Victorian Age in English Literature

Victorian Age in English Literature

The Victorian Age spanned from 1837 to 1901. It marked a significant era in English literature characterized by social, political, and industrial transformations. This period saw a rapid increase in literary output that reflected the complexities of Victorian society. The literature of this era addressed themes of morality, class, gender roles, and industrialization. From the Romantic idealism of the early Victorian writers to the realism and social criticism of the later period, Victorian literature contains a rich collection of artistic expression and cultural commentary.

Early Victorian Literature

The early period in the Victorian age witnessed the continuation of Romantic ideals alongside emerging social consciousness. William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Robert Browning exemplified the Romantic tradition, with their lyrical poetry. Their poetry explored themes of nature, individualism, and the sublime. Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and Browning’s dramatic monologues are notable examples of this poetic tradition.

The rise of the novel as a dominant literary form was evident in the works of Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, and Elizabeth Gaskell. “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens vividly depicted the social inequalities and injustices of the Victorian era. On the other hand, Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” challenged gender norms and explored the struggles of the individual against societal constraints.

Mid-Victorian Literature

The mid-Victorian period saw a shift towards realism and social critique. The writers illustrated the challenges of industrialization, urbanization, and the impact of scientific discoveries. Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times” and Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” exposed the harsh realities of working-class life and advocated for social reform.

It was the era when the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 ushered a new scientific thought that influenced literary discourse. Thomas Hardy and George Eliot incorporated Darwinian concepts of evolution and determinism into their novels. Their novels explored themes of fate, morality, and the human condition. Notable amongst them are “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” and “Middlemarch”.

Late Victorian Literature

The late period in the Victorian age witnessed a diversification of literary styles and movements. It reflects the changing cultural landscape. The Aesthetic movement, led by Oscar Wilde and Algernon Charles Swinburne, embraced the pursuit of beauty and art for its own sake and challenged Victorian moral and artistic conventions.

Additionally, the emergence of the New Woman in literature, depicted in novels such as George Gissing’s “The Odd Women” and Sarah Grand’s “The Heavenly Twins,” reflected shifting attitudes towards gender roles and women’s rights. These works explored themes of female independence and the struggle for self-fulfilment in a patriarchal society.


The Victorian Age in English literature encompasses a vast and diverse body of work. This work reflects the complexities and contradictions of the era. From the idealism of the early Romantics to the realism and social critique of the mid-Victorian period, and finally, the experimentation and cultural upheaval of the late Victorian era, Victorian literature remains a rich and enduring legacy that continues to captivate readers and scholars. Victorian literature offers valuable insights into the human experience and the enduring quest for meaning and identity in a rapidly changing world through the exploration of timeless themes and engagement with pressing social issues.