The Victorian Age (1832-1901) 1. Major dates:
1832: The First Reform Bill: Now all men owning property worth ten pounds or more in annual rent could vote. IOW, the lower middle classes were now able to vote, but not the working classes (they had to wait for the second Reform Bill in 1867). IOW, the bill broke up the monopoly held by conservative landowners.
1837: Victoria becomes queen
1840s: Depression led to rioting. Life in Victorian factories and mines was "poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Hobbes).
1846: The Corn Laws repealed: High tariffs on imported grains (corn, etc.) created to protect English farm products from competition with low-priced products from abroad. Their repeal allowed free trade, enabled the influx of lower priced goods, and helped relieve the economic crisis.
2. Major characteristic: An age of expansion (cf. "Ulysses," "that untravelled world, whose margin fades / For ever and for ever when I move"), which had to do with industrialization.
Shift from land ownership as the basis of economy to trade and manufacturing. IOW, a quantum leap ITO industrialization.
For example: improvements in steam power for railways, ships, looms, printing presses, and farmers' combines; and the introduction of the telegraph, intercontinental cable, photography, anesthetics, and universal compulsory education.
Morris and Pater: education and art can fill the void left by faith
Late Victorian period, 1870-1901: The decay of Victorian values
People became aware of the disparity between the smoothly-running institutions of mid-Victorian England the actual turbulence in which people were living.
Irish question: Irish home rule became a heated debate.
Germany's military build up under Bismarck threatened England's military position as well as her preeminence in trade and industry.
Competition from US after our War of Northern Aggression.
Depressions in 1873 and 1874.
Labor became an economic and political force: the Second Reform Bill gave people the right to vote. Thus labor became a force to be reckoned with.
4. Central question for literary analysis: What is the proper role of the poet in society? Should the poet withdraw from society? How do the three poems we'll study relate to issues of the poet's relationship to society?