Anthologies for Courses Related to the Victorian Web

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Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose. Ed. Karl Beckson. Rev. Edition. Chicago: Academy, 1981. [First edition published by Random House in 1965.]

The only fault of this excellent anthology, which consists of an important introduction plus poetry and criticism, is that its careful selections makes many of the authors appear much better than they in fact are. But it does succeed in convincing one to read more widely in the work of the '90s [GPL].

The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory. Eds. Thomas J. Collins and Vivienne J. Rundle. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press 1999.

Victorian Literature. Ed. Donald J. Gray and G. B. Tennyson. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1976.

This superb anthology, which devotes one volume to poetry and another to prose, contains virtually all that one might need to become widely acquainted with the literature of the period -- valuable critical introductions, good notes, and essential bibliographies plus an extraordinarily very wide range of authors included. The 1060-page volume on poetry edited by Gray divides into ten main sections: "Principal Victorian Poets, 1830-1850," "Early Victorian Poems, 1830-1850," "Principal Victorian Poets, 1850-1880," "Mid-Victorian Poems, 1850-1880," "Principal Victorian Poets, 1880-1900," "Late-Victorian Poems, 1880-1900," "Comic Poems," "Songs," "Religious Poems and Hymns," and "Victorian Poetics." The first section, for example, contains poems by Wordsworth, Clare, Hood, both Brownings, Tennyson, Barnes, and Emily Brontë, and the one following contains one or two poems by another fourteen poets.

This is the kind of collection serious students of Victorian literature -- whether undergraduates or a professional scholars -- would like to have on their bookshelves [GPL].

The Victorians. Ed. Christopher S. Nassar. New York: University Press of America, 2000.

In contrast to the mammoth encyclopedic anthologies of Gray and Tennyson or Houghton and Stange, this recent one restricts itself to ten major authors: Carlyle, Mill, Tennyson, Robert Browning, Newman, Arnold, Hopkins, Ruskin, Pater, and Wilde. Oddly enough, this volume published in 2000 strikes me as far more old-fashioned -- and far more restricted to a male canon of the 1950s than most earlier anthologies. Although it is certainly useful to have a one-volume gathering of selections, this one presents an oddly restricted and distorting view of the period, one in which there is no sign of the dozens of women authors who dominated the period. Perhaps it's my own likes coming out here, but I find it hard to see Wilde and Pater as more important than, say, Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Christina Rossetti [GPL].

Victorian Prose. Ed. Frederick William Roe. New York: Ronald Press, 1947.

Roe's anthology, a companion volume to E. K. Brown's Victorian Poetry (which I have not seen), provides a valuable index to attitudes toward the period at mid-twentieth century. After a long introduction to the Victorian age, Roe includes selections from Carlyle, Macaulay, Newman, Mill, Darwin, Froude, Ruskin, Arnold, Huxley, Morris, Pater, and Stevenson, each of which sections is prefaced by a brief chronology and an introduction [GPL].

Victorian Prose and Poetry. Eds. Trilling, Lionel, and Harold Bloom. New York, London, and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1973.

Currently in its 29th printing, Victorian Poetry and Prose is one of six such anthologies in the series The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, the other periods represented being the middle ages, the Renaissance, the Restoration and eighteenth century, the Romantic and Modern eras. In terms of its prose, the volume's strength is that it includes an entire play, Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Its weakness is that, although it offers representative excerpts from the aesthetic writing of the period (Arnold, Carlyle, Ruskin, Mill, Newman, and Pater), it offers little in the way of journalistic, travel, religious, and political commentary, omitting such classics of nineteenth-century British prose as Victoria's Highland Journal and Dickens's American Notes for General Circulation. In terms of the poetry, Tennyson and Browning are well represented, and the volume includes a number of titles by Arnold and the Pre-Raphaelites. The sections "Other Victorian Poets" and "Poetry of the Nineties," on the other hand, appear skimpy -- necessarily so, perhaps, since the whole book is 750 pages. Missing is the early verse of Thomas Hardy, but it is undoubtedly represented in the Modern volume. Victorian popular songs and verse drama are absent entirely, so that again the editors present a decidedly high-brow version of the period. Particularly useful for the university instructor are the biographies of the various writers, introductions such as "The Pre-Raphaelite Poets" (p. 615), and the glossary of selected literary and historical terms, which has fifty-seven entries ranging in length from one line (e. g., synecdoche) to two pages (e. g., meter) [PVA].

The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Short Stories. Ed. Dennis Denisoff. Toronto: Broadview, 2004. Pp. 495.

Although the volume is slender, it contains twenty-seven short stories by twenty-six nineteenth-century British writers. Arranged chronologically, the stories range from Regency proto-short stories such as William Carleton's "Wildgoose Lodge" (1833) and Mary Shelley's "The Mortal Immortal" (1833) to Robert Louis Stevenson's psychological thriller "Markheim" (1885), the latest story in the volume being Israel Zangwill's "To Die in Jerusalem" (1899). As the previous sentence suggests, the great masters of the genre--Kipling, Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Sheridann Le Fanu, and Thomas Hardy--are all represented, as well as lesser known writers such as Frances Browne and Geraldine Jewsbury, whose presence contributes somewhat towards gender balance (only ten of the volume's twenty-six writers are women). Although there is neither glossary nor index, Denisoff has provided an interesting list of "Publication Sources" for the stories (revealing that seventeen of the stories appeared initially in annuals, special Christmas publications, and regular periodicals) and the five critical pieces such as Dickens's "Frauds on the Fairies" which reflect how contemporary figures such as Poe and Oliphant regarded the form. In addition to a short biographical note that helps to place each story in context, Denisoff has written a fifteen-page introduction that addresses such interesting issues as "What Is a Victorian Short Story?" and "Social Changes and Shifting Subjects" [PVA].


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Last modified 26 May 2004