The Victorian Age Of Literature Essay

1878 words - 8 pages

The Victorian Age lasted from 1837 to 1901. Ironically, Queen Victoria lived from 1837 to 1901. By the beginning of the Victorian period, the Industrial Revolution, as this shift was called, had created profound economic and social changes, including a mass migration of workers to industrial towns, where they lived in new urban slums. But the changes arising out of the Industrial Revolution were just one small group of radical changes taking place in mid- and late-nineteenth-century Britain. Among others were the democratization resulting from extension of the franchise; challenges to religious faith, in part based on the advances of scientific knowledge, particularly of evolution; and changes in the role of women. All of these issues, and the controversies attending them, made up the basis of Victorian literature. In part because of the expansion of newspapers and the periodical press, debate about political and social issues played an important role in the experience of the reading public. The poetry of this period was a direct reflection of the popular attitudes of the time.During the Victorian Period, long held and comfortable religious beliefs fell under great scrutiny. An early blow to these beliefs came from the Utilitarian followers of Jeremy Bantam, in the form of a test by reason of many of the long-standing institutions of England, including the church. When seen through the eyes of reason, religion became "merely an outmoded superstition" (Ford & Christ 896). If this were not enough for the faithful to contend with, the torch of doubt was soon passed to the scientists. Geologists were publishing the results of their studies which concluded that the Earth was far older than the biblical accounts would have it (Ford & Christ 897). Astronomers were extending humanity's knowledge of stellar distances, and Natural Historians such as Charles Darwin were swiftly building theories of evolution that defied the Old Testament version of creation (Ford & Christ 897). God seemed to be dissolving before a panicked England's very eyes, replaced by the vision of a cold, mechanistic universe that cared little for our existence. The major early Victorian poets took the role of secular prophets, often expressing a longing for the free play of imaginative life. For Alfred Lord Tennyson, this longing found ambivalent expression in his early lyrics; his major work, In Memoriam (1850), translated personal grief into an affirmation of religious faith.Alfred Lord Tennyson was painfully aware of the implications of such a "Godless" universe, and he struggled with his own doubts about the existence of God. We glimpse much of his struggles in the poem In Memorial A. H. H., written in memory of his deceased friend, Arthur Hallam. The poem seemed to be cathartic for Tennyson, for through its writing he not only found an outlet for his grief over Hallam's death, but also managed to regain the faith which seemed at times to have abandoned him. Tennyson...

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