Victorian poetry

From the rich imagery and rhythmic quality of Alfred Lord Tennyson to Christina Rossetti’s lyrical purity and powerful exploration of loss and faith, the Victorian period heralded a new wave of poetry that was influenced by its Romantic predecessors yet distinctly different. How did the Victorian poets approach composition, form and language, and what inspired their subjects?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Social and Political Issues

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: social and political issues

Article by:
Simon Avery

From industrialisation to slavery, Dr Simon Avery looks at the 19th century social and political issues that fed into Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Woman Question

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Woman Question

Article by:
Simon Avery

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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Elizabeth Barrett Browning: style, subject and reception

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: style, subject and reception

Article by:
Simon Avery

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetic form encompasses lyric, ballad and narrative, while engaging with historical events, religious belief and contemporary political opinion. Dr Simon Avery considers how her experimentation with both the style and subject of her poetry affected its reception during the 19th century.

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‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’: making poetry from war

‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’: making poetry from war

Article by:
Seamus Perry

Dr Seamus Perry explains how Tennyson transformed a catastrophic episode in the Crimean war into one of the 19th-century’s most successful poems, using rhythm, repetition and vocabulary to convey both the folly of the cavalry charge and the bravery of the soldiers.

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An introduction to ‘The Lady of Shalott’

An introduction to ‘The Lady of Shalott’

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

An Arthurian legend inspired one of Tennyson's most famous poems. Dr Stephanie Forward considers how 'The Lady of Shalott' reflects contemporary questions of gender and creativity, and provided the subject for works by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt.

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In Memoriam A.H.H.: composition and reception

In Memoriam A.H.H.: composition and reception

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

In Memoriam A.H.H., a tribute to Tennyson’s beloved friend Arthur Henry Hallam, was a defining poem of the Victorian period. Dr Stephanie Forward explores Tennyson’s composition process, and considers how the poem was received during Tennyson’s lifetime and into the 20th century.

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Tennyson’s rise and fall

Tennyson’s rise and fall

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

When Tennyson died in 1892, 11,000 people applied for tickets to his funeral in Westminster Abbey. Dr Stephanie Forward considers the poet's huge popularity in the second half of the 19th century, and the decline of his reputation in the 20th.

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An introduction to 'Goblin Market'

An introduction to 'Goblin Market'

Article by:
Dinah Roe

In ‘Goblin Market’, Christina Rossetti experiments with language, form and imagery to create a world of temptation and mystery. Dr Dinah Roe considers Rossetti’s influences and the different ways in which the poem has been illustrated and interpreted since its publication.

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An introduction to In Memoriam A.H.H.

An introduction to In Memoriam A.H.H.

Article by:
Holly Furneaux

Tennyson wrote In Memoriam A.H.H. as a tribute to his beloved friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died aged 22. Dr Holly Furneaux explores how the poem uses individual bereavement to grapple with broader questions of faith, meaning and nature.

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Christina Rossetti: religious poetry

Christina Rossetti: religious poetry

Article by:
Simon Avery

With close readings of 'Up-Hill' and 'A Birthday', Dr Simon Avery explores the tensions and questions that characterise the quest for spiritual fulfilment found in Christina Rossetti's religious poetry.

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Christina Rossetti: gender and power

Christina Rossetti: gender and power

Article by:
Simon Avery

The Victorian period witnessed massive changes in thinking about women’s roles in society. Dr Simon Avery asks how Christina Rossetti's poetry sits within this context, looking at her representations of oppression, female identity, marriage and the play of power between men and women.

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Further themes

Romanticism

What inspired the iconic poetry of the Romantic period?

The Gothic

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

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

Crime and crime fiction

Why was crime such a popular subject in 19th-century fiction?

The novel 1780-1832

From Georgian gentry to Gothic horror, what characterised the literature of this period?

The novel 1832 - 1880

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

Fin de siècle

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

Popular culture

From music hall to pleasure gardens, explore the extraordinary range of entertainments on offer in Georgian and Victorian Britain.

Poverty and the working classes

How did Victorian writers respond to the shocking inequalities of Victorian society?

Power and politics

How did writers respond to the tumultuous political events of this period?

Reading and print culture

How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence the literature people read?

Technology and science

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

The middle classes

How were the tensions surrounding social mobility explored in the literature of the period?

Visions of the future

How did the 19th-century literature reflect contemporary fears of social, political and technological change?

Gender and sexuality

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