19th Century Literature

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Wed Aug 1 13:48:56 EDT 2001

Georgia has joined the debate on 19th century literature:

>>(Is Kipling Victorian? If I may count him as such, he tops
>>the list, for _Kim_ and _The Jungle Books_.  I've also doubts
>>as to the Victorianness of Jane Austen and Walter Scott
> Interesting question about Kipling: his dates are 1865 to 1936,
> so he was just under half Victorian in those terms; he's got that
> confidence that I associate with Victorian writers, but his topics
> are probably more linked to early 20thc writers: he's interested
> in machinery, for instance, and social changes, and probably
> presents a broader range of ways of living than the typical (if
> there is such a thing) Victorian writer. J I M Stewart includes
> him as one of "Eight Modern Writers" in a book of that title
> published in 1963 ... Scott & Austen are pre-Victorian - unless

er, do you mean 1863?

> Scott just makes it? Anyone know when in 1832 he died? I think in
> any case, though, we were talking in fairly general terms about
> late 18thc to early 20thc novels, weren't we?

Well, I think I'll join in with my half groat's worth (which seems to have
turned into a long, not very relevant ramble, but I'll post it anyway)...

Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 (So 1832 is definitely not Victorian, and
Jane Austen, less so).  So to be technically Victorian, I'd say you have to be
in that period.  Her son, Edward VII, reigned from 1901 to 1910, and his reign
is generally called the Edwardian period.  I have heard the two together
light-heartedly called "Vicwardian" - a designation I now use rather a lot...

As far as I can see, the two major cultural boundaries (if you can draw cultural
boundaries in this way), at least in British society, are 1851, the year of the
Great Exhibition, and 1918, the end of the First World War.  So I shall use the
term "Vicwardian" to mean this, slightly later, period.

Now I have always regarded myself as unusual - at least among the small
proportion of the population who actually enjoy reading - that I don't much like
Vicwardian literature.  The only Conan Doyle on my shelves is "The Lost World".
I didn't much like Thomas Hardy or George Elliot when I had to study them at
school (Under the Greenwood Tree and Silas Marner respectively).  I like some
Nesbit (5 Children and It) but dislike other of her works (Wouldbegoods).  I
have read some William Morris.  And "The Secret Garden".  The list goes on, but
it's a scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel type list...

I'm interested that you associate Kipling's interests in social changes and
machines with the early 20th century.  Maybe the subjects were not popluar with
Vicwardian writers, but I think that social changes were happening constantly
throughout the period.

As for machines, technological developments too happened throughout the period,
but I can see that writers may well have steered clear (William Morris was very
anti-technology).  This is because the two dates I mentioned above seem to me to
mark a period in which British culture was very anti-machinery.  The irony being
that the inventions and discoveries of early 19th century didn't stop - we got
widespread railways, electricity, telephones... - but the culture was against
much of it, with the arts and crafts movement and things.

No doubt a real historian will detect any number of errors in the above...

Georgia also said:

> As for how many people read 19thc lit, my 2d (to keep in theme)
> wd be that most people (in English society, anyway - can?t speak
> for USA, Continent or even the rest of the UK) just don?t read -
> I mean, read in wch most of us probably use the word; to put it
> most objectively, spending a significant amount of our leisure
> time reading. So to ask what proportion of the tiny percentage
> of the society who are actually readers also read 19thc lit may
> be a sort of non-question. I can?t think of anyone I know who
> reads who hasn?t read at least a few of the 19thc big names.

I think you're absolutely right, but last time this debate (people aren't
reading any more) came up on the list there were many who disagreed.


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