Literature in the Victorian Age
The Victorian age is the period of the reign of Queen Victoria. This period saw the spread of the novel, thanks to the improvements in printing and distribution of books. Novels were mainly published instalments (more episodes of the same series), so writers could change the plot following the public’s taste; that’s why this novels are usually long and plots are sometimes difficult, incoherent, melodramatic and with no deep analysis of characters.
Women, especially women from the middle-class, were great readers but even great writers, because they found in writing a way to freely express themselves. The middle-class wanted to improve its education but even to have fun, and the novel was perfect for that: it could have an educational aim but was even easy to approach, and reading became a ritual in the average middle-class family.
During the Victorian age there were several literary movements: later Romanticism, Realism (reality is reproduced in a faithful way), Naturalism (reality is approached in a scientific way; an example is Stevenson’s “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), aestheticism (art for art’s sake: the perfect example is Oscar Wilde), Decadentism (Thomas Hardy).
The Victorian age can be divided into three phases:
- Earlier Victorian age, when writers strictly identified with the period;
- Middle Victorian age, that is a period of transition to new elements;
- Later Victorian age, when there is a sense of dissatisfaction that led to modernism.
There were several famous writers during the Victoria age: Dickens, who painted the lower middle class; Thackeray, who painted the upper middle class; Kipling, who described the imperialistic world; Wilde and Stevenson, who dealt with the dualism in human personality.
Alfred Tennyson is the most popular poet of the age for the beauty of his poetry and sentimental idealism; he wrote a collection of “Poems” and “Ulysses”, and was elevated to the rank of Lord for literary merits; he wanted to be a prophet, so his poetry reveals a teaching purpose.