The Victorian Period 1833-1901

Victorian Poetry

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The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain.[citation needed] Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.

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Page 1: Victorian Poetry

The Victorian Period 1833-1901

Page 2: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—The Queen

• This period is named after Queen Victoria who was crowned queen in 1837 at the age of 18.

• She ruled for more than 60 years—the longest reign in British history.

Page 3: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Characteristics

• The Victorian age encompassed years of unprecedented economic, technical, and political expansion and dramatic social change.

• Imperialism was at its peak.

• A strong middle class arose with a strict moral tone. It was at this time

that the tea party became an important feature in middle class Victorian life.

Page 4: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Characteristics

• The people of this period acted rather prudish, yet this was a time of the largest amount of published pornography.

• There was a loss of individualism.

• People believed they could improve themselves through rational thought—earnestness. They strived to do their best at all times.

Page 5: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Characteristics

• This is a very Christian society. They were very nervous about scientific discovery, especially Darwin linking humans and animals.

• They wanted a strict dichotomy between humans and animals.

Humans--have aspects that lift them above beasts such as education, refinement, manners, art, religion, familial love, etc.

Page 6: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Characteristics

Animals--are things that threaten self control ad need to be repressed. They represent sexuality and that should be repressed.

• There is a shift from a modest to a passionless society; even if you are married, there was thought to be no pleasure in sex.

Page 7: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Characteristics

• There is a clear dichotomy between man and woman.

Women--domestic, emotional, they are a temptation and a threat.

Men--rational thinkers, all business.

Page 8: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Reforms• Reforms were achieved because of a

growing social consciousness. • Slavery was abolished in the British Empire

and child labor laws began to reform working conditions.

• Britain was coming closer to universal suffrage laws for all.

• Free trade was more agreed upon to help with famine conditions caused by the potato blight and a ruined wheat crop.

Page 9: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Realism• In the literature of this time period

romanticism continued to influence Victorian writing, but realism increasingly took hold. Realism sought to capture everyday life as it was lived.

Page 10: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Realism

• Instead of turning away from science and industry, as Romanticism had done, realism focused on the effects of the Industrial Revolution, often bringing social problems to public attention.

Page 11: Victorian Poetry

Victorian Period—Naturalism• Naturalism, an offshoot of realism

that viewed nature and society as forces indifferent to human suffering, also became a common writing style.

• Naturalism sought to put the spirit of scientific observation to literary use by portraying nature as harsh and indifferent to the human suffering it caused.

Page 12: Victorian Poetry

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Page 13: Victorian Poetry


• Tennyson was, “the voice and sometimes . . . the conscience” of his age. Today he is considered one of the greatest English poets, admired for both his control of language and his ability to evoke a sense of longing and loss.

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Tennyson• While at Cambridge Tennyson became

best friends with Arthur Hallam, who later became engaged to Tennyson’s sister. Unfortunately, in 1831, while Hallam was traveling in Europe, he died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. Tennyson was devastated and refused to publish for the next 9 years. He did, however, continue to write and poured his grief into his poetry.

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• He published “In Memoriam” a collection of elegies for Hallam, and this was a great success.

• Queen Victoria asked him to become the nation’s poet laureate, replacing Wordsworth who had just passed away.

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• In 1883,Tennyson was made baron and thus added the title Lord to his name.

• He was the first poet ever to be made a noble.

Page 17: Victorian Poetry

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

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Robert Browning

• Robert Browning is best known for his dramatic monologues—a type of poem in which a fictional speaker addresses a silent listener about a critical experience in his or her life.

• He wrote many plays during this time; however, they were not well received.

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Robert Browning

• In 1846 Robert married Elizabeth Barrett, a poet whose fame greatly exceeded his own at this time. They eloped and moved to Florence. Elizabeth died in 1861, and Robert moved back to England.

Page 20: Victorian Poetry

Robert Browning

• He wrote “Dramatis Personnae” in 1868 about a 17th century Italian murder trial.

• It was this long poem that won Robert great acclaim.

Page 21: Victorian Poetry

Robert Browning

• Browning’s dramatic monologues have greatly influenced many twentieth-century poets.

• Today, he is admired not only for these complex psychological portraits, but also for his masterly blending of natural speech rhythms.

Page 22: Victorian Poetry

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Page 23: Victorian Poetry

Barrett Browning

• Elizabeth suffered from fragile health, was the eldest of 12 children, and had a tyrannical father. Her father forbade all of his children to marry.

• However, she secretly married Robert Browning, who was 6 years Elizabeth’s junior.

Page 24: Victorian Poetry

Barrett Browning• Elizabeth wrote great poetry.

• Sonnets from the Portuguese have become the most popular love poems in English literature.

• These 44 sonnets were written to Robert during their courtship. Since they were extremely personal and she did not want people to know she wrote them, she used this title to disguise the personal nature of the sonnets by implying that they were translated from another language.

Page 25: Victorian Poetry

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

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• Of all the great Victorian poets, Matthew Arnold strikes twentieth century readers as the most modern.

• The persistent theme of his poems— people’s isolation and alienation from nature and from one another—has been echoed by many writers and thinkers of our own age.

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• It was his belief that the role of literature was to “inspire and rejoice the reader: that is convey a charm and infuse delight.”

• In his poetry Arnold deals with the loneliness of humankind in an indifferent universe.