The Masters of English Literature

9780217803069: The Masters of English Literature

This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1904. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... chapter xx victorian literature It is not unreasonable to date a new literary epoch from the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. Keats, Shelley, and Byron had died in the three years ending in 1824. In 1830 Scott had followed; in 1834 Coleridge and Lamb. Of that mighty generation, Wordsworth alone lived on, and death did not overtake him till 1850. By that date the next rank had arisen, and some were already famous. But chronology is misleading; we have here to do with a question of affinities and kindred influences. Keats and Carlyle were born in 1795, yet Keats is of Wordsworth's period, Carlyle of Tennyson's. And the writers of that generation, of which Carlyle and Tennyson are perhaps the most conspicuous figures, stand notably nearer us than those of Wordsworth's group. We cannot judge them with the same detachment, and they call for a somewhat different method of discussion. Those among them, however, who appear most distinct and apart from ourselves are the great novelists; for the novel, relying as it does mainly on the charm of narrative and an artistic presentment of character, relies also upon its interest as a social commentary, It is occupied, that is, with things of permanent interest; it is also occupied with transient fashions. And since small concrete differences of this sort strike the mind strongly, we are conscious of a distance of time between ourselves and the personages of Pickwick, Vanity Fair, or Middlemarch; whereas the early poems of Tennyson or Browning have almost a contemporary appeal. We shall begin, therefore, with the novelists. Charles Dickens, born in 1812, was the son of a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, and his early recollections connected themselves with the surroundings of Chatham and Rochester, where also he settled in the...

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