The Victorian era, which lasted from roughly 1837 to 1901, was a time of great change in Britain. The industrial revolution was transforming the country and society, and these changes were reflected in the literature of the time. Victorian writers of the time explored new themes and styles, creating some of the most enduring works of English literature of all time. In this post, we will explore some of the best Victorian literature authors, their magnificent books, as well as their contributions to the literary canon. Let’s go!
The Golden Age of Victorian Literature
The Victorian era is often referred to as the golden age of English literature, and for good reason. The period saw the emergence of some of the most iconic writers in the English language, including Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and the Brontë sisters. These authors explored new themes and styles, creating works that continue to resonate with readers today.
One of the most notable characteristics of Victorian literature is its focus on morality, society, and the individual. Writers of the time explored themes such as class, gender, and religion, often using their works to critique social norms and structures. For example, Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist” exposed the harsh realities of poverty and crime in Victorian England, while Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” challenged traditional gender roles and expectations.
Victorian literature was also notable for its attention to detail and realism. Many authors strove to create works that accurately depicted the world around them, often drawing on their own experiences and observations. This commitment to realism can be seen in the works of George Eliot, whose novels such as “Middlemarch” and “Adam Bede” are known for their vivid portrayal of rural life in Victorian England.
Characteristics of Victorian Literature
Another characteristic of Victorian literature was its exploration of the human psyche. Many writers of the time were interested in the inner workings of the human mind, and used their works to delve into the complexities of human emotion and thought. This can be seen in the novels of Thomas Hardy, whose works such as “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” and “Jude the Obscure” explore themes such as love, desire, and the search for meaning in life.
Victorian literature was also marked by a sense of social consciousness. Many writers of the time were deeply concerned with the social and political issues of their day, and used their works to comment on these issues. For example, Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel “North and South” explores the tensions between the industrial North and the agricultural South of England, highlighting the social and economic disparities between the two regions.
The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Victorian Literature
The industrial revolution had a profound impact on Victorian society, and this was reflected in the literature of the time. Many writers explored the impact of industrialization on the lives of working-class people, highlighting issues such as poverty and inequality. For example, Charles Dickens’ novel “Hard Times” portrays the harsh realities of life in a factory town, while Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Mary Barton” explores the struggles of a working-class family during a time of economic upheaval.
Other writers commented on the rapid changes taking place in society, and the ways in which these changes were affecting individuals and communities. For example, Charlotte Brontë’s “Shirley” examines the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on a small Yorkshire town, while George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss” explores the tensions between tradition and modernity in rural England.
In conclusion, the Victorian era was a time of great literary innovation and creativity. The writers of the time explored a wide range of themes and styles, creating works that continue to captivate readers today. Whether exploring issues of social justice, delving into the complexities of human emotion, or simply providing a vivid portrayal of life in Victorian England, these writers left an indelible mark on the world of literature.
The Brontë Sisters: Pioneers of Victorian Literature
The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, are often referred to as pioneers of Victorian literature. Their works, which explored complex themes such as femininity and passion, challenged the norms of the time and paved the way for future generations of writers.
These sisters were born in a small village in Yorkshire, England, in the early 19th century. Their father, Patrick Brontë, was a clergyman, and their mother, Maria Brontë, passed away when the sisters were still young. Despite this tragedy, the sisters were encouraged to pursue their education and their passions, which ultimately led them to become some of the most celebrated writers of their time.
Charlotte Brontë: The Voice of Feminism
Charlotte Brontë was a trailblazer for women’s rights in the Victorian era. Her works, including Jane Eyre, challenged traditional gender norms and championed the empowerment of women. Through her writing, she offered a voice to those who had previously been silenced, and her legacy continues to inspire feminists today.
Charlotte’s own life was marked by tragedy and hardship. She lost her mother and two older sisters at a young age, and she worked as a governess to support herself before becoming a published author. Her experiences as a working woman and her desire for independence are reflected in her writing, which often features strong female characters who defy societal expectations.
Emily Brontë: The Enigmatic Storyteller
Emily Brontë‘s only novel, Wuthering Heights, is a masterpiece of English literature. The novel’s dark and brooding atmosphere, coupled with its exploration of themes such as love and revenge, make it a truly enigmatic work. Emily’s vivid descriptions of the Yorkshire moors provide a haunting backdrop to the story, and the character of Heathcliff continues to captivate readers to this day.
Emily was known for her reclusive nature and her love of nature. She spent much of her time exploring the moors surrounding her home, and these landscapes served as inspiration for her writing. Her unique perspective on the world and her ability to capture the complexities of human emotion have made her a beloved figure in the literary world.
Anne Brontë: The Social Reformer
Although Anne Brontë is often overshadowed by her more famous sisters, her works were no less powerful. Her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, tackled issues such as alcoholism and domestic abuse, shining a light on the darker aspects of Victorian society. Anne’s honest and unflinching depictions of these issues sparked important conversations and helped to pave the way for social reform.
Anne was the youngest of the Brontë sisters, and she was known for her gentle and compassionate nature. She worked as a governess before becoming a writer, and her experiences with the families she worked for informed her writing on issues such as class and gender inequality. Her commitment to social justice and her desire to make a difference in the world continue to inspire readers today.
In conclusion, the Brontë sisters’ contributions to literature and society cannot be overstated. Their works continue to be celebrated and studied today, and their legacy as pioneers of Victorian literature lives on.
Charles Dickens: The Master of Social Commentary
Charles Dickens is perhaps the most famous writer of the Victorian era. His novels, including Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, are widely regarded as some of the greatest works of English literature. Dickens was a master of social commentary, using his writing to expose the inequalities and injustices of Victorian society.
Dickens’ Early Life and Career
Dickens’ own experiences of poverty and hardship informed much of his writing. Born into a working-class family, he was forced to leave school at a young age and work in a factory. This early experience of poverty and struggle gave him a unique perspective on Victorian society, which he channeled into his novels.
Despite his humble beginnings, Dickens’ talent for writing was evident from a young age. He began his career as a journalist, writing articles for various newspapers and magazines. It was during this time that he honed his skills as a social commentator, using his writing to shed light on the injustices and inequalities of Victorian society.
As his reputation as a writer grew, Dickens turned his attention to fiction. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was an instant success, and he went on to write many more novels over the course of his career. His works are now considered classics of English literature, and are studied and celebrated around the world.
The Timeless Appeal of Dickens’ Characters
Dickens’ characters continue to capture the imaginations of readers today. From the lovable rogue of Oliver Twist to the tragic figure of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Dickens’ characters are both larger than life and entirely relatable. Their struggles and triumphs speak to the human experience, and their enduring appeal is a testament to Dickens’ skill as a writer.
Many of Dickens’ characters have become cultural icons, and are still referenced in popular culture today. The character of Ebenezer Scrooge, for example, has become synonymous with greed and selfishness, while the character of Fagin from Oliver Twist is often used as a shorthand for a manipulative and cunning criminal.
Dickens’ Influence on Modern Literature
Dickens’ influence on modern literature cannot be overstated. His works continue to serve as inspiration for writers across genres and generations, and his incisive commentary on Victorian society remains relevant today.
Many modern writers have cited Dickens as a major influence on their work. The American novelist John Irving, for example, has praised Dickens’ ability to create memorable characters and evoke a sense of time and place. The British author Zadie Smith has also spoken about the influence of Dickens on her writing, citing his use of humor and satire as a particular inspiration.
Overall, Charles Dickens’ legacy lives on through his novels, which continue to challenge and inspire readers of all ages. His work remains a powerful reminder of the importance of social justice and the enduring power of literature to effect change.
George Eliot: The Intellectual Realist
George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, was a pioneering figure in Victorian literature. Her works, including Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss, offered a realistic and nuanced view of Victorian life, exploring complex themes such as love, morality, and society.
The Life and Pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans
Eliot’s decision to write under a male pseudonym was a controversial one, but it allowed her to explore themes and ideas that might have been denied to her as a woman. Her works challenged the social norms of the time, and her legacy continues to inspire generations of women writers.
Eliot’s Exploration of Morality and Society
Eliot’s novels were notable for their attention to detail and their realistic portrayal of Victorian life. She explored issues such as religion, class, and gender, often using her characters to critique social norms and structures. Her works offer a rich and nuanced view of Victorian society, one that continues to captivate readers today.
The Legacy of George Eliot’s Novels
George Eliot’s novels continue to be some of the most celebrated works of Victorian literature. Her realistic portrayal of Victorian life, coupled with her incisive commentary on society and morality, make her works timeless classics. Eliot’s influence can be seen in the work of contemporary writers, and her legacy as a pioneer of realism and intellect in Victorian literature lives on.
When was the Victorian period?
The Victorian Era spans from 1837 to 1901, though many social historians argue that the cultural conventions of the period overlap with both the Industrial Revolution, which occurred in the 18th century and the early Edwardian Era.
What are the tropes of Victorian literature?
The Victorian Era bore witness to the popularisation of Gothic literature. This genre includes many elements of psychological and physical terror, such as the supernatural, doubling, hereditary curses, and madness.
What reading level is Victorian literature appropriate for?
Victorian literature is written in a very different style to contemporary fiction, which may put off some readers. Readers of YA and adult fiction will be able to comprehend and enjoy Victorian literature.