Victorian Age: Literary Trends and Tendencies
1. An Age of Prose
Though the age produced some illustrious poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, who deserve rank among the greatest, it was emphatically an age of prose. The thousandfold increase in the number of readers led to high demand for reading material and the age became that of the newspaper, the magazine and the modern novel. Newspapers and magazines were consumed for factual contents concerning daily life. Novels became the most effective and the most successful mode of presenting modern problems and modern ideals. Emphasizing the significance of novel in Victorian age William J long comments:
“The novel in this age fills a place which drama held in the days of Elizabeth, and never before in any age or language, has the novel appeared in such numbers and in such perfection.”
2. High Regard for Morality
Victorian age is remarkable for its reverence to morality and conventions. Profoundly, the new morality was a natural revolt against the coarseness and vulgarism of the earlier Regency. The morality of the age was also reinforced by the conventionally moral Queen Victoria and her court. In literature, it was amply reflected. Poets and authors gradually departed from the “art for art’s sake” ideology and the concept of purely aesthetic function of literature; and started writing with a definite moral purpose. Poets like Tennyson, Browning, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin etc. wrote with a conscious moral purpose to uplift or to instruct their people. Even novels lost their romantic flavours and acquired those of realism to emphasize on the need to improve our mindset and behaviour. The novels of Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and George Eliot are first, the study of life as it is, then an aspiration of how life may or ought to be.
Victorian poets and novelist wrote as a quest to find the truth and to show how truth might be used to uplift humanity. Thus, Victorian age was an age of realism rather than of romance. But the realism was not superficial or so called “objective” rather it was a deeper realism which strives to tell the whole truth. It not only showed the moral and physical diseases as they were, but also lead us to help and hope.
3. An Era of Doubt and Confusion
Literature of the age was inevitably affected by the new ideas in science, religion and politics. Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” (1859) shook the long-standing foundations of religion and even changed the trajectory of scientific advancement radically. It was a period of persistent confusions and doubts as the meta-narratives of religion was being dismantled by the scientific discoveries and inventions, and revolutionary theories. We can perceive this orderlessness and the consequent confusion in Tennyson’s In memoriam, in Mathew Arnold’s meditative poetry and in the works of Carlyle.
4. Abundant and Varied Literary Output
In terms of literary output, it was a prolific age. Poets, novelists, essayists asserting different view points wrote, with their varied styles, works of even more varied ideas and subject matters. Tennyson wrote in different genres concerning different themes. His greatest creation, In Memoriam itself is filled with varied themes. Browning reveals his courageous optimism and faith in his poetry, especially in “Rabbi Ben Ezra”. The essayists like Macaulay, Carlyle, Ruskin and the novelists like Dickens, Thackeray and George Eliot enriched the literature of the age with their varied and influential writings.
5. Revolt against Conventions
Many writers of Victorian age revolted against the numbing effects of conventions of which Tennyson was the torchbearer. Carlyle and Mathew Arnold denounced the conventional modes of expression. Thackeray satirized the snobbishness of the age. Browning’s rough mannerisms were a direct challenge to the velvety diction and the smooth self-satisfaction of the Tennysonian School. As the age proceeded, the reaction strengthened. In poetry, the Pre-Raphaelites, led by Swinburne and William Morris disposed (निपटाना) of the morality of the age and heeded only the artist’s art. Thomas Hardy in his novels pulled aside the Victorian veils and shutters to lay bare men’s action for open gaze.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?