Classics Club March Meme: Literary Periods

The Classics Club
It’s been a while since I last answered one of the Classics Club’s monthly memes, but this one appealed to me and I thought I’d join in. The question this month is:

What is your favorite “classic” literary period and why?

This is a very easy question for me to answer. My favourite literary period is, and always has been, the Victorian period (1837-1901). I love the style of Victorian writing and while I do also enjoy reading books from other periods, I usually feel much more comfortable with a Victorian classic than with a classic from the 20th century. The reasons people sometimes give for disliking Victorian novels – the length, the wordiness, the long descriptive passages, the habit of directly addressing the reader – have never really been a problem for me. And some of the greatest characters and most memorable plots in literature can be found in Victorian fiction too.

One of the first Victorian novels I remember reading was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which I was given as a Christmas present as a child. It was a lovely illustrated hardback edition which I still have and sometimes re-read at Christmas. This was followed several years later by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, both of which I read as a young teenager and loved. It took me a lot longer to get to Anne Bronte’s novels but when I eventually did I enjoyed those as well, particularly The Tenant of Wildfall Hall.

Our Mutual FriendDespite enjoying A Christmas Carol when I first read it all those years ago, it’s only more recently that I’ve come to appreciate Charles Dickens’ other work. Our Mutual Friend found its way onto my books of the year list in 2011 and A Tale of Two Cities did the same in 2013.

Dickens and the Brontes are probably the first names that come to mind for most people when they think of Victorian novelists, but there are so many others that I love too. As the Victorian period covers several decades, it obviously encompasses a wide range of different types of books and authors from Gothic novels such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas to the wonderful Victorian sensation novels of Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Ellen Wood (The Woman in White, Lady Audley’s Secret and East Lynne are some of my favourites) and the comedy of Jerome K. Jerome who wrote the hilarious Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel.

Sylvia's LoversAnthony Trollope is another of my favourite Victorians (I have now read all six of his Chronicles of Barsetshire and am currently in the middle of his first Palliser novel, Can You Forgive Her?) and so is Thomas Hardy – I’ve loved all of his books that I’ve read so far, especially Tess of the d’Urbervilles and A Pair of Blue Eyes.

As I come to the end of this post I realise I haven’t even mentioned George Eliot or Elizabeth Gaskell – or any of the non-British authors who I’m never quite sure whether to class as ‘Victorian’ or not but who wrote during the same period. And there were some classic children’s novels published during the Victorian era too. I think Black Beauty may actually have been the very first Victorian novel I ever read!

Do you enjoy reading Victorian literature or is there another period that you prefer?

If you do like the Victorians, do you have any favourite authors or books that I haven’t mentioned here?

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12 thoughts on “Classics Club March Meme: Literary Periods

  1. Lisa says:

    I am with you in preferring the Victorians! My list would have Louisa May Alcott – I was hooked on her books before I even knew what “Victorian” meant – and I think Mark Twain, though I prefer his non-fiction to his fiction. And I’d add Charlotte Yonge and Margaret Oliphant (who reminds me of Trollope, far & away my favorite of the Victorians). I don’t know Ellen Wood, though I’ve seen the title East Lynne – but had no idea it is a Victorian!

    • Helen says:

      Ellen Wood was a very prolific author in the 1800s but only really known for East Lynne today. Her books are often published under the name Mrs Henry Wood, though. I must read something by Charlotte Yonge and Margaret Oliphant soon!

  2. Lark says:

    Does Henry James count? He wrote during that time, and lived in England…he’s one of my favorites, but I also really like M.E. Braddon, Wilkie Collins and George Eliot. I’m not as big a fan of Dickens as you are, but I haven’t really read a lot of his books either, so I can’t really fairly judge him. But the Victorian period is a great one for novels.

  3. Joanne says:

    The Victorian literature I have read, I have loved. I’m afraid that I haven’t ventured very far away from Dickens and the Brontes though. I need to explore further.

    • Helen says:

      Dickens and the Brontes are a great place to start with Victorian literature, but I would also recommend trying any of the other authors I’ve mentioned in my post. 🙂

  4. Karen K. says:

    Have you tried any of the Victorian sensation novels? I read Lady Audley’s Secret a couple of years ago and it was a real hoot. It’s by Mary Elizabeth Braddon who wrote a ton of novels which are mostly out of print. That one is pretty easy to find, plus The Doctor’s Wife and a few others.

    • Helen says:

      Oh, I love sensation novels! Lady Audley’s Secret is a great book, though I enjoyed Aurora Floyd and The Doctor’s Wife too. It’s sad that most of Braddon’s other novels are out of print.

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