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The Victorian Literature

Each era has its own significance and no age is absolutely isolated from the other. So is true for the Victorian Age which, like other ages is the outcome of its own social complexities. It is the product of multi-facial social evolutions. According to Edward Albert (History of English Literature, Fifth Edition), the Victorian era spans from 1830 to 1890. These six decades are bursting with awakening literary works. The new ideas of science, religion and politics brought some revolutionary changes. Many writers like Carlyle, Mathew Arnold, and Thackeray expressed denunciations of social values through their writings.

The Pre-Raphaelites, being represented by Swinburne and William Morris proclaimed that there could be no morality save the inclination of the artist for the sake of the art. Art for the sake of morality was discarded. The spirit of aestheticism was more welcome.

With the publication of the "Origin of the Species" in 1859 by Darwin, the stereotyped beliefs were overthrown once for all. Innumerable changes were brought. The so called ‘Oxford Movement' made some advancement in the field of literary education. Many educational acts were passed making education compulsory. With the progress of technology, printing presses became very cheap. People got easy access to books. At the same time demands of books increased. Large books like novels got published in huge numbers. Thus the middle years of the nineteenth century became the richest period in the English literature.

Due to phenomenal development in communication and transport, interaction between the English and the Germans increased. The link between the America and the Europe gave a new fillip to the rise of literature. This age produced many writers with renovated ideas. One of the great poets, Lord Tennyson emerged with numerous meditations on life and manner. His poem "In Memoriam" was published in 1850.This poem is full of spirituality.

It is written in memory of his friend Arthur Hallam. His other poems like "Break, Break, Break" and "Crossing the Bar" are remarkable. He is a demigod to his contemporaries. As he did not complain about the abuses of his age, the young generation did not approve of his genius. But his foresightedness about the incoming World War following the tough commercial competition among the countries got its expressions in his poem "Locksley Hall".

We cannot forget the prominent novelists like Charles Dickens, Thackeray and Thomas Hardy. All of them contributed to the literary jewels of the age. The poets like Browning with his robust optimism rocked the people of the age to a great extent. His restless quest for knowledge and power shows the urge of the age. Some of his great poems such as "Prophyria's Lovers", "My Last Duchess", "The Pied Piper" etc. are full of humour and satire. His poetic imagination is highly applauded. Prior to him was Thomas Hood a minor poet. He marked his presence as sub-editor in the London Magazine. He, like Dickens dealt with the seamy side of life. He dealt with human problems in his poems like "The Song of the Shirt" and "The Bridge of Sighs".

Carlyle and Ruskin explored the life of the upper stratum of the society. Ruskin also reflected to the complex art of life. Huxley also became a man of rare influence as a social and educational force. The early years saw the awakening of the democratic values in the writings of John Stuart Mill. He was a staunch individualist. Then the English constitution was purged of its anomalies and absurdities. And at last, it is the collectivism that got its sanctioned in the social life. As education spread literature played a dynamic role in the body politics of the national life of England.

With the improvement of science and technology the outlook of men widened. The geological and biological discovery led to a new horizon. However, the scientific outlook stifled the lyrics of the budding poets. The materialistic outlook with the advancement of commerce both at national and international level killed the poetic outlook to some extent. Even Tennyson was influenced by the scientific outlook of the time, as we notice in his poem "Locksley Hall. Browning was also not behind the spirit of science. George Eliot was also influenced by Herbert Spencer. In spite of all these scientific progress, we find William Morris at the end of the era stands for "Art for Life's Sake". He fought against the ugliness of modern life.

So we can come to the conclusion that the Victorian Literature stands in the juncture of scientific progress and the sense of morality. Whatever Darwin did for physical science Spencer did for science in general. Even then, lofty human values found its expressions in the writings of the great litterateur.

Original Authors: Bishal Chakma
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 03/04/2007

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