Victorian Discussion

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Victorian Celebration is in full swing now and I came across an interesting discussion that I thought I’d share with you all. In the introduction (written by Q. D. Leavis) of my copy of Villette the definition of “Victorian author” is debated. Here’s interesting passage:
“Charlotte was born in 1816 (Emily two years later), and with tastes and character formed early in life the sisters were decidedly not Victorian, but like most of those we think of as the great Victorians (Dickens, Thackery, Trollope, George Eliot, for instance), were essentially pre-Victorian, critics of the Victorian scene and characteristics that they saw visibly and potently threatening or superseding the culture of an older and healthier England, which they felt to be in some important respects preferable. (The real Victorians were those formed entirely in the Victorian era and who reacted against it by exaggerated unconventionality, like Swinburne, Oscar Wilde, William Morris, Samuel Butler, and Shaw.)”

So I’m curious, what do you think? Are the true Victorian authors those who published during that time period or those who were formed by that period? 

I always think of Vic. authors as those who published during that time, but I’d never considered this before.


Camilla P. said...

I personally think that also authors the were not formed in the Victorian age, but lived in it, could be considered Victorian: mostly because, even if they didn't agree with their age moral or way of thinking, they described the Victorian world in their books (because they lived in it in their adult years, and that's what they saw and lived on their own skin).

I think they could be "categorized" under the "pre-Victorian" label for their education, maybe the style of their writing and the approach to some themes - but the situations they speak about, they have to be (mostly, at least) Victorian.

Obviously, these are just my two cents :)

Becky said...

I tend to think that they were Victorian too. I do think people keep growing, learning, changing, adapting throughout their lives. And unless a person withdraws completely from society, they're going to be a part of that. Also, I think it is just as much about their contribution to society. Their works, their writing, their characters, their ideas were contributing to Victorian society, and they were shaping and forming others during this time.

Some writers were definitely being influenced by the times in which they lived. Writers like Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, for example, were using headlines, scandals, events, and incorporating them into their own stories. Real court cases influencing fictional mysteries and detective stories.

Karen K. said...

I think that's really nitpicky. They were living in the Victorian age and had to have been affected by it; therefore, they are Victorians.

Kristi said...

That's really interesting. It seems like a controversial stance to take considering several of the most well-know Victorian authors are the ones he is excluding. I guess I agree with the other comments. It seems like living in that era would affect your writing regardless of when you were born. The Victorian era was pretty long so I'd say it's unfair to assume that all the writing would be similar in style as he seems to suggest in the final sentence. Those writing earlier in the period would certainly be different than those writing later on.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I kinda think it's a nitpicky argument as well...I can see both sides of this argument but I lean towards including both those who lived during the Victorian era and those who were shaped by it as "Victorians"...especially since we're talking about roughly 65 years? I can't even imagine leaving Dickens out of this category.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'm with you guys. It seems like such a silly argument, especially because the Victorian period was such a long one. I think everyone is formed by the period in which they live, but that doesn't mean the people who produce during that period are not part of it.