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, Dangoor Education.

Featured articles

  • The origins of A Christmas Carol

    The origins of A Christmas Carol

    Professor John Sutherland considers how Dickens’s A Christmas Carol engages with Victorian attitudes towards poverty, labour and the Christmas spirit.

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    Victorian Christmas

    Judith Flanders describes how many of our own Christmas traditions – from trees and crackers to cards and carols – have their origins in 19th-century industrial and commercial interests.

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    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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    Ghosts in A Christmas Carol

    Ghosts in A Christmas Carol

    The ghosts in A Christmas Carol are by turns comic, grotesque and allegorical. Professor John Mullan reflects on their essential role in developing the novel’s meaning and structure.

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  • Theatre in the 19th century

    Theatre in the 19th century

    At the beginning of the 19th century, there were only two main theatres in London. Emeritus Professor Jacky Bratton traces the development of theatre throughout the century, exploring the proliferation of venues, forms and writers.

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    The origins of A Christmas Carol

    Professor Michael Slater MBE explains the background to Charles Dickens’s novel, A Christmas Carol, reveals his reasons for writing it and discusses its monumental success. Filmed at the Charles Dickens Museum, London.

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    The Cries of London

    The Cries of London

    The Gentle Author explores William Marshall Craig’s Cries of London prints, which portray the realities of life for street traders in the early 19th century.

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    The Condition of England novel

    The Condition of England novel

    Writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë illuminated contemporary social problems through detailed descriptions of poverty and inequality. Dr Sophie Ratcliffe considers how the Condition of England novel portrayed 19th-century society, and the extent of its calls for reform.

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  • An introduction to The Woman in White

    An introduction to The Woman in White

    The Woman in White was the first great sensation novel. Roger Luckhurst considers how Wilkie Collins's intricately plotted novel borrows elements from realist and Gothic fiction, and combines suspense and stimulation.

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    Perversion and degeneracy in The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Many reviewers denounced Oscar Wilde’s novel as perverse and immoral. Roger Luckhurst explores the work’s sexual and moral ambiguities.

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

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

    In his poem ‘London’ William Blake explores poverty, revolution and the power of the imagination. Dr Linda Freedman examines the original draft manuscript, to discover the meanings behind this iconic poem.

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    Mrs Beeton and the art of household management

    Mrs Beeton and the art of household management

    Professor Kathryn Hughes explains how Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management helped middle-class urban women run their households and navigate married life.

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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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Power and politics

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

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Reading and print culture

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

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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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Childhood and children's literature

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

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Works of literature

A Christmas Carol

Created by: Charles Dickens

A Christmas book by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), published in 1843. Dickens was prompted to write this morality tale ...

Jane Eyre

Created by: Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s (1816-1855) iconic novel of 1847 is subtitled ‘An Autobiography’. It is an ...

Frankenstein

Created by: Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797-1851), later Mary Shelley, devised this Gothic novel in 1816 while staying at Lake ...