Notes on The Victorian Prose

Ans. The Victorian age is a great era of prose-writing Alexander Smith, Sir Arthur Helps, A.K.H. Boyd is some of the prominent essayists of the period, However, it is R.L. Stevenson alone who has the true essay manner. Notes on The Victorian Prose

Notes on The Victorian Prose
Notes on The Victorian Prose

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He is by far the greatest essayist of the age. R.L. Stevenson (1850)- Stevenson was a man of versatile genius, Besides being the foremost essayist since Lamb, he was also a poet, a novelist and a short story writer.

He touched everything and adorned what he touched. The gift of essay-writing was inborn in him. He was a keenly observant man, observed even the minutes details and knew how to make good use of what the observed. Even the smallest things could suggest to him far-reaching reflation.

An Inland Voyage, Travels with a Donkey, Familiar Studies of Men and Books, Memories and Portraits, etc.., are some of his finest collections cf who essays. Stevenson’s essays are highly autobiographical.

Characteristics of Victorian Prose 

The personal note is one of the most important characteristics of his writings. They reveal his charming personality. Everywhere we get delightful confidences. He talks to us of his own experiences of life, of his won struggle against heavy odds in an easy. intimate style.

The writer himself is always in the foreground, never in the background, for example, from his essay-“On the Books that Have Influenced Me” we know of the various books that he read and enjoyed and that went into the making of his personality.

He does not even hesitate to tell us that in the beginning he found the questions of the editor a difficult one and did not know to set about answering them.


Early Victorian Prose Writers

(1) Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

(a) His Teaching: For more than a generation Carlyle was revered both as a teacher and a prophet. By his admirers he was called “the sage of Chelsea”, and he maintained his reputation through books, letters, and conversation.

He was much concerned with contemporary social and political affairs, as well as with the more personal concerns of religion and private morals.

(b) His Work: His first important volume was extraordinary sartor Resaxus (1833), a kind of autobiography of an imaginary German-professor The astonishing style and the unusual opinions expressed in it made it rather a startling production.

The French Revolution (1837) which followed gave fire and intensity to history, while political tracts of great insight and literary merit appeared in Past and Present (1843) and Later day Pamphlets (1850).

The later years of his life were occupied with two immense historical works, Oliver Cromwell’s Letters, and Speeches (1845) and the Life of Frederick (1865). Hero and Hero-worship are another of his important works.

Prose-Writers of the Early Victorian Period

Notes on The Victorian Prose
Notes on The Victorian Prose

(2) Lord Babington Macaulay (1800-1859)

Macaulay offers a curious contrast to Carlyle. The latter was the preacher. the idealist, and sage, the former was the hard-headed man of affairs, taking the world as it came and offering no remedies to cure its evils. Notes on The Victorian Prose

His Prose: In his prose we find no struggle, exaltation, and despair such as we find in the prose of Carlyle. Instead, we observe brisk confidence, a clear, vivacious utterance, and a selection of picturesque details. We should note the copious vocabulary, the clever variations of the sentences, and the swiftly moving rhythm.

His History of England had an enormous popular success, which was due to his selection of telling incident, his clear and rapid narrative, and clean-cut, assured manner of the statement. As a historian, he was inclined to Whig views, and he is prone to exaggeration.

The Victorian Prose

(3) John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Ruskin was born of affluent parents, but his views on life were not in keeping with his social position in it. Early in his career he developed subversive opinion upon social questions of all kinds and took to expounding advanced forms of socialism.

In art he was equally unconventional, in particular, he was a strong supporter of Turner, the landscape-painter. Ruskin was an idealist, far in advance of his time, He spent much of his money and nearly all his life preaching to people who were largely indifferent to his efforts.

He died in the Lake District, a disappointed man. His Work: Ruskin’s total amount of books, pamphlets, articles and lectures were so numerous that we can name only a few of them. His first and Jongest book was Modern pointers, begun in 1843 and completed in 1860.

It expounded Ruskin’s ideas upon art and life in general. Shorter works on art were “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” (1849) and “The Stones of Venice “(1851-58).

Among his articles and lectures are The Two Paths” (1869), “Unto this Last” (1860), “The Crown of Wild Olive” (1964), and “Sesame and Lilies” (1865).


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Notes on The Victorian Prose
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