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Ah, Victorian Britain. A place of tumultuous social, cultural, and technological change that is unfairly remembered today as the embodiment of stale and frumpy traditionalism. Victorian Britain is significant for being the birthplace of the modern middle class, for the rapid and jarring transformation to a highly industrialized nation, the massive expansion of The British Empire, some truly fantastic fashions, and, yes, an anxious over-emphasis on morality and propriety... that only barely masked a dark and seedy underbelly of society.
Victorian Britain produced some of the finest literature of the English language canon, and also some of the most famous turgid and overwrought prose in history.
The Victorian Era overlaps greatly with the period historians call the Industrial Revolution, and this was greatly influential to society and culture of the day. The Industrial Revolution was a period starting the previous century, greatly advancing progress in machinery, especially related to manufacture of goods, and mining of coal - which of course, was self-perpetuating, the greater mining of coal creating further ability to improve and increase use of steam engines. Other advantages, such as easy transportation about the island, and the increasing use of trains, led to the industrial revolution completely changing the economy of Britain, and then eventually continental Europe and the United States.
However, this also was responsible for the switch between the "cottage industries" and the factory economies. Instead of jobs being mostly based in at-home businesses, production began to occur more and more in factories, leading to most people moving to cities and working for very little in dangerous and long positions.
On the other hand, it was the beginning of class mobility in some ways; the Victorian Era was the first time that there was a real middle class, rather than the feudal division of common and aristocracy.
If you know anything about the Victorian Era, you are probably thinking of those dresses and top hats. Fashion was constantly changing, from this in the 1840s, to this in the 1880s, as it does these days, and was very important to the new middle class. Where the aristocracy didn't have to worry, and the working class didn't have time to worry, the middle class was very interested in looking wealthy and fashionable. The improvements in the textile industry allowed for fabrics to be experimented with more, and eventually industrial chemistry led to the invention of new dyes. If you think of the Victorian Era as black or white, or sepia toned, blame cameras - bright colors were usually fashionable, and often times in impressive patterns, too (like paisley!) Also, make-up on those days, and raised hemlines, were considered taboo and inappropriate.
- Charles Dickens
- Oscar Wilde
- Lord Alfred Tennyson
- Rudyard Kipling
- The Sisters Bronte: Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, and Anne Bronte. Most notably Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jane Eyre. Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was also wildly popular at the time.
- Alice in Wonderland
- Sherlock Holmes
- Gilbert and Sullivan
Tropes commonly associated with Victorian fiction include:
- An Aesop: Victorian Moral Guardians did not look kindly on works that did not include a morally edifying lesson.
- Bowdlerize: Although the Trope Namer didn't live during this time (he died right at beginning of it in the 1830s), this kind of censorship was very widespread.
- Contrived Coincidence: Though Victorian examples are ascribed to divine providence.
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- The Ingenue
- Luke, I Am Your Father
- Mighty Whitey
- My Girl Is Not a Slut
- Proper Lady
- Purity Sue: This is the stereotypical mark of Victorian heroines.
- Purple Prose
- Spirited Young Lady: If the heroine isn't a Proper Lady, she's probably this.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth
- Two Lines, No Waiting: Multiplot novels were a Victorian staple.
- Victorian Novel Disease and Incurable Cough of Death
- Notable Historical Webcomics: Several webcomics are set in Victorian Britain, The Continentals in particular.