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Essay/Term paper: Victorian england

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

Free essays available online are good but they will not follow the guidelines of your particular writing assignment. If you need a custom term paper on History: Victorian England, you can hire a professional writer here to write you a high quality authentic essay. While free essays can be traced by Turnitin (plagiarism detection program), our custom written essays will pass any plagiarism test. Our writing service will save you time and grade.



The Victorian era, from the coronation of Queen Victoria in

1837 until her death in 1901, was an era of several

unsettling social developments that forced writers more

than ever before to take positions on the immediate issues

animating the rest of society. Thus, although romantic forms

of expression in poetry and prose continued to dominate

English literature throughout much of the century, the

attention of many writers was directed, sometimes

passionately, to such issues as the growth of English

democracy, the education of the masses, the progress of

industrial enterprise and the consequent rise of a

materialistic philosophy, and the plight of the newly

industrialized worker. In addition, the unsettling of religious

belief by new advances in science, particularly the theory of

evolution and the historical study of the Bible, drew other

writers away from the immemorial subjects of literature into

considerations of problems of faith and truth. Nonfiction

The historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, in his History

of England (5 volumes, 1848-1861) and even more in his

Critical and Historical Essays (1843), expressed the

complacency of the English middle classes over their new

prosperity and growing political power. The clarity and

balance of Macaulay's style, which reflects his practical

familiarity with parliamentary debate, stands in contrast to

the sensitivity and beauty of the prose of John Henry

Newman. Newman's main effort, unlike Macaulay's, was

to draw people away from the materialism and skepticism

of the age back to a purified Christian faith. His most

famous work, Apologia pro vita sua (Apology for His Life,

1864), describes with psychological subtlety and charm the

basis of his religious opinions and the reasons for his

change from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic church.

Similarly alienated by the materialism and commercialism of

the period, Thomas Carlyle, another of the great

Victorians, advanced a heroic philosophy of work,

courage, and the cultivation of the godlike in human beings,

by means of which life might recover its true worth and

nobility. This view, borrowed in part from German idealist

philosophy, Carlyle expressed in a vehement, idiosyncratic

style in such works as Sartor resartus (The Tailor

Retailored, 1833-1834) and On Heroes, Hero-Worship,

and the Heroic in History (1841). Other answers to social

problems were presented by two fine Victorian prose

writers of a different stamp. The social criticism of the art

critic John Ruskin looked to the curing of the ills of

industrial society and capitalism as the only path to beauty

and vitality in the national life. The escape from social

problems into aesthetic hedonism was the contribution of

the Oxford scholar Walter Pater. Poetry The three notable

poets of the Victorian age became similarly absorbed in

social issues. Beginning as a poet of pure romantic

escapism, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, soon moved on to

problems of religious faith, social change, and political

power, as in "Locksley Hall," the elegy In Memoriam

(1850), and The Idylls of the King (1859). All the

characteristic moods of his poetry, from brooding splendor

to lyrical sweetness, are expressed with smooth technical

mastery. His style, as well as his peculiarly English

conservatism, stands in some contrast to the intellectuality

and bracing harshness of the poetry of Robert Browning.

Browning's most important short poems are collected in

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1841-1846) and Men and

Women (1855). Matthew Arnold, the third of these

mid-Victorian poets, stands apart from them as a more

subtle and balanced thinker his literary criticism (Essays in

Criticism, 1865, 1888) is the most remarkable written in

Victorian times. His poetry displays a sorrowful,

disillusioned pessimism over the human plight in rapidly

changing times (for example, "Dover Beach," 1867), a

pessimism countered, however, by a strong sense of duty.

Among a number of lesser poets, Algernon Charles

Swinburne showed an escapist aestheticism, somewhat

similar to Pater's, in sensuous verse rich in verbal music but

somewhat diffuse and pallid in its expression of emotion.

The poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the poet, artist, and

socialist reformer William Morris were associated with the

Pre-Raphaelite movement, the adherents of which hoped to

inaugurate a new period of honest craft and spiritual truth in

property and painting. Despite the otherworldly or archaic

character of their romantic poetry, Morris, at least, found a

social purpose in his designs for household objects, which

profoundly influenced contemporary taste. The Victorian

Novel The novel gradually became the dominant form in

literature during the Victorian age. A fairly constant

accompaniment of this development was the yielding of

romanticism to literary realism, the accurate observation of

individual problems and social relationships. The close

observation of a restricted social milieu in the novels of

Jane Austen early in the century (Pride and Prejudice,

1813 Emma, 1816) had been a harbinger of what was to

come. The romantic historical novels of Sir Walter Scott,

about the same time (Ivanhoe, 1820), typified, however,

the spirit against which the realists later were to react. It

was only in the Victorian novelists Charles Dickens and

William Makepeace Thackeray that the new spirit of

realism came to the fore. Dickens's novels of contemporary

life (Oliver Twist, 1837-1839 David Copperfield,

1849-1850 Great Expectations, 1861 Our Mutual Friend,

1865) exhibit an astonishing ability to create living

characters his graphic exposures of social evils and his

powers of caricature and humor have won him a vast

readership. Thackeray, on the other hand, indulged less in

the sentimentality sometimes found in Dickens's works. He

was also capable of greater subtlety of characterization, as

his Vanity Fair (1847-1848) shows. Nevertheless, the

restriction of concern in Thackeray's novels to middle- and

upper-class life, and his lesser creative power, render him

second to Dickens in many readers' minds. Other important

figures in the mainstream of the Victorian novel were

notable for a variety of reasons. Anthony Trollope was

distinguished for his gently ironic surveys of English

ecclesiastical and political circles Emily Brontë, for her

penetrating study of passionate character George Eliot, for

her responsible idealism George Meredith, for a

sophisticated, detached, and ironical view of human nature

and Thomas Hardy, for a profoundly pessimistic sense of

human subjection to fate and circumstance. A second and

younger group of novelists, many of whom continued their

important work into the 20th century, displayed two new

tendencies. Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and

Joseph Conrad tried in various ways to restore the spirit of

romance to the novel, in part by a choice of exotic locale,

in part by articulating their themes through plots of

adventure and action. Kipling attained fame also for his

verse and for his mastery of the single, concentrated effect

in the short story. Another tendency, in a sense an

intensification of realism, was common to Arnold Bennett,

John Galsworthy, and H. G. Wells. These novelists

attempted to represent the life of their time with great

accuracy and in a critical, partly propagandistic spirit.

Wells's novels, for example, often seem to be sociological

investigations of the ills of modern civilization rather than

self-contained stories. 

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