資料彙整   /  概念  /  簡介:[英] 十九世紀:維多利亞時期 The 19th Century: Victorian Period
資源型式: 自行填入

Introduction to the Nineteenth Century

0. The Mid-Victorian Period (1848-70): Economic Prosperity

I.  Prose, Fiction and Poetry: Different and Common Concerns 

II. Early and Mid-Victorian Prose

1. Carlyle's Past and Present (1843)

2. Florence Nightingale's Cassandra (1852)

3. John Stuart Mill's Autobiography (1873)

III. Mid-Victorian Novel     

1.      Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (1855),

2.      Great Expectations (1860-61)

III. Victorian Poetry

1. Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

2. Robert Browning (1812-89)

3. Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61)

IV. Late Victorian Literature

1.      Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865)

2.      Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1894)

V Conclusion


The Mid-Victorian Period (1848-70)

Economic Prosperity

When we speak of Victorian complacency or stability or optimism, we are usually referring to this mid-Victorian phase--"The Age of Improvement," as the historian Asa Briggs has called it.  "Of all the decades in our history," writes G. M. Young, "a wise man could choose the eighteen-fifties to be young in." 


In 1851 Prince Albert opened the Great Exhibition (right) in Hyde Park, where a gigantic glass greenhouse, the Crytal Palace, had been erected to display the exhibits of modern industry and science.  The Crystal Palace was one of the first buildings constructed according to modern architectural principles in which materials such as glass and iron are employed for purely functional ends (much late Victorian furniture, on the other hand, with its fantastic and irrelevant ornamentation, was constructed according to the opposite principle).



The building itself, as well as the exhibits, symbolized the triumphant feats of Victorian technology. 

Pride in technological progress, however, is only one element of the mid-Victorian period.  Equally significant is the conflict between religion and science

e.g. Tennyson's "In Memoriam."

 The caption reads: Odds and Ends, in, out, & about, The Great Exhibition of 1851.  (Bentley 105)



(Norton Anthology pp. 895-896)



I. Prose, Fiction and Poetry: Different and Common Concerns 

        Prose, fiction, and poetry take an equally important part in the Victorian period.  Each has its different focus: the Victorian prose deals mostly with social problems; the Victorian fiction deals with the relationships between people in society in terms of money, manners and morality; the Victorian poetry before the late Victorian period is mostly concerned with the self(or selves) and its doubts and faith. 

        The prose, fiction and poetry of early and mid-Victorian period do show the common concerns of the age.  There is, first of all, an insistent social concern in Victorian prose, fiction, and even poetry.  Secondly, the female writers in prose, fiction and poetry all dealt with the questions of women's independence and self-assertion.  Most importantly, despite the writers' insistent attempts at maintaining social stability and moral certainty, uncertainty or inconsistency start to emerge out of the order they construct.  It is, then, a natural tendency of the age that the late Victorian literature ended in either a total collapse of or a desperate adherence to the moral and social order.  


II. Early and Mid-Victorian Prose


1. Carlyle's Past and Present (1843)

        Carlyle's Past and Present (1843) is characteristic of Victorian literature in three aspects: its use of the medieval past, its criticism of the Victorian present and its author's prophetic mission.  Keenly aware of their age as a transition, the Victorians like to compare themselves with the past in order to learn from it.  The past, whether the immediate past or a distant one, is therefore an important dimension in the Victorian literature.  In Past and Present, Carlyle uses the history of a middle-age monastry as a foil to the present society.  His interpretation and presentation of the past shows a historical consciousness at work.  While offering the reader vivid pictures of the past, Carlyle makes it clear to the reader that it is done through the double mediation of Jocelin's Chronicle and his own interpretation.  The Chronicle, though written in transparent simplicity, is at best an "intermittent magic-mirror" (p. 51) flashing fragments of the past to its reader.  Its author, moreover, is dead (or, in Carlyle's words, "deaf"), so what the reader of Past and Present gets is only Carlyle's interpretation.  In his work, therefore, Carlyle is insistently present before the reader, now interpreting and appropriating the Chronicle in his present, and then leading the reader to the scenes of the past.

        The pictures of the past, however, have to fade out and the reader has to be brought back to the present--since the present, and a criticism of it, is Carlyle's main concern.  He contrasts the medieval monks' simple devotion to work, simple faith in the infathomable God and Abbot Samson's practical wisdom, to contemporary society's sophistication (Methodism) but lack of the substance of faith (utilitarianism, Mammonism) or work (Dilletantism).  Dilletantism and Mammonism are most criticized by Carlyle.  The Dilletants, or the landowning aristocrats, are only "Phantasm[s], no [men]" to Carlyle, because they only enjoy their previlege but do not work.  The Gospels of Mommanism, or the middle class, work only to accumulate money.  They lose their sense of moral responsibility; their relationship with others is reduced to that of cash-payment, and most importantly, they are ignorant of the sacramental nature of work.

 2. Florence Nightingale's Cassandra (1852)

        The purpose of Carlyle's social criticism, however, is not to set himself completely against his middle-class readers.  As a Victorian prophet, he confirms the middle class's work ethic, but elevates it to a religious level.  "Work" to him "is Worship" or being near to God, since in working man communicates with Nature, and his deepest vital rhythms are awakened and become one with the vital heart, God, behind the universe and the self.                   Florence Nightingale's Cassandra (1852) is one of the earlier classics of Victorian feminism.  In this autobiography under the disguise of a prophetess' name, Nightingale argues against Victorian women's lack of control over their life in an emotional tone.  The rapidly industrialized Victorian society treasured family highly as a haven from the business world, and regarded women as the pure, selfless, and serving angel in this haven.  In Cassandra, Nightingale incisively criticizes the emptiness and meaninglessness of Victorian women's life (without passion, career, intellect, or moral activity).  Their time and energy were spent in trivial activities in the living room, and their desire released only in dreams.

        Nightingage also gives adequate comparison to women's situation.  Being occupied by the household chores, the women are like a painter doing five "sketches" at a time; their attention is like a musket, firing frequently and at as many different objects as they please; and they themselves are archangels "petrified" on the bed.

        At the end of the book, Nightingale in her biblical and  prophetic voice urges, "Awake, ye women,all ye that sleep, awake!"  Strong as this claim is, Nightingale is aware of the marginality of her discourse, necessarliy being ignored like Cassandra's prophecy.  Women's rebellion in the book can only be in the form of death.  To Nightingale, Victorian women died since they became man's plaything in the eighteenth century, and only death can make her free from this meaningless life.   

3. John Stuart Mill's Autobiography (1873)

     John Stuart Mill's Autobiography (1873) is a Victorian work both because of what he shows in the work--the development of his mind as a utilitarian, and because of what is implied but left without saying--the deep regret he feels for his own weaknesses as a utilitarian.  Utilitarianism is one of the most important ideologies that mold the Victorians' thought and influence their society.  Basing itself on the "greatest happiness" principle and mathmatical formula, Utilitarianism in practice contributes a lot to the society, but in spirit it ignores non-rational qualities such as sentiment, compassion, beauty and poetry.  Mill is a product of Utilitarian training with both its strengths and weaknesses.  His father, James Mill, has a systematic and efficient way of teaching.  He gives Mill a lot of books to read and uses different ways to stimulate him to think, so that Mill excels his peers or even the adults in knowledge and in thinking.  Like other utilitarian reformers, Mill grows to be "a reformer of the world": he is actively engaged in social and political affairs through writing for newspapers, forming societies, joining debates and acting as a member of the Parliament.  He is concerned with many of the legislative and political reforms ranging from democratic suffrage, Extradition Bill, Bribery Bill, to the Irish affair.

        Although James Mill's education makes Mill a successful social reformer, it ignores the cultivation of feeling.  Being thus trained to be a "reasoning machine" (p. 66), Mill experiences a mental crisis in which he finds himself without any feelings or ambition.  It is through reading literature that he again finds the feelings in him and confirms himself to be a  source of inward joy. 

        Beneath the social or literary order early and mid-Victorian literature seeks to construct, some unintended meanings or "otherness" of the Victorians are hidden.  In Mill's case, it is his dissatisfaction with or rebellion against the father as a domineering figure.  In the final version of his Autobiography, Mill, to be respectful of his father, is taciturn about his feelings toward the latter's strict discipline.  He does not even blame his father for his mental crisis.  In his Early Draft, however, he did say that his father's education of "fear" but not "love" resulted in his backwardness and his incompetence in practical matters.  Those remarks were left out in the published version; instead, Mill says, "I was alway loyally devoted to [my father]...I hesitate to pronounce whether I was more a loser or gainer by his severity" (p. 32; emphasis mine).   But interestingly enough, one of the work that helps him overcome his crisis, Marmontel's Memoire, is about a father's death.  Mill is moved to tears because he can "vividly conceive" the scene--as if that was his own father's death.


        II. Mid-Victorian Novel     

1.      Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (1855),

        Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (1855), one of "the condition of England novels" popular in mid-Victorian period, presents the problems in an industrial city; on the other hand, it also shows the female writer's growing awareness of female independence during that period.  First of all, Mrs. Gaskell presents a vivid picture of an industrial city, Milton: its dark and gloomy appearance, its outspoken, boisterous and independent workers, and its stubborn or slippery masters.  In showing the conflicts between the masters and the workers, Mrs. Gaskell is sympathetic with the workers like Higgins, who is proud of his skill and bold in voicing his opinions.  But she is fair also to the factory owners.  Though unsympathetic with the workers' misfortune in the "swift merciless improvement or alteration" of their business, some of the owners, like Thornton, are dedicated to a certain "grandeur of perception" and have their own philosophy of the necessary "wax and wane" of economy.  On the whole, she is optimistic about the economic principle of laissez-faire and she expresses her hope in compromising the union leader Higgins and the master Thornton. 

        Just as her attitude toward the contemporary economy, Mrs. Gaskell's attitude toward the woman's role in Victorian society is that of acceptance and improvement.  As a female writer in an age which stresses woman's role as the "angel in the house," Mrs, Gaskell frequently feels the conflict between art and home, self-assertion and service to others.  She insists that one "must not shrink from the extra responsibility implied by the very fact of her possessing the talents" (emphasis mine, quoted in Ellen Moer's Literary Women), but she does not deny woman's domestic duties.  Margaret in North and South is independent, perceptive, capable and outspoken, but she is still within the bound of conventional selfless woman.  She takes up the domestic duties first of her weak-willed father and then of her dead mother.  Whether in arranging the household affairs, in comforting her father and brother in bereavement, or in helping the workers in illness or distress, she shows the same maternal self-devotion.  In other words, she serves others at the expense of herself.  Margaret is bold to reject marriage twice, to walk out of the house and once even to confront the mob, but she is all in all an improved version of the angelic figure.  (As is show in the title of Chap 19, Mrs. Gaskell does regard Margaret as an angel).  In the end, though she takes part in the man's business by investing her money, she herself is still in the arms of a man, and her "soft" cheek on his shoulder.


2.      Great Expectations (1860-61)

        Dickens in his Great Expectations (1860-61) criticizes the Victorians' preoccupation with gentility by associating the genesis of a Victorian gentleman with decadence, hatred, crime and inhumanity.  He further undermines the strict segmentation of the class system by showing people's interrelatedness and redefining the idea of a "gentle man."

      The middle class in the Victorian age prospered and gained dominance in the society because of their rapidly increasing wealth.  They then sought to climb the social ladder one step further--to become a gentleman.  Pip, a poor orphan out of a  lower class background, is enabled to do the same social climbing because of a fortune mysteriously given to him.  Ironically, the whole process of his aspiration, from the source, the means to the final goal, is closely related to either death, hatred, or crime.  The source of Pip's aspiration is the Satis House of Ms. Havisham, where Pip sees Ms. Havisham and Estella "above the level of ... common doings"(Chap 9) and finds himself treated like a dog.  Ashamed of his own coarseness, Pip seeks to cultivate his own mind.  The Satis (Enough) House that stimulates his attempts at self-culture, however, represents the decadence, or death, of not only gentility but also humanity.  Originally owned by a rich and proud gentleman, the house is now presided over by the aristocratic but lifeless Ms. Havisham, who makes the house an evidence of the failed love and Estella the instrument of her revenge on man.

        The final goal of Pip's aspiration, Estella, represents  what he admires about the upper class--beauty and refinement.  However, Estella is a hard though beautiful crust that has no heart, "no softness, there, no--sympathy--sentiment..."  This beautiful representative of upper-class refinement, moreover, has a liking for and a kinship with violence and crime.  She offers to let Pip kiss her after she sees him fight and beat the young Herbert.  She chooses to marry the violent and brutal Drummle.  Furthermore, she comes from crime, being the daughter of two criminals, Magwitch and Molly.

        Besides the source and the goal of Pip's aspiration, the financial means, its process, and the place where he achieves it, London, are all closely related to crimes and criminals.   While placing his hope and gratitude on the unreal and deadly Satis House, Pip is surprised to find out that he owes his great expectations to the criminal on the marshes.  He is more surprised to find in London the filth and squalor of Smithfield and Newgate.  He is further scared to meet on his way to see Ms. Havisham the other criminal, Compeyson, on the marshes that reminds him of his former sense of guilt. 

        By thus associating the ideal of gentility with crime and violence, Dickens seems to suggest that crime and violence, as a primitive state of human mind and human society, is just an indispensible part in civilization.  A civilized and refined society like London can by no means expel these primitive aspects simply by treating the criminals with all kinds of primitive punishments or exile. 

        Aspiring to be a gentleman, Pip, however, assimilates the upper class' snobbery and coldness, and tries to deny his low and primitive origin.  He several times feels ashamed of Joe and hurts his feelings.  His first reaction to the discovery that Magwitch is the source of his wealth is nothing but repulsion.  It is only when he devotes himself to comforting Magwitch the dying outcast, when he tries to save Ms. Havisham despite her faults, and when he reunites with Joe, whose forge symbolizes the warmth of instinctive life, that he becomes like Joe a "Christian gentle man" (Chap 57).                         


        III. Victorian Poetry

    The Victorian poets, like the Victorian prose writers, felt a sense of mission as a prophet, but with the advance of science it became increasingly difficult to hold belief in anything intangible and undemonstrable.  Tennyson and Browning, though still upholding their own faith, reveal their skepticism in different ways.

1.      Lord Alfred Tennyson's poetry (1809-1892)

        Tennyson's poetry (1809-1892), whether in his early or mature stage, reflects Victorians' conflicts between self and society, stasis and progress, doubt and faith.  Being an introverted poet trying to come to terms with his social responsibilities, Tennyson in "The Lady of Shalott" depicts the dilemma between aesthetic detachment and social engagement.  The recurrent theme of his early poetry, moreover, is death or the inevitable.  Whether in "The Lady of Shalott," "Lotos-Eaters," "Ulysses," or "Tithonus," death (or death in life) looms large as an inevitability.  In these poems there is also a sense of stasis as opposed to effort and progress.  The Lotos-Eaters, Tithonus and Ulysses all stay where they are, whether with an illusion of rest, with a half-belief in strong desire, or with an urge for adventure.  The lady of Shalott does make "progress": she breaks out of her seclusion only to face her death.

        In "In Memoriam," Tennyson voices the doubts and belief characteristic of his age.  Darwinism and geological discoveries, to Tennyson, threaten the Victorians' faith in progress ("good/Will be the final goal of ill"), immortality ("No life may fail beyond the grave"), and finally in Christianity.  Nature is no longer the living, inspiring Nature with which the Romantics are in harmony.  "Red in tooth and claw," it is a random, amoral process of selection in which the fittest survive.  Geological findings further reduce man to nothingness: like all the other beings in the world, after death man will be fossil "sealed within the iron hills."

        There are solutions to his doubts in "In Memoriam," but they are stated with reservation and modifications.  Tennyson does not give up the Victorian belief in Christianity, but he modifies it as a belief in "Christ to be," or immortal love.  He still believes human progress to a noble race, but it is a "far-off divine event."  All in all, he regards his beliefs as only dreams or "wild and wandering cries."     

2.      Robert Browning's (1812-89)

     Browning's (1812-89) skeptisim takes a quite different form.  He does not directy confront the question of life and death, doubt and belief; instead, he, like the novelists, "work within the limits of a natural existence" (Warwick Slinn, Browning and the Fiction of Identity).  Through dramatic monologues, he does not offers the reader Truth but truths seen from different perspectives.

        The dramatic monologue in the Victorian age is both a reaction against the Romantic confessional style and a reflection of the reading public's preference for novels or poems with dramatic stories.  Browning's dramatic monologues, moreover, are both psychological studies of human minds and his attempts to  see "the infinite" in the finite and the particular.  His monoguists talk in a dramatic situation to a specific audience about their views, which may be truth for them but are limited to their own historical situation and revealing of their inner selves. 

        Both the situation the monologuists are in and their audience influence the rhetoric and tone of the speech: the Duke is both lofty and condescending to the envoy of his second marriage; the dying Bishop threatens, begs and bargains with his children for a good niche to be buried in; and Fra Lippo Lippi, to avoid being arrested in his escapade, uses facetious jokes to please the police officer and concrete and sensual terms (my "meat and drink") to make the latter understand his aesthetic. 

        The monologuists' speech, furthermore, reveal their inner selves.  For instance, Lippi's long and impulsive tirade about his aesthetic to one who may not possibly understand it reveals his greateat want of self-expression in the restrictive monastery.  Throughout his speech, he is opposed to the rigid dogma of the church, and once in a while he even expresses his anger at the church's defective formalism ("Hang the fools!").  Being confined in the monastery and by his historicity, however, Lippi has to compromise.  At the end of the poem, he puts himself in an imaginary picture among saints and angels, his hand holding the palm of an angel, and thus sums up his stance--compromising with the church but not "letting go" of his own principle.

        Through the mouths of the historically conditioned monologuists, Browning shows his concerns with art, religion and love but never states his views directly.  Fra Lippo Lippi's aesthetic is similar Browning's: both believe in seeing the infinite and the spiritual in the finite and physical.  However, Lippi's views are modified by his awareness of an audience and his historical situation (the monastary in early Renaissance).  The coming of Christ, to Browning, is another decisive moment in the human history which makes man yearn for God (H.B. Charlton, Browning as Poet of Religion).  But Browning leads his reader to a Pre-Christian era and lets him experience Karshish, an Arabic physician's grappling with his doubts about the miracle of Lazarus' resurrection by Christ.  As for his views about love, Browning is more taciturn; he makes the reader enter the minds of the "lovers" (such as Porphyria's lover, the Duke, the Bishop) who regard love as possession, or, on the other extreme, the minds of the woman in "A Woman's Last Word," who would submit herself completely to her lover to have a paradise that does not exits.  On all these speakers, Browning does not give judgment; instead, he asks the reader to make his own decision after fully experiencing their minds.


3.      Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61)

        Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61), like Mrs. Gaskell, is a Victorian female writer confirming herself in her career but not at home.  Different from Mrs. Gaskell, however, Barret Browning consciously defines her role as a poet and revises the male poetic tradition in her own poems.  The writing of "Sonnets from the Portuguese" (1850) reverses the ancient tradition that the love poems were all written by men.  Her voice as a poetess in the sonnets, however, is relatively diffident and uncertain.  While honoring her husband's sexual and artistic energy, she regards herself as "an out-of-tune worn viol."  In asking him to drop his "divinest Art's/Own instrument" and listen to her, she does assert herself, but what she says is said "between [her] tears" (XLI).

        Through her personna in Aurora Liegh Barret Browning makes a stronger claim for women's independence and her own role as a poetess.  As a stong-minded woman, Aurora Liegh first refuses to be a "perfect English lady," "quiet by the fire/Never say[s] 'no' when the world says 'ay'" (Bk I), and then refuses Romney's offer of marriage, which means sacrificing her own career to be only his "help mate," or the "perfume" in his house (Bk II).  She chooses instead to educate herself through extensive reading, to lead an independent life in London, and finally establish herself as a poetess.  At the end of the verse-novel Aurora marries Romney, but still she maintains her poetic voice, and, moreover, she becomes a voice for him.

            Through the mouth of Aurora as a poetess, Barret Browning sets up her own poetic ideal.  Against the contemporary view of women's poetry as mere "dreaming," Aurora regards her poetry as a "living art" that "presents and records the true life" of her age.  To Aurora, moreover, a poetess should have a double vision, concerning herself not only with the social problems at present but also with an ideal vision for the future (Bk V).  Aurora further sets herself against the male poetic tradition which confines women's poetry to the lyrical.  Refusing to write lyric or drama, she aims to write the "epos" of the age.  

        Aurora Leigh itself breaks all the rules of conventional female poetry.  Instead of being a personal expression, it presents a panoramic description of society.  Against the decorums of poetic language, it does not have regular versification; it mixes "coarse" diction with classical allusions, and it refers to such "unpoetic" things as menstruation, child birth, rape and prostitution.  Most importantly, it is an epic through which a female writer defines and confirms herself as a poetess.        


        IV. Late Victorian Literature

        Late Victorian Literature reflects the prevalent decay of values in Victorian society in many ways: there is, on one extreme, Arnold's high seriousness and Hardy's gloomy vision of universal amorality, and, on the other, an outburst of humorous and nonsense literature which disregards or satirizes Victorian morality.  Both Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde belong to the latter category.

1.      Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865)

        Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865) both reflects the failure of the Victorians' quest for certainty and satirizes the Victorian society.  Like the Victorians' trying to make sense of the rapid change they experienced, Alice, too, tries to make sense of the changes of her size and the strange things she experiences in the wonderland.  What she finds out in the wonderland, like the late Victorians in their society, is non-sense rather than sense.  Being a self-conscious and rational girl, Alice first blames herself for talking nonsense about sending a Chrismas present to her own feet (when she temporarily loses her sense of self because of the change of her size).  She is also blamed by the Mouse for talking nonsense, which is actually a "sense" made out of the homophones of "tail" and "tale," and "not" and "knot."  But then she gradually finds the Wonderland people's words nonsensical (e.g. logical incoherence of the Hatter or logical fallacies of the Duchess).  Facing this irrationality, she is first "dreadfully puzzled"(p. 56), as puzzled as when her size is changed for the first time.  She then learns to "grow" beyond this irrationality, by retorting the queen's "Off with--" with "Nonsense!" and dismissing Dormouse' complaint of her growth also as nonsense (p. 64; 88).  It is no coincidence that her growth to her full size concurs with her rejection of the Queen's law procedure as nonsense and the wonderland people as merely a pack of cards.  Toward the end of the century, the Victorians has to face the irrationality of their world before they reconfirm themselves. 

        Alice's experience in the Wonderland, on the other hand, is a parody of the Victorian society's preoccupation with appearance, which makes their moral concern superficial and  their rules of etiquette rigid.  Both Alice and the Wonderland residents reflect the Victorians' overconcern with appearance.  Falling through the hole, Alice tries to think of some "grand words" to say.  To avoid being sentenced to death, the gardeners "paint" the white rose red.  The Victorians' moral concern is caricaturized in the Duchess' finding morals in everything.  The Duchess is so insistent in moralizing that her morals are all sweeping generalizations: some irrelevant, and some even upholding human weaknesses (e.g. selfishness).  In the confrontation between Alice and the Wonderland people, furthermore, the Victorian rules of etiquette are invalidated.  In talking to the Wonderland residents, Alice is always concerned with her manners.  She addresses the Mouse carefully by following not the rules of etiquette but a grammar book.  She tries to hold a polite conversation with the residents there without success, because, ironically, she violates their stricter rules of etiquette.  The word "cat," for instance, is a taboo not to be mentioned.  When she mentions her cat Dinah, the Wonderland residents escape from her like a disease but with the excuses of gentility.


2.      Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1894)

        Like the Wonderland residents, the characters in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1894) also talk nonsense and concern themselves only with appearance.  But there is no Alice in the play; all the characters are playful, cynical and unfeeling.  As Algernon points out, everybody talks nonsense, but they are "clever" people in Jack's eyes.  In this "age of surfaces," moreover, they disregard morality, religion, social reform, family ties, marriage,..., anything with the substance of truth or love.  What they are concerned with, instead, is money, manners and food. 

        Take the characters' notion of marriage as an example.  For none of the characters is marriage related to genuine love.  Marriage to Algernon is "not an interesting topic."  Jack proposes to Gwendolen after their flirting with each other.  Gwendolen and Cecily fall in love with the name their suitor claim to have but not with the man.  Gwendolen, moreover, insists on the formality of proposal before agreeing to marry.  In deciding whether the two young couples should get married or not, Lady Blacknell thinks mostly about money, appearance and good birth: to her Cecily's "distinct social possibilities" is her great fortune; Algernon's credential is that "he looks everything [though he has nothing]",  and Jack's drawback is his being an orphan, which he must correct by "producing" a parent as soon as possible.


        V Conclusion

        One more generalization in this paper of generalizations: what is most fascinating in the mid-Victorian writers discussed above, to me, is not the order they try hard to conform to or construct, but the inconsistencies or uncertainty they try to suppress but inadvertently reveal in their work or life.  Mill's deletion of the paragraphs about his dissatisfaction with his father, Nightingale lying in bed for years to avoid her mother, Tennyson's melancholy, Browning's problematic treatment of love in his dramatic monologues, as well as the three female writers' indirect allusions to sexual desire, suggest that to conform to the social order, something in them has to be suppressed.  No wonder that, at the end of the age, some writers prefer to live with nonsense and appearance rather than order and morality.


The Norton Anthology of English Literature
.  6th ed.  Vol 2.  M.H. Abrams, General Ed.  New York: Norton, 1993.

Bentley, Phyllis.  The Brontes London: Thames and Hudson, 1969.

Copyright ©2009 國科會人文學中心 All Rights Reserved.