Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and died in 1901. The middle-classes admired her for her religious and moral views and for her strict code of behaviour. Victoria's reign was a period of political developments, imperial expansion and social reforms like the "Ten hours act" that limited working hours to ten for a day for all labourers, especially for women and children.
During Victoria's reign there were two political parties: the Liberals and the Conservatives and there was also a movement called Chartism: was called for social reforms and the extension of the right to vote all male adults, but this demands were refused and the movement slowly died.
In 1839-1842 there was the Firs Opium War against China; Britain gained the control of Hong Kong and the access to five chinese ports.
In 1853-1856 there was the Crimean War; Britain supported Turkey and in 1857 there were also crisis in India.
The Great Exhibition
Was considered the first universal exposure and was housed in the crystal palace, built by Joseph Paxton in Hyde Park. Was the first building in glass and iron to be entirely prefabricated. Inside were exposed goods from english colonies and the profits were used for the establishment of the Victoria and Albert museum, Science museum and National History Museum.
Life in Victoria's town
In Victoria's town poor houses (slums) were famous for squalor, desease and crime and queen Victoria wanted to help poor's problem of overcrowding. She introduced water, gas and lighting and built place of entertainment, shops, parks and public houses. In 1829-1830 Robert Peel, Prime Minister, established the Metropolitan Police. Instead were built hospitals and medicine had a radical change.
Victoria's age was an age of progress, social reforms, injustices, poverty and general unrest. Respect was important and the respectability distinguished the middle and the upper class by the lower. A man to be respectable had to have good manners, had to attend the church, had to have a carriage and a confortable house with the servants. The society was philantropic and the family was patriarchal. The father had all the power and the mother had only occupied of children's education. The women without husband, with children and single were considered "Fallen women". Sexuality and all the terms related to the argument, were rejected.
- Readers and writers had interests in common;
- Victorian literature was published in instalments, in the pages of periodical to keep the writer in contact with the readers;
- Was the most form of literature and of entertainment;
- Some novels were written by women that used a pseudonym because the art and public activities were considered masculine;
- Writers aimed at reflecting the social changes that had been in progress like the growth of town or the Industrial Revolution.
Features of Victorian novel
- Long plot with subplots;
- Setting: city;
- Omniscient narrator that erected a rigid barrier between light and darkness, right and wrong;
- Retribution and punishment;
- Writers were concentrated on the creation of character and had an analysis of the character inner life.