Victorian Period

Victorian Era Books
Time Capsule
Danielle Gunkel Apex 6
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Dainty Work for Pleasure and Profit
Addie E. Heron
Chicago: Danks, 1891
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Domestic Advice
It is certainly the first duty of a wife and mother to make
home the pleasantest and happiest spot on earth for the
members of her family, and to do this requires more than
order, system, immaculate clealiness….it requires homemaking (pp.6).
This work demonstrates the mindset of the private,
female sphere of the home serving as a sanctuary
from the public, male sphere. With an expanding
middle class this division became more pronounced
during the Victorian period with more households
financially able to devote the wife’s time and efforts
toward home-making. Previously such a luxury
would have been out of reach of the lower class, and
the time and effort for such would have been the
responsibility of servants for the upper class,
therefore books guiding women on how to attend to
domestic activities and enrich their lives and the
lives of their families became very common.
Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Portland, Me: T. B. Mosher, 1898
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Although the Victorian era witnessed in particular
the rise and expansion of novels and periodicals,
poetry continued to be a popular type of literature.
One of the most famous Victorian poets was
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her most famous
work is this one, first published in 1850 in Poems in
Two Volumes.
“For the Victorian reader, the sonnets were the
epitome of appropriate poetry for women to write
because they showed a woman in her best role –
loving and expressing sentiments of love” (Wall).
Although without a wonderful reception upon
initial publication, Barrett Browning “attained
sainthood not just as a poet but also as a wife –
based on the love story told” through these sonnets
The Time Machine
H. G. Wells
London: William Heinemann, 1895
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Science Fiction
The Victorian period was prime for an explosion of
science fiction with significant, and rapid
technological advancements. H. G. Wells was one of
the most influential authors of science fiction during
this time, with works that can also be included in the
subgenres of scientific romance, steampunk, and
even political fiction, since politics were often a
theme in his works.
Woman in White. A Novel.
Wilkie Collins
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860
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Sensation Fiction
The Victorian period saw the creation of a new type
of fiction, the sensation novel, as described in 1863
by H. L. Mansel as “preaching to the nerves instead
of the judgment” (Allingham). In addition to the
many factors that helped increase fiction literature
in general during this time, the sensation novel was
also helped by journalism that covered crime, trials,
and personal misfortune in a melodramatic manner.
Although there were many sensation writers, Wilkie
Collins is considered to be the father of this
subgenre and this his first work in it.
Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens
London: Richard Bentley, 1838
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Serial Fiction
Dickens published many novels
via periodicals, a common means
of financially supporting oneself
as an author during the Victorian
era when demand for serial
publications was high.
Like many novels during this
time this book has a social
commentary, in this case on child
labor and the treatment of
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races
in the Struggle for Life.
Charles Darwin
London: John Murray, 1859
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Scientific works had long been published but
especially so during the Victorian era when the
general public was also apt to read such works
and scientific research was expanding. Darwin
specifically wrote this book for the public rather
than just publishing it aimed at scientific
scholars. It sparked immediate religious,
political, and scientific controversy.
Throughout this period science was often used
to promulgate or deny commonly held beliefs
and principles, especially for racial lineages as
they may relate to enslaving a people. Darwin
should be considered in this context as some
turned to his evolutionary theory to justify
slavery, although in his Descent of Man he argues
against this.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
London: Macmillan and Co., 1884
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Children’s Literature
Unlike previous time periods, the idea of
childhood began to change during the
Victorian era with the expansion of the
middle class. While previously common
for children to be treated similar to
adults and “exposed to the hardships
and responsibilities of adult life” the
Victorians believed that childhood
should be “of innocence and
dependence” (B. C. Protestant Orphans’
Home). Although not particularly well
received initially, Carroll’s works were
considered to be great contributions to
children’s literature by the end of the
Victorian era.
The Awakening
Kate Chopin
Chicago: H. Stone, 1899
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Women Supporting Themselves
This is a significant work to the Victorian era first because
it represents the ability for women to write as a way of
supporting themselves as Chopin did. Prior to this book
her writing had been quite successful.
An additional reason for the importance of this book is the
controversy surrounding it’s portrayal of denying social
norms and displaying female sensuality. While the
Victorian era was particularly concerned with morals and
proper social decorum, it was also a time when many
were challenging these “rules.”
Clotel; or The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States
William Wells Brown
London: Partridge & Oakey, 1853
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Social Fiction
Novels with a clear social commentary were popular
during the Victorian era. Topics included labor, slavery,
injustices to Native Americans, and gender equality
among other things. The 19th century saw many changes
which prompted writing about social issues such as
slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, forced Native
American displacement, factory work, unsafe work
environments, female education, etc.
For a time greatly concerned about moral living, this novel
exposed the immoral conditions forced upon AfricanAmerican families and their difficult lives. Not only is it
important as a work of Victorian social fiction, but it is
also the first novel published by an African American.
The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress
Mark Twain
Connecticut: American Publishing Company, 1884
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Travel Narrative
With the rapid expansion of modes of
transportation such as railways, an
increasing middle class able to afford to
travel, British imperialism that “brought
exotic locales and non-Western cultures
ever closer to home,” and advances in
technology such as photography and film
that could capture images of these distant
places, accounts of travel became very
popular during the Victorian period
This book, “Twain’s best-selling work
during his lifetime” is a compilation of the
letters he wrote while travelling through
Europe and the Holy Land first published
in 1869 (The Business of Being Mark
Works Cited
Allingham, P. The Victorian Sensation Novel, 1860-1880 – “preaching to the nerves instead of the judgment”. Retrieved
B. C. Protestant Orphan’s Home. Victorian Concepts of Childhood. Retrieved from:
The Business of Being Mark Twain. Sold By Subscription Only. Retrieved from:
Feluga. (2010). CFP: Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Narratives, Histories, and Collections (2/15, 7/14-7/15/2011).
Retrieved from:
Wall, J. K. Love and Marriage: How Biographical Interpretation affected the Reception of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s
“Sonnets from the Portuguese” (1850). Retrieved from:
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