Victorian Critical Theory Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Alba H. Warren, Jr. (essay date 1950)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Warren, Alba H., Jr. “The Topics of English Poetic Theory, 1825-1865.” In English Poetic Theory, 1825-1865, pp. 3-34. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950.

[In the following excerpt, Warren outlines the numerous and varied perspectives of early Victorian literary critics.]


The period of creative activity that dates roughly from the Lyrical Ballads to the death of Byron was succeeded by a period of critical reflection and assessment. The new period was not wanting in poetry and it witnessed the rise of the Victorian novel, but it was also notable for an access of criticism which reached its climax in...

(The entire section is 10832 words.)

René Wellek (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wellek, René. “English Criticism.” In A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, Volume 3: The Age of Transition, pp. 86-92. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965.

[In the following excerpt, Wellek describes the 1830s and 1840s as transitional decades between earlier Romantic theories and those of the Victorian age.]


In England the thirties and forties of the 19th century can be described as an age of transition. This, it has been objected, is true of any period; but these two decades fit particularly well John Stuart Mill's description in his Spirit of the Age (1831): “Men have outgrown old...

(The entire section is 3342 words.)

René Wellek (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wellek, René. “English Criticism: Historians and Theorists.” In A History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, Volume 4: The Later Nineteenth Century, pp. 141-54. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965.

[In the following excerpt, Wellek provides an overview of contemporary literary criticism in the 1850s.]

It would not be unfair to say that around 1850 English criticism had reached a nadir in its history: the great romantics, Coleridge, Hazlitt and Lamb, had died in the thirties; Carlyle, the strongest figure after them, had relinquished criticism for history and social pamphleteering; Macaulay and Mill were no longer concerned with criticism. The camp...

(The entire section is 6181 words.)

Patrick Parrinder (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Parrinder, Patrick. “Victorian Criticism: The Republic of Letters.” In Authors and Authority: English and American Criticism 1750-1990, pp. 117-206. London: Macmillan, 1991.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1977, Parrinder examines the writings of several major Victorian literary critics.]


In Shelley's poem ‘Julian and Maddalo’, the poet's friendship with Byron is recaptured at certain moments with supreme naturalness. Arriving before Maddalo is up one morning, Julian observes the Count's baby daughter, whose eyes gleam

With such deep meaning, as we never see...

(The entire section is 15539 words.)

Terry Eagleton (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Eagleton, Terry. “Chapter III.” In The Function of Criticism: From the Spectator to Post-Structuralism, pp. 45-67. London: Verso, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Eagleton explains the role of the nineteenth-century man of letters as commentator and interpreter of literature for the middle-class reading public.]

The nineteenth century was to produce a category which yoked sage and critical hack uneasily together: ‘man of letters’. It is an interestingly elusive term, broader and more nebulous than ‘creative writer’, not quite synonymous with scholar, critic or journalist. T. W. Heyck has argued that it is the nearest term we have in...

(The entire section is 7034 words.)