Realism is a literary movement that started in
Walter Scott (1771-1832) started out as a writer of Romantic narrative verse and ended up as a historical novelist. He wrote several historical novels, mainly about Scottish history. Ivanhoe (1819).
JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817) shared the chronological time with the Romantics, but she shares some of the features of Realism. She has a unique talent and cannot really be assigned to any group. Her novels (Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Emma (1816)) remain as popular and critically acclaimed as ever. Her primary interest is people, not ideas, and her achievement lies in the meticulously exact presentation of human situations and in the delineation of characters that are really living creatures. Her novels deal with the life of rural land-owners, seen from a woman’s point of view, have little action but are full of humour and true dialogue.
The Brontë sisters wrote after Jane Austen but are the most Romantic of the Victorian novelists, particularly Emily Brontë (1818-1848), who wrote Wuthering Heights (1847), the epitome of the Romantic novel, wild passion set against the Yorkshire moors. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) wrote Jane Eyre (1847), a love story of great realism.
CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870) was perhaps the most popular novelist of the period. He serialized most of his novels, which may explain some of his weak plots. Dickens wrote vividly about
William M. Thackeray (1811-1863) wrote Vanity Fair (1847), a satire of high classes in English society. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1890) might be the most realistic of these writers: Middlemarch (1874). Anthony Trollope (1815-1888) wrote novels about life in a provincial English town. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was a very pessimistic writer who wrote stories of people in the countryside (the fictional
The expansion of the reading middle classes allowed for the development of POPULAR LITERATURE, like the Detective Stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), who, following the example of Edgar Allan Poe, wrote his tales of Sherlock Holmes. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) wrote his Father Brown detective stories as well as other non-genre novels. H.G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote very interesting science fiction, like The Time Machine (1895) or The War of the Worlds (1898) as well as non-genre novels.
Literature for children also developed in the Victorian Age as a separate genre. Some works become globally well-known, such as those of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), author of the extremely rich fantasies Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1865). Adventure novels, such as those by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), were written for adults, and although they are now generally classified as for children and teenagers they are still powerful:
Some Victorian poets worth mentioning are Robert and Elizabeth Browning (husband and wife), Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1849), a precursor of Modernism, and the pre-Raphaelites (school of painters and poets) Christina and Gabriel Rosseti (brother and sister). Lord (Alfred) Tennyson (1809-1892) was Poet Laureate during most of Queen Victoria’s reign and sang the values of the British Empire and the Victorian Age in some of his poems, like “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854). These Imperial values were also sung by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) several years later in his poems and in novels like The Man Who Would Be King (1888) and The Jungle Book (1894)