Is the Victorian Age Rightly Called the Golden Age of Literature?

The Victorian Age may be called the Golden Age of Literature if the size and variety is in count. No earlier age can compare or compete with it in respect of the variety, quality and output of its literature. Covering the span of 1832 to 1901, it has seen a wide, immense, variegate as well as self critical literary activities. The chief literary trends of the age are -

(1) Bag Full of Words: 
Despite the production of many poets the age is primarily an age of prose. Prosperity brought in leisure to a large section of the people who now wanted their minds to be filled with intellectual food, and the novel proved to be one of the pleasantest forms of Intellectual entertainment. In fact ‘never before, in any age or language, has the novel appeared in such numbers and in such perfection’.

(ii) Moral Purpose: 

Another trend of the age is its moral purpose reflected both in prose and poetry. Long remarks ‘The tendency of literature is strongly ethical; all the great poets, novelists, and essayists of the age are moral teachers.’

(iii) Truth Inside: 

The next literary trait is that it breaks away from romanticism and departs from such artistic creed as art for art’s sake. An age of realism, the Victorian Age sought to tell the whole truth— physical and moral diseases of men as well as of their hope and health.

(iv) Self Critical: 

Though the age is generally viewed to be practical and materialistic, nearly all the authors vigorously attacked materialism and championed a purely ideal conception of life. According to Long, the age was fundamentally an idealistic age, since love, truth, justice, brotherhood—all great ideals are emphasized as the chief ends of life, not only by its poets but also by its novelists and essayists.’

(v) Science Uppermost: 

In no other earlier age had science exercised such profound influence on the people as the Victorian Age did on them. Its influence is two-fold:

It emphasizes truth as the sole object of human endeavour; it has established the principle of law throughout the universe ; and it has given us an entirely new view of life, as summed up in the word ‘evolution’, that is the principle of growth or development from simple to complex forms.

The other influence is that it gives no encouragement to original works of imagination. As a result though the age produced an uncountable number of books, very few of them can be considered great creative works of literature.

 However, the time and its literary products is marked by many drawbacks which can easily dismantle the golden crown.

(a) Sexual Priggishness: 

Conservative attitudes towards the attitude to life and acceptance to love and sex life is reflected in major writers.

(b)Narrow Mindedness: 

Even though late Victorians are ready for rapid changes, the early Victorians are narrowly bowed.

(c) Lack of Liberalism: 

Liberty the concept was fast changing and the industrialization and colonization put the concept of nations in conundrum.

(d) Lack of Creativity: 

When there is a mass demand of text for newly learned working class of circulating library, the artists for the first time start writing for demand of mass not of soul!

Ardhendu De

Ref: Read the major events/ rulers/writers of these period: @ Short Questions From The Victorian Age (1830-90)

Historical &  Literary events 

1833 – Oxford Movement started
1848 – R B founded
1850 – In Memoriam by Tennyson
1859 – Idylls of The King by Tennyson
1855 – Men and Women by Browning
1842 – Dramatic lyrics by Browning
1847-48 – Vanity Fair - Thackeray
1859 – On The Origin of The species – Charles Darwin
1879 – A Doll’s house – Ibsen
1865,1888 – Essays in Criticism  -M. Arnold


1831-1837  William IV
1837-1901  Queen Victoria


1795-1818 Thomas Carlyle
1809-1892 Alfred Tennyson
1812-1889 Robert Browning
1812-1870 Charles Dickens
1819-1880 George Eliot
1822-1888 Matthew Arnold
1828-1882 D. G. Rossetti
1840-1928 Thomas Hardy


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