Discover 1,200 Romantic and Victorian literary treasures, new insights by 60 experts, 25 documentary films, 30 inspirational teachers’ notes and more. Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, The Exilarch's Foundation.

Featured articles

  • Dickens the performer

    Dickens the performer

    Simon Callow CBE examines Dickens as an actor who gave lively and emotional performances of his own works to an enthralled public on both sides of the Atlantic.

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    Childhood in Jane Eyre

    Professor John Bowen and Ann Dinsdale discuss the childhood writings and experiences of the Brontë sisters and how these shaped their later writing in novels such as Jane Eyre. Filmed at the Brontë Parsonage, Haworth.

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    Victorian readers

    Victorian readers

    Kate Flint explores how Victorian readers bought, borrowed and read their books.

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    Representations of drugs in 19th-century literature

    Representations of drugs in 19th-century literature

    Opium was widely available in the 19th century, sold by barbers, tobacconists and stationers. Writers including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens all used the drug, for pleasure or as medicine. Professor Sharon Ruston explores how drugs provided both inspiration and subject matter for the literature of the period.

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  • The Peterloo Massacre

    The Peterloo Massacre

    In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.

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    Composed upon Westminster Bridge

    Wordsworth’s vision of London’s serene beauty was composed on the roof of a coach - the poet was en route to France to meet his illegitimate daughter Caroline for the first time. Professor John Mullan explores the background to the poem.

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    Print culture

    Print culture

    In the 19th century, more people were reading more publications than ever before. Dr Matthew Taunton explains how technological, social and educational change made this possible.

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    Walking the landscape of Wuthering Heights

    Walking the landscape of Wuthering Heights

    Situating Emily Brontë in her hometown of Haworth – a small Yorkshire mill town surrounded by moors – Professor John Bowen reflects on the representation of landscape in Wuthering Heights.

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  • Class in The Time Machine

    Class in The Time Machine

    Dr Matthew Taunton reveals how The Time Machine reflects H G Wells’s fascination with class division, the effects of capitalism and the evolution of the human race.

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    Inventing the future

    Mike Ashley explores how the technological changes initiated by the Industrial Revolution inspired 19th-century writers.

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    Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Woman Question

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Woman Question

    Dr Simon Avery considers how Elizabeth Barrett Browning used poetry to explore and challenge traditional Victorian roles for women, assessing the early influences on her work and thought.

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    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    Alterations to the draft of William Blake’s ‘London’ show him moving from political to mystical radicalism. Dr Linda Freedman examines the manuscript, showing what we can learn about this transition.

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Themes

From Romantic poetry to Gothic horror, from depictions of poverty and industrialisation to portrayals of the middle classes, and from crime fiction to fin de siècle decadence: the literary works of the Romantic and Victorian periods, and the contexts in which they were written, offer a wealth of topics to explore.

Fin de siècle

How did the literature of this period reflect attitudes to gender, sexuality, immigration, class and scientific discovery?

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The Gothic

The Gothic

What characterises Gothic literature and what does it reveal about the periods in which it was written?

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Technology and science

Technology and science

How did 19th century authors respond to the new possibilities afforded by technology and science?

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Gender and sexuality

Gender and sexuality

How were gender roles embedded in the literature of the period and were they ever subverted?

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Childhood and children's literature

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

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The novel 1832 - 1880

The novel 1832 - 1880

How did the iconic writers of this period experiment with fantasy, sensationalism, realism and social commentary?

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Collection items

Explore manuscripts, first editions, illustrations, playbills, and much more...

Works of literature

Oliver Twist

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-9, and as a ...

'The Masque of Anarchy'

Created by: Percy Bysshe Shelley

A poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) in 1819. In August of that year, a huge but peaceful ...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...