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In his authoritative study, The Victorian Frame of Mind, Walter Houghton contends “to look into the Victorian mind is to see the primary sources of the modern mind.” With Victorian literature there was a calling of all that preceded it into doubt as Romanticism revolted against rationalism.
- In both Victorian and Romantic poetry there is a preoccupation with the problem of Isolation. Appearing in Tennyson's early as well as late poetry are situations of betrayal, alienation, separation from love and life. Likewise, Browning's and Arnold's poetry is concerned with sadness and alienation. The Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, declares "I wandered lonely as a cloud" while Victorian poet Matthew Arnold writes,
Yes! in the sea of life.../We mortal millions live alone.
- Both the poetry of the Victorians and the Romantics confirmed the power of the imagination; however, the view of the imagination differs. With the Victorians there is a power of visualization, while for the Romantics, the imagination provides the avenue for intuition which can read nature and be provided insights.
- Both Victorian and Romantic literature examine the complexity and modernity of their age as the writings contain serious attempts to reflect upon the many social, moral, and spirituals ills of the time. Thomas Harding's poetry and novels both are studies of his age. His "The Darkling Thrush" reflects upon the turn of the century and
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
As one of the leading English Romantics, Wordsworth’s poetry praises the value of the individual, the child, the downtrodden, and the natural man. His "The Solitary Reaper" examines the "melancholy strain" of the music that the woman sings.
- Both Victorian and Romantic literature question the relevancy of formal religion. Thomas Carlyle, albeit a Calvinist, wrote that all religious orthodoxies were insufficient and outmoded regarding the needs of the new Industrial Age. Romantics embraced a pantheism, perceiving God as a part of the universe, rather than a separate Entity.
- Both the Victorians and the Romantics rejected the concept of the heroic. Instead, the characters of these periods reach their fullest scope of action simply by surviving in a chaotic world. Arnold's poetry, for example, finds a striking figure in Empedocles is an example of the poetic hero who fails. Similarly, the protagonists of Romantic poetry represent neither the accepted values of a community, nor the claims of good sense, at times.
- Like the Victorian Matthew Arnold, the Romantics also felt that great literature expressed
deep and everlasting truths about the human condition which would be able to direct culture toward intellectual, moral and spiritual perfection. [Enotes]
Unlike those who had preceded them, the Victorians and the Romantics became involved with their societies, conveying the relevance and irrelevance of their ages, the significance of the the individual and his relation to the world.
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