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Essay: The Victorian Era

The Victorian era produced many eminent figures. Lytton Strachey was one of them. Born in 1880, Strachey was a British biographer and a critic who is credited of having revolutionized the art of writing biography. He opened a new era of biographical writing by adopting an irreverent attitude to the past, especially to the volumes of the Victorian biography. His book, Eminent Victorians, a wartime book composed of four miniature biographies, won him widespread recognition as a literary critic and a biographer. In this work, instead of using the conventional method of detailed chronological narration, he has carefully selected his facts to present highly personal portraits of his subjects. The four biographies of Victorian figures that Strachey has described in Eminent Victorians are of Henry Cardinal Manning – a Roman Catholic prelate, Florence Nightingale – a sentimentally idolized female humanitarian, Thomas Arnold of Rugby – an educational reformer with a pronounced moralistic bent and General Charles (“Chinese”) Gordon – a military adventurer. All this figures had earlier been the subject of admiring biographies, but Strachey treated them instead in the form of caricatural case histories: Manning as an obsessive ecclesiastical opportunist, Florence Nightingale as a workaholic driven by ruthless devotion to duty, Arnold as a zealous pompous public-school head master who tended to confuse himself with God, and Gordon as a religious fanatic and dipsomaniac, alternating between Bible and brandy bottle. The four demonstrated the goals of the Victorian age but Strachey’s presentation gave rise to a new form of biography and caused people to express their opposition to the Victorian period. In short, Strachey had four – victim agenda for misrepresenting the whole culture. He did not just use his subjects: he abused them.

I feel that Strachey has used his witty and impressionistic style in writing this book Eminent Victorians, not only to disclose the hidden facts of the Victorian society, but also by writing this biographies, he has targeted on hypocrisy, imperialism, and religion of the Victorian era. It seems that each of the four figures was chosen with malice aforethought. For example, there are some things about Nightingale that Strachey has genuinely admired – her determination to cut herself free from family ties and make her own way in the world; her reforming zeal and her crusading ardor. But in general he found the matron very unpalatable. According to Strachey, she was a self-righteous, domineering amazon, who was ruthless in her compassion, merciless in her philanthropy, destructive in her friendship, obsessional in her lust for power, and demonic in her saintliness. Above all, Strachey disliked her because in her frigid indifference to intimate relationships, in her determined suppression of her own erotic impulses, she denied her own womanhood, and thus rejected in her self the very humanity she claimed to be serving.

Overall, the book has great brilliance of style and is probably the most successful application of the comic spirit to literary biography in English literature. It is a period piece, a vivid point in the long transaction of the twentieth century with its immediate past. Although the book offers very few dates and not many footnotes or charts or graphs, Strachey’s biographies are short anecdotal, witty and entertaining. His aim, as he has declared in the preface, was to cast ” a sudden revealing searchlight into obscure recesses hitherto undivined”. In the process he occasionally sacrificed truth, but the result – polished, malicious, and lively – made him the hero of the Victorian era. Even today, when people use “Victorian” as a synonym for “smug,” “prudish” or “flowery,” they are showing the impact of Strachey’s satiric perspective.

Victorian Era Essay

Victorian Era Essay

Education, Marriage, and Societal Standards

Cite examples from several Victorian authors who address the role of women during this period. Your answer should illustrate various issues women faced during the Victorian Era.

The Victorian Era was a difficult time for women just like previous years, however with the new rule of Queen Victoria things started to change for the better. Victoria herself believed in furthering or gaining an education for women and even understood the hardships for them that came with marriage. Victoria herself wrote to her daughter once she was married about how “…men are very selfish and the woman’s devotion is always one of submission…” (1608) so it was no surprise when feminism thoughts soon showed up in the writings of this time. Despite believing in these she did have mixed emotions about the gaining equality of women, she still did not think they should have any political matter. These beliefs of Queen Victoria were shared with the majority of the writers of this time including John Mill, Elizabeth Browning, Christina Rossetti, and many more. It has been showed of strong women in the writing of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” and Christina Rossetti’s poem “No, Thank You, John”. It has also taken the comedic impact of showing how absurd the way society tells women how they should act in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Feminists of this time were fighting for the rights of women to gain an education, choice and freedom in marriage, and to suppress the standards that society held on women.

Education was very limited for women of this time period; however opportunities were slowly popping up. With universities opening and the encouragement of the Queen and other activists to gain a higher education; the idea was gaining ground for many women. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh”, you can see her support of getting and education through her character Aurora. In this poem, Aurora is put through many studies by her aunt and it was very important that she has a wide range of subjects taught to her. Browning writes just about a list of the studies Aurora was put through such as “I learnt the collects and the catechism/The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,/The Articles, the Tracts against the times…” (392-394), the list continues about her education on multiple languages, sciences, and mathematics taught to her by her aunt. Without the education Aurora received she would have never fell in love with the idea and writing of poetry. She tries to find herself and her calling in life with the poetry she loves and expressing herself. This idea of fulfillment through poetry gives readers the reaction that education can bring a higher meaning to life and the fact that the protagonist was a woman shows woman can achieve this as well. Aurora announces she feels she has a higher meaning in life when rejecting her cousin Romney by saying “…Ah, you force me, sir,/To be overbold in speaking of myself:/I too have my vocation,–work to do,…” (453-455). With this she goes on to find her fulfillment in life with her poetry and would have probably never achieved this without the education set up for her by her aunt.

Another big point that was haunting women of this time was marriage. Marriage for women included many sacrifices they had to make to keep the marriage and/or man they married happy. Married women had no freedom and were sometimes forced into a marriage depending on if it would benefit the family she belonged to or not. It was about gaining social status and basically left at that. Marriage also imposed many misogynistic ideas of what women can and cannot do within in a marriage, which leads into the objectification of women. At the time men could divorce for adultery, but women could only divorce under certain circumstances of adultery. Married women could also not own or handle their own property, so with the limitations and the treatment of married women it is understandable why so many feminists called against it regardless of what they would be thought of or labeled if they never marry. In Christina Rossetti’s poem “No, Thank You, John” even shows the struggles of rejecting a proposal. Christina herself never married and that idea is reflected in this poem. By the words used and the almost exhausted manner while reading this poem may have the reader thinking she has been asked by this man more than once for her hand in marriage. The fourth stanza that says that “I have no heart? – Perhaps I have not; / But then you’re mad to take offence / That I don’t give you what I have not got:” (13-15), can be seen that it is almost expected of a woman to openly say yes to a man’s proposal. During this time to many acting feminist marriage did not sound very enthusing and Rossetti captures this in her poem.

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Women In Victorian Era Essay

Length: 1349 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)

Contrary to that belief, throughout the Victorian era the view of women began to change, at least in the mind of some. Women began to infiltrate themselves into the industrial world. One field that became increasingly dominated by women during the Victorian era was the world of writing. Many women were published during this century, although only a small number have been “canonized” or truly recognized as literature. The four most popular are doubtlessly the three Brontë sisters, and George Eliot. These authors were perhaps popular because of their subject matter, or perhaps because their works were analyzed and criticized from the beginning, whereas no attention was paid to the remainder.

These above mentioned notable authors often wrote about women in their traditional, and also non-traditional Victorian roles. Charlotte Brontë, for example, reflected the proper, meek demeanor in Jane Eyre, not only with Jane herself. Jane was the very contradiction of Mr. Rochester. Even when he is at his worst, during the final chapters, Jane takes it upon herself to care for him without thought of herself, and to be his tradit.

. middle of paper .

. s her role as the proper Victorian woman despite Heathcliff’s presence.

The role of women in the Victorian Age was varied far and between. The “woman question,” is a commonly addressed question, which basically asked, “what was a ‘proper’ woman supposed to be like anyway?” Emily Brontë was not a “normal” woman either. Her characters are incredibly deep and powerful, she reflects them as very wild, independent, and socially “different” than what was considered o be “proper” for the time. Her works are much more vibrant than most from this period as well. As for me, I think that the propriety of a woman depends entirely on the woman, her circumstances, her background, and those she associates with. And truly, there is nothing wrong with a woman if she does not live up to what was socially considered to be normal for a Victorian woman. After all, what truly is normal?

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Victorian Age

expression in poetry and prose continued to dominate English literature throughout much of the century. The attention of many writers was directed to the growth of the English democracy, education, materiallism, religion, science and the theory of evolution.

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