should have its end in itself, which lies in its beauty and formal perfection. These decades also called Decadence because there was a fall and decay of the Victorian spirit and standard in these years.
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The important facts which influenced the literature of this period are:
1. The First Reformation Act in (1832, the second Reformation Act in 1867 and Third Reformation Act in 1884 gave voting right to every male and brought about significant changes in social life.
2. In 1833 slaves were declared free.
3. Chimney sweeps Act in 1840 and Factory Act in 1833 prohibited child labour.
4. Machiavellianism of Railways and Ships were improved which helped develop overseas commerce and industry, and thus , brought material affluence.
5. There was a significant progress of women during this time.
6. Agricultural based society was disintegrated as the result of the development of industry. This had a strong effect on the rural people.
7. The theory of evolution and the concept of Communism changed the traditional view of life and religion.
8. The Fabian society was founded in 1883 to avoid violence in class-struggle . G. B. Shaw was one of the members of this society.

Major Writers of the Period and Their Major Works:
Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)
“The Idea of University”
“Loss and Gain”
Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82)
“ The Origin of Species” (1859)
“The Descent of man” (1871)
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92)
*He is best known for his melodious language.
“Poems” (1833)
“In Memoriam” (1850)
“Maud and other Poems” (1855)
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-1865)
“Mary Barton “ (1848)
“Cranford” (1853)
“Ruth” (1853)
“Sylvia ‘s Lovers “ (1863)
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63)
“Vanity Fair” (1848)
“The Virginians” (1859)
Charles Dickens (1812-70)
“The Pickwick Papers” (1836)
“Oliver Twist” (1837)
“David Copperfield” (1850)
“Bleak House” (1852)
“A Tale of two Cities” (1859)
“Great Expectations” (1861)
Robert Browning (1812-89)
*Hi is famous for his dramatic monologues
“Dramatic Lyrics” (1842)
“Men and Women” (1855)
“Dramatic Personae” (1864)
Charlotte Bronte (1816-55)
“Jane Eyre” (1847)
“Shirley” (1849)
“The Professor” (1857)
George Eliot (1819-80)
*Her real name is Mary Ann Evans
“The Mill on the Floss” (1860)
“Scenes of Clerical Life” (1858)
“Adam Bede” (1859)
“Silas Marner” (1861)
“Romola” (1863)
Matthew Arnold (1822-88)
*He was a poet and critic, known for his strong moral voice.
“ Essays on Criticism” (1888)
“Culture and Anarchy” (1867) and some poems.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1910)
*He was a regional novelist and a poet .
“The Return of the Native” (1878)
“The Mayor of Casterbridge” (1886)
“Tess of the D ‘Urbervilles” (1891)
Henry James (1843-1916)
“Daisy Miller (1879)
“The American” (1877)
“The Tragic Muse” (1890)
Oscar Wilde (1856-1900)
*He was a poet, novelist and dramatist.
“Lady  Windermere’s Fan” (1892)
“A Woman of no Importance” (1893)
“An Ideal Husband” (1895)
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
*He was a Modern dramatist, famous for his drama of ideas.
“Arms and the Man” (1894)
“You Never Can Tell” (1898)
“Mrs. Warrens ‘s Profession” (1898)
Rudyard Kipling (1859-1936)
“The Jungle Book” (1894)
“Departmental Ditties” (1886)
“Plain Tales from the Hills” (1888)
“Soliders Three” (1890)

Main literary features of the Period:

1. Victorian literature shifts from the Romantic utopianism to utilitarianism, from the Romantic imagination to reality, from Romantic common man to middle class.
2. Victorian attitude to nature also changes. To the Romantics it was kind and harmonious; to the Victorians it is harsh and cruel .
3. Prudery and morality become the controlling principles of creative works.
4. It encourages “compromise and construction”.
5. In the early part of the age literature chooses “art for life ‘s sake” as the principle of art and asserts didactic purposes
6. The mass of writing of this age reflects a highly idealizesd notion of “proper behavior” .
7. A dualism of reason and emotion, materialism and mysticism, religion and science or faith and doubt , freedom and restrictions is very common in the literature of this period.
8. Poets , novelists, and essayists of this age emphasize truth, Justice, brotherhood, peace and stability.
9. Dramatic monologue and elegy are popular poetic form of the age . Isolation, loss of faith, despite and emancipation of women are common themes of poems. Classical myths are re told in poems
10. The novel become the domineering literary form in the Victorian Era. A typical Victorian novel has a long and complicated plot , an omniscient narrator whose comments on the wrong and right serve moral purposes. It has a setting in a known city , a child protagonist, social and humanitarian themes, deeper character Analysis , irony in the description and justification of all events in the final chapter. Its common subject are exploitation of women and children, terrible living conditions, industrial civilization , lost identity, etc. A good number of novels written by women raise the feminist issues.
11. Towards the end of this period most of these features of the Victorian Era gradually disappear. A new movement known as the Decadence started. It brings back “art for art ‘s sake” . It emphasize sensationalism , egocentricity,  the bizarre , the artificial, etc. in literature. Swinburne, Dowson , Pater , Morris and the Rossettis are the writers of this group.

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