8 Great Victorian Novelists ...


The Victorian era was a period of immense social, political and religious change, but few realize that it is the period in which “the novel” truly emerged. The world of fiction opened up a world of fascination for the people who were intensively curious about absolutely anything. Here is a list of 8 great Victorian Novelists that should be on everybody’s reading list:

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Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy Photo Credit: lifestyle.iloveindia.com

Hardy actually received little positive recognition for his novels during his lifetime. In fact, after the poor reception of Jude the Obscure he gave up writing novels altogether and focused on his poetry. More recently, however, his novels are widely read and feature on the reading list of every literature student. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is my personal favorite – Tess is a simple farm girl who is preyed upon by an (apparently) aristocratic menace. Hardy deals with issues of class and gender and attacks social conventions which is why his novels were so controversial in his day.


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet who wrote during the Victorian era. He is one of the most well-known Victorian novelists, and his works are still widely read today. His most famous works include Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895).

Hardy was born in Dorset, England, and he was educated at a local school and in Dorchester. He began writing in his twenties, and his first published novel was Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). This novel was an immediate success, and it was followed by The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), and Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891).


Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Dickens has to be on everyone’s list of great Victorian novelists. He wrote far too many novels to list and he also found the time to write collections of short stories, poetry, plays and essays. His novels have been the subject of a number of famous television and film adaptations, including Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol but you should pick up a Dickens novel to experience his lively characters for yourself. For a Dickens novice, Great Expectations is a good place to start.


Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English writer and one of the most famous Victorian novelists. He wrote numerous novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and essays that have been adapted into films and television series, such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and Great Expectations.

Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, and his family moved to London when he was young. His father was an unsuccessful clerk and his mother was a kind, loving woman. Dickens had a difficult childhood, as his father was often in debt and Dickens was forced to work in a factory at the age of 12.

The experiences of his difficult childhood are reflected in his works, such as Oliver Twist, which is about a young orphan who is mistreated by his cruel guardians. His works often featured characters from the lower classes of society and explored the themes of poverty, injustice, and social inequality.

Dickens wrote in a variety of genres and was known for his vivid and detailed descriptions of characters and settings. He used a combination of humor, pathos, and satire to create memorable characters and stories.


The Brontë Sisters

The Brontë Sisters Photo Credit: bookstains.wordpress.com

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë wrote seven (published) novels between them. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights are by far the most acclaimed novels. Anne is often described as the “least talented” of the three, but all of their work is worth reading.


The Brontë Sisters were three of the most influential Victorian novelists. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë wrote seven published novels between them, and each sister had their own unique style. Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre is perhaps the most renowned of the Brontë works, and is credited with being one of the first novels to feature a strong female protagonist. Emily's Wuthering Heights is a timeless classic that has been adapted for the stage and screen multiple times. Anne is often described as the "least talented" of the three sisters, but her novels, such as Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, are still worth reading.

The Brontës were part of a literary movement known as the Gothic Revival, which was a reaction to the realism of the Victorian era. They wrote about dark and mysterious topics, such as the supernatural, the occult, and psychological extremes. Their works were often seen as shocking and controversial, as they dealt with topics that were considered taboo at the time.


H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk

H.G. Wells is a name rarely mentioned in discussions about Victorian literature but he is certainly one of the great Victorian novelists. He used science-fiction (a new genre in the late-Victorian period) to explore contemporary anxieties provoked by scientists such as Charles Darwin. His most celebrated novels are The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds and both are highly fascinating.


Wells imagined scenarios where human society was confronted with its own limitations and the often terrifying possibilities of the future. In The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau, he delves into moral dilemmas around scientific discovery and the ethical consequences of playing god. These stories contain powerful social commentary, cleverly veiled in thrilling adventure; his work remains profoundly relevant. Wells's fiction anticipated many technological innovations, making his imaginative leaps a fascinating subject, especially for female readers interested in the intersection of science, society, and gender dynamics.


Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins Photo Credit: spectator.co.uk

Wilkie Collins is another novelist who is under-appreciated today but he more than deserves a place on this list of great Victorian novelists. He wrote 30 novels and was the founder of the “sensation” genre – the precursor to detective fiction. The Woman and White and The Moonstone, Collins’ best-known novels, even outsold Dickens during the period.


Wilkie Collins not only rivaled the popularity of Dickens but also made significant contributions to literary form and style during the Victorian era. His work often exposed the hypocrisies of societal norms and shone a light on the dark corners of English life. The Woman in White notably features a strong female character who challenges gender roles—an aspect that surely resonates with modern audiences. Collins's mastery of suspense and psychological depth cements his legacy as an innovator and a giant among 19th-century writers.

Famous Quotes

Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.


Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell Photo Credit: flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com

Gaskell is often compared to Dickens because of her depictions of poverty among the working classes. Mary Barton is a personal favorite as it mixes calls for social change with murderous plots and a fantastic love story.


Elizabeth Gaskell was a British novelist and short story writer in the mid-1800s. She was born in Chelsea, London in 1810 and died in 1865 in Manchester. She was one of the most important authors of the Victorian era, and her works are still widely read today.

Gaskell is often compared to Charles Dickens because of her depictions of poverty and the working classes. She wrote many novels, including her most famous work, Mary Barton, which was published in 1848. Mary Barton is a personal favorite of many readers, as it combines calls for social change with a thrilling love story and a mysterious murder plot.

Gaskell was a passionate advocate for social reform and her works often reflect her beliefs. She was an early supporter of the Chartist movement, which called for universal suffrage and other political reforms. She was also a passionate advocate for the rights of women and wrote about the struggles of women in her novels.

Gaskell was also a successful short story writer. She wrote several collections of short stories, including The Grey Woman and Other Tales (1861) and The Sexton’s Hero and Other Stories (1863). Her stories often focused on the lives of working-class people and the struggles they faced.


George Eliot

George Eliot Photo Credit: guardian.co.uk

George Eliot was actually a woman called Mary Anne Evans who, like most other female writers of the period, used a male pen name so that her works would be taken seriously. Her most famous works are The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede and Middlemarch and her novels show the lives of ordinary people in rural society.


George Eliot was a pioneering female novelist who wrote under a male pseudonym to ensure her works were taken seriously. Born Mary Anne Evans in 1819, she was one of the most influential writers of the Victorian era. Her novels, including The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede, and Middlemarch, explored the lives of ordinary people in rural society, and she was one of the first authors to portray a realistic picture of the struggles of everyday life.

Eliot’s writing was praised for its psychological insight and its realism, and she was one of the first authors to portray women as having an inner life and a moral sense. Her works also explored the nature of religion and morality, and she was highly critical of the traditional religious values of the time.

Eliot was a prolific writer, publishing a total of seven novels, as well as numerous essays, reviews, and translations. She also wrote extensively on politics, philosophy, and social issues, and her works have been praised for their moral complexity and their keen psychological insight.


William Morris

William Morris Photo Credit: sammieheartsart.wordpress.com

If someone asked who you considered to be a great Victorian novelist then it is unlikely that William Morris would appear on your list, but this is only because he is better known for designing textiles and wallpaper! He wrote many fantasy novels and News from Nowhere is a Utopia that is worth reading and comparing with Wells’ The Time Machine.

If you’re looking for an overview of Victorian literature, then these 8 great Victorian novelists are the ones to start with, but the Victorian era produced so many more fantastic writers than can be listed here. Who would be on your list?

Top Photo Credit: Mr. Stabile

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