THE VICTORIAN AGE(1830-1901)
It is a very complex age, we can find something but also the opposite of that. Queen Victoria became queen after the death of William IV and he reigned until death in 1901. This was a period of unprecedent material progress, imperial expansion and also one of political and constitutional developments. There was the diffusion of a consolidated democracy and an efficient system of government. The merits of these facts belonged to Queen Victoria who reigned constitutionally thus avoiding the storm of revolution in 1848.
Her exemplary family life, her strictly respectable and decent code of behaviour (VICTORIANISM) made her beloved especially by middle classes: she wanted to be an example for all nations and classes.
Britain had a leading industrial and economical position in the world-> THE GREAT EXHIBITION” of 1851->goods coming from all the countries of the Empire as well as from all parts of Britain were exhibited.
There were two parties:
LIBERAL->that then became “LABOUR PARTY”
In 1877 queen Victoria obtained the title of “Empress of India”; Disraeli had bought a large number of shares in the Suez Canal Company. They colonized Australia, new Zealand, south Africa (the war against the Boers), and Cyprus. Most British people believed in their right to an empire and they though that imperial expansion would absorb excess goods, capital and population. They wanted to spread their civilization to every cornet of the globe-> JINGOISM: aggressive and warmongering patriotism originated in 1870. It derives from a popular song of that period. Jingo is a fanatic nationalist.
Britain discovered also that every area conquered entailed new dangers, which had to be controlled, and it found itself involved in a contradiction between imperial ambition and liberal ideas.
In 19th century there was a profound transformation in society.
• Nation of town dwellers
• City polluted, with smells, noise, disease etc.
• City of massive size, industries, population
• Diffusion of servant-keeping class
• Bad conditions of the workers
VICTORIAN TOWNS, LIFE
• Segregation of poor people in “zoning”->quarters characterized by squalor, disease and crime
• The death rate was high
• Terrible working condition in polluted atmospheres, disastrous effect on children’s health
• Cholera epidemics and TB
• OVERCROWDING-> row after row, street after street, no water and sewerage systems, no lighting, no paving, no windows.
• Diffusion of renting->small rooms for a lot of people and at high
• Middle class-> diffusion of lighting, gas, sanitary services, paved roads, places of entertainment
-> in 1829 sir Robert Peel established the metropolitan police-> MP-> policemen knew as BOBBIES and PEELERS.
-> the local drunks, prostitutes, and young criminals were arrested and prosecuted.
VICTORIAN VALUES: the Victorians were great moralisers probably because they faced numerous problems. The most persistently advocated notion was the need to work hard. They believed in natural progress that emerges from hard work. Diligence, good time-keeping and good behaviour were rewarded normally by the gift of books. Respectability distinguished the middle class from the lower class.
Bourgeois ideals dominated Victorian family life. The family was a patriarchal unit where the husband was dominant. The man was the breadwinner a source of discipline. Also the woman has a key-role in the education of children and managing domestics and budgeting.
FALLEN WOMAN->society with an intense concern for female chastity. Single woman with child were marginalized and ostracised. Sexuality was generally repressed in its public and private forms. There was also a denunciation of nudity in art, the veiling of sculptured genitals and a rejection of bad words in the vocabulary.
THE CONCEPT OF THE WHITE MAN BURDEN”-> il fardello dell’uomo bianco.
Victorian society was an optimistic society, however full of contradictions and doubts.
VICTORIAN LICTERATURE: there was an interest into reality and not in imagination. Interest in culture in particular for middle class. They borrowed books from circulating libraries and read the various periodicals. A great deal of Victorian literature was first published in this form: essays, verse and novels in pages of periodicals. The authors had a strong contact with their public. They were obliged to maintain the interest of the story at certain levels. The most important and diffused kind of literary work was prose.
Novels had also a moral and social important: they reflected the social changes, the most important points of Victorians society.
Novels: -realistic description
- omniscient narrator
The denunciation of the problems of English society was not as hard and strong as in the other European countries. The condition of English workers and towns are not so bad as in the other nations.
Kinds of novels:
*Social problems novel
*Novels of manners-> Thackeray
*Humanitarian novels-> CHARLES DICKENS
-> GEORGE ELLIOT-> psychological and moral complexity of
*Naturalistic novel-> Thomas Hardy
*Nonsensical novel-> Lewis Carroll-> Alice’s adventures in wonderland
*RUDIAN KIPLING-> exalted the imperial power of Britain as a sacred duty.
NATURALISM-> based on determinism in history-> human life was dominated on fate and we can’t do anything to change our destiny, we are alone in an indifferent world.