Victorian Literature Tag #victober

This week, I am joining in the #victober celebrations which are running for the whole of October 2016 on Book Tube. It is the brainchild of five bloggers: Katie, Agne, Alysia, Yamini and Kate. I will put links to their sites at the foot of the page. Celebrating all things Victorian, I couldn't resist doing their Victorian Literature Tag on my blog, so here goes:

1. 1st piece of Victorian literature you read.
This was probably Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens which I seem to remember reading at school, quite a long time ago now. We read it in lessons, so in instalments. Reading it over a period of weeks is a little reminiscent of how it was published but of course over a much shorter timeframe. Still it kept my attention and I seem to remember enjoying the different characters who turned up.

2. Your favourite Victorian novel. 

    It is always difficult to pick one book but I would say it has to be A Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I was bowled over by the layers of perspectives which James gives us within a scene. The characters' self- awareness of what is happening is brilliant and I love the whole framework of 'watching someone who is aware that you are watching them, and being at the same time aware that they know that you are watching them' etc. The stories are complex and quite densely written but so satisfying. You feel for Isabel Archer who is at the centre of the story and will her on.

3. Your favourite Victorian author.

     Although it is a close run thing between Thomas Hardy and Henry James, I have to plump for Hardy as I still read his books and poems. I love his stories, set in Wessex, which are deceptively easy to read yet cover some cruel and hard hitting situations. Cozy reading they are not. I remember being shocked at Jude the Obscure in particular. They capture the huge changes which were unfolding and show us how communities and individual's lives were impacted on by coming Modernisation. There are some feisty, independent women and you see the consequences of sometimes chance occurrences on the individual. 

4. Your favourite Victorian literary couple. 

This has to be Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I first read this book in my teens and it is still my favourite Hardy novel, partly because of the insecure but independent spirit at the centre, in Bathsheba. Whether they end up together I cannot say but of her various suitors: Sergeant Troy, Mr. Boldwood and Gabriel Oak, it is Gabriel who I was rooting for. He embodies the virtues of the countryside community, with his affinity for the land and animals. Through her differing suitors, Hardy explores differing types of love- romantic, passion, lust, and obsession. It is fascinating to see which wins out.

5. Your favorite Victorian villain.

    When I saw this question, I knew the answer instantly: Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt from George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. The isolating marriage between Gwendolen Harleth and Grandcourt is brilliantly described. His languid, suffocating prescence is chilling. Controlling and cruel beneath the surface, he watches Gwendolen suffer within a loveless marriage. Even the imagery around him is cold and glittering as he is compared to a snake or a lizard. 

 6. Your favorite book where someone dies of consumption.

     It is difficult to identify a character who dies of consumption in a story without it being a massive spoiler, but my choice would be A Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. This character's illness reflects the sickness at the heart of Isobel Archer's marriage.

7. The longest Victorian novel you've read.

There are several contenders for this but it is probably Bleak House by Charles Dickens. My Penguin English Library edition runs to 935 pages. It is a complex but rewarding read.

8. A Victorian author or book you feel is underrated.
    My choice for this category is The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner. First published in 1883, it was a commercial success at the time. it has become known as one of the first feminist novels, the term 'feminist' having become to be picked up by women's rights groups. It deals with ideas about the sanctity of marriage, agnosticism and the right of women to free thought and social independence. Lyndall, the free spirit, is a forerunner of the 'New Woman' seen in subsequent writing and the book helped to pave the way for late Victorian novelists who featured these ideas.

 9. The most beautiful edition of a Victorian classic you have.  

 Most of my books are very ordinary, well- thumbed and ageing copies but I have inherited from my Grandfather several Charles Dickens' novels. The Household Edition, they are beautifully cloth bound in green with gold lettering. Published by Chapman & Hall, they include black and white illustrations by J. Mahoney.

10. The 3 unread Victorian books you want to try.

There are so many to choose from but I nominate:

  • Cousin Phyllis by Mrs Gaskell
  • Sylvia by Charlotte Bronte
  • Romola by George Eliot

Thanks to Katie, Agne, Alysia, Yamini and Kate for setting this tag and for setting such good questions. Good luck with #victober which is running for the entire month of October. You can find them all at the following links:

Katie (Books and Things) :
Agne (Beyond the Pages):
Alysia (exlibris):
Yamini (TheSkepticalReader):
Kate Howe:


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