Is the novel form the most distinctive and lasting literary achievement of the Victorian Age?
The novel was certainly an important genre of Victorian literature. Over 40,000 novels were produced during the period, including many which represented significant formal and thematic innovations. On the other hand, many important and innovative poems were produced during the period. Whether one of these genres was more distinctive and lasting than the other is a matter of opinion.
We can say that few important plays were written in the mid-Victorian period, but George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were both original and important late Victorian dramatic voices.
One major change was reception of the novel. In the 18th century and for the first half of the 19th century, sermons actually outsold novels; the second half of the nineteenth century sees the emergence of fiction as a medium of mass entertainment, especially in the form of penny dreadfuls, although religious novels (including temperance ones) remained popular.