Topic: Characteristics of Victorian age (literature)
Paper Name: Victorian Literature
Name: Nidhi Jasani
Roll No.: 16
Class: M.A. Sem.2
P.G. Enrolment No: 14101018
Submitted to: M.K. Bhavnagar University, Department of English.
Every nation has their own history, as same England has their own history. We found there are so many periods like ‘The Elizabethan age’, ‘The age of Milton’, ‘The Romantic age’, ‘The Victorian age’ and at last ‘The Modern age’ etc. Here I would like to introduce ‘The age of Queen Victoria in detail. The Victorian age started in (1832 to 1887) during the reign of Queen Victoria. The Victorian age is one of the most remarkable periods in the history of England. It was an era of material influence, political consciousness, democratic reforms, industrial and mechanical progress, scientific advancement, social unrest, educational expansion, empire building and religious uncertainty.The Victorian age was essentially a period of peace and prosperity for England. The few colonial wars that broke out during this period exercised little adverse effects on the national life. The effect of the Crimean War on the nation. In the early year of the age, the effect of the French revolution was still felt, but by the middle of the middle of the century, it had almost completely dwindled and England felt safe from any revolutionary upsurge disturbing the placidity and peaceful existence of its life. Dwindled and England felt safe from any revolutionary upsurge disturbing the placidity and peaceful existence of its life. In the comparison of other this reign this is a peaceful reign. Englishman secure in their island base could complete the transformation of all aspects of their industrial, commercial and social life without any risks of violent interruptions that gave quite a different quality to the history of continental nations. Peace brought material advancement and industrial progress in the country. Industrial advancement created social unrest and economic distress among the masses. The Industrial Revolution while creating the privileged class of capitalists and mill owners, rolling in wealth and riches, also brought in its wake semi-starved and ill-clad class of laborers and factory workers who were thoroughly dissatisfied with their miserable lot. A new class of landed aristocracy and mill-owners spring up. In that time conditions of life held no charm for laborers and workers in the field, for they were required to dwell in slum areas with on amenities of life attending them at any stage of their miserable existence. In the course of the Victorian era there developed among the increasingly large number of literary men and women and philanthropic social reformers a humanist attitude to life which was not a matter of creed and dogmas, by recognition of the love and loyalty that the better-sensed people had for their unfortunate brethren.
The growing importance of the masses and the large number of factory hands gave a spurt to the ‘Reform Bills’, which heralded the birth of democratic consciousness among the Victorian people. The Victorian age witnessed a conflict between aristocracy and plutocracy on the one hand, and democracy and socialism on the other hand. There was a phenomenal growth in population during the Victorian age. ‘The Oxford Movement’ represents the revival of the old Roman Catholic religion and the authority of the church at the time when science was challenging the religious thought of the age.
Victorian background will not be complete without adding a few lines about the Victorian Compromise. Victorian compromise was particularly perceptible in three branches of life. In field of political life there was a compromise between democracy and aristocracy, religion and science, rich and poor class people.
Literary Tendencies or Characteristics of The Victorian Literature
The literary figures of the Victorian age were endowed with marked originality in outlook, character and style. “In Macaulay there was much of the energy and enterprise of the self-made man. Tension loved to sing the praises of sturdy independence. In Dickens’ book there are, perhaps, more originals than in those of any other novelist in the world. The Bronte sisters pursued their lonely path in life with the pride and endurance learnt at the Haworth parsonage. Carlyle and Browning cultivated manner full of eccentricity, and even Thackeray, thought more regular in style than his contemporaries, loved to follow a haphazard path in the conduct of his stories, indulging in unbounded license of comment and digression.”
The discoveries of science have particular effects upon the literature of the age. If we study all the great writers of the age, I will mark five general characteristics.
The Victorian age was essentially the age of prose and novel. We found development of prose and novels on this age. “Thought the age produced many poets, and two who deserve to rank among the greatest,” says W.J. Long, “nevertheless this is emphatically an age of prose and novel. The novel in this age fills a place which the drama held in the day of Elizabeth; and never before, in any age, or language, has the novel appeared in such numbers and in such perfection.”
Literature of this age tends to come closer to daily life which reflects its practical problems and interests. It becomes a powerful instrument for human progress. Socially and economically, Industrialism was on the rise and various reform movements like emancipation, child labor, women’s rights, and evolution.
We found that there is no progress of ‘drama’ in the Victorian age. Victorian writer put weight only on prose and novel. We can see that many writer write novels and other but we rarely found a person write drama or play.
Victorian literature in its varied aspects was marked by a deep moral note. “the second marked characteristic of the age is that literature, both in prose and poetry, seems to depart from the purely artistic standard of art’s sake and to be actuated by a definite moral purpose.” Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Ruskin were primarily interested in their message to their countrymen. They were teacher of England and were inspired by a conscious moral purpose to uplift and instruct their fellow man. Behind the fun and sentiment of Dickens, the social miniatures of Thackeray, the psychological studies of George Eliot, lay hidden a definite moral purpose to sweep away error and to bring out vividly in unmistakable terms the underlying truth of human life. We found good example in ‘The Mill on the Floss’ by Eliot. We found many of the writers write about family and morality in their literary work.
The Victorian literature seems to deviate from “art for art’s sake” and asserts its moral purpose. Many of the writer gives the moral message to the world.
The literature of the Victorian age was correlated to the social and political life of the age. The Victorian literary artists, living aside a few votaries of art for art’s sake represented by the Pre-Raphaelite school of poets, were inspired by a social zeal to represent the problem of their own age.
Perhaps for this reason the Victorian literature is the literature of ‘realism’ rather than of romance, not the realism of Zola and Ibsen, but a deeper realism which strives to tell the whole truth, showing moral and physical diseases as they are, but holding up health and hope as the moral conditions of humanity. Literature became an instrument of social reform and social propaganda and it was marked with purposeful, propagandistic and didactic aims.
The Victorian literature is full of realism. We can say that Oliver twist is a realistic character; in Victorian age we found there is child labor in workhouse. So it called realism, and in Frankenstein there is no real character like monster in real life, but we found character like Oliver in real life. So the Victorian literature represents realism. There is no imaginative character in the literature. In Victorian literature we found realistic character rather than romantic character.
A note of pessimism, doubt and despair runs through Victorian literature and is noticed especially in the poetry of Matthew Arnold and Arthur Hugh Clough. Though a note of pessimism runs through the literature of the age, it cannot be dubbed as a literature of bleak pessimism and dark despair. A note of idealism and optimism is also struck by poets like Browning and prose writers like Ruskin. Rabbi Ben Ezra brings out the courageous optimism of the age. Stedman’s Victorian Anthology is, on the whole, a most inspiring book of poetry. Great essayists like Macaulay, Carlyle, Ruskin, and great novelists like Dickens, Thackeray and George Eliot inspire us with their faith in humanity and uplift us by their buoyancy and large charity.
The literature of the age is considerably modified by the impact of science. “It is the scientific spirit, and all that the scientific spirit implied, its certain doubt, its care for minuteness and truth of observation, its growing interest in social processes, and the conditions under which life is lived that is the central fact in Victorian literature.”
The questioning spirit in lough, the pessimism of James Thomson, the melancholy of Matthew Arnold, the fatalism of Fitzgerald, are all the outcome of the skeptical tendencies evoked by scientific research. Tennyson’s poetry is also considerably influenced by the advancement of science in the age, and the undertones of scientific researchers can be heard in ‘In Memoriam’.
A note of patriotism runs through Victorian literature. Tennyson, Dickens and Disraeli are inspired by a national pride and a sense of greatness in their country’s superiority over nations. Tennyson strikes the patriotic note in the following lines
It is the land that freemen till
That sober-suited freedom chose
A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown,
Where freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent.
In one direction the literature of the Victorian age achieved a salient and momentous advance over the lecture of the Romantic Revival. The poets of the Romantic were interested in nature, in the past, and in a lesser degree in art, but they were not intensively interested in men and women.
To Wordsworth the dalesmen of the lakes were a part of the scenery they moved in. He treated human being as natural objects and divested them of the complexities and passions of life as it is lived. The Victorian poets and novelists laid emphasis on men and women and imparted to them the same warmth and glow which the Romantic poets had given to nature. “The Victorian age extended to the complexities of human life, the imaginative sensibility which its predecessor had brought to bear on nature and history. The Victorian poets and novelists added humanity to nature and art as the subject matter of literature.”
We can say that in the literature the effect of patriotism. The writer focuses on national identity and patriotism in Victorian age.
Some other characteristics of this age
We found some other minor characteristics of Victorian age. A few literary artists of this age struck the note of revolt against
The Materialistic tendencies of the age, and sought to seek refuge in the overcharged atmosphere of the Middle age.an escapist note is also perceptible in the Victorian literature, and this is particularly noticed in the works of the pre-Raphaelite poets. Morris busied himself in its legends and sagas. “There were some minor reversions to classicism, but taken largely, literature of the age continued to be romantic, in the novelty and variety of it’s from, in its search after undiscovered springs of truth and beauty, in its emotional and imaginative intensity.”
Idealism is often considered as an age of doubt and pessimism. The influence of science is felt here. The whole age seems to be caught in the conception of man in relation to the universe with the idea of evolution.
Though, the age is characterized as practical and materialistic, most of the writers exalt a purely ideal life. It is an idealistic age where the great ideals like truth, justice, love, brotherhood, are emphasized by poets, essayists and novelists of the age.
Thus, we can say that this is the age which is completely different than the age of Romanticism. It is the age of morality, realism, industrial development, patriotism, pessimism and development of prose and novels. That’s why the Victorian literature is the literature of realism rather than romance like Oliver Twist, Mill on the floss, Middlemarch, In Memoriam, etc. The literature of the Victorian age, in spite of its insistence on rationality, and an order born out of reason, could not completely cut off from the main springs of Romanticism. So after understanding these all characteristics we can easily understand the Victorian age.