|Chris's Essay ^_^|
The Victorian era, spanning from 1830–1901, was a period of dramatic
change the world over, and especially in England, with the rapid
extension of colonialism through large portions of Africa, Asia, and the
West Indies, making England a preeminent center of world power and
relocating the perceived center of Western Civilization from Paris to
London. The rapid growth of London, with a population of 6.5 million by
the time of Victoria's death, evidenced a marked change due to
industrialization away from a way of life based on the ownership of land
to a modern urban economy based on trade and manufacturing. Dramatic
changes in manufacturing, rapid growth of the British economy, and
seemingly continual expansion of England's colonized territories
resulted in mixed sentiments, with some writers such as Thomas
Babbington Macauley applauding change and the superior civilization of
England and other writers such as Mathew Arnold and Thomas Carlyle
expressing more trepidation and concern about this era of change. In
addition to general economic and political change, there were
advancements made in the promotion of women's rights, especially in
terms of improving labor conditions and their rights in marriage.
The Victorian early period (1830–48) can be described as a time of dramatic change with the improvement of the railroads and the country's first Reform Parliament, but it was also a time of economic distress. Even with the Reform Bill of 1832, extending voting privileges to the lower middle classes and redistributing parliamentary representation to break up the conservative landowner's monopoly of power, England's economic troubles could not be entirely solved. By the end of this Time of Troubles, the Chartists, among others, succeeded in introducing important economic reforms, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws and the introduction of a system of Free Trade.
The historian Asa Briggs refers to the following period of the Victorian era as "The Age of Improvement. Although the mid- Victorian period (1848–70) was not free of the previous period's problems, it was a time of overall prosperity and general social satisfaction with further growth of the empire improving trade and economic conditions. This was also a period in which industry, technology, and science were celebrated with renewed vigor in such events as the Great Exhibition of Hyde Park. By this point, however, the Church of England had evolved into three major divisions, with conflicting beliefs about religious practice. There were also some rationalist challenges to religion, including Utilitarianism, developed by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, and science in the work of Thomas Henry Huxley and Charles Darwin. "Higher Criticism" had a similar effect in its perception of the Bible as a mere historical text.
The later period (1870–1901) was a time of changing attitudes about colonialism, industrialization, and scientific advancement. Rebellions and war in the colonial territories made the public increasingly more aware of the costs of empire. Various events challenged the sense of England's endless prosperity as a world power, such as the emergence of Bismarck's Germany and its threats to English naval and military positions and the expansion of the American grain industry, driving down the price of English grain. Socialist movements grew out of this discontentment, as well as a melancholy spirit in the writing of the end of the century. Oscar Wilde's making a pun of "earnest," a typical and sincerely used mid-Victorian word, is typical of a dying Victorianism.
In addition to social and economic changes, dramatically affecting the content of literature during the Victorian era, other technological changes in publishing shaped literary production in other ways. The conditions of publishing, including the prominence of the periodical press, dramatically shaped the form of literature. Serialization of novels, for example, allowed for an author to alter the shape of his narrative based on public response to earlier installments. In the later years of the era, authors started to position themselves in opposition to this broad reading public and serialization gave way to three-volume editions. The Victorian novel was primarily concerned with representing a social reality and the way a protagonist sought and defined a place within this reality. The increased popularity of periodicals also allowed nonfiction to become a widespread and popular literary genre. Victorian poetry was also published in periodicals and underwent its own dramatic changes during the era, with Victorian poets seeking to represent psychology in new ways. Theater, on the other hand, was a popular form of entertainment, but did not flourish aesthetically until the end of the Victorian era.
Dickens started school at the age of 9, but his education was interrupted when his father, an amiable but careless minor civil servant, was imprisoned for debt in 1824. The boy was forced to support himself by working in a shoe-polish factory. A resulting sense of humiliation and abandonment haunted him for life. Later he described this experience, slightly altered, in David Copperfield (1849-1850). From 1824 to 1826, Dickens again attended school. For the most part, however, he was self-educated. Among his favorite books were those by such great 18th c novelists as Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett. Their influence can be discerned in Dickens' own novels. In 1827 Dickens took a job as a legal clerk. After learning shorthand, he began working as a reporter in the courts & Parliament. , perhaps developing the power of precise description that was to make his creative writing so remarkable.In December 1833 Dickens published the first of a series of original descriptive sketches of daily life in London.
All these successes, however, were shadowed by domestic unhappiness. Incompatibility & Dickens's relations with a young actress, Ellen Ternan, led to separation from his wife in 1858,after the marriage had produced ten children. He suffered a stroke on June 8th 1870 after working most of the day, writing about his beloved city of Rochester in the garden chalet situated at his home of Gads Hill Place. Sadly the stroke proved fatal and he died the following day ( June 9th 1870 ). To the great shock and and sadness of the entire nation he was buried in Westminster Abbey five days later.Ever since his novels are read with as enjoyment,interest and pathos as they were during his lifetime. Many of his works have been transferred into either films or television serials. His life and works form very much a part of the British culture and it wasn't surprising that devotees of this great man that so many admired formed in 1902 what has become today a flourishing international gathering - The Dickens Fellowship with the Rochester Branch being one of its founding members who continue Dickens' memory ' forever green'.