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Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 12:16AM

For a paper I am writing I am thinking of using this topic. Any of you Brits or history/literary pros got any advice for my research? Not much length to this paper, but it seems to be a recurring theme in some of the short stories I have read for my English Lit 1900-Present class.

I know I haven't given much here, but I'm starting from scratch and scratching my head.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: drpeternsz (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 03:17AM

Do more than scratch Hawthorne if you are serious.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 03:27AM

Talia, can you clarify what you mean by 'Victorian age disenchantment'?

For instance, do you mean people feeling discontent during the latter part of the reign of Queen Victoria; or do you mean some later generation(s) feeling that in retrospect the Victorian Age wasn't as rosy as people thought it was at the time; or are you possibly looking at problems experienced by the elderly during that time?

Disenchantment implies an earlier time of enchantment.

Are you required to focus on poetry or other literature to exemplify what you are writing about?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2005 10:51AM by IanB.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 02:10PM

Well, I was thinking of those living in the Victorian Age becomeing disenchanted with society, or what have you toward the end of the Victorian reign. However, I am just beginning and am wide open to other ideas. Here are the texts I have studied with this underlying theme:

"Some Talk of Alexander" by AE Coppard

"Solid Objects" by Virginia Woolf

"Wireless" by Rudyard Kipling

"A White Night" by Charlotte Mew

These don't necessarily refer to the Victorian Age, but perhaps they all deal with science and/or religion and morality, and individual within a certain society, reflections of the psychologcal state.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: October 10, 2005 04:53PM

Talia, keep in mind that the decadents were also part of the late Victorian period. The philosophy of Oscar Wilde and others probably did not represent the mainstream of political thought in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: PamAdams (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 04:55PM

Darn- I thought it was about disenchantment with calendar age, and was going to bring in this poem.

I don't think that I saw Wireless as disenchantment with the Victorian age- certainly it's in favor of the new technology. I'll have to reread.


My Rival
Rudyard Kipling

I GO to concert, party, ball—
What profit is in these?
I sit alone against the wall
And strive to look at ease.
The incense that is mine by right
They burn before Her shrine;
And that’s because I’m seventeen
And She is forty-nine.
I cannot check my girlish blush,
My color comes and goes;
I redden to my finger-tips,
And sometimes to my nose.
But She is white where white should be,
And red where red should shine.
The blush that flies at seventeen
Is fixed at forty-nine.

I wish I had Her constant cheek;
I wish that I could sing
All sorts of funny little songs,
Not quite the proper thing.
I’m very gauche and very shy,
Her jokes aren’t in my line;
And, worst of all, I’m seventeen
While She is forty-nine.

The young men come, the young men go
Each pink and white and neat,
She’s older than their mothers, but
They grovel at Her feet.
They walk beside Her ’rickshaw wheels—
None ever walk by mine;
And that’s because I’m seventeen
And She is forty-nine.

She rides with half a dozen men,
(She calls them “boys” and “mashers”)
I trot along the Mall alone;
My prettiest frocks and sashes
Don’t help to fill my programme-card,
And vainly I repine
From ten to two A.M. Ah me!
Would I were forty-nine!

She calls me “darling,” “pet,” and “dear,”
And “sweet retiring maid.”
I’m always at the back, I know,
She puts me in the shade.
She introduces me to men,
“Cast” lovers, I opine,
For sixty takes to seventeen,
Nineteen to forty-nine.

But even She must older grow
And end Her dancing days,
She can’t go on forever so
At concerts, balls and plays.
One ray of priceless hope I see
Before my footsteps shine;
Just think, that She’ll be eighty-one
When I am forty-nine.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 10, 2005 05:22PM

Mark Twain, The Gilded Age

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: IanB (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 11, 2005 01:24AM

Talia, Lytton Strachey’s book ‘Eminent Victorians’ had some disenchanting things to say about several people who had been regarded as icons of the Victorian age.

To quote one of many descriptions you can find through a Google search:

‘Lytton Strachey's biographical essays on four 'eminent Victorians' dropped a depth-charge on Victorian England when the book was published in 1918. It ushered in the modern biography and raised the genre to the level of high literary art. Lytton Strachey approached his subjects with scepticism rather than reverence, and his iconoclastic wit and engaging narratives thrilled as well as shocked his contemporaries. Debunking Church, Public School and Empire, his portraits of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr Arnold of Rugby, and General Gordon of Khartoum changed perceptions of the Victorians for a generation.’

The full text of the book is available at:


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/11/2005 10:03AM by IanB.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 11, 2005 04:56PM

Victorian age disenchantment was brought about largely by two separate, but related, factors: the rapid pace of change thrust upon largely agrarian societies by industrialization, and the large number of truly startling scientific discoveries that cast increasing doubt over long-held religious beliefs. Both caused upheavals in almost all facets of society: work life, home life, and the way people socialized.

Disenchantment was the subject of so much of the literature of the day, primarily in Britain, but elsewhere as well. For example, the struggle between science and religion is beautifully played out in Tennyson's epic "In Memoriam," while Dickens was perhaps the best noted and most prolific novelist to ever address the effects of industrialization on society.

The anthology, "Prose of the Victorian Period," edited by William E. Buckler, is replete with the writings of the most brilliant essayists of the period. They include, John Carlyle, John Henry (later to become Cardinal) Newman, John Stuart Mill,and Matthew Arnold, to name a few. Each writer discusses the forces responsible for the great social upheaval going on about them, along with their implications for the population. I believe the book is still in print, available from Houghton Mifflin Company. It almost certainly will be found in any reputable library.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/11/2005 09:00PM by joet.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: joet (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 11, 2005 09:08PM

When discussing disenchantment during the Victorian era, you also must not overlook the changing role of women in the latter 19th/early 20th centuries. Florence Nightingale wrote frequently, if not eloquently, about the plight of women, and her dissatisfaction with the place society reserved for them. She then went on to prove her point through her heroic medical service during the Crimean War. Despite her success, and the emerging successes of other women, the general population was reluctant to accept women as equal with men, which certainly added to the overall disillusionment.

Re: Victorian age disenchantment
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: October 12, 2005 09:56AM

Thank you all for your advice and helpful links--I saved them. I hav decided to broaden my paper, since some of the texts I mentioned are post-Victorian and may not necessarily directly be effected by the Victorian age. So, I have thought about re-design. The characters in these stories have re-designed their world after growing dissatisfied with the world in which they find themselves.


A White Night--the author depicts the "sacrificed woman" as having "clogged and inflexible machine" and so this woman, being cast into the feminist light, chooses to re-design her world by allowing the patriarchs to bury her alive.

Pygmalion--Eliza Doolittle becomes the focus of the self-improvement, via phonetical training she re-designs her world for more opportunity

Tremendous Adventrues of Major Brown--he finds himself in a world of people who have become dissatisfied with their adventure-less lives and so a company has been created to re-design their lives for them, adding adventure.

I haven't decided yet if I will use the other texts.

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