The Victorian Age or Victorian period is considered as the ‘golden age’ of English literature in the reign of queen Victoria which extended from 1837 to 1901. This period covers the best phase of the 19th century. It is difficult to characterize any age in on or two sentences because each epoch is a complex of various historical, political, social, economical and cultural factors. However, it would not be far from the truth to term the Victorian Age as a period of peace and prosperity. During this age novel has become the leading literary genre in English Literature. English literature from this era reflects the major transformations in most aspects of English life, from scientific to economic and technological advances to changes in class structures and the role of religion in society.
17th century England was rife with Civil War and revolutions and 18th century witnessed recurrent was against France. However, during the 19th century the only wars were the Crimean War (1853- 53) against imperial Russia and the Boer War (1899- 1902) in South Africa which only served to enhance Britain’s power and prestige which reached its zenith in the mid- 19th century. It was a period of imperial expansion. It was also a period of economic as the key to success. There was an intense feeling of national unity and optimism. The familiar image of Queen Victoria with her husband Prince Albert and their children only served to emphasizes the importance of the family as the key social unit. The Victorian Age was also rather moralistic and the queen’s soberly clad figure only stressed the propriety and decorum that marked 19th century English society.
Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ (1859) by expounding the theory of evolution, shook the foundations of religious faith.
The Victorian Age is often referred to ‘an age of giants’. The writers of the period were confidentand extremely prolific. The Elizabethan Age can be seen as the age of drama, the romantic age, age of poetry, etc. while the Victorian age of drama can boast of the best English novels ever written. The novels of Dicken’s charlotte and Emily Bronte, George Eliot, G.M. Thackeray, George Meredith and Thomas Hardy are widely read even today.
What was the main features of Victorian age?
The Victorian Era is majorly known as an “Era of peace” including conflict between science and development, material and intellectual development, morality, the revolt and the new education were some of the main features of the era.
What was the theme of Victorian Age?
The Victorian era are full of universal theme that modern readers can still connect with, such as finding a purpose, or a place in the world, seeking love, understanding technology and science, feeling nostalgic for a time gone by, and finding happiness in developing world. Also, the struggle of the working class and the triumph of right over wrong.
Poetry and theatre were also present in this period. Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson were some of most famous poets. And for theatre it was not until the last decades of the 19th century that any significant works were produced. Notable playwrights of the time include Gilbert, Sullivan, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.
The poetry of the age is a continuation of the Romantic tradition on one level, while on another, it is also an expression of the spirit of its emerged as a product of the poet’s individual mind and experiences, Victorian poetry seems to evolve out of a more general spirit of the age. For instance; Romantic poetry comes straight from the heart, while Victorian poetry give the impression that a poet is always aware of their own exalted status and this dictates the tone and the manner in which they address the reader. This doesn’t imply that the Victorians did not express their emotions.
This period was also a time of abstract expression and inward focus, essayists, poets and novelist of this era began to reflect realities of the day, including the danger of factory works, child labour, the plight of lower class and the treatment of women. Prominent examples including poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and novelist Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Berrett’s work on child labour cemented her success in a male- dominated society, where women writers often had to use masculine pseudonyms. Dickens implied humours and an approachable tone while addressing social problems as wealth disparity. Hardy used his novels to question religion and social structures.
Major works of Victorian Age
- ‘Heart of darkness’ by Joseph Conrad novella
- ‘Great expectations’, and ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens
- ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot
- ‘Vanity fair: a novel without a hero’ by William Thackeray
- ‘Wuthering heights’ by Emily Bronte
- ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte
Renown writers/authors of Victorian Age
- Charles Dickens
- Three Bronte sisters (inc. Emily Bronte)
- G.M. Thackeray
- George Eliot
- George Meredith
- Thomas Hardy
- Robert Browning
- Alfred Tennyson
Renown poetess of Victorian Era
- Robert Browning
- Alfred Tennyson
- Christina Rossetti
- Matthew Arnold
- G.M. Hopkins
Overall, Victorian Age was not only an age of prosperity, but an age of gloomy forebodings, it was an age of imperial expansion, but also an age of colonial uprisings. Therefore, it was an age of peace with an undercurrent of sick hurry and divided aims.