The Victorian Age of Literature
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair” (Dickens n. pag.). These words by Charles Dickens, one of the most famous writers of the Victorian Period, were intended to show the connections between the French Revolution and the decline of Dickens’s own time, the Victorian Era (“About” n.pag.). Dickens wanted to show how the trends of his time were following a tragic path that had already played out and not ended well in France. According to an article about this historical period, the Victorian Era was “a time of change, a time of great upheaval, but also a time of great literature” (“Victorian” n.pag.). The Victorian Period reflects the great changes in the social, political, and economical shifts of the time.
To start with, some information is in order about the Victorian Period itself. Queen Victoria, England’s longest reigning monarch, sat on the throne from 1837 to 1901. The span of time is referred to as the Victorian Period (Abrams 1860). At the death of Queen Victoria, her subjects reacted in such a way that they rebelled against many of the ideas put forward during her reign. Even her own country recognized her life and rule as a distinct historical period separated from the rest (Abrams 1861).
Also in the Victorian Period, other events were going on that changed the way many people thought about life. Among those changes were advances in scientific research, which created conflict with biblical beliefs. With Darwin’s contribution of The Origin of the Species in 1859, which set off a scientific revolution, many Victorians lost faith in the church. His theories stirred doubt about where humanity really started from, and these new ideas did not match up with what the Bible said. In the face of these new philosophies, people began to think they were not as important as they had been led to believe. They felt “’infinitely isolated’” (qtd. Abrams 1868). These followers of this new science instead tried to apply the concepts they had learned to the faith they had inherited, and it did not work. Faced with this challenge, many chose science instead. “Instead of treating the Bible as a sacredly infallible document, scientifically minded scholars examined it as a mere text of history and presented evidence about its composition that believers, especially in Protestant countries, found disconcerting, to say the least” (Abrams 1867). This led many Victorians to fall away from the beliefs they and their ancestors had clung to for generations.
Toward the end of the period, though, many Victorians were tired of feeling lost and alienated due to the Darwin’s theory. Poets such as Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote about the need to see God in the things that surrounded them. In “God’s Grandeur”, he writes that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…Why do men then now not reck his rod?” (Hopkins 2158.1;5). Hopkins is wondering how, in the face of such...