The Early Victorians
Dickens Thackeray, Trollope, the Bronte sisters and George Eliot do not form a coherent body. What they have in common is a special climate of ideas and feelings, a set of fundamental assumptions.
They were conditioned by their public. They identified themselves with their age and were its spokesmen the later novelists were writing against their age (criticism)
The first Victorians were not uncritical, they were not radical. They accepted the society in which they lived without opposition and questions. they voices the public’s doubts and fears.
The early Victorians
Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, C. and E Brontë and G. Eliot do not represent a coherent body – what they have in common is a special climate of ideas and feelings, a set of fundamental assumptions
they were conditioned by their public: they identified themselves with their age and were its spokesmen. the later novelists, however, were writing in some sense against their age.
it is not that the Victorians were uncritical of their country and age, but their criticism was much less radical. they accepted the society they lived in without questions. they voiced the public doubts and fears.
they were as conscious as we are of the tensions and contradictions of their times, the havoc caused by the industrial revolution, the presence of mass poverty, the existence side by side of what Disraeli called the 2 nations, and in the 40s they feared revolution. the forces set in motion by the industrial revolution they did not know how to control, they were thoroughly aware of the evils of their age; yet they could hardly not believe that these evils would prove to be merely temporary.
the age represented the triumph of Protestantism and perhaps its great achievement was the universal acceptance of the idea of respectability. Honesty is the best policy. the idea of respectability needs discussing because it so thoroughly permeates the Victorian novel. the word was applied to anyone who was honest and decent in behavior and clean in habits, irrespective of social position. this last meaning reveals how the idea behind the word had captured all classes of society. the first great spokesman of the idea of respectability was the self made man, the printer, Samuel Richardson.
what we often think of as a typical Victorian, especially in the attitude towards sex, had become dominant years before the queen came to the throne. the taboos on the recognition and expression of sex had became into existence slowly and almost unaware.
one symbol of this aspect of Victorian respectability was the banishment of fielding.
there was one law for man and another for women: in the Victorian period that became the same law.
form one point of view, the notion of respectability may be regarded as the apotheosis of wishful thinking, from another and more rewarding as a violent and heroic attempt to correct vices and weakness of the age