Victorian literature is anything published during the time of Queen Victoria and her reign (1837-1901).
Actual Victorian writers include the British writers who were living in Britain during her reign, but the term has also been used to describe writers from America and Europe.
Victorian literature also creates a bridge between the Romantic and Dark-Romantic writings of the early 19th century into the Edwardian era and the early 20th Century.
Below is a list of British novelists and poets who published their works during the Victorian era:
Charles Dickens – (1812- 1870)
Charles Dickens is considered one of the greatest and certainly most popular English novelists. Charles was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire on February 7th 1812 into a large family. His early years were very difficult as he suffered from various illnesses and his father was put in debtor’s prison so young Charles had to leave school and go to work in a factory. His first novel “Sketches by Boz” was published anonymously in 1833. Charles Dickens went on to become the most popular Victorian author who helped define Victorian literature and he is still one of the best-selling authors today.
Charles Dickens’s works include: Pickwick Papers (1836) Oliver Twist (1837) Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9) The Old Curiosity Shop (1841-2) A Christmas Carol (1843) Martin Chuzzlewit (1844-5) Dombey and Son (1846-8) David Copperfield (1849-50) Bleak House( 1852-3 ) Little Dorrit (1857-8 )
Wilkie Collins – (1824- 1889)
Another prolific novelist of the Victorian era was Wilkie Collins. The son of a well-known artist William Collins, he was born in London in 1824. In 1851 he met Charles Dickens and later became his close friend and literary collaborator. He wrote many popular novels but is best remembered for “The Moonstone” (1868).
Wilkie Collins was a friend and collaborator with Charles Dickens, writing many short stories and novels together. His most well-known novel today is The Moonstone. He also wrote many mystery novels including Armadale( 1866), No Name(1862), and The Woman in White (1860).
Thomas Hardy – ( 1840- 1928)
Perhaps the greatest novelist of Victorian England was Thomas Hardy. His novels express his view on the changing nature of society and its morals, leading to several literary and social controversies during his lifetime.
Born in 1840, he became an architect’s apprentice at age 16. He left the profession after his first novel “The Poor Man and the Lady” was published in 1867 under a pseudonym. Hardy went on to publish novels including Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge ( 1886) , Tess of d’Urbervilles(1891), and Jude the Obscure(1895).
Anthony Trollope – (1815- 1882)
Another well-known British novelist of the Victorian era was Anthony Trollope. He began work as a junior clerk at the General Post Office and worked there full time from 1840- 1859. While employed there wrote over 40 novels including Barchester Towers (1857).
The Bronte Sisters
The three Bronte sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are often mentioned together because they shared a home called “The Parsonage” in the town of Haworth in Yorkshire. Each wrote novels during the Victorian era with all three becoming published authors by 1846. Their most famous novels are probably Charlotte’s Jane Eyre which was published in 1847, under the pseudonym Currer Bell, and Emily’s Wuthering Heights.
Robert Louis Stevenson – (1850- 1894)
Another prolific Victorian author was Robert Louis Stevenson. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on November 13th, 1850. His most famous works include “Treasure Island” (1883), “Kidnapped” (1886 ), and the collection of poems New Arabian Nights( 1882). In addition, he was also a poet and essayist whose “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes” (1879) remains popular today.
Lewis Carroll – (1832- 1898)
The pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was used by the Victorian author best known for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland( 1865). He was a mathematician who wrote under this pen name because he didn’t want to be associated with children’s stories. Lewis Carroll later wrote other popular novels including “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There”(1872).
Bram Stoker – (1847- 1912)
Another author who was not known for his children’s stories, Bram Stoker is best remembered for his 1897 Gothic novel “Dracula”. Similar to Mary Shelley he had little formal education and worked as a civil servant. He first became interested in the theater after seeing Henry Irving act. His most famous work was published in 1897 and was a classic of Gothic horror fiction. It has been adapted many times for film and other media including stage, opera, ballet, and graphic novels.
Alfred Tennyson – (1809- 1892)
Perhaps the most famous Victorian poet of all was Alfred Lord Tennyson. He lived during an important period in English history and wrote on many different themes including portraits of dramatic moments of life, tales of heroic exploits, satire, romance, verse drama, prayer, conversation, prophecy, and elegies. A lot of Tennyson’s poetry was inspired by classical literature.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – (1859 – 1930)
Considered by many to be the greatest mystery writer of all time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has an incredibly impressive bibliography that includes novels, short stories, poems, plays, and books on spiritualism. He was born in Edinburgh Scotland where he became a medical student at age 18. His first novel “The Mystery of Cloomber” was published in 1888 after being serialized but it wasn’t until 1891 when he created Sherlock Holmes that he received widespread fame.
Rudyard Kipling – (1865 – 1936)
Another author of the Victorian era whose work is still very popular today was Rudyard Kipling. He was born in Mumbai, India, and attended school there before going to England at the age of 16 to work as a journalist. His first novel “Barrack-Room Ballads” was published in 1892 and he is most well known for his poems including “Gunga Din” and “If”. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 and was also awarded the C.B.E., Légion d’honneur, and Order of Merit.
H.G. Wells – (1866 – 1946 )
One of the earliest science fiction writers in history, Herbert George Wells was born in Kent, England. He attended both public and boarding schools but didn’t have a very high opinion of his formal education. At age 17 he began working as a draper’s apprentice but it wasn’t until 1895 that he published his first book “The Time Machine”. Other well-known novels include The War of the Worlds (1898/9), The Invisible Man (1897), and The Island of Dr. Moreau( 1896).
Other Famous Writers include:
- William Makepeace Thackeray
- George Eliot
- Oscar Wilde
- Elizabeth Gaskell
- Matthew Arnold
- Edward Lear
- R.D. Blackmore
- Marie Corelli
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Thomas Hughes
- Robert Browning
- Gerard Hopkins
- Thomas Carlyle
- Christina Rosetti
- Thomas de Quincey
- George Macdonald
- George Gissing
- Edith Nesbit
- Mary Elizabeth Braddon
- Margaret Oliphant
- Olive Schreiner
- Anna Sewell
- H. Rider Haggard
- Ellen Wood
- Mary Augusta Ward
Many great Victorian authors have helped to define the period for us with their excellent literature. It is interesting to note that many of these books, including The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, remain popular today. Their pieces are still read and continue to inspire new generations of authors around the world.