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UNIVERSITATEA DIN CRAIOVA

FACULTATEA DE LITERE
SPECIALIZAREA: ROMANA/LIMBA STRAINA
INVATAMANT LA DISTANTA

SUPORT DE CURS
DISCIPLINA: LITERATURA ENGLEZA SECOLUL IXX
ANUL III SEMESTRUL I
TITULAR: Conf. dr. OLARU VICTOR

PREZENTAREA CURSULUI:
Acest curs este destinat studentilor facultatii de litere care studiaza literatura
engleza, specialitatea principala si secundara. Scopul sau principal este de a spori cunostintele
cursantilor privind cele mai importante valori literare ale perioadei victoriene. Cursul
intentioneaza:
-

sa ofere o vedere de ansamblu asupra literaturii Victoriene

sa scoata in evidenta curentele literare care s-au cristalizat de-a lungul


perioadei studiate

sa insiste asupra autorilor care au excelat intr-un gen literar sau altul,
influentand in mod crucial generatiile viitoare de scriitori

se va pune accent pe gandirea critica, pe asimilare, si nu pe acumulare, pe


intelegerea diverselor fenomene literare si culturale

cursul isi propune sa stimuleze studentii sa nu priveasca literatura ca pe un


fenomen izolat, ci ca parte integranta a contextului social si cultural.

Tematica cursului:
1. Introduction to the Victorian Age (1830 1890)
Noiuni generale despre perioada Victoriana: contextul politic si social al vremii, realitati specifice,
incadrare istoric. Evenimente marcante ale perioadei studiate, personalitati importante. Conditii
culturale, tendinte religioase (Ortodoxia Victoriana). Curente literare, conflict traditionalistiinovatori.
2. Literary Features of the Age
Privire generala asupra literaturii victoriene. Moralitatea si revolta, ca trasaturi caracteristice.
Dezvoltarea intelectualitatii, Noua Educatie, influentele straine. Dezvoltarea termenilor literari.
3. Poetii. I. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)
Biografie, incadrare in contextul istoric, analiza celor mai importante creatii literare (Ullysses, In
Memoriam, The Hesperides) Principalele trasaturi poetice, teme preferate, performante literare,
calitati lirice si imaginative, stil.
4.

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Date biografice, principalele creatii literare (Fra Lippo Lippi, My Last Duchess). Principalele
trasaturi poetice, teme preferate, performante literare, calitati lirice si imaginative, stil. Inovatii
literare: monologul dramatic
5. V. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Date biografice, principalele creatii literare (The Wreck of the Deutchland) Trasaturile operei:
dragostea pentru natura, folosirea limbajului, particularitati tehnice, ritm, imagism, inovatii poetice.
6. Prozatori: Charles Dickens.
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Date biografice, periodizarea operei literare. Perioada experimentala Sketches by Boz (18341836) The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837-1839), Life
and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841), Barnaby
Rudge (1841). Perioada matura: Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844), Dombey
and Son (1846-1848), David Copperfield (1849-1853), Bleak House (1852-1853), Hard Times
(1854), Little Dorrit (1855 - 1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1860 - 1861). Perioada finala: Great
Expectations (1860 - 1861), Our Mutual Friend (1864 - 1865), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
7. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 1863)
Opera si reputatia autorului, analiza romanului Vanity Fair, teme preferate, umor, stil
8. Surorile Bronte
Date biografice. Opere literare: Charlote Bronte (Jane Eyre - 1847), principalele teme, notiuni de
stil si tehnica a romanului, incadrarea operei in contextul perioadei victoriene. Emily Bronte
(Wuthering Heights): tehnici narative, teme, importanta in contextul literar.
9. George Eliot (1819-89)
Viata si opera, principalele realizarari literare, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, alegerea temelor,
portrete literare, incadrare in contextul literaturii britanice
10 Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)
Date biografice, trasaturi generale ale operei, principalele creatii literare Tess Urbervilles, The
Mayor of Casterbridge

III. EVALUARE STUDENTILOR


Examen scris si referat.

BIBLIOGRAFIE
1. Allen Walter, The English Novel Phoenix House
2. The Pelican Guide to English Literature From Dickens to Hardy
3. Baker, History of the Novel
4. Baum, The Victorian Poets
5. Bennett Joan, George Eliot, Her Mind and Art C.U.P. 1962
6. Briggs, A., Victorian People, 1954
7. Briggs, A., The Age of Improvement, 1959
8. Buckley, J. H., The Victorian Temper Vintage Books, Random House N.Y. 1964
9. Cambridge History of English Literature C.U.P.
10. Cazamian & Legouis History of English Literature
11. Cecil David, Early Victorian Novelists Collins 1934 (1964)
12. Compton, Rickett, A Short History of English Literature
13. Cruse, A., The Victorians and Their Books, 1935
14. Ensor, R. C. K., England, 1870- 1914, Oxford, 1936
15. Evans, Ifor, English Poetry in the Later 19th Century-Methuen, 1966
16. Faverty, F.E., ed.., The Victorian Poets, A Guide to Research, 2nd edition, 1968
17. Fox, R., The Novel and the people
18. Holloway, J., The Victorian Sage, 1953
19. Houghton, W.E., The Victorian Frame of Mind, New Haven, 1957
20. Hutton, R. H., Essays on Some of the Modern Guides of English Thought, 1887
21. Jackson T. A., Dickens, The Progress of a Radical
22. Kitson Clark, G., The Making of Victorian England, 1962
23. Robertson, J. M., A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century, 1929
24. The Penguin History of Literature, the Victorians, vol. VI, 1993
25. Somervell, D. C., English Thought in the Nineteenth Century, 1929
26. Wellek, R., A History of Modern Criticism, vol. IV, 1966
27. Willey, B., Nineteenth Century Studies, 1949
28. Williams, R., Culture and Society, 1780- 1950, 1958
29. Woodward, E. L., The Age of Reform, 1815- 1870, 1938; with corrections 1946
30. Young , G. M., Victorian England: Portrait of An Age, 1937

1. Introduction to the Victorian Age (1830 1890)

QUEEN VICTORIA
Victoria, the daughter of the duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, was born
in 1819. She inherited the throne of Great Britain at the age of eighteen, upon the death of her uncle,
William IV in 1837, and reigned until 1901, bestowing her name upon her age. She married her
mothers nephew, Albert (1819-1861), prince of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, in 1840, and until his death he
remained the focal point of her life (she bore him nine children). Albert replaced Lord Melbourne,
the Whig Prime Minister who had served her as her first personal and political tutor and instructor,
as Victorias chief advisor. Albert was moralistic, conscientious and progressive, if rather priggish,
sanctimonious, and intellectually shallow, and with Victoria initiated various reforms and
innovations; he organised the Great Exhibition of 1851, for example which was responsible for a
great deal of popularity later enjoyed by the British monarchy. (In contrast to the Great Exhibition,
housed in the Crystal Palace and viewed by proud Victorians as a monument of their own cultural
and technological achievements, however, we may recall that the government over which Victoria
and Albert presided had, in the midst of the potato famine of 1845, continued to permit the export of
grain and cattle from Ireland to England while over a million Irish pessards starved to death).
After Alberts death in 1861 a desolate Victoria remained in self-imposed seclusion for ten
years. Her genuine but obsessive mourning, which would occupy her for the rest of her life, played
an important role in the evolution of what would become the Victorian mentality. Thereafter she
lived at Windsor or Balmoral, travelling abroad once a year, but making few public appearances in
Britain itself. Although she maintained a careful policy of official political neutrality, she did not get
on at all well with Gladstone. Eventually, however, she succumbed to the flattery of Disraeli, and
permitted him (in an act which was both symbolic and theatrical) to have her crowned Empress of
India in 1876. (As Punch noted at the time, one good turn deserves another and Victoria
reciprocated by making Disraeli Earl of Beacousfield). She tended as a rule to take an active dislike
of British politicians who criticised the conduct of the conservative regimes of Europe, many of
which were, after all, run by her relatives. By 1870 her popularity was at its lowest ebb, (at the time
the monarchy cost the nation L 400,000 per annum, and many wondered whether the largely
symbolic institution was worth the expense) but it increased steadily thereafter until her death. Her
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golden jubilee in 1887 was a grand national celebration, as was her diamond jubilee in 1897 (by
then, employing the imperial we, she had long been Kiplings Widow of Windsor , mother of
the Empire). She died, a venerable old lady, at Osborne on January 22, 1901, having reigned for
sixty-four years.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
MAJOR HISTORICAL EVENTS. During the Victorian Age, England reached its pinnacle
of power and prestige. Not since ancient Rome had any nation so dominated Western society and
the entire world. The basis for this glory was Englands economic productivity. As the inaugurator
of the Industrial Revolution, England itself along with the rest of the world marvelled at the grimy
Midlands, Workshop of the world. Between 1839 and 1849 the West Riding of Yorkshire alone
expanded its fabric exports up to 2,400,000 yards. In 1848 Great Britain produced as much iron as
all the rest of the world put together but, that figure was trebled by 1880. Between 1850 and 1872
the annual value of British exports soared from L 90,000,000 to L 315,000,000. By the latter year
the countrys foreign trade exceeded that of France, Germany and Italy combined and was almost
four times that of the United States.
Trade was the stimulus to the growth of the vast empire. The private merchant adventures of
the East India Company had brought under British control an India that was thirty-four times the
size of England in area and 15 times in population. The practically empty continent of Australia
almost 40 times the size of England was open to colonisation and commerce, as was Canada the 2nd largest part of the world. Indeed English colonisation expanded in the 19th century with almost
the rapidity of the 20th century. No other country emerged as a rival of England in territorial
requisition until the century close and the relatively small English armed forces who, able to
conquer over a forth of the globe, although tombs and plaques in many a quiet English church
commemorating a son who died fighting, testify to the cost of empire building.
The economic power of England extended not merely within the empire but throughout the
earth. The pound sterling was the standard money exchange of the globe, and world prices of all
major commodities from grain to furs, and from cotton to steel, were determined in London. Almost
every country was a debtor to England: much of 19th century construction and development in the
United States was financed from London and the British owned buildings in Shanghai, mines in
Mexico, and the entire railroad system of the Argentine. This wealth and imperial grandeur mounted
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to unprecedented heights during the reign (1837-1901) of Queen Victoria, and the English faculty
for transforming institutions while maintaining their outward semblance is nowhere more clearly
illustrated than in the noble lords of this era. For in the 19 th century, peerages were no longer
conferred on the landed gentry as in the past but on the moguls of textile and railroad, steel and
finance. Moreover, the reform spirit of the earlier 1830s continued under Victoria. The Poor Law
Bill of 1838 extended benefits to the Irish, and the Tithe Law of the same year reduced the money
sums paid by landowners to the Church of England. The Municipal Act (1840) further extended
voting privileges. But reform had not kept pace with the discontent of workers. Britains enormous
productivity had been achieved by a frightful exploitation of the labouring classes, which were
usually condemned to dire poverty, filthy conditions of work and living, debility, and painfully short
life spans. Popular resentment had caused a Workingmens Association in London to submit a
charter to parliament in 1836, calling for universal manhood suffrage, vote by secret ballot,
abolition of property qualifications for members of parliament, payment of salaries to members of
parliament, equal electoral districts and annual parliaments. When the first national convention of
the Chartists had its ham, Newport (Wales), and elsewhere, the second national convention of the
Chartists in 1842 again presented its petition in vain, and the long-threatened turn-out followed.
In the first great strike of modern industrialism the vast machinery of the Midlands ground to a stop.
The new railroads, however, quickly poured troops into the troubled Midlands and the insurrection
petered out before armed might. The goals of the Chartists were to be obtained but not by violence.
The English genius for pragmatism and compromise turned what might have become a
bloody revolution into peaceful evolution. Moderate elements among the workers in 1845 formed
the National Association of the United Traders for the Protection of Labour. This group was a
revival of trade unionism, abandoning strikes and violence in favour of conciliation and arbitration.
Prime Minister Peel, although a Conservative, in 1848 pushed through parliament the repeal of the
Corn Laws. British agriculture thus lost its protectionist. Tariffs decreased and the workers were
able to buy cheaper imported foodstuffs. Economic reality had compelled England to a position it
has maintained ever since: unable to feed its own people, it must import food as well as raw
materials to keep its industrial system functioning.
Crop failures in Ireland during the 1840s caused widespread suffering and forced multitudes
of the Irish to emigrate to the Americas. The first great modern figure in the struggle for Irish
nationalism was the moderate Daniel OConnell, but after his death in 1847 radical groups stirred
up an abortive rebellion the next year.

Chiefly at the urging of Prince Albert, the German husband of Victoria, the Great Exhibition
of 1851 in London lavishly displayed the riches of the world. This was the prototype of all
subsequent worlds fairs . Prosperity was the keynote, and Victorian England saw the exhibition
as the summit of human ingenuity and productivity. The breathtaking focus of the exhibition was
the gigantic Crystal palace, fabricated from iron girders and vast expanses of glass.
The Crimean War (1854-1856) was the only European conflict directly involving the British
between the Napoleonic period and World War I. Although Russia was not a major military power,
the Allies (England, France, Turkey, Sardinia) fought against her inconclusively .The British army
showed itself tragically outmoded and inadequate; the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at
Balaklava demonstrating incredible courage and incredible administrative bungling. The horrible
suffering of the troops due to unsatisfactory supplies was only partly alleviated by the Herculean
nursing efforts of Florence Nightingale.
The Sepoy Rebellion of native Indian troops in 1857 impelled the British government in the
next year to remove India from the political jurisdiction of the East India Company and place it
under the crown. Englands war with China (1857-1858) was part of the European manoeuvres for
power in a rich but weakly governed land. General Charles George Gordon led the Ever-Victorious
Army of Chinese against the Tai Ping rebels, finally crushing them by 1863.
The Companies Act of 1862 has been termed as momentous as any parliamentary measure
in history. This act permitted the formation of corporate entities with limited liability of
stockholders (hence the Ltd.-limited - after the title of most English business firms). Previously a
share-holder in a firm was entitled to his proportion of a companys profits and was also obligated
to his proportion of its liabilities. When the City of Glasgow Bank (not Ltd) failed in 1879,
shareholders were called upon to meet obligations hundreds of times greater than the value of their
shares. Under limited liability a shareholder can lose no more than his initial investment. Limited
liability therefore encouraged fantastic creation and expansion of concerns and produced the
modern phenomenon of the multitudes of shareholders completely ignorant of the business in which
they have invested and for all practical purposes excluded or self-excluded from the operation of the
business. The modern corporation thus developed as an enterprise conducted by salaried executives
and financed by vast sales of stock to many investors.
Benjamin Disraeli emerged as the dominant Conservative politician, but he surprisingly
dished the Whigs by the Second Reform Bill (1867), which doubled the number of eligible voters
and reapportioned more equitably the seats in parliament. With the triumph of the Liberal Party
under William Gladstone, the reform movement continued: the Disestablishment Act of 1869,
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removing government support from the Church of Ireland (Protestant); the Irish Land Act of 1870,
mollifying some of the evils of Irish land tenure; the Education Act of the same year, providing
minimum essential education for all English children for the first time in history; the introduction in
1870 of competitive examinations for civil service posts; the University Tests Act of 1871,
removing most of the religious restrictions upon students and faculty at Oxford and Cambridge; the
Army Regulation Bill of the same year, reorganizing the military largely in the light of deficiencies
revealed by the Crimean War; and the Ballot Act of 1872, first introducing the secret ballot. Under
Gladstone the government followed chiefly a Little England policy, seeking to avoid foreign
entanglements.
Disraeli returned to office in 1874 avowing a Big England policy to further British
prestige and interest throughout the world. By purchase of Suez Canal shares in 1875 Disraeli
established English dominance of the link between East and West and initiated English penetration
of Egypt. In the next year, Disraeli by the Royal Titles Bill had Victoria proclaimed Empress of
India. Domestic measures during the second Disraeli ministry included: the Public Health Act
(1875), still the backbone of English sanitary law; the Artisans Dwelling Act (1875), the first real
attempt of the government to improve housing of the poor; and the Merchant Shipping Act (1876)
to regulate seaworthiness and loading of vessels. Unpopular colonial wars against the Afghans in
Central Asia and the Zulus in South Africa, coupled with the poorest harvest of the century in 1879
caused Disraelis ministry to fall.
The second Gladstone ministry, starting in 1880, was highlighted by two spectacular
personalities. Pious Victorians were shocked at the 1880 election to parliament of the militant
atheist Charles Bradlaugh. The long quarrel about his taking of the oath (including So help me
God) finally resulted in his seating in 1886 and the passage under his sponsorship of the
Affirmation Bill of 1888, removing all religious qualifications for membership in parliament.
Charles Parnell, though a Protestant led the Home Rule for Ireland Party in repeated and eloquent
demands for a separate legislature for Ireland. Parnell suffered political disaster in 1890, when
named as co-respondent in a divorce suit and he died the next year.
Under Gladstone the Employers Liability Act (1880) for the first time assured
compensation for workers injured at their employment, and the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act
(1883) limited the expenditures of political parties in campaigning. Gladstones Franchise Bill of
1884 virtually provided manhood suffrage, excluding only domestic servants, bachelors living with
their families, and men of no fixed abode.

As the century neared conclusion, Englands dominance of the world was being challenged.
Industrialization of continental nations was belatedly catching up with Englands production, and
Gemany, united for the first time in 1870, was rising with the greatest rapidity. A worried
Conservative administration, led by Lord Salisbury after Disraelis death in 1881, saw the key to
global power in the British fleet. The Naval Defense Act of 1889 stipulated that Britain should
maintain a navy equal to the combined fleets of the next two strongest powers; this policy was
followed until World War I.
Further to worry the Conservatives was the rising tide of English socialism. In 1883 the
Fabian Society (named for the ancient Roman conqueror of Hannibal, Fabius the delayer) was
founded, sparked by Sidney and Beatrice Webb along with George Bernard Shaw. The group
believed that universal suffrage and fully representational government would eventually insure
socialism. Labour showed its mounting strength and self-awareness with the London dock strike of
1889. The Independent Labour Party, frankly socialistic, was founded in 1893; by 1906 it had
twenty-nine members in parliament.
In the Diamond Jubilee of 1897 the British empire and the entire world lavishly celebrated
the sixtieth anniversary of Victorias accession, and Kiplings words of warning in the
Recessional sounded hollow to an England intoxicated with majestic power and world
dominance. Sobering was the onset in 1899 of the Boer War in South Africa, where a small number
of resolute white Afrikanders fought the empire almost to a stand-still. The death of Queen Victoria
in 1901 deeply affected the empire. Hardly any of her subjects could remember a previous English
monarch, for her reign was the longest in European history, except for that of Louis XIV. During her
reign England had achieved prosperity and power previously unparalleled in human history, but
Englands star, almost imperceptibly, was on the wane, and even the least sensitive of Englishmen
knew that an era had passed.
Victoria, ascending the throne in 1837, counted about seventeen million subjects in the
United Kingdom; at her death the population of the United Kingdom exceeded thirty-seven-and-ahalf million. Most of the huge increase took place in the cities. Although many English villages in
1837 still looked much as they were in Chaucers day, before the centurys end almost every village
had been transformed. Arnold Bennett recalled from his childhood the separate Five Towns that in
1910 were united into the giant Stoke-on-Trent. Into many a sequestered village the railroads
breathed the soot of coal dust and lured village youth to the mushrooming industrial cities. Whole
counties were blanketed with the smoke pouring from factory into a nation of factory workers.

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The real beneficiaries of this labour were the members of the triumphant middle class. Even
a sophisticated French author and critic like Hippolyte Taine, visiting England in the 1870s, was
awed by the display of national wealth. Paris, he declared, is mediocre compared with these
squares, these crescents, these circles and tows of monumental buildings of massive stone, with
porticos, with sculptured fronts, these spacious streets. Assuredly Napoleon III demolished and
rebuilt Paris only because he had lived in London. But even this London splendor paled before the
baronial magnificence of Midlands manufacturers, where the magnates of the north ruled industrial
empires from palaces that a Roman emperor would have envied.
The foreign world disliked the English merchant, but it greatly envied him and grudgingly
admired him. The honesty and integrity of the English manufacturer and merchant were a global
byword; to this day Argentinians assert palabra ingles (the word of an Englishman) when they
mean the unqualified truth. Thus, we can see that Victorian repressive morality was largely due to
deep-seated conviction, not to hypocrisy as it has often seemed to the 20th century. The Victorians
possessed an English conscience and were not exclusively unfeeling exploiters of their fellows; the
hosts of reform measures in the era testify to a humanity behind the wall of stock-holders. Private
charity and public service often showed the bourgeois to be worthy inheritors of the best traditions
of a superseded aristocracy and bulwarks of a stable England.
CULTURAL CONDITIONS.
Victorian, as we use the word, is wholly accurate as a label simply for the chronological
period 1837-1901, the reign of Queen Victoria. Much more dubious is the use of Victorian to
characterize the British spirit during this era. In the inevitable reaction of the early 20 th century the
term meant smug, stuffy, narrow-minded, prudential, moral, hypocritically righteous, and naively
optimistic. The later 20th Century has tended to see Victorianism as moral earnestness, astounding
material progress, confidence, and a serenity strange to our troubled times. In truth, the Victorian
age was an era of extraordinary complexity and variety of viewpoint, as its writers demonstrate.
But, oversimplified, the spirit of the period falls into three broad categories: Victorian Orthodoxy,
Traditionalists, and Innovators.
VICTORIAN ORTHODOXY.
The orthodoxy of the period (what we usually mean when employing the term Victorian) is
the middle-class spirit of the 19th Century. It is this spirit that dominated the age and put its impress
upon the queen herself. The early Victoria was a vivacious girl who was a bit annoyed by the
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repressions of the time, such as the dull, pious Sundays, but the aged woman had fully conformed to
the sedate image desired by her middle-class subjects.
The principal factor in the mind-set we usually term Victorian was Evangelical
Protestantism, as noted by the Frenchman, Halevy, perhaps the greatest authority upon this era. A
sizeable proportion of the middle class consisted of Wesleyans (Methodists), intent upon
transforming all society into a decorous, moral institution consonant with the preachings of John
Wesley. The nonconformist groups (Baptists, Congregationalists, etc.) were almost all staunchly
middle class and evangelical. Within the Church of England itself, the same evangelical forces were
manifest; the sporting and drinking clerics of the 18 th Century (as Trollope notes in his novels)
vanished in favour of sober and moralistic parish clergymen. Evangelicanism invested 19 th Century
English nobility (frequently middle-class in origin) with a dignity and rectitude seldom found even
as late as the Regency. Evangelicalism also established amid the proletariat a number of the age
sprang not from the radicalism of a Shelley or an Owen but from the Evangelicals. Indifferent to
tradition, the Evangelicals sought to form the Holy Society right here and now in each heart. This
spirit exuded Protestant individualism.
Only slightly less instrumental than evangelicalism in forming Victorian orthodoxy was the
economic and political philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. Benthamite reform was as potent during the
Conservative regimes of Peel and Disraeli as during the Liberal administrations. Benthanism
worked in two directions, (occasionally at cross-purposes). In its insistence upon laissez faire it
sought to insure freedom of action for all individuals capable of useful and intelligent conduct.
Hence such measures as the repeal of the Corn Laws; but, even more important here, was its firm
support for the unrestrained competition of a free enterprise system. Thus it worked hand-in-glove
with the triumphant bourgeoisie, who benefited spectacularly under free capitalism. On the other
hand, the insistence of Bethamism upon the greatest happiness of the greatest number called for
the restraint of criminals and lunatics and the protection of women, children, and paupers in the
interest of a wholesome society. It must be remembered, therefore, that the reform spirit of the era
was fundamentally a defence, (a shoring-up) of the bourgeois capitalistic system, intent not upon
altering the system but upon strengthening and smoothing its operation.
Most Victorians were conditioned, by Bethamism and their own bourgeois origins, to view
art and literature with two entirely different attitudes, which led to two entirely different expressions
of popular art.
On one hand, average Victorians frequently looked upon art as a pleasant superfluity that
provided occasional enjoyable relief from the persistent drive for wealth. The taste of the populace
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therefore often equated art with a treacly romanticism, a glamorous escapism devoid of the
rebellious and disturbing characteristics of the great Romantics. This demand resulted in an
abundant supply of sweet, coy, sentimental art of the type Meredith called rose-pink. The
medievalism of the age distilled the colourful and charming aspects of the past, avoiding the vulgar,
violent, and sensual. Perhaps the ultimate of romanticism in the era, possible only with the complete
victory of the bourgeoisie, was the romanticizing of the middle-class career itself.
On the other hand, many Victorians of the practical middle-class considered realism as the
real art. Properly, 19th Century realism is best termed bourgeois realism, and it demonstrated the
following aspects:

(1)

Bourgeois characters central to the portrait. Most Victorian novels depict the middleclass and ascribe bourgeois viewpoints to the admirable aristocrat and proletarian. Even
in historical fiction and poetic medievalism the characters in effect are transplanted in
Victorian bourgeoisie.

(2)

Bourgeois experience of life. It is the everyday vicissitudes of bourgeois struggle, the


urge to financial security and social acceptance, and the problems of domestic and
commercial life that preoccupy these realistic characters.

(3)

Bourgeois ethics. Realistic 19th Century literature demonstrates the success of those
who conform to the middle class concepts, and the failure of the unconventional and
rebellious.

(4)

Bourgeois surroundings. Middle class places of residence, work and resort dominate
the backgrounds. Solid, comfortable often cluttered and tasteless settings mirror the
possessive goals of the characters and symbolize their purposes and natures.

Largely a middle-class product anyway, the novel in the Victorian period became the most
popular form of literature and, for most writers, the only reasonably certain way to earn a living.
Through the bourgeois realistic novel the Victorian age offers a fuller picture of its life than we find
in the literature of any previous epoch.
The most admired writers of this age obviously were those who supported the Victorian
orthodoxy. Tennyson was the poet laureate of the bourgeoisie, Macaulay - its historian and Spencer
- its philosopher. When Tennyson in irate fashion deplores the passing of old England, it is
actually the weakening of the Victorian orthodoxy that he regrets. In his military reform spirit,
Dickens is really a true Benthamite, resolutely working to maintain the middle class. The so-called
laughing critics, like Gilbert and Sullivan, are generally attacking the deviations from the
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bourgeois orthodoxy, and Matthew Arnold sought not to overthrow the bourgeois ascendancy but to
render it more enlightened.
Broadly it can be hazarded that the majority of English writers reaching their maturity
between 1837 and 1875 accepted the Victorian orthodoxy and in essence expressed it.
TRADITIONALISTS
We would label this group conservative, but the term is avoided because 19th Century
conservatism differs significantly in meaning from 20 th Century conservatism. Essentially what is
meant here is that the intoxication with material progress in Victorian England did not entirely
eradicate a persistence of traditionalism and a desire for institutions unaffected by change. To some,
Evangelical Protestantism and its individualism seemed an abandonment of structure in favour of
chaos. The powerful religious need for an unchanging rock amid the convulsions of the era
produced, most notably, the Oxford Movement (detailed more fully under Cardinal Newman).
Newman himself entered the Roman Catholic Church, and many other religious and intellectual
figures of the period were also converted to Roman Catholicism. Within the Church of England, the
same spirit produced Anglo-Catholicism (often termed High Episcopal in the United States),
which differed essentially from Roman Catholicism only in ritual and Mass in English instead of
Latin, optional vows of celibacy for secular clergy, and refusal to admit primacy of the Bishop of
Rome (the Pope). To many moderate Englishmen (as Trollope reveals of himself in his Barsetshire
novels) Anglo-Catholicism proved more attractive than Evangelicalism because of its dignity,
colour and sense of long-continuing tradition. Within the last one hundred years Anglo-Catholicism
has probably been the most dynamic element in the Church of England, has moved the entire
Established Church in a more Catholic direction, and has tended to diminish the English antipathy
to Roman Catholicism.
Traditionalist reaction to Benthamism produced, especially in Carlyle, a distrust of and a
distaste for a free competitive society and extended franchise. Carlyle deeply regretted the passing
of a paternalistic, agricultural system in favour of wage-slavery, and he contrasted the protected
peasant of the past with the rootless proletarian of the industrial age, concluding that modern society
had produced far less happiness and security for the average man. Carlyle saw the vast increase in
the electorate as producing vulgarity and demagoguery, for he deeply believed that men must be led
by great leaders rather than electing officials to be mere tools of the popular voice. In many respects
he was a belated feudalist or possibly a protofascist. His age listened to him respectfully, but
continued on the Benthamite path.
14

Both of the reactions discussed in this section are fundamental criticisms of the Victorian
middle-class dominance, not for the sake of its correction but rather with an eye to its demise and a
desire to return to an earlier pattern of life, either real or supposed.
INNOVATORS
We might label this trend liberalism, but again the term is avoided because of the great
difference between 19th Century liberalism and 20th Century liberalism. As early as 1859 Fitzgerald
in The Rubaiya expressed the intellectuals scorn for Victorian Evangelicalism and, in fact for
orthodox faith generally. It can be said, broadly speaking that most of the significant English writers
reaching their maturity between 1875 and World War I had lost religious faith. Some, like Hardy,
were deeply pained by the loss; others, like Wilde, professed faith at the approach of death or in
severe psychological disturbances; most, however, had abandoned any sincerely felt conventional
religion and were not much incommoded thereby. The major causes for this break with orthodoxy
can be found in the emergence of the intelligentsia and in the contentions of science.
At the centurys end many intellectuals were sufficiently disillusioned with the middle-class
ascendancy to sympathize with or vigorously advocate socialism. This, of course, was a native
English brand; relatively few Englishmen became Marxian socialists, even though Das Kapital
(1867-94) by Karl Marx was written in London. English socialists were intent not upon a complete
change to a regulated economy, a nationalized industry, and a transfer of power from the middle
class to the workers.
Both these leftist tendencies (seeking an overthrow of the Victorian) orthodoxy and
looking to a new and different system ahead) may be traced largely to the development of the 19 th
Century intelligentsia. We use this latter term in the sense of the rebellious intellectuals of recent
generations who are at odds with their age impatient with any orthodoxy whatsoever. The major
Victorian authors (Tennyson, Arnold) had made the transition from being voices of an educated
elite, as were 18th Century authors, to being voices for and to the triumphant Victorian middle-class.
By the last quarter of the century, however, most young writers and thinkers had lost sympathy with
the bourgeoisie even though the intelligentsia had itself developed from the middle-class. Since the
spectacle of the intelligentsia bitterly railing against current society is still with us deep into the 20 th
Century, it is advisable to explore the reasons for this hostility.
The 19th and 20th centuries have produced more educated and articulate persons than there
are jobs commensurate with their abilities. Many of the intelligentsia (as yet greater in percentage in

15

Europe and England than in United States) are annoyed with every aspect of a system that will not
support them adequately or provide them with the artistic and creative expression they desire.
In conclusion, the Reform Act of 1832 had transformed political power from the upper
to the middle classes, but failed to benefit the labouring classes. The economic depression that had
begun about four years later, the Poor Law of 1834, and the ruthlessness of the manufacturing
classes (laissez faire, iron law of wages, Malthusianism) excited discontent among the working
classes, which attributed their hardships to the exclusion of politics. The Peoples Charter of 1838
advocated:
1) universal manhood suffrage;
2) voting by secret ballot;
3) annual election of Parliament;
4) abolition of the property qualification for membership in the House of Commons;
5) payment of salary to the members of the House of Commons;
6) equal electoral districts.
After 1840 the movement lost a large part of its parliamentary and took on a more socialistic
and revolutionary character. Demonstrations occurred in industrial centres. On several occasions the
general strike was measurably effective. As trade improved and economic conditions became more
settled, the movement languished and died. By 1881, however, all the objectives of the Peoples
Charter had been obtained, excepting that of an annual parliament. The significance of the Chartist
movement is that for the first time in England the people were class conscious in their opposition
to the half way, class inspired measures of bourgeois reformism; it was the vanguard of the
radical working class movement.
The age is remarkable for its scientific progress. The century was an age of inventions. In
medicine, the figures of Pasteur, Lister, Paget, and Koch stand out; in the field of natural science,
those of Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, Herbert Spencer, A. R. Wallace, Mill, and Tyndall. In
communication and transportation came the greatest advance in material progress; the building of
railways, communication by telephone, telegraph and the wireless, the beginning of the automobile
and of transportation by air. Industry was revolutionized by the application of machinery, steam and
electricity. The art of photography was perfected. Despite all aspects of scientific progress,
however, very little was accomplished in ameliorating industrial slavery of men, women and
children.
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It was an era of peace. The few colonial wars that broke out during the Victorian epoch did
not seriously disturb the national life. There was one continental war that directly affected Britain;
The Crimean War and one that affected her indirectly, though strongly The Franco German
struggle; yet neither of those caused any performed changes. In America the great civil struggle left
scars that were soon to be obliterated by the wise statesmanship of her rulers. The whole age may
therefore generally be described as one of peaceful activity. In the earlier stages the lessening surges
of The French revolution were still felt; but by the middle of the century they had almost
completely died down, and other hopes and ideals, largely pacific, were gradually taking place.
The material development in the period is remarkable. It was an age alive with her
activities. There was a revolution in commercial enterprise, due to the great increase of available
markets, and, as a result of this, an immense advance in the use of mechanical devices. The new
commercial energy was reflected in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was greeted as the
inauguration of a new era of prosperity. On the other side of this picture of commercial expansion,
we see the appalling social conditions of the new industrial cities, the filthy slums, and the
exploitation of cheap labour (often of children), the painful fight by the enlightened few to
introduce social legislation and the slow extension of the franchise. Such writers as Dickens and
Elisabeth Gaskell vividly painted the evils of the Industrial Revolution, and they called forth the
missionary efforts of men like Charles Kingsley.
As far as intellectual development is concerned there can be little doubt that in many cases
material wealth produced a hardness of Temper and an impatience of projects and ideas that brought
no return in hard cash; yet it is to the credit of this age that intellectual activities were so numerous.
There was quite a revolution in scientific thought following upon the works of Darwin and his
school, and an immense outburst of social and political theorising which was represented in
England by the writings of men like Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. In addition, popular
education became a practical thing. This, in its turn produced a new hunger for intellectual food,
and resulted in a great increase in the production of a press and of other more durable species of
literature.
2. Literary Features of the Age

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The sixty years (1830 - 1890) commonly included under the name of the Victorian Age
present many dissimilar features; yet in several respects we can safely generalise.
General View of the Literature
Victorian literature was written in the main for the people, and reflected the pressing social
problems and philosophies of a complex era. The age was prevailingly one of social restraints and
taboos, reminiscent in this respect of the Puritan period. The writers, whether poets or novelists or
essayists, are didactic and moral and purposeful, although that statement is not valid for the
members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. Possibly the dominant literary form was the novel;
possibly the least notable form was the drama. Undoubtedly the Victorian age ranks second only to
the Elizabethan period.
1.Its morality
Nearly all observers of the Victorian age are struck by its extreme deference to the
conventions. To a later age these seem indecorous. It was thought indecorous for a man to smoke in
public and much later in the century for a lady to ride a bicycle. To a great extent the new morality
was a natural revolt against the grossness of the earlier Regency, and the influence of the Victorian
Court was all in its favour. In literature it is amply reflected.
Tennyson is the most conspicuous example in poetry, creating the priggishly complacent Sir
Galahad and King Arthur. Dickens, perhaps, the most representative of the Victorian novelists, took
for his model the old picaresque novel; but it is almost laughable to observe his anxiety to be
moral. This type of writing is quite blameless, but it produced the kind of public that denounced
the innocuous Jane Eyre, as wicked, because it dealt with the harmless affection of a girl for a
married man.
2.The Revolt
Many writers protested against the deadening protests of the conventions. Carlyle and
Matthew Arnold in their different accents were loud in their clemenciations; Thackeray never tired
of satirising the snobbishness of the age; and Brownings mannerisms were an indirect challenge to
the velvety diction and the smooth self satisfaction of the Tennysonian School. As the age
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proceeded the reaction strengthened. In poetry, the Pre Raphaelites, led by Swinburne and
William Morris, proclaimed no morality but that of the artists regard for his art. By the vigour of
his methods, Swinburne horrified the timorous, and made himself rather ridiculous in the eyes of
sensible people. It remained for Thomas Hardy to pull aside the Victorian veils and shutter and with
the large tolerance of the master to regard mens actions with open gaze.
3. Intellectual Developments
The literary product was inevitably affected by the new ideas in sciences, religion, and
politics. On the Origin of Species (1859) of Darwin shook to its foundations scientific thought. We
can perceive the influence of such a work in Tennysons In Memoriam, in Matthew Arnolds
meditative poetry and in the works of Carlyle. In religious and ethical thought the Oxford
Movement, as it was called, was the most noteworthy advance. This movement has its source
among the young and eager thinkers of the old university, and was headed by the great Newman,
who ultimately (1845) joined the Church of Rome. As a religious portent it marked the widespread
discontent with the existing beliefs of the Church of England; as a literary influence it affected
many writers of note, including Newman himself, Kingsley, and Gladstone.
4. The New Education
The Education Acts making a certain measure of education compulsory, rapidly produced an
enormous reading public. The cheapening of printing and paper increased the demand for books so
that the production was multiplied. The most popular form of literature was the novel, and the
novelists responded with a will. Much of their work was of high standard, so much so that
competent critics had asserted that the middle years of the 19 th century were the richest in the whole
history of the novel.
5. International Influences
During the 19th century, the interaction among American and European writers was
remarkably fresh and strong. In Britain the influence of the Great German writers was continuous
and Carlyle and Matthew Arnold championed it. Subject relations, in particular the Italians were a
sympathetic theme for prose and verse. The Brownings, Swinburne, Morris and Meredith were
19

deeply absorbed in the long struggle of the followers of Garibaldi and Cavour; and when Italian
freedom was gained the rejoicing was genuine.
6. The Achievement of the Age
With all its immense production, the age produced no supreme writer. It revealed no
Shakespeare, no Shelley, nor a Byron or a Scott. The general literary level was, however, very high;
and it was an age, moreover, of spacious intellectual horizons, noble endeavour, and bright
aspirations.
7 The Development of Literary Forms
The Victorian epoch was exceedingly productive of literary work of a high quality, but
except in the novel, the amount of actual innovation is by no means great. Writers were as a rule
content to work upon former models, and the improvements they did achieve were often dubious
and unimportant.

3. POETS
The lyrical output is very large and varied, as a glance through the works of the poets will
show. In form there is little of fresh interest. Tennyson was content to follow the methods of Keats,
though Brownings complicated forms and Swinburnes long musical lines were more freely used
by them than by any previous writer.
In descriptive and narrative poetry there is a greater advance to chronicle. In subject for
example in the poems of Browning and Morris there is great variety, embracing many climes and
periods; in method there is much diversity, ranging from the cultured elegance of Tennysons
English landscapes to the bold impressionism of the poems of Whitman. The Pre Raphaelite
School, also, united several features, which had not been seen before in combination. There was a
fondness for medieval themes treated in an unconventional manner, a richly coloured pictorial
effect, and a studied and melodious simplicity. The works of Rossetti, Morris and Swinburne
provide many examples of this development of poetry. On the whole we can say that the Victorians

20

were strongest on the descriptive side of poetry, which agreed with the more meditative habits of
the period, as contrasted with the warmer and more lyrical emotions of the previous age.
There were many attempts at purely narrative poetry, with interesting results. Tennyson
thought of reviving the epic, but in him the epical impulse was not sufficiently strong and his great
narrative poem was produced as smaller fragments which he called idylls. Brownings King and the
Book is curious, for it can be called a psychological epic- a narrative in which emotion removes
action from the chief place. In this class of poetry The Earthly Paradise of William Morris is a
return to the old Romantic tale as we find it in the works of Chaucer.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)
His poetry
When he was 17 years old Tennyson collaborated with his elder brother, Charles in Poems
by Two Brothers (1827). The volume is a slight one, but in the light of his later work we can already
discern a little of the Tennysonian metrical aptitude and descriptive power.
His volume of Poems (1833) is of a different quality and marks a decided advance. It
contains such notable poems as Lady of Shalott, OEnone , The Lotus Eaters and The Palace of
Art, in which we see the Tennysonian technique approaching perfection. Then in 1842 he produced
two volumes of poetry (Poems) that set him once and for all among the greater poets of his day.
The first volume consists mainly of revised forms of some of the numbers published previously; the
second is entirely new. It opens with Morte dArthur, and contains Ulysses, Locksley Hall, and
several other poems that stand at the summit of his achievement.
In order to form a fair appreciation of Tennysons poetry we have to consider him in the
perspective of his age as well as in artistic contexts. We must also view him within the scheme of
his psychological process (J. Carr)
As a result of this careful examination, we shall come to a conclusion: that Tennyson has
been subject to a life, subject to a fundamental division of mind. On the one hand, his aesthetic
conviction that withdrawal, dream and creaseless contemplation were necessary to art; on the other
hand, the conviction of the socially responsible Tennyson, that of being in duty bound to transmit
the ethos of the age and who therefore used poetry as a didactic weapon.
The expression of his poetic dream we find in the youthful poem called The Hesperides. The
Garden of the Hesperides, the vanished and unattainable paradise, stands for the poets conception
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of a poetic Eden, of a life time dedicated to art, a life withdrawn, introspective and sensuous. It is a
symbolic presentation of the situation of the artist, a kind of incantation sung by the three
Hesperidian maidens invoking the magic of poetry assuming that the poets art may thrive and be
protected.
The Greek myth of the Hesperidian gardens with its tree, golden apple, the fruit of
wisdom and its blissful atmosphere reminds us of the Garden of Eden. He thereby anticipates the
use of mythology as handled by later poets, like W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot. Thus there is no shape
break between the poetry of the Romantics (Shelley and Keats), of the Victorians and of the
moderns, but simply continuity and transformation. The golden apple is a treasure of the West. The
notion of east and west has a special significance, being part of the mythology of Tennysons early
poems. The maidens, daughters of Hesperus, the evening star, are daughters of the West. The West
is a place of Twilight of relaxation and death. It is essentially the world of magic twilight of the
Lotus-Eaters, a land where it seemed always afternoon, of the Merman and the Mermaid, a land of
retreat into fantasy and unreality. The antithesis to this is East, the land of dawn, of activity and
strife. The antinomy is constantly emphasized by a light dark, evening morning contrast.
He frequently expressed his reasoned intentions to participate in the activities of his fellow
men, for, in spite of the grudges he bore to the utilitarism and mechanization of his period, he was
impressed with the scientific advance of his time and could not fail to notice the progress achieved.
In spite of his spiritual devotion to the remoteness and isolation of his poetic garden, Tennyson
made a conscious effort to transmit the ethos of his age, using poetry as a didactic weapon.
This ambivalence of Tennysons attitude towards the poetic act of creation expresses itself in
thematic images, which, like musical motifs in a symphony, always introduce the same idea and
state of mind. The land of Lotus-Eaters is another version of the same poetic garden. A land in
which it seemed always afternoon, a land of twilight, languid air, weary dream of passive
stability. A land where all things always seemed the same, the land of muffled noises, the land of the
pale-faced melancholy Lotus-Eaters, of the magic fruit of soothing effect, where the inner spirit
sinks There is no joy but calm.
The dreamy melancholy poet and the responsible social being are fused in Ullysses. The
poem may be interpreted as one more speculation of Tennysons on the fate and calling of the poet.
The basis of Tennysons poem is not to be sought in the Homeric poems, but in Dantes Inferno. In
the eleventh book of the Odyssey it is foretold that after his return to Ithaca and the slaying of the
suitors, he is to set off again on a mysterious voyage. This voyage and its outcome are related by the
figure of Ullysses in Dantes Inferno.
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The poem, however, expresses a personal emotion of Tennysons as a man of his own epoch
deeply and personally felt. Ullysses, the far travelled and much tried, has at last reached his isle
of barren crags, has rejoined an aged wife and rules as an idle king over a savage race. He
has returned but he cannot rest from travel and is continuously drawn and bewitched by the
mystery of the future so he takes a decision and makes a moving appeal to his former companions.
What sort of poem is Ullysses? It is not epic. The narrative passages are occasional
flashbacks in the course of meditation of an internal monologue that expresses the complex mood of
a moment; a call of the undiscovered mystery lying ahead; a dramatic resolution; a heroic call to
action. (Nature = background for reflecting some human emotions).
When Tennyson was ennobled for his poetry it was because he had become the poet of his
times. His representative position and his peerage, both seem to have derived from In Memoriam,
his great elegy for his friend and fellow student Arthur Henry Hallam who died in 1833. In the
lyrics that make up In Memoriam he found his own poetic voice properly for the first time, escaping
from the influence of Keats.
Typically for the High Victorian era that was to follow it, the themes of the poem are death
and doubt. The first of these was always popular with the Victorians who invented a complexity of
mourning and a style of funerary art. That can seem exaggerated to a later generation. The second
theme, doubt, is profoundly connected in the poem to the new evolutionary explanation of the
universe that was emerging in the 1840s and 1850s. This did not find its full expression until the
publication of Darwins On the Origin of Species in 1859, but it was in the air around Tennyson at
Cambridge and elsewhere much earlier than that. Tennyson had a difficult engagement to his future
wife, Emily Sellwood, during the years of composition of the poem and it appears that it needed,
finally, to convince her that his Christian faith was sound before she would agree to marry him.
With this in view he sent her privately printed version of In Memoriam, to which he had recently
added the prologue, some months before its official publication. Astonishingly, it convinced her that
her fianc was indeed a Christian.
Perhaps the prologue goes some way towards explaining this. With its addition the poem at
least opens with a direct invocation of Christ: Strong Son of God, Immortal Love. But a careful
reading of the rest of the poem reveals more of doubt than of faith while much of the prologue itself
shows anxiety about religious faith. Having invoked Christ, it continues:
Whom we, that have not seen thy face
By faith and faith alone embrace
Believing where we cannot prove.
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The emphasis is on the reasons to doubt, rather than on the reasons to believe, and this tone
remains dominant throughout the poem. Thine are these orbs of light and shade
Thou madest Life is man and brute
Thou madest Death; and I, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not live us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why;
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

These words trust and somehow are repeated in the poem on several occasions always
stressing the uncertain nature of good. (Oh yes we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
Yet if some voice that man could trust,
Should murmur from the narrow house and so on) along
with words such as yet and but, they offer a key to the poem.
The doubt comes from the fact of death. Tennyson said that he would despair if he ever
came truly to doubt God or Immortality, Yet Hallams death and the anguished questrim as to where
Hallam now was and whether they would meet again put an immense strain on these beliefs. Death
in In Memoriam keeps the key to all the creeds for only after death will the truth be revealed
though it may be the truth that all religion is untrue.
The poems lyrics are separate from one another and most of them can be read as units more
or less successfully; a lyric such as: I envy not in any moods (no 27) could be anthologized
separately without huge loss. But undoubtedly the poem works best as a whole. It has a vague
structure, passing through three years of mourning, showing us three Christmases and moving
towards some sort of very tentative resolution. Above all, its emotional register pervades all its
constituent parts, which would therefore lose something if cut off from it. When evolution is the
topic (in lyrics 54-56 for instance) we are still aware that it is personal grief that has provoked these
thoughts and that it is not only the answer to lifes mysteries that is Behind the veil, behind the
veil, but the whereabouts of Tennysons friend, too. A good comparison in this respect would be
Shakespeares sonnets which can be read separately, but which are nonetheless a sequence.
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Lyric 48, in which Tennyson describes his own method in the poem, asks us not to take his
short shallow- flights of song too seriously as intellectual arguments; the slender shade of
doubt, he protests, has become vassal onto love. But this is nonetheless the great poem of
Victorian doubt as the poet himself recognizes when he proclaims, in an astute move, that There
lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.
In Memoriam is a great elegy, a great poem of doubt, and an excellent picture of Victorian
frame of mind. Last but not least, it is also characterised by an extraordinary euphony and a
masterly use of the rhythms in English.
In one of his dramatic monologues, Tennyson interprets the myth of Ulysses. Dante,
Shakespeare, Joyce, and many others have recast the role of the legendary hero. Interpretations have
varied, from Dantes condemnation of him to the circles of hell as a symbol of overreaching pride
and ambition, to Tennysons espousal of him as a symbol of the human desires for experience,
physical prowess, courage, adventure, and knowledge.
You must establish the dramatic situation. Ulysses is now an elderly king as he addresses the
people of Ithaca. He is about to set off again in quest of great adventures and plans to leave the
management of the kingdom to his son Telemachus. To establish the character of the speaker,
consider the following excerpts.
I will drink/Life to the less
Ulysses is in an active, vibrant human being who wants to experience as much as possible in
life. He wants to move out into realms of the unknown in an effort to live life to the fullest and to
increase the knowledge of all people.
It little profits that an idle king
mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race.
Ulysses plans to leave Ithaca because he feels no challenge in the calm, rustic routine of
slowly building a society from a backward nation.
I am a part of all that I have met

25

Ulysses is an inextricably linked to the past experiences which built his fame. He needs to
reach out into experience, to sail again the seas of the unknown and to grow even more. His past
shaped his present character:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
For him to stand is tantamount to an admission that his abilities have died. He must set out
again on a quest.
Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains.
Even one lifetime cannot contain his infinite energies and desires.
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star
Even in his old age Ulysses spirit still yearns to uncover new lands and to explore new
vistas of human life.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world
For Ulysses, human beings must never surrender their spirit of exploration and their desire
for knowledge.
Though much is taken, much abides
In spite of the many victories he has won, there are always more awaiting the adventurous
person.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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This famous closing line of the poem has become a credo for all that is great in human
fortitude and strength.
In direct contrast to Ulysses is his son Telemachus. Tennyson purposefully establishes this
contrast to represent two separate ways of life. Ulysses, as is quite obvious above, represents the
heroic vision of the explorer. But Telemachus, of whom his father says, He works his work, I
mine, represents a different but in many ways equally important role in life. The hero can seek out
new experiences, but his constant wanderings leave him little time to contemplate the meaning of
his discoveries, to discern what societal benefits they may reap. Telemachus is the thoughtful man
of society who places its well being above his own. He can face the daily challenge of dealing with
an unenlightened race in an attempt to build a culture and a civilization. Telemachus possesses a
slow prudence to make a mild/A rugged people, and through soft degrees/Subdue them to the
useful and the good. He has tenderness coupled with a strength to deal with common duties.
In this poem, Tennyson clearly sides with the individual who seeks personal actualization
rather than social involvement. But this is not to condemn the value of either goal. In fact, the
biographical fact that Tennyson wrote this poem after the death of his close friend Arthur Hallam in
an attempt to emphasize the need to go forward and brave the struggle of life makes his meaning
and intention clear.
The many lines which have universal significance reflect the poets desire to have his
speaker relate the value of the heroic way of life. His tone of commitment to his ideals and of lofty
aspirations serves to enhance the poem.
The public received Maud and Other Poems (1855) with amazement. The chief poem is
called a monodrama. It consists of a series of lyrics, which reflect the love and hatred, the hope
and despair of a lover who slays his mistresss brother and then flees, broken, to France. The only
other poem of any length is Enoch Arden (1864), which became the most popular of all. The plot is
cheap enough, dealing with a seaman, supposed drowned, who returns and finding his wife happily
married to another man, regretfully retires without making himself known.
1. His Poetical Characteristics
a) His choice of subject. Tennysons early instincts as seen in his first volumes led him to the
lyric and legendary narrative as his principal themes, and these he handled with a skill and artistry
27

which he rarely surpassed. Already, however, in the 1842 volume, there are signs of the ethical
interest, which was to be the mainspring of his later work. As a thinker, Tennyson lacked depth and
originality. He was content to mirror the feelings and aspirations of his time, and his didactic work
lacks the burning fire, which alone can transform the didactic into truly great art. The requirements
of his office as Poet Laureate led to the production of a number of occasional poems which have
caused him to be described contemptuously, as the newspaper of his age, and it is surprising that
they are as good as they are. For the rest, with the exception of In Memoriam and Ulysses,
Tennysons poems are best when he reverts to the lyric or narrative themes, which were his original
inspiration.
b) His Craftsmanship. No one can deny the great care and skill shown in Tennysons work.
His method of producing poetry was slowly to evolve the lines in his mind, commit them to
paper and to revise them till they were as near perfection as he could make them. Consequently, we
have a high level of poetical artistry. No one excels Tennyson in the deft application of sound to
sense and in the subtle and pervading employment of alliteration and vowel-music.
His excellent craftsmanship is also apparent in the handling of English meters in which he is
a tireless experimenter. In blank verse he is not so varied and powerful as Shakespeare nor so
majestically as Milton, but in the skill of his workmanship and in his wealth of diction he falls but
little short of these great masters.
c)

His Pictorial Quality

In this respect, Tennyson follows the example of Keats. Nearly all his poems, even the
simplest, abound in ornate description of natural and other scenes. His method is to seize upon
appropriate details, dress them in expressive and musical phrases and thus throw a glistening image
before the readers eye (The Day Dream, In Memoriam).
Although these verses show care of observation and a studious loveliness of epithet, they
lack the intense insight, the ringing and romantic note of the best efforts of Keats.
d) Tennysons lyrical quality is somewhat uneven.
The slightest of his pieces, like The Splendour Falls, are musical and attractive; but, on the
whole, his nature was too self-conscious and perhaps his life too regular and prosperous, to provide
a background for the true lyrical intensity of emotion. Once or twice, as in the wonderful Break,
break, break and Crossing the bar he touches real greatness. Such lyrics have a brevity, unity and
simple earnestness of emotion that makes it truly great.
e) Style

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His typical style shows a slow, somewhat sententious progress, heavy with imaging cry and
all the other devices of the poetical artist. In particular he is an adept at conceiving phrases
jewels five words long as he himself aptly expressed it; and he is almost invariably happy in his
choice of epithet.
IV. Robert Browning (1812-1889)
1. His Poems and Works
His first work of any importance is Pauline (1833) an introspective poem which shows very
strongly the influence of Shelley, whom, at this period Browning held in great reverence.
Paracelsus (1835), the story of the heros unquenchable thirst for that breadth of knowledge
which is beyond the grasp of one man, brings to the fore Brownings predominant ideas that a life
without love must be a failure, and that God is working all things to an end beyond human divining.
Then Browning wrote a number of six plays, but he lacks the fundamental qualities of a
dramatist. His amazingly subtle analysis of character and motive is not adequate for true drama,
because he cannot reveal character in action. His method is to take a character at a moment of crisis
and, by allowing him to talk, to reveal not only his present thoughts and feelings, but also his past
history.
The volumes Dramatic Lyrics (1842) and Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845) show this
faculty being directed into the channel in which it was to achieve perfection that of the dramatic
monologue. Now, at the height of his powers, Browning produced some of his best work in Men
and Women (1855) which consists almost entirely of dramatic monologues. Here are to be found
the famous Fra Lippo Lippi, An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the
Arab Physician, Andrea del Sarto, Cleon. Most of them are written in blank verse. The year 1864
saw the publication of his last really great volume, Dramatic Personae, again a collection of
dramatic monologues.
In style, these poems have much of the rugged, elliptical quality, which was on occasion the
poets downfall, but here it is used with a skill and a power, which show him at the very pinnacle of
his achievement.

Features of his work

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a) His choice of subject


Brownings themes divide themselves broadly into three groups: philosophical or religious,
love, and lighter themes as in the Pied Piper of Hamelin. His philosophical poems, on which his
reputation rested in his own day, all bear on his central belifs that life must never be a striving for
something beyond one reach, and that it is Gods task to make the heavenly period perfect the
earthen. The obvious optimism of What I aspired to be / And was not, conforts me , has been
resented by more modern critics as a facile shirking of lifes complexities. His love poems are
perhaps his greatest achievement. They have a calm authenticity of tone.
Always, his first concern was with the human soul. He was particularly interested in
abnormal people, and was able to project himself into their minds and to lay bare their feelings and
motives. Yet his characters are not often completely objective, because so many of them are
mouthpieces for his own philosophy.
He shows a fondness, too, for out-of-the-way historical settings and for foreign scenes,
which at his best, as in The Bishop Orders His Tomb are recreated with a vivid accuracy. Along
with this interest in the unusual goes an obvious relish for the grotesque and macabre, which is seen
at its most striking in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
b) His style
Brownings style has been the subject of endless discussion, for it presents a fascinating
problem. At his worst, his poems are a series of bewildering mental acrobatics, expressed in a
willfully harsh rhythm vocabulary. At his best he can achieve a noble dignity, and a verbal music as
good as anything produced by that master of melody, Tennyson. Above all, his verse reflects the
abundant vitality of his charater. He is a master of surprising variety of metrical forms and excels in
the manipulation of rhythmic effects.
In his greatest work even the notorious rugged angularity of his phrasing and vocabulary is
turned to account and produces a beautiful peculiarly of its own.
c) His Descriptive Power
In this respect Browning differs widely from Tennyson who slowly creates a lovely image
by careful misssing of detail. Browning cares less for beauty of description for its own sake. In most
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of his work it is found only in flashes, where he paints the background of his story in a few dashing
strokes, or crystallizes his meaning in an image whose beauty staggers us. He is fond of striking
primary colours which startle by their very vividness, and as a painting of movement he has few
equals. (Caliban upon Setebos: You other sleekweekand says a plain word and Cleon:
Cleon the poet Thy lip hath ; the passages show two very different exemples of his
descriptive skill).
The Dramatic Monologue
Characteristics
Another form of the lyric, the dramatic monologue, was brought to great heights by the
Victorian poet Robert Browning. As the title suggest, it is a poem told by one speaker about a
significant event. Several qualities exist in the form:
1. The speaker reveals in his/her own words some dramatic situation in which he/she is
involved.
2. The speaker demonstrates his/her character through the poem.
3. The speaker addresses a listener who does not engage in dialogue but helps to develop the
speech.
We enter the psyche of the speaker, and the skilful poet makes much of his/her own nature,
attitudes, and circumstances available in words to the reader who discerns the implications of the
poem.
The dramatic monologue differs from a soliloquy in a play in that, in drama, time and place are
developed before the character ascends the stage alone to make his/her remarks, whereas the
dramatic monologue by itself establishes time, place, and character.
Fra Lippo Lippi
A dramatic monologue in blank verse, is one of the poems, which displays Brownings
immersion in the civilisation of the Renaissance. Browning establishes the atmosphere of his poem
by placing his speaker, the Florentine painter and monk, Filippo Lippi, on the pavement outside the
Medici-Riccardis palace, having him refer to the altarpiece he is painting for Cosimo de Medici, to
the churches of the Carmine and San Lorenzo and to numerous intimate features of the life of the
time. Browning drew most of his material for his poem from the account of Fra Lippo in Giorgio
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Vasaris Lives of the Painters, but his person is quite different both from Vasaris portrait and from
the historical figure. As Browningss Fra Lippo speaks to the watchmen who have intercepted him
on his return from a night of revelry in disreputable company, he exhibits a character largely
invented by the poet himself and his philosophy of art echoes Brownings views. Browning places
Fra Lippo as a realist who diverged from the religious idealism of the earlier painters, very much as
Brownings poetry diverged from Romantic and Victorian conventions.
In explaining himself to the watchmen, Fra Lippo shows that he is an earthy, honest fellow,
whose attraction to the pleasures of the flesh is part of a general delight with the world that leads
him to depict it realistically in his painting. His joy is so irrepressible that he occasionally interrupts
himself to sing folk songs. His account of the orphaned childhood, which led him to become a keen
observer, and of his first paintings, which portrayed the scenes and people of the neighbourhood, is
full of remarkable particulars that convey vivid glimpses of life in Renaissance Florence. The monk
begins by admitting that his escapades are due to weakness of will, but this gradually changes to a
move of self-justification as he express his real views. The church authorities have criticized his
paintings because they do not express religious feeling, saying that they represent a decline from the
work of Fra Angelico and Lorenzo Monaco. But Fra Lippo defends his realism by declaring that
taking pleasure in the visible world is a way of worshipping the God who made it. He says his
escapades are a form of protest against hypocritical prohibitions, against taking life as it is, and that
it is the painters mission to call attention to sights that others overlook: Art was given for that: /
God uses us to help each other so
Nevertheless, Fra Lippo is reluctant to flout authority, feels that he has said too much, promises
to make amends for his faults by painting a picture for the nuns of a nearby church, and closes his
monologue by imagining that if he should appear in the company of virtous people, he will be
defended by the pretty girl who has modeled the figure of Saint Lucy in his painting. The picture he
plans to paint is Lippis Coronation of the Virgin which is described in some details, not all of it
accurate. Browning saw it in Florence, but it is also emphasized in an account of Lippis life in
Fillippo Baldinuccis Notizie de Professori del Disegno, one of Brownings sources of inspiration
about painters.
In this poem Browning has presented a remarkably vivid portrait of a vigurous, independent
personality whose convinctions about lifes values compel him to challenge the discipline of the
church. On one level, the conflict is an opposition of principle between individual liberty and
institutional conformity, but on another, it is simply a case in which a man has been forced into an

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unsuitable role in life. As Fra Lippo says: Jon should not take a fellow eight year old/ And make
him swear to never kiss the girls.

V. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)


1.His poetry
It is a unique figure in the history of English poetry. His work was not generally available
until 1918 when his friend Bridges published a slim volume of poems collected from his letters and
manuscripts. But for Bridges, it is likely that this fine poetry, which has exercised a great influence
on later poets, would never have been known. Hopkins, a converted in his twenty-second year to
Catholicism, is not only the first really great religious poet in English since Milton, but also, he was
the creator of an original poetic medium, so much his own that a major modern critic has doubted
whether it can ever be used by another writer. No (modern) poet has been the centre of more
controversy or the cause of more misunderstanding.
In 1875, when his long training as a Jesuit was reaching its end, he broke his self-imposed
silence with The Wreck of the Deutschland, a great ode occasioned by the sinking in a storm of
the Deutschland, which had on board five nuns, refugees from religious persecution. The poem is
wider in scope than the title suggests. It contains the crystallised religious experience of his seven
years poetic silence, and has considerable autobiographical significance.
In its eight-line stanzas the typical Hopkins technique is seen for the first time. Sprungrhythm, counterpoint-rhythm, alliteration, assonance, internal rhythm, coinages and unorthodox
syntax give to the poem a revolutionary appearance, which led the editor of the Jesuit organ to
refuse to print it after originally accepting it. But, if it is difficult in thought and unconventional in
technique, it is full of brilliant passages and has an artistic and emotional unity of the highest order.
Hopkins continued to write poetry until the end of his life, though his output was very small.
From 1875 onward his writing was exclusively religious, and the ecstatic enjoyment of nature,
found in the sonnets of his early maturity is a sacramental experience. Nature is a manifestation of
the beauty of God, a call to praise. Through his period of priesthood a growing concern with man is
perceptible. The evils of the industrial system he saw as mans falling-off from God, his rejection of
the grace won for him by Christ. Felix Randal is typical of his warm sympathy with men and his
concern with their souls. But the deepest and most intensely personal of his poems belong to his
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Dublin period (1884-1885). In their passionate, direct simplicity they stand apart from most of
Hopkins work, and they have been described as his greatest poems. His defiant refusal to capitulate
to this despair is to be seen in Carrion Comfort.
Features of his poetry
a) His love of nature
A sensuous love of nature, based on minute observation, is found in most of Hopkins poems
especially before 1878. His early struggle to reconcile his obvious enjoyment of natural beauty with
the ascetic life, the Jesuit resolved in his sacramental view of natural beauty. His great delight lay in
the discovery of the inscape, or inner pattern, which gave to each thing its distinctive beauty. His
feelings at the perception of this inscape he described by the term instress.
b) His Use of Language
One of Hopkins most obvious idiosyncrasies is in his choice and use of language. He
believed that poetry called for a language distinct from that of prose, a language rich in suggestion
both to the senses and the intellect. His vocabulary is drawn from many sources, archaic, colloquial,
and dialect words all being used. He had a particular fondness for composed epithets such as dropof-blood-and-foam-dapple-cherry and for evocative coinages. A full appreciation of a word may
well demand of the reader knowledge of its derivation. At times the result is obscurity and this is
increased by his deliberate distortion of normal syntax, either to compel the readers attention, or to
give to key words the stress they deserve. But, whatever the difficulties arising from vocabulary,
syntax, or compression of thought, Hopkins is always precise in his use of words and his poetry has
the muscular vitality of expression of the true Shakespearean tradition.
c) His Rhythmic Patterns
Hopkins most important experiment is with sprung rhythm, which appeared first in The
Wreck of the Deutschland and is based on the irregular verse of Samson Agonistes. The basic
principle of this attempt to break away from strictly conventional patterns is that each foot contains
one stress, possibly, but not necessarily, followed by any number of unstressed syllables. Hopkins
felt it to be The least forced, the most rhetorical and emphatic of all possible rhythms.
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Counterpoint rhythm is the use in two consecutive feet of a reversal of the predominant
rhythm of a line. Every rhythmic effect in Hopkins is a result of careful and deliberate
workmanship, and so important did he consider a true understanding of his intentions that his
manuscripts make use of some twenty symbols, rather like those of a musical score. Unfortunately,
he was not consistent in the use of these symbols, and, to avoid confusion, Bridges omitted from the
1918 edition all but the most vital.
After The Wreck of the Deutschland he devoted much time to typically individual
modifications of the sonnet form, which he used with the greatest freedom. A brief summary can do
no more than indicate the nature of Hopkins experiments, but it is important to add that the full
import of rhythm in his poetry can only be gathered if it is read aloud after close and delicately
sensitive study of its orchestration.
d) His imagery
It is remarkable for its richness. His appreciation of nature, his reading of the great English
poets, particularly Shakespeare, and of the Bible are evident.
Often he shows that blend of the emotional and intellectual which distinguishes the poetry of
the 17th century metaphysicals. But, however their sources and affinities, the images of his poetry
are distinctively his own always precise and vitally illuminating, usually briefly expressed, and
often suggesting more than one possible interpretation.
The Wreck of the Deutchland (1875-1876)
On 4th of December 1875 a transatlantic steamship left Bremen in Germany carrying
emigrants for New York. Driven off course by bad weather, The Deutchland foundered in the
treacherous shoals of the outermost reaches of the Thames estuary. Rescue did not come for 30
hours by which time many had drowned. Five German Nuns clasped hands and were drowned
together, the chief sister, a gaunt woman 6 ft. high, calling out loudly and often, Oh Christ, come
quickly! till the end came, as the Times reported.
These events occasioned the most ambitious of G..M. Hopkins completed poems and the
first composition of his poetic maturity written to break a self-imposed abstention which had lasted
since he had joined the Jesuits seven years earlier. But they are not the poems whole subject, for as
Hopkins wrote The Deutschland would be more generally interesting if those were more wreck
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and less discourse I know, but still it is an ode and not primarily a narrative. The poems business
in the true condition of the ode, is that of lyrical meditation or reflection on a large issue.
Part the First of the poem says nothing of the shipwreck, instead dealing autobiographically
with Hopkins own relations with God and describing an unspecified spiritual experience which,
though harrowing, was ultimately comforting. In emphasising that God is both destructive and
merciful Thou are lighting and love, I found it, a winter and warm Hopkins set forth the
attitude which is to govern his response to the shipwreck, too. Likewise the difficult passage from
stanzas 6 to 8 though open to much theological debate about Duns Scotus theory of the Incarnation,
finally seems to stress Gods perpetual presence in the world, something which the drowning nun
will also call upon. In these respects the poem is a theodicy attempting to justify Gods ways. The
attempt was pressing for Hopkins as a fervid patriot, for his co-religionists had been left to die by
the people of his own country.
Death speaks the first words of Part the Second, for Hopkins does not intend it to have the
last. The description of the shipwreck which follows offers scope for some of Hopkins most
exuberant linguistic effects. From stanza 17, the entire second half of the poem concerns itself either
with the meaning of the tall nuns words and actions, or with the thoughts which they provoke in the
poet. For him in turn words break forth suggesting that both nun and poet are faintly echoing in
their own way the all-creating Word of God. Just as the tall nun is praised for her power to read
and word correctly the meaning concealed in the unshapable shock night, so, too, Hopkins
reads and interprets using words which denote signs, such as cipher, mark, stigma, signal,
token, lettering.
The poem is concerned with the construction of meaning; its subject is not so much the
wreck but the meaning of the wreck, and that meaning is not waiting, fixed and unproblematic,
within the story of the wreck, but has to be sought, and produced by interpretation.
Some controversy in recent years has centered on stanza 28, following Elisabeth Schneiders
suggestion that Hopkins is here claiming a miracle, that Christ actually appeared on earth in
response to the nuns cry. Rather it seems the latter part of the poem deals with fervent hopes and
wishes, not with facts, nor with claims about any particular actions of Christ. The significant verbs
near the end are in the imperative, not the indicative: Let him ridein his triumph; Let him
easter in us, expressing Hopkins wish to see Christ reborn in peoples hearts and actively ruling
his kingdom there. But this and much else remains open to debate.
This was the poem in which Hopkins first put into practice his theories on Sprung Rhythm,
the essence of which is to break free from the tyranny of alternating rhythm by counting stresses
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in a line, as he put it quoting from stanza 2 why, if it is forcible in prose to say lashed: rod, am I
obliged to weaken this in verse, which ought to be stronger, not weaker, into lashed birch-rod or
something? But the poem also displays as many other radical techniques as he could cram in, such
as cynghanedd (consonant-chime, following strict rules from Welsh models); an elaborate stanzaic
pattern; rhymes which wrap across line-breaks; and syntax which is often muscle-bond. All of this
leads to a verbal texture, which is intense, energetic, and rich, as he could make it, even if the plain
sense sometimes gets the worst of it.
The Wreck of the Deutschland is a decadent work in the sense that form and language, at
least at first sight, seem to outweigh content and meaning. In the end, though, particularly in the
more theological passages, the poems meanings are far from simple, single, or easy. The paradox is
that such an acutely aesthetic sensibility as Hopkins was also wedded to the idea that there were
indeed absolute meanings and supreme truths crying out to be expressed.
Needless to say, it was all too much for contemporary taste. The poem was rejected from
publication; like much of Hopkins work it did not appear until 1918; and it did not attract wide
attention until the rise of the New Critics, to whom it seemed modern rather than Victorian, and to
whose moral and analytical assumptions it proved particularly apt.
VI. NOVELISTS
Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870)
The greatness of Charles Dickens is of a peculiar kind. He was, at the same time, the great
popular entertainer and the great artist, his greatness and his popular appeal being inseparable. The
reasons for this lie deep in the man's nature. He was a born orator and actor. His lifelong enthusiasm
for amateur dramatics and the maniacal intensity with which he read aloud his own works were both
significant. He was never a pure artist. Like a great political orator, he drew strength from his
audience; he delighted to please them, he accepted the validity of their judgement.
So, Dickens was in many respects the ordinary English man of the middle class transformed
by a unique unrepeatable genius. In his own person he fulfilled and exemplified many dominant
myths of the mid-19th century. He was a self-made man, like the heroes of the immensely popular
and influential Samuel Smiles. Without proper education, without a loving and secure home, he had
made himself a household name by the time he was in his early twenties. In an age more notable
perhaps than any other for deep feeling about childhood, he had been a rejected child, forced to find
his own lodgings and earn his own living by the time he was 10 years old.
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Then he was typical of his great middle-class public in being a practical man of the world,
not particularly bookish, with a double share of the extraordinary exuberant energy and humour of
that expansive age. Like his public he was a bit of a philistine; his views on art were much nearer to
those of the crowds than they were to those of John Ruskin.
Like his public, too, he was interested in reform. Like them, he was very certain that reform
should work in the direction of reducing aristocratic privilege; like them, he was much more
dubious about extending middle-class privileges to those lower down. Like them he was very keen
on a strong police force and the prevention of crime and like them he took an unholy delight in the
breathless drama of a murder story. Like other popular writers he was deeply melodramatic, but
there was nothing cynical or calculating in this. In expressing their aspirations, fears and prejudices
he was simply expressing himself.
Dickens was a man of obsessions, which can be traced all through his work. He was haunted
by the idea of the lonely child, because he had been one. He was haunted by the idea of the prison
because his father had been in the debtors prison. He was deeply obsessed by the thought of
violence. These themes occur constantly, but this does not make his work repetitive. His
development consists partly in the perpetual deepening of these themes. The prison of Pickwick
Papers is the same debtors prison as the one in Little Dorrit (and the same in which his own father
was confined), but as literary experiences the two could hardly be more different, and the latter one
is immensely the more brilliant and profound. Occasionally, two of his obsessions meet in the same
passage, such as the burning of the prison by the mob in Barnaby Rudge (prison and violence) or
the exclusion of Dorrit at night from her only home, the Marshalsea prison (prison and lonely
child) and such passages often have a particularly intense power or pathos.
Balancing this constant recurrence of the same facts and ideas, we have his extraordinary
inventiveness, variety, and mastery of significant detail. His world is fuller and richer than other
novelists worlds. His imagination finds poetry, humour, and significance in the most ordinary
things. That physically filthy Victorian London, which struck intelligent foreign visitors as almost a
hell on earth, was his natural home as man and artist. He drew strength and inspiration from his
long solitary walks (often at night) through the dingiest and strangest areas. His pathos, his wild,
extravagant humour, his zeal for reform, his serious indignation was all rooted in this vision of the
strangest city in the world, and the one with most bizarre contrasts.
In general one may say that in his early works, up to about 1845, his exuberance, whether
comic or melodramatic, predominates. Plots are widely improbable; coincidences abound; deeds

38

often lack their natural outcome. At times we seem to be almost in the world of fairy-tale, not about
princesses, but about orphans and chimney-sweeps.
Dombey and Son (1848) is a land-mark of change. The old features are still present in some
degree, but so are those that became more and more dominant in his later work, psychological
insight, serious thought about society, and above all a sense of the consequences of things and of the
complexity of moral choices. In Nicholas Nickleby, an early work, two philantropical brothers
diffuse joy and peace all round them by giving away their money. In Our Mutual Friend, his last
completed novel, Boffin, a kindly man anxious to do good with his large fortune, finds himself
thwarted and deceived, and unable to produce beneficial effects. The later books are in places just
as funny as the earlier. But the humour is more satirical, even savage. The soaring, high-spirited
nonsense of Pickwick is gone. Finally we would stress the inexhaustible variety of Dickens. In him
alone among later English writers, we can, without absurdity, find a likeness to the fecundity of
Shakespeare.
In short Dickens may be described as a humanitarian novelist and journalist. His literary
activity may be structured in four main periods of creation.
Experimental period
1. Sketches by Boz (1834-1836) is a series of short papers having descriptive value and appealing
primarily because of their humour.
2. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club is the one novel of Dickens that abounds neither in
pathetic, grewsome, nor dramatic passages. It is pure fun from beginning to end, with a laugh of
every page. It was published in 1836, and aided by the clever illustrations of Hablot Brown, or
Phizi, it attained immediate success and laid the foundations of Dickens fame. The types
illustrated are caricatures, but nevertheless they are types: Mr. Pickwick, the genial, unsophisticated
founder of the club; and that masterly array of endicrous individuals drawn from all classes high or
low.
Although the whole book is exaggerated comedy, there is no other that has furnished more
characters universally known, or given to common English speech more current phrases. Many
sayings and events are still in the Pickwickian sense; Sam Weller and his admirable father are still
quoted; Mrs. Leo Hunter is still a feature in social life; Bardell trials occur occasionally; and there
are many clubs as wise as Pickwicks.
Second Period
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1.Adventures of Oliver Twist (1837-1839) with the object of showing the principle of good
surviving through adverse circumstance attacked the abuses of the Poor Law and exposed the
workhouse system.
The story shows in vivid colours the miseries of the paupers home where the inmates are
robbed and starved, while the dead are hurried into unhonoured graves; the haunt of villains and
thieves where the wretched poor are purposely made criminals by those who have sinned past hope;
and one wrong-doing is used to force the victim deeper in vice. With such lives are interwoven
those of a better sort, showing how men and women in all grades have power on others for good or
ill.
Oliver Twist so called because the workhouse master has just reached the letter T in
naming the waifs was born in the poorhouse, where his mothers wanderings ceased for ever.
When the hungry lad asked for more of the too thin gruel he was whipped. Bound out to work, he
runs away from his slavery and goes to pickpockets school. But he will not steal. He finds a home.
He is kidnapped and forced to be again with the bad ones, and to act as helper to Sykes the robber in
house-breaking. Nancys womanly heart, (bad enough her life may be) works to set him free.
Once more good people shelter him, rescuing him without assistance of the Bow Street
officers, who make brave talk. The kind old scholar, Mr. Brownlow, is the good genius that opens
before him a way to liberty and a life suited to his nature. The excitable country doctor deceives the
police, and saves Oliver for an honest career. The eccentric Mr. Grimwig should not be overlooked.
The mystery of his mothers fate is solved, and he finds a sister. Although the innocent and less
guilty suffer, the conscious wrong-doers are, after much scheming and actual sin, made to give back
the stolen, repair if such can be the evil done, and pay the penalty of transgression. They bring
ruin to their own heads. There are about twenty prominent characters, each the type of its kind, in
this life drama; separate scenes of which we may, as it were, read in our daily papers, so real are
they. The author says that as romance had made vice to shine with pleasure, so his purpose was to
show crime in its repulsive truth.
1) Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), where Dickens becomes again a social
reformer, one of his principal purposes being to expose the farming schools of Yorkshire and their
severe mistreatment of children.
2) The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841), not his best novel, but among his most celebrated in which
not the plot but the central figure of Little Nell has made it popular.

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3) Barnaby Rudge (1841) is frequently called a historical novel, although all the characters, except
Lord Gordon, are imaginary. The plot is extremely intricate. Barnaby is a poor half-witted boy,
living in London toward the close of the 18 th century, with his mother and his raven Grip. His father
had been the steward of a country gentleman named Haredale, who was found murdered in hid bed,
while both his steward and his gardener had disappeared.
The body of the steward, recognizable only by the clothes, is presently found in a pond.
Barnaby is born the day after the double murder. Affectionate and morally docile, credulous and full
of fantastic imaginings, a simpleton but faithful, he grows up to be liked and trusted. His mother
having fled to London to escape a mysterious blackmailer, he becomes involved in the famous (No
Popery) riots of Lord George Gordon in 1780, and is within an ace of perishing on the scaffold. The
blackmailer, Mr. Haredale the brother and Emma, the daughter of the murdered man, Emmas lover,
Edward Chester, and his father, are the chief figures of the nominal plot; but the real interest is not
with them but with the side characters and episodes. Some of the most whimsical and amusing of
Dickenss character studies appear in the pages of the novel; while the whole episode of the
gathering and march of the mob, and the storming of Newgate is surpassed in dramatic intensity by
no passage in modern fiction, unless it is by Dickens own treatment of the French Revolution in the
Tale of Two Cities. Among the important characters, many of whom are the authors of sayings
now proverbial, are Gabriel Varden, the cheerful and incorruptible old locksmith, father of the
charming flirt Dolly Varden; Mrs. Varden, a type of the narrow-minded zealot; Miss Miggs, their
servant, mean, treacherous, and self-seeking; Sim Tappertit, an apprentice, an admirable portrait of
the half-fool, half-knave, so often found in the English servile classes about a century ago; Hugh
the hostler and Dennis the hangman; and Grip, the raven, who fills an important part in the story,
and for whom Dickens himself named a favourite raven.

Mature Period
1.Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-1844) is a sermonic book melodramatized by a
murder and made unequal by trivial burlesque and intricate plot.
2.Dombey and Son (1846-1848) is memorable for the pictures of Little Paul and the pathos of his
death.
The story opens with the death of Mrs. Dombey, who has left her husband, the proud
possessor of a baby son and heir. He neglects his daughter Florence and loves Paul, in whom all his
ambitions and worldly hopes are centred; but the boy dies. Mr. Dombey marries a beautiful woman,
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who is as cold and proud as he is, and who has sold herself to him to escape from a designing
mother. She grows fond of Florence, and this friendship is so displeasing to Mr.Dombey that he
tries to humble her by remonstrating through Mr. Carker, his business manager and friend.
This crafty villain, realizing his power, goads her beyond endurance, and she demands a
separation from Mr. Dombey, but is refused. After an angry interview, she determines upon a bold
stroke and disgraces her husband by pretending to elope with Carker to France, where she meets
him once, shames and defies him and escapes. Mr. Dombey, after spurning Florence, whom he
considers the cause of his trouble, follows Carker in hot taste. They encounter each other without
warning at a railway station, and as Carker is crossing, the tracks he falls and is instantly killed by
an express train. Florence seeks refuge with an old sea captain whom her brother, Paul, has been
fond of, marries Walter Gay, the friend of her children, and they go to sea. After the failure of
Dombey and Son, when Mr. Dombeys pride is humbled and he is left desolate, Florence returns
and takes care of him. The characters in the book are immediately concerned in the plot, but famous
for this peculiar qualities, are Captain Cuttle, Florences kind protector, who has a nautical manner
of expression; Sol Gills, Walters uncle; Mr. Toots, who suffers from shyness and love; and Joe
Bagstock, the major. The scene is laid in England at the time the novel was published in 1848.
3.David Copperfield (1849-1853) is a novel, where, excluding the central figure of David, who
narrates his adventures, the chief theme is the betrayal of Little Emily by Steerforth and Mr.
Peggotys search for the girl.
Of all my books says Dickens in his preface to this immortal novel, I like this the best
Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite, child. And his name is David
Copperfield.
When David Copperfield appeared in 1850, after Dombey and Son and before Bleak
House, it became so popular that its only rival was Pickwick. Beneath the fiction lies much of
the authors personal life, yet it is not an autobiography. The story treats of Davids sad experiences
as a child, his youth at school, and his struggles for a livelihood, and leaves him in early manhood,
prosperous and happily married. Pathos, humour, and skill in delineation give vitality to this
remarkable work; and nowhere has Dickens filled his canvas with more vivid and diversified
characters. E.M. Forster says that the authors favourites were the Peggotty family, composed of
Davids nurse Peggotty, who was married to Barkis, the carrier; Daniel Peggotty, her brother, a
Yarmouth fisherman; Ham Peggotty, his nephew; the doleful Mrs. Gummidge; and Little Emily,
ruined by Davids schoolmate, Steerforth.
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It has been their fate says Forster as with all the leading figures of his invention, to pass
their names into the language and become types; and he has nowhere given happier embodiment to
that purity of homely goodness, which, by the kindly and all-reconciling influences of humour, may
exalt into comeliness and even grandeur the clumsiest forms of humanity.
Miss Betsy Trotwood, Davids aunt; the half-mad, but mild Mr. Dick; Mrs. Copperfield,
Davids mother; Murdstone, his brutal stepfather; Mr. Spenlow and his daughter Dora Davids
child-wife- Steerforth, Rosa Dartle, Mrs. Steerforth, Mr. Wickfield, his daughter Agnes, (Davids
second wife),() and the Micawber family, are the persons around whom the interest revolves. A
host of minor characters, such as the comical little dwarf hair-dresser, Tommy Traddles, Uriah Heep
and others, are portrayed with the same vivid strokes.
4) Bleak House (1852-1853). One theme of this story is the monstrous injustice and
even ruin that could be wrought by the delays in the Old Court of Chancery, which defeated all the
purposes of a court of justice. The scene is laid in England about the middle of last century. Lady
Dedlock, a beautiful society woman, successfully hides a disgraceful secret. She has been engaged
to a Captain Howdon; but through circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to marry,
and her infant she believes to have died at birth is alive. Her sister, however, has brought up the
child under the name of Esther Summerson. Esther become the ward of Mr. Jarndyce, of the famous
chancery law case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, and lives with him at Bleak House. Her unknown
father, the Captain dies poor and neglected in London. A veiled lady visits his grave at night; and
this confirms a suspicion of Mr. Tulkinghorn, Sir Leicester Dedlocks lawyer, already roused by an
act of Lady Dedlock. With the aid of a French maid he succeeds in unravelling the mystery, and
determines to inform his friend and client Sir Leicester of his wifes youthful misconduct. On the
night before this revelation is to be made, Mr. Tulkinghorn is murdered. Lady Dedlock is suspected
of the crime, disappears, and after long search is found by Esther and a detective, lying dead at the
gates of the graveyard where her lover is buried. The story is told partly in the third person, and
partly as autobiography by Esther. Among the other characters are the irresponsible and
impecunious Mr. Skimpole; Mrs. Jellyby, devoted to foreign missions; crazy Miss Flite;
Grandfather Smallweed; Krook, the rag-and-bottle dealer; Mr. Guppy, who explains all his actions
by the statement that There are chords in the human mind; the odiously benevolent Mrs.
Pardiggle; Mr. Turveydrop, the model of deportment; Mr. Chadband, whose name has become
proverbial for a certain kind of loose jointed pulpit exhortation, Caddy Jellyby, with inky fingers
and spoiled temper-all of whom Dickens portrays in his most humorous manner; and, among the
43

most touching of his children of the slums, the pathetic figure of poor Jo, the crossing-sweeper, who
dont know nothink. The story is long and complicated; but its clever satire, its delightful humour,
and its ingrained pathos, makes it one of Dickenss most popular novels.
5) Hard Times (1854) is a revolutionary problem novel presenting the squalor and misery of a
textile town, denouncing trade-union agitators.
When Hard Times appeared as a serial in Household Words in 1854, Dickens was about
midway in his literary career. In the same year this novel appeared in an octavo volume with a
dedication to Thomas Carlyle. Its purpose, according to Dickens himself, was to satirize those who
see figures and averages and nothing else-the representatives of the wickedest and most enormous
vice of this time the men who through long years to come will do more to damage the really
useful facts of Political Economy than I could do (if I tried) in my whole life. The satire, however,
like much that Dickens attempted in the same vein, was not very bitter.
The characters in Hard Times are not numerous; and the plot itself is less intricate than
others by Dickens. The chief figures are Mr. Thomas Gradgrind a man of realities, with his
unbounded faith in statistics; Louisa, his eldest daughter, and Josiah Bounderby, as practical as Mr.
Gradgrind, but less kind-hearted; Louisa, though many years younger than Mr. Bounderby, is
persuaded by her father to marry him. She is also influenced in making this marriage by her desire
to smooth the path of her brother Tom, a clerk in Mr. Bounderbys office. Though not happy, she
resists the blandishments of James Harthouse, a professed friend of her husbands. To escape him,
she has to go home to her father and this leads to a permanent enstrangement between husband and
wife. In the meantime Tom Gradgrind has stolen money from Bounderby, and to avoid punishment
runs away from England. Then Louisas sacrifice of herself has been useless. Mr.Gradgrinds wife
and his other children play an unimportant part in the story. Of more consequence is Sissy (Cecilia)
Jupe, whom the elder Gradgrind has befriended in spite of her being the daughter of a circus clown;
and Mrs. Sparsit, Bounderbys housekeeper, who has seen better days, and is overpowering with her
relationship to Lady Scadgers. Mrs. Pegler, the mother of Josiah Bounderby, is a curious and
amusing figure; while a touch of pathos is given by the love of Hephen Blackpool the weaver, for
Rachel, whom he cannot marry because his erring wife still lives.
Mr. Gradgrind came to see the fallacy of mere statistics; but Josiah Bounderely, the self
made man, who loved to belittle his own origin, never admitted that he could be wrong. When he
died, Louisa was still young enough to repair her early mistake by a second and happier marriage.

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6. Little Dorrit (1855 - 1857) was published when the authors popularity was at its height. The plot
is a slight one on which to hang more than fifty characters. The author began with the intention of
emphasizing the fact that individuals brought together by chance, if only for an instant, continue
henceforth to influence and to act and react upon one another. But this original motive is soon
altogether forgotten in the multiplication of characters and the relation of their fortunes. The central
idea is to portray the experiences of Dorrit family, immured for many years on account of debt in
the old Marshalsea Prison, and then unexpectedly restored to wealth and freedom. Having been
pitiable in poverty, they become arrogant and contemptible in affluence. Amy, Little Dorrit, alone
remains pure, lovable, and self-denying. In her, Dickens embodies the best human qualities in a
most beautiful and persuasive form. She enlists the love of Arthur Clenman, who meantime has had
his own trials. Returning from India, after long absence, he finds his mother a religious fanatic
domineered over by most the hypocritical old Flintwinch, and both preyed upon by the
Mephistophelian Blandois, perhaps the dastardly villain in the whole Dickens gallery. The
complications, however, end happily for Arthur and Amy. The main attack of the book is aimed
against official red tape as exemplified in the Barnacle family and the Circumlocution Office. It
also shows up Merdle the swindling banker, Bar, Bishop and other types of Society. The
Meagleses are practical people with soft hearts; their daughter is married to and bullied by Henry
Gowan, whose mother is a genteel pauper at Hampton Court. Other characters are Pancks the
collector, puffing like a steam - engine, his hypocritical employer Casby, the humble and worthy
Plornishes, the love blighted and epitaphic young John Chivery, and the wonderful Mr.
Fllintwinchs aunt with her explosive utterances. The novel is intricate in plot but splendid in its
indictment of the system of imprisonment for debt and of the dilatoriness of the Circumlocution
Office (government departments).
7. A Tale of Two Cities (1860 - 1861) is one of his most artistic novels, restrained both in its
melodrama and romantic atmosphere. It differs essentially from all his other novels in style and
manner of treatment. Forster, in his Life of Dickens, writes that there is no instance, in his novels
excepting this, of a deliberate and planned departure from the method of treatment which had been
pre eminently the source of his popularity as a novelist. To rely less upon character than upon
incident, and to resolve that his actors should be expressed by the story more than they should
express themselves by dialogue, was for him hazardous, and can hardly be called an entirely
successful experiment. With singular dramatic vivacity, much constructive art and with descriptive
passages of high order everywhere, there was probably never a book by a great humanist, and an
45

artist so prolific in conception with so little humour and so few remarkable figures. Its merit lies
elsewhere. The two cities are London and Paris. The time is just before and during the French
Revolution. A peculiar chain of events knits and interweaves the lives of a few simple, private
people with the outbreak of a terrible public event. Dr. Manette has been a prisoner in the Bastille
for eighteen years, languishing there, as did so many others, on some vague unfounded charge. His
release when the story opens, his restoration to his daughter Lucie, the trial and acquittal of one
Charles Durnay, nephew of a French marquis, on a charge of treason, the marriage of Lucie Manette
to Darnay these incidents form the introduction to the drama of blood which is to follow. Two
friends of the Manette family complete the circle of important characters: Mr. Lorry, a solicitor of a
very ancient London firm, and Sydney Carton, the most complete gentleman to be found in
Dickens. Carton has wasted his talents leading a wild, bohemian life in London. The one garden
spot in his life is his love for Lucie Manette. To this love he clings as a drawning man to a spar. For
this love he lays down his life. At the breaking out of the French Revolution, Darnay hastens to
Paris to aid an old family servant, who is in danger of losing his life. His wife and his father-in-law
follow him. Gradually the entire circle of friends, including Mr. Lorry and Sydney Carton, find
themselves in the horrible environment of the Paris of the Terror. Darney himself is imprisoned and
condemned to death by the agency of a wine seller, Defarge, and his wife, a female impersonation
of blood and war. To save the husband of the woman he loves, Carton by strategy takes his place in
prison. The novel closes with the magnificent scene when Carton goes to his death on the scaffold,
redeeming a worthless life by one supreme act of devotion. Only the little sewing girl in the death
cart with him knows his secret. As he mounts the guillotine there rises before him the vision of a
redeemed and renewed Paris, of a great and glorious nation. There rises before him many memories
and many dead hopes of his own past life, but in his heart there is the serenity of triumph: It is a
far, far better thing I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever
known.
Final Period
1. Great Expectations (1860 - 1861) is one of his most artistic novels, restrained both in its
melodrama and romantic atmosphere. It is Dickenss tenth novel, published nine years before his
death. As in David Copperfield, the hero tells his own story from boyhood. Yet, in several
essential points Great Expectations is markedly different from David Copperfield, and from
Dickenss other novels. Owing to the simplicity of the plot, and to the small number of characters, it
possesses greater unity of design. These characters, each drawn with marvelous distinctness of
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outline, are subordinated throughout to the central personage Pip, whose great expectations form
the pivot of the narrative.
But, the element that most clearly distinguishes this novel from the others is the subtle study
of the development of character through the influence of environment and circumstance. In the
career of Pip, a more careful and natural presentation of personality is made than is usual with
Dickens.
He is a village boy who longs to be a gentleman. His dreams of wealth and opportunity
suddenly come true. He is supplied with money and sent to London to be educated and to prepare
for his new station in life. Later he discovers that his unknown benefactor is a convict to whom he
had once rendered a service. The convict, returning against the law to England, is recaptured and
dies in prison his fortune being forfeited to the Crown. Pips great expectations vanish into thin air.
The changes in Pips character under these varying fortunes are most skillfully depicted. He
presents himself first, as a small boy in the house of his dearly loved brother-in-law Joe Gargery, the
village blacksmith, having no greater ambition than to be Joes apprentice. After a visit to the house
of a Miss Havisham, the nature of his aspirations is completely changed. Miss Havisham is one of
the strangest of Dickenss creations. Jilted by her lover on the wedding night, she resolves to wear
her bridal gown as long as she lives, and to keep her house as it was when the blow fell upon her.
The candles are always burning; the moldering banquet is always spread. In the midst of this
desolation, she is bringing up, a beautiful little girl, Estella, as an instrument of revenge, teaching
the child to use beauty and her grace to Fortune men. Estellas first victim is Pip. She laughs at his
rustic appearance, makes him dissatisfied with Joe and the life at the forge. When he finds himself
heir to a fortune, it is the thought of Estellas scorn that keeps him from returning Joes honest and
faithful love. As a gentleman he plays tricks with his conscience, seeking always to excuse his
false pride and flimsy ideals of position. The convicts return and the consequent revelation of the
identity of his benefactor, humbles Pip. He realizes at last the dignity of labour, and the worth of
noble character. He gains a new and manly serenity after years of hard work. Estellas pride has also
been humbled and her character purified by her experiences. The book closes upon their mutual
love.
Great Expectations is a delightful novel, rich in humour and free from false pathos. The
character of Joe Gargery, simple, tender, quaintly humorous would alone give imperishable value to
the book. Scarcely less well drawn are Pips termagant sister, Mrs. Joe; the sweet and
wholesome village girl, Biddy, who becomes Joes second wife, Uncle Pumblechook, obsequious or
insolent as the person he addresses is rich or poor; Pips friend and chum in London, the dear boy
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Herbert Pocket; the convict with his wistful love of Pip; bright, imperious Estella, these are of the
immortals in fiction.
2. Our Mutual Friend (1864 - 1865), besides the frequent criticism concerning the dubious
grammar of the title, is overcomplicated in plot. The scene is laid in London and its immediate
neighborhood. All the elaborate machinery dear to Dickenss heart is here introduced. There is the
central story of Our Mutual Friend, himself the younger heir to the vast Hermon estate, who buries
his identity and assumes the name of John Rokesmith, that he may form his own judgment of the
young woman whom he must marry in order to claim his fortune. There is the other story of the
poor bargemans daughter, and her love for reckless Eugene Wrayburn, the idol of society; and
uniting these two threads in the history of Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, the ignorant, kind hearted couple,
whose innocent ambitions and benevolent use of money intrusted in their care, afford the authors
opportunity for the humour and pathos of which he was a master.
Among the characters which this story has made famous are Miss Jenny Wren, the dolls
dressmaker, a little, crippled creature whose love for Lizzie Hexam transforms her miserable life;
Bradley Headstone, the schoolmaster, suffering torments because of his jealousy of Eugene
Wrayburn, and helpless under the careless contempt of that trained adversary dying at last in an
agony of defeat at his failure to kill Eugene; and the triumph of Lizzies love over the social
difference between her and her lover; Bella Wilfer, the boofer lady cured of her longing for
riches and made John Harmons happy wife by the plots and plans of the Golden Dustman, Mr.
Boffin; and Silas Wegg, an impudent scoundrel employed by Mr. Boffin, who is, at first, delighted
with the services of a literary man with a wooden leg, but who gradually reorganizes the cheat
and impostor, and unmasks him in dramatic fashion. As usual, Dickens finds to incite his readers to
practical benevolence. In this book he has a protest against the poor laws in the person of old
Betty Higden, whose dread of the almshouse haunts her dying hours. By many, this volume,
published among his later works, is counted as among the most important.
3. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) is a fragment of detective fiction that has set up a challenge
for completion. Only six of the projected 12 monthly numbers were written. Dickens had set out to
write a mystery story, set chiefly in the cathedral city of Cloisterham. John Jasper leads a double life
as cathedral choirmaster and opium addict, travelling secretly to a London opium den to satisfy his
craving. Edwin Drood, on whose mysterious disappearance the story was to have centred, is
Jaspers nephew; he was betrothed as a child to Rosa Bud, but the couple are not in love and their

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engagement is dissolved. Jasper nurses a passion for Rosa. Edwin vanishes on Christmas Eve after a
ferocious thunderstorm.

VII. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 1863)


Features of his works
His Reputation
While Dickens was in full tide of his success, Thackeray was struggling through neglect and
contempt to recognition. Thackerays genius blossomed slowly, just as Fieldings did; for that
reason the fruit is more mellow and matured. Once he had gained the favour of the public, he held
it, and among outstanding English novelists there is none whose claim is so little subject to
challenge.
His method
Since the author of Tom Jones was buried says Thackeray in his preface to Pendennis, no
writer of fiction among us has been permitted to depict to its utmost power a Man. We must drape
him and give him a certain conventional simper.
Thackerays novels are a protest against this convention. Reacting against the popular novel
of his day, and particularly against its romanticizing of rogues, he returns to the Fielding method:
to view his characters, steadily and fearlessly, and to set on record their failings as well as their
merits and capacities. In his hands the results are not flattering to human nature, for most of his
clever people are rogues and most of his virtuous folks are fools. But whether they are rogues, or
fools, or merely blundering incompetents, his creations are rounded, entire, and quite alive and
convincing.
His Humour and Pathos
Much has been made of the sneering cynicism of Thackerays humour, and a good deal of
the criticism is true. It was his desire to reveal the truth and satire in one of his most potent
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methods of revelation. His sarcasm, a deadly species, is husbanded for deserving objects, such as
Low Steyne and to a lesser degree Barnes Newcome. In the case of people who are only stupid,
like Rawdon Crawley, mercy tempers justice; and when Thackeray chooses to do so he can handle
a character with loving tenderness, as can be seen in the case of Lady Castlewood and of Colonel
Newcome. In pathos he is seldom sentimental, being usually quiet and effective. But at the thought
of the vain, the arrogant, and the mean people of the world, Thackeray barbs his pen, with
destructive results.
His style
It is very near to the ideal for a novelist. It is effortless, and is therefore unobtrusive,
detracting in no wise from the interest in the story. It is also flexible to an extraordinary degree. We
have seen how in Esmond he recaptured the Addisonian style; this is only one aspect of his
mimetic faculty, which in his burlesque finds ample scope.
His work
Thackerays earlier work, much of it published in Frasers Magazine and, after 181 in
Punch, included both travel sketches and grotesque stories. In The memoirs of Barry Lyndon
(1856), Thackeray attempted a rogues tale in the manner of Fieldings Jonathan Wild. In
Catherine (1939-40), he exposed what he saww ass the moral dangers of the Newgate novel as
practised b Bulwer-Lytton, Aisworth and Dckens, while in Novels by Eminent Hands (1847), he
extended his literary satire to other writers of popular adventure fiction. The Yellowplush Papers
(1856) present a sevants view of fashionable life, but it is The Book of Snobs (1848) that most
clearly looks forward to Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair
The story of William Makepeace Thackerays Vanity Fair is set in the period of the Battle
of Waterloo and later. The title reverberates with associations, and should alert us to the fact that
the book is a morality. Vanity Fair, in John Bunyanss allegory The Pilgrims Progress (1678) is
where poor Faithful was stoned by Deeth by a worldly and wicked populace. It recalls, too,
Ecclesiastes 1: 2: Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. The
novels closing words quote from the Latin of the Vulgate:

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Ah! Vanitas vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or,
having it, is satisfied? come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets.
Vanity Fair is based on the medieval concept of the world as stage. Like Jonathan Swift,
Thackeray is a master of irony, and none, of his explicit statements should be taken at face value.
The words of D.H.Lawrence are relevant: Never trust the teller, trust the tale.
The tension between tale and teller is a major component of Thackerays art. His pretence at
detachment, derived from his beloved Fielding, has misled readers into thinking that he despised
his own tale, along with his characters. Yet he tells us clearly enough, for example in chapter 8,
what he is about:
my kind reader will please to remember that this history has Vanity Fair for a title, and that
Vanity Fair is a very vain, wicked, foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falseness and
pretentions.
While Christian, in Bunyans fable, completes his journey, Faithful is the hero martyred at
Vanity Fair. In the novel Dobbin plays the role of Faithful; he does not die, but his reward is too
pretty for his deserts.
The novel opens at a demure girls school in Chiswick, where rich, pampered Amelia Sedley
is leaving for home, accompanied by the French instructor, Rebecca Sharp, on her way to become
a governess. Amelia is sweet-natured, but insipid and foolish. Critics have tried to argue that Becky
is good-humoured because Thackeray calls her so, but we are warned early that she is a
dangerous bird. Rebeccas background is not respectable; her father was a drunken artist, and her
mother a French opera singer (Victorian shorthand for loose woman). The humble calling of her
female parent Miss Sharp never alluded to.. Rebecca is consumed by envy of the privileged
boarders, but latches on to Amelia, and sets her cap at Amelias rich bachelor brother, the gross
Joseph Sedley, Collector of Boggley Wallah in India, but he escapes her clutches. She then goes to
work for the family of Sir Pitt Crawley, an uncouth baronet who derives in part from Squire
Western in Fieldings Tom Jones, and secretly marries Sir Pitts younger son Rawdon. The couple
is forced to live on their wits not paying bills. Rawdon becomes a professional gambler. He and
Becky climb higher and higher in society, with no visible means of support. Becky is even
presented to George IV there too was Vanity.
Throughout the novel, there is a play on the two meanings of the word vanity: futility and
vain conceit. Rawdon is arrested for debt, and when his kind sister-in-law, Lady Jane, gets him out
of debtors prison, he comes home, to find Rebecca with the rich, dissolute Marquis of Steyne. The

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novelist asks us shyly Was she guilty or not? She said no but who could tellif that corrupt heart
was in this case pure?
The innuendo about Beckys virtue is resumed in chapter 64, where she is imagined as a
mermaid, attractive above the waist, but with a hideous tail under the waterline. She has
degenerated from kept woman to common prostitute. Like Swifts Yahoos and Miltons Satan,
Becky, through evil, has all the life, while loving plodders like Dobbin represent patient merit
spurned by the unworthy. Dobbin marries Amelia, and is disappointed. Just as Dobbin is the true
hero, Lady Jane Crawley, principled and loving, is the true heroine. The imagery throughout is of
brilliance and sparkle, true and false lights.
Thackeray has been accused of cynicism on the one hand and sentimentality on the other.
Gordon Ray, Thackerays biographer, has argued that Thackerays marriage was less happy than
Thackeray admitted, and that Amelia is a portrait of the weak-minded Mrs. Thackeray. As
evidence, he believes that Thackeray idealizes Amelia at the start of the story and patronizes her at
the end. But the novel establishes at once that Amelia is good but too trusting, while Rebecca is
hard and vindictive. As the cynicism, his audience recognized that Thackeray was writing about a
demi-mondaine. Thackerays string of apparently innocent questions as to what really happened
is a strategy for coping with Victorian prudery. He hints expertly at unpleasant facts; we learn that
old Sir Pitt became helpless and had to be fed and cleaned like a baby that Sir Pitt became
incontinent.
Thakeray regretted the loss of the previous centurys frankness. The overcoming of this
difficulty has led to much misreading, but in Vanity Fair, Thackeray shows a fine moral attitude
and a masterly, playful control of tone.

VIII. The Brontes


Their Lives
Charlotte (1816-55), Emily (1818-48), and Anne (1820-49) were the daughters of an Irish
clergyman, Patrick Bronte, who held a living in Yorkshire. Financial difficulties compelled
Charlotte to became a school-teacher (1835-1838) and then a governess. Along with Emily she
visited Brussels in 1842, and then returned home, where family cares kept her closely tied. Later her

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books had much success, and she was released from many of her financial worries. She was married
in 1854, but died in the next year. Her two younger sisters had predeceased her.
Their Works
Charlotte Brontes first novel; The Professor failed to find a publisher and only appeared in
1857 after her death. Following the experiences of her own life in an uninspired manner, the story
lacks interest, and the characters are not created with the passionate insight which distinguishes her
later portraits.
Jane Eyre

(1847) is her greatest novel. Similarities between Jane Eyre and fairy-tale

have often been noted and on a very simple plot level the influence is obvious. We should thus not
be too worried by the magical coincidences which allow the heroine to gain her ends so
spectacularly. An element of wish-fulfilment in the story appealed to Victorian readers and still
appeals, helping this to become one of the most universally popular novels in English. The fairy
tales elements do not end with the plot however, and are exploited throughout the novel. Jane,
whose surname is Eyre, is compared by critics (Rochester) to an elf. It is clear that in Charlotte
Brontes terms the feminine spiritual element is civilizing the unprepossessing masculine one,
guiding and taming him until he is fit for union with her.
Jane, however, is no conventionally pretty young woman. Her creator linked Jane with
herself and according to Elisabeth Gaskell told her sisters: I will show you a heroine as plain and
small as myself, who shall be as interesting as any of yours.
A psychoanalytic view of the both might see the masculine psyche split between the
immoral but good-hearted Rochester and the rule-bound pair Mr. Brocklehurst and St. John Rivers.
The latter presents himself to Janes sense of duty, and she is seriously inclined to marry him, until
an incorporeal voice (that of Rochester communicating through telepathy) challenges her choice
and recalls her to her deeper emotional commitment.
The fiery aspects of the feminine are locked by Rochester in the attic at Thornfield in the
shape of his mad wife Bertha, who makes several efforts to reveal herself and is finally disclosed on
the occasion of Janes would-be marriage to her legal husband. It is no only duty which demands
that Jane should leave the house. The author clearly intends us to notice that Rochester has failed to
trust Jane as a fellow human; her refusal to stay should not be seen purely as an acceptance of
Victorian convention.

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The obvious Gothic elements in Jane Eyre are used symbolically. Symbolism has also
been detected in the names of the localities through which the heroine passes: Gateshead,
Thornfield, etc. In connection with this, we may recall the Brontes early attachment to The
Pilgrims Progress. Jane also shows some complex pictures to Rochester, which she has drawn
herself and which evoke insoluble problems of her being. These deeply revealing sketches seem to
echo actual pictures drawn by Charlotte Bronte, her brother and sisters.
The search for originals in Jane Eyre became an industry soon after its publication. Thus
Lowood was quickly discovered to represent Cowan Bridge school, where the authors two younger
sisters had caught diseases from which they subsequently died. But Rochester has no original,
though he may take some traits from Mr. Constantin Heger, the Belgian schoolmaster she met in
1832. His descent from the Byronic hero imaginations is clear. Though the Rivers sisters mirror to
some extent in an idealized fashion the home personas of the Bronte sisters, they are not to be
confused with the real Emily and Ann.
There are many elements of visual description in Jane Eyre, some showing acute
observation, like the landscape of the road to Hay on the January day when Jane first meets
Rochester. Bewicks woodcuts are not far from this scene. Bewick is also present in the very first
scene when Jane is hiding from her cruel cousins. The authors short-sightedness meant that she
studied landscape partly through Bewick and other engravers. The coldness of the winter scenes in
Bewick emphasises the loneliness of some humans, and this chimes with the Brontes interest in
orphans and the tyranny of the adult world over the world of childhood. The scenes involving Mr.
Brocklehurst, including those at Lowood, explore the nature of childhood resentment.
Ch. Bronte was able to use Jane Eyre as a critique of evangelical religion, which exerted
some attraction for her own personality but which she rejected here as heartless and mechanical,
though the sense of duty exhibited by St. John Rivers is not disparaged. He is approved as a
conscientious person, but his inconclusive relationship with Rosamund is presented critically. The
empty ritual of Bible reading at Lowood while Miss Scatcherd torment her victim provides a black
image.
Jane Eyre was on the whole well-received by the early critics, who noted its passion and
warmth. The first person narrative enabled them to come close to the life experience of the
underprivileged heroine and sympathy was quickly established. It is possible to see the book as a
feminist text, both in the sense that the female first person is the emotional centre of the story, and
also since Rochester and the other made characters are shown as inadequate. He learns through
suffering, but it is not clear whether St. John Rivers is capable of learning, and Broklehurst is a
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stereotype. Subsidiary female characters, good or bad are generally more credible than male,
though Bertha Mason is seemed externally: deviant, outraged and menacing . Jane Eyre
successfully raises the woman question high on the agenda, but it was perhaps more important
still to the author to portray Jane as a champion of the human race, irrespective of gender. She
clearly stands for the individual against a deforming society, a child rather than a girl only against
harsh education, a servant than rather merely a governess against the bland superiority of the gentry,
represented by Blanche Ingram, and sincerity against the blandishments of wealth which considers
it can buy anything.
However, the traditional plot, in which an oppressed orphan magically but deservedly
overcomes loneliness and finds a strong partner who is finally fit to be her equal is clearly a major
reason for the success of the book. It stands, among other things, as the archetypal romance, by
which many subsequent novels have been influenced. The character of Jane is imbued with so much
life that generations of readers have believed in her as the real author of the book.
The genuinely popular nature of the novel at one time led critics to underestimate its artistry,
but in recent years its importance has been readily acknowledged.
Emily Bronte (1818-48)
Though she wrote less than Charlotte, she is some ways the greatest of the three sisters. Her
one novel Wuthering Heights (1847) is unique in English literature. It breathes the very spirit of the
wild, desolate moors. Its chief characters are conceived in gigantic proportions, and their passions
have an elemental force, which carries them to the realm of poetry. In a series of climaxes, the
sustained intensity of the novel is carried to almost unbelievable peaks of passion, described with a
stark, unflinching realism.
Analysis of Wuthering Heights
It will be helpful in our study of Wuthering Heights to know the vital statistics of the
characters. Emily Bronte gives us this information throughout a work which deals with the lives of
people in three generations. It is summarized by Mark Schorer in his Introduction to the Rinehart
edition of Wuthering Heights (1950).
The story at Wuthering Heights begins with Mr. And Mrs. Earnshaw. They have two
children, Hindley and Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw adopts a waif, Heathcliff, whom he picked up on a
55

visit to Liverpool. Mrs. Earnshaw dies in the spring of 1773 and Mr. Earnshaw dies in October
1777, leaving Heathcliff to the tender mercies of Hindley, who hates him and mistreats him. At this
time Hindley, who was born in the summer of 1757, is twenty years old. Heathcliff is thirteen, and
Catherine, with whom Heathcliff is inseparable, is twelve. In 1777 Hindley marries Frances, and a
Year later they have a son, Hareton. Frances dies the following year.
Catherine, believing she is in love with Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange and thinking
through this marriage to be able to help Heathcliff, marries Edgar in April, 1783. Heathcliff had left,
and she did not know whether he would return. At this time Edgar is twenty-one and Catherine is
eighteen.
Heathcliff, who left Wuthering Heights when he overheard Catherine tell Nelly Dean that
she was planning to marry Edgar, returns three years later to find Catherine ill. In January of 1784
Heathcliff, bent on revenge, marries Isabella Linton, who is nineteen. Unable to bear Heathcliffs
cruelty, Isabella leaves him soon after his marriage and goes off to London, where, in September,
her son, Linton, is born. Meanwhile, in March 1784, Catherine has died after giving birth to a girl,
also named Catherine.
Hindley, weakened by drink, dies in September 1784, six months after the death of his sister
Catherine and the same month in which his nephew, Linton Heathcliff, is born. Hindleys son,
Hareton, is now in the care of Heathcliff, who treats him as a servant. Isabella dies in June 1797 at
the age of thirty-two, at which time her son is thirteen.
To further his revenge, Heathcliff plans to own Thrushcross Grange by arranging a marriage
between his son Linton, a sickly boy, and his niece Catherine. He manages this by forcing Linton to
come home to Wuthering Heights, by arranging meetings between Catherine and her cousin, and
finally by locking up Catherine, away from her ailing father. The two young people are married in
August 1801. Both are seventeen years old. In September of that year Edgar dies at the age of 39,
and the following month young Linton dies. Heathcliff is now the owner of Wuthering Heights and
Thrushcross Grange. Young Cathy is forced to live with him.
Life at Wuthering Heights is a dismal existence. Cathy and Hareton quarrel, but a feeling of
concern for one another begins to grow in them. Heathcliffs fury is spent. He realizes that in death
he can rejoin his beloved Catherine. He neglects his health and dies in May 1802, at the age of
thirty-eight. Love between Cathy and Hareton grows, and they are married in January 1803.
Hareton is twenty-five and Catherine is nineteen. Calm is restored to Wuthering Heights.
This summary is useful for two reasons. First, it shows that Wuthering Heights is a carefully
planned novel, not a wild, amorphous work. Second, it helps to visualize the characters and to see
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the story more clearly. This is a story about young people who live tortured and violent lives and
who, except for young Catherine and Hareton, and except for Nelly Dean and Lockwood, who tell
the story, die at a young age. The ones who die are subject either to the cruelties of the climate, the
raging passions that burn within them and destroy them, or the fierce cruelty of the satanic
Heathcliff.
The story has two settings - Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Thrushcross
Grange reflects the character of Edgar Linton. It is a quiet, civilized place were the amenities are
observed and where the passions of its inhabitants have been disciplined to make possible a genteel
existence. Wuthering Heights, on the other hand, reflects the characters of Hindley and Heathcliff. It
is a wild, desolate place surrounded by howling nature that constantly threatens the people that
dwell there and imbues them with some of its fierceness. Within Wuthering Heights there is an
undisciplined energy and a stark malignity that infects its inhabitants and leads to violent and
destructive actions. In a drunken stupor, Hindley Earnshaw drops his son Hareton over the
bannister, and had Heathcliff not caught the child, Hareton would have been killed. It is a place of
twilight and night and of a brooding and submerged anger that frequently bursts into fury.
When Catherine moves into Thrushcross Grange, she brings much of the unrest of
Wuthering Heights into its peaceful interiors. When Isabella, as Heathcliffs wife, moves into
Wuthering Heights, she is unnerved by the cruelty and ferocity of its atmosphere and must escape.
The novel and its centers reflect metaphorically the world of nature as Emily Bronte
experienced it on the moors. There seems in nature a constant struggle between the forces of
turbulence and the forces of serenity, the forces of destructiveness and the forces of regeneration.
One does not react in revulsion against storm and tempest. One is fascinated by it. At the same time
one yearns for the calmness and peace of natures quiet moments. Wuthering Heights
metaphorically transfers into its characters and laces the conflict between the satanic forces of
violence and the beneficent forces of temperateness which one finds in nature. With a deranged
Hindley and a demonic Heathcliff in control of Wuthering Heights, the world there is frenzied and
insecure. When the people of this world invade Thrushcross Grange, the gentle, civilized life of the
Linton is upset. There is a wild and passionate loyalty in the love of Heathcliff and Catherine, a
subsurface turbulence in the marriage of Catherine and Edgar, a volcano of demonic tension when
Heathcliff returns and upbraids the sick Catherine for betraying him, and fury, passion, and savage
grief when Catherine dies.

57

There follow quiet years while the younger Catherine and young Linton grow up. Again the
fury begins when Heathcliff schemes to take over Thrushcross Grange, and Cathy and Linton, like
Hareton, are trapped by his malevolence. But Heathcliffs fury is spent. He at last joins his
Catherine in death, and calm is finally restored in the marriage of Cathy and Hareton.
The reader finds fascinating the intense love between Catherine and Heathcliff, and feels
deep sympathy for the mistreated Heathcliff, especially when he feels rejected by his beloved. The
reader is repelled by Heathcliffs cruelties but is again won over by a Heathcliff exhausted by his
furies of revenge and aching for the death that will enable him to rejoin Catherine. If Heathcliff and
Catherine represent the demonic forces of nature, and Edgar, Isabella, and young Cathy the
beneficent forces, then we can understand the skill of Emily Bronte in being able to involve the
reader in the anguish of the lovers. The reader is frightened and fascinated by the power of their
passion, as he/she would be frightened and fascinated by the power of tempestuous nature. The
resolution is a peace that follows the tension of conflict.
The Narrators of Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte creates two narrators to tell the story of Wuthering Heights: Mr. Lockwood,
a visitor from the city, comes to the moors to forget that his cold manner had frightened away a girl
he had loved and hoped to marry; and Miss Nelly Dean, a serving girl in the Earnshaw household.
Nelly is more than a servant. Because her mother, too, was a servant of the Earnshaws, she was
brought up with the Earnshaw children, was probably their playmate, though she knew her place,
and has, therefore, become confidante, too. Catherine confides many things to her, as does
Heathcliff. She takes care of young Cathy, born just before death of her mother. As a servant so
close to the family, she cannot help but interfere in their lives. She tries to encourage the child
Heathcliff to run away from Wuthering Heights; she incites Catherine to violence in the presence of
Edgar; she arranges for Heathcliff to visit the sick Catherine when Edgar goes to church; she gives
little Cathy provisions for a ride to Wuthering Heights. She is, in part, the catalyst of some of the
tragic events of the novel.
But Nelly serves a more important purpose. She is a vigorous, healthy young woman,
untroubled by any emotional or psychological drives beyond her control. She is governed by strong
moral principles, but her morality is not a harsh, rigid piety. Hers is a wholesome personality. She
can join with pleasure the entertainment and dances of the villages. She becomes the exemplar of
morality, of equilibrium. The intense, troubled passion-ridden behaviour of Catherine and
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Heathcliff, of Hindley and Isabella, of Young Cathy and Hareton is measured against her normality.
The reader is at first inclined to accept her views, but as the story progresses, he/she begins to
recognize that Nelly is a poor judge of people whose lives are fashioned by overwrought minds and
uncontrollable emotions. Nelly makes critical judgements, which the reader will not accept; the
readers judgements go beyond Nellys, and, in objection to her comments, the reader moves more
closely into the heart, the center, of the story.
Nelly is, in short, an important character in the story. She was created by the author to guide
the reader to the point from which he/she is forced, because of the need to challenge Nellys views,
to share more deeply the pain of dwellers of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, and by
sharing their pain to understand them better, to be moved by their plights, and not to be shocked by
their excesses. The catharsis of the reader is impelled by Nelly.
Lockwood performs a different function, and yet an important one. He provides the reader
with the view of an outsider, the city dweller, unfamiliar with the mores of the people of the moors.
He seeks solitude, he says, but it is a pose. Solitude is not what he wants. Even though he is poorly
treated on his first visit to Wuthering Heights, he must return for a second visit; and he is not
deterred by threatening weather. He is sentimental about relationships, though afraid to make a
gesture that will involve his life with anothers. He is sufficiently sensitive to suggestion to dream
that the ghost of Catherine knocks on the window of his bedroom, when he spends the night at
Wuthering Heights, and tries to enter. Later he thinks that he may be able to charm and to win as
bride the winsome young Cathy.
He is, of course, fascinated by the story which Nelly tells him and which he records for the
reader in Nellys words. He is inclined to accept Nellys judgements because he, too, represents a
normal view, a little different from Nellys, and because his is the view of an outsider, a male, and a
romantic. He is perhaps more sympathetic to the supra-normal passions of the dwellers at
Wuthering Heights, but his sympathies are those of a sentimental spectator rather than, as in Nellys
case, those of an active participant.
The story, therefore, filters through two different normal minds, one healthy, one troubled,
and takes on added appeal as the reader responds part in agreement, part in protest, to their views.
There is in the novel a myriad of views. There are the views of the characters themselves,
for example, Heathcliffs account of how Catherine, bitten by the Linton dogs, came to stay at
Thrushcross Grange; Catherines passionate avowal to Nelly of what Heathcliff means to her. In
addition, there are Nellys views and Lockwoods views. Finally, there are the readers views,
complex and varied, fashioned by the author through this intricate approach.
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Another View of the Novel


Wuthering Heights is a romantic novel. It deals basically with two love stories in two
generations, one tragic and one felicitous. Both are presented as existing on an ideal level. The love
between Catherine and Heathcliff, fostered in childhood and nurtured on the wild moors, transcends
the normal passions of reality. Despite its tragic consequences, it is a love that exists in a world of
dreams. It is a love also that is so demanding that it devours its participants. It is a love that men and
women yearn for and find unattainable. It is because of this that the ungovernable and tortured
Catherine and the Byronic and suffering Heathcliff are appealing.
The love between young Cathy and Hareton is of another kind, and it, too, exists on an ideal
level. It is a love that begins with disgust on Cathys part and hatred on Haretons part. But below
the surface of the antagonism of the two lurks a physical attraction fostered by health and vigour.
Alone together, and not troubled by Heathcliffs aggressions and Nellys mortalizings, the two
become aware of the another as an individual beings, and they begin to try to please one another. It
is a more normal life and it works out well because it is idealized in terms of a resolution of the
inherited passions of the two lovers. Cathy, with her mothers stubborn, passionate nature, and
Hareton, with the potential of his fathers self-indulgent and violent nature, subdue the unrest and
submit to the beauty of mutual respect and mutual help. They are on the way, the story suggests, to
a good life on the wild and rough moor, ready to match their strengths as free spirits and as partners
against anything the moor can offer. This is the ideal and romantic ending of Wuthering Heights
and forms a companion fadeout to the phantom appearances on the moor of the ghosts of Catherine
and Heathcliff.
Anne Bronte
She is, by far, the least important figure of the three. Her two novels, Agnes Grey (1847)
and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) are much inferior to those of her sisters, for she lacks
nearly all their power and intensity.
Their Importance in the History of the Novel

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With the Brontes the forces which have transformed English poetry at the beginning of the
century were first felt in the novel. They were the pioneers in fiction of that aspect of the romantic
movement which concerned itself with the haring of the human soul. In place of the detached
observation of a society or a group of people, such as we find in Jane Austen and the earlier
novelists, the Brontes painted the sufferings of an individual personality, and presented a new
conception of the heroine as a woman of vital strength and passionate feelings. Their works are as
much the products of the imagination and emotions of the intellect, and in their more powerful
passages they border on poetry.
In their concern with the human soul they were to be followed by George Eliot and
Meredith.

IX George Eliot (1819-89)


Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen-name of George Eliot was the daughter of a
Warwickshire land-agent, being educated at Huneaton and Coventry. After her fathers death, she
took up to literature and in later life she travelled extensively and in 1880 married J.W.Cross. She
died at Chelsea in the same year.
Her works
George Eliot discovered her bent for fiction when well into the middle years of her life. Her
novels deal with the tragedy of ordinary lives, unfolded with an intense sympathy and deep insight
into the truth of character.
Appearing in 1859, an annus mirabilis of Victorian publication, with many notable works,
her first novel Adam Bede was a runaway success and established George Eliot at once among
the masters of the art as written in The Times on April 12, 1859.
The basic plot of the humbly-born poetry girl caught between a decent faithful love from her
own class and a more glamorous but unprincipled rich admirer (wicked baronet, squire,
gentleman, industrial magnate) was very familiar in contemporary drama and fiction (Emily/ Ham/
Steerforth in David Copperfield) but Eliots treatment of it was characteristically original. Not only
does the girl fail to escape intact in time from this imbroglio, but instead, tragically and realistically,
becomes pregnant, lets her baby die and is sentenced to death for infanticide; but also the characters
and motives of the girl and her seducer are explored with uncommon intelligence, inwardness,
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sagacity, and sympathy (which does not inhibit firm moral judgement). Henry James regarded the
girl, Hetty Sorrel, as Eliots most successful female figure. Adam Bede, her humble carpenter
lover, has been less admired as a creation, though at a non-literary level his depiction was much
praised by an old friend of the authors father: Thats Robert (vans), thats Robert to the life!
Indeed, Adam, as George Eliot recorded, has some of her fathers qualities: steady, proud
craftsmanship, upright character.
The novels climatic event. The girls conviction for infanticide-came from family memory,
too. Eliots Methodist preacher aunt, Mrs. Samuel Evans had accompanied a lass during her final
night in a condemned cell and on her way to the scaffold and had received her confession to killing
her child. This incident implied a seducer and, given the fictional conventions of the day, another
(socially humbler but morally superior) lover. To marry the latter off to the estimable Methodist
lady, Dinah Morris, after a decent interval, was as predictable as the girls last-minute reprieve at
the scaffold (a horseman cleaving the crowd at full gallopit is Arthur Donnithorne (the seducer),
carrying in his hand a hard-won release from death).
These later events and developments carrying less conviction than the rest of the narrative
where, as Eliot puts it in her famous chapter 17 manifesto, she is dreading nothing, indeed, but
falsity, which, in spite of ones best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so
difficult. Her later succumbing to temptation does not, however, negate the very substantial merits
of the body of her simple story, appropriately prefixed by an epigraph from Wordsworth,
promising clear images Of natures unambitions undergrowth and something more than
brotherly forgiveness for those who went astray. Our supreme novel of pastoral life V.S. Pritchett
has called it, though he was irritated by what he regarded as failures in its presentation of sexuality.
Eliot certainly fulfilled her promise to her publisher that it would be a country story - full of the
breath of cows and the scent of hay. Memories of rural Warwickshire were backed by typically,
scholarly research into events before her life-time (the action begins in 1799 and ends in 1807). This
related especially to Methodist activities, here depicted with uncommon understanding and respect.
The well-named village of Hayslope with its manor and parsonage, farms, workshop, and places of
assembly, is presented in loving and convincing detail. Mrs. Poyser, the kindly but redoubtable
farmers wife who is Hettys and Dinahs aunt, became a legendary figure overnight (quoted in
Parliament soon after publication data) for her fluent forthright folk-wisdom vigorously expressed
in bucolic imagery.
The narrator, a more sophisticated and better informed Mrs. Payser, is equally liberal with
tough-minded generalizations, and with sharp assessments of individuals. (Yes, the actions of a
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little trivial soul like Hettys, struggling amidst the serious, sad destinies of a human being are
strange). Opinions differ on how fully and fairly Eliot sympathises with pretty but simpleminded Hetty and high-minded grey-clad Dinch.. But Hettys foolish dreams of marrying the heir of
the manor and becoming a lady with a plentiful wardrobe, and her lone suffering before and after
childbirth, are splendidly rendered, as is the process whereby the fundamentally decent, but wobblyconscienced Arthur allows himself to continue seeing Hetty and eventually to seduce her and to lost
the respect of Adam (whom he much values) and eventually of the whole village (Hettys trial
coincides with his coming into his inheritance).
As often in Eliot, elements of the conventional happy ending - the novels penultimate
chapter is entitled Marriage Bells - are balanced by severer fates: death for Hetty as she was due
for release, disappointment for Adams brother Seth, who had unsuccessfully courted Dinah and is
provided with no alternative mate, and disgrace for Arthur though he is finally granted a purgatorial
illness after which he may be largely forgiven ( a frequent denouement device in fiction of the
period).
Her next work, considered by many her best, was The Mill on the Floss, published
in1860. The most autobiographical of George Eliots fiction, it draws on her childhood in the
Warwickshire countryside, recalled some 30 years later, her struggles to assert herself against a
background of stifling conventionality, and her painful love for her brother Isaac. There are
important differences: Eliot, unlike Maggie Tulliver, suffered frustration but always had enough
money to pay for lessons in the subjects that interested her. She was never reduced, as poor Maggie
is, to relying on church services for the only music available after the sale of the family piano. The
rebellious girl-child had been invented in fiction by Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, but the
turbulence of Mr. Tullivers little wench owes much to the young Mary Ann Evans, who also tried
with all her might to be good.
The first chapter paints a scene of rural beauty, but the life within it is not idyllic; the second
chapter opens with Mr. Tullivers ruminations, in dialect, about giving his son an eddication,
which will fit him for business. We do not get much impression of the mans wisdom. The
conversation between him and his wife is inconsequential. We learn that their daughter is more
intelligent than their son and that Maggie is too cute for a woman
Mrs. Tulliver is unconvinced that Maggies intelligence is not damaging while she is still
small: it all run to naughtiness. She complains the child is half an idiot in practical matters, and
her hair refuses to curl. Clearly, Maggies prospects of intellectual encouragement are not good.
Mrs. Tulliver is concerned with cleanliness and respectability. The interaction of her and her sisters,
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formerly the Misses Dodson, is the comic highlight of the book. With them, Eliot creates a picture
of provincial life in the early years of the 19th century, which shows both their admirable self respect
and their absurdly narrow views.
Maggie objects to doing patchwork tearing things to pieces to sewem together again. And
she does not want to please her Aunt Glegg by doing it, because she doesnt like Aunt Glegg. Like
other children Maggie cuts her own hair. She jealously pushes her pretty blonde cousin Lucy into
the cow-manure, and runs away to join the Gypsies, planning to become their instructress and
queen. Four-year-old Mary Ann Evans, unable to play a note of music, sat down at the piano in
order to impress the servant with her prowess, and the mature Eliot ruthlessly satirizes this aspect of
her younger self. Even more painful is her treatment of that lordly bully, brother Tom, secure in his
conviction of superiority to any mere female, and in his right to rule. Maggie slavishly worships
Tom and lives for his approval. All this childish emotion was revisited by the writer after her own
brother had rejected her for living with George Henry Jewes, yet being unable to marry him.
But after Mr. Tulliver becomes a bankrupt our perception of Tom changes; he is no
intellectual but he is a young man of integrity, and at 16 sets to work in his Unch Deancs wharf,
saving money and paying off his fathers debts. Tulliver is reduced to working for his old enemy,
lawyer Wakem. Maggie gets religion and decides to renounce the world and its pleasures. But one
secret pleasure remains to her: she meets Wakens hunchback son, Philip, in the disused quarry, The
Red Deeps. Philip is the intellectual companion Maggie needs after the family books are sold.
Philip wisely tells her she is merely trying to stupefy herself.
Maggie has not yet grasped that renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne
willingly (Book 4, Chapter 3). The real theme of the novel is Maggies attempt to come to terms
with the loss of her brothers love. The story betrays unease; it says the love between the children
was mutual, yet we never see Toms affection, apart from family pride, in action - we have to take it
on trust. The story slackens when Maggie and Lucys young man falls in love and go boating,
which causes Maggie, who has improbably renounced him anyway to avoid hurting Lucy and
Philip, to lose her reputation. Because the love-subject is neither handsome Stephen, nor
handicapped Philip, the conflict is insoluble. There is nothing to do with the brother and sister, but
reunites them in death by drowning. Eliot could not invent credible lovers for Maggie or convincing
reasons for her brothers, because the real reasons for the break between the author and her brother
were too personal and too painful. So, she has to say good-bye symbolically to the children she and
her brother used to be.

64

Silas Marner: the Weaver of Raveloe (1861)


It is a shorter novel, which again gives excellent pictures of village life; it is less earnest in
tone, and has scenes of a rich humour, which are blended with the tragedy. Like The Mill on the
Floss it is somewhat marred by its melodramatic ending.
Other novels are Romola (1863), Felix Holt the Radical (1866), Middlemarch, a Study
of Provincial Life (1871-2) and Daniel Deronda (1876).
Features of Her Novels
Her Choice of Subject
George Elliot carries still further that preoccupation with the individual personality which
we have seen to be the prime concern of the Brontes. For her, the development of the human soul,
in the study of its relationships to the quarter things beyond itself, is the all-important theme. There
is relatively little striking incident in her novels but her plots are skilfully managed. Behind all her
writing there lies a sense of the tragedy of life, in which sin or folly brings its own retribution. Her
preoccupation with this theme gives to her later work some of the features of the moral treatise
Her Characters
They are usually drawn from lower classes of society, and her studies of the English
countryman show great understanding and insight. An adept at the development of character, she
excels in the deep and minute analysis of the motives and reactions of ordinary folk. She brings to
bear upon her study of the soul the knowledge of the student of psychology, and her
characterization makes no concessions to sentiment. Her sinners, and she is particularly interested
in self-deceivers and stupid people, are portrayed with an unswerving truthfulness.
The tone of her novels
It is one of moral earnestness, and at times in her later work of an austere grimness.
But almost always it is lightened by her humour. In the earlier novels this is rich and genial, though
even there it has some of the irony which appears more frequently and more caustically in the later
books.
George Eliots Style
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It is lucid, and, to begin with, simple but later in reflective passages, it is often
overweighed with abstractions. Her dialogue is excellent for the revelation of character, and her
command of the idioms of ordinary speech enables her to achieve a fine naturalness. Only rarely
does she rise to the impassioned poetical heights of the Brontes, but her earlier novels particularly
The Mill on the Floss, are full of fine descriptions of the English Countryside, and her faculty for
natural description she never lost entirely.
Her Place in History of the English Novel
She is of a great importance in the history of fiction. Her serious concern with the problems
of the human personality and its relationship with forces outside itself, her interest in detailed
psychological analysis of the realms of the inner consciousness, did much to determine the future
course of the English novel. The 20th century has seen the rapid development of these interests and
it is significant that the reputation of George Eliot, which suffered a temporary eclipse after her
death, has recovered during the last decades to a surprising degree.
10 Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)
Features of his Novels
His Subjects
Hardys subject is the same in most of his novels. In all his greatest works he depicts human
feelings facing up to the onslaughts of a malign power. Accepting as he did the theory of evolution,
Hardy saw little hope for man as an individual, and though his greatest figures have a marked
individuality, Hardys aim was to present MAN or WOMAN rather than a particular man or a
particular woman. He was a serious novelist attempting to present though fiction a view of life, and
one entirely different from that of his great contemporaries Tennyson and Browning. Most
frequently his mood was one of disillusioned pessimism, excellently summed up at the end of The
Mayor of Casterbridge by Elisabeth Jane whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was
but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain. And yet Hardy was never quote certain of
his philosophy; he hovered between the view of man as a mere plaything of an impersonal and
malign Fate and man as a being possessing free will, in whom character is fate; until in The
Dynasts, he evolved the conception of the Immanent Will.

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His Treatment of his Themes


Hardys preoccupation with his philosophy of life is seen in the way in which he intrudes
himself into his novels to point an accusing finger at destiny or to take the side of his protagonists,
and in the over - frequent use of coincidence, through which he seeks to prove his case. Too often
his plots hinge upon a sequence of accidents which have the most dire consequences and, therefore,
while he seldom fails to inspire in his readers his own deep pity for the sufferings of his characters
he frequently fails to attain the highest tragic levels. Allied with this use of coincidence are a
fondness for the grotesque or unusual and a weakness for the melodramatic. Yet he handles striking
situations with great firmness of touch and a telling realism, and all his best novels contain
individual scenes which are unforgettable.
His Characters
They are mostly ordinary men and women living close to the soil. The individuality of some
is sacrificed to Hardys view of life, but while he is, by more modern standards, not really deep in
his psychological analysis, characters like Jude and Sue, Tess, Henchard and Eustacia Vye show
considerable subtlety of interpretation.
Such figures as Gabriel Oak (Far from the Madding Crowd) and Diggory Venn (The
Return of the Native) are finely realized, country types blending with the countryside to which
they belong, while the minor rustics who are briefly sketched but readily visualized, are a frequent
source of pithy humour, and act as a chorus commenting on the actions of the chief protagonists.
His Knowledge of the Countryside
In this Hardy stands supreme. His boyhood was spent mainly in the country, and he had
an acute and sensitive observation of natural phenomena. As a unifying influence in his novels, The
Wessex scene which he immortalized is second only to his philosophy. But nature provides more
than a men background, often it is a protagonist in the story, an unfeeling, impersonal force exerting
its influence upon the lives of the characters. Probably, the finest examples of Hardys use of nature
are in The Woodlanders and in The Return of the Natives.
His work
Hardy is among the leading novelists of the late Victorian era and one of the greatest
poets of the early twentieth centuries. He wrote poetry throughout his career, but his first published
work was in prose.
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After the rejection of The Poor Man and the Lady in 1868, George Meredith suggested
Hardy write a work in the sensationalist mode of Wilkie Collins. The result was Desperate
Remedies (1871), a densely plotted novel of coincidence and intrigue, much concerned with class
conflict, that some were to censure on moral grounds. Others had praised the rural scenes in Hardys
earliest work however, and on this hint he wrote Under the Greenwood Tree. Here his amused but
delicate sympathy with country people and his intimate knowledge of their ways of life create a
gentle comedy of love and pastoral incident as Hardy shows the activities of the Mellstock choir
and how Fancy Day eventually chooses the humble Dick Dewy as her husband..
In A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), Hardy returns to the ironically constructed novel of
youthful love and class difference. The plot in which the young architect, Stephen Fitzmaurice
Smith, commissioned to restore a church tower, falls in love with the vicars daughter owes
something to the circumstances of Hardys first marriage to Emma Gifford. In the novel however,
the heros nerve fails him as the couple plan to elope. Elfride is pursued by the cold and literary
Knight, Stephens erstwhile patron, but when Knight learns of her earlier affair with Stephen he
rejects her. At the conclusion of the work, both men travel down to Cornwall on the same train only
to discover that Elfrides corpse has accompanied them in the baggage van.
Such Satires of Circumstance point to fundamental concerns in Hardys fiction. The
situation is grotesque while it also suggests a preoccupation with how passion and aspiration are
constantly thwarted by the indifferent Immanent Will. As a young man, hardy had lost his faith
amid the doubts unleashed by Darwin, and the scene in A Pair of Blue Eyes where Knight clings
desperately to the sight o a cliff while a fosilized trilobite stares blindly across at him gives early
expression to Hardys view of man living in an uncaring universe that stretches back over aeons of
time and inn which man himself is no specially favoured creation.
In Far from the Madding CrowdWessex becomes for the first time Hardys great
imaginative domain. His account of the loves of Bathsheba Everdene- her relationship with the
dashing Sergeant Troy, with the luckless Boldwood and finally with Gabriel Oak is distinctly
sensational in its plotting, and Hardy achieves such fine effects in this mode as the moment when
lamplight suddenly reveals to Bathsheba the presence of Troy himself. The grotesque and the
pathetic merge in the scene where water from a gargoyle washes away the flowers the repentant
Troy has placed on Fanny Robins grave. It is the integration of such action with the seasons
however that gives the novel its satisfying resonance. The ageless cycles of the life of the land and
the relation of the human passion to the turning year are excellently achieved. Hardys Wessex his
evocation of the life and landscapes of the West Country and of Dorset in particular- place is
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characters against a universal setting. Generations appear to have brought man into some unity with
such a world, and no passage in the novel more clearly shows Hardys deep response to this than the
twenty- second chapter, describing the place occupied in the lives of these people by the great barn.
In The Return of the Native(1878), Hardys remarkable ability to fuse the local with the
cosmic shows aspects of nature that are altogether more narrowing and malign. Egdon Heath is
timeless and indifferent nature itself, enduring rather than picturesque, chastening rather than kind.
It crushes or subdues to its own wisdom those who live there, and for Hardy, the heath is nature
itself as modern man must see her. Those like Clym Yeobright who are disillusioned by the defects
of the natural laws come to love the heath precisely for its reflection of their own disenchantment.
In this they are late Victorians wracked in a world where old- fashioned revelling in the general
situation grows less and less possible.
Science and agnosticism reveal an inimical world where man must either endure or, as with
Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge( 1886), become the victim of his own character
as its energies weave his fate.
Michael Henchard, Hardys Man of Character, is his creators most heroic figure.
Henchard is at once both agent and victim in a plot where remorseless tragic coincidence provides
far more than sensationalism. The Mayor of Casterbridge offers one of Hardys most elaborate
examples of his changing the natural order and proportion of events to show how, in an indifferent
universe, man is trapped by his character, his past and the far-from-benevolent march of progress.
This last eventually replaces Henchard with the thin and bloodless Farfrae, the accountant and man
of the machine. But if the plot has an almost Sophoclean inevitability, The Mayor of Casterbridge
achieves at its climax especially something of the grandeur and pathos of King Lear. Henchards
death inspires both pity and awe. Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane arrive too late, and Abel Whittles
account of the heros death and the reading of his will are moments unbearably poised between
rustic simplicity and an annihilating, universal despair.

Tess DUrbervilles
The novel is considered one of the supreme achievements of English fiction. The tragic
passions of an obscure country girl perfectly integrate Hardys abiding concern with love thwarted
by an implacable universe and the ruthless dislocation wrought by class. The landscape of Wessex,

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evoked with great poetic power, relate the particular to the universal with consummate mastery,
while the narrative also allows Hardy to engage with contemporary issues of religion and morality.
The day of Tesss wedding to Angel Clare shows how perfectly these themes are fused
with high drama. Tess and Angel have courted each other trough a long summer of heady pastoral
luxuriousness. Nature pulses through them and all the world. But the wedding itself takes place in
the dismal greynness of New Years Day and, on their first evenings man and wife, each confesses
to an earlier affair as the fire glows with a Last Judgement luridness. Tess, in particular, tells her
husband of her seduction by the feckless Alec DUrberville, a supposed aristocratic relative whose
child she bore. Though nature does not condemn her for what has happened, memories of a childs
eternal damnation, and in little ceremony of her own devising she christened the baby Sorrow
before burying it in a scne of the utmost pathos.
It is restorative power of nature that brought Angel and a revived Tess together. Though
Angel has discarded most of the Christian beliefs in which he has been reared (his progress to
agnosticism was that of many intelligent young Victorians) he is horrified to discover that hi wife is
not, in his opinion, a pure woman. His love freezes under the withering spectre of conventional
morality and he departs for Brazil. With Ange gone, Tess endures the purgatory of winter farm work
until her family is all but ruined by death of her foolish father. In order to support them, Tess,
flawed by her reckles acquiescence in chance, returns to the worldly and rootless DUrbverville.
Her love however is still for Angel: She tried to pray to God, but it was her husband who really had
her supplication. Her idolatry of this man was such as she herself almost feared it to be ill-omened.
That fear is justified.
Angel returns in chastened humanity, and Tess herself, hysterically grieving, murders
DUrberville and rushes to give herself to the one man she loves. The great closing scene at
Stonehenge Hardys symbol of an ancient and malevolent natural world of human sacrifice is
one of supreme achievements. As the policemen take Tess away to trial and execution, so we see
how, in this brutal and implacable world, Justice was done, and the President of the Immortals, in
Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.

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