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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
G. R. Lomer, ed. The Student’s Course in Literature.

Lectures on the World’s Best Literature: English Literature: VIII. The Victorian Era (1832–1900)

By Gerhard Richard Lomer (1882–1970)


IT is difficult to assign a definite date to the beginning of a great period, since the causes ultimately responsible for an obvious change in national life are manifold and complex. They are to be found in the bondage of germination long before they make their appearance as freely and actively influential, and they are sometimes so inextricably mingled with the last reluctant phases of a preceding age that it is difficult to recognize at once their new significance and their constructive potency. For the Victorian Era it is particularly hard to find a definite date by which to mark its commencement. The poets of the Romantic Movement who were latest born had died earliest: Keats in 1821, Shelley in 1822, and Byron in 1824; and even those who, like Wordsworth and Coleridge, lingered on to length of mortal years had left behind them their vision of immortality, the inspiration of their young romanticism, and the fervor of their earlier emotion by the time the nineteenth century had passed its first quarter.

The year 1832 seems to have certain advantages as an arbitrary point at which to begin a consideration of this new period in the history of English literature. It was then that Scott, the greatest romancer of a great romantic period, died at Abbotsford, and Germany saw the end of Goethe, and France the death of Cuvier. The old age was therefore passing, and a new one well under way. This date also marks the publication of Tennyson’s early lyrics in which all the characteristics of the first period of Victorian poetry manifest themselves.

We have already seen that each age has its dominant characteristics. The Eighteenth Century, for example, was a period that was heartless and that flattered itself for the brilliance of its wit and for that refinement of torture which could use a trenchant sarcasm as its most effective instrument. The period of Romanticism which followed went to the opposite extreme, and generously indulged itself in emotion which knew no limitations. Instead of satirizing the prominent and the great as did the callous writers of the eighteenth century, the poets of Romanticism loved and revered the obscure and the lowly. Instead of the freedom of speech upon which their predecessors had prided themselves, these poets of new emotions set up for themselves the tolerant idol of personal freedom and about this shrine they reveled in an orgy of self-indulgent worship. The next age, which is perhaps best characterized in being called the Victorian Era, involved a not unnatural reaction towards rationalism, perhaps as a transplanted outgrowth of the principles underlying the French Revolution with its deification of human reason. Together with this familiar tendency to elevate the process of human thought went a hitherto undreamed expansion of the field of human science which necessitated a thorough revolution in man’s point of view with regard to the world, and which substituted for the egocentric microcosm of the romanticists the infinite vistas of the evolutionary theory. This age, then, tended to be critical not only of the phenomena of life but also of the philosophic ideas which had hitherto helped to determine human action. The enormous development of machinery and industry, too, tended to encourage that materialism of outlook which is apparently never far below the surface of modern life.

It is perhaps this very breadth and depth of their life which make the Victorians seem to be curiously limited in some of their points of view and to have narrow opinions and restricting conventions entirely out of place in an age whose chief characteristic is an unprecedented expansion of human knowledge. It is as if, like Bacon, the Victorians had taken all knowledge to be their province, and had, in their effort to trace the utmost limits of their new domain, forgotten how to live themselves. To take life as seriously as did Ruskin and Carlyle is to forget that we are living in the midst of such a “comédie humaine” as did not escape the wider sweep of Meredith’s gaze. This criticism, however, more accurately refers to the abiding element of conservatism in English life and letters, and is not to be regarded as an accurate description of the pioneers of new thought or the workers on the outposts of nineteenth-century civilization.

This restriction of outlook refers particularly to the Victorian mind in its narrow scope and to that type of critic whose literary creed magnified two tenets above charity to his fellows, openness to the light, or fidelity to the truth. For there were two things which beyond all other things were tabooed in Victorian literature. The first of these was an elaborate æsthetic treatment of such relations of man and woman as went beyond the very narrow circle of what these Puritan critics regarded as lawful and proper; and in no age perhaps has the area of legality and propriety been narrower or been more jealously observed than in the Victorian Age. The second of these Victorian restrictions was not motivated by a misguided attempt to preserve the sanctity of the British home. It was inspired, rather, by the reactionary tendencies by means of which the apprehensive philosophy and religion of the day attempted to prevent the new scientific discoveries, with their consequent broadening of the human intellect, from effecting what they considered a far-reaching revision of human belief and a disastrous reconstruction of human society. This particular struggle, which is always one of the last and keenest in which the victories of human thought are gained, includes as well two such different and sincere spirits as Tennyson, from whose heart came the ultimate hope expressed in ‘In Memoriam,’ and Cardinal Newman, whose clear simplicity of faith and deep sincerity are to be felt in every page of his ‘Apologia.’

One notes also in studying the literature of this period that it is an age in which women become vocal. Instead of the few and scattered singers or storytellers whom we found in the Romantic period, we now have numerous writers of the second rank in both poetry and prose who prophesy of the larger work that women are to do, in literature at least, in the twentieth century. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti in poetry, and Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot in fiction, are of course the literary queens of this little court, but in their gentle presence are a host of charming and well-remembered figures, fit comrades from that large and pleasant company of lesser writers in an age which hospitably welcomed even those of low degree.

The two chief forms of writing which are also characteristic of the masculine writing of the Victorian Age are fiction and poetry, though every kind of writing has its amateurs. So great, indeed, is the volume of Victorian literature that it becomes extraordinarily difficult to pick out the best or the permanent. The incorrigible prolixity of the writers of this age is something that cannot fail to impress the leisurely reader. Even minor writers produced a quantity as great as the total output of Shakespeare, and the complete editions of such writers as Carlyle and Ruskin, or Dickens and Thackeray, would have been inconceivable in an earlier and less voluble age. This very profusion of creative expression involves on the part of the critic a somewhat more strict and demanding attitude in the judgment of voluminous writers than he would assume in the case of the more restricted compositions of an earlier day. For when a poet or a novelist sets no limit to himself, then he must necessarily be judged, so far as that is humanly possible, “sub specie æternitatis.” From this universal point of view, then, even Tennyson and Browning fall short in much, and Swinburne soon cloys.

If one would condense into a single sentence the broad characteristics of the life of this Victorian age, one would say perhaps that they consisted of a gradual enfranchisement of the political and economic life of England and of a protracted and severe struggle for freedom of thought and facility of speech. But these are inextricably woven together in the life of the period, and we are practically forced, for the sake of convenience, to consider the advance which this age made in civilization under the four following heads: 1, Democracy; 2, Industrialism; 3, Invention; 4, Socialism.


Though England is technically a monarchy, it is, so far as its government is concerned, more nearly a complete democracy than many countries which call themselves republics. This representative and co-operative system of government, however, has not always existed in England, and it is only since Shakespeare’s day that the idea of the Divine Right of Kings has been realized and subsequently destroyed. Even up to 1832, the government of England was in the hands of an aristocracy which was largely land-owning, and in this government the middle and lower classes had little or no part. With the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832, however, parliamentary control passed, to some degree at least, into the hands of the middle classes, and in 1867 the Second Reform Bill gave the franchise to the artisans in the towns, who belonged largely to the lower classes. But it was not until the Franchise Act and the Redistribution Act of 1884 and 1885 that the country laborers gained their share of the franchise, and England became in theory at least a complete democracy.

The development in local government was no less far-reaching than the improvement in the central control of affairs. It began with the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, creating a regular form of government for all towns, and was continued in the Local Government Act of 1888 providing county councils instead of the less responsible rule of the local squire or parson, and by the improvement of the Ballot System (1872) and the establishment of Parish Councils (1894). Against this background of governmental machinery, however, other phases of Victorian life detached themselves more or less sharply.


We have already seen that in mediæval times the Guild System was the basis of the industrial organization of England. Even in the eighteenth century the main outlines of the mediæval organization were still maintained, as for example in the domestic manufacturing of wool. For there were no factories in the Middle Ages and there was no strict line of demarcation, social or financial, between the employer and the employee. The result of such a system was a social solidarity which has now entirely disappeared, for at that time the relation of master and man was practically permanent, and both of them lived in the same social environment and had the chief interests of their lives in common. In the nineteenth century, however, conditions were entirely changed in the country by the introduction of scientific farming, which began the alteration of the social organization of agricultural communities, and in the towns by the sudden and wide spread of the factory system with results upon society that were even more marked.

A glance at the table of important dates in the history of industrialism, below, will convince the student of the rapidity of these changes and of the significance of the application of steam-driven machinery to manufacturing. James Hargreaves, Sir Richard Arkwright, Samuel Crompton, Edward Cartwright, Eli Whitney, Sir Humphry Davy, and George Stephenson are all outstanding figures in the unprecedented development of industry and transportation at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.

This application of steam machinery to manufacturing entirely destroyed the Guild System with its intimate human relationships. The man now became in the eyes of his master merely a hand. He was regarded not as an individual, with a life of his own to live, but as part of a system in which he performed well enough and without variation a small mechanical function until his fingers could be replaced by the more reliable steel and iron. Cheap labor was introduced and was easily maintained. The superior intelligence of the employer and the accumulating wealth which he obtained from manufacturing on a larger scale separated him in every way from the men who worked for him instead of with him. The old community of interests entirely disappeared and signs of dangerous antagonism began to appear. The former stability of population gave way to a shifting by which farm lands were largely depopulated and the manufacturing centres became overcrowded. As a result, conditions of life in large sections of the cities became deplorable; and it was not until the Factory Act (1833), the Half-Time Act (1844), and the Ten-Hour Act (1847), that laboring conditions were made even tolerable for children and women. The repeal of the Combination Act (1824), which had made strikes a penal offense, the legalization of Trades Unions (1871), and the Workmen’s Compensation Act (1897) are landmarks in the further humanizing of the lives of the English workmen.

The conditions of life to which reference has just been made did not escape a somber reflection in literature. One has only to recall E. B. Browning’s ‘The Cry of the Children,’ or Kingsley’s ‘Alton Locke’ and ‘Yeast,’ or innumerable passages in the novels of Dickens to realize how the thoughtful and sensitive minds of the day were exercised about industrial evils which were only too obvious. The work of F. D. Maurice and the Christian Socialists, the establishment of working-men’s colleges and technical schools, the enthusiastic and utopian experiments of Ruskin, and the more successful socialistic undertakings of William Morris—all these point in the same direction.


Closely associated with the industrial development and with the social changes of the time were the revolutionary inventions which made the Victorian Era essentially the age of iron. The investigations in pure science as well as the achievements of applied sciences had a distinct influence upon the literature of the day in two ways. In the first place, the interest in scientific matters, particularly those which were connected with geology and biology, had the effect of withdrawing from the more imaginative arts many of the great intellects of the day. As a result, the scientists who write are in a great many cases careless of style or of the æsthetic graces of composition. In the second place, the scientific spirit affected the point of view and the material of literature itself. The scientific spirit pervaded both poetry and fiction. It is responsible for much of the speculation of Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ and many of his minor poems; it has left a definite trace in the poetry of Browning. In the novel it introduced the psychological interest which early manifested itself in the work of George Eliot and later on in George Moore and Thomas Hardy, as well as George Meredith. In France, this realistic spirit manifested itself in the writings of Bourget, Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola; and in Russia, particularly in the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. In the drama, one catches a constant glimpse of the same influence: one notes the dominating lack of romance, the love of spectacular effects and of mechanical devices, as well as the popularity of the psychological comedy and the problem play. In England ‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray’ and ‘The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith’ of Pinero may be taken as examples of a class of play eminently represented on the continent by the works of Ibsen and Sudermann.


The abuse of government and the unsatisfactory labor conditions to which reference has already been made had their effect not only upon the discontented sufferers, but also on the thoughtful minds of the age. Economic speculation in philosophy was in many cases merely the precursor of reform in actual experience. With the modern ideas of freedom of manufacturing and freedom of movement for economic reasons came conditions which demanded for their amelioration the best thought and the keenest foresight of the age.

Though the Compensation Act may be regarded as an isolated piece of socialistic legislation, there are other instances to prove the general development of municipal socialism in England. The workman frequently lives in a house provided by the municipality, in which gas, electricity, and water are supplied by the municipality; he goes to and from his work in a municipally owned electric railway; his hours are controlled by municipal regulation, and for his convenience or comfort the municipality provides art galleries and libraries, parks and baths.

The significance of the individual and the consequence of the poor, for which the early Romanticists had so strenuously and so unselfishly contended, come therefore to be realized in practice, and an entirely new national life replaces the narrow and self-centered existence of the eighteenth century.

It is natural that one of the cardinal beliefs of Burns—that fundamental humanity is of infinitely greater significance than mere rank—is elevated to philosophical significance by Wordsworth, Ruskin, and Carlyle, whose doctrine of work as the essential condition of human happiness is the Victorian answer to the Utopian dreams of idleness which the earlier Romanticists so fondly entertained.

Chronological Table of Science and Industry

  • 1760Coal used to smelt iron ore in a blast furnace.
  • 1767Hargreaves invents the spinning-jenny.
  • 1775David Bushnell in America constructs the first successful submarine.
  • 1779Sir William Herschel invents the telescope.
    Samuel Crompton invents the mule, a further development of the spinning-machine.
  • 1783The Montgolfier brothers invent their balloon.
  • 1784–1809Dr. Edward Cartwright perfects the power loom.
  • 1785First cotton mill run by steam.
  • 1790Steam applied to blast furnaces.
  • 1792–3Wool-combing machines invented.
  • 1792Eli Whitney in America invents the cotton gin.
  • 1807Geological Society of London founded.
  • 1812Bell’s steamer sails on the Clyde.
  • 1814Stephenson invents the locomotive.
  • 1815Sir Humphry Davy constructs his safety lamp.
  • 1825Stephenson’s locomotive, ‘The Rocket.’
  • 1830–1832Charles Lyell publishes his ‘Principles of Geology.’
  • 1859Darwin publishes his ‘Origin of Species.’
  • 1866England and America connected by cable.
  • 1874–1876Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
  • 1898Permanent Marconi wireless stations established in England.
  • 1903The Wright brothers make the first successful mechanical flight in air.
  • The Victorian Adjustment

    If the Eighteenth Century was a period of prescription and control, and the Romantic Period one of revolt and emancipation, the Victorian Age may not inappropriately be described as a time of general readjustment and of the widespread application of ideas which up to that time had been regarded either curiously or with a detached interest.

    As the fundamental impulse of the romantic poets had been a passionate if unwieldy desire to live, so the dominant energizing force of the Victorians was their self-conscious need of a deeper and more organized knowledge of the life which they were living. The spirit that had been born in English literature with the death of the previous century was now perturbed with an adolescent desire for an immediate experience of mysteries, a thirst to drink life to the pungent lees, to peep covetously into the remote corners of the world, and to taste the dangerous flavor of the latest ripened fruit of knowledge. With such varied interests and multitudinous activities spread before us, however, it is difficult to reduce the age to a formula, and it is well-nigh impossible to lay out a table of characteristics which will have room enough for all who are worthy to be present, no matter how generous the board. All that one can do is to glance at the most significant figures, and to leave the minor celebrities to a more convenient season.

    The knowledge of life which the Victorians sought in their somewhat naïve and serious fashion had three main fields of inquiry. In the first place, the area of society, past and present, which they explored in their historical writing and which they rendered diverting and illuminating in the pages of their fiction, was rich enough in material and vivid enough in its life to provide inspiration for such distinguishable writers of history as Hallam, Carlyle, Macaulay, Froude, Buckle, and Lecky, and for innumerable writers of fiction, for the social historian of this period can learn much of the significance of Victorian life from the pages of Dickens and Thackeray as a supplement to the more pretentious pages of their fellow chroniclers of the past.

    In the second place, these Victorians desired to apply their new learning and their new point of view to knowledge itself. To this end they elaborated theologies and philosophies and scientific hypotheses with a zeal, an earnestness, and a conscientious determination for which they still deserve our admiration, however much their often crude and faulty materials have been transformed in the subsequent rebuilding of the temple of knowledge. Whether the scientific point of view begins to assume a cosmic range as it does in the writings of Darwin and of Wallace; whether the inexorable voice of conscience calls as it does to Newman down the enduring and sanctified aisles of the ages; whether the rarer heights of philosophical speculation attract the nimble and aspiring minds of the Oxford idealists—we find in one and all a simple sincerity of search, a self-sacrificing intellectual probity, and an uncompromising pursuit of a reality which at the moment seems to be the one ideal worth striving for. What, then, are Victorian characteristics of permanence? Surely singleness of aim, devotion to the truth, and perseverance in the effort to reach the goal.

    In the third place, by the same natural magic which brings the glory of spring blossoming out of the depressing gloom of a winter’s end, the æsthetic spirit of the English artist brought, from the cheap ugliness of certain phases of Victorian domestic art and from the threatened universal blight of machine-made things, a new art and a new sense of the significance of handiwork. Craft again became a generous ideal, the word and the thing signified being rescued from decline. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood expressed in a loose corporate form, earnestly if at times hectically, the new aims of art which Turner had already, with a fine scorn of contemporary philistinism, flung in the face of a public satisfied to be blind. Ruskin had, by skill of tongue and by craft of hand, sought to persuade a reluctant people to the new point of view and to supply them with the vision of a new æstheticism in concrete forms of beauty, color, and use. If he went farther and made the Platonic identification of the beautiful and the good, no one can criticize him for thus carrying on to its inevitable Hellenic conclusion Keats’s gospel of beauty, or for desiring, with the intensity of a moral passion and with the elevated fervor of Hebrew prophecy, to supply his contemporaries with that which above all else they lacked—the power to see the beautiful in life and the ability to live beautifully.

    The exotic note which was introduced into painting by Rossetti, and which echoed with the added timbre of eroticism in his poetry, stimulated Swinburne to a celebration of the ecstatic passions and the world-weary languors of life with such manifest intensity that he shocked the unintelligent propriety of an age which, with persistent and reticent stupidity, refused to face the facts of physical life and the issues of social living. In William Morris, however, we get a saner and more out-door type of personality, and one in whom the head and hand are fitly mated. For Morris, like Ruskin, could work harmoniously with both and, with facile skill, could embody his dreams of beauty in fine form and gorgeous color as well as in pleasing patterns of woven words.

    The odor of mediævalism which at this point drifts across our pathway through Victorian literature is a subtle and a complex one, for there are three different perfumes which one can bring himself to recognize therein. There is first—and, to many, only—the scent of decay as of something long dead and still cumbering the pathway of progress, something that perhaps was beautiful and fitting in its own day, but whose usefulness has passed with the ebbing of its vitality and whose beauty has vanished with the years. The spiritual sense, however, may still discern the faint incense from a far-off altar, with all its suggestions of the rapt worship of an ideal, its submission of self to a system, and the gorgeous and solemn mingling of flickering candle-flames, throbbing organ-pipes, and voices in unison, until the incense of the lives of holy men becomes transformed in very truth into the odor of sanctity. But mediævalism has still a third and different perfume, for it comes to us as the scent of the morning of romantic life, with its deepening blue of the sky, its fresh fields of early flowers, and the gently checkered shade of the merry greenwood with the echo of jingling bridle-bells as knight and lady ride by and mingle their courteous speech with the spring song of the birds when all the world was young.


    There remain a few scattered characteristics of this period to be noted in conclusion. Individual authors are too numerous, too individually great or significant, and too close to us in time to be fitly or even fairly estimated in so brief a survey as this is forced to be. One must content himself, then, with a momentary view as from an aeroplane over a large and interesting territory full of spots of historic and literary interest where the passenger fain would stay and rest awhile but finds the wished-for delay denied by the exigencies of his constrained and rapid flight.

    The Victorian era is noteworthy for its increasing realization of the dramatic significance of human life. Such a novelist as Dickens or such a poet as Browning reveals to us in a dramatic way either the long-drawn-out play of human comedy or the swift and tragic moment in the life of a soul when the potential suddenly precipitates the inevitable. This almost Greek conception of tragic fatefulness is accompanied in other poets of the day by a deep appreciation of the beauty of Greek myth and history. One may tread the adventurous paths of the past with Jason through the interminable vistas of William Morris’s easy verse; one may lament with Tennyson’s Œnone for Paris “white-breasted like a star fronting the dawn,” or with Ulysses “sail beyond the sunset and the paths of all the western stars”; or in the sibilant whispers of Swinburne one may hear the “lisp of leaves and ripple of rain” in far-off Calydon.

    But the Victorian period is not entirely or even primarily an age of art or of visions from the youth of the world. It is also distinctively an age of constructive thought, an age of developing criticism and of formative philosophy. The Romanticists regarded life as an adventure to be made with a free heart and an open mind; the Victorians looked upon life as a gigantic puzzle to be solved, a huge heap of broken fragments to be fitted together into a coherent whole. They did not believe, with the mediævally minded, that faith was greater the more impossible the task set before it, but they believed in digging down through stubborn strata of doubt and disbelief to lay a sure foundation of faith upon a rock which no tempest of criticism could ever shake. One type of mind dug down to the bedrock of science and built thereon its dwelling, feeling that the facts of life and the laws of nature as it knew them were guarantee enough. The other type of mind sunk its foundations until it came to the very rock upon which Christ founded his Church, and therewith it was content. From this point of view Newman and his fellow-workers in the Oxford Movement can be seen to be carrying on in their own way this same process of building the spiritual temple of knowledge at which the scientists were also though elsewhere at work; and one of the lessons that the study of Victorian literature teaches is that in any period there is room enough for a diversity of beliefs, for a multiplicity of activities, and for an inexhaustible choir of singing voices.

    Finally, the Victorian Era did much to perfect a sense of technical excellence, and to train the ear of the singer in a beauty of sound and in a complexity of melodic patterns the charm of which the Eighteenth Century had come nigh forgetting. It is a lesson to which the writers of to-day with their easy adoption of an unchastened freedom of metrical composition need daily to bear in mind.

    As one glances back over the whole course of English literature one realizes that from the distant starting-point from which we set out we have traveled a long, long road, and have sometimes wound through a landscape rich with the finest flowers of English poesy, sometimes trudged wearily through arid tracts of English prose; but everywhere there has been something of interest, some new vista of peculiar beauty, some novel and illuminating sight to carry gratefully in the memory. Whether he was idling by the flowery roadside with Chaucer in the springtime of English poetry, or climbing the rarer heights of speculation and mysticism, with philosophers and poets, or rubbing shoulders with a world of men in company with Shakespeare on the crowded thoroughfares of the great dramatists, everywhere the Gentle Reader—for his kindly race still exists—is close to a vibrant life, everywhere in touch with nature and the world of men, and throughout the whole course of his pleasant pilgrimage he learns to perceive more distinctly, and thus inevitably to love, the lofty and enduring spirit of the literature that is English.

    Chronology of the Victorian Era

  • 1830Opening of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway.
  • 1833Abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
  • 1835Municipal Corporations Act.
  • 1840Penny postage introduced.
  • 1846Repeal of the Corn Laws.
  • 1851Coup d’état of Louis Napoleon.
  • 1853Crimean War.
  • 1855Sebastopol captured.
  • 1856Treaty of Paris.
    England assumes the government of India.
  • 1861Emancipation of Russian serfs.
  • 1862Bismarck becomes president of the Prussian ministry.
  • 1867Dominion of Canada founded.
  • 1867–68Second Electoral Reform Act.
  • 1868–74Ministry of Gladstone.
  • 1869Suez Canal opened.
  • 1870Franco-Prussian War begins.
    First Irish Land Bill.
    Elementary Education Act in England.
  • 1871German Empire proclaimed. Peace of Frankfort-on-Main.
  • 1877England annexes the Transvaal.
  • 1878–80Afghan War.
  • 1880First Boer War.
  • 1883Triple alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italy.
  • 1884–85Third Electoral Reform Act.
  • 1885Death of Gordon at Khartoum.
  • 1886First Home Rule Bill introduced.
  • 1890Fall of Bismarck.
  • 1893Second Home Rule Bill.
  • 1895Venezuela Boundary question.
  • 1896Japan evacuates Port Arthur.
  • 1899Second Boer War.
  • 1900Surrender of Pretoria to Lord Roberts.
    Boxer riots in China.
  • Reading Recommended

  • I. Major Poets
  • 1806–1861Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • 1809–1892Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • 1812–1889Robert Browning
  • 1822–1888Matthew Arnold
  • 1828–1882Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • 1834–1896William Morris
  • 1837–1909Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • II. Minor Poets
  • 1783–1826Reginald Heber
  • 1787–1855Mary Russell Mitford
  • 1787–1874Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall)
  • 1788–1846Sir Aubrey de Vere
  • 1788–1845Richard Harris Barham (Thomas Ingoldsby)
  • 1792–1872Sir John Bowring
  • 1793–1835Felicia Dorothea Hemans
  • 1799–1845Thomas Hood
  • 1800–1886Sir Henry Taylor
  • 1800–1859Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay
  • 1801–1890John Henry Newman
  • 1801–1886William Barnes
  • 1802–1839Winthrop Mackworth Praed
  • 1802–1884Richard Henry Hengist Horne
  • 1803–1849James Clarence Mangan
  • 1805–1848Sarah Flower Adams
  • 1808–1879Charles Tennyson Turner
  • 1809–1883Edward Fitzgerald
  • 1813–1865William Edmondstoune Aytoun
  • 1816–1902Philip James Bailey
  • 1819–1861Arthur Hugh Clough
  • 1819–1880George Eliot
  • 1820–1897Jean Ingelow
  • 1821–1895Frederick Locker-Lampson
  • 1824–1874Sydney Dobell
  • 1825–1864Adelaide Anne Procter
  • 1826–1887Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
  • 1831–1884Charles Stuart Calverley
  • 1831–1891E. Robert Bulwer, Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith)
  • 1832–1904Sir Edwin Arnold
  • 1832–1898Lewis Carroll
  • 1834–1882James Thomson
  • 1840–1921Henry Austin Dobson
  • 1844–1930Robert Bridges
  • 1844–1929Edward Carpenter
  • 1849–1903William Ernest Henley
  • 1859–1907Francis Thompson
  • 1865–1936Rudyard Kipling
  • III. The Pre-Raphaelites and their followers
  • 1823–1896Coventry Patmore
  • 1828–1882Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • 1830–1894Christina Georgina Rossetti
  • 1834–1896William Morris
  • 1837–1909Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • 1843–1901Frederic William Henry Myers
  • IV. Celtic Poets
  • 1824–1905George MacDonald
  • 1824–1889William Allingham
  • 1865–1939William Butler Yeats
  • 1871–1909John Millington Synge
  • V. Novelists
  • 1780?–1849James Justinian Morier
  • 1782–1854Susan Edmonstone Ferrier
  • 1785–1866Thomas Love Peacock
  • 1785–1854John Wilson (Christopher North)
  • 1792–1848Frederick Marryat
  • 1794–1854John Gibson Lockhart
  • 1803–1873Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • 1804–1881Lord Beaconsfield
  • 1805–1882William Harrison Ainsworth
  • 1811–1863William Makepeace Thackeray
  • 1812–1870Charles Dickens
  • 1814–1884Charles Reade
  • 1815–1882Anthony Trollope
  • 1819–1875Charles Kingsley
  • 1822–1896Thomas Hughes
  • 1824–1905George MacDonald
  • 1828–1909George Meredith
  • 1830–1876Henry Kingsley
  • 1834–1896George du Maurier
  • 1835–1902Samuel Butler
  • 1836–1901Sir Walter Besant
  • 1839–1917William De Morgan
  • 1840–1928Thomas Hardy
  • 1841–1898William Black
  • 1850–1894Robert Louis Stevenson
  • 1850–1907John Watson (Ian Maclaren)
  • 1852–1933George Moore
  • 1865–1936Rudyard Kipling
  • VI. Women Novelists
  • 1810–1865Elizabeth Gaskell
  • 1816–1855Charlotte Brontë
  • 1819–1880George Eliot
  • 1826–1887Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
  • 1828–1897Margaret Oliphant
  • 1855–1920Olive Schreiner
  • VII. Irish Novelists
  • 1794–1842William Maginn
  • 1797–1868Samuel Lover
  • 1798–1842John Banim
  • 1803–1840Gerald Griffin
  • 1806–1872Charles Lever
  • VIII. Miscellaneous Prose
  • 1775–1864Walter Savage Landor
  • 1787–1855Mary Russell Mitford
  • 1803–1881George Borrow
  • 1821–1890Sir Richard Francis Burton
  • 1821–1893Sir Samuel White Baker
  • 1826–1888William Gifford Palgrave
  • 1848–1887Richard Jefferies
  • 1848–1930Arthur James, Earl of Balfour
  • 1850–1904Lafcadio Hearn
  • 1854–1900Oscar Wilde
  • IX. Criticism
  • 1784–1859Leigh Hunt
  • 1785–1854John Wilson (Christopher North)
  • 1785–1859Thomas De Quincey
  • 1794–1854John Gibson Lockhart
  • 1810–1882Dr. John Brown
  • 1819–1900John Ruskin
  • 1822–1888Matthew Arnold
  • 1826–1877Walter Bagehot
  • 1828–1882Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • 1832–1904Sir Leslie Stephen
  • 1839–1894Walter Pater
  • 1840–1893John Addington Symonds
  • 1850–1894Robert Louis Stevenson
  • 1850–1904Lafcadio Hearn
  • X. Philosophy and Religion
  • 1748–1832Jeremy Bentham
  • 1792–1866John Keble
  • 1795–1881Thomas Carlyle
  • 1801–1890John Henry Newman
  • 1805–1872Frederick Denison Maurice
  • 1805–1900James Martineau
  • 1806–1873John Stuart Mill
  • 1816–1853Frederick William Robertson
  • 1817–1878George Henry Lewes
  • 1819–1875Charles Kingsley
  • 1819–1880George Eliot
  • 1836–1882Thomas Hill Green
  • XI. History
  • 1777–1859Henry Hallam
  • 1795–1881Thomas Carlyle
  • 1800–1859Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay
  • 1809–1891Alexander William Kinglake
  • 1818–1894James Anthony Froude
  • 1821–1862Henry Thomas Buckle
  • 1822–1888Sir Henry Sumner Maine
  • 1823–1892Edward Augustus Freeman
  • 1825–1901William Stubbs
  • 1826–1877Walter Bagehot
  • 1837–1883John Richard Green
  • 1838–1903William Edward Hartpole Lecky
  • XII. Science
  • 1809–1882Charles Darwin
  • 1820–1903Herbert Spencer
  • 1825–1895Thomas Henry Huxley