Presentation on theme: "The Victorian Age. Queen Victoria 1837-1901 The term “Victorian” literally describes things and events from the reign of Queen Victoria. She is England’s."— Presentation transcript:
The Victorian Age
Queen Victoria The term “Victorian” literally describes things and events from the reign of Queen Victoria. She is England’s longest reigning queen, having ruled from 1837 to Her husband was Prince Albert of Sax-Coburg-Gotha, her German cousin. The two had a very close and affectionate relationship; Albert was instrumental in Victoria’s decision making as Queen. Together, they had nine children (“Queen Victoria ”).
The Queen's own ethics and personal tastes (“Queen Victoria ”) have perhaps lead to our association of the word Victorian with things that are “prudish”, “repressed” and “old fashioned”. In part, Victoria herself encouraged her own identification with the qualities we associate with the word Victorian – earnestness, moral responsibility, and domestic propriety. In general, when we think of “Victorian” values today, we often think of sobriety, hard work, and joyless abstinence from worldly pleasures (Abrams ).
The Victorian Age Victoria's long reign witnessed the expansion of the British Empire as well as political and social reforms In England and abroad. Indeed, a feeling of national pride was connected with the name of Victoria; however, this era was also a time shaken by various social, political, religious, technological and scientific developments, all of which had an impact on the literature of the time. Over time, these rapid changes deeply affected the country's mood: an age that began with a confidence and optimism leading to economic boom and prosperity eventually gave way to uncertainty and doubt regarding Britain's place in the world”(“Victorian England: An Overview”).
Key Factors of Change: Advancements in Technology The Industrial Revolution The Growth of the British Empire Scientific Discovery Questioning of Religious Authority Mandatory Education and Increased Literacy
Technological Advancements In science and technology, the Victorians developed the modern idea of invention based on the belief that man could create solutions to problems in order to better himself and his environment. Here are some of the key inventions of the era: The Steam Engine (1775) - James Watt – making possible steam-powered trains and ships. The Cotton Gin (1794) - Eli Whitney - allowed for the removal of cotton from its seeds. (“Industrial Revolution Inventors”)
Sewing Machine (1844) – Elias Howe Diesel Engine (1892) – Rudolf Diesel The Light Bulb (1877) – Thomas Edison (“Industrial Revolution Inventors”)
The Telegraph (1836) – Samuel F.B. Morse - transmitted electric signals over wires from location to location that translated into a message. Transatlantic Cable (1866) – Cyrus Field Telephone (1876) - Alexander Graham Bell First Wireless Message (1902) – Guglielmo Marconi – transmitted from Ireland to Signal Hill, Newfoundland (“Industrial Revolution Inventors”)
The Industrial Revolution Such improvements in technology fostered the industrial revolution. England was the first country in the world to become industrialized. Throughout Victoria’s reign, the population of London grew from two million to six-and-a-half million. There was a shift from an agricultural way of life based on land ownership to a modern urban economy based on trade and manufacturing. (Abrams 1043) Key industries supported by the invention of new technologies included the manufacturing of cotton textiles, coal mining, and iron production. (“The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain”)
The Steam Engine and Transportation In 1830, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened becoming the first steam-powered, public railway in the world. By 1850, 6,621 miles of railway line connected all of England’s major cities. By 1900, England had 15,195 lines of track and an underground railway system beneath London. The train transformed England’s landscape and supported the growth of its commerce. This resulted in an enormous increase in England’s wealth through increased trade in growing global markets. (Abrams 1046)
The Growth of the Empire England became the world’s workshop and London the world’s banker. Profits gained through trade led to capital investments in other continents. England colonies sprung up in Australia, Africa, India, and North America. By 1890, more than a quarter of the world was part of the British Empire, upon which the sun never set. England was now at its highest point of development as a world power (Abrams 1044).
“ British history is two thousand years old, and yet in a good many ways the world has moved farther ahead since the Queen was born than it moved in all the rest of the two thousand put together.” - Mark Twain (Abrams 1043) The English people are “the greatest and most highly civilized people the world ever saw.” - Thomas Babington Macaulay (Abrams 1044)
THE EARLY VICTORIAN PERIOD – – A “TIME OF TROUBLES” Despite England’s growth as a dominant world power, it also experienced a host of social and economic problems due to rapid and unregulated industrialization. It is perhaps necessary to understand these issues in order to understand the ideas that preoccupy the writers of this era.
The Industrial Revolution and Political Reform The opening of England’s first railway coincided with the opening of the country’s first Reform Parliament. It was soon observed that the country’s electoral system needed to change since some the new and growing industrial cities were unrepresented in Parliament. Manufacturing interests who refused to tolerate their exclusion from the political process led the working class in agitating for reform. (Abrams 1046)
A Rising Middle Class The Reform Bill of 1832 extended the right to vote to all males owning property worth £10 or more in annual rent. In effect, the voting public thereafter included the lower middle classes. In 1867, a second reform bill was passed granting the vote to the working classes as well. These reform bills represent the beginnings of a new age in which middle-class economic interests gained increasing power. (Abrams )
The Industrial Revolution and Social Reform Times were not always prosperous. A crash in 1837 followed by a series of bad harvests led to a period of unemployment, poverty and rioting. Workers and their families lived in crowded and filthy slums in cities such as Manchester (Abrams 1047). Those without employment or any other means of subsistence were condemned to the workhouse
People became more critical of the poor working conditions in factories and coal mines. Women and children workers were exploited, often having to work 16 hour days in horrific conditions especially in textile factories and mines. Even five-year-old children worked these long shifts dragging heavy tubs of coal in low-ceilinged mine passages. (Abrams 1047)
For ten years, a large organization of workers known as the Chartists incited the public against government and cried out for legislative reforms; so strong was the call for social justice that there were even fears of revolution. These “Times of Trouble” left their mark on Victorian literature as writers advocated for change, expressed fear of chaos and revolution, or documented the living conditions of the time, as in the works of Charles Dickens. Many writers began to denounce the evils of Victorian industry, feeling that England’s leadership in commerce and manufacturing was being paid for at a terrible price in human happiness (Abrams ). So-called “progress” had been gained by abandoning traditional rhythms of life and traditional patterns of human relationships. Many Victorians writers expressed an anxious sense of something lost in a world made alien by technological changes (Abrams 1044).
The Rich In contrast, the rich were enjoying the perks of a booming economy. The British were the “best” in the world at most things. People were “blessed and happy” if they were among the privileged and rich (middle and upper class). Industrialization didn’t affect them, other than the fact that they made more money; not all Victorians cared about their environment or the living conditions of the poor. Like the Romantics, many Victorian writers opposed materialism and the preoccupation with “progress” and material wealth.
THE MID-VICTORIAN PERIOD – – THE AGE OF IMPROVEMENT Despite the harassing troubles we have just seen, England saw renewed prosperity when it began to pull out from the “Hungry 40’s”. The Queen and her husband were admired as models of domesticity and devotion to duty. Agriculture, trade and industry began to flourish once more. Factory Acts passed by Parliament restricted child labour and limited the hours of employment and the condition of the working classes was gradually improved (Abrams ).
In 1851, Prince Albert opened the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park where a gigantic glass greenhouse called the Crystal palace had been erected to display the exhibits of modern industry and science. It was one of the first building to be constructed according to modern architectural principles in which materials such as glass and iron were used for purely functional ends. The building itself symbolized the triumphant feats of Victorian technology. (Abrams 1049)
The Growth of the Empire Between 1853 and 1880, almost 2.5 million immigrants left England for various British colonies (Australia, India, Canada, Africa. Technological revolution in communication and transportation supported the growth of the Empire. Britain built railways, strung telegraph wires and put in place a system of education and government to preserved British influence in the colonies. Overall, the colonies were a source of wealth as they created markets for British manufactures goods and became sources for raw materials. (Abrams 1049)
SCIENTIFIC ADVANCEMENT AND RELIGIOUS DOUBT Some writers of the Victorian Era wrote about the religious conflicts of the time: The Church of England had evolved into three conflicting divisions: the Low Church, the Broad Church, and the High Church. Low Church – Evangelical branch advocating a strict Puritan code of morality (closer in belief to other Protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists etc.) High Church – The more “Catholic” side of the Church of England emphasizing tradition, ritual, and authority. Broad Church – Sought a middle ground and avoided the controversies which divided the Low and High Church. Open to modern advances in thought, its adherents emphasized the broadly inclusive nature of the church. (Abrams 1050)
The Value of Religion Questioned Victorian England was a deeply religious country. A great number of people were habitual church- goers, at least once and probably twice, every Sunday. The Bible was frequently and widely read by people of every class; so too were religious stories and allegories. Yet towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign, the Victorians experienced a great age of doubt as institutional Christianity was questioned for the first time on a large scale (“Victorian England: An Overview”).
Utilitarianism – A philosophy based on rationalism that saw religion as outdated superstition. It proposed that the only way we should judge a morally correct action is based on the extent to which it gives the greatest pleasure to the greatest number of people. (Abrams 1050)
Higher Criticism – An intellectual approach to the study of the Bible as a historical rather than a sacred text. This rational approach to the Bible questioned fundamental beliefs in Christianity, including the divinity of Jesus. (Abrams 1051)
Atheists and Agnostics felt more religious freedom to express their views. Atheist orators such as Charles Bradlaugh enjoyed the privilege of addressing large audiences. (Abrams )
In geology, scientists were extending the history of the earth back millions of years, and astronomers, by extending the knowledge of stellar distances into dizzying expanses, likewise reduced the stature of the human species in the grand scheme of the universe. Darwinism – In 1859, biology reduced humankind even further into “nothingness” with Darwin’s publishing of The Origin of Species. As scientific and rational thought reinterpreted and called into question religious beliefs, some Victorians felt anxious and isolated, separated from the iron structures of faith that once gave their lives stability and meaning. (Abrams )
THE LATE VICTORIAN PERIOD – 1870 – 1901 DECAY OF VICTORIAN VALUES For many, this final phase of the era was a time of security and prosperity. London was known as a place of gaiety in the 1880’s due to consumerism. Commodities, inventions, and products were changing the texture of modern life. There were, however, serious struggles: The cost of maintaining the Empire was often great due to rebellions, massacres, and wars in the colonies (Indian Mutiny of 1857; Jamaican Rebellion 1865; massacre of General Gordon in the Sudan; Boer War in South Africa). At home there was tension as Ireland was demanding home rule, and as Germany, under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck challenged the naval, military and economic power of England. (Abrams )
In North America, the United States (now recovered after the Civil War) and Canada were expanding westwards through their railways and began to compete with England in the realms of industry and agriculture. By , England was in economic depression and the rate of emigration rose alarmingly. With the right to vote extended to the working classes and the advent of trade unions, labour became a powerful political force. The revolutionary theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto challenged the class structure of English society, proposing that utopia could only be achieved when the working classes would control government and industry. As a result, in much of literature of this final phase of Victorianism a change of attitude can be sensed. There is often a tone of melancholy as the belief is expressed that the answers to life’s problems may never be found. The work of artists in the 1890’s seems to be project a sad awareness of living at the end of a great century. (Abrams )
LITERACY and LITERATURE Literacy increased significantly during the Victorian Period. In 1837, about half the male adult population could read and write to some extent; by the end of the century, basic literacy was universal. Compulsory national education was instituted in 1880, requiring children to attend school until the age of ten. Steam-powered printing presses, paper made with wood pulp, and new typesetting machines allowed publishers to print more material more cheaply than ever. (Abrams )
Periodicals became the most popular form of literature. In the first 30 years of the Victorian period, 170 new magazines were started in London alone (sensational tales, religious monthlies, weekly newspapers, political satire, women’s magazines, monthly miscellanies publishing fiction and poetry). The reputations of many of the major writers of the period were established in this magazines (Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, Tennyson, Browning to name a few). (Abrams )
Novels and long works of nonfiction prose were published in serial form. Communities of readers grew as they followed their favourite stories, read aloud especially in family gatherings. A broad readership, especially middle-class readers, developed; many readers expected that literature would not only delight but instruct, that it would reflect the world they lived in and illuminate social problems. (Abrams 1058)
The Victorian Novel The novel was the most dominant form in Victorian literature. Victorian novels sought to represent their social world with the variety of classes and social settings that defined their communities, but with new emphasis on the possibility of social mobility (Jane Eyre, Great Expectations). For the Victorians, the novel was a principal form of entertainment and a spur to social sympathy as the heroes and heroines struggled within their living conditions to determine their social position and find love and happiness. (Abrams )
VICTORIAN POETRY Victorian poetry developed in the context of the novel. As the novel emerged as a popular form, poets sought new ways of telling stories in verse through the creation of long narrative poems that experimented with characterization, point of view, rhythm and meter. Victorian poetry also developed in the shadow of Romanticism. Poets such as Rossetti and Swinburne mirrored the Romantics in their expression of intimate thoughts and personal emotions. Others, such as Arnold, rejected this Romantic quality in his writing, preferring to write from a more objective point of view in order to comment on social and political issues. (Abrams )
The Dramatic Monologue The dramatic monologue, in which Browning specialized, seems an appropriate compromise between these two approaches. It allowed for a lyric poem (expressing personal emotion) presented by the voice of a speaker that was distinct from the poet himself. (Abrams 1061) Dramatic Monologue: A type of lyric poem in which a character (the speaker) addresses a distinct but silent audience imagined to be present in the poem in such a way as to reveal a dramatic situation and, often unintentionally, some aspect of his or her temperament or personality. (“Dramatic Monologue”)
Characteristics of Victorian Poetry A key characteristic of Victorian poetry is variety both in style and subject matter as poets responded to the complex social and political changes of their time. It is almost impossible to generalize a set of characteristics common to all writers. FORM There was a focus on long narrative poems. The development of the dramatic monologue is often said to be the great achievement of Victorian poetry. Some poets stuck to traditional forms such as the sonnet, while others experimented with new or unusual forms such as free verse (such as Matthew Arnold). (Abrams )
STYLE It is pictorial in nature in that it uses detail to construct visual images that represent the emotion or situation of the poem. [For this reason, many artists illustrated Victorian poems, and poems were often inspired by paintings.] Victorians use sound in a distinctive way. Some poems offer mellifluous rhythms, alliteration, gentle vowels, and liquid consonants, while others create rougher, harsher sounds. Overall though, Victorian poets use sound to convey meaning. Some poets wrote with a tone of pessimism and saw society and mankind in a period of doubt and degradation. Others wrote optimistically about the power of social change and hope for the future. Diction could present an elevated or lofty tone, but at times could also become colloquial and vulgar even within the same poem. (Abrams )
SUBJECT Subjects include love, nature, expression of intense personal emotion, and quest for the strange and exotic (like the Romantics) (Brown and Bailey xi). For some Victorian poets, the intimate disclosures of the heart were repulsive. The true poet was one who remained impersonal, presenting great ideas without being distorted by the poet’s personal values (Brown and Bailey xv). But poetry was also used to “preach or teach” addressing topics such as the conflict between science and religion and humanity’s relationship to God, the problem of poverty and social inequality, and the social issues raised by capitalism, consumerism, materialism, and the industrial revolution. For many, realism was key. It was believed poets should speak frankly and realistically about society and human emotionally states, even if this involves revealing the darkest and most sordid aspects of human existence (Brown and Bailey xii).
Victorian Poets Some of the most famous Victorian Poets were: Alfred, Lord Tennyson Robert Browning Matthew Arnold Edgar Allan Poe (American) Emily Dickinson Mark Twain (American) Christina Rossetti Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Works Cited Abrams, M.H. Ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Print. Brown, E.K. and J.O. Bailey. Introduction. Victorian Poetry. New York: The Ronald Press Company, Print. "Dramatic Monologue." Glossary of Literary Terms. The Meyer Literature Site, Web. 28 Feb "Industrial Revolution Inventors." About.com. The New York Times Company, Web. 28 Feb "Queen Victoria ( )." Victoria Station. N.p., Web. 28 Feb "The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain." Infoplease.com. Family Education Network: Pearson Education, Web. 28 Feb "Victorian England: An Overview." University of Wisconsin Oshkoshh. 13 Jul 2009.
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