History of Literature

English literature



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The 18th century

The 18th century. The novel

The Romantic period

The later Romantics

The Post-Romantic and Victorian eras

Late Victorian literature

The 20th century. The Modernist revolution

The literature of World War I and the interwar period

Literature after 1945. Fiction. Poetry

Literature after 1945. Drama. The 21st century


English literature


Late Victorian literature


Charles Darwin
Walter Pater

George Eliot  "Silas Marner"

Anthony Trollope  "Barchester Towers"

George Meredith  "The Egoist"

Wilkie Collins  "The Moonstone"   PART I, PART II "The Woman in White", PART I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VI Illustrations by John McLenan

Robert Louis Stevenson  "Treasure Island
" Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth

William Morris

Oscar Wilde  I. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", "The Paradox" 
"The Picture of Dorian Gray"
"Salome" Illustrations by Beardsley

George Moore

George Gissing

Thomas Hardy  "Tess of the d'Urbervilles"    PART I, PART II

J. M. Barrie  "Peter Pan" 
"Peter and Wendy"
  CHAPTER 1-5, CHAPTER 6-17  Illustrations by F. D. Bedford
"Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens"   CHAPTER I, CHAPTER II-IV, CHAPTER V-VI  Illustrations by Arthur Rackham

George MacDonald  "The Princess and the Goblin"  

Bram Stoker  "Dracula"   CHAPTER 1-10, CHAPTER 11-27

H.G. Wells  "The War of the Worlds"   PART I, PART II   
"The Invisible Man"
"A Short History of the World"  PART I, II, III, IV, V

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  "SHERLOCK HOLMES" (contents)
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"    PART I,  PART II Illustrations by Sidney Paget
"Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"
Illustrations by Sidney Paget
"The Return of Sherlock Holmes"   
PART I,  PART II Illustrations by Sidney Paget
"The Hound of the Baskervilles"     PART I,  PART II Illustrations by Sidney Paget
"A Study in Scarlet", "The Valley of Fear", "His Last Bow", "The Sign of Four"

Dante Gabriel Rossetti  "The House of Life"
Christina Rossetti
Gerard Manley Hopkins
John Davidson
Arthur Symons
Francis Thompson
Ernest Dowson
Lionel Johnson

A.E. Housman
  "A Shropshire Lad", "Last Poems"

Rudyard Kipling  PART I "Poems"  PART II "Kim"  PART III "The Jungle Book"

Dion Boucicault
T.W. Robertson
Arthur Wing Pinero
Douglas Jerrold
Edward Lear

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll - photographer   PART 2
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"   PART 3, PART 4, PART 5   Illustrations by John Tenniel
Through the Looking-Glass"   PART 6PART 7, PART 8   Illustrations by John Tenniel
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham  PART 9
Walt Disney’s "Alice in Wonderland"
  PART10,   PART 11

Jerome K. Jerome 
"Three Men in a Boat"

George Grossmith



“The modern spirit,” Matthew Arnold observed in 1865, “is now awake.” In 1859 Charles Darwin had published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Historians, philosophers, and scientists were all beginning to apply the idea of evolution to new areas of study of the human experience. Traditional conceptions of man’s nature and place in the world were, as a consequence, under threat. Walter Pater summed up the process, in 1866, by stating that “Modern thought is distinguished from ancient by its cultivation of the ‘relative’ spirit in place of the ‘absolute.’ ”

The economic crisis of the 1840s was long past. But the fierce political debates that led first to the Second Reform Act of 1867 and then to the battles for the enfranchisement of women were accompanied by a deepening crisis of belief.


Charles Darwin

British naturalist
in full Charles Robert Darwin

born February 12, 1809, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
died April 19, 1882, Downe, Kent

English naturalist whose theory of evolution by natural selection became the foundation of modern evolutionary studies. An affable country gentleman, Darwin at first shocked religious Victorian society by suggesting that animals and humans shared a common ancestry. However, his nonreligious biology appealed to the rising class of professional scientists, and by the time of his death evolutionary imagery had spread through all of science, literature, and politics. Darwin, himself an agnostic, was accorded the ultimate British accolade of burial in Westminster Abbey, London. (In February 2009, for the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, the Britannica Blog asked two of Britannica’s contributors to answer a few questions on the current influence of Charles Darwin and his ideas. Noted evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, professor biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Britannica’s entry on evolution and Evolving: The Theory and Processes of Organic Evolution and others, addresses some of the current developments in evolutionary biology, while Adam Gopnik, a staff writer at the The New Yorker and author of the cultural life section of Britannica’s United States entry and Angels and Ages, explores the linkage between Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, with whom he shares his birthday.)

Darwin formulated his bold theory in private in 1837–39, after returning from a voyage around the world aboard HMS Beagle, but it was not until two decades later that he finally gave it full public expression in On the Origin of Species (1859), a book that has deeply influenced modern Western society and thought.

Early life and education
Darwin was the second son of society doctor Robert Waring Darwin and of Susannah Wedgwood, daughter of the Unitarian pottery industrialist Josiah Wedgwood. Darwin’s other grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, a freethinking physician and poet fashionable before the French Revolution, was author of Zoonomia or the Laws of Organic Life (1794–96). Darwin’s mother died when he was eight, and he was cared for by his three elder sisters. The boy stood in awe of his overbearing father, whose astute medical observations taught him much about human psychology. But he hated the rote learning of Classics at the traditional Anglican Shrewsbury School, where he studied between 1818 and 1825. Science was then considered dehumanizing in English public schools, and for dabbling in chemistry Darwin was condemned by his headmaster (and nicknamed “Gas” by his schoolmates).

His father, considering the 16-year-old a wastrel interested only in game shooting, sent him to study medicine at Edinburgh University in 1825. Later in life, Darwin gave the impression that he had learned little during his two years at Edinburgh. In fact, it was a formative experience. There was no better science education in a British university. He was taught to understand the chemistry of cooling rocks on the primitive Earth and how to classify plants by the modern “natural system.” In Edinburgh Museum he was taught to stuff birds by a freed South American slave and to identify the rock strata and colonial flora and fauna.

More crucially, the university’s radical students exposed the teenager to the latest Continental sciences. Edinburgh attracted English Dissenters who were barred from graduating at the Anglican universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and at student societies Darwin heard freethinkers deny the Divine design of human facial anatomy and argue that animals shared all the human mental faculties. One talk, on the mind as the product of a material brain, was officially censored, for such materialism was considered subversive in the conservative decades after the French Revolution. Darwin was witnessing the social penalties of holding deviant views. As he collected sea slugs and sea pens on nearby shores, he was accompanied by Robert Edmond Grant, a radical evolutionist and disciple of the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. An expert on sponges, Grant became Darwin’s mentor, teaching him about the growth and relationships of primitive marine invertebrates, which Grant believed held the key to unlocking the mysteries surrounding the origin of more complex creatures. Darwin, encouraged to tackle the larger questions of life through a study of invertebrate zoology, made his own observations on the larval sea mat (Flustra) and announced his findings at the student societies.

The young Darwin learned much in Edinburgh’s rich intellectual environment, but not medicine: he loathed anatomy, and (pre-chloroform) surgery sickened him. His freethinking father, shrewdly realizing that the church was a better calling for an aimless naturalist, switched him to Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1828. In a complete change of environment, Darwin was now educated as an Anglican gentleman. He took his horse, indulged his drinking, shooting, and beetle-collecting passions with other squires’ sons, and managed 10th place in the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1831. Here he was shown the conservative side of botany by a young professor, the Reverend John Stevens Henslow, while that doyen of Providential design in the animal world, the Reverend Adam Sedgwick, took Darwin to Wales in 1831 on a geologic field trip.

Fired by Alexander von Humboldt’s account of the South American jungles in his Personal Narrative of Travels, Darwin jumped at Henslow’s suggestion of a voyage to Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, aboard a rebuilt brig, HMS Beagle. Darwin would not sail as a lowly surgeon-naturalist but as a self-financed gentleman companion to the 26-year-old captain, Robert Fitzroy, an aristocrat who feared the loneliness of command. Fitzroy’s was to be an imperial-evangelical voyage: he planned to survey coastal Patagonia to facilitate British trade and return three “savages” previously brought to England from Tierra del Fuego and Christianized. Darwin equipped himself with weapons, books (Fitzroy gave him the first volume of Principles of Geology, by Charles Lyell), and advice on preserving carcasses from London Zoo’s experts. The Beagle sailed from England on December 27, 1831.

The Beagle voyage
The circumnavigation of the globe (see the map) would be the making of the 22-year-old Darwin. Five years of physical hardship and mental rigour, imprisoned within a ship’s walls, offset by wide-open opportunities in the Brazilian jungles and the Andes Mountains, were to give Darwin a new seriousness. As a gentleman naturalist, he could leave the ship for extended periods, pursuing his own interests. As a result, he spent only 18 months of the voyage aboard the ship.

The hardship was immediate: a tormenting seasickness. And so was his questioning: on calm days Darwin’s plankton-filled townet left him wondering why beautiful creatures teemed in the ocean’s vastness, where no human could appreciate them. On the Cape Verde Islands (January 1832), the sailor saw bands of oyster shells running through local rocks, suggesting that Lyell was right in his geologic speculations and that the land was rising in places, falling in others. At Bahia (now Salvador), Brazil, the luxuriance of the rainforest (see the engraving) left Darwin’s mind in “a chaos of delight.” But that mind, with its Wedgwood-abolitionist characteristics, was revolted by the local slavery. For Darwin, so often alone, the tropical forests seemed to compensate for human evils: months were spent in Rio de Janeiro amid this shimmering tropical splendour, full of “gaily-coloured” flatworms, and the collector himself became “red-hot with Spiders.” But nature had its own evils, and Darwin always remembered with a shudder the parasitic ichneumon wasp, which stored caterpillars to be eaten alive by its grubs. He would later consider this evidence against the beneficent design of nature.

On the River Plate (Río de la Plata) in July 1832, he found Montevideo, Uruguay, in a state of rebellion and joined armed sailors to retake the rebel-held fort. At Bahía Blanca, Argentina, gauchos told him of their extermination of the Pampas “Indians.” Beneath the veneer of human civility, genocide seemed the rule on the frontier, a conclusion reinforced by Darwin’s meeting with General Juan Manuel de Rosas and his “villainous Banditti-like army,” in charge of eradicating the natives. For a sensitive young man, fresh from Christ’s College, this was disturbing. His contact with “untamed” humans on Tierra del Fuego in December 1832 unsettled him more. (See the drawing of a Fuegian Indian from Fitzroy’s book on the Beagle voyage.) How great, wrote Darwin, the “difference between savage & civilized man is.—It is greater than between a wild & [a] domesticated animal.” God had evidently created humans in a vast cultural range, and yet, judging by the Christianized savages aboard, even the “lowest” races were capable of improvement. Darwin was tantalized, and always he niggled for explanations.

His fossil discoveries raised more questions. Darwin’s periodic trips over two years to the cliffs at Bahía Blanca and farther south at Port St. Julian yielded huge bones of extinct mammals. Darwin manhandled skulls, femurs, and armour plates back to the ship—relics, he assumed, of rhinoceroses, mastodons, cow-sized armadillos, and giant ground sloths (see the engraving of the Megatherium skeleton). He unearthed a horse-sized mammal with a long face like an anteater’s, and he returned from a 340-mile (550-km) ride to Mercedes near the Uruguay River with a skull 28 inches (71 cm) long strapped to his horse. Fossil extraction became a romance for Darwin. It pushed him into thinking of the primeval world and what had caused these giant beasts to die out.

The land was evidently changing, rising; Darwin’s observations in the Andes Mountains confirmed it. After the Beagle surveyed the Falkland Islands, and after Darwin had packed away at Port Desire (Puerto Deseado), Argentina, the partially gnawed bones of a new species of small rhea, the ship sailed up the west coast of South America to Valparaíso, Chile. Here Darwin climbed 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) into the Andean foothills and marveled at the forces that could raise such mountains. The forces themselves became tangible when he saw volcanic Mount Osorno erupt on January 15, 1835. Then in Valdivia, Chile, on February 20, as he lay on a forest floor, the ground shook: the violence of the earthquake and ensuing tidal wave was enough to destroy the great city of Concepción, whose rubble Darwin walked through. (See the sketch from Fitzroy’s narrative.) But what intrigued him was the seemingly insignificant: the local mussel beds, all dead, were now lying above high tide. The land had risen: Lyell, taking the uniformitarian position, had argued that geologic formations were the result of steady cumulative forces of the sort we see today. And Darwin had seen them. The continent was thrusting itself up, a few feet at a time. He imagined the eons it had taken to raise the fossilized trees in sandstone (once seashore mud) to 7,000 feet (2,100 metres), where he found them. Darwin began thinking in terms of deep time.

They left Peru on the circumnavigation home in September 1835. First Darwin landed on the “frying hot” Galapagos Islands. These were volcanic prison islands, crawling with marine iguanas and giant tortoises. (Darwin and the crew brought small tortoises aboard as pets, to join their coatis from Peru.) Contrary to legend, these islands never provided Darwin’s “eureka” moment. Although he noted that the mockingbirds differed on four islands and tagged his specimens accordingly, he failed to label his other birds—what he thought were wrens, “gross-beaks,” finches, and oriole-relatives—by island. Nor did Darwin collect tortoise specimens, even though local prisoners believed that each island had its distinct race.

The “home-sick heroes” returned via Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia. By April 1836, when the Beagle made the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean—Fitzroy’s brief being to see if coral reefs sat on mountain tops—Darwin already had his theory of reef formation. He imagined (correctly) that these reefs grew on sinking mountain rims. The delicate coral built up, compensating for the drowning land, so as to remain within optimal heat and lighting conditions. At the Cape of Good Hope, Darwin talked with the astronomer Sir John Herschel, possibly about Lyell’s gradual geologic evolution and perhaps about how it entailed a new problem, the “mystery of mysteries,” the simultaneous change of fossil life.

On the last leg of the voyage Darwin finished his 770-page diary, wrapped up 1,750 pages of notes, drew up 12 catalogs of his 5,436 skins, bones, and carcasses—and still he wondered: Was each Galapagos mockingbird a naturally produced variety? Why did ground sloths become extinct? He sailed home with problems enough to last him a lifetime. When he landed in October 1836, the vicarage had faded, the gun had given way to the notebook, and the supreme theorizer—who would always move from small causes to big outcomes—had the courage to look beyond the conventions of his own Victorian culture for new answers.

Evolution by natural selection: the London years, 1836–42
With his voyage over and with a £400 annual allowance from his father, Darwin now settled down among the urban gentry as a gentleman geologist. He befriended Lyell, and he discussed the rising Chilean coastline as a new fellow of the Geological Society in January 1837 (he was secretary of the society by 1838). Darwin became well known through his diary’s publication as Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle (1839). With a £1,000 Treasury grant, obtained through the Cambridge network, he employed the best experts and published their descriptions of his specimens in his Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1838–43). Darwin’s star had risen, and he was now lionized in London.

It was in these years of civil unrest following the First Reform Act (1832) that Darwin devised his theory of evolution. Radical Dissenters were denouncing the church’s monopoly on power—attacking an Anglican status quo that rested on miraculous props: the supposed supernatural creation of life and society. Darwin had Unitarian roots, and his breathless notes show how his radical Dissenting understanding of equality and antislavery framed his image of mankind’s place in nature: “Animals—whom we have made our slaves we do not like to consider our equals.—Do not slave holders wish to make the black man other kind?” Some radicals questioned whether each animal was uniquely “designed” by God when all vertebrates shared a similar structural plan. The polymathic Charles Babbage—of calculating machine fame—made God a divine programmer, preordaining life by means of natural law rather than ad hoc miracle. It was the ultra-Whig way, and in 1837 Darwin, an impeccable Whig reformer who enjoyed Babbage’s soirees, likewise accepted that “the Creator creates by…laws.”

The experts’ findings sent Darwin to more heretical depths. At the Royal College of Surgeons, the eminent anatomist Richard Owen found that Darwin’s Uruguay River skull belonged to Toxodon, a hippotamus-sized antecedent of the South American capybara. The Pampas fossils were nothing like rhinoceroses and mastodons; they were huge extinct armadillos, anteaters, and sloths, which suggested that South American mammals had been replaced by their own kind according to some unknown “law of succession.” At the Zoological Society, ornithologist John Gould announced that the Galapagos birds were not a mixture of wrens, finches, and “gross-beaks” but were all ground finches, differently adapted. When Gould diagnosed the Galapagos mockingbirds as three species, unique to different islands, in March 1837, Darwin examined Fitzroy’s collection to discover that each island had its representative finch as well. But how had they all diverged from mainland colonists? By this time Darwin was living near his freethinking brother, Erasmus, in London’s West End, and their dissident dining circle, which included the Unitarian Harriet Martineau, provided the perfect milieu for Darwin’s ruminations. Darwin adopted “transmutation” (evolution, as it is now called), perhaps because of his familiarity with it through the work of his grandfather and Robert Grant. Nonetheless, it was abominated by the Cambridge clerics as a bestial, if not blasphemous, heresy that would corrupt mankind and destroy the spiritual safeguards of the social order. Thus began Darwin’s double life, which would last for two decades.

For two years he filled notebooks with jottings. There was an intensity and doggedness to it. He searched for the causes of extinction, accepted life as a branching tree (not a series of escalators, the old idea), tackled island isolation, and wondered whether variations appeared gradually or at a stroke. He dismissed a Lamarckian force driving life inexorably upward with the cavalier joke, “If all men were dead then monkeys make men.—Men make angels,” which showed how little the failed ordinand shared his Cambridge mentors’ hysteria about an ape ancestry. Indeed, there was no “upward”: he became relativistic, sensing that life was spreading outward into niches, not standing on a ladder. There was no way of ranking humans and bees, no yardstick of “highness”: man was no longer the crown of creation.

Heart palpitations and stomach problems were affecting him by September 1837. Stress sent him to the Highlands of Scotland in 1838, where he diverted himself studying the “parallel roads” of Glen Roy, so like the raised beaches in Chile. But the sickness returned as he continued chipping at the scientific bedrock of a cleric-dominated society. The “whole [miraculous] fabric totters & falls,” he jotted. Darwin had a right to be worried. Were his secret discovered, he would stand accused of social abandon. At Edinburgh he had seen censorship; other materialists were being publicly disgraced. His notes began mooting disarming ploys: “Mention persecution of early astronomers.” Behind his respectable facade at the Geological Society lay a new contempt for the divines’ providential shortsightedness. The president, the Reverend William Whewell, “says length of days adapted to duration of sleep of man.!!!” he jotted. What “arrogance!!”

Mankind: there was the crux. Darwin wrote humans and society into the evolutionary equation from the start. He saw the social instincts of troop animals developing into morality and studied the humanlike behaviour of orangutans at the zoo. With avant-garde society radicalized, Darwin moved into his own ultraradical phase in 1838—even suggesting that belief in God was an ingrained tribal survival strategy: “love of [the] deity [is an] effect of [the brain’s] organization. Oh you Materialist!” he mocked himself. In a day when a gentleman’s character had to be above reproach, Darwin’s notes had a furtive ring. None of this could become known—yet. The rich careerist—admitted to the prestigious Athenaeum Club in 1838 and the Royal Society in 1839—had too much to lose.

As a sporting gent from the shires, Darwin queried breeders about the way they changed domestic dogs and fancy pigeons by spotting slight variations and accentuating them through breeding. But he only saw the complete congruity between the way nature operated and the way fanciers produced new breeds upon reading the economist Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population in September 1838. This was a seminal moment—even if Malthusian ideas had long permeated his Whig circle. Darwin was living through a workhouse revolution. Malthus had said that there would always be too many mouths to feed—population increases geometrically, whereas food production rises arithmetically—and that charity was useless. So the Whigs had passed a Malthusian Poor Law in 1834 and were incarcerating sick paupers in workhouses (separating men from women to stop them from breeding). Darwin’s dining companion Harriet Martineau (whom many expected to marry his brother, Erasmus), was the Whigs’ poor law propagandist. (Her novelistic Malthusian pamphlets had been sent to Darwin while he was on the Beagle.) Darwin realized that population explosions would lead to a struggle for resources and that the ensuing competition would weed out the unfit. It was an idea he now applied to nature (he had previously thought that animal populations remained stable in the wild). Darwin called his modified Malthusian mechanism “natural selection.” Nature was equally uncharitable, went the argument: overpopulated, it experienced a fierce struggle, and from all manner of chance variations, good and bad, the best, “the surviving one of ten thousand trials,” won out, endured, and thus passed on its improved trait. This was the way a species kept pace with the Lyellian evolution of the Earth.

Darwin was a born list maker. In 1838 he even totted up the pros and cons of taking a wife—and married his cousin Emma Wedgwood (1808–96) in 1839. He rashly confided his thoughts on evolution, evidently shocking her. By now, Darwin accepted the notion that even mental traits and instincts were randomly varying, that they were the stuff for selection. But he saw from Emma’s reaction that he must publicly camouflage his views. Although the randomness and destructiveness of his evolutionary system—with thousands dying so that the “fittest” might survive—left little room for a personally operating benign deity, Darwin still believed that God was the ultimate lawgiver of the universe. In 1839 he shut his last major evolution notebook, his theory largely complete.

The squire naturalist in Downe
Darwin drafted a 35-page sketch of his theory of natural selection in 1842 and expanded it in 1844, but he had no immediate intention of publishing it. He wrote Emma a letter in 1844 requesting that, if he died, she should pay an editor £400 to publish the work. Perhaps he wanted to die first. In 1842, Darwin, increasingly shunning society, had moved the family to the isolated village of Downe, in Kent, at the “extreme edge of [the] world.” (It was in fact only 16 miles [26 km] from central London.) Here, living in a former parsonage, Down House, he emulated the lifestyle of his clerical friends. Fearing prying eyes, he even lowered the road outside his house. His seclusion was complete: from now on he ran his days like clockwork, with set periods for walking, napping, reading, and nightly backgammon. He fulfilled his parish responsibilities, eventually helping to run the local Coal and Clothing Club for the labourers. His work hours were given over to bees, flowers, and barnacles and to his books on coral reefs and South American geology, three of which in 1842–46 secured his reputation as a career geologist.

He rarely mentioned his secret. When he did, notably to the Kew Gardens botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin said that believing in evolution was “like confessing a murder.” The analogy with this capital offense was not so strange: seditious atheists were using evolution as part of their weaponry against Anglican oppression and were being jailed for blasphemy. Darwin, nervous and nauseous, trying spas and quack remedies (even tying plate batteries to his heaving stomach), understood the conservative clerical morality. He was sensitive to the offense he might cause. He was also immensely wealthy: by the late 1840s the Darwins had £80,000 invested; he was an absentee landlord of two large Lincolnshire farms; and in the 1850s he plowed tens of thousands of pounds into railway shares. Even though his theory, with its capitalist and meritocratic emphasis, was quite unlike anything touted by the radicals and rioters, these turbulent years were no time to break cover.

From 1846 to 1854, Darwin added to his credibility as an expert on species by pursuing a detailed study of all known barnacles. Intrigued by their sexual differentiation, he discovered that some females had tiny degenerate males clinging to them. This sparked his interest in the evolution of diverging male and female forms from an original hermaphrodite creature. Four monographs on such an obscure group made him a world expert and gained him the Royal Society’s Royal Medal in 1853. No longer could he be dismissed as a speculator on biological matters.

On the Origin of Species
England became quieter and more prosperous in the 1850s, and by mid-decade the professionals were taking over, instituting exams and establishing a meritocracy. The changing social composition of science—typified by the rise of the freethinking biologist Thomas Henry Huxley—promised a better reception for Darwin. Huxley, the philosopher Herbert Spencer, and other outsiders were opting for a secular nature in the rationalist Westminster Review and deriding the influence of “parsondom.” Darwin had himself lost the last shreds of his belief in Christianity with the tragic death of his oldest daughter, Annie, from typhoid in 1851.

The world was becoming safer for Darwin and his theory: mid-Victorian England was stabler than the “hungry Thirties” or turbulent 1840s. In 1854 he solved his last major problem, the forking of genera to produce new evolutionary branches. He used an industrial analogy familiar from the Wedgwood factories, the division of labour: competition in nature’s overcrowded marketplace would favour variants that could exploit different aspects of a niche. Species would diverge on the spot, like tradesmen in the same tenement. Through 1855 Darwin experimented with seeds in seawater, to prove that they could survive ocean crossings to start the process of speciation on islands. Then he kept fancy pigeons, to see if the chicks were more like the ancestral rock dove than their own bizarre parents. Darwin perfected his analogy of natural selection with the fancier’s “artificial selection,” as he called it. He was preparing his rhetorical strategy, ready to present his theory.

After speaking to Huxley and Hooker at Downe in April 1856, Darwin began writing a triple-volume book, tentatively called Natural Selection, which was designed to crush the opposition with a welter of facts. Darwin now had immense scientific and social authority, and his place in the parish was assured when he was sworn in as a justice of the peace in 1857. Encouraged by Lyell, Darwin continued writing through the birth of his 10th and last child, the mentally retarded Charles Waring Darwin (born in 1856, when Emma was 48). Whereas in the 1830s Darwin had thought that species remained perfectly adapted until the environment changed, he now believed that every new variation was imperfect, and that perpetual struggle was the rule. He also explained the evolution of sterile worker bees in 1857. These could not be selected because they did not breed, so he opted for “family” selection (kin selection, as it is known today): the whole colony benefited from their retention.

Darwin had finished a quarter of a million words by June 18, 1858. That day he received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace, an English socialist and specimen collector working in the Malay Archipelago, sketching a similar-looking theory. Darwin, fearing loss of priority, accepted Lyell’s and Hooker’s solution: they read joint extracts from Darwin’s and Wallace’s works at the Linnean Society on July 1, 1858. Darwin was away, sick, grieving for his tiny son who had died from scarlet fever, and thus he missed the first public presentation of the theory of natural selection. It was an absenteeism that would mark his later years.

Darwin hastily began an “abstract” of Natural Selection, which grew into a more accessible book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Suffering from a terrible bout of nausea, Darwin, now 50, was secreted away at a spa on the desolate Yorkshire moors when the book was sold to the trade on November 22, 1859. He still feared the worst and sent copies to the experts with self-effacing letters (“how you will long to crucify me alive”). It was like “living in Hell,” he said about these months.

The book did distress his Cambridge patrons, but they were marginal to science now. However, radical Dissenters were sympathetic, as were the rising London biologists and geologists, even if few actually adopted Darwin’s cost-benefit approach to nature. The newspapers drew the one conclusion that Darwin had specifically avoided: that humans had evolved from apes, and that Darwin was denying mankind’s immortality. A sensitive Darwin, making no personal appearances, let Huxley, by now a good friend, manage this part of the debate. The pugnacious Huxley, who loved public argument as much as Darwin loathed it, had his own reasons for taking up the cause, and did so with enthusiasm. He wrote three reviews of Origin of Species, defended human evolution at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1860 (when Bishop Samuel Wilberforce jokingly asked whether the apes were on Huxley’s grandmother’s or grandfather’s side), and published his own book on human evolution, Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature (1863). What Huxley championed was Darwin’s evolutionary naturalism, his nonmiraculous assumptions, which pushed biological science into previously taboo areas and increased the power of Huxley’s professionals. And it was they who gained the Royal Society’s Copley Medal for Darwin in 1864.

Huxley’s reaction, with its enthusiasm for evolution and cooler opinion of natural selection, was typical. Natural selection—the “law of higgledy-piggledy” in Herschel’s dismissive words—received little support in Darwin’s day. By contrast, evolution itself (“descent,” Darwin called it—the word evolution would only be introduced in the last, 1872, edition of the Origin) was being acknowledged from British Association platforms by 1866. That year, too, Darwin met his German admirer, the zoologist Ernst Haeckel, whose proselytizing would spread Darwinismus through the Prussian world. Two years later the King of Prussia conferred on Darwin the order Pour le Mérite.

The patriarch in his home laboratory
Long periods of debilitating sickness in the 1860s left the craggy, bearded Darwin thin and ravaged. He once vomited for 27 consecutive days. Down House was an infirmary where illness was the norm and Emma the attendant nurse. She was a shield, protecting the patriarch, cosseting him. Darwin was a typical Victorian in his racial and sexual stereotyping—however dependent on his redoubtable wife, he still thought women inferior; and although a fervent abolitionist, he still considered blacks a lower race. But few outside of the egalitarian socialists challenged these prejudices—and Darwin, immersed in a competitive Whig culture, and enshrining its values in his science, had no time for socialism.

The house was also a laboratory, where Darwin continued experimenting and revamping the Origin through six editions. Although quietly swearing by “my deity ‘Natural Selection,’” he answered critics by reemphasizing other causes of change—for example, the effects of continued use of an organ—and he bolstered the Lamarckian belief that such alterations through excessive use might be passed on. In Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication (1868) he marshaled the facts and explored the causes of variation in domestic breeds. The book answered critics such as George Douglas Campbell, the eighth duke of Argyll, who loathed Darwin’s blind, accidental process of variation and envisaged the appearance of “new births” as goal directed. By showing that fanciers picked from the gamut of naturally occurring variations to produce the tufts and topknots on their fancy pigeons, Darwin undermined this providential explanation.

In 1867 the engineer Fleeming Jenkin argued that any single favourable variation would be swamped and lost by back-breeding within the general population. No mechanism was known for inheritance, and so in the Variation Darwin devised his hypothesis of “pangenesis” to explain the discrete inheritance of traits. He imagined that each tissue of an organism threw out tiny “gemmules,” which passed to the sex organs and permitted copies of themselves to be made in the next generation. But Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton failed to find these gemmules in rabbit blood, and the theory was dismissed.

Darwin was adept at flanking movements in order to get around his critics. He would take seemingly intractable subjects—like orchid flowers—and make them test cases for “natural selection.” Hence the book that appeared after the Origin was, to everyone’s surprise, The Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilised by Insects (1862). He showed that the orchid’s beauty was not a piece of floral whimsy “designed” by God to please humans but honed by selection to attract insect cross-pollinators. The petals guided the bees to the nectaries, and pollen sacs were deposited exactly where they could be removed by a stigma of another flower.

But why the importance of cross-pollination? Darwin’s botanical work was always subtly related to his evolutionary mechanism. He believed that cross-pollinated plants would produce fitter offspring than self-pollinators, and he used considerable ingenuity in conducting thousands of crossings to prove the point. The results appeared in The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom (1876). His next book, The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species (1877), was again the result of long-standing work into the way evolution in some species favoured different male and female forms of flowers to facilitate outbreeding. Darwin had long been sensitive to the effects of inbreeding because he was himself married to a Wedgwood cousin, as was his sister Caroline. He agonized over its debilitating consequence for his five sons. Not that he need have worried, for they fared well: William became a banker, Leonard an army major, George the Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge, Francis a reader in botany at Cambridge, and Horace a scientific instrument maker. Darwin also studied insectivorous plants, climbing plants, and the response of plants to gravity and light (sunlight, he thought, activated something in the shoot tip, an idea that guided future work on growth hormones in plants).

The private man and the public debate
Through the 1860s natural selection was already being applied to the growth of society. A.R. Wallace saw cooperation strengthening the moral bonds within primitive tribes. Advocates of social Darwinism, in contrast, complained that modern civilization was protecting the “unfit” from natural selection. Francis Galton argued that particular character traits—even drunkenness and genius—were inherited and that “eugenics,” as it would come to be called, would stop the genetic drain. The trend to explain the evolution of human races, morality, and civilization was capped by Darwin in his two-volume The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). The book was authoritative, annotated, and heavily anecdotal in places. The two volumes were discrete, the first discussing the g of civilization and human origins among the Old World monkeys. (Darwin’s depiction of a hairy human ancestor with pointed ears led to a spate of caricatures; see the cartoon.) The second volume responded to critics like Argyll, who doubted that the iridescent hummingbird’s plumage had any function—or any Darwinian explanation. Darwin argued that female birds were choosing mates for their gaudy plumage. Darwin as usual tapped his huge correspondence network of breeders, naturalists, and travelers worldwide to produce evidence for this. Such “sexual selection” happened among humans too. With primitive societies accepting diverse notions of beauty, aesthetic preferences, he believed, could account for the origin of the human races.

Darwin’s explanation was also aimed partly at Wallace. Like so many disillusioned socialists, Wallace had become engaged in spiritualism. He argued that an overdeveloped human brain had been provided by the spirit forces to move humanity toward millennial perfection. Darwin had no time for this. Even though he eventually attended a séance with Galton and the novelist George Eliot (Marian Evans) at his brother’s house in 1874, he was appalled at “such rubbish,” and in 1876 he sent £10 toward the costs of the prosecution of the medium Henry Slade.

Darwin finished another long-standing line of work. Since studying the moody orangutans at London Zoo in 1838, through the births of his 10 children (whose facial contortions he duly noted), Darwin had been fascinated by expression. As a student he had heard the attacks on the idea that peoples’ facial muscles were designed by God to express their unique thoughts. Now his photographically illustrated The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) expanded the subject to include the rages and grimaces of asylum inmates, all to show the continuity of emotions and expressions between humans and animals.

The gentle Darwin elicited tremendous devotion. A protective circle formed around him, locked tight by Huxley and Hooker. It was they who ostracized detractors, particularly the Roman Catholic zoologist Saint George Jackson Mivart. Nor did Darwin forget it: he helped raise £2,100 to send a fatigued Huxley on holiday in 1873, and his pestering resulted in the impecunious Wallace being added to the Civil List in 1881. Darwin was held in awe by many, the more so because he was rarely seen. And when he was seen—for example, by the Harvard philosopher John Fiske, a privileged visitor to Down House in 1873—he was found to be “the dearest, sweetest, loveliest old grandpa that ever was.”

Darwin wrote his autobiography between 1876 and 1881. It was composed for his grandchildren, rather than for publication, and it was particularly candid on his dislike of Christian myths of eternal torment. To people who inquired about his religious beliefs, however, he would only say that he was an agnostic (a word coined by Huxley in 1869).

The treadmill of experiment and writing gave so much meaning to his life. But as he wrapped up his final, long-term interest, publishing The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms (1881), the future looked bleak. Such an earthy subject was typical Darwin: just as he had shown that today’s ecosystems were built by infinitesimal degrees and the mighty Andes by tiny uplifts, so he ended on the monumental transformation of landscapes by the Earth’s humblest denizens.

Suffering from angina, he looked forward to joining the worms, contemplating “Down graveyard as the sweetest place on earth.” He had a seizure in March 1882 and died of a heart attack on April 19. Influential groups wanted a grander commemoration than a funeral in Downe, something better for the gentleman naturalist who had delivered the “new Nature” into the new professionals’ hands. Galton had the Royal Society request the family’s permission for a state burial. Huxley, who by taking over the public debate had preserved Darwin’s reputation of “sweet and gentle nature blossomed into perfection,” as a newspaper put it, convinced the canon of Westminster Abbey to bury the diffident agnostic there. And so Darwin was laid to rest with full ecclesiastical pomp on April 26, 1882, attended by the new nobility of science and the state.

Adrian J. Desmond



Walter Pater


born Aug. 4, 1839, Shadwell, London, Eng.
died July 30, 1894, Oxford, Oxfordshire

English critic, essayist, and humanist whose advocacy of “art for art’s sake” became a cardinal doctrine of the movement known as Aestheticism.

Pater was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and at Queen’s College, Oxford, where he studied Greek philosophy under Benjamin Jowett. He then settled in Oxford and read with private pupils. In 1864 he was elected to a fellowship at Brasenose College. Pater’s early intention to enter the church gave way at this time to a consuming interest in classical studies. Pater then began to write for the reviews, and his essays on Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Pico della Mirandola, Michelangelo, and others were collected in 1873 as Studies in the History of the Renaissance (later called simply The Renaissance). His delicate, fastidious style and sensitive appreciation of Renaissance art in these essays made his reputation as a scholar and an aesthete, and he became the centre of a small group of admirers in Oxford. In the concluding essay in The Renaissance, Pater asserted that art exists for the sake of its beauty alone, and that it acknowledges neither moral standards nor utilitarian functions in its reason for being. These views brought Pater into an association with Swinburne and with the Pre-Raphaelites.

Marius the Epicurean (1885) is his most substantial work. It is a philosophical romance in which Pater’s ideal of an aesthetic and religious life is scrupulously and elaborately set forth. The setting is Rome in the time of Marcus Aurelius; but this is a thin disguise for the characteristically late-19th-century spiritual development of its main character. Imaginary Portraits (1887) are shorter pieces of philosophical fiction in the same mode. Appreciations (1889) is a return to the critical essay, this time largely on English subjects. In 1893 came Plato and Platonism, giving an extremely literary view of Plato and neglecting the logical and dialectical side of his philosophy. Pater’s Greek Studies (1895), Miscellaneous Studies (1895), and Essays from The Guardian (privately printed, 1896; 1901) were published posthumously; also published posthumously was his unfinished romance, Gaston de Latour (1896).

The primary influence on Pater’s mind was his classical studies, coloured by a highly individual view of Christian devotion and pursued largely as a source of extremely refined artistic sensations. In his later critical writings Pater continued to focus on the innate qualities of works of art, in contrast to the prevailing tendency to evaluate them on the basis of their moral and educational value.

Pater’s early influence was confined to a small circle in Oxford, but he came to have a widespread effect on the next literary generation. Oscar Wilde, George Moore, and the aesthetes of the 1890s were among his followers and show obvious and continual traces both of his style and of his ideas.


The novel

Late Victorian fiction may express doubts and uncertainties, but in aesthetic terms it displays a new sophistication and self-confidence. The expatriate American novelist Henry James wrote in 1884 that until recently the English novel had “had no air of having a theory, a conviction, a consciousness of itself behind it.” Its acquisition of these things was due in no small part to Mary Ann Evans, better known as
George Eliot. Initially a critic and translator, she was influenced, after the loss of her Christian faith, by the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach and Auguste Comte. Her advanced intellectual interests combined with her sophisticated sense of the novel form to shape her remarkable fiction. Her early novels—Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861)—are closely observed studies of English rural life that offer, at the same time, complex contemporary ideas and a subtle tracing of moral issues. Her masterpiece, Middlemarch (1871–72), is an unprecedentedly full study of the life of a provincial town, focused on the thwarted idealism of her two principal characters. George Eliot is a realist, but her realism involves a scientific analysis of the interior processes of social and personal existence.

George Eliot

"Silas Marner"


born Nov. 22, 1819, Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, Eng.
died Dec. 22, 1880, London

English Victorian novelist who developed the method of psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction. Her major works include Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876).

Early years
Evans was born on an estate of her father’s employer. She went as a boarder to Mrs. Wallington’s School at Nuneaton (1828–32), where she came under the influence of Maria Lewis, the principal governess, who inculcated a strong evangelical piety in the young girl. At her last school (1832–35), conducted by the daughters of the Baptist minister at Coventry, her religious ardour increased. She dressed severely and engaged earnestly in good works. The school gave her a reading knowledge of French and Italian, and, after her mother’s death had compelled her to return home to keep house for her father, he let her have lessons in Latin and German. In 1841 she moved with her father to Coventry.

There she became acquainted with a prosperous ribbon manufacturer, Charles Bray, a self-taught freethinker who campaigned for radical causes. His brother-in-law, Charles Hennell, was the author of An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of Christianity (1838), a book that precipitated Evans’s break with orthodoxy that had been long in preparation. Various books on the relation between the Bible and science had instilled in her keen mind the very doubts they were written to dispel. In 1842 she told her father that she could no longer go to church. The ensuing storm raged for several months before they reached a compromise, leaving her free to think what she pleased so long as she appeared respectably at church, and she lived with him until his death in 1849.

The Brays and the Hennells quickly drew her from extreme provincialism, introducing her to many ideas in violent disagreement with her Tory father’s religious and political views. When Charles Hennell married in 1843, she took over from his wife the translating of D.F. Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet, which was published anonymously as The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 3 vol. (1846), and had a profound influence on English rationalism. After the wedding Mrs. Hennell’s father, R.H. Brabant, invited Evans to visit at Devizes. A rather silly man, he had worked for years on a book (never completed), which was to dispose of the supernatural elements in religion. They read German and Greek together and discussed theology on long walks; soon Mrs. Brabant became jealous of their intimacy, and, before the term of her visit, Evans was forced to leave. Mrs. Hennell felt that her father had acted ungenerously. Out of the humiliation of this episode George Eliot drew the horrible vividness of Mr. Casaubon in Middlemarch.

She spent the winter of 1849–50 at Geneva, reading extensively while living with the family of François d’Albert Durade, who painted a portrait of her. Like those by Mrs. Bray (1842) and Sir Frederic Burton (1865), all in the National Portrait Gallery, it shows her with light brown hair, gray-blue eyes, and a very fair complexion. Returning to Coventry, she spent the rest of 1850 with the Brays, pondering how to live on the £100 a year left by her father. After John Chapman, the publisher of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, got her a chance to review R.W. Mackay’s The Progress of the Intellect in The Westminster Review (January 1851), she decided to settle in London as a freelance writer, and in January 1851 she went to board with the Chapmans at 142, Strand.

Life with George Henry Lewes
Soon after her arrival in London, Mrs. Chapman and the children’s governess, who was also John Chapman’s mistress, became jealous of Marian, as she now signed her name, and after 10 weeks she returned to Coventry in tears. Doubtless her feelings were strongly attracted to the magnetic Chapman, whose diary supplies this information, but there is no evidence that she was ever his mistress. A few months later he bought The Westminster Review, and Evans, contrite at the domestic complications she had unwittingly caused, returned to London. For three years, until 1854, she served as subeditor of The Westminster, which under her influence enjoyed its most brilliant run since the days of John Stuart Mill. At the Chapmans’ evening parties she met many notable literary figures in an atmosphere of political and religious radicalism. Across the Strand lived the subeditor of The Economist, Herbert Spencer, whose Social Statics (1851) Chapman had just published. Evans shared many of Spencer’s interests and saw so much of him that it was soon rumoured that they were engaged. Though he did not become her husband, he introduced her to the two men who did.

George Henry Lewes was the most versatile of Victorian journalists. In 1841 he had married Agnes Jervis, by whom he had four sons. In 1850 Lewes and a friend, the journalist Thornton Leigh Hunt, founded a radical weekly called The Leader, for which he wrote the literary and theatrical sections. In April 1850, two weeks after the first number appeared, Agnes Lewes gave birth to a son whose father was Thornton Hunt. Lewes, being a man of liberal views, had the child registered as Edmund Lewes and remained on friendly terms with his wife and Hunt. But after she bore Hunt a second child in October 1851, Lewes ceased to regard her as his wife, though, having condoned the adultery, he was precluded from suing for divorce. At this moment of dejection, his home hopelessly broken, he met Marian Evans. They consulted about articles and went to plays and operas that Lewes reviewed for The Leader. Convinced that his break with Agnes was irrevocable, Evans determined to live openly with Lewes as his wife. In July 1854, after the publication of her translation of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity, they went to Germany together. In all but the legal form it was a marriage, and it continued happily until Lewes’s death in 1878. “Women who are content with light and easily broken ties,” she told Mrs. Bray, “do not act as I have done. They obtain what they desire and are still invited to dinner.”

Major works
At Weimar and Berlin she wrote some of her best essays for The Westminster and translated Spinoza’s Ethics (still unpublished), while Lewes worked on his groundbreaking life of Goethe. By his pen alone he had to support his three surviving sons at school in Switzerland as well as Agnes, whom he gave £100 a year, which was continued until her death in 1902. She had four children by Hunt, the last born in 1857, all registered under Lewes’s name. The few friends who knew the facts agreed that toward Agnes his conduct was more than generous, but there was a good deal of malicious gossip about the “strong-minded woman” who had “run off with” her husband. Evans’s deepest regret was that her act isolated her from her family in Warwickshire. She turned to early memories and, encouraged by Lewes, wrote a story about a childhood episode in Chilvers Coton parish. Published in Blackwood’s Magazine (1857) as The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, it was an instant success. Two more tales, Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story and Janet’s Repentance, also based on local events, appeared serially in the same year, and Blackwood republished all three as Scenes of Clerical Life, 2 vol. (1858), under the pseudonym George Eliot.

Adam Bede, 3 vol. (1859), her first long novel, she described as “a country story—full of the breath of cows and the scent of hay.” Its masterly realism—“the faithful representing of commonplace things”—brought to English fiction the same truthful observation of minute detail that Ruskin was commending in the Pre-Raphaelites. The book is rich in humour. The germ of the plot was an anecdote her Methodist aunt told of visiting a girl condemned for child murder. The dialect of the Bedes she had heard in the conversations of her Derbyshire uncles with her father, some of whose early experiences she assigned to Adam. But what was new in English fiction was the combination of deep human sympathy and rigorous moral judgment. Adam Bede went through eight printings within a year, and Blackwood doubled the £800 paid for it and returned the copyright.

In The Mill on the Floss, 3 vol. (1860), she returned again to the scenes of her early life. The first half of the book, with its remarkable portrayal of childhood, is irresistibly appealing, and throughout there are scenes that reach a new level of psychological subtlety.

At this time historical novels were in vogue, and during their visit to Florence in 1860 Lewes suggested Savonarola as a good subject, George Eliot grasped it enthusiastically and began to plan Romola (1862–63). First, however, she wrote Silas Marner (1861), which had thrust itself between her and the Italian material. Its brevity and perfection of form made this story of the weaver whose lost gold is replaced by a strayed child the best known of her books, though it has suffered unfairly from being forced on generations of schoolchildren. Romola was planned as a serial for Blackwood’s, until an offer of £10,000 from The Cornhill Magazine induced George Eliot to desert her old publisher; but rather than divide the book into the 16 installments the editor wanted, she accepted £3,000 less, an evidence of artistic integrity few writers would have shown. Details of Florentine history, setting, costume, and dialogue were scrupulously studied at the British Museum and during a second trip to Italy in 1861. It was published in 14 parts between July 1862 and August 1863. Though the book lacks the spontaneity of the English stories, it has been unduly disparaged.

George Eliot’s next two novels are laid in England at the time of agitation for passage of the Reform Bill. In Felix Holt, the Radical, 3 vol. (1866), she drew the election riot from recollection of one she saw at Nuneaton in December 1832. The initial impulse of the book was not the political theme but the tragic character of Mrs. Transome, who was one of her greatest triumphs. The intricate plot popular taste then demanded now tells against the novel. Middlemarch (8 parts, 1871–72) is by general consent George Eliot’s masterpiece. Under her hand the novel had developed from a mere entertainment into a highly intellectual form of art. Every class of Middlemarch society is depicted from the landed gentry and clergy to the manufacturers and professional men, the shopkeepers, publicans, farmers, and labourers. Several strands of plot are interwoven to reinforce each other by contrast and parallel. Yet the story depends not on close-knit intrigue but on showing the incalculably diffusive effect of the unhistoric acts of those who “lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Daniel Deronda (8 parts, 1876), in which George Eliot comes nearest the contemporary scene, is built on the contrast between Mirah Cohen, a poor Jewish girl, and the upper class Gwendolen Harleth, who marries for money and regrets it. The less convincingly realized hero, Daniel, after discovering that he is Jewish, marries Mirah and departs for Palestine to establish a home for his nation. The picture of the Cohen family evoked grateful praise from Jewish readers. But the best part of Daniel Deronda is the keen analysis of Gwendolen’s character, which seems to many critics the peak of George Eliot’s achievement.

Final years
In 1863 the Leweses bought the Priory, 21, North Bank, Regent’s Park, where their Sunday afternoons became a brilliant feature of Victorian life. There on Nov. 30, 1878, Lewes died. For nearly 25 years he had fostered her genius and managed all the practical details of life, which now fell upon her. Most of all she missed the encouragement that alone made it possible for her to write. For months she saw no one but his son Charles Lee Lewes; she devoted herself to completing the last volume of his Problems of Life and Mind (1873–79) and founded the George Henry Lewes Studentship in Physiology at Cambridge. For some years her investments had been in the hands of John Walter Cross (1840–1924), a banker introduced to the Leweses by Herbert Spencer. Cross’s mother had died a week after Lewes. Drawn by sympathy and the need for advice, George Eliot soon began to lean on him for affection too. On May 6, 1880, they were married in St. George’s, Hanover Square. Cross was 40; she was in her 61st year. After a wedding trip in Italy they returned to her country house at Witley before moving to 4, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, where she died in December. She was buried at Highgate Cemetery.

Gordon S. Haight

Her fellow realist
Anthony Trollope published his first novel in 1847 but only established his distinctive manner with The Warden (1855), the first of a series of six novels set in the fictional county of Barsetshire and completed in 1867. This sequence was followed by a further series, the six-volume Palliser group (1864–80), set in the world of British parliamentary politics. Trollope published an astonishing total of 47 novels, and his Autobiography (1883) is a uniquely candid account of the working life of a Victorian writer.

Anthony Trollope

"Barchester Towers"


born April 24, 1815, London, Eng.
died Dec. 6, 1882, London

English novelist whose popular success concealed until long after his death the nature and extent of his literary merit. A series of books set in the imaginary English county of Barsetshire remains his best loved and most famous work, but he also wrote convincing novels of political life as well as studies that show great psychological penetration. One of his greatest strengths was a steady, consistent vision of the social structures of Victorian England, which he re-created in his books with unusual solidity.

Trollope grew up as the son of a sometime scholar, barrister, and failed gentleman farmer. He was unhappy at the great public schools of Winchester and Harrow. Adolescent awkwardness continued until well into his 20s. The years 1834–41 he spent miserably as a junior clerk in the General Post Office, but he was then transferred as a postal surveyor to Ireland, where he began to enjoy a social life. In 1844 he married Rose Heseltine, an Englishwoman, and set up house at Clonmel, in Tipperary. He then embarked upon a literary career that leaves a dominant impression of immense energy and versatility.

The Warden (1855) was his first novel of distinction, a penetrating study of the warden of an old people’s home who is attacked for making too much profit from a charitable sinecure. During the next 12 years Trollope produced five other books set, like The Warden, in Barsetshire: Barchester Towers (1857), Doctor Thorne (1858), Framley Parsonage (1861), The Small House at Allington (1864), and The Last Chronicle of Barset (serially 1866–67; 1867). Barchester Towers is the funniest of the series; Doctor Thorne perhaps the best picture of a social system based on birth and the ownership of land; and The Last Chronicle, with its story of the sufferings of the scholarly Mr. Crawley, an underpaid curate of a poor parish, the most pathetic.

The Barsetshire novels excel in memorable characters, and they exude the atmosphere of the cathedral community and of the landed aristocracy.

In 1859 Trollope moved back to London, resigning from the civil service in 1867 and unsuccessfully standing as a Liberal parliamentary candidate in 1868. Before then, however, he had produced some 18 novels apart from the Barsetshire group. He wrote mainly before breakfast at a fixed rate of 1,000 words an hour. Outstanding among works of that period were Orley Farm (serially, 1861–62; 1862), which made use of the traditional plot of a disputed will, and Can You Forgive Her? (serially, 1864–65; 1865), the first of his political novels, which introduced Plantagenet Palliser, later duke of Omnium, whose saga was to stretch over many volumes down to The Duke’s Children (serially, 1879–80; 1880), a subtle study of the dangers and difficulties of marriage. In the political novels Trollope is less concerned with political ideas than with the practical working of the system—with the mechanics of power.

In about 1869 Trollope’s last, and in some respects most interesting, period as a writer began. Traces of his new style are to be found in the slow-moving He Knew He Was Right (serially, 1868–69; 1869), a subtle account of a rich man’s jealous obsession with his innocent wife. Purely psychological studies include Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite (serially, 1870; 1871) and Kept in the Dark (1882). Some of the later works, however, were sharply satirical: The Eustace Diamonds (serially, 1871–73; 1873), a study of the influence of money on sexual relationships; The Way We Live Now (serially, 1874–75; 1875), remarkable for its villain-hero, the financier Melmotte; and Mr. Scarborough’s Family (posthumously, 1883), which shows what can happen when the rights of property are wielded by a man of nihilistic temperament intent upon his legal rights.

Trollope’s final years were spent in the seclusion of a small Sussex village, where he worked on in the face of gradually diminishing popularity, failing health, and increasing melancholy. He was in London when he died, having been stricken there with paralysis.


The third major novelist of the 1870s was George Meredith, who also worked as a poet, a journalist, and a publisher’s reader. His prose style is eccentric and his achievement uneven. His greatest work of fiction, The Egoist (1879), however, is an incisive comic novel that embodies the distinctive theory of the corrective and therapeutic powers of laughter expressed in his lecture The Idea of Comedy (1877).

George Meredith

"The Egoist"


born Feb. 12, 1828, Portsmouth, Hampshire, Eng.
died May 18, 1909, Box Hill, Surrey

English Victorian poet and novelist, whose novels are noted for their wit, brilliant dialogue, and aphoristic quality of language. Meredith’s novels are also distinguished by psychological studies of character and a highly subjective view of life that, far ahead of his time, regarded women as truly the equals of men. His best known works are The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) and The Egoist (1879).

Early life
George Meredith, the son and grandson of tailors, was born above the family tailor shop in Portsmouth. The name Meredith is Welsh in origin, and family tradition held that its bearers were descendants of Welsh kings and chieftains. In keeping with this tradition, the young Meredith was proud and patrician in his bearing. A small inheritance from his mother, who died when he was five, enabled Meredith to attend a superior local seminary and thus early to assume the role of a young “gentleman.” Yet the sensitive boy must gradually have become conscious of the contrast between this role and his actual social status. And the reality was to become even harsher with the bankruptcy of the tailoring shop when he was about 11 and his father’s subsequent marriage to the young woman who had been their housekeeper.

In 1840 a second legacy, this time from an aunt, enabled him to go first to a boarding school and then, in 1842, to the Moravian School at Neuwied on the Rhine River, which was to leave its stamp upon the remainder of his life. The picturesque Rhineland, with its cliffs, its ruined castles, and its legends, stimulated the fancy of the already romantic youth. Tolerant religious instruction was combined with humanism: the boys were taught to think for themselves, to respect truth, to admire courage, to love nature, and to live in peace and amity with their fellows. The monotony of study was broken by daily sports, storytelling, and playacting and on vacations by week-long expeditions or boating trips down the Rhine. All of these influences except the religious remained with Meredith throughout life. After “a spasm of religion which lasted about six weeks,” he later said, he never “swallowed the Christian fable” and thereafter called himself a freethinker.

Meredith’s return to England in 1844, at the age of 16, ended his formal education. Like all of the other great Victorian novelists, he was to be largely self-educated. After several false starts, he was apprenticed at 18 to a London solicitor named Richard Charnock and was ostensibly launched upon a career in law. There is no evidence, however, that he ever pursued it. Probably, like the writer and politician Benjamin Disraeli, the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, and others before him, he found it intolerably dull and abandoned it at the start. But if not the law, what profession offered hope to a young man who was brilliant but untrained, ambitious but without means? If to be a poet seems an unlikely choice, it nevertheless accorded with his romantic nature.

He was steeped in The Arabian Nights and German legends and literature; he had already written verse, and he soon found that Charnock’s interests were more literary than legal and that he had gathered around him a coterie of young friends whose interests were also literary. Perhaps all of these were influences. At any rate, among the Charnock circle was Edward “Ned” Peacock, son of Thomas Love Peacock, the eccentric author, and through Edward he met Edward’s sister, Mary Ellen Nicolls, a widow with a small daughter. She was brilliant, witty, handsome, and about eight years older than he. In the course of editing and writing for a manuscript literary magazine conducted by the Charnock circle, he fell in love with her. Shortly after he reached his majority and came into the remainder of his little inheritance, they were married.

Beginnings as poet and novelist.
On their return, the Merediths took lodgings at Weybridge, Surrey, near Peacock’s house at Lower Halliford, Middlesex, and George busied himself writing poems and articles and making translations. Unfortunately, they brought in little money. Somehow, nevertheless, he managed to pay the publication costs of a little collection of verse, entitled Poems, in 1851. Though the writer and critic William Michael Rossetti praised it, Charles Kingsley, the novelist, found “very high promise” in it, and the poet Alfred Tennyson said kindly that he wished he might have written the beautiful “Love in the Valley,” praise added nothing to the family coffers.

Beset by creditors, the Merediths had to take refuge in Peacock’s house, where their only child, Arthur, was born in 1853. Understandably, Peacock soon preferred to rent a cottage for them across the village green from him. As poetry did not pay, Meredith now in desperation turned his hand to prose, writing a fantasy entitled The Shaving of Shagpat: An Arabian Entertainment, published in 1855. Original in conception but imitative of The Arabian Nights in manner, it baffled most readers, who did not know whether to regard it as allegory or fairy tale. But the most perceptive of the critics, the novelist George Eliot, praised it as “a work of genius, and of poetical genius.”

Poverty, disappointment, and the growing antagonism between two highly strung, critical natures placed an unbearable strain upon the marriage of the Merediths. Little more is known of this period in their lives, except that Mrs. Meredith was in Wales, in the company of an artist friend of the couple, Henry Wallis, during the summer of 1857. In April 1858 she gave birth to a son, whose father was registered as “George Meredith, author,” but whose paternity Meredith always denied. Subsequently, Mrs. Meredith and Wallis went off to Capri together. She died in 1861, leaving Meredith with his eight-year-old son, Arthur.

Work was Meredith’s only solace, and he was feverishly working upon a novel, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (published in 1859), with which he hoped to win fame and fortune. It was characteristic of his best work in many respects: in form it is a romantic comedy (but with a tragic ending, as is frequent in Meredith); it deals with the relationship between a baronet and his son; the son falls in love with a lower class girl and is subjected to an ordeal—a recurring motif in Meredith—by his father; the novel is rich in allusion, image, and metaphor; the dialogue is sparkling, witty, and elliptical as in life; there are frequent intrusions by the author; three of the chapters are written in highly lyric prose; and the psychology of motive and rationalization is explored in depth. Father and son suffer from excessive pride and self-delusion (regarded by Meredith as forms of egoism), which it is the purpose of comedy, as he later said in his “Essay on Comedy,” to purge and replace with sanity. Though not without faults, the novel nevertheless remains Meredith’s most moving and most widely read novel. But delicate readers found it prurient and had it banned by the influential lending libraries, scattering Meredith’s hopes of affluence. He was forced to accept employment as a reader of manuscripts for a publisher and as a writer of editorials and news items for a provincial newspaper. His own writing had to be done in what spare time remained.

Feverel was followed by Evan Harrington (1860), an amusing comedy in which Meredith used the family tailoring establishment and his own relatives for subject matter. The hero is the son of a tailor who has been brought up abroad as a “gentleman” and has fallen in love with the daughter of a baronet. His ordeal comes when he returns home to find his father dead and himself heir to the tailor shop and a considerable debt. Taking up poetry again, Meredith next published a volume of poems, Modern Love, and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads, in 1862. If Evan Harrington had exorcised the tailor demon that haunted him, “Modern Love” doubtless served a similar purpose for his own disastrous marriage. Semi-autobiographical, it is concerned with the tragedy of marital infidelity and its nemesis, though his own wound was now sufficiently healed for him to write compassionately. The poem deserves a place among his permanent contributions to English poetry.

After a walking tour on the Continent, he once more turned to prose. The theme of his next novel, Emilia in England (later renamed Sandra Belloni), was the contrast between a simple but passionate girl and some sentimental English social climbers—an excellent theme for Meredithian comedy. Its publication in 1864 was made the occasion of the first general consideration of all his works up to this point in an article in the Westminster Review by the Irish journalist and writer Justin M’Carthy. A second event of importance in 1864 was his remarriage. Arthur had been placed in boarding school, and Meredith’s own loneliness was intensified. Luckily, he met an attractive, well-bred young woman of Anglo-French descent, Marie Vulliamy, fell in love with her, and, after undergoing his own ordeal in persuading her father of his respectability, married her in September 1864. Thus ended a period in his life: he was no longer unknown and no longer lonely.

A son was born to the couple in 1865 and a daughter in 1871. With a family to support and popularity still elusive, Meredith had to keep hard at work for the next 15 years, with only occasional walking expeditions on the Continent. In 1866, however, he was sent out by The Morning Post to report the Italian campaign in the Austro-Prussian War, which lasted only seven weeks but enabled him to spend three months in his beloved Italy. After his return he was able to purchase a comfortable cottage near the bottom of Box Hill, Surrey, where he was to live quietly until his death. It stands today much as when he lived in it.

Mature works.
During the next 20 years, from 1865 to 1885, Meredith continued the drudgery of reading manuscripts but substituted weekly readings to an elderly rich widow for the newspaper work. It was, however, a period marked by the birth of the children, the publication of seven novels and a volume of poems, and, in the 1880s, by growing public recognition. The next two novels, Rhoda Fleming (1865) and a sequel to Emilia, entitled Vittoria, added nothing to his reputation. With The Adventures of Harry Richmond (1871), however, Meredith returned to what was his forte—romantic comedy. Once more he wrote a close study of a father–son relationship, only this time the father is an impostor who out-Micawbers Dickens’ Mr. Micawber in his belief that something will “turn up” to make his fortune. The son’s ordeal is that he must perceive and reject the world of fantasy in which his father lives and achieve maturity through painful experience. After an interval of about four years came Beauchamp’s Career. Its hero is a self-deluded idealist who is converted to radicalism and whose ordeal is both political and personal. It is one of Meredith’s better novels and confirmed what was clear by now, that one of his greatest strengths was the creation of spirited, flesh-and-blood women who think for themselves.

The next two novels of consequence, The Egoist (1879) and Diana of the Crossways (1885), marked the beginning of Meredith’s acceptance by a wider reading public and a more favourable reception by critics. Both are comedies, full of Meredithian wit and brilliant dialogue and notable for women characters who prove their right to be accepted as individuals, equal with men, rather than puppets. In The Egoist the enemy is egoism, and the egoist is tested by a succession of ordeals before joining the ranks of humanity. While that novel is concerned with the dangers of wrong choice before marriage, Diana is the first of a series of studies of mismating in marriage. Diana herself is a memorable character of spirit and brains, although Meredith is less successful in persuading readers that she could naively be guilty of a grave breach of confidence. In both novels, however, the men that Meredith approves of and hands the heroines over to are rather flat and uninteresting.

A new period now began in Meredith’s life. Fame, if not popularity, and financial independence had come at last. Yet his enjoyment of them was to be tempered by the death of his wife in 1885 and of Arthur in 1890, by the beginning of deafness, and by the onset of ataxia that was first to limit his ability to walk and finally to render him immobile. Honours and testimonials came in plenty: an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scot.; election to the prestigious office of President of the Society of Authors; and in 1905 the Order of Merit, strictly limited to 24 members, was conferred upon him by order of the King. Meredith had become a public institution, his home at Box Hill almost a literary shrine.

After 1885 his work was done except for three novels and five volumes of poems that were increasingly more philosophic than poetic. One of Our Conquerors (1891) is probably the most difficult of his novels because of the indirect and cryptic style, metaphor, and long passages of interior monologue. Lord Ormont and His Aminta (1894), unlike its predecessor, was praised for the brilliancy and clarity of its style. The final novel, The Amazing Marriage (1895), repeats the theme of Lord Ormont—that a wife is free to leave a husband who does not recognize her as an equal.

In person Meredith was slightly built but athletic, remarkably handsome, and aristocratic in manner. Because of his concern with upper class life in his novels, he has sometimes been accused of being ashamed of his lowly birth and of being at heart a snob. The charge hardly bears inspection: he chose the fashionable world as a subject because it was fittest for his brand of comic treatment. His own tastes and manner of living were almost spartanly simple, his greatest pleasures being long walks and communion with nature. His friends, for the most part, were not aristocrats; they were chiefly writers and artists, along with a few professional men. It is true that in the years of his fame he was taken up by various fashionable ladies—usually young ones whom he had fascinated—and that journalists began to beat a path to his door. If he was not the oracle with all the answers, he was willing to play the role. A brilliant talker, he delighted in expressing radical and startling ideas to journalists—that the Boers should have been given their freedom; that Britain should join the United States; that marriage should be for a 10-year trial period, renewable by mutual consent; that there was no future life; and that Britain should arm itself against impending German aggression. On his 80th birthday he was presented with another testimonial, with 250 signatures of the great ones of the world, and both King Edward VII and Pres. Theodore Roosevelt sent congratulations.

On his 80th birthday the newspapers of the world saluted Meredith as “the Dean of English Writers,” the “last Great Victorian,” the “Grand Old Man of Letters,” and the “Sage of Box Hill.” Shortly after his death, The Times Literary Supplement said that his mind was “so rich, so full, that one wonders where there is another mind so rich, outside Shakespeare, in English literature.” As not infrequently happens, however, his great reputation went into eclipse, and other gods—Henry James, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, and D.H. Lawrence—replaced him. Ardent Meredithians remained, but the pendulum of popular taste has not swung back. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and The Egoist will continue to have a share in college and university curricula, The Adventures of Harry Richmond and Beauchamp’s Career may have limited appeal, and for the rest, Meredith will be left to scholars and the intellectual elite.

The influence of Meredith on the novel has been indirect rather than direct. Although his highly personal style was incapable of imitation, his extensive use of interior monologue anticipated the stream-of-consciousness technique of James Joyce and others. Moreover, with George Eliot he was creating the psychological novel and thus was an important link between his 18th-century precursors and 19th- and 20th-century followers. Among later novelists influenced by him the Marxist critic Jack Lindsay cites George Robert Gissing, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and Robert Louis Stevenson; and the writer and critic J.B. Priestley points to Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and E.M. Forster.

C.L. Cline


In the 1880s the three-volume novel, with its panoramic vistas and proliferating subplots, began to give way to more narrowly focused one-volume novels. At the same time, a gap started to open between popular fiction and the “literary” or “art” novel. The flowering of realist fiction was also accompanied, perhaps inevitably, by a revival of its opposite, the romance. The 1860s had produced a new subgenre, the sensation novel, seen at its best in the work of Wilkie Collins. Gothic novels and romances by Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Morris, and Oscar Wilde; utopian fiction by Morris and Samuel Butler; and the early science fiction of H.G. Wells make it possible to speak of a full-scale romance revival.

Realism continued to flourish, however, sometimes encouraged by the example of European realist and naturalist novelists. Both George Moore and George Gissing were influenced by Émile Zola, though both also reacted against him. The 1890s saw intense concern with the social role of women, reflected in the New Woman fiction of Grant Allen (The Woman Who Did, 1895), Sarah Grand (The Heavenly Twins, 1893), and George Egerton (Keynotes, 1893). The heroines of such texts breach conventional assumptions by supporting woman suffrage, smoking, adopting “rational” dress, and rejecting traditional double standards in sexual behaviour.

The greatest novelist of this generation, however, was Thomas Hardy. His first published novel, Desperate Remedies, appeared in 1871 and was followed by 13 more before he abandoned prose to publish (in the 20th century) only poetry. His major fiction consists of the tragic novels of rural life, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). In these novels his brilliant evocation of the landscape and people of his fictional Wessex is combined with a sophisticated sense of the “ache of modernism.”


Wilkie Collins

"The Moonstone"   

"The Woman in White"    

Illustrations by John McLenan


born Jan. 8, 1824, London, Eng.
died Sept. 23, 1889, London

English sensation novelist, early master of the mystery story, and pioneer of detective fiction.

The son of William Collins (1788–1847), the landscape painter, he developed a gift for inventing tales while still a schoolboy at a private boarding school. His first published work was a memoir to his father, who died in 1847, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. (1848). His fiction followed shortly after: Antonina; or, the Fall of Rome (1850) and Basil (1852), a highly coloured tale of seduction and vengeance with a contemporary middle-class setting and passages of uncompromising realism. In 1851 he began an association with Dickens that exerted a formative influence on his career. Their admiration was mutual. Under Dickens’ influence, Collins developed a talent for characterization, humour, and popular success, while the older writer’s debt to Collins is evident in the more skillful and suspenseful plot structures of such novels as A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1860–61). Collins began contributing serials to Dickens’ periodical Household Words, and his first major work, The Woman in White (1860), appeared in Dickens’ All the Year Round. Among his most successful subsequent books were No Name (1862), Armadale (1866), and The Moonstone (1868). A master of intricate plot construction and ingenious narrative technique, Collins turned in his later career from sensation fiction to fiction with a purpose, attacking the marriage laws in Man and Wife (1870) and vivisection in Heart and Science (1883).





Robert Louis Stevenson

"Treasure Island

Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth

born Nov. 13, 1850, Edinburgh
died Dec. 3, 1894, Vailima, Samoa

Scottish essayist, poet, and author of fiction and travel books, best known for his novels Treasure Island (1881), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1889). Stevenson’s biography of Pierre-Jean de Béranger appeared in the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (see the Britannica Classic: Pierre-Jean de Béranger).

Early life
Stevenson was the only son of Thomas Stevenson, a prosperous civil engineer, and his wife, Margaret Isabella Balfour. His poor health made regular schooling difficult, but he attended Edinburgh Academy and other schools before, at 17, entering Edinburgh University, where he was expected to prepare himself for the family profession of lighthouse engineering. But Stevenson had no desire to be an engineer, and he eventually agreed with his father, as a compromise, to prepare instead for the Scottish bar.

He had shown a desire to write early in life, and once in his teens he had deliberately set out to learn the writer’s craft by imitating a great variety of models in prose and verse. His youthful enthusiasm for the Covenanters (i.e., those Scotsmen who banded together to defend their version of Presbyterianism in the 17th century) led to his writing The Pentland Rising, his first printed work. During his years at the university he rebelled against his parents’ religion and set himself up as a liberal bohemian who abhorred the alleged cruelties and hypocrisies of bourgeois respectability.

In 1873, in the midst of painful differences with his father, he visited a married cousin in Suffolk, England, where he met Sidney Colvin, the English scholar, who became a lifelong friend, and Fanny Sitwell (who later married Colvin). Sitwell, an older woman of charm and talent, drew the young man out and won his confidence. Soon Stevenson was deeply in love, and on his return to Edinburgh he wrote her a series of letters in which he played the part first of lover, then of worshipper, then of son. One of the several names by which Stevenson addressed her in these letters was “Claire,” a fact that many years after his death was to give rise to the erroneous notion that Stevenson had had an affair with a humbly born Edinburgh girl of that name. Eventually the passion turned into a lasting friendship.

Later in 1873 Stevenson suffered severe respiratory illness and was sent to the French Riviera, where Colvin later joined him. He returned home the following spring. In July 1875 he was called to the Scottish bar, but he never practiced. Stevenson was frequently abroad, most often in France. Two of his journeys produced An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). His career as a writer developed slowly. His essay “Roads” appeared in the Portfolio in 1873, and in 1874 “Ordered South” appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine, a review of Lord Lytton’s Fables in Song appeared in the Fortnightly, and his first contribution (on Victor Hugo) appeared in The Cornhill Magazine, then edited by Leslie Stephen, a critic and biographer. It was these early essays, carefully wrought, quizzically meditative in tone, and unusual in sensibility, that first drew attention to Stevenson as a writer.

Stephen brought Stevenson into contact with Edmund Gosse, the poet and critic, who became a good friend. Later, when in Edinburgh, Stephen introduced Stevenson to the writer W.E. Henley. The two became warm friends and were to remain so until 1888, when a letter from Henley to Stevenson containing a deliberately implied accusation of dishonesty against the latter’s wife precipitated a quarrel that Henley, jealous and embittered, perpetuated after his friend’s death in a venomous review of a biography of Stevenson.

In 1876 Stevenson met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, an American lady separated from her husband, and the two fell in love. Stevenson’s parents’ horror at their son’s involvement with a married woman subsided somewhat when she returned to California in 1878, but it revived with greater force when Stevenson decided to join her in August 1879. Stevenson reached California ill and penniless (the record of his arduous journey appeared later in The Amateur Emigrant, 1895, and Across the Plains, 1892). His adventures, which included coming very near death and eking out a precarious living in Monterey and San Francisco, culminated in marriage to Fanny Osbourne (who was by then divorced from her first husband) early in 1880. About the same time a telegram from his relenting father offered much-needed financial support, and after a honeymoon by an abandoned silver mine (recorded in The Silverado Squatters, 1883) the couple sailed for Scotland to achieve reconciliation with the Thomas Stevensons.

Romantic novels
Soon after his return, Stevenson, accompanied by his wife and his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, went, on medical advice (he had tuberculosis), to Davos, Switz. The family left there in April 1881 and spent the summer in Pitlochry and then in Braemar, Scot. There, in spite of bouts of illness, Stevenson embarked on Treasure Island (begun as a game with Lloyd), which started as a serial in Young Folks, under the title The Sea-Cook, in October 1881. Stevenson finished the story in Davos, to which he had returned in the autumn, and then started on Prince Otto (1885), a more complex but less successful work. Treasure Island is an adventure presented with consummate skill, with atmosphere, character, and action superbly geared to one another. The book is at once a gripping adventure tale and a wry comment on the ambiguity of human motives.

In 1881 Stevenson published Virginibus Puerisque, his first collection of essays, most of which had appeared in The Cornhill. The winter of 1881 he spent at a chalet in Davos. In April 1882 he left Davos; but a stay in the Scottish Highlands, while it resulted in two of his finest short stories, “Thrawn Janet” and “The Merry Men,” produced lung hemorrhages, and in September he went to the south of France. There the Stevensons finally settled at a house in Hyères, where, in spite of intermittent illness, Stevenson was happy and worked well. He revised Prince Otto, worked on A Child’s Garden of Verses (first called Penny Whistles), and began The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (1888), a historical adventure tale deliberately written in anachronistic language.

The threat of a cholera epidemic drove the Stevensons from Hyères back to England. They lived at Bournemouth from September 1884 until July 1887, but his frequent bouts of dangerous illness proved conclusively that the British climate, even in the south of England, was not for him. The Bournemouth years were fruitful, however. There he got to know and love the American novelist Henry James. There he revised A Child’s Garden (first published in 1885) and wrote “Markheim,” Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The poems in A Child’s Garden represent with extraordinary fidelity an adult’s recapturing of the emotions and sensations of childhood; there is nothing quite like them in English literature. In Kidnapped the fruit of his researches into 18th-century Scottish history and of his feeling for Scottish landscape, history, character, and local atmosphere mutually illuminate one another. But it was Dr. Jekyll—both moral allegory and thriller—that established his reputation with the ordinary reader.

In August 1887, still in search of health, Stevenson set out for America with his wife, mother, and stepson. On arriving in New York, he found himself famous, with editors and publishers offering lucrative contracts. He stayed for a while in the Adirondack Mountains, where he wrote essays for Scribner’s and began The Master of Ballantrae. This novel, another exploration of moral ambiguities, contains some of his most impressive writing, although marred by its contrived conclusion.

Life in the South Seas
In June 1888 Stevenson, accompanied by his family, sailed from San Francisco in the schooner yacht Casco, which he had chartered, on what was intended to be an excursion for health and pleasure. In fact, he was to spend the rest of his life in the South Seas. They went first to the Marquesas Islands, then to Fakarava Atoll, then to Tahiti, then to Honolulu, where they stayed nearly six months, leaving in June 1889 for the Gilbert Islands, and then to Samoa, where he spent six weeks.

During his months of wandering around the South Sea islands, Stevenson made intensive efforts to understand the local scene and the inhabitants. As a result, his writings on the South Seas (In the South Seas, 1896; A Footnote to History, 1892) are admirably pungent and perceptive. He was writing first-rate journalism, deepened by the awareness of landscape and atmosphere, such as that so notably rendered in his description of the first landfall at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas.

In October 1890 he returned to Samoa from a voyage to Sydney and established himself and his family in patriarchal status at Vailima, his house in Samoa. The climate suited him; he led an industrious and active life; and, when he died suddenly, it was of a cerebral hemorrhage, not of the long-feared tuberculosis. His work during those years was moving toward a new maturity. While Catriona (U.S. title, David Balfour, 1893) marked no advance in technique or imaginative scope on Kidnapped, to which it is a sequel, The Ebb-Tide (1894), a grim and powerful tale written in a dispassionate style (it was a complete reworking of a first draft by Lloyd Osbourne), showed that Stevenson had reached an important transition in his literary career. The next phase was demonstrated triumphantly in Weir of Hermiston (1896), the unfinished masterpiece on which he was working on the day of his death. “The Beach of Falesá” (first published 1892; included in Island Night’s Entertainments, 1893), a story with a finely wrought tragic texture, as well as the first part of The Master of Ballantrae, pointed in this direction, but neither approaches Weir. Stevenson achieved in this work a remarkable richness of tragic texture in a style stripped of all superfluities. The dialogue contains some of the best Scots prose in modern literature. Fragment though it is, Weir of Hermiston stands as a great work and Stevenson’s masterpiece.

Stevenson was an indefatigable letter writer, and his letters (edited by Sidney Colvin in 1899) provide a lively and enchanting picture of the man and his life. But Colvin omitted many of the most interesting letters and compressed and dovetailed others, with the result that many important facts about Stevenson’s emotional life remained unknown until the true text of all the letters was available. Colvin presented Stevenson’s letters to Fanny Sitwell to what is now the National Library of Scotland with the proviso that they were not to be opened until 1949; the revealing and often fascinating letters to Charles Baxter, a friend, were deposited in the Yale University Library. Stevenson’s biography suffered from his being early canonized; later writers built up a counterpicture of an immoral swaggerer restrained into reluctant respectability by a jealous wife. Access to the crucial letters yielded a picture of a Stevenson who was neither the “seraph in chocolate” against whom Henley protested nor a low-living rake nor an optimistic escapist nor the happy invalid but a sensitive and intelligent writer who had no illusions about life and wryly made the best of a world to which he did not profess to have the key.

Stevenson’s literary reputation has also fluctuated. The reaction against him set in soon after his death: he was considered a mannered and imitative essayist or only a writer of children’s books. But eventually the pendulum began to swing the other way, and by the 1950s his reputation was established among the more discerning as a writer of originality and power; whose essays at their best are cogent and perceptive renderings of aspects of the human condition; whose novels are either brilliant adventure stories with subtle moral overtones or original and impressive presentations of human action in terms of history and topography as well as psychology; whose short stories produce some new and effective permutations in the relation between romance and irony or manage to combine horror and suspense with moral diagnosis; whose poems, though not showing the highest poetic genius, are often skillful, occasionally (in his use of Scots, for example) interesting and original, and sometimes (in A Child’s Garden) valuable for their exhibition of a special kind of sensibility.

David Daiches





see also collection: Morris William - designer


William Morris

see also collection: Morris William - designer


born March 24, 1834, Walthamstow, near London, Eng.
died Oct. 3, 1896, Hammersmith, near London

English designer, craftsman, poet, and early socialist, whose designs for furniture, fabrics, stained glass, wallpaper, and other decorative arts generated the Arts and Crafts movement in England and revolutionized Victorian taste.

Education and early career
Morris was born in an Essex village on the southern edge of Epping Forest, a member of a large and well-to-do family. From his preparatory school, he went at age 13 to Marlborough College. A schoolfellow described him at this time as “a thick-set, strong-looking boy, with a high colour and black curly hair, good-natured and kind, but with a fearful temper.” Morris later said that at Marlborough he learned “next to nothing…for indeed next to nothing was taught.” As in later life, he learned only what he wanted to learn.

In 1853 Morris went to Exeter College at the University of Oxford, where he met Edward Jones (later the painter and designer Burne-Jones), who was to become his lifelong friend. Both Morris and Jones became deeply affected by the Oxford movement within the Church of England, and it was assumed that they would become clergymen. Nevertheless, it was the writings of art critic John Ruskin on the social and moral basis of architecture (particularly the chapter “On the Nature of Gothic” in The Stones of Venice) that came to Morris “with the force of a revelation.” After taking a degree in 1856, he entered the Oxford office of the Gothic Revivalist architect G.E. Street. In the same year he financed the first 12 monthly issues of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, where many of those poems appeared that, two years later, were reprinted in his remarkable first published work, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems.

Visits with Street and Burne-Jones to Belgium and northern France, where he first saw the 15th-century paintings of Hans Memling and Jan and Hubert Van Eyck and the cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres, and Rouen, confirmed Morris in his love of medieval art. It was at this time that he came under the powerful influence of the Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who persuaded him to give up architecture for painting and enrolled him among the band of friends who were decorating the walls of the Oxford Union with scenes from Arthurian legend based on Le Morte Darthur by the 15th-century English writer Sir Thomas Malory. Only one easel painting by Morris survives: La Belle Iseult, or Queen Guenevere (1858). His model was Jane Burden, the beautiful, enigmatic daughter of an Oxford groom. He married her in 1859, but the marriage was to prove a source of unhappiness to both. Morris appears at this time, in the memoirs of the painter Val Prinsep, as “a short square man with spectacles and a vast mop of dark hair.” It was observed “how decisive he was: how accurate, without any effort or formality: what an extraordinary power of observation lay at the base of many of his casual or incidental remarks.” From 1856 to 1859 Morris shared a studio with Burne-Jones in London’s Red Lion Square, for which he designed, according to Rossetti, “some intensely medieval furniture.”

After his marriage, Morris commissioned his friend the architect Philip Webb, whom he had originally met in Street’s office, to build the Red House at Bexleyheath (so called because it was built of red brick when the fashion was for stucco villas). It was during the furnishing and decorating of this house by Morris and his friends that the idea came to them of founding an association of “fine art workmen,” which in April 1861 became the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, with premises in Red Lion Square. The other members of the firm were Ford Madox Brown, Rossetti, Webb, and Burne-Jones. At the International Exhibition of 1862 at South Kensington they exhibited stained glass, furniture, and embroideries. This led to commissions to decorate the new churches then being built by G.F. Bodley, notably St. Martin’s-on-the-Hill at Scarborough. The apogee of the firm’s decorative work is the magnificent series of stained-glass windows designed during the next decade by Burne-Jones for Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge, the ceiling being painted by Morris and Webb. The designs for these windows came to Morris uncoloured, and it was he who chose the colours and put in the lead lines. He also designed many other windows himself, for both domestic and ecclesiastical use.

Two daughters, Jenny and May, were born in 1861 and 1862, and altogether the five years spent at Red House were the happiest of Morris’s life. After a serious attack of rheumatic fever, brought on by overwork, he moved in 1865 to Bloomsbury in London. The greater part of his new house was given over to the firm’s workshops—an arrangement that, combined with her husband’s boisterous manners and Rossetti’s infatuation with her, reduced Jane to a state of neurotic invalidism. Morris’s first wallpaper designs, “Trellis,” “Daisy,” and “Fruit,” or “Pomegranate,” belong to 1862–64; he did not arrive at his mature style until 10 years later, with the “Jasmine” and “Marigold” papers.

Iceland and socialism
As a poet, Morris first achieved fame and success with the romantic narrative The Life and Death of Jason (1867), which was soon followed by The Earthly Paradise (1868–70), a series of narrative poems based on classical and medieval sources. The best parts of The Earthly Paradise are the introductory poems on the months, in which Morris reveals his personal unhappiness. A sterner spirit informs his principal poetic achievement, the epic Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs (1876), written after a prolonged study of the sagas (medieval prose narratives) read by Morris in the original Old Norse. The exquisitely illuminated A Book of Verse, telling once more of hopeless love and dedicated to Georgina Burne-Jones, belongs to 1870.

In 1871 Morris and Rossetti took a joint lease on the Elizabethan manor house of Kelmscott in Oxfordshire. In the same year Morris paid his first visit to Iceland, and the journal he kept of his travels contains some of his most vigorous descriptive writing. He returned to Iceland in 1873. The shared tenancy of Kelmscott, however, was never a success, and, after the final breakdown of his health in 1874, Rossetti left the house for good, to Morris’s great relief. The following year the firm was reorganized under his sole proprietorship as Morris & Company. In 1875 Morris also began his revolutionary experiments with vegetable dyes, which, after the removal in 1881 of the firm to larger premises at Merton Abbey in Surrey, resulted in its finest printed and woven fabrics, carpets, and tapestries. In 1877 Morris gave his first public lecture, The Decorative Arts (later called The Lesser Arts), and his first collection of lectures, Hopes and Fears for Art, appeared in 1882. In 1877 he also founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in an attempt to combat the drastic methods of restoration then being carried out on the cathedrals and parish churches of Great Britain.

The Morris family moved into Kelmscott House (named after their country house in Oxfordshire), at Hammersmith, in 1879. Five years later Morris joined Henry Mayers Hyndman’s Democratic (later Social Democratic) Federation and began his tireless tours of industrial areas to spread the gospel of socialism. He was considerately treated by the authorities, even when leading a banned demonstration to London’s Trafalgar Square on “Bloody Sunday” (November 13, 1887), when the police, supported by troops, cleared the square of demonstrators. On this occasion he marched with the playwright George Bernard Shaw at his side. But by this time Morris had quarreled with the autocratic Hyndman Federation and formed the Socialist League, with its own publication, The Commonweal, in which his two finest romances, A Dream of John Ball (1886–87) and News from Nowhere (1890), an idyllic vision of a socialist rural utopia, appeared. Subsequently, he founded the Hammersmith Socialist Society, which held weekly lectures in the coach house next door to Kelmscott House, as well as open-air meetings in different parts of London.

The Kelmscott Press
The Kelmscott Press was started in 1891, with the printer and type designer Emery Walker as typographic adviser, and between that year and 1898 the press produced 53 titles in 66 volumes. Morris designed three type styles for his press: Golden type, modeled on that of Nicolas Jenson, the 15th-century French printer; Troy type, a gothic font on the model of the early German printers of the 15th century; and Chaucer type, a smaller variant of Troy, in which The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer was printed during the last years of Morris’s life. One of the greatest examples of the art of the printed book, Chaucer is the most ornate of the Kelmscott publications. Most of the other Kelmscott books were plain and simple, for Morris observed that 15th-century books were “always beautiful by force of the mere typography.”

Death and assessment
A sea voyage to Norway in the summer of 1896 failed to revive Morris’s flagging energies, and he died that autumn after returning home, worn out by the multiplicity of his activities. He was buried in the Kelmscott churchyard beneath a simple gravestone designed by Webb.

Morris is now regarded as a modern and visionary thinker, though he turned away from what he called “the dull squalor of civilization” to romance, myth, and epic. Following Ruskin, Morris defined beauty in art as the result of man’s pleasure in his work and asked, “Unless people care about carrying on their business without making the world hideous, how can they care about Art?” To Morris, art included the whole man-made environment.

In his own time William Morris was most widely known as the author of The Earthly Paradise and for his designs for wallpapers, textiles, and carpets. Since the mid-20th century Morris has been celebrated as a designer and craftsman. Future generations may esteem him more as a social and moral critic, a pioneer of the society of equality.

Philip Prichard Henderson





Oscar Wilde

I. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"

"The Paradox"

II. "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

III. Oscar Wilde "Salome" Illustrations by Beardsley

born , Oct. 16, 1854, Dublin, Ire.
died Nov. 30, 1900, Paris, Fr.

Irish wit, poet, and dramatist whose reputation rests on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of BeingEarnest (1895). He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic movement in England, whichadvocated art for art's sake; and he was the object of celebrated civil and criminal suits involving homosexuality and ending in his imprisonment (1895–97).

Wilde was born of professional and literary parents. His father, Sir William Wilde, was Ireland's leading ear and eye surgeon, who also published books on archaeology, folklore, and the satirist Jonathan Swift; his mother was a revolutionary poet and an authority on Celtic myth and folklore.

After attending Portora Royal School, Enniskillen (1864–71), Wilde went, on successive scholarships, to Trinity College, Dublin (1871–74), and Magdalen College, Oxford (1874–78), which awarded him a degree with honours. During these four years, he distinguished himself not only as a classical scholar, a poseur, and a wit but also as a poet by winning the coveted Newdigate Prize in 1878 with a long poem, Ravenna.He was deeply impressed by the teachings of the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater on the central importance of art in life and particularly by the latter's stresson the aesthetic intensity by which life should be lived. Like many in his generation, Wilde was determined to follow Pater's urging “to burn always with [a] hard, gemlike flame.” But Wilde also delighted in affecting an aesthetic pose; this, combined with rooms at Oxford decorated with objets d'art, resulted in his famous remark: “Oh, would that I could live up to my blue china!”

In the early 1880s, when Aestheticism was the rage and despair of literary London, Wilde established himself in social and artistic circles by his wit and flamboyance. Soon the periodical Punch made him the satiric object of its antagonism to the Aesthetes for what was considered their unmasculine devotion to art; and in their comic opera Patience, Gilbert and Sullivan based the character Bunthorne, a “fleshly poet,” partly on Wilde. Wishing to reinforce the association, Wilde published, at his own expense, Poems (1881), which echoed, too faithfully, his discipleship to the poets Algernon Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Keats. Eager for further acclaim, Wilde agreed to lecture in the United States and Canada in 1882, announcing on his arrival in New York City that he had “nothing to declare but his genius.” Despite widespread hostility in the press to his languid poses and aesthetic costume of velvet jacket, knee breeches, and black silk stockings, Wilde for 12 months exhorted the Americans to love beauty and art; then he returned to Great Britain to lecture on his impressions of America.

In 1884 Wilde married Constance Lloyd, daughter of a prominent Irish barrister; two children, Cyril and Vyvyan, were born, in 1885 and 1886. Meanwhile, Wilde was a reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette and then became editor of Woman's World (1887–89). During this period of apprenticeship as a writer, he published The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888), which reveals his gift for romantic allegory in the form of the fairy tale.

In the final decade of his life, Wilde wrote and published nearly all of his major work. In his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (published in Lippincott's Magazine, 1890, and inbook form, revised and expanded by six chapters, 1891), Wilde combined the supernatural elements of the Gothic novel with the unspeakable sins of French decadent fiction. Critics charged immorality despite Dorian's self-destruction;Wilde, however, insisted on the amoral nature of art regardless of an apparently moral ending. Intentions (1891), consisting of previously published essays, restated his aesthetic attitude toward art by borrowing ideas from the French poets Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire and the American painter James McNeill Whistler. In the same year, two volumes of stories and fairy tales also appeared, testifying to his extraordinary creative inventiveness: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, and Other Stories and A House of Pomegranates.

But Wilde's greatest successes were his society comedies. Within the conventions of the French “well-made play” (with its social intrigues and artificial devices to resolve conflict), he employed his paradoxical, epigrammatic wit to create a form of comedy new to the 19th-century English theatre. His first success, Lady Windermere's Fan, demonstrated that thiswit could revitalize the rusty machinery of French drama. In the same year, rehearsals of his macabre play Salomé, written in French and designed, as he said, to make his audience shudder by its depiction of unnatural passion, werehalted by the censor because it contained biblical characters. It was published in 1893, and an English translation appeared in 1894 with Aubrey Beardsley's celebrated illustrations.

A second society comedy, A Woman of No Importance (produced 1893), convinced the critic William Archer that Wilde's plays “must be taken on the very highest plane of modern English drama.” In rapid succession, Wilde's final plays, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, were produced early in 1895. In the latter, his greatest achievement, the conventional elements of farce are transformed into satiric epigrams—seemingly trivial but mercilessly exposing Victorian hypocrisies.

I suppose society is wonderfully delightful. To be in it ismerely a bore. But to be out of it simply a tragedy.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.

In many of his works, exposure of a secret sin or indiscretion and consequent disgrace is a central design. If life imitated art, as Wilde insisted in his essay “The Decay of Lying” (1889), he was himself approximating the pattern in his reckless pursuit of pleasure. In addition, his close friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he had met in 1891, infuriated the Marquess of Queensberry, Douglas' father. Accused, finally, by the marquess of being a sodomite, Wilde, urged by Douglas, sued for criminal libel. Wilde's case collapsed, however, when the evidence went against him, and he dropped the suit. Urged to flee to France by his friends, Wilde refused, unable to believe that his world was at an end. He was arrested and ordered to stand trial.

Wilde testified brilliantly, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. In the retrial he was found guilty and sentenced, in May 1895, to two years at hard labour. Most of his sentence was served at Reading Gaol, where he wrote a long letter to Douglas (published in 1905 in a drastically cut version as De Profundis) filled with recriminations against the younger man for encouraging him in dissipation and distracting him from his work.

In May 1897 Wilde was released, a bankrupt, and immediately went to France, hoping to regenerate himself asa writer. His only remaining work, however, was The Ballad ofReading Gaol (1898), revealing his concern for inhumane prison conditions. Despite constant money problems he maintained, as George Bernard Shaw said, “an unconquerable gaiety of soul” that sustained him, and he was visited by such loyal friends as Max Beerbohm and Robert Ross, later his literary executor; he was also reunited with Douglas. He died suddenly of acute meningitis brought on by an ear infection. In his semiconscious final moments, he was received into the Roman Catholic church, which he had long admired.

Karl Beckson


George Moore

born Feb. 24, 1852, Ballyglass, County Mayo, Ire.
died Jan. 21, 1933, London

Irish novelist and man of letters. Considered an innovator in fiction in his day, he no longer seems as important as he once did.

Moore came from a distinguished Catholic family of Irish landholders. When he was 21, he left Ireland for Paris to become a painter. Moore’s Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906) vividly described the Café Nouvelle-Athènes and the circle of Impressionist painters who frequented it. Moore was particularly friendly with Édouard Manet, who sketched three portraits of him. Another account of the years in Paris, in which he introduced the younger generation in England to his version of fin de siècle decadence, was his first autobiography, Confessions of a Young Man (1888).

Deciding that he had no talent for painting, he returned to London in 1882 to write. His first novels, A Modern Lover (1883) and A Mummer’s Wife (1885), introduced a new note of French Naturalism into the English scene, and he later adopted the realistic techniques of Gustave Flaubert and Honoré de Balzac. Esther Waters (1894), his best novel, deals with the plight of a servant girl who has a baby out of wedlock; it is a story of hardship and humiliation illumined by the novelist’s compassion. It was an immediate success, and he followed it with works in a similar vein: Evelyn Innes (1898) and Sister Teresa (1901).

In 1901 Moore moved to Dublin, partly because of his loathing for the South African War, partly because of the Irish literary renaissance spearheaded by his friend, the poet William Butler Yeats. In Dublin he contributed notably to the planning of the Abbey Theatre. He also produced The Untilled Field (1903), a volume of fine short stories reminiscent of Ivan Turgenev that focus on the drudgery of Irish rural life, and a short, poetic novel, The Lake (1905). The real fruits of his life in Ireland, however, came with the trilogy Hail and Farewell (Ave, 1911; Salve, 1912; Vale, 1914). Discursive, affectionate, and satirical by turns, it reads like a sustained monologue that is both a carefully studied piece of self-revelation and an acute (though not always reliable) portrait gallery of his Irish acquaintance, which included Yeats, Æ, and Lady Gregory. Above all it is a perfectly modulated display of the comic spirit.

The increasing narrowness of the Irish mind, politics, and clericalism had sent Moore back to England in 1911. After Hail and Farewell he made another literary departure: aiming at epic effect he produced The Brook Kerith (1916), an elaborate and stylish retelling of the Gospel story that is surprisingly effective despite some dull patches. He continued his attempts to find a prose style worthy of epic theme in Héloïse and Abélard (1921). His other works included A Story-Teller’s Holiday (1918), a blend of autobiography, anecdote, Irish legend, and satire; Conversations in Ebury Street (1924), autobiography; The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloe (1924); and Ulick and Soracha (1926), an Irish legendary romance.



George Gissing

born Nov. 22, 1857, Wakefield, Yorkshire, Eng.
died Dec. 28, 1903, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

English novelist, noted for the unflinching realism of his novels about the lower middle class.

Gissing was educated at Owens College, Manchester, where his academic career was brilliant until he was expelled (and briefly imprisoned) for theft. His personal life remained, until the last few years, mostly unhappy. His two marriages—the first to a prostitute and the second to a servant girl—brought him little but misery, and the life of near poverty and constant drudgery—writing and teaching—that he led until the mid-1880s is described in the novels New Grub Street (1891) and The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903). In his last years Gissing established a happy relationship with a Frenchwoman, Gabrielle Fleury, with whom he lived.

Before he was 21 he conceived the ambition of writing a long series of novels, somewhat in the manner of Balzac, whom he admired. The first of these, Workers in the Dawn, appeared in 1880, to be followed by 21 others. Between 1886 and 1895 he published one or more novels every year. He also wrote Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1898), a perceptive piece of literary criticism.

His work is serious—though not without a good deal of comic observation—interesting, scrupulously honest, and rather flat. It has a good deal of documentary interest for its detailed and accurate accounts of lower-middle-class London life. On the social position and psychology of women he is particularly acute: The Odd Women (1893) is a powerful study of female frustration. He did not lack human sympathies, but his obvious contempt for so many of his characters reflects an artistic limitation. Gissing was deeply critical, in an almost wholly negative way, of contemporary society. Of his novels, New Grub Street, considered by some critics to be his only great book, is unique in its merciless analysis of the compromises required by the literary life. Though he rejected Zola’s theory of naturalism, his ironic, agnostic, and pessimistic fictions came to be respected for their similarity to contemporary developments in French realist fiction.





Thomas Hardy

"Tess of the d'Urbervilles"    PART I, PART II

British writer

born June 2, 1840, Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, Eng.
died Jan. 11, 1928, Dorchester, Dorset

English novelist and poet who set much of his work in Wessex, his name for the counties of southwestern England.

Early life and works.
Hardy was the eldest of the four children of Thomas Hardy, a stonemason and jobbing builder, and his wife, Jemima (née Hand). He grew up in an isolated cottage on the edge of open heathland. Though he was often ill as a child, his early experience of rural life, with its seasonal rhythms and oral culture, was fundamental to much of his later writing. He spent a year at the village school at age eight and then moved on to schools in Dorchester, the nearby county town, where he received a good grounding in mathematics and Latin. In 1856 he was apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect, and in 1862, shortly before his 22nd birthday, he moved to London and became a draftsman in the busy office of Arthur Blomfield, a leading ecclesiastical architect. Driven back to Dorset by ill health in 1867, he worked for Hicks again and then for the Weymouth architect G.R. Crickmay.

Though architecture brought Hardy both social and economic advancement, it was only in the mid-1860s that lack of funds and declining religious faith forced him to abandon his early ambitions of a university education and eventual ordination as an Anglican priest. His habits of intensive private study were then redirected toward the reading of poetry and the systematic development of his own poetic skills. The verses he wrote in the 1860s would emerge in revised form in later volumes (e.g., “Neutral Tones,” “Retty’s Phases”), but when none of them achieved immediate publication, Hardy reluctantly turned to prose.

In 1867–68 he wrote the class-conscious novel The Poor Man and the Lady, which was sympathetically considered by three London publishers but never published. George Meredith, as a publisher’s reader, advised Hardy to write a more shapely and less opinionated novel. The result was the densely plotted Desperate Remedies (1871), which was influenced by the contemporary “sensation” fiction of Wilkie Collins. In his next novel, however, the brief and affectionately humorous idyll Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), Hardy found a voice much more distinctively his own. In this book he evoked, within the simplest of marriage plots, an episode of social change (the displacement of a group of church musicians) that was a direct reflection of events involving his own father shortly before Hardy’s own birth.

In March 1870 Hardy had been sent to make an architectural assessment of the lonely and dilapidated Church of St. Juliot in Cornwall. There—in romantic circumstances later poignantly recalled in prose and verse—he first met the rector’s vivacious sister-in-law, Emma Lavinia Gifford, who became his wife four years later. She actively encouraged and assisted him in his literary endeavours, and his next novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), drew heavily upon the circumstances of their courtship for its wild Cornish setting and its melodramatic story of a young woman (somewhat resembling Emma Gifford) and the two men, friends become rivals, who successively pursue, misunderstand, and fail her.

Hardy’s break with architecture occurred in the summer of 1872, when he undertook to supply Tinsley’s Magazine with the 11 monthly installments of A Pair of Blue Eyes—an initially risky commitment to a literary career that was soon validated by an invitation to contribute a serial to the far more prestigious Cornhill Magazine. The resulting novel, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), introduced Wessex for the first time and made Hardy famous by its agricultural settings and its distinctive blend of humorous, melodramatic, pastoral, and tragic elements. The book is a vigorous portrayal of the beautiful and impulsive Bathsheba Everdene and her marital choices among Sergeant Troy, the dashing but irresponsible soldier; William Boldwood, the deeply obsessive farmer; and Gabriel Oak, her loyal and resourceful shepherd.

Middle period.
Hardy and Emma Gifford were married, against the wishes of both their families, in September 1874. At first they moved rather restlessly about, living sometimes in London, sometimes in Dorset. His record as a novelist during this period was somewhat mixed. The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), an artificial social comedy turning on versions and inversions of the British class system, was poorly received and has never been widely popular. The Return of the Native (1878), on the other hand, was increasingly admired for its powerfully evoked setting of Egdon Heath, which was based on the sombre countryside Hardy had known as a child. The novel depicts the disastrous marriage between Eustacia Vye, who yearns romantically for passionate experiences beyond the hated heath, and Clym Yeobright, the returning native, who is blinded to his wife’s needs by a naively idealistic zeal for the moral improvement of Egdon’s impervious inhabitants. Hardy’s next works were The Trumpet-Major (1880), set in the Napoleonic period, and two more novels generally considered “minor”—A Laodicean (1881) and Two on a Tower (1882). The serious illness which hampered completion of A Laodicean decided the Hardys to move to Wimborne in 1881 and to Dorchester in 1883.

It was not easy for Hardy to establish himself as a member of the professional middle class in a town where his humbler background was well known. He signaled his determination to stay by accepting an appointment as a local magistrate and by designing and building Max Gate, the house just outside Dorchester in which he lived until his death. Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) incorporates recognizable details of Dorchester’s history and topography. The busy market-town of Casterbridge becomes the setting for a tragic struggle, at once economic and deeply personal, between the powerful but unstable Michael Henchard, who has risen from workman to mayor by sheer natural energy, and the more shrewdly calculating Donald Farfrae, who starts out in Casterbridge as Henchard’s protégé but ultimately dispossesses him of everything that he had once owned and loved. In Hardy’s next novel, The Woodlanders (1887), socioeconomic issues again become central as the permutations of sexual advance and retreat are played out among the very trees from which the characters make their living, and Giles Winterborne’s loss of livelihood is integrally bound up with his loss of Grace Melbury and, finally, of life itself.

Wessex Tales (1888) was the first collection of the short stories that Hardy had long been publishing in magazines. His subsequent short-story collections are A Group of Noble Dames (1891), Life’s Little Ironies (1894), and A Changed Man (1913). Hardy’s short novel The Well-Beloved (serialized 1892, revised for volume publication 1897) displays a hostility to marriage that was related to increasing frictions within his own marriage.

Late novels.
The closing phase of Hardy’s career in fiction was marked by the publication of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), which are generally considered his finest novels. Though Tess is the most richly “poetic” of Hardy’s novels, and Jude the most bleakly written, both books offer deeply sympathetic representations of working-class figures: Tess Durbeyfield, the erring milkmaid, and Jude Fawley, the studious stonemason. In powerful, implicitly moralized narratives, Hardy traces these characters’ initially hopeful, momentarily ecstatic, but persistently troubled journeys toward eventual deprivation and death.

Though technically belonging to the 19th century, these novels anticipate the 20th century in regard to the nature and treatment of their subject matter. Tess profoundly questions society’s sexual mores by its compassionate portrayal and even advocacy of a heroine who is seduced, and perhaps raped, by the son of her employer. She has an illegitimate child, suffers rejection by the man she loves and marries, and is finally hanged for murdering her original seducer. In Jude the Obscure the class-ridden educational system of the day is challenged by the defeat of Jude’s earnest aspirations to knowledge, while conventional morality is affronted by the way in which the sympathetically presented Jude and Sue change partners, live together, and have children with little regard for the institution of marriage. Both books encountered some brutally hostile reviews, and Hardy’s sensitivity to such attacks partly precipitated his long-contemplated transition from fiction to poetry.

Hardy seems always to have rated poetry above fiction, and Wessex Poems (1898), his first significant public appearance as a poet, included verse written during his years as a novelist as well as revised versions of poems dating from the 1860s. As a collection it was often perceived as miscellaneous and uneven—an impression reinforced by the author’s own idiosyncratic illustrations—and acceptance of Hardy’s verse was slowed, then and later, by the persistence of his reputation as a novelist. Poems of the Past and the Present (1901) contained nearly twice as many poems as its predecessor, most of them newly written. Some of the poems are explicitly or implicitly grouped by subject or theme. There are, for example, 11 “War Poems” prompted by the South African War (e.g., “Drummer Hodge,” “The Souls of the Slain”) and a sequence of disenchantedly “philosophical” poems (e.g., “The Mother Mourns,” “The Subalterns,” “To an Unborn Pauper Child”). In Time’s Laughingstocks (1909), the poems are again arranged under headings, but on principles that often remain elusive. Indeed, there is no clear line of development in Hardy’s poetry from immaturity to maturity; his style undergoes no significant change over time. His best poems can be found mixed together with inferior verse in any particular volume, and new poems are often juxtaposed to reworkings of poems written or drafted years before. The range of poems within any particular volume is also extremely broad—from lyric to meditation to ballad to satirical vignette to dramatic monologue or dialogue—and Hardy persistently experiments with different, often invented, stanza forms and metres.

In 1903, 1905, and 1908 Hardy successively published the three volumes of The Dynasts, a huge poetic drama that is written mostly in blank verse and subtitled “an epic-drama of the War with Napoleon”—though it was not intended for actual performance. The sequence of major historical events—Trafalgar, Austerlitz, Waterloo, and so on—is diversified by prose episodes involving ordinary soldiers and civilians and by an ongoing cosmic commentary from such personified “Intelligences” as the “Spirit of the Years” and the “Spirit of the Pities.” Hardy, who once described his poems as a “series of seemings” rather than expressions of a single consistent viewpoint, found in the contrasted moral and philosophical positions of the various Intelligences a means of articulating his own intellectual ambiguities. The Dynasts as a whole served to project his central vision of a universe governed by the purposeless movements of a blind, unconscious force that he called the Immanent Will. Though subsequent criticism has tended to find its structures cumbersome and its verse inert, The Dynasts remains an impressive—and highly readable—achievement, and its publication certainly reinforced both Hardy’s “national” image (he was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1910) and his enormous fame worldwide.

The sudden death of Emma Hardy in 1912 brought to an end some 20 years of domestic estrangement. It also stirred Hardy to profundities of regret and remorse and to the composition of “After a Journey,” “The Voice,” and the other “Poems of 1912–13,” which are by general consent regarded as the peak of his poetic achievement. In 1914 Hardy married Florence Emily Dugdale, who was 38 years his junior. While his second wife sometimes found her situation difficult—as when the inclusion of “Poems of 1912–13” in the collection Satires of Circumstance (1914) publicly proclaimed her husband’s continuing devotion to her predecessor—her attention to Hardy’s health, comfort, and privacy made a crucial contribution to his remarkable productivity in old age. Late in his eighth decade he published a fifth volume of verse, Moments of Vision (1917), and wrote in secret an official “life” of himself for posthumous publication under the name of his widow. In his ninth decade Hardy published two more poetry collections, Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922) and Human Shows (1925), and put together the posthumously published Winter Words (1928). Following his death, on Jan. 11, 1928, his cremated remains were interred with national pomp in Westminster Abbey, while his separated heart was buried in the churchyard of his native parish.

The continuing popularity of Hardy’s novels owes much to their richly varied yet always accessible style and their combination of romantic plots with convincingly presented characters. Equally important—particularly in terms of their suitability to film and television adaptation—is their nostalgic evocation of a vanished rural world through the creation of highly particularized regional settings. Hardy’s verse has been slower to win full acceptance, but his unique status as a major 20th-century poet as well as a major 19th-century novelist is now universally recognized.


Increased literacy in rural and outlying areas and wider access to publishing through, for example, local newspapers encouraged regional literary development as the 19th century progressed. Some writers in lesser-used languages and dialects of the islands gained a literary following outside their native regions, for example William Barnes in Dorset, George Métivier (1790–1881) in Guernsey and Robert Pipon Marett in Jersey. George Métivier published Rimes Guernesiaises, a collection of poems in Guernésiais and French in 1831 and Fantaisies Guernesiaises in 1866. Métivier's poems had first appeared in newspapers from 1813 onward, but he spent time in Scotland in his youth where he became familiar with the Scots literary tradition although he was also influenced by Occitan literature. The first printed anthology of Jèrriais poetry, Rimes Jersiaises, was published in 1865. Philippe Le Sueur Mourant's tales of Bram Bilo, an innocent abroad in Paris, were an immediate success in Jersey in 1889 and went through a number of reprintings. Denys Corbet published collections of poems Les Feuilles de la Forêt (1871) and Les Chànts du draïn rimeux (1884), and also brought out an annual poetry anthology 1874–1877, similar to Augustus Asplet Le Gros's annual in Jersey 1868–1875.

Ulster Scots was used in the narrative by Ulster novelists such as W. G. Lyttle (1844–1896). By the middle of the 19th century the Kailyard school of prose had become the dominant literary genre, overtaking poetry. This was a tradition shared with Scotland which continued into the early 20th century. Ulster Scots also regularly appeared in Ulster newspaper columns auch as those of "Bab M'Keen" from the 1880s.. Scottish authors;
Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, J. M. Barrie, and George MacDonald, also wrote in Lowland Scots or used it in dialogue.

Ewen MacLachlan translated the first eight books of Homer's Iliad into Scottish Gaelic. He also composed and published his own Gaelic Attempts in Verse (1807) and Metrical Effusions (1816), and contributed greatly to the 1828 Gaelic–English Dictionary.
The so-called "Cranken Rhyme" produced by John Davey of Boswednack, one of the last people with some traditional knowledge of the language, may be the last piece of traditional Cornish literature. Later Cornish revivalists produced literary works: John Hobson Matthews wrote several poems, such as the patriotic "Can Wlascar Agam Mamvro" ("Patriotic Song of our Motherland"). Robert Morton Nance created a body of verse, such as "Nyns yu Marow Myghtern Arthur" ("King Arthur is not Dead").
The first major novelist in the Welsh language was Daniel Owen, author of works such as Rhys Lewis (1885) and Enoc Huws (1891).

Penny dreadful publications were an alternative to mainstream works, and were aimed at working class adolescents, introducing the infamous Sweeney Todd. The premier ghost story writer of the nineteenth century was Sheridan Le Fanu. His works include the macabre mystery novel Uncle Silas 1865, and his Gothic novella Carmilla 1872, tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire.

Bram Stoker, author of seminal horror work Dracula, featured as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula, with the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing his arch-enemy. Dracula has been attributed to a number of literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature.

Walt Disney's Peter Pan


J. M. Barrie


"Peter and Wendy"   CHAPTER 1-5, CHAPTER 6-17  Illustrations by F. D. Bedford

"Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens"      CHAPTER I, CHAPTER II-IV, CHAPTER V-VI  Illustrations by Arthur Rackham


in full Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet

born May 9, 1860, Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland
died June 19, 1937, London, England

Scottish dramatist and novelist who is best known as the creator of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up.

The son of a weaver, Barrie never recovered from the shock he received at six from a brother’s death and its grievous effect on his mother, who dominated his childhood and retained that dominance thereafter. Throughout his life Barrie wished to recapture the happy years before his mother was stricken, and he retained a strong childlike quality in his adult personality.

Barrie studied at the University of Edinburgh and spent two years on the Nottingham Journal before settling in London as a freelance writer in 1885. His first successful book, Auld Licht Idylls (1888), contained sketches of life in Kirriemuir, and the stories in A Window in Thurms (1889) continue to explore that setting. The Little Minister (1891), a highly sentimental novel in the same style, was a bestseller, and, after its dramatization in 1897, Barrie wrote mostly for the theatre. His autobiographical novels When a Man’s Single (1888) and Sentimental Tommy (1896) both feature a little boy in Kirriemuir (“Thrums”) who weaves a cloak of romantic fiction between himself and reality and becomes a successful writer. Most of these early works are marked by quaint Scottish dialect, whimsical humour and comic clowning, pathos, and sentimentality.

Barrie’s marriage in 1894 to the actress Mary Ansell was childless and apparently unconsummated. In 1897 he formed an attachment to Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, and it was to her sons, through whom he began to live again the experience of childhood, that he told his first Peter Pan stories, some of which were published in The Little White Bird (1902). The play Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, was first produced in 1904. This play added a new character to the mythology of the English-speaking world in the figure of Peter Pan, and its theme of heroic boyhood triumphant over the seedy, middle-aged pirate Captain Hook proved to have a lasting appeal. Barrie’s idyll of reexperienced boyhood was followed by tragedy. His marriage ended in divorce in April 1910; Sylvia Davies, then a widow, died four months later; and two of her sons, to whom Barrie acted as guardian, were killed.

Barrie was created a baronet in 1913 and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1922. He became president of the Society of Authors in 1928 and chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in 1930.

Most of Barrie’s stage triumphs have been dismissed by critics as marred by ephemeral whimsicalities, but at least six of his plays—Quality Street (1901), The Admirable Crichton (1902), What Every Woman Knows (1908), The Twelve-Pound Look (1910), The Will (1913), and Dear Brutus (1917)—are of indisputably high quality. Barrie idealized childhood and desexualized femininity but took a disenchanted view of adult life, as reflected in the gentle melancholy of these works. Sometimes he expressed his disenchantment humorously, as in The Admirable Crichton, in which a butler becomes the king of a desert island, with his former employers as serfs; sometimes satirically, as in The Twelve-Pound Look; and sometimes tragically, as in Dear Brutus, in which nine men and women whose lives have come to grief are given a magical second chance, only to wreck themselves again on the reefs of their own temperaments. The elaborate stage directions in Barrie’s plays are sometimes more rewarding than their dialogue itself. Barrie proved himself a master of stage effects and of the delineation of character, but the sentimental and whimsical elements in his work have discouraged frequent revivals.





George MacDonald

"The Princess and the Goblin"   PART I, PART II, PART III

born Dec. 10, 1824, Huntly, Aberdeen, Scot.
died Sept. 18, 1905, Ashtead, Surrey, Eng.

novelist of Scottish life, poet, and writer of Christian allegories of man’s pilgrimage back to God, who is remembered chiefly, however, for his allegorical fairy stories, which have continued to delight children and their elders. He became a Congregational minister, then a free-lance preacher and lecturer. In 1855 he published a poetic tragedy, Within and Without, and after that he made literature his profession. Of his literature for adults, Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858) and Lilith (1895) are good examples. Although his best known book for children is At the Back of the North Wind (1871), his best and most enduring works are The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie (1873).





Bram Stoker

"Dracula"   CHAPTER 1-10, CHAPTER 11-27

Irish writer

born Nov. 8, 1847, Dublin, Ire.
died April 20, 1912, London, Eng.

Author of the horror tale Dracula.

Although an invalid in early childhood—he could not stand or walk until he was seven—Stoker outgrew his weakness to become an outstanding athlete and football (soccer) player at the University of Dublin. After 10 years in the civil service at Dublin Castle, during which he was also an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Mail, he made the acquaintance of his idol, the actor Sir Henry Irving, and from 1878 until Irving’s death 27 years later, he acted as his manager, writing as many as 50 letters a day for him and accompanying him on his American tours. Stoker’s first book, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, a handbook in legal administration, was published in 1879.

Turning to fiction late in life, Stoker published The Snake’s Pass, a novel with a bleak western-Ireland setting, in 1891, and in 1897 his masterpiece, Dracula, appeared. Written chiefly in the form of diaries and journals kept by the principal characters—Jonathan Harker, who made the first contact with the vampire Count Dracula; Mina, Jonathan’s wife; Dr. Seward; and Lucy Westenra, a victim who herself became a vampire—the story is that of a Transylvanian vampire who, using supernatural powers, makes his way to England and there victimizes innocent people to gain the blood on which he lives. Led by Dr. Van Helsing, Harker and his friends, after many hair-raising adventures, are at last able to overpower and destroy Dracula. The immensely popular novel enjoyed equal success in several versions as a play and as a film.

Stoker wrote several other novels—among them The Mystery of the Sea (1902), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1904), and The Lady of the Shroud (1909)—but none of them approached the popularity or, indeed, the quality of Dracula.

H. G. Wells, who alongside Jules Verne, is referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction", invented a number of themes that are now classic in the science fiction genre. The War of the Worlds 1898, describing an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians using tripod fighting machines equipped with advanced weaponry, is a seminal depiction of an alien invasion of Earth. The Time Machine is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term "time machine" coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant London-based "consulting detective", famous for his intellectual prowess, skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases. Holmes' archenemy Professor Moriarty, is widely considered to be the first true example of a supervillain, while Sherlock Holmes has become a by-word for a detective. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, from 1880 up to 1907, with a final case in 1914. All but four Conan Doyle stories are narrated by Holmes' friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson.

The Lost World literary genre was inspired by real stories of archaeological discoveries by imperial adventurers. H. Rider Haggard wrote one of the earliest examples, King Solomon's Mines in 1885. Contemporary European politics and diplomatic manoeuvrings informed Anthony Hope's swashbuckling Ruritanian adventure novels The Prisoner of Zenda 1894, and Rupert of Hentzau, 1898.
F. Anstey's comic novel Vice Versa 1882, sees a father and son magically switch bodies. Satirist
Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat 1889, is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the river Thames. Grossmith brothers George & Weedon's Diary of a Nobody 1892, is also considered a classic work of humour.


H.G. Wells

"The War of the Worlds"     PART I, PART II    

"The Invisible Man"

"A Short History of the World"  

British author
in full Herbert George Wells

born , Sept. 21, 1866, Bromley, Kent, Eng.
died Aug. 13, 1946, London

English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds and such comic novels as Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr. Polly.

Early life
Wells was the son of domestic servants turned small shopkeepers. He grew up under the continual threat of poverty, and at age 14, after a very inadequate education supplemented by his inexhaustible love of reading, he was apprenticed to a draper in Windsor. His employer soon dismissed him; and he became assistant to a chemist, then to another draper, and finally, in 1883, an usher at Midhurst Grammar School. At 18 he won a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School (later the Royal College) of Science, in South Kensington, London, where T.H. Huxley was one of his teachers. He graduated from London University in 1888, becoming a science teacher and undergoing a period of ill health and financial worries, the latter aggravated by his marriage, in 1891, to his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells. The marriage was not a success, and in 1894 Wells ran off with Amy Catherine Robbins (d. 1927), a former pupil, who in 1895 became his second wife.

Early writings
Wells’s first published book was a Textbook of Biology (1893). With his first novel, The Time Machine (1895), which was immediately successful, he began a series of science fiction novels that revealed him as a writer of marked originality and an immense fecundity of ideas: The Wonderful Visit (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The Food of the Gods (1904). He also wrote many short stories, which were collected in The Stolen Bacillus (1895), The Plattner Story (1897), and Tales of Space and Time (1899). For a time he acquired a reputation as a prophet of the future, and indeed, in The War in the Air (1908), he foresaw certain developments in the military use of aircraft. But his imagination flourished at its best not in the manner of the comparatively mechanical anticipations of Jules Verne but in the astronomical fantasies of The First Men in the Moon and The War of the Worlds, from the latter of which the image of the Martian has passed into popular mythology.

Behind his inventiveness lay a passionate concern for man and society, which increasingly broke into the fantasy of his science fiction, often diverting it into satire and sometimes, as in The Food of the Gods, destroying its credibility. Eventually, Wells decided to abandon science fiction for comic novels of lower middle-class life, most notably in Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900), Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (1905), and The History of Mr. Polly (1910). In these novels, and in Tono-Bungay (1909), he drew on memories of his own earlier life, and, through the thoughts of inarticulate yet often ambitious heroes, revealed the hopes and frustrations of clerks, shop assistants, and underpaid teachers, who had rarely before been treated in fiction with such sympathetic understanding. In these novels, too, he made his liveliest, most persuasive comment on the problems of Western society that were soon to become his main preoccupation. The sombre vision of a dying world in The Time Machine shows that, in his long-term view of humanity’s prospects, Wells felt much of the pessimism prevalent in the 1890s. In his short-term view, however, his study of biology led him to hope that human society would evolve into higher forms, and with Anticipations (1901), Mankind in the Making (1903), and A Modern Utopia (1905), he took his place in the British public’s mind as a leading preacher of the doctrine of social progress. About this time, too, he became an active socialist, and in 1903 joined the Fabian Society, though he soon began to criticize its methods. The bitter quarrel he precipitated by his unsuccessful attempt to wrest control of the Fabian Society from George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1906–07 is retold in his novel The New Machiavelli (1911), in which the Webbs are parodied as the Baileys.

Middle and late works
After about 1906 the pamphleteer and the novelist were in conflict in Wells, and only The History of Mr. Polly and the lighthearted Bealby (1915) can be considered primarily as fiction. His later novels are mainly discussions of social or political themes that show little concern for the novel as a literary form. Wells himself affected not to care about the literary merit of his work, and he rejected the tutelage of the American novelist Henry James, saying, “I would rather be called a journalist than an artist.” Indeed, his novel Boon (1915) included a spiteful parody of James. His next novel, Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), though touched by the prejudice and shortsightedness of wartime, gives a brilliant picture of the English people in World War I.

World War I shook Wells’s faith in even short-term human progress, and in subsequent works he modified his conception of social evolution, putting forward the view that man could only progress if he would adapt himself to changing circumstances through knowledge and education. To help bring about this process of adaptation Wells began an ambitious work of popular education, of which the main products were The Outline of History (1920; revised 1931), The Science of Life (1931), cowritten with Julian Huxley and G.P. Wells (his elder son by his second wife), and The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind (1932). At the same time he continued to publish works of fiction, in which his gifts of narrative and dialogue give way almost entirely to polemics. His sense of humour reappears, however, in the reminiscences of his Experiment in Autobiography (1934).

In 1933 Wells published a novelized version of a film script, The Shape of Things to Come. (Produced by Alexander Korda, the film Things to Come [1936] remains, on account of its special effects, one of the outstanding British films of the 20th century.) Wells’s version reverts to the utopianism of some earlier books, but as a whole his outlook grew steadily less optimistic, and some of his later novels contain much that is bitterly satiric. Fear of a tragic wrong turning in the development of the human race, to which he had early given imaginative expression in the grotesque animal mutations of The Island of Doctor Moreau, dominates the short novels and fables he wrote in the later 1930s. Wells was now ill and aging. With the outbreak of World War II, he lost all confidence in the future, and in Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945) he depicts a bleak vision of a world in which nature has rejected, and is destroying, humankind.

In spite of an awareness of possible world catastrophe that underlay much of his earlier work and flared up again in old age, Wells in his lifetime was regarded as the chief literary spokesman of the liberal optimism that preceded World War I. No other writer has caught so vividly the energy of this period, its adventurousness, its feeling of release from the conventions of Victorian thought and propriety. Wells’s influence was enormous, both on his own generation and on that which immediately followed it. None of his contemporaries did more to encourage revolt against Christian tenets and accepted codes of behaviour, especially as regards sex, in which, both in his books and in his personal life, he was a persistent advocate of an almost complete freedom. Though in many ways hasty, ill-tempered, and contradictory, Wells was undeviating and fearless in his efforts for social equality, world peace, and what he considered to be the future good of humanity.

As a creative writer his reputation rests on the early science fiction books and on the comic novels. In his science fiction, he took the ideas and fears that haunted the mind of his age and gave them symbolic expression as brilliantly conceived fantasy made credible by the quiet realism of its setting. In the comic novels, though his psychology lacks subtlety and the construction of his plots is often awkward, he shows a fund of humour and a deep sympathy for ordinary people. Wells’s prose style is always careless and lacks grace, yet he has his own gift of phrase and a true ear for vernacular speech, especially that of the lower middle class of London and southeastern England. His best work has a vigour, vitality, and exuberance unsurpassed, in its way, by that of any other British writer of the early 20th century.

Norman Cornthwaite Nicholson




Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


"SHERLOCK HOLMES" (contents)

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"    PART I,  PART II

Illustrations by Sidney Paget

"Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"     PART I,  PART II

Illustrations by Sidney Paget

"The Return of Sherlock Holmes"   

Illustrations by Sidney Paget

"The Hound of the Baskervilles"     PART I,  PART II

Illustrations by Sidney Paget

"A Study in Scarlet", "The Valley of Fear"

"His Last Bow",
"The Sign of Four"

British author
in full Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle

born May 22, 1859, Edinburgh, Scotland
died July 7, 1930, Crowborough, Sussex, England

Scottish writer best known for his creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes—one of the most vivid and enduring characters in English fiction.

Conan Doyle, the second of Charles Altamont and Mary Foley Doyle’s 10 children, began seven years of Jesuit education in Lancashire, England, in 1868. After an additional year of schooling in Feldkirch, Austria, Conan Doyle returned to Edinburgh. Through the influence of Dr. Bryan Charles Waller, his mother’s lodger, he prepared for entry into the University of Edinburgh’s Medical School. He received his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery qualifications from Edinburgh in 1881 and an M.D. in 1885, upon completing his thesis, “An Essay upon the Vasomotor Changes in Tabes Dorsalis.”

While a medical student, Conan Doyle was deeply impressed by the skill of his professor, Dr. Joseph Bell, in observing the most minute detail regarding a patient’s condition. This master of diagnostic deduction became the model for Conan Doyle’s literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. Other aspects of Conan Doyle’s medical education and experiences appear in his semiautobiographical novels, The Firm of Girdlestone (1890) and The Stark Munro Letters (1895), and in the collection of medical short stories Round the Red Lamp (1894). His creation of the logical, cold, calculating Holmes, the “world’s first and only consulting detective,” sharply contrasted with the paranormal beliefs Conan Doyle addressed in a short novel of this period, The Mystery of Cloomber (1889). Conan Doyle’s early interest in both scientifically supportable evidence and certain paranormal phenomena exemplified the complex diametrically opposing beliefs he struggled with throughout his life.

Although public clamour prompted him to continue writing Sherlock Holmes adventures through 1926, Conan Doyle claimed the success of Holmes overshadowed the merit he believed his other historical fiction deserved, most notably his tale of 14th-century chivalry, The White Company (1891), its companion piece, Sir Nigel (1906), and his adventures of the Napoleonic war hero Brigadier Gerard and the 19th-century skeptical scientist Professor George Edward Challenger.

When his passions ran high, Conan Doyle also turned to nonfiction. His subjects include military writings, The Great Boer War (1900) and The British Campaign in France and Flanders, 6 vol. (1916–20), the Belgian atrocities in the Congo in The Crime of the Congo (1909), as well as his involvement in the actual criminal cases of George Edalji and Oscar Slater.

Conan Doyle married Louisa Hawkins in 1885, and together they had two children, Mary and Kingsley. A year after Louisa’s death in 1906, he married Jean Leckie and with her had three children, Denis, Adrian, and Jean. Conan Doyle was knighted in 1902 for his work with a field hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and other services during the South African (Boer) War.

Conan Doyle himself viewed his most important efforts to be his campaign in support of spiritualism, the religion and psychic research subject based upon the belief that spirits of the departed continued to exist in the hereafter and can be contacted by those still living on earth. He donated the majority of his literary efforts and profits later in his life to this campaign, beginning with The New Revelation (1918) and The Vital Message (1919). He later chronicled his travels in supporting the spiritualist cause in The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), Our American Adventure (1923), Our Second American Adventure (1924), and Our African Winter (1929). He discussed other spiritualist issues in his Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Pheneas Speaks (1927), and a two-volume The History of Spiritualism (1926). Conan Doyle became the world’s most renowned proponent of spiritualism, but he faced considerable opposition for his conviction from the magician Harry Houdini and in a 1920 debate with the humanist Joseph McCabe. Even spiritualists joined in criticizing Conan Doyle’s article “The Evidence for Fairies,” published in The Strand Magazine in 1921, and his subsequent book The Coming of the Fairies (1922), in which he voiced support for the claim that two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, had photographed actual fairies that they had seen in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley.

Conan Doyle died in Windlesham, his home in Crowborough, Sussex, and at his funeral, his family and members of the spiritualist community celebrated rather than mourned the occasion of his passing beyond the veil. On July 13, 1930, thousands of people filled London’s Royal Albert Hall for a séance during which Estelle Roberts, the spiritualist medium, claimed to have contacted Sir Arthur.

Conan Doyle detailed what he valued most in life in his autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924), and the importance that books held for him in Through the Magic Door (1907).

Philip K. Wilson


The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, formed in 1848 and unofficially reinforced a decade later, was founded as a group of painters but also functioned as a school of writers who linked the incipient Aestheticism of Keats and De Quincey to the Decadent movement of the fin de siècle. Dante Gabriel Rossetti collected his early writing in Poems (1870), a volume that led the critic Robert Buchanan to attack him as the leader of The Fleshly School of Poetry. Rossetti combined some subtle treatments of contemporary life with a new kind of medievalism, seen also in The Defence of Guenevere (1858) by William Morris. The earnest political use of the Middle Ages found in Carlyle and Ruskin did not die out—Morris himself continued it and linked it, in the 1880s, with Marxism. But these writers also used medieval settings as a context that made possible an uninhibited treatment of sex and violence. The shocking subject matter and vivid imagery of Morris’s first volume were further developed by Algernon Charles Swinburne, who, in Atalanta in Calydon (1865) and Poems and Ballads (1866), combined them with an intoxicating metrical power. His second series of Poems and Ballads (1878), with its moving elegies for Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier, displays a sophisticated command of recent developments in avant-garde French verse.

The carefully wrought religious poetry of Christina Rossetti is perhaps truer to the original, pious purposes of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Her first collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862), with its vivid but richly ambiguous title poem, established her status as one of the outstanding lyric poets of the century. The other outstanding religious poet of this period is
Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest whose work was first collected as Poems in 1918, nearly 30 years after his death. Overpraised by Modernist critics, who saw him as the sole great poet of the era, he was in fact an important minor talent and an ingenious technical innovator.

Robert Browning’s experiments with the dramatic monologue were further developed in the 1860s by Augusta Webster, who used the form in Dramatic Studies (1866), A Woman Sold and Other Poems (1867), and Portraits (1870) to produce penetrating accounts of female experience. Her posthumously published sonnet sequence Mother & Daughter (1895) is a lucid and unsentimental account of that relationship.

The 1890s witnessed a flowering of lyric verse, influenced intellectually by the critic and novelist Walter Pater and formally by contemporary French practice. Such writing was widely attacked as “decadent” for its improper subject matter and its consciously amoral doctrine of “art for art’s sake.” This stress upon artifice and the freedom of art from conventional moral constraints went hand in hand, however, with an exquisite craftsmanship and a devotion to intense emotional and sensory effects. Outstanding among the numerous poets publishing in the final decade of the century were
John Davidson, Arthur Symons, Francis Thompson, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, and A.E. Housman. In The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899), Symons suggested the links between this writing and European Symbolism and Impressionism. Thompson provides a vivid example of the way in which a decadent manner could, paradoxically, be combined with fierce religious enthusiasm. A rather different note was struck by
Rudyard Kipling, who combined polemical force and sharp observation (particularly of colonial experience) with a remarkable metrical vigour.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The House of Life"


see also collection: Rossetti Dante Gabriel - painter

Dante Gabriel Rossetti  Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice

original name Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti
born May 12, 1828, London, Eng.
died April 9, 1882, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent

English painter and poet who helped found the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of painters treating religious, moral, and medieval subjects in a nonacademic manner. Dante Gabriel was the most illustrious member of the Rossetti family.

Early life and works.
After a general education in the junior department of King’s College (1836–41), Rossetti hesitated between poetry and painting as a vocation. When about 14 he went to “Sass’s,” an old-fashioned drawing school in Bloomsbury (central London), and thence, in 1845, to the Royal Academy schools, where he became a full student.

Meanwhile, he read omnivorously—romantic and poetic literature, William Shakespeare, J.W. von Goethe, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and Gothic tales of horror. He was fascinated by the work of the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. In 1847 he discovered the 18th-century English painter-poet William Blake through the purchase of a volume of Blake’s designs and writings in prose and verse; the volume has since been known as the Rossetti MS. Blake’s diatribes against the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds encouraged Rossetti to attempt lampoons of his own against the triviality of early Victorian paintings of anecdotal subjects, those of Sir Edwin Landseer being a special target of his derision.

By the time Rossetti was 20, he had already done a number of translations of Italian poets and had composed some original verse, but he was also much in and out of artists’ studios and for a short time was, in an informal way, a pupil of the painter Ford Madox Brown. He acquired some of Brown’s admiration for the German “Pre-Raphaelites,” the nickname of the austere Nazarenes, who had sought to bring back into German art a pre-Renaissance purity of style and aim. It remained to initiate a similiar reform in England.

Largely through Rossetti’s efforts, the English Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in 1848 with seven members, all Royal Academy students except for William Michael Rossetti. They aimed at “truth to nature,” which was to be achieved by minuteness of detail and painting from nature outdoors. This was, more especially, the purpose of the two other principal members, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti expanded the Brotherhood’s aims by linking poetry, painting, and social idealism and by interpreting the term Pre-Raphaelite as synonymous with a romanticized medieval past.

While Rossetti’s first two oil paintings—“The Girlhood of Mary” (1849; Tate Gallery, London) and “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (“The Annunciation”; 1850, Tate Gallery)—were simple in style, they were elaborate in symbolism. Some of the same atmosphere is felt in the rich word-painting and emotional force of his poem “The Blessed Damozel,” published in 1850 in the first issue of The Germ, the Pre-Raphaelite magazine. When it was exhibited in 1850, “Ecce Ancilla Domini” received severe criticism, which Rossetti could never bear with equanimity. In consequence, he ceased to show in public and gave up oils in favour of watercolours, which he could more easily dispose of to personal acquaintances. He also turned from traditional religious themes to painting scenes from Shakespeare, Robert Browning, and Dante, which allowed more freedom of imaginative treatment. A typical example of his work from this period is “How They Met Themselves” (1851–60; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). After 1856 Rossetti was led by Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King to evoke in his paintings an imaginary Arthurian epoch, with heraldic glow and pattern of colour and medieval accessories of armour and dress.

The 1850s were eventful years for Rossetti. They began with the introduction into the Pre-Raphaelite circle of the beautiful Elizabeth Siddal, who served at first as model for the whole group but was soon attached to Rossetti alone and, in 1860, married him. Many portrait drawings testify to his affection for her.

In 1854 he gained a powerful but exacting patron in the art critic John Ruskin. By then the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was at an end, splintered by the different interests and temperaments of its members. But Rossetti’s magnetic personality aroused a fresh wave of enthusiasm. In 1856 he came into contact with the then-Oxford undergraduates Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. With these two young disciples he initiated a second phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The two main aspects of this fresh departure were a romantic enthusiasm for a legendary past instead of the realism of “truth to nature” and the ambition of reforming the applied arts of design. Rossetti’s influence not only led to easel pictures illustrating Arthurian legend but also into other fields of art. A new era of book decoration was foreshadowed by Rossetti’s illustration for the Moxon edition of the Poems (1857) of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His commission in 1856 to paint a triptych (“The Seed of David”) for Llandaff Cathedral was a prelude to the ambitious scheme of 1857 to decorate the Oxford Union debating chamber with mural paintings of Arthurian themes. Though Rossetti and his helpers (Burne-Jones, Morris, and others) failed through want of technical knowledge and experience, the enterprise was fruitful in suggesting that the scope of art could be expanded to include the crafts.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Proserpine

The later years.
From 1860 onward, trials were part of Rossetti’s much-disturbed life. His marriage to Elizabeth Siddal, clouded by her constant ill health, ended tragically in 1862 with her death from an overdose of laudanum. Grief led him to bury with her the only complete manuscript of his poems. That he considered his love for his wife similar to Dante’s mystical and idealized love for Beatrice is evident from the symbolic “Beata Beatrix,” painted in 1863 and now in the Tate Gallery.

Rossetti’s life and art were now greatly changed. He moved from riverside premises in London’s Blackfriars to Chelsea. The influence of new friends—Algernon Charles Swinburne and the American painter James McNeill Whistler—led to a more aesthetic and sensuous approach to art. Literary themes gave way to pictures of mundane beauties, such as his mistress, Fanny Cornforth, gorgeously appareled and painted with a command of oils he had not previously shown. Among these works are “The Blessed Damozel” (1871–79), “The Bower Meadow” (1872), “Proserpine” (1874; Tate Gallery), and “La Pia de’ Tolomei” (1881). The luxuriant colours and rhythmic design of these paintings enhance the effect of their languid, sensuous female subjects, all of whom bear a distinctive “Pre-Raphaelite” facial type. The paintings proved popular with collectors, and Rossetti grew affluent enough to employ studio assistants to make copies and replicas. He also collected antiques and filled his large Chelsea garden with a menagerie of animals and birds.

Rossetti had enjoyed a modest success in 1861 with his published translations, The Early Italian Poets; and toward the end of the 1860s his thoughts turned to poetry again. He began composing new poems and planned the recovery of the manuscript poems buried with his wife in Highgate Cemetery. Carried out in 1869 through the agency of his unconventional man of business, Charles Augustus Howell, the exhumation visibly distressed the superstitious Rossetti. The publication of these poems followed in 1870. The Poems were well enough received until a misdirected, savage onslaught by “Thomas Maitland” (pseudonym of the journalist-critic Robert Buchanan) on “The Fleshly School of Poetry” singled out Rossetti for attack. Rossetti responded temperately in “The Stealthy School of Criticism,” published in the Athenaeum; but the attack, combined with remorse and the amount of chloral and alcohol he now took for insomnia, brought about his collapse in 1872. He recovered sufficiently to paint and write, but his life in Chelsea was subsequently that of a semi-invalid and recluse. Until 1874 he spent much time at Kelmscott Manor (near Oxford), of which he took joint tenancy with William Morris in 1871. His lovingly idealized portraits of Jane Morris at this time were a return to his more poetic and mystical style.

In the early 1880s Rossetti occupied himself with a replica of an early watercolour, “Dante’s Dream” (1880), a revised edition of Poems (1881), and Ballads and Sonnets (1881), containing the completed sonnet sequence of “The House of Life,” in which he described the love between man and woman with tragic intensity. The lawyer and man of letters Theodore Watts-Dunton meanwhile did his best to put Rossetti’s financial affairs in order. From a visit to Keswick (in northwestern England) in 1881, Rossetti returned in worse health than before, and he died the following spring.

Through his exploration of new themes and his break with academic convention, Rossetti remains an important figure in the history of 19th-century English art. But his enduring worth probably lies as much in his poetry as in his painting. In contrast to his painting, where accumulated details of costume and greenery can become cloying, the detail in Rossetti’s poetry is subordinated to intensity of emotion and is employed to evoke a mood. It is by means of tiny and seemingly trivial touches, for example, that time is suspended in his poem “My Sister’s Sleep” and the very silence of the sickroom is heard. “The Wood Spurge” and the lyric “I have been here before” show Rossetti’s mastery of similar effects. The timeless moment is again caught with great skill in his sonnet “A Venetian Pastoral by Giorgione in the Louvre”—the most successful of his highly original attempts to translate well-known paintings into verse. “The Stream’s Secret,” haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, evokes pity and regret by the power of its verbal music.

Rossetti was a natural master of the sonnet, and his finest achievement, “The House of Life,” is a sonnet sequence unique in the intensity of its evocation of the mysteries of physical and spiritual love. Here, as he claimed against his detractors, “the passionate and just delights of the body are declared to be as naught if not ennobled by the concurrence of the soul at all times.” Magnificent memorable lines are created with simplicity of diction:

Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,

This close-companioned inarticulate hour

When twofold silence was the song of love.

(“Silent Noon,” The House of Life, sonnet XIX)

Rossetti’s poetic art had other, less subjective aspects. “The Last Confession,” a tragic episode set against a background of the Italian Risorgimento, is a powerful dramatic monologue that can bear comparison with those of Robert Browning. With his feeling for medieval subjects, Rossetti also caught the spirit of the ballad. Few modern supernatural ballads are less artificial than “Sister Helen” and “Eden Bower”; and, among re-creations of the historical ballad, “The White Ship” and “The King’s Tragedy” are outstanding. Early in Rossetti’s career, the sight of the great winged bulls in the British Museum evoked his poem “Burden of Nineveh” (1850), a meditation on the unpredictable course of history that is rich in word-music and far-ranging in imaginative vision.

William Gaunt
John Bryson




Christina Rossetti

in full Christina Georgina Rossetti, pseudonym Ellen Alleyne

born Dec. 5, 1830, London, Eng.
died Dec. 29, 1894, London

one of the most important of English women poets both in range and quality. She excelled in works of fantasy, in poems for children, and in religious poetry.

Christina was the youngest child of Gabriele Rossetti and was the sister of the painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1847 her grandfather, Gaetano Polidori, printed on his private press a volume of her Verses, in which signs of poetic talent are already visible. In 1850, under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, she contributed seven poems to the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ. In 1853, when the Rossetti family was in financial difficulties, Christina helped her mother keep a school at Frome, Somerset, but it was not a success, and in 1854 the pair returned to London, where Christina’s father died. In straitened circumstances, Christina entered on her life work of companionship to her mother, devotion to her religion, and the writing of her poetry. She was a firm High Church Anglican, and in 1850 she broke her engagement to the artist James Collinson, an original member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, because he had become a Roman Catholic. For similar reasons she rejected Charles Bagot Cayley in 1864, though a warm friendship remained between them.

In 1862 Christina published Goblin Market and Other Poems and in 1866 The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems, both with frontispiece and decorations by her brother Dante Gabriel. These two collections, which contain most of her finest work, established her among the poets of her day. The stories in her first prose work, Commonplace and Other Short Stories (1870), are of no great merit, but Sing-Song: a Nursery Rhyme Book (1872; enlarged 1893), with illustrations by Arthur Hughes, takes a high place among children’s books of the 19th century.

In 1871 Christina was stricken by Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder that marred her appearance and left her life in danger. She accepted her affliction with courage and resignation, sustained by religious faith, and she continued to publish, issuing one collection of poems in 1875 and A Pageant and Other Poems in 1881. But after the onset of her illness she mostly concentrated on devotional prose writings. Time Flies (1885), a reading diary of mixed verse and prose, is the most personal of these works. Christina was considered a possible successor to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as poet laureate, but she developed a fatal cancer in 1891. New Poems (1896), published by her brother, contained unprinted and previously uncollected poems.

Though she was haunted by an ideal of spiritual purity that demanded self-denial, Christina resembled her brother Dante Gabriel in certain ways, for beneath her humility, her devotion, and her quiet, saintlike life lay a passionate and sensuous temperament, a keen critical perception, and a lively sense of humour. Part of her success as a poet arises from the fact that, while never straining the limits of her sympathy and experience, she succeeded in uniting these two seemingly contradictory sides of her nature. There is a vein of the sentimental and didactic in her weaker verse, but at its best her poetry is strong, personal, and unforced, with a metrical cadence that is unmistakably her own. The transience of material things is a theme that recurs throughout her poetry, and the resigned but passionate sadness of unhappy love is often a dominant note.

John Bryson



Gerard Manley Hopkins

born July 28, 1844, Stratford, Essex, Eng.
died June 8, 1889, Dublin

English poet and Jesuit priest, one of the most individual of Victorian writers. His work was not published in collected form until 1918, but it influenced many leading 20th-century poets.

Hopkins was the eldest of the nine children of Manley Hopkins, an Anglican, who had been British consul general in Hawaii and had himself published verse. Hopkins won the poetry prize at the Highgate grammar school and in 1863 was awarded a grant to study at Balliol College, Oxford, where he continued writing poetry while studying classics. In 1866, in the prevailing atmosphere of the Oxford Movement, which renewed interest in the relationships between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman. The following year, he left Oxford with such a distinguished academic record that Benjamin Jowett, then a Balliol lecturer and later master of the college, called him “the star of Balliol.” Hopkins decided to become a priest. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1868 and burned his youthful verses, determining “to write no more, as not belonging to my profession.”

Until 1875, however, he kept a journal recording his vivid responses to nature as well as his expression of a philosophy for which he later found support in Duns Scotus, the medieval Franciscan thinker. Hopkins’ philosophy emphasized the individuality of every natural thing, which he called “inscape.” To Hopkins, each sensuous impression had its own elusive “selfness”; each scene was to him a “sweet especial scene.”

In 1874 Hopkins went to St. Beuno’s College in North Wales to study theology. There he learned Welsh, and, under the impact of the language itself as well as that of the poetry and encouraged by his superior, he began to write poetry again. Moved by the death of five Franciscan nuns in a shipwreck in 1875, he broke his seven-year silence to write the long poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” in which he succeeded in realizing “the echo of a new rhythm” that had long been haunting his ear. It was rejected, however, by the Jesuit magazine The Month. He also wrote a series of sonnets strikingly original in their richness of language and use of rhythm, including the remarkable “The Windhover,” one of the most frequently analyzed poems in the language. He continued to write poetry, but it was read only in manuscript by his friends and fellow poets, Robert Bridges (later poet laureate), Coventry Patmore, and the Rev. Richard Watson Dixon. Their appreciation of the strangeness of the poems (for the times) was imperfect, but they were, nevertheless, encouraging.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1877, Hopkins served as missioner, occasional preacher, and parish priest in various Jesuit churches and institutions in London, Oxford, Liverpool, and Glasgow and taught classics at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. He was appointed professor of Greek literature at University College, Dublin, in 1884. But Hopkins was not happy in Ireland; he found the environment uncongenial, and he was overworked and in poor health. From 1885 he wrote another series of sonnets, beginning with “Carrion Comfort.” They show a sense of desolation produced partly by a sense of spiritual aridity and partly by a feeling of artistic frustration. These poems, known as the “terrible sonnets,” reveal strong tensions between his delight in the sensuous world and his urge to express it and his equally powerful sense of religious vocation.

While in Dublin, Hopkins developed another of his talents, musical composition; the little he composed shows the same daring originality as does his poetry. His skill in drawing, too, allowed him to illustrate his journal with meticulously observed details of flowers, trees, and waves.

His friends continually urged him to publish his poems, but Hopkins resisted; all that he saw in print in his lifetime were some immature verses and original Latin poems, in which he took particular pleasure.

Hopkins died of typhoid fever and was buried in the Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Among his unfinished works was a commentary on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order.

After Hopkins’ death, Robert Bridges began to publish a few of the Jesuit’s most mature poems in anthologies, hoping to prepare the way for wider acceptance of his style. By 1918, Bridges, then poet laureate, judged the time opportune for the first collected edition. It appeared but sold slowly. Not until 1930 was a second edition issued, and thereafter Hopkins’ work was recognized as among the most original, powerful, and influential literary accomplishments of his century; it had a marked influence on such leading 20th-century poets as T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and C. Day Lewis.

Hopkins sought a stronger “rhetoric of verse.” His exploitation of the verbal subtleties and music of English, of the use of echo, alliteration, and repetition, and a highly compressed syntax were all in the interest of projecting deep personal experiences, including his sense of God’s mystery, grandeur, and mercy, and his joy in “all things counter, original, spare, strange,” as he wrote in “Pied Beauty.” He called the energizing prosodic element of his verse “sprung rhythm,” in which each foot may consist of one stressed syllable and any number of unstressed syllables, instead of the regular number of syllables used in traditional metre. The result is a muscular verse, flexible, intense, vibrant, and organic, that combines accuracy of observation, imaginative daring, deep feeling, and intellectual depth.

Hopkins’ letters reveal a brilliant critical faculty, scrupulous self-criticism, generous humanity, and a strong will. His friends paid tribute to his personal integrity and to his rare “chastity of mind.” Coventry Patmore wrote of him: “There was something in all his words and manners which were at once a rebuke and an attraction to all who could only aspire to be like him.”

John Cowie Reid



John Davidson

born April 11, 1857, Barrhead, Renfrewshire, Scot.
died March 23, 1909, Penzance, Cornwall, Eng.

Scottish poet and playwright whose best work shows him a master of the narrative lyrical ballad.

After studying at the University of Edinburgh, Davidson became a teacher, meanwhile writing a number of blank-verse dramas that failed to win recognition. In 1890 he went to London, practiced journalism, and wrote novels and short stories to earn a living, finally establishing himself with Fleet Street Eclogues (1893), Ballads and Songs (1894), and a second series of eclogues (1896). A series of “Testaments,” written toward the end of his life, were long dramatic monologues in blank verse incorporating scientific language. They expressed his idiosyncratic vision, which combined scientific materialism and romantic will in the belief that man has been created to express himself to the utmost. Davidson completed two plays (1907, 1908) of a trilogy on this theme. Exhausted by his efforts to support his family and increasingly frustrated by the public response to his work, he committed suicide by drowning. His poems vary widely in tone and execution, the best known being “Thirty Bob a Week.”



Arthur Symons

born Feb. 28, 1865, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Eng.
died Jan. 22, 1945, Wittersham, Kent

poet and critic, the first English champion of the French Symbolist poets.

Symons’s schooling was irregular, but, determined to be a writer, he soon found a place in the London literary journalism of the 1890s. He joined the Rhymers’ Club (a group of poets including William Butler Yeats and Ernest Dowson), contributed to The Yellow Book, and became editor of a new magazine, The Savoy (1896), with Aubrey Beardsley as art editor. Symons was well versed in European literature and knew the French writers Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Joris-Karl Huysmans. He expanded his pioneering essay “The Decadent Movement in Literature” (Harper’s, November 1893) into a book, The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899), which influenced both Yeats and T.S. Eliot; in it he characterized Symbolist literature as suggesting or evoking the “unseen reality apprehended by the consciousness.” Symons’s criticism constitutes an ambitious development of Walter Pater’s model of the “aesthetic critic.”

Symons’s best poetry is strongly fin de siècle in feeling. Days and Nights (1889), Silhouettes (1892), and London Nights (1895) contain admirable impressionist lyrics, sensitive to the complex moods of urban life. “Episode of a Night of May” is an exquisitely ironic fixing of the detail of modern social experience; “Maquillage” is one of the best statements of the Aesthetic cult of artifice; Yeats described “La Mélinite: Moulin Rouge” as “one of the most perfect lyrics of our time.” Symons suffered a serious attack of mental illness in 1908–10. He recovered to produce, over the next 20 years, a stream of travel writing, criticism, and translation, though he never quite regained the intense originality of his early period.



Francis Thompson

born Dec. 18, 1859, Preston, Lancashire, Eng.
died Nov. 13, 1907, London

English poet of the 1890s, whose most famous poem, “The Hound of Heaven,” describes the pursuit of the human soul by God.

Thompson was educated in the Roman Catholic faith at Ushaw College, a seminary in the north of England. He studied medicine at Manchester, but not conscientiously, and began to take opium; he then went to London, where from 1885 to 1888 he lived in destitution. In 1888 the publication of two of his poems in Wilfrid Meynell’s periodical, Merry England, aroused the admiration of Robert Browning. Meynell and his wife, Alice, befriended Thompson, induced him to enter a hospital, nursed him through convalescence, and in 1893 arranged publication of a collection, Poems. Thompson is chiefly associated with rhapsodic accounts of religious experience written in a diction much influenced by 17th-century Catholic verse, though he could also produce elegant, direct, and moving short poems, such as “At Lord’s,” a remarkable lyric about cricket.

From 1892 to 1896 Thompson lived near a Franciscan priory in north Wales, during which period he wrote Sister Songs (1895) and New Poems (1897). He also wrote a number of prose works, mostly published posthumously, including the essay Shelley (1909). The Works of Francis Thompson, 3 vol. (1913), was published by Meynell. Thompson died of tuberculosis.



Ernest Dowson


born Aug. 2, 1867, Lee, Kent, Eng.
died Feb. 23, 1900, Lewisham, London

one of the most gifted of the circle of English poets of the 1890s known as the Decadents.

In 1886 Dowson entered Queen’s College, Oxford, but left in 1888 to spend six years working at his father’s dry dock in the Limehouse district of London. Dowson became an active member of the Rhymers’ Club, a group of writers that included William Butler Yeats and Arthur Symons. In 1891 he met the woman who would inspire some of his best poetry, Adelaide Foltinowicz, whose parents kept a modest restaurant in Soho, London. In that same year he published his best-known poem, “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae,” popularly known from its refrain as “I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion.” Adelaide, who was 12 years old when they met, declined his offer of marriage, but he pursued her for the next six years, drowning the pain of his unrequited love with wine and women and demanding as time went on “madder music and stronger wine.”

He was received into the Roman Catholic Church about 1892. In 1894 his father died, his mother committed suicide, the family business failed, and Dowson discovered the symptoms of his tuberculosis. In 1897 Adelaide married one of her father’s waiters; after that, Dowson lived mostly in France, supporting himself by contributions to The Savoy and translations of Émile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, Voltaire, and other French authors. He was discovered in Paris wretched, penniless, and ill by a friend, R.H. Sherard, who took him back to London, where he died in Sherard’s house.

Dowson published two novels in collaboration with Arthur Moore, A Comedy of Masks (1893) and Adrian Rome (1899), and a book of short stories, Dilemmas (1895), but his reputation rests on his poetry: Verses (1896), the verse play The Pierrot of the Minute (1897), and Decorations in Verse and Prose (1899). His lyrics, much influenced by French poet Paul Verlaine and marked by meticulous attention to melody and cadence, turn the conventional world-weariness of the 1890s into a deeper sense of the sadness of things. Yeats acknowledged that much of his own technical development was due to Dowson.



Lionel Johnson

born March 15, 1867, Broadstairs, Kent, Eng.
died Oct. 4, 1902, London

English poet and critic who was notable for his fastidious and wistful lyrical poems but is mainly remembered as a typical representative of the “tragic generation” of the 1890s, which suffered from fin-de-siècle decadence and melancholy.

Johnson studied at Winchester College and at New College, Oxford, and then went to London to pursue a literary career and to work as a writer and critic for a number of periodicals. He early became an alcoholic and a recluse and suffered from spiritual malaise. He converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1891. Johnson wrote the first solid study of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, and his Poetical Works were edited in 1915 by Ezra Pound. He died at age 35 after falling on a public street and fracturing his skull. His friend William Butler Yeats left a touching portrait of him in Autobiographies.



A.E. Housman

"A Shropshire Lad"

"Last Poems"

born March 26, 1859, Fockbury, Worcestershire, Eng.
died April 30, 1936, Cambridge

English scholar and celebrated poet whose lyrics express a Romantic pessimism in a spare, simple style.

Housman, whose father was a solicitor, was one of seven children. He much preferred his mother; and her death on his 12th birthday was a cruel blow, which is surely one source of the pessimism his poetry expresses. While a student at Oxford, he was further oppressed by his dawning realization of homosexual desires. These came to focus in an intense love for one of his fellow students, an athletic young man who became his friend but who could not reciprocate his love. In turmoil emotionally, Housman failed to pass his final examination at Oxford, although he had been a brilliant scholar.

From 1882 to 1892 he worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in London. In the evenings he studied Latin texts in the British Museum reading room and developed a consummate gift for correcting errors in them, owing to his mastery of the language and his feeling for the way poets choose their words. Articles he wrote for journals caught the attention of scholars and led to his appointment in 1892 as professor of Latin at University College, London.

Apparently convinced that he must live without love, Housman became increasingly reclusive and for solace turned to his notebooks, in which he had begun to write the poems that eventually made up A Shropshire Lad (1896). For models he claimed the poems of Heinrich Heine, the songs of William Shakespeare, and the Scottish border ballads. Each provided him with a way of expressing emotion clearly and yet keeping it at a certain distance. For the same purpose, he assumed in his lyrics the unlikely role of farm labourer and set them in Shropshire, a county he had not yet visited when he began to write the first poems. The popularity of A Shropshire Lad grew slowly but so surely that Last Poems (1922) had astonishing success for a book of verse.

Housman regarded himself principally as a Latinist and avoided the literary world. In 1911 he became professor of Latin at Cambridge, teaching there almost up to his death. His major scholarly effort, to which he devoted more than 30 years, was an annotated edition of Manilius (1903–30), whose poetry he did not like but who gave him ample scope for emendation. Some of the asperity and directness that appears in Housman’s lyrics also is found in his scholarship, in which he defended common sense with a sarcastic wit that helped to make him widely feared.

A lecture, The Name and Nature of Poetry (1933), gives Housman’s considered views of the art. His brother Laurence selected the verses for the posthumous volume More Poems (1936). Housman’s Letters appeared in 1971.





Rudyard Kipling

PART I "Poems"


PART III "The Jungle Book"

British writer
in full Joseph Rudyard Kipling
born Dec. 30, 1865, Bombay, India
died Jan. 18, 1936, London, Eng.

English short-story writer, poet, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, his tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an artist and scholar who had considerable influence on his son’s work, became curator of the Lahore museum, and is described presiding over this “wonder house” in the first chapter of Kim, Rudyard’s most famous novel. His mother was Alice Macdonald, two of whose sisters married the highly successful 19th-century painters Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Sir Edward Poynter, while a third married Alfred Baldwin and became the mother of Stanley Baldwin, later prime minister. These connections were of lifelong importance to Kipling.

Much of his childhood was unhappy. Kipling was taken to England by his parents at the age of six and was left for five years at a foster home at Southsea, the horrors of which he described in the story Baa Baa, Black Sheep (1888). He then went on to the United Services College at Westward Ho, north Devon, a new, inexpensive, and inferior boarding school. It haunted Kipling for the rest of his life—but always as the glorious place celebrated in Stalky & Co. (1899) and related stories: an unruly paradise in which the highest goals of English education are met amid a tumult of teasing, bullying, and beating. The Stalky saga is one of Kipling’s great imaginative achievements. Readers repelled by a strain of brutality—even of cruelty—in his writings should remember the sensitive and shortsighted boy who was brought to terms with the ethos of this deplorable establishment through the demands of self-preservation.

Kipling returned to India in 1882 and worked for seven years as a journalist. His parents, although not officially important, belonged to the highest Anglo-Indian society, and Rudyard thus had opportunities for exploring the whole range of that life. All the while he had remained keenly observant of the thronging spectacle of native India, which had engaged his interest and affection from earliest childhood. He was quickly filling the journals he worked for with prose sketches and light verse. He published the verse collection Departmental Ditties in 1886, the short-story collection Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and between 1887 and 1889 he brought out six paper-covered volumes of short stories. Among the latter were Soldiers Three, The Phantom Rickshaw (containing the story The Man Who Would Be King), and Wee Willie Winkie (containing Baa, Baa, Black Sheep). When Kipling returned to England in 1889, his reputation had preceded him, and within a year he was acclaimed as one of the most brilliant prose writers of his time. His fame was redoubled upon the publication in 1892 of the verse collection Barrack-Room Ballads, which contained such popular poems as Mandalay, Gunga Din, and Danny Deever. Not since the English poet Lord Byron had such a reputation been achieved so rapidly. When the poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson died in 1892, it may be said that Kipling took his place in popular estimation.

In 1892 Kipling married Caroline Balestier, the sister of Wolcott Balestier, an American publisher and writer with whom he had collaborated in The Naulahka (1892), a facile and unsuccessful romance. That year the young couple moved to the United States and settled on Mrs. Kipling’s property in Vermont, but their manners and attitudes were considered objectionable by their neighbours. Unable or unwilling to adjust to life in America, the Kiplings returned to England in 1896. Ever after Kipling remained very aware that Americans were “foreigners,” and he extended to them, as to the French, no more than a semiexemption from his proposition that only “lesser breeds” are born beyond the English Channel.

Besides numerous short-story collections and poetry collections such as The Seven Seas (1896), Kipling published his best-known novels in the 1890s and immediately thereafter. His novel The Light That Failed (1890) is the story of a painter going blind and spurned by the woman he loves. Captains Courageous (1897), in spite of its sense of adventure, is often considered a poor novel because of the excessive descriptive writing. Kim (1901), although essentially a children’s book, must be considered a classic. The Jungle Books (1894 and 1895) is a stylistically superb collection of stories linked by poems for children. These books give further proof that Kipling excelled at telling a story but was inconsistent in producing balanced, cohesive novels.

In 1902 Kipling bought a house at Burwash, Sussex, which remained his home until his death. Sussex was the background of much of his later writing—especially in Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910), two volumes that, although devoted to simple dramatic presentations of English history, embodied some of his deepest intuitions. In 1907 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Englishman to be so honoured. In South Africa, where he spent much time, he was given a house by Cecil Rhodes, the diamond magnate and South African statesman. This association fostered Kipling’s imperialist persuasions, which were to grow stronger with the years. These convictions are not to be dismissed in a word; they were bound up with a genuine sense of a civilizing mission that required every Englishman, or, more broadly, every white man, to bring European culture to the heathen natives of the uncivilized world. Kipling’s ideas were not in accord with much that was liberal in the thought of the age, and as he became older he was an increasingly isolated figure. When he died, two days before King George V, he must have seemed to many a far less representative Englishman than his sovereign.

Kipling’s poems and stories were extraordinarily popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, but after World War I his reputation as a serious writer suffered through his being widely viewed as a jingoistic imperialist. As a poet he scarcely ranks high, although his rehabilitation was attempted by so distinguished a critic as T.S. Eliot. His verse is indeed vigorous, and in dealing with the lives and colloquial speech of common soldiers and sailors it broke new ground. But balladry, music-hall song, and popular hymnology provide its unassuming basis; and even at its most serious—as in Recessional (1897) and similar pieces in which Kipling addressed himself to his fellow countrymen in times of crisis—the effect is rhetorical rather than imaginative.

But it is otherwise with Kipling’s prose. In the whole sweep of his adult storytelling, he displays a steadily developing art, from the early volumes of short stories set in India through the collections Life’s Handicap (1891), Many Inventions (1893), The Day’s Work (1898), Traffics and Discoveries (1904), Actions and Reactions (1909), Debits and Credits (1926), and Limits and Renewals (1932). While his later stories cannot exactly be called better than the earlier ones, they are as good—and they bring a subtler if less dazzling technical proficiency to the exploration of deeper though sometimes more perplexing themes. It is a far cry from the broadly effective eruption of the supernatural in The Phantom Rickshaw (1888) to its subtle exploitation in The Wish House or A Madonna of the Trenches (1924), or from the innocent chauvinism of the bravura The Man Who Was (1890) to the depth of implication beneath the seemingly insensate xenophobia of Mary Postgate (1915). There is much in Kipling’s later art to curtail its popular appeal. It is compressed and elliptical in manner and sombre in many of its themes. The author’s critical reputation declined steadily during his lifetime—a decline that can scarcely be accounted for except in terms of political prejudice. Paradoxically, postcolonial critics later rekindled an intense interest in his work, viewing it as both symptomatic and critical of imperialist attitudes.

Kipling, it should be noted, wrote much and successfully for children; for the very young in Just So Stories (1902), and for others in The Jungle Books and in Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies. Of his miscellaneous works, the more notable are a number of early travel sketches collected in two volumes in From Sea to Sea (1899) and the unfinished Something of Myself, posthumously published in 1941, a reticent essay in autobiography.

John I.M. Stewart



The Victorian theatre

Early Victorian drama was a popular art form, appealing to an uneducated audience that demanded emotional excitement rather than intellectual subtlety. Vivacious melodramas did not, however, hold exclusive possession of the stage. The mid-century saw lively comedies by Dion Boucicault and Tom Taylor. In the 1860s T.W. Robertson pioneered a new realist drama, an achievement later celebrated by Arthur Wing Pinero in his charming sentimental comedy Trelawny of the “Wells” (1898). The 1890s were, however, the outstanding decade of dramatic innovation.
Oscar Wilde crowned his brief career as a playwright with one of the few great high comedies in English, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). At the same time, the influence of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was helping to produce a new genre of serious “problem plays,” such as Pinero’s The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893). J.T. Grein founded the Independent Theatre in 1891 to foster such work and staged there the first plays of George Bernard Shaw and translations of Ibsen.


Dion Boucicault


born Dec. 26, 1820/22, Dublin, Ire.
died Sept. 18, 1890, New York, N.Y., U.S.

Irish-American playwright and actor, a major influence on the form and content of American drama.

Educated in England, Boucicault began acting in 1837 and in 1840 submitted his first play to Mme Vestris at Covent Garden; it was rejected. His second play, London Assurance (1841), which foreshadowed the modern social drama, was a huge success and was frequently revived into the 20th century. Other notable early plays were Old Heads and Young Hearts (1844) and The Corsican Brothers (1852).

In 1853 Boucicault and his second wife, Agnes Robertson, arrived in New York City, where his plays and adaptations were long popular. He led a movement of playwrights that produced in 1856 the first copyright law for drama in the United States. His play The Poor of New York, based on the panics of 1837 and 1857, had a long run at Wallack’s Theatre in 1857 and was presented elsewhere as, for example, The Poor of Liverpool. The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana (1859) caused a sensation with its implied attack on slavery.

Boucicault and his actress wife joined Laura Keene’s theatre in 1860 and began a series of his popular Irish plays—The Colleen Bawn (1860), Arrah-na-Pogue (1864), The O’Dowd (1873), and The Shaughraun (1874). Returning to London in 1862, he provided Joseph Jefferson with a successful adaptation of Rip Van Winkle (1865). In 1872 Boucicault returned to the United States, where he remained, except for a trip to Australia that resulted in his third marriage (for which he renounced the legitimacy of his second marriage). Among his associates in the 1870s was the young David Belasco. At the time of his death he was a poorly paid teacher of acting in New York City.

About 150 plays are credited to Boucicault, who, as both writer and actor, raised the stage Irishman from caricature to character. To the American drama he brought a careful construction and a keen observation and recording of detail. His concern with social themes prefigured the future development of drama in both Europe and America.



T.W. Robertson

born Jan. 9, 1829, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, Eng.
died Feb. 3, 1871, London

British playwright whose realistic social comedies and pioneering work as a producer-director helped establish the late-19th-century revival of drama in England.

Born into a theatrical family that played a provincial circuit based on the city of Lincoln, Robertson in 1848 moved to London to become an actor. In 1854 he was engaged as prompter at the Lyceum Theatre by Mme Vestris, an enterprising and important manager. It was her work in refining the staging of comedy that he was eventually to perfect. After his marriage in 1856, Robertson gradually abandoned acting for writing. Some of his adaptations and translations had already been produced, and in 1861 a one-act farce called The Cantab, his first original play, was staged.

From 1865 to 1870 a number of plays produced by Marie and Squire Bancroft made Robertson famous: Society, Ours, Caste, Play, School, and The M.P. The broader themes suggested by the titles are merely touched upon, but the plays give a convincing picture of the social scene and are marred only by a strain of sentimentality. Many of his plays long remained in the repertory, and Caste was among those most frequently performed.

Generally speaking, Robertson’s characters are recognizable as individuals, his plots are skillfully manipulated, and his characters’ dialogue is easy and conversational. As a director, Robertson stressed the performance as a whole, insisting upon adequate rehearsal, attention to detail, and ensemble playing. The rigorous domestic realism of both his plays and his staging methods gave rise in the 1860s to a broader style known as “cup-and-saucer” drama that exerted significant influence over the development of the English theatre during the second half of the 19th century.



Arthur Wing Pinero

born May 24, 1855, London
died Nov. 23, 1934, London

a leading playwright of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras in England who made an important contribution toward creating a self-respecting theatre by helping to found a “social” drama that drew a fashionable audience. It is his farces—literate, superbly constructed, with a precise, clockwork inevitability of plot and a brilliant use of coincidence—that have proved to be of lasting value.

Born into an English family descended from Portuguese Jews, Pinero abandoned legal studies at age 19 to become an actor; and, though still a young man, he played older character parts for the leading theatre company headed by Henry Irving. His first play, £200 a Year, was produced in 1877. His best farces, such as The Magistrate (1885), The Schoolmistress (1886), and Dandy Dick (1887), were written for the Royal Court Theatre in London. They combine wildly improbable events with likable characters and a consistently amusing style. Pinero was at the same time studying serious drama by adapting plays from the French (including The Iron Master, 1884, and Mayfair, 1885) and also mining a profitable vein of sentiment of his own, as in The Squire (1881) and Sweet Lavender (1888). Seriousness and sentiment fused in The Profligate (1889) and—most sensationally—in The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893), which established Pinero as an important playwright. This was the first of several plays depicting women battling with their situation in society. These plays not only created good parts for actresses but also demanded sympathy for women, who were judged by stricter standards than men in Victorian society. In a less serious vein, Trelawny of the “Wells” (written for the Royal Court Theatre and produced in 1898) portrayed theatrical company life in the old style of the 1860s—already then a vanishing tradition—and The Gay Lord Quex (1899) was about a theatrical rake of no placeable period but having great panache. Pinero was knighted in 1909.

Victorian literary comedy

Victorian literature began with such humorous books as Sartor Resartus and The Pickwick Papers. Despite the crisis of faith, the “Condition of England” question, and the “ache of modernism,” this note was sustained throughout the century. The comic novels of Dickens and Thackeray, the squibs, sketches, and light verse of Thomas Hood and Douglas Jerrold, the nonsense of Edward Lear and
Lewis Carroll, and the humorous light fiction of Jerome K. Jerome and George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith are proof that this age, so often remembered for its gloomy rectitude, may in fact have been the greatest era of comic writing in English literature.

Nicholas Shrimpton


Douglas Jerrold

born Jan. 3, 1803, London
died June 8, 1857, London

English playwright, journalist, and humorist.

Jerrold was born in London. His father, Samuel Jerrold, was an actor and lessee of the little theatre of Wilsby near Cranbrook in Kent. In 1807 Douglass moved to Sheerness, where he spent his childhood. He occasionally took a child part on the stage, but his father's profession held little attraction for him. In December 1813 he joined the guardship Namur, where he had Jane Austen's brother Francis as captain, and served as a midshipman until the peace of 1815. He saw nothing of the war save a number of wounded soldiers from Waterloo, but he retained an affection for the sea.

The peace of 1815 ruined Jerrold's father; on 1 January 1816 he took his family to London, where Douglas began work as a printer's apprentice, and in 1819 he became a compositor in the printing-office of the Sunday Monitor. Several short papers and copies of verses by him had already appeared in the sixpenny magazines, and a criticism of the opera Der Freischütz was admired by the editor, who requested further contributions. Thus Jerrold became a professional journalist.

In 1821, a comedy that Jerrold had written at the age of fourteen was brought out at Sadler's Wells theatre under the title More Frightened than Hurt. Other plays followed, and in 1825 he was employed for a few pounds weekly to produce dramas and farces to order for Davidge of the Coburg theatre. In the autumn of 1824, the "little Shakespeare in a camlet cloak", as he was nicknamed, married Mary Swan and continued to work as both dramatist and journalist. For a short while he was part proprietor of a small Sunday newspaper. In 1822, through a quarrel with the exacting Davidge, Jerrold left for Coburg.

In 1829, a three-act melodrama about corrupt personnel and press gangs of the Navy launched his fame. Black-Eyed Susan; or, All in the Downs, was brought out by manager Robert William Elliston at the Surrey Theatre. Britain at the time was recovering from the fallout of the Napoleonic Wars, and was in the midst of a class war involving the Corn laws, and a reform movement, which resulted in the Reform Act of 1832 aimed at reducing corruption. Black-Eyed Susan consisted of various extreme stereotypes representing the forces of good, evil, the innocent and the corrupt, the poor and the rich, woven into a serious plot with comic sub-plots to keep the audience entertained. Its subject was very topical and its success was enormous. It took the town by storm, and all London crossed the river to see it. Elliston made a fortune from the piece; TP Cooke, who played William, made his reputation; Jerrold received about £60 and was engaged as dramatic author at five pounds a week, but his reputation as a dramatist was established.

It was proposed in 1830 that he should adapt something from the French language for Drury Lane. He declined, preferring to produce original work. The Bride of Ludgate (8 December 1832) was the first of a number of his plays produced at Drury Lane. The other patent houses also threw their doors open to him (the Adelphi had already done so); and in 1836 Jerrold became the manager of the Strand Theatre with WJ Hammond, his brother-in-law. The venture was not successful, and the partnership was dissolved. While it lasted, Jerrold wrote his only tragedy, The Painter of Ghent, and himself appeared in the title role, without much success.

He continued to write sparkling comedies until 1854, the date of his last piece, The Heart of Gold. Meanwhile he was writing for numerous periodicals, and gradually became a contributor to the Monthly Magazine, Blackwood's, the New Monthly, and the Athenaeum. To Punch, the publication which of all others is associated with his name, he contributed from its second number in 1841 until within a few days of his death. Punch was a humorous and liberal publication. Jerrold's liberal and radical perspective was portrayed in the magazine under the pseudonym 'Q', which used satire to attack institutions of the day. Punch was also the forum in which he published in the 1840s his comic series Mrs Caudle's Curtain Lectures, which was later published in book form.

He founded and edited for some time, with indifferent success, the Illuminated Magazine, Jerrold's Shilling Magazine, and Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper; and under his editorship Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper rose from almost nonentity to a circulation of 582,000. The history of his later years is little more than a catalogue of his literary productions, interrupted now and again by brief visits to the Continent or to the country. Douglas Jerrold died at his house, Kilburn Priory, in London on the 8 June 1857. Later that month Charles Dickens gave a public reading to raise money for his widow.

Jerrold's figure was small and spare, and in later years bowed almost to deformity. His features were strongly marked and expressive, from the thin humorous lips to the keen blue eyes, gleaming from beneath the shaggy eyebrows. He was brisk and active, with the careless bluffness of a sailor. Open and sincere, he concealed neither his anger nor his pleasure; to his sailor's frankness all polite duplicity was distasteful. The cynical side of his nature he kept for his writings; in private life his hand was always open. In politics Jerrold was a Liberal, and he gave eager sympathy to Lajos Kossuth, Giuseppe Mazzini and Louis Blanc. In social politics especially he took an eager part; he never tired of declaiming against the horrors of war, the luxury of bishops, or the iniquity of capital punishment.

Douglas Jerrold is now perhaps better known from his reputation as a brilliant wit in conversation than from his writings. As a dramatist he was very popular, though his plays have not kept the stage. He dealt with rather humbler forms of social world than had commonly been represented on the boards. He was one of the first and certainly one of the most successful of the men who in defense of the native English drama endeavoured to stem the tide of translation from the French, which threatened early in the 19th century to drown original native talent. His skill in construction and his mastery of epigram and brilliant dialogue are well exemplified in his comedy, Time Works Wonders (Haymarket, 26 April 1845). The tales and sketches which form the bulk of Jerrold's collected works vary much in skill and interest; but, although there are evident traces of their having been composed from week to week, they are always marked by keen satirical observation and pungent wit.







Edward Lear

born May 12, 1812, Highgate, near London, England
died January 29, 1888, San Remo, Italy

English landscape painter who is more widely known as the writer of an original kind of nonsense verse and as the popularizer of the limerick. His true genius is apparent in his nonsense poems, which portray a world of fantastic creatures in nonsense words, often suggesting a deep underlying sense of melancholy. Their quality is matched, especially in the limericks, by that of his engaging pen-and-ink drawings.

The youngest of 21 children, Lear was brought up by his eldest sister, Ann, and from age 15 earned his living by drawing. He subsequently worked for the British Museum, made drawings of birds for the ornithologist John Gould, and, during 1832–37, made illustrations of the earl of Derby’s private menagerie at Knowsley, Lancashire. Lear had a natural affinity for children, and it was for the earl’s grandchildren that he produced A Book of Nonsense (1846, enlarged 1861). In 1835 he decided to become a landscape painter.

Lear suffered all his life from epilepsy and melancholia. After 1837 he lived mainly abroad. Though naturally timid, he was a constant and intrepid traveler, exploring Italy, Greece, Albania, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and, later, India and Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]. An indefatigable worker, he produced innumerable pen and watercolour sketches of great topographical accuracy. He worked these up into the carefully finished watercolours and large oil paintings that were his financial mainstay. During his nomadic life he lived, among other places, at Rome, Corfu, and, finally, with his celebrated cat, Foss, at San Remo.

Lear published three volumes of bird and animal drawings, seven illustrated travel books (notably Journals of a Landscape Painter in Albania, &c., 1851), and four books of nonsense—A Book of Nonsense mentioned earlier, Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets (1871), More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc. (1872), and Laughable Lyrics (1877). A posthumous collection, Queery Leary Nonsense (1911), was edited by Constance Braham Strachey.






Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll - photographer  

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"   PART 3,  PART 4,  PART 5   Illustrations by John Tenniel

Through the Looking-Glass"    PART 6,   PART 7,    PART 8   Illustrations by John Tenniel

Illustrations by Arthur Rackham   PART 9

Walt Disney’s "Alice in Wonderland"
  PART10,   PART 11

born Jan. 27, 1832, Daresbury, Cheshire, Eng.
died Jan. 14, 1898, Guildford, Surrey

pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson English logician, mathematician, photographer, and novelist, especially remembered for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871). His poem The Hunting of the Snark (1876) is nonsense literature of the highest order.

Dodgson was the eldest son and third child in a family of seven girls and four boys born to Frances Jane Lutwidge, the wife of the Rev. Charles Dodgson. He was born in the old parsonage at Daresbury. His father was perpetual curate there from 1827 until 1843, when he became rector of Croft in Yorkshire—a post he held for the rest of his life (though later he became also archdeacon of Richmond and a canon of Ripon cathedral).

The Dodgson children, living as they did in an isolated country village, had few friends outside the family but, like many other families in similar circumstances, found little difficulty in entertaining themselves. Charles from the first showed a great aptitude for inventing games to amuse them. With the move to Croft when he was 12 came the beginning of the “Rectory Magazines,” manuscript compilations to which all the family were supposed to contribute. In fact, Charles wrote nearly all of those that survive, beginning withUseful and Instructive Poetry (1845; published 1954) and following with The Rectory Magazine (c. 1850, mostly unpublished), The Rectory Umbrella (1850–53), and Mischmasch (1853–62; published with The Rectory Umbrella in 1932).

Meanwhile, young Dodgson attended Richmond School, Yorkshire (1844–45), and then proceeded to Rugby School (1846–50). He disliked his four years at public school, principally because of his innate shyness, although he was also subjected to a certain amount of bullying; he also endured several illnesses, one of which left him deaf in one ear. After Rugby he spent a further year being tutored by his father, during which time he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford (May 23, 1850). He went into residence as an undergraduate there on Jan. 24, 1851.

Dodgson excelled in his mathematical and classical studies in 1852; on the strength of his performance in examinations, he was nominated to a studentship (called a scholarship in other colleges). In 1854 he gained a first in mathematical Finals—coming out at the head of the class—and proceeded to a bachelor of arts degree in December of the same year. He was made a “Master of the House” and a senior student (called a fellow in other colleges) the following year and was appointed lecturer in mathematics (the equivalent of today'stutor), a post he resigned in 1881. He held his studentship until the end of his life.

As was the case with all fellowships at that time, the studentship at Christ Church was dependent upon his remaining unmarried, and, by the terms of this particular endowment, proceeding to holy orders. Dodgson was ordained a deacon in the Church of England on Dec. 22, 1861.Had he gone on to become a priest he could have married and would then have been appointed to a parish by the college. But he felt himself unsuited for parish work and, though he considered the possibility of marriage, decided that he was perfectly content to remain a bachelor.

Dodgson's association with children grew naturally enough out of his position as an eldest son with eight younger brothers and sisters. He also suffered from a bad stammer (which he never wholly overcame, although he was able to preach with considerable success in later life) and, like manyothers who suffer from the disability, found that he was able to speak naturally and easily to children. It is therefore not surprising that he should begin to entertain the children of Henry George Liddell, dean of Christ Church. Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith were not, of course, the first of Dodgson's child friends. They had been preceded or were overlapped by the children of the writer George Macdonald, the sons of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and various otherchance acquaintances. But the Liddell children undoubtedly held an especially high place in his affections—partly because they were the only children in Christ Church, since only heads of houses were free both to marry and to continuein residence.

Properly chaperoned by their governess, Miss Prickett (nicknamed “Pricks”—“one of the thorny kind,” and so the prototype of the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass), the three little girls paid many visits to the young mathematics lecturer in his college rooms. As Alice remembered in 1932, they

used to sit on the big sofa on each side of him, while he told us stories, illustrating them by pencil or ink drawings as he went along . . . . He seemed to have an endless store of these fantastical tales, which he made up as he told them, drawing busily on a large sheet of paper all the time. They were not always entirely new. Sometimes they were new versions of old stories; sometimes they started on the old basis, but grew into new tales owing to the frequent interruptions which opened up fresh and undreamed-of possibilities.

On July 4, 1862, Dodgson and his friend Robinson Duckworth, fellow of Trinity, rowed the three children up the Thames from Oxford to Godstow, picnicked on the bank, and returnedto Christ Church late in the evening: “On which occasion,” wrote Dodgson in his diary, “I told them the fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Underground, which I undertook to write out for Alice.” Much of the story was based on a picnic a couple of weeks earlier when they had all been caught in the rain; for some reason, this inspired Dodgson to tell so much better a story than usual that both Duckworth and Alice noticed the difference, and Alice went so far as to cry, when they parted at the door of the deanery, “Oh, Mr. Dodgson, I wish you would write out Alice's adventures for me!”
Dodgson himself recollected in 1887

how, in a desperate attempt to strike out some new lineof fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea what was to happen afterwards.

Dodgson was able to write down the story more or less as told and added to it several extra adventures that had been told on other occasions. He illustrated it with his own crude but distinctive drawings and gave the finished product to Alice Liddell, with no thought of hearing of it again. But the novelist Henry Kingsley, while visiting the deanery, chanced to pick it up from the drawing-room table, read it, and urged Mrs. Liddell to persuade the author to publish it. Dodgson, honestly surprised, consulted his friend George Macdonald, author of some of the best children's stories of the period. Macdonald took it home to be read to his children, and his son Greville, aged six, declared that he “wished there were 60,000 volumes of it.”

Accordingly, Dodgson revised it for publication. He cut out the more particular references to the previous picnic (they may be found in the facsimile of the original manuscript, later published by him as Alice's Adventures Underground in 1886) and added some additional stories, told to the Liddellsat other times, to make up a volume of the desired length. At Duckworth's suggestion he got an introduction to John Tenniel, the Punch magazine cartoonist, whom he commissioned to make illustrations to his specification. The book was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. (The first edition was withdrawn because of bad printing, and only about 21 copies survive—one of the rare books of the 19th century—and the reprint was ready for publication by Christmas of the same year, though dated 1866.)

The book was a slow but steadily increasing success, and by the following year Dodgson was already considering a sequel to it, based on further stories told to the Liddells. The result was Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (dated 1872; actually published December 1871), a work as good as, or better than, its predecessor.

By the time of Dodgson's death, Alice (taking the two volumes as a single artistic triumph) had become the most popular children's book in England: by the time of his centenary in 1932 it was one of the most popular and perhaps the most famous in the world.

There is no answer to the mystery of Alice's success. Many explanations have been suggested, but, like the Mad Hatter's riddle (“The riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all”), they are no more than afterthoughts. The book is not an allegory; it has no hidden meaning or message, either religious, political, or psychological, as some have tried to prove; and its only undertones are some touches of gentle satire—on education for the children's special benefit and on familiar university types, whom the Liddells may or may not have recognized. Various attempts have been made to solve the “riddle of Lewis Carroll” himself; these include the efforts to prove that his friendships with little girls were some sort of subconscious substitute for a married life, that he showed symptoms of jealousy when his favourites came to tell him that they were engaged to be married, that he contemplated marriage with some of them—notably with Alice Liddell. But there is little orno evidence to back up such theorizing. He in fact dropped the acquaintance of Alice Liddell when she was 12, as he did with most of his young friends. In the case of the Liddells, hisfriendship with the younger children, Rhoda and Violet, was cut short at the time of his skits on some of Dean Liddell's Christ Church “reforms.” For besides children's stories, Dodgson also produced humorous pamphlets on university affairs, which still make good reading. The best of these werecollected by him as Notes by an Oxford Chiel (1874).

Besides writing for them, Dodgson is also to be remembered as a fine photographer of children and of adults as well (notable portraits of the actress Ellen Terry, the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and many others survive and have been often reproduced). Dodgson had an early ambition to be an artist: failing in this, he turned to photography. He photographed children in every possible costume and situation, finally making nude studies of them. But in 1880 Dodgson abandoned his hobby altogether, feeling that it was taking up too much time that might be better spent. Suggestions that this sudden decision was reached because of an impurity of motive for his nude studies have been made, but again without any evidence.

Before he had told the original tale of Alice's Adventures, Dodgson had, in fact, published a number of humorous items in verse and prose and a few inferior serious poems. The earliest of these appeared anonymously, but in March 1856 apoem called “Solitude” was published over the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Dodgson arrived at this pen name by taking his own names Charles Lutwidge, translating them into Latin as Carolus Ludovicus, then reversing and retranslating them into English. He used the name afterward for all his nonacademic works. As Charles L. Dodgson, he was the author of a fair number of books on mathematics, none of enduring importance, although Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879) is of some historical interest.

His humorous and other verses were collected in 1869 as Phantasmagoria and Other Poems and later separated (with additions) as Rhyme? and Reason? (1883) and Three Sunsets and Other Poems (published posthumously, 1898). The 1883 volume also contained The Hunting of the Snark, a narrative nonsense poem that is rivalled only by the best of Edward Lear.

Later in life, Dodgson had attempted a return to the Alice vein but only produced Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and its second volume, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), which has been described aptly as “one of the most interesting failures in English literature.” This elaborate combination of fairy-tale, social novel, and collection of ethical discussions is unduly neglected and ridiculed. It presents the truest available portrait of the man. Alice, the perfect creation of the logical and mathematical mind applied to the pure and unadulterated amusement of children, was struck out of him as if by chance; while making full use of his specialized knowledge, it transcends his weaknesses and remains unique.

Roger Lancelyn Green




Jerome K. Jerome

"Three Men in a Boat"

in full Jerome Klapka Jerome

born May 2, 1859, Walsall, Staffordshire, Eng.
died June 14, 1927, Northampton, Northamptonshire

English novelist and playwright whose humour—warm, unsatirical, and unintellectual—won him wide following.

Jerome left school at the age of 14, working first as a railway clerk, then as a schoolteacher, an actor, and a journalist. His first book, On the Stage—and Off, was published in 1885, but it was with the publication of his next books, The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) and Three Men in a Boat (1889), that he achieved great success; both books were widely translated. From 1892 to 1897 he was a coeditor (with Robert Barr and George Brown Burgin) of The Idler, a monthly magazine that he had helped found, which featured contributions by writers such as Eden Phillpotts, Mark Twain, and Bret Harte.

Jerome’s many other works include Three Men on the Bummel (1900) and Paul Kelver (1902), an autobiographical novel. He also wrote a number of plays. A book of Jerome’s memoirs, My Life and Times, was published in 1926.






George Grossmith


born Dec. 9, 1847, London, Eng.
died March 1, 1912, Folkestone, Kent

English comedian and singer who created many of the chief characters in the original productions of Gilbert and Sullivan light operas.

After several years of journalistic work, Grossmith began about 1870 as a public entertainer, with songs, recitations, and sketches. His long connection with Gilbert and Sullivan began in 1877 at the Opera Comique, London, in the comic opera The Sorcerer. Thereafter, he appeared regularly at the Opera Comique, being transferred, in 1881, with the Gilbert and Sullivan productions to the new Savoy Theatre, London.

In 1889 Grossmith left the Savoy and again set up as an entertainer, visiting all the major cities of Great Britain and the United States. He wrote an autobiography, A Society Clown (1888), and, with his brother Weedon Grossmith (1852–1919), an actor and playwright, wrote the amusing Diary of a Nobody (1892). His humorous songs and sketches exceeded 600. Both of his sons, George (1874–1935) and Lawrence Grossmith (1877–1944), were distinguished actors. George, Jr., became a well-known figure in musical comedies, entered the motion-picture industry in 1932, and wrote musical plays.


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