19th CENTURY BRITISH LITERATURE

Popular works that inspired the Romantics
1. Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A vindication of the rights of men”
2. Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”
3. William Godwin’s “Enquiry concerning political justice”

The English government responded to the French Revolution by repressing traditional liberties such as…
1. public meetings
2. the right of habeas corpus
3. charging advocates of even moderate political change with treason

Economic factors contributing to the Romantic period
1. laissez-faire, the theory of “let alone” that condoned the belief in free operation of economic laws
2. change from agricultural to industrial society-replaced hand labor with machinery, especially after James Waat’s invention of the steam engine
3. Power began to shift from wealthy, aristocratic landowners to middle-class urban dwellers after Reform Bill of 1832
4. machinery led to loss of jobs, creating outbreaks by displaced workers who destroyed the machines

Peterloo Massacre
In 1819, hundreds of thousands of workers peacefully gathered to demand parliamentary reform at St. Peter’s Fields, but were charged by saber-wielding troops who killed 9 and injured hundreds more.

Social factors contributing to the romantic period
1. laboring population grew substantially
2. “enclosure”- fenced in open fields, originally shared by communities, but now dispersed to private landowners. created a poor class who had to either migrate to industrial towns or remain as laborers living on starvation wages from long work hours under harsh conditions.
3. young children were made to work as chimney sweepers and in coal mines
4. cities became unclean and full of cheaply built houses and slum tenements made smoggy with factory smoke
5. suffering was limited to the poor, other classes prospered
6. first reform bill was passed in 1832 (just after romanticism) that redistributed governmental representation more fairly

Women in the 19th Century
1. provided limited schooling
2. no legal rights (no voting, no property, no identity)
3. books, magazines, and sermons encouraged women to accept their roles in the home
4. expected to raise patriotic sons as nationalism spread
5. began to feel overlooked
6. some became writers to enter the public sphere, competing with men for the first time in numbers, sales, and reputations
7. reform began in the Victorian age and would not be completed until the 20th century. Rights like child custody, divorce, property, education, and employment opportunities would be slowly adjusted starting in 1839.

Romantic characteristics and themes
1. a reminiscent attitude
2. poetical inspiration coming spontaneously and impulsively from within
3. the crisis and renewal of the self
4. nature poetry
5. the glorification of the ordinary
6. the supernatural, the romance, and psychological extremes

William Blake
Songs of Innocence and Experience
“The ecchoing green”
“the lamb”
“the tyger”
“the chimney sweeper”
“holy thursday”

William Wordsworth
“Elegiac Stanzas”
“Preface” to Lyrical Ballads
“Resolution and Independence”
The Prelude
“Tintern Abbey”

The “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads
1. explained the “experimental” tendencies of the poems
2. includes a manifesto about the nature of poetry
3. he attacks the “poetic diction” of 18th century poets
4. denies the traditional assumption of the hierarchy of poetic genres
5. promotes the use of a “language really used by men”, using peasants, children, outcasts, and criminals
6. he calls good poetry “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” that come from “emotion recollected in tranquility”

“The Prelude”
an autobiographical poem that narrates a personal history consisting of both spiritual and corporeal journeys that turns on a mental crisis and recovery. It is from this work that we learn so much about his life. The quest for the self resides in both the poet’s memory and the very process of composing the poem

“Resolution and Independence”
a poem about a man who wanders through the country and comes across an old leech gatherer, who makes a living wandering from pond to pond collecting leeches for doctors. The old man has wisdom and fortitude that help to elevate the poet to an enlightened-like state. The poem serves as a good example of using the common man and language.

Elegiac Stanzas
a good example about observing something in nature–in this case a castle–and using it to bring back a memory or pull out a feeling from within. He thinks of his brother’s death and doesn’t think of this natural scene the same way anymore.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Biographia Literaria
“Kubla Khan”
“This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison”
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Biographia Literaria
posed questions such as the relations between literary language and ordinary language, poetry and philosophy, and perception and imagination. The work merged personal experience with philosophical speculation. It it, he critiques Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction, denying Wordsworth’s claim that there is no essential difference between the language of poetry and common language.

“This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison”
a meditative conversational poem in which the poet uses his imagination in order to transcend the prison of the bower in order to take a journey with his friends in nature that he is not physically able to make. When he returns his mind to the bower, he realizes that it is not a prison after all, instead admiring the beauty around him which proves to be a beautiful and pleasant spot to sit and think

Lord Byron
“Childe Harold”
“Don Juan”

Percy Bysshe Shelley
Defence of Poetry
“Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni”

“Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni”
in this poem, the poet is inspired by the highest mountain in all of Europe, echoing Wordsworth’s natural poetry and raising philosophical questions such as “Where do we come from?”, “Does nature play a role in men’s life or is it completely alien?”, and “What is nature without man there to witness it?”. Shelley claims to have written this poem “under the immediate impression of the deep and powerful feelings excited by the objects it attempts to describe”, a definition of poetry not far off from Wordsworth’s

A Defense of Poetry
Shelley focuses on what he believes to be the universal qualities and values that all great poems have in common. He believes a poet is anyone who creatively breaks from the conditions of time and place in order to envision such values. It attacks the material society that existed around him and promoted instead the value of imagination and creativity. He writes, “man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave”. Shelley planned to write three parts, but the last two parts were never written.

John Keats
“Ode on a Grecian Urn”
“Ode to a Nightingale”

“Ode to a Nightingale”
addresses the bird that induces a dreamlike state in the poet similar to being drunk on wine. By using the imagination that poetry allows, he is able to fly through the forest with the bird, who never has to know the pains of what it’s like to be human because it is innocent and free. In the poem, he talks of death as though it were “easeful” and that he is “half in love” with it, a theme we see in much of his poetry.

“Ode on a Grecian Urn”
describes the many happy states painted on the urn and compares them to the non-permanence of human life in a world of change.

Characteristics of the Victorian Age
1. A drive for social advancement
2. A historical self-conciousness
3. Rebellion against codes of conduct
4. aestheticism

Adjectives to describe Victorians
proper conduct
prudish behavior
good models
snobbery
stuck up
strict codes
modest dress, speech, conduct
pretentious values

Time of Troubles
the early part of the Victorian age (1830-48) in which the country could not keep up with the progress, still governed by an archaic electoral system with unfair parliamentary representation. Unemployment, poverty, and horrible workplace conditions grew worse. Reforms slowly corrected these issues such as the Reform Bill of 1832 (redistributed the vote), repeal of the Corn Laws (which placed high taxes on imported grains), and a series of Factory Acts (restricted child labor, limited work hours and other working conditions)

England had colonies in…
1. Australia
2. Canada
3. India
4. Africa

3 Churches in Victorian Age
1. Evangelical Church
2. High Church
3. Broad Church

Utilitarianism
came from the ideas of Jeremy Bentham, who believed that all humans seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Utilitarianism was widely influential in providing a philosophical basis for political and social reforms, but aroused opposition on the part of those who felt it failed to recognize people’s spiritual needs. Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus describes a spiritual crisis in which he struggles to rediscover the springs of religious feeling in the face of a universe governed by utilitarian principles

Scientific Advancements of the Victorian Age
1. geology, by extending the history of the earth backwards millions of years
2. the discoveries of astronomers, by extending the knowledge of stellar distances to huge expanses
3. Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species
All added to religious struggles by reducing the stature of the human species in time, space, and evolution

The Aestheticism Movement
1. originated from angry young reformers who explored new ways of living in defiance of the horrendous design standards of the age as revealed in the 1851 Great Exhibition
2. It drew in architects and craftworkers, poets, critics, and philosophers to create a movement dedicated to pure beauty
3. stood in stark contrast to crass materialism of Britain in the earlier years of the Victorian Age
4. They believed that life should be lived for the seizing of the moment. No chance of experiencing exquisite passion should be rejected or passed by

Victorian poetry characteristics
1. picturesque, bringing poets and painters close together
2. the use of sound in a distinctive way (Tennyson’s smoothness through alliteration and long vowel sounds, roughness of Browning)
3. mood and character

Victorian prose characteristics
1. most popular form of writing in Victorian age
2. addressed the problems of industrial England and sometimes posing solutions (politics, religion, art, economics, education)
3. marked by a sense of urgency which reflects the pace of change of the age
4. initially published, for the most part, in serial form. novels appeared in overly-large three-volume editions

Charles Dickens
(Victorian)
Oliver Twist

Thomas Carlyle
(Victorian)
Sartor Resartus

Thomas Carlyle inspired by
1. David Hume
2. The German Romantics

Sartor Resartus
essentially, about a fictional editor who presents bits and pieces of a German professor’s Philosophy of Clothes alongside a fragmented biography and fragmented critical remarks. The work suggests a kind of synthesis between British pragmatism and German idealism. The shams of civilized life are the decorated robes with which the world conceals its soul.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Leigh
Sonnets from the Portuguese

Sonnets from the Portuguese
a sequence of 44 sonnets presented under the guise of a translation from the Portuguese language in which she recorded the stages of her love for Robert Browning

Aurora Leigh
a poem that depicts the growth of a woman poet, a portrait of the artist as a young woman committed to a socially inclusive realist art. It is daring work both in its presentation of social issues concerning women and in its claims for Aurora’s poetic vocation.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“The Lady of Shalott”
“The Lotos-eaters”

“The Lady of Shalott”
a fictional story of England’s historical past, about a woman who weaves a magical web in a tower but has been warned she will be cursed if she looks towards Camelot. Lancelot rides by one day and stops weaving. Her mirror, which she uses to view her work but also to catch glimpses of the outside world, breaks, the web unravels and the curse is set. She gets in a boat and slowly loses her life as she drifts into town. The lady can be seen as an isolated artist who turns away from her work to gaze down on the real world. The poem thus captures the conflict between an artist’s desire for social involvement and her doubts about whether such a commitment is viable for someone dedicated to art. Worse, she becomes merely art herself when Lancelot simply looks at her corpse and says “She has a lovely face”.

“The Lotos-Eaters”
based on an episode from Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus and his men land on an island whose inhabitants share with them a special fruit that makes them not want to go home. Can be seen as an inverted version of the Garden of Eden story. Eating the lotos involves abandoning external reality and living instead in a world of appearances where everything “seems” to be but nothing actually is. Suggesting that the lotos land is not so much a “land of streams” as a “land of seems”. Tennyson is perhaps satirizing Victorian society, in which machinery is replacing hard labor. By choosing the lazy land, the mariners are abandoning the sources of substantive meaning in life and the potential for heroic accomplishment.

Charlotte Bronte
(Victorian)
“Jane Eyre”
1. a critique of Victorian assumptions about gender and social class, became one of the most successful novels of its era, both critically and commercially.
2. It serves as a good example of Victorian writing about the ability to rise in social status, the treatment of women, and the questionable role of religion in a changing world.
3. Autobiographical elements are recognizable throughout the novel. Bronte lost two sisters to tuberculosis, went to an Evangelical school when she was young, and became a governess, all traits she shares with Jane Eyre.
4. Bildungsroman, a novel that tells the story of a child’s maturation
5. Gothic, including ghosts, dark secrets, sinister plots, remote landscapes, an atmosphere of suspense and fear
6. romance, which emphasizes love and passion and represents the notion of lovers destined for each other

Robert Browning
“My Last Duchess”
known for dramatic monologue and using harsh sounds

Matthew Arnold
Culture and Anarchy
“Dover Beach”

Writers who address Victorian Society
Matthew Arnold- Culture and Anarchy, “Dover Beach”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson- “The Lotos-eaters”
Charles Dickens- Oliver Twist
Charlotte Bronte- Jane Eyre
Thomas Carlyle- Sartor Resartus

Culture and Anarchy
an essay in which Arnold addresses his theory on culture. Acting in a manner towards culture meant learning to move away from self-interest and focus more on benefitting the social body as a whole. His ideas were subject to claims of elitism because it involved the study of materials only available to an educated fortunate few. Culture was his most familiar catchword, which he meant to capture the qualities of an open-minded intelligence, a refusal to take things on authority. He defined the word in idealist terms as something to strive for. Education was also a contribution to culture. He was a school inspector which allowed him to travel around England and Europe giving him insight to the conditions of schools.

“Dover Beach”
scientific challenges to long-standing religious and moral precepts have shaken people’s faith in God and other spiritual matters. The flickering light suggests a faith in God once strong now weakens. He also feels the isolation of modern man and worries about mankind’s inability to connect with others. People are swept back and forth like pebbles on a beach by circumstances beyond their control. Their ability to connect with one another or God is swept out to sea.

Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest
Presents a world so blatantly artificial. Below the surface of the light, brittle comedy, however, is a serious subtext that takes aim at self-righteous moralism and hypocrisy, the very aspects of Victorian society that would, in part, bring about Wilde’s downfall. (he was gay)