Four Surprising Reasons to Read 19th Century Literature

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19th century literatureIt is eleven weeks until Christmas.


Where did this year go?

If you are like me, you have gobs of things you wanted to do, people to see, and places to go.

But there doesn’t. seem. to. be. enough. time.

Especially to read good literature. But I have gotten to the point that I am thirsting for good books to read. After the Bible, I really think people should expand their minds while reading a well-written book. Not fluff, mind you. But something that will exercise one’s vocabulary and thought processes.

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”  ~ Oscar Wilde

Technically, English Victorian Literature spans the years of Queen Victoria’s reign. But why leave out the other authors of the 19th century? {Like my beloved Jane Austen since she died in 1817.}

Dear Reader, do you read? {Or even listen to mp3s?} If not, you should.

Why Read 19th Century Literature?

1. Victorians had heroes.

Victorian society was filled with true ladies and gentleman. Granted, they had their flaws, but even Queen Victoria herself was a gentlewoman to look up to. These authors filled their books with worthy characters which demand our respect even if it does take an entire 800 page book to gain it. They also created characters which lacked what was needed to be a true hero.

And don’t look for only heroes who were men. On the contrary, the heroines of 19th century literature can put some of the men and women of today to shame.

2. Victorians knew good humor.

Satire and humor drips from the pages of many 19th century novels. Fainting ladies, bumbling preachers, and shallow rich people not only make us laugh, but cause us to pause and take a look at ourselves to see if we reflect any of the silliness on the page.

They were also good at mocking traditions. The aristocracy, the church, and even Gothic novels were at the mercy of 19th Century writers. A reader never knows when a ghost might appear, a secret passageway might open, or a scream erupt in the middle of a moor in the darkness of an endless night.

3. Victorians were not prudish.

19 century literatureHeaven forbid if you were seen out of the house late at night and in the company of a strange man! Even though it was naughty to show any leg, the Victorians were on the cutting edge of culture and technology. With the growing of the English Empire, the world was coming to London and ideas and stereo-types were being challenged.

Industrialization, architecture, inventions, machinery, the telegraph…the world was on the cusp of change. The world was becoming smaller.

And love! If you want to read a good love story, then look no farther than THE couples of the 19th century: Emma and Mr. Knightly; Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy; Margaret and Mr. Thornton; Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clehammand; and more. Suppressed feelings and misunderstandings dot the pages as characters realize truths about those who challenge their principles. But what tugs at our heart strings are the words, feelings, and actions that are NOT written, but implied between the lines of these books.

4. Victorians tackled hard questions.

You know the whole faith versus evolution argument? The Victorians had to argue it first. This was a time of social reform, inequality of the classes, and industrialization. We like to romanticize this time period with gorgeous mansions, fancy dresses, and love affairs. But really, the people of the time were dealing with ethics and questions that are still debated today.

Should one person sacrifice for the happiness of a majority? What should the role of women be in society? What about the past? How should we learn from past mistakes or traditions?

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language” Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)

These reasons should whet our appetite to open the pages of a delicious 19th century work of art. Because of this, I have asked a few bloggers to join me for a new series…mainly because we ALL love 19th century English literature.

19th century english literatureFor the next ten weeks, I ask you to join us as we explore the world of the 19th century through books. We will be discussing some of our favorite works of English literature and hopefully introduce you to a few new authors. This series will end the week of Christmas. Who doesn’t like a Victorian Christmas?

Click on the image below and print out a book list of the novels we will be discussing. If you use cardstock and trim it down, then you have an automatic bookmark. I urge you to find the novels and read them over the next few weeks. Be sure to comment and tell us of your favorite parts, characters, and quotes!

19th Century Literature BookmarkBe sure to join our 19th Century English Literature Pinterest Board for even more fun resources!

Resources for learning more about 19th Century Literature:

Victorian Literature
The Victorian Web
19th Century Book List Authors-Mini-Project-Pak
History of the Victorians


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