Knowledge is the key to immortality
|Prepared by Dr. Baburam Swami - Assistant Professor - English|
The Victorian Age. The year 1830 is generally placed at the beginning of this period, but its limits are very indefinite.
In general we may think of it as covering the reign of Victoria (1837-1901). Historically the age is remarkable for the growth of democracy following the Reform Bill of 1832; for the spread of education among all classes; for the rapid development of the arts and sciences; for important mechanical inventions; and for the enormous extension of the bounds of human knowledge by the discoveries of science.
At the accession of Victoria the romantic movement had spent its force; Wordsworth had written his best work; the other romantic poets, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron, had passed away; and for a time no new development was apparent in English poetry. Though the Victorian Age produced two great poets, Tennyson and Browning, the age, as a whole, is remarkable for the variety and excellence of its prose. A study of all the great writers of the period reveals four general characteristics: (1) Literature in this Age has come very close to daily life, reflecting its practical problems and interests, and is a powerful instrument of human progress.
(2) The tendency of literature is strongly ethical; all the great poets, novelists, and essayists of the age are moral teachers.
(3) Science in this age exercises an incalculable influence. On the one hand it emphasizes truth as the sole object of human endeavor; it has established the principle of law throughout the universe; and it has given us an entirely new view of life, as summed up in the word "evolution," that is, the principle of growth or development from simple to complex forms. On the other hand, its first effect seems to be to discourage works of the imagination. Though the age produced an incredible number of books, very few of them belong among the great creative works of literature.
(4) Though the age is generally characterized as practical and materialistic, it is significant that nearly all the writers whom the nation delights to honor vigorously attack materialism, and exalt a purely ideal conception of life. On the whole, we are inclined to call this an idealistic age fundamentally, since love, truth, justice, brotherhood--all great ideals--are emphasized as the chief ends of life, not only by its poets but also by its novelists and essayists.
In our study we have considered:
(1) The Poets; the life and works of Tennyson and Browning; and the chief characteristics of the minor poets, Elizabeth Barrett (Mrs. Browning), Rossetti, Morris, and Swinburne.
(2) The Novelists; the life and works of Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot; and the chief works of Charles Reade, Anthony Trollope, Charlotte Brontë, Bulwer-Lytton, Kingsley, Mrs. Gaskell, Blackmore, George Meredith, Hardy, and Stevenson.
(3) The Essayists; the life and works of Macaulay, Matthew Arnold, Carlyle, Newman, and Ruskin. These were selected, from among many essayists and miscellaneous writers, as most typical of the Victorian Age. The great scientists, like Lyell, Darwin, Huxley, Wallace, Tyndall, and Spencer, hardly belong to our study of literature, though their works are of vast importance; and we omit the works of living writers who belong to the present rather than to the past century.
Selections for Reading. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English Prose (Ginn and Company) contain excellent selections from all authors of this period. Many other collections, like Ward's English Poets, Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria, Page's British Poets of the Nineteenth Century, and Stedman's A Victorian Anthology, may be used to advantage. All important works may be found in the convenient and inexpensive school editions given below. (For full titles and publishers see the General Bibliography.)
Tennyson. Short poems, and selections from Idylls of the King, In Memoriam, Enoch Arden, and The Princess. These are found in various school editions, Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, Riverside Literature Series, etc. Poems by Tennyson, selected and edited with notes by Henry Van Dyke (Athenaeum Press Series), is an excellent little volume for beginners.
Browning. Selections, edited by R.M. Lovett, in Standard English Classics. Other school editions in Everyman's Library, Belles Lettres Series, etc.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Selections, edited by Elizabeth Lee, in Standard English Classics. Selections also in Pocket Classics, etc.
Matthew Arnold. Sohrab and Rustum, edited by Trent and Brewster, in Standard English Classics. The same poem in Riverside Literature Series, etc. Selections in Golden Treasury Series, etc. Poems, students' edition (Crowell). Essays in Everyman's Library, etc. Prose selections (Holt, Allyn & Bacon, etc.).
Dickens. Tale of Two Cities, edited by J.W. Linn, in Standard English Classics. A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and Pickwick Papers. Various good school editions of these novels in Everyman's Library, etc.
Thackeray. Henry Esmond, edited by H.B. Moore, in Standard English Classics. The same novel, in Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics, etc.
George Eliot. Silas Marner, edited by R. Adelaide Witham, in Standard English Classics. The same novel, in Pocket Classics, etc.
Carlyle. Essay on Burns, edited by C.L. Hanson, in Standard English Classics, and Heroes and Hero Worship, edited by A. MacMechan, in Athenaeum Press Series. Selections, edited by H.W. Boynton (Allyn & Bacon). Various other inexpensive editions, in Pocket Classics, Eclectic English Classics, etc.
Ruskin. Sesame and Lilies, edited by Lois G. Hufford, in Standard English Classics. Other editions in Riverside Literature, Everyman's Library, etc. Selected Essays and Letters, edited by Hufford, in Standard English Classics. Selections, edited by Vida D. Scudder (Sibley); edited by C.B. Tinker, in Riverside Literature.
Macaulay. Essays on Addison and Milton, edited by H.A. Smith, in Standard English Classics. Same essays, in Cassell's National Library, Riverside Literature, etc. Lays of Ancient Rome, in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, etc.
Newman. Selections, with introduction by L.E. Gates (Holt); Selections from prose and poetry, in Riverside Literature. The Idea of a University, in Manly's English Prose
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