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Home » » History of English Literature || 8 periods || Religious and Political Changes
The History of English literature is very closely related to the history of the English people. It began with the emergence of the English nation and then onward kept on developing with the social development of the nation. In the history of the English, there had been several religious and political changes. Several scientific discoveries and inventions also changed the mode of life. Each of those changes reflected a change in its literature. As in the history of English people, so in the history of English literature, there were different phases of progress. Each of those phases, known as "Age" or "Period", has been given a particular name----  sometimes according to the name of the king or queen, sometimes after the name of a great writer, and sometimes according to the spirit of the time. Some of the ages have gotten more than one name because different historians have given them different names. Similarly, the duration of a particular age also differs according to the choice of the historians. Apart from these, some of the ages are subdivided into smaller ages. Though the names and time span of the ages of English literature differ from historian to historian the following list derived from M. H. Abrams is dependable:
History of english literature

1. The Old English Period or The Anglo-Saxon Period (450-1066)

2. The Middle English Period(1066-1500)

a) Anglo-Norman Period (1066-1340)

b) The Age of Chaucer (1340-1400)

3. The Renaissance Period(1500-1660)

a) Elizabethan Age (1558-1603)
b) Jacobean Age (1603-1625)
c) Caroline Age (1625-1649)
d) Commonwealth Period (1649-1660)

4. The Neo-classical Period (1660-1785)

a)The Restoration Period (1660-1700)
b)The Augustan Age or,
c)The Age of   Pope (1700-1745)
d)The Age of Sensibility or,
e)The Age of Johnson(1745-1785)

5. The Romantic Period (1798-1832)

6. The Victorian Period (1832-1901)

a) The Pre-Raphaelites (1848-1860)
b) Aestheticism and Decadence (1880-1901)

7. The Modern Period (1901-1939)

a)The Edwardian Period (1901-1910)
b)The Georgian Period (1910-1936)

8. The Postmodern Period (1939)

The Old English Period or The Anglo-Saxon Period (450-1066)

This Age started in the fifth century when the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons came to England from Germany, defeated the English tribes, and started their reign. It ended in 1066 with the Norman Conquest. The historical events which influenced the literature of this period were:

  • Christianity reached England and the Christianization of the pagan English tribes began.
  • In the 7th-century monasteries were established where written literature began. Earlier to this whatever existed as literature was oral.
  • Alfred the Great who reigned over England from 871 to 901 encouraged education and supervised the compilation of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Literary Works of This Period:

Beowulf, the earliest epic of English literature, was written in this period.  "The Wanderer",   " The Seafarer",    "The Husband's Message",   and "The Wife's Lament" are among the remarkable poems of the age. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written in this age is the earliest prose of English literature.

Literary Features of the Age:

Most of the writers of this age are unknown except Caedmon who is held to be the first known poet of English and Bede, the first historian. Though Christianity is traceable, paganism dominates the literary spirit of the time. Heroic deeds, love of sea adventure, intense love of glory, and savagery are the main features of the literature of this period.

The Middle English Period (1066-1500)

This period started with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and ended at the end of the fifteenth century. There are two shorter ages in this period. The span from 1066 to 1340 is called Anglo-Norman Period because the literature of that period was written mainly in Anglo-Norman, the French dialect spoken by the new ruling class of England. The period from 1340 to 1400 is called the Age of Chaucer because Chaucer, the great poet, dominated this period. The time from 1066 to 1500 is also called The Middle Ages. The early part of the Middle Ages is called the Dark Ages because what actually happened during that time can hardly be known. The remarkable events of this period were:

  • The English Parliament was established in 1295.
  • Crusade, the religious battle between Muslims and Christians, took place between the 11th and 13th centuries.
  • Magna Charta, the great charter which limited the power of the monarchs was passed on 15th June 1215.
  • In 1362 English was declared to be the language of law and courts.
  • The Feudal System which was very strong, broke up after the Black Death, a plague in 1348-49.
  • In the fourteenth century Reformation of the English Church began under the leadership of John Wyclif.
  • William Caxton established the printing press in 1476. 
  • Renaissance began with the fall of the then Constantinople in 1453. Mohamad II, the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks and a crusader, defeated the Christians in 1453 and occupied Constantinople, the then capital of the Byzantine empire and the center of classical learning. After the defeat the Christian scholars fled to different parts of Europe where they spread their knowledge. Thus ancient learning started reviving. This revival of the classical knowledge is called Renaissance. Its features are: curiosity about more knowledge, desire for unlimited wealth and power, love of adventures, own country, beauty, humanism and the past.
  • Columbus discovered America in 1492 and Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498.
  • During this period Copernicus (1473-1543) proved that the sun is the center of all planets.

Literary Features of this Period:

The English language reached a standard towards the end of this period. Prose got a strong foundation though it remained immature. Poetry served as the main genre. The drama began in the from of  "Mystery Play, "  "Morality Play" and "Interlude". The writers of the age were greatly influenced by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Love, chivalry, and religion are the three main literary ideals of this period. The spirit of romance pervades every writing of the time.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

  • John Wyclif (1324-84): The father of English prose: Translation of The Bible into English 
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) : Troilus and Criseyde (1387) Canterbury Tales (1385-1400)
  • William Langland: Piers Plowman (1392)
  • John Gower (1325-1408): Confessio Amantis
  • Sir Thomas Malory : More d' Arthur (1485;prose)

The Renaissance Period (1500-1660)

Though the renaissance began in 1453, its effect on English life and literature was felt after 1500. For this reason, it is generally accepted that the renaissance period began at the beginning of the 16th century and continued till the Restoration in 1660. This period is called the Renaissance period because the renaissance spirit was the main force that characterized the literature of this time. This period of 160 years is subdivided into four shorter ages according to the names of the political rulers:

a) The Elizabethan Age (1558-1603)

This age is named after Queen Elizabeth I who reigned over England from 1558 to 1603. This is the most glorious age of English literature. The important events of the age were:

  • With the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, dynastic problems, and political chaos come to an end. Stability was attained and national prosperity began. 
  • Elizabeth I introduced Anglicanism to settle religious problems. It has a long history. In the 16th century, Martin Luther of Germany and Zwingli and Calvin of Switzerland protested against the autocracy of the then Pope. Those who supported them were called Protestants and those who still supported the Pope were called the Papist or Catholics. Henry VIII who was the king of England during those years supported Protestantism for personal advantage. He wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, his fiancee, but the pole did not approve it. So he denied Pope's authority and introduced Protestantism to England. Some of the people accepted King's religious authority but the rest followed the Pope's rule. This caused a bloody civil war which continued till Elizabeth came to power in 1558. She understood the problem and introduced Anglicanism, England's own church. This religious settlement brought stability and prosperity to England in the second half of the 16th century.
  • Geographical and astronomical discoveries of the previous decades brought unlimited fortune during this period.
  • Renaissance that had started earlier was now very strongly felt in England. Erasmus reached England, and with Colet, taught humanism and other ideals of renaissance.
Major writers and Their Major Works:

  • Thomas More (1478-1535):Utopia (or kingdom of Nowhere). The book was originally written in Latin in 1516.
  • Edmund Spenser (1552-99), the poet of the poets. He is called the poet of the poets because after his death many later English poets followed his art of poetry.The Faerie Queen's (1590)The Shepherd's Calendar (1579) 
  • Nicholas Udall:Ralph Roister Doister (1553), the fit English comedy.
  • Norton and Sackville (1536-1608):Gorboduc (1562), the first English tragedy.
  • Thomas Kyd (1557-1595), a university wit: * The Spanish Tragedy (1585).
  • Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86)An Apologize for Poetrie (1595), a critical treatise.Arcadia (1590), book that bears the embryo of English nobel.
  • University wits are a group of young dramatists who wrote and performed in London towards the end of the 16th century. They are called university wits because they were the witty students of Cambridge or Oxford. Marlowe, Kyd, Nashe, Greene, Lyly and Peele were the members of this group. They upheld the classical ideals, and ridiculed the crudeness of the new English plays.
  • Christophe Marlowe (1564-93), a university wit:Tamburlaine the Great  (1587)Dr.Faustus (1592)The Jew of Malta (1589); Edward II (1591).
  • William Shakespeare(1564-1616): famous for the objective presentation of his deep knowledge about human psychology. He wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Of the total 37 plays he wrote the following 25 before the death of Queen Elizabeth I:
  • 1.Henry VI (1st. Part. 1591-92)
  • 2.Henry VI (2nd. Part. 1591-92)
  • 3.Henry VI (3rd. Part. 1591-92)
  • 4. Richard III (1593)
  • 5. The Comedy of Errors (1593)
  • 6. Titus Andronicus (1594)
  • 7. The Taming of the Shrew (1594)
  • 8. Love's Labour's Lost (1594)
  • 9. Romeo and Juliet (1594)
  • 10. A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)
  • 11. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1595)
  • 12. King John (1595)
  • 13. Richard II (1596)
  • 14. The Merchant of Venice (1596)
  • 15. Henry IV (1st. Part. 1597)
  • 16. Henry IV (2nd. Part. 1598)
  • 17. Much Ado about Nothing (1598)
  • 18. Henry V (1599)
  • 19.  Julius Caesar (1599)
  • 20. The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600)
  • 21.  As You Like It (1600)
  • 22.  Hamlet (1601)
  • 23. Twelfth Night (1601)
  • 24. Troilus and Cressida (1602) 
  • 25. All's Well that Ends Well (1602)
  • Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the natural philosopher:Essays (1597) 
  • Ben Jonson (1573-1637), a neoclassicist though he wrote in the time when romanticism was the main mode of expression. He is called a neo-classicist because he followed the classical rules of drama:Every Man in His Humour (1599)  
  • John Lyly (1554-1606), a university wit:Campaspe (1584) Sapho and Phao(1584)Midas (1589)Euphues (1579), a book that bears the embryo of English novel.  
  • Robert Greene (1558-92), a university wit:Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (158James- IV (1591)  
  • George Peele (1558-98), a university wit:David and Bethsabe (1599)Arraignment of Paris (1584)  
  • Thomas Nashe (1567-1601), a university wit: The unfortunate Traveller (1594)  
  • Beaumont (1584-1616) and Fletcher (1579-1625):Philaster (1611) A king and No King (1611)The Maid's Tragedy (1610)

Literary Features of the Period :

The Elizabethan Age is regarded as the Golden Age in the history of English literature. The renaissance brought ancient Greek and Roman wisdom to England. The religious Reformation taught religious tolerance and secularism. The geographical and astronomical explorations brought affluence and power. In other words, the social life of England was marked by a strong national spirit, humanism, religious broadmindedness, scientific curiosity, social content, intellectual progress and unlimited enthusiasm. All these aspects of the social life are reflected in the writings of this period. The literature of this age shows a quest for "the remote,the wonderful and the beautiful". It is an age of original romanticism. This romanticism revived again, after a long time in 1798 in the poetry of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Byron.

b) The Jacobean Age (1603-1625)

This age is named after James I who reigned England from 1603 to 1625. The word "Jacobean" is derived from "Jacobus", the Latin version of James. Some historians like to call the last five years of this age as a part of another age which they call The Puritan Age (1620-1660). They call it so because in between 1620 and 1660 puritanism became the driving force in the life and literature of England. The important elements of this age were:

  • Colonial territories were expanded.
  • Religious conflict that subsided in the Elizabethan age, revived in this period. Protestants were divided into three sects: 
  • (1) Anglicans, 
  • (2) Presbyterians and 
  • (3) Puritans. 
  • Renaissance's influence continued.
  • Scotland was brought under the rule of the king of England.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

(a) Shakespeare who had started in the Elizabethan Period, wrote twelve serious plays in this period. Those plays are:

  • Measure for Measure (1604)
  • Othello (1604)
  • Macbeth (1605) 
  • King Lear (1605)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (1606)
  • Coriolanus (1606)
  • Timom of Athens (unfinished-1608)
  • Pericles (in part-1608)
  • Cymbeline (1609)
  • The Winter's Tale (1610)
  • The Tempest (1611)
  • Henry VII (in part- 1613)

Though Shakespeare had written his serious plays in the Jacobean Age, he is called an Elizabethan dramatist and never the Jacobean.The period (1590-1616) in which he wrote is also called Shakespearean Ago.

(b)  Ben Jonson who had started in the Elizabethan period wrote his famous plays in this period:

  • Volpone (1605),
  • The Silent Woman (1609)
  • The Alchemist (1610)

(c)   Francis Bacon also continued to write in this period:

  • Advancement of Learning (1605)
  • Novum Orgum (1620)

Some new essays were added to the new edition of his Essays (1625).

(d)   King James I, known as the Wisest Fool, instituted the translation of the Bible into English in 1611. Its language became the standard of English prose.

(e) John Webster (1580-1625):

  • The White Devil (1612)
  • The Duchess of Malfi (1614)

(f) Cyril Tourneur (1575-1626):

  •  The Revenger's Tragedy (1600)
  • The Atheist's Tragedy (1611)

(g) John Donne (1572-1632) and George Herbert (1593-1633), the metaphysical poets, started writing in this period.Literary Features of the period:Drama still remained the main mode of expression. The dramatists practised classical rules of drama. Elizabethan idealization of love and romance almost died out. Poetry took a new and startling turn.

c. Caroline Age (1625-1649)

This age is named after Charles I who reigned over England from 1625 to 1649. "Caroline" is derived from "Carolus", the Latin version of "Charles". This age is also a part of the Puritan Age (1620-1660). The important events of this period were:

  • There was a long civil war between " Cavaliers" and "Roundheads". Those who supported the king were called " Cavaliers" Most of them were lords and their dependants. "Roundheads" were those who supported Parliament. Most of them were puritans. A group of lyric poets associated with the "Cavaliers" are called "Cavalier poets". Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, Robert Herrick and Thomas Carew were the members of this group. These poets are also called Sons of Ben as they were the admirers and followers of Ben Jonson. Their lyrics are trivial, gay, witty and often licentious.
  • In 1642 English theatre was officially closed. On 14 June 1643 Licensing Order for printing was passed.  
  • The Cavaliers were defeated, the king was caught and publicly beheaded on 30th January, 1649. His death marked the dissolution of monarchy for the time being.
  • English colonies were further expanded.
  • Oliver Cromwell emerged as a Puritan leader and came to power in 1649.

Writers and Their Major Works:

(a) Donne and Herbert continued to write their metaphysical poetry. Henry Vaughan (1621-95) and Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) also wrote metaphysical poetry.
(b)  John Milton (1608-74) started writing in this period and wrote-----

" Of Education ";(1644)
" Areopagitica" (1644)
  Comus (1634)
  Lycidas (1637)

Literary Features :

This age is not an age of drama. Drama collapsed because of the civil war and puritanical attack. Sermons, pamphlets, history and philosophy were written in prose. Metaphysical poetry was the main literary product of the age.

(d) Commonwealth Period (1649-1660)

This period, like the earlier two periods, belonged to the Puritan Age. This is the period when there was no monarch in England. After the death of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, the puritan leader, came to power. He died in 1658 when his son Richard Cromwell became the ruler of England. He ruled England till 1660. In this period puritanism became gradually unpopular. The English people realized that monarchy was essential for them.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

(a) John Milton who was still alive had not written any thing important in this period.

(b) Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), a political philosopher:

Leviathan (1651)

(c) Jeremy Taylor (1613-67):

a)Holy living (1650), a sermon in prose
b)Holy Dying (1651), a sermon in prose

(d)Vaughan (1621-95) and Marvell (1621-78) continued.The influence of renaissance and puritanism died out by the end of this period. The Elizabethan romanticism also came to a close by this time.

The Neoclassical Period (1660-1785)

This age is called Neoclassical or Pseudo-Classical Age to mean the artificiality of the writers of this age. They imitated the ancient Greek and Roman literary tradition but lacked the originality of the writers of that period. The general features of this age are:

  • The writers of this age lacked originality and followed ancient Greek and Roman tradition.
  • Much attention is paid to technical perfection rather than innovation or natural genius 
  • Human beings are given most importance. The literary ideal of the age is "art for humanity's sake", not " art for art's sake".
  • General rather than the individual qualities of human beings are given more importance.
  • Sophistication in thought and style is emphasized.The Neoclassical Age has three shorter ages within it which are discussed here separately:

(a) The Restoration Period (1660-1700)

This period is called the Restoration Period because in this period, with the restoration of monarchy, the English literary tradition was restored. In the Commonwealth Period Charles II, the son of Charles I, escaped to France. After the fall of Commonwealth, the people of England brought him back and made him king of England on May 29, 1660. He remained in power till his death in 1685 when James II, another son of Charles I, ascended the throne. He was a Catholic and most of the people who were Protestants wanted to dethrone him. In 1688 there was the Glorious Revolution against him. He fled to France. William III of France and his wife Mary, the son-in-law and daughter of James II, came to power. William ruled England till his death in 1702. The important events of this period were:

  • A general reaction against puritanical restraints became very strong.
  • Two political parties-the Whig and the Tory-were formed. The Whigs were against the king and for the Protestants. The Tories supported the king and the Catholics.
  • In 1690 there was Jacobite Rising. The Catholics of Ireland who were led by James-II, fought against William's soldiers and were defeated. 
  • In 1662 the Royal Society was founded to promote scientific research. Sir Isaac Newton was a member of it.
  • Industrialization began in England.
  • In 1695 the press was made free. Everyone was given liberty to express his or her views.
  • The Bill of Rights was adopted in 1689. It restricted monarch's power and enhanced parliament's power.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

Milton wrote his great epics in this period. He remained almost unaffected by the liberal ideals of the Restoration period.

  • Paradise Lost (1667)
  • Paradise Regained (1671)
  • Samson Agonists (1671)

Samuel Butler (1612-80): Hudibras (1663), a satire in verse.

John Bunyan (1628-88):

  • Pilgrim's Progress (1678), the famous allegory in prose.
  • The Holy War (1682), an allegory in prose.

John Dryden (1631-1700):

  • All for love (1678)
  • The Indian Emperor (1665)
  • Aureg-Zebe (1675)
  • Absalom and Achitophel (1681)
  • MacFlecknoe (1682)
  • 'The Essay of Dramatic Poesy' (1668)

 William Congrerve (1670-1729):

  •  Love fe love (1695)
  • The Way of the World (1700)
  • The Double Dealer (1693)

  • George Farquhar (1678-1707) :
  •  The Recruiting Officer (1706)
  • The Beaux' Stratagem (1707)

John Locke (1632-1704) : An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

Literary Features of the Period :

Influenced by the French writers of the time and in reaction against the puritanical suppression of the earlier ages, in this age there was an absolute departure from the literary tradition of the Renaissance Period (1500-1660). This age encouraged literary freedom and wild pleasures of this world. The liberty it allowed often turned indecent. Realistic drama was predominant. Writers widely used heroic couplet instead of blank verse. Mechanical perfection was the chief concern of the poets. The writers were more artificial rather than original. The age experienced a transition from renaissance ideals to neoclassical ideals. The main spirit of the age was satiric.

(b) The Augustan Age (1702- 1745)

This age is called Augustan Age because the writers of this period imitated the style and elegance of the writers who wrote in Italy during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (27 B.C - 14 A. D).This span of time is also called The Age of Pope because Alexander Pope was the best exponent of imitating Augustan literature. During these years England was ruled by Queen Anne (1702-14), George-I (1714-27) and George I (1727-60). The important events of the period were :

  • Scotland was annexed to England.  
  • Jacobite Rising continued. 
  • The first cabinet of England was formed.
  • The first English daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, appeared in London in 1702.
  • Number of coffee houses, pubs and clubs was multiplied and people learned the art of living together.  
  • A number of literary associations started. Of them the most famous was The Scriblerus Club. The members of this club were Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift and Thomas Parnell. The other clubs of this period were Kit-Cat Club and The Spectator Club.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

 Alexander Pope (1688-1744) :

  • The Rape of the Lock (1712)
  • Dunciad (1728)
  • Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735) 
  • "An Essay on Criticism"(1711)

 Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):

  • The Battle of the Books (1704)
  • A Tale of a Tub (1704)
  • Gulliver's Travels (1726)

Joseph Addison (1672-1719):Wrote 274 out of total 555 essays published in The Spectator (1709-1712). The rest of the essays were written by Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729)

Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) :

  • Robinson Crusoe (1719)

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) :Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (1740), the first modern novel.

Henry Fielding (1707-54) :Joseph Andrews (1742), a novel.

Literary Features of the age:

The ideals of neoclassicism which originated in the previous age became obvious in this period.Most of the writings of this age were satires in prose. The modern novel began during this time. A kind of new morality became the guiding force of the age. The literature of the period suggests a political awareness of the people.

c) The Age of Sensibility (1745-85)

This age is called The Age of Sensibility because in this age a sense that prefers instinct, feeling and "original genius" to neoclassical balance, restraint and perfection became dominant. It is also called The Age of Johnson after the nay of Dr.Samuel Johnson who dominated this period. This age started after Pope's death and ended with the first edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The important events of this period were.

  • James Watt invented steam engine in 1769. In 1733 John Kay inverted the flying shuttle. In 1764 Hargreaves invented the spinning Jonny. All these contributed to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Industrial towns appeared.
  • There was revolution in agricultural production.
  • The British founded its empire in India in 1757 and lost its American colony in 1776. 
  • French Revolution started in 1789 and continued till 1799. Voltaire (1694-1778) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) taught individualism and inspired revolution for more freedom and equality. During the reign of Louis-XVI of France (whose wife was Maria Antoinette) there were several social inequalities among the people. The king and the nobility were enjoying all the good things of the country and the common people were deprived of their due shares. The law of the country was not equal for all classes of people. The existing social injustices prompted the great revolution known as the French Revolution, in 1789. The slogan of the revolution was "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity." The king along with his queen was overthrown by the comments people. This revolution had tremendous effect on the life and literature of the people of  England. 
  • In 1764 Dr. Johnson founded his famous literary club known as Johnson's Literary Club; its members were Burke, Pitt, Fox, Gibbon, Goldsmith and many other great persons of the time.

Major  Writers and Their Major Works:

Samuel Johnson (1709-84):

  •  Dictionary (1755)
  • Preface to Shakespeare (1765)

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761):Started his career as a novelist in the previous age wrote Clarissa Marlowe (1748) and Sir Charles Grandison (1754) in this period.

Henry Fielding (1707-54):Started writing novels in The Augustan Age wrote his Tom Jones (1749) and Amelia (1751) in this period.

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74):

  • The Citizen of the World (1759)
  • The Vicar of the Wakefield (1766)

Thomas Gray (1716-71):

  •  "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard " (1751).   William Blake (1757-1827):
  • Songs of Innocence (1789)
  • Songs of Experience (1794)

Edward Gibbon (1737-94):The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776).

Edmund Burke (1729-97):

  • On American Taxation (1774)
  • Speech on Conciliation with America (1775)

Literary Feathers of the Age:

This age marks a gradual change of taste and technique in poetry. With the death of Alexander Pope the heroic couplet declined and the ballad and lyric revived. Pindaric ode became popular. There was predominance of prose. The rise of literary and middle class, the development of industry and commerce, the rise of political parties and democracy created problems and conditions that demanded expressions for which poetry was inadequate, and therefore, prose flourished. The novel took a definite form in this period. Imitation of classicism came to an end towards the end of this period.

The Romantic Period (1798-1832)

This age began in 1798 with the first edition of Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads and ended with the first Reformation Act of 1832. This period is also called The Revival of Romanticism because the romantic ideals of the Elizabethan period revived during these years. Lyrical Ballads brought a great change in literature--both in subject and style. Instead of aristocratic people and pedantic style, common people and common language were preferred. The important events of the age were :

  • After the French Revolution it was accepted that every individual was free and equally important.
  • Small industries disappeared and large industries with huge capital developed.
  • Machines were widely introduced in coal and iron mines which multiplied productions.
  • Steam-engines were used in ships and trains. The Train was first introduced in 1830.
  • Industrialization created lots of slums, child labour and labour problems.
  • The traditional social pattern started changing.
  • Ireland was united with England in 1801.
  • In 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act was passed and religious equity was ensured.
  • Use of machines in fields and industries made a large number of women jobless; of them many became either readers of writers.
  • In 1840 the Penny post was introduced.

Major Writers and Their major Works:

 William Wordsworth (1770-1850):

  • Lyrics Ballads (1798)
  • The Prelude (1850) and other poems

 Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834):

  • Biographia Literaria (1817)
  • "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) and some other poems.

Lord Byron (1788-1824);

  •  Don Juan (1824)
  • The Vision of Judgement (1822)

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822):

  • Prometheus Unbound (1820) 
  • Adonais (1821) and other poem 
  • "A Defence of poetry " (1820, published in 1840)

John Keats (1795-1821):

  •  Endymion (1818)
  • Hyperion (1820)
  • Odes and other poems Letters

Jane Austen (1775-1817), an anti-romantic novelist in the Romantic Age. She is called so because of her stern attitude against youthful passion.

  • Pride and Prejudice (1797)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1797-98)
  • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Emma (1816)
  • Charles Lamb (1775-1834):
  •  The Essays of Elia (1823)
  • The Last Essays of Elia (1833)

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), a critic The 
  • Spirit of the Age (1825)
  • The Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (1820)

Literary Features of the Period:

This Period is known as the second creative period of English literature, the Elizabethan Age being the first. The triumph of individualism and democracy in politics brought romanticism in literature. The literature of this age is largely poetical. It is the golden age of the lyric. The characteristic features of this period are: 

(1) high imagination,
(2) subjectivity
(3) medievalism,
(4) supernaturalism,
(5) revolutionary zeal,
(6) primitivism or spontaneity and
(7) excessive interest in Nature.

This age has a number of women novelists and a number of good critics .

The Victorian Period (1832-1901)

This age is named after Queen Victoria who reigned over England from 1837 to 1901. It should be noticed that though Queen Victoria come to power in 1837, the Victorian Period began in 1832, five years before the accession of Queen Victoria, because the literary feature of the age became obvious after 1832. The twelve years, from 1848 to 1860, of this age is called the Age of the Pre-Raphaelites because the artists of that time followed the art forms used before the period of Raphael (1483-1520), the Italian artist. D. G. Rossetti, W. H. Hunt and J. Millais firmed the group and later on Christina Rossetti, W.  Morris and A. Swinburne joined them Originally it was a movement for the painters but eventually these ideals took the shape of a literary movement. Medievalism, symbolism, sensuousness, truthfulness and simplicity are the main features of the Pre-Raphaelites. The last few decades (1880-1901) of this period is called the Age of Aestheticism and Decadence because there was a fall and decay of the Victorian spirit and standard in those years. In reaction against the Victorian moral obsession it was held that art should have its end in itself which lies in its beauty and formal perfection. The important events of the age were:

  • The First Reformation Act in 1832, the Second Reformation Act in 1867 and the Third Reformation Act in 1884 gave voting rights to every male.
  • in 1833 slaves were declared free.
  • Chimney Sweeps Act in 1840 and Factory Act in 1833 prohibited child labour. 
  • Mechanism of railways and ships was improved which helped develop commerce and industry, and thus, brought material affluence.
  • There was a significant progress of women during this time.
  • Agriculture based society was disintegrated as the result of the development of industry. This had a strong effect on the rural people.
  • The theory of evolution and the concept of communism changed the traditional view of life.
  • The Fabian Society was founded in 1883 to avoid violence in class-struggle. G.B. Shaw was one of the members of this society.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

(1) Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92), best known for his melodious language:

  • Poems (1833)
  • In Memoriam (1850)
  • Maud and other Poems (1855)

(2) Robert Browning  (1812-89), famous for his dramatic monologues.

  • Dramatic Lyrics (1842)
  • Men and Women (1855)
  • Dramatis Personac  (1864)

(3) Matthew Arnold (1822-88), a poet and a critic, known for his meditative and melancholic attitude.

  •  "Essays in Criticism" (1888
  • Culture and Anarchy (1867) and some poems.

(4) Edward Fitzgerald (1809-83):

  • Translated Rubaiyat in 1859

(5) Charles Dickens (1812-70):

  • The Pickwick Papers (1836
  • Oliver Twist (1837
  • David Coperfield (1850)
  • Bleak House (1852)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
  • Great Expectations (1861)

William Makepeace  Thackeray (1811-63):

  • Vanity Fair (1848)
  • The Virginians (1859)

(7)Emily Bronte' (1818-48):
  • Wuthering Heights (1847)

(8) George Eliot (1819-80):
  •  The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • Adam Bede (1859)
  • Silas Marnner: The Weaver of Ravelop (1861)

(9)Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), a novelist and a poet.
           The Return of the Native (1878)
           The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
           Tess of the D' Urbervilles (1891)

(10) John Stuart Mill (1806-73)

  • On Liberty (1859)

(11) Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59)
            History of England (1849-61)

(12) Charles Robert Darwin (1809-83):
            The Origin of Species (1859)
            The Descent of Man (1871)

(13) Karl Marx (1818-83):
           Days Capital (1867)

(14) Cardinal Newman (1801-1890):The Idea of a University. Loss and Gain

Literary Features of the Period :

The literature of this period reflects peace, order and stability. The ideals are "compromise" and "construction". A dualism of reason and emotion, materialism and mysticism, religion and science or faith and doubt is very common in this period. Similarly a compromise between the old and the new, between freedom and restriction is also noteworthy. The literature of this period bears the influence of romanticism, and thus, there is a marked fusion of romanticism and intellectualism. Morality and prudery are at the centre of all thoughts. Towards the end of this period all these features of the Victorian Age gradually disappeared. A new movement known as the Decadence started. Its slogan was " art for art's sake". It emphasized sensationalism, egocentricity, the bizarre, the artificial, etc. in literature. Swinburne, Dowson, pater, Morris and the Rossettis are the decadents.

The Modern (1901-1939) and The Postmodern (1939....) Periods

The span from the death of Queen Victoria to the beginning of the Second World war (1939) is called the Modern Period and from 1939 onward is called the Postmodern Period. The Modern Period includes two shorter ages. The first decade of the Modern Period is called the Edwardian Period according to the reign of King Edward VII. The writers of this period were Hardy, Kipling, G. B. Shaw, W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Conrad, Henry James and many others. The Edwardians reacted against Victorian ideals. The Victorians enjoyed willing submission to the voice of authority. But to these writers the authority became an object of scorn. The Victorians' general attitude of acceptance was replaced by the general attitude of cynicism and rejection. The years between 1910 to 1936 of this period is called the Georgian Period according to the reign of George V. The poets who published their poems in four anthologies entitled Georgian Poetry (1911-1922) are called " Georgian Poets". Georgian poetry is rural in subject matter, delicate in manner and traditional in from and technique. W. W. Gibson, Rupert Brooke, J. Masefield and Ralph Hodgson are among the best known Georgian poets. The important events of these periods were:

  • The Victorian peace and order was no more. Unrest and violence became very common .
  • Imperialism became a disturbing factor in world. German became rival of England that led to the First World War (1914-18)
  • Socialism had great influence on the English life and thought. Class feeling became dominant.
  • The Fabian Society which was founded in 1883 now started the emancipation of land and industrial capital from individuals to class ownership in peaceful way.
  • The movement for women's right of vote became strong. 
  • The two World Wars and their aftermath changed the traditional way of life. 
  • The Guild Socialist League was founded in 1915 which avoided all dangers of revolution. It favoured gradual change from capitalism to socialism. Bertrand Russel was one of the members of it.
  • In the thirties and afterwards frustration and discontent engulfed life.
  • The Rhymers' Club was formed. The members of the club concentrated on the beauty of sound and ornamentation of subject. W. B . Yeats was a member of this club for a certain time.

Major Writers and Their Major Works:

  • (1) Thomas Hardy (1840-1928):known as a pessimist, wrote most of his novels in the earlier period. In this period he wrote his poems and short stories.
  • (2) Henry James (1843-1916): The Wings of the Dove (1902) The Ambassadors (1903) The Golden Bow (1904) 
  • (3) Joseph Conrad (1857-1924): Lord Jim: A Tale (1900) The Nigger of the Narcissus (1898) Under Western Eyes (1911) Heart of Darkness (1902) Nostromo (1904) 
  • (4) George Robert Gissing (1857-1903): The Nether World (1889) The Whirlpool (1897) Born in Exile (1892) 
  • (5) Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936): Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) Kim (1901) Puck of Pook's Hill (1906) Limits and Renewals (1932) 
  • (6) George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), a modern dramatist, famous for his 'drama of ideas'. The Philanderer (1905) Arms and the Man (1894) Man and Superman (1905) Pygmalion (1913) Heartbreak House (1921) St. Joan (1924)
  • (7) John Millington Synge (1871-1909), a modern dramatist. The Shadow of the Glen (1903) Riders to the Sea (1904) The Well of the Saints (2905) The Playboy of the Western World (1907) The Tinker's Wedding (1907) 
  • (8) Oscar Wilde (1856-1900), a poet, novelist and dramatist. Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) A Woman of No Importance (1893) An Ideal Husband (1895) The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) 
  • (9) William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), a poet, dramatist and critic, famous for his use of symbolism and mysticism. The Wild Swans at Coole (1919) The Tower (1928) The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933) The Resurrection (1913) The Cat and the Moon (1926)
  • (10) John Masefield (1878-1967): Midsummer Night (1928) Collected Poems (1932) End and Beginning (1934) Wonderings(1943)
  • (11) Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a philosopher. Mysticism and Logic (1918) The Analysis of Mind (1921) History of Western Philosophy (1946) Authority and the Individual (1949
  • (12) David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930), a novelist. The White Peacock (1911) Sons and Lovers (1913) The Rainbow (1915) Women in Love (1921) Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
  • (13) James Joyce (1882-1941), a novelist, famous for his narrative technique known as 'stream of consciousness.' A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man (1916) Exiles (1918) Ulysses (1922) Finnegan's Wake (1939) 
  • (14) Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), a novelist known for her presentation of inner realities. The Voyage Out (1915) Mrs. Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927) The Waves (1931) Flush (1933) The Years (1937)
  • (15) Edward Morgon Forster (1879-1970): Howards End (1910) A Passage to India (1924) Aspects of Novel (1927), a critical work The Celestial Omnibus (1911), a collection of short stories 
  • (16) T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), a poet, dramatist and critic, famous for his theory of 'objective co-relative' Prufrock and Other Observations (1917) The Waste Land (1922) Poems (1909-25) Ash Wednesday (1930) Four Quartets (1944) Murder in the Cathedral (1935) The Family Reunion (1939) The Cocktail Party (1949) Selected Essays 1917-1932 (1932) 
  • (17) Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973): Poems (1930) The Age of Anxiety (1948) The Oxford Book of Light Verse (1938) 
  • (18) William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), a novelist and a short story writer. Lady Frederick (1907) The Sacred Flame (1928) Cakes and Ale (1930) The Razor's Edge (1944) 
  • (19) Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), a psychologist known for his theory of psycho-analysis. Interpretation of Dreams (trans.1913) Psychopathology of Everyday Life (trans.1914) 
  • (20) Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914-53) : Twenty-five Poems (1936) The Map of Love (1936) Deaths and Entrances (1946) Under Milk Wood (1954) 
  • (21) George Orwell (Eric Hugh Blair) (1903-50): Animal Farm (1945) Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) Samuel Beckett (1906-89) , a French dramatist. Waiting for Godot (1952; Eng.trans.1954) Endgame (1955) 
  • (22) William Gerald Golding (1911-94), a novelist. Lord of the Flies (1954) The Scorpion God (1971)

Literary Features of the Period :

The Modern Period is dominated by novels. The novel evolved to an art from in this period. It became realistic and dealt with social problem with a  view to educating the readers. Influenced by Psychology the novelists dealt with the inner problems of the characters rather than their outer problems. Instead of simple, chronological normative technique, the "stream of consciousness" or "the use of the interior monologue" was accepted as a main weapon of the novelists. However, in the twentieth century the novel shifted its interest from realistic problems to entertaining subjects. Science fiction and thriller became more popular.

Drama also realistically dealt with social problems. Ibsen's influence is significant in the drama of this Period. Intellectual exercise of the contemporary problems was so important in the drama of this period that these plays lack imagination and poetry. Poetic Drama began in this period. The Postmodern drama dealt with the absurdity of human existence and reveal the "nothingness" or "meaninglessness" of human efforts.

In the poetry of this period a search for a tradition is noteworthy. The late Victorians gave way to the Georgians. Then the Imagists replaced the Georgians but after a few years they themselves disappeared. In the second decade of the 20th century there had been another movement known as dadaism. In the 1920s Dadaism was developed to surrealism. The disillusionment of the hapes for a new world following the First World War found expression in the poetry of this period. With the change of subject and outlook, the poetic technique also changed. The poets started using free verse. Symbols and conceits were used so frequently that poetry became obscure.

The English Sovereigns:

I. The Norman Kings

1. William I (1066-87)
2. William II (1087-1100)
3. Henry I (1100-35)
4. Stephen (1135-54)

II. Plantagenet Kings

5. Henry II of Anjou (1154-89)
6. Richard I (1189-99)
7. John (1199-1216)
8. Henry III (1216-72)
9. Edward I (1272-1307)
10. Edward II (1307-27)
11. Edward III (1327-77)
12.Richard II (1377-99)

III. The House of Lancaster 

13. Henry IV (1399-1413)
14. Henry V (1413-22)
15. Henry VI (1422-61)

IV. The House of York

16. Edward IV (1461-83)
17. Edward V (1483)
18. Richard III (1483-5)

V. The Tudor Dynasty 

19. Henry VII (1485-1509)
20. Henry VIII (1509-47)
21. Edward VI (1547-53)
22. Mary (1553-8)
23. Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

VI. The Stuart Dynasty 

24. James I (1603-25)
25. Charles I (1625-49)

[Commonwealth and the Protectorate (1649-60)]

27. Charles II (1660-85)
28.James II (1685-1688)
29. William III and Mary (1689-1702)
30. Anne (1702-14)

VII. The House of Hanover

31. George I (1714-27)
32. George II (1727-60)
33. George III (1760-1820)
34. George IV (1820-30)
35.William IV (1831-37)
36. Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
37.Edward VII (1901-10)
38.George V (1910-36)
39.Edward VIII (1936)
40. George VI (1936-52)
41. Elizabeth II (1952-)



Unknown said...


Unknown said...



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Gunjan Singh said...

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Unknown said...

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