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Important features of the British poetry of the Victorian

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Introduction of Victorian Poetry

Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901). England, during this time, was undergoing a tremendous cultural upheaval; the accepted forms of literature, Victorian art and music had undergone a radical change. Victorian poetry definition Poetry written during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901 is defined as Victorian poetry. The important characteristics of Victorian poetry are such as conflict between religion and science, social reforms, use of sensory elements, pessimism, interest in medieval fables & legends, realism, sentimentality and dramatic monologue.

Use of Sensory Elements

The noteworthy characteristic of Victorian Poetry was the use of sensory elements. Many Victorian Poets used sensory imagery which explores the five human senses such as sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. These senses convey the chaos or scuffle between Religion and Science, and ideas about Nature and Romance, which paints the readers minds and hearts and let their mind travel to the Victorian age. The use of sensory elements was a recurring theme. This can be explored in the work of an English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. For example, in the poem “Mariana” the lines from “The doors upon…wainscot shrieked”, the poet used to engage our sense and uses imagery like creaking of the door, mouse scampering on the moldy wood panel and blue fly singing in the window these paints active picture but deserted farmhouse.

Use of Sentimentality

The Victorian period was known is remembered as the age of sentiment and sensibility. Victorian sentimentality is a perfect example of indulgent and excessive weeping, and the reaction against it, as summarize in Oscar Wilde’s remark that it would need person possessing heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing, was crucial to many writers of the modernist generation. In recent years, Victorian literature has been seen with greater sympathy and internal discrimination which modernism or realism completely disagree as they view it as over exaggeration of human emotions. Poets like Emily Bronte, Lord Alfred Tennyson prominently used sentimentality in their poems. The husband-and-wife poet duo, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and Robert Browning conducted their love affair through verse and produced many tender and passionate poems. Most prominent of which are Elizabeth Barrett-Brownings Sonnets from Portuguese, the most notably her If thou must love me and How do I love thee.

Use of Medieval Fables and Legends

The reclaiming of the past was a major part of Victorian literature taking deep interest in both classical and medieval literature of England. The Victorians loved the heroic, chivalrous stories of medieval era’s knights and aimed to gain noble and courtly behavior to impress their own people both at home and in the wider empire. The best example of this is Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, which blended the stories of King Arthur to Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur with current concerns and ideas. Poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins drew inspiration from verse forms of Old English poetry such as

Beowulf. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood also drew on myth and folklore for their art, with Dante Gabriel Rossetti regarded as the chief poet amongst them.

Use of Dramatic Monologue

Definitions of the dramatic monologue, a form invented and practiced principally by Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Dante Rossetti, and other. It is widely agreed that a dramatic monologue a poem must have a speaker and an implied auditor, and that the reader often perceives a gap between what that speaker says and what he or she actually reveals. Glenn Everett (Author of Victorian Literature and Culture, Paperson Language & Literature, ELN, and Victorian Poetry.) proposes that Browninesque dramatic monologue has three requirements. There are three major types of dramatic monologues such as Romantic monologue, Philosophical and psychological monologue, and Conversational monologue.


Sentimentalism, Ethics and the Culture of Feeling, year 2000, publication Palgrave Macmillan and author Michael Bell



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