Salient Features of Victorian Literature

The word Victorian suggests a few features of the literature including poetry of the nineteenth century. In poetry and literature, it carries the suggestion of pessimistic subject, elegiac tone, lyrical expression, musical poetry, description of the misery of the poor or old people, theme of dissatisfaction with the loss of old values and sudden modernization and degradation of the society.

The Victorian age in English literature was the age of Queen Victoria who ruled Britain in the nineteenth century. This age comes after the Romantic age and ends with the turning of the modern age of the twentieth century. The Victorian age was in many ways the most glorious age in the history of England, because it made unexpected progress in all spheres of life, and the British Empire. It was an age of material prosperity, political awakening, democratic reforms, industrial and mechanical advancement, social upheaval, educational expansion, imperialism and empire-building, humanitarianism and all-pervading energy and activity in social life. However, it was strangely the time of pessimism for poets, writers and thinkers.  Most scholars severely criticized the age and denounced all the external gloss and glitter of material prosperity and wonders of mechanical progress. There was a gap between the rich and the poor as shown by the novels of Charles Dickens, and the old values of society and religion were quickly fading away, as seen in the poems of Mathew Arnold. Tennyson is also a typical poet of the time who wrote elegiac poetry of gloom and despair. Along with that spirit of pessimism and doubt, there was also the romantic spirit of desire for the lost, past and the ideal. There was also in its literature the old romantic thirst for beauty, love and art. Most Victorian poetry was written in perfected musical stanzas, but its expression was usually lyrical and romantic. The present poem is typically Victorian in its subject (death and sorrow), tone (elegiac), expression (lyrical), theme (despair) and its musical quality.  Browning is also a Victorian poet, but his poem "My Last Duchess" is not a typically Victorian poem in many ways. But, its theme of satire of a corrupted culture of the upper class is one thing that it shares with the typically Victorian poems.