Chapter 4 The Victorian Period
2. 识记： 重要作品及主要内容
A. Introduction to the Victorian Period
（1） Definition： the Victorian Period
Chronologically the Victorian period roughly coincides with the reign of Queen Victoria who ruled over England from 1836 to 1901. The period has been generally regarded as one of the most glorious in the English history.
（2） Political， Economical & Cultural Background
The early years of the Victorian England was a time of rapid economic development as well as serious social problems. After the Reform Bill of 1832 passed the political power from the decaying aristocrats into the hands of the middle-class industrial capitalists， the Industrial Revolution soon geared up. Towards the mid-century， England had reached its highest point of development as a world power. And yet beneath the great prosperity & richness， there existed widespread poverty & wretchedness among the working class. The worsening living & working conditions， the mass unemployment & the new Poor Law of 1834 with its workhouse system finally gave rise to the Chartist Movement （1836-1848）。
During the next twenty years， England settled down to a time of prosperity & relative stability. The middle-class life of the time was characterized by prosperity， respectability & material progress.
But the last three decades of the century witnessed the decline of the British Empire & the decay of the Victorian values.
Ideologically， the Victorians experienced fundamental changes. The rapid development of science & technology， new inventions & discoveries in geology， astronomy， biology & anthropology drastically shook people''s religious convictions. Darwin''s The Origin of Species （1859） & The Descent of Man （1871） shook the theoretical basis of the traditional faith. On the other hand， Utilitarianism was widely accepted & practiced. Almost everything was put to the test by the criterion of utility， that is， the extent to which it could promote the material happiness.
（1） Features of the Victorian Literature
Victorian literature， as a product of its age， naturally took on its quality of magnitude & diversity. It was many-sided & complex， & reflected both romantically & realistically the great changes that were going on in people''s life & thought. Great writers & great works abounded.
（2） Features of Victorian novels
In this period， the novel became the most widely read & the most vital & challenging expression of progressive thought. While sticking to the principle of faithful representation of the 18th-century realist novel， novelists in this period carried their duty forward to the criticism of the society & the defense of the mass. Although writing from different points of view & with different techniques， they shared one thing in common， that is， they were all concerned about the fate of the common people. They were angry at the inhuman social institutions， the decaying social morality as represented by the money-worship & Utilitarianism & the widespread misery， poverty & injustice. Their truthful depiction of people''s life & bitter & strong criticism of the society had done much in awakening the public consciousness to the social problems & in the actual improvement of the society.
Victorian literature， in general， truthfully represents the reality & spirit of the age. The high-spirited vitality， the down-to-earth earnestness， the good-natured humor & unbounded imagination are all unprecedented. In almost every genre it paved the way for the coming century， where its spirits， values & experiments are to witness their bumper harvest.
3. 应用 Definitions of several terms
1） The Chartist Movement （1836-1848）
The English workers got themselves organized in big cities & brought forth the People''s charter， in which they demanded basic rights & better living & working conditions. They， for three times， made appeals to the government， with hundreds of thousands of people''s signatures. The movement swept over most of the cities in the country. Although the movement declined to an end in 1848， it did bring some improvement to the welfare of the working class. This was the first mass movement of the English working class & the early sign of the awakening of the poor， oppressed people.
Almost everything was put to the test by the criterion of utility， that is， the extent to which it could promote the material happiness. This theory held a special appeal to the middle-class industrialists， whose greed drove them to exploiting workers to the utmost & brought greater suffering & poverty to the working mass.
3） Critical Realism
The Victorian Age is an age of realism rather than of romanticism-a realism which strives to tell the whole truth showing moral & physical diseases as they are. To be true to life becomes the first requirement for literary writing. As the mirror of truth， literature has come very close to daily life， reflecting its practical problems & interests & is used as a powerful instrument of human progress.
4） Dramatic Monologue
By dramatic monologue， it is meant that a poet chooses a dramatic moment or a crisis， in which his characters are made to talk about their lives， & about their minds & hearts. In " listening" to those one-sided talks， readers can form their own opinions & judgments about the speaker''s personality & about what has really happened. Robert Browning brought this poetic form to its maturity & perfection & his "My Last Duchess" is one of the best-known dramatic monologues.