Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

The Late Victorian Period and the Nineties.

T h e  L a t e  V i c t o r i a n  P e r i o d  ( 1 8 7 0 – 1 9 0 1 )

D e c a y  o f  V i c t o r i a n  V a l u e s :

(+) a time of serenity and security = the age of house parties, longs weekends in the country, delights in London entertainment,…: the comfortable pace of these pleasant, well-fed gatherings immortalised in Henry James’s prose

(─) the cost of the empire apparent in colonial rebellions, massacres, and bungled wars, incl. the Boer War (1899 – 1902) to annex 2 independent rep. in the south of Af. controlled by Dutch settlers = Boers

- the 2nd Reform Bill (1867, under Disraeli) > growth of labour as a political and economic force > growth of a variety of kinds of socialism

R e a c t i o n s  i n  L i t e r a t u r e :

- a sense of an overall change of attitudes:

- attack on the mid-Victorian idols: Samuel Butler’s (1835 – 1902) criticism of C. Darwin and A. Tennyson, and satire on family life in The Way of All Flesh (1903)

- notion of the pointlessness of the striving of the mid-Victorians > no answers to our problems to be found > our role = to enjoy the fleeting moments of beauty (Walter Pater)

T h e  N i n e t i e s

C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s :

- the changing values embodied in Victoria’s pleasure-seeking son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales x the opposite of his earnest-minded father, Prince Albert

- the writers’ state of mind typical neither of the earlier Victorians x nor of the 20th c. > styled as ‘Late Victorians’ or ‘the first of the ‘Moderns’’

- reactions in lit.: no more a sense of gaiety x but: of melancholy

T h e  A e s t h e t i c  M o v e m e n t :

- ‘art for art’s sake’ = art unconc. with controversial issues, restricted to celebrating beauty in a highly polished style

- art = independent for its having its own unique kind of value > poetry must be judged ‘as poetry and not another thing’ (T. S. Eliot)

- self-conscious about living at the end of a great c. > a deliberate fin de siècle (= end-of-c.) pose: the drawings and designs of Aubrey Beardsley

- consid. themselves anti-Victorians: the mid-Victorian earnestness of C. Dickens’s David Copperfield (1850) x the late-Victorian comedy on earnestness of O. Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

- the last heirs of the Romantics going back through D. G. Rossetti and A. Tennyson to J. Keats x but: the Romantic sensationalism developed into melancholy suggestiveness, world weariness, or mere emotional debauchery > a time of decadence and degeneration

- the 1st to absorb the infl. of the Fr. symbolist poetry: T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, & oth.

- the Aesthetes incl. O. Wilde, A. Beardsley, W. Pater, & oth. + The Rhymer’s Club members, incl. W. B. Yeats, Lionel Johnson, E. Dowson, John Davidson, Arthur Symons, & oth.

R u d y a r d  K i p l i n g  &  O t h e r s :

- the dandyism and effeminacy of the Aesthetes

x R. Kipling’s life of masculine action, and bearing of ‘the white man’s burden’ of responsibility for the civilizing mission of the Br. imperial power

P o e t r y  o f  t h e  1 8 8 0 s – 9 0 s :

- older generation: R. Browning, A. Tennyson, and C. A. Swinburne; to a certain extend T. Hardy

- younger generation:

> R. Kipling’s balladry gave voice to the otherwise inarticulate, ordinary soldiers, and ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ > expressed middle-brow sentiments > pop. success: “Recessional”, on the Queen’s Jubilee; “The Ballad of East and West” and “Gunga Din”, on the Empire; “The Female of the Species” and “The Ladies”, on uppity women

> O. Wilde’s Fr.-inspired decadents: “Les Ballons” and “Symphony in Yellow”, precise, refined, impressionistic, conc. with beauty x The Ballad of Reading Gaol, vulnerable and protesting

> the Rhymer’s Club’s poised lyricism

> A(lfred) E(dward) Housman’s (1859 – 1936) preocc. with lost illusions, death, and homoeroticism

> Charlotte Mew’s (1869 – 1928) preocc. with unfulfilment, death, and burial


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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