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Victorian Era. 1832-1901. Presentation by Miguel Baca, William Caulker, Maddie Gibbs, Kylee Kelbaugh, and Ugochi Ndolo. Victorian Era Themes.

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victorian era

Victorian Era


Presentation by Miguel Baca,

William Caulker, Maddie Gibbs,

Kylee Kelbaugh, and Ugochi Ndolo

victorian era themes
Victorian Era Themes
  • The Victorian Era began in 1837 with the reign of Queen Victoria I of England, and lasted until her death in 1901. She is the longest reigning queen England has ever had.
  • Progress and reform were big topics. Authors were writing in realism, and people were seeing the things that were wrong in the world and trying to fix them. Improving society was what Queen Victoria wanted, and she led in the example. This influenced the writing of the era, as you will see from the examples we will show you.
  • In the Victorian Era, society was very strict with many protocols. If a woman did something she shouldn’t, she was talked about for weeks.
  • Classes were very distinct, and it showed in the function of society.
  • Decorum was greatly emphasized by the higher classes. Authors were seeing how ridiculous it was and it showed in their writing.











reform act of 1832
Reform Act of 1832
  • This document (five meters long) was created to close the flagrant voting issues in Britain.
  • The Reform Act increased the electorate from around 366,000 to 650,000, which was about eighteen percent of the total adult male population in England and Wales (very few of them were working-class men)
    • It still failed to produce a ballot
    • Women were purposely excluded
    • It brought MPs (members of parliament) to areas like Birmingham and Manchester, both never having them before
  • Earl Grey, a Whig, was the one to suggest this bill.
    • His bill was very much tampered with, and when he resigned in protest towards the king, the country broke into riot.
    • After the continuous protests, the Lords passed the document on the 4th of June, 1832
slave abolition act 1833
Slave Abolition Act 1833
  • Passed by the House of Commons and House of Lords on August 29, 1833
    • Wasn’t enforced until August 1st, 1834. This ended slavery permanently in the British Empire
    • Slaves, after being freed, were subjected to a period of apprenticeship under their masters
    • £20,000,000 was gathered as a source of compensation to slave owners
irish potato famine 1845 1849
Irish Potato Famine 1845-1849
  • Began when, just a few days after they were harvested, Irish potatoes rotted into a slimy, black, decaying form
    • Irish peasants and families were amazingly dependant on potatoes, as only one acre of them could last a year for them
    • Many theories about the cause were established
      • They were simple ideas like “the smoke from railroad locomotives was reaching them” or perhaps “vapor from underground volcanoes were infecting them”
      • In reality, the true cause of the disease in the potatoes was a fungus from Mexico that made its way to Ireland
  • 750,000 Irish died
  • Children were, as eye-witnesses said, “Like skeletons, their features sharpened with hunger and their limbs wasted, so that there was little left but bones.”
crimean war 1854 56
Crimean War 1854-56
  • Britain allies itself with France against Russia as an attempt to preserve the vital Mediterranean trade route and keep it under control.
  • A misunderstood command led to the Charge of the Light Brigade, which was basically a suicidal action for British soldiers
    • They walked through a narrow field and were fired at by both sides
    • Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a poem about this event
  • Florence Nightingale, in an attempt to improve war conditions, became a key to its reform; she invented the profession of a nurse and took care of much of the disease problems.
reform act of 1867
Reform Act of 1867
  • Like the last reform act, this one continues the increase of people who were allowed to vote. The only difference is that this time, it was about 900,000 new additions.
    • Male urban householders and male lodgers paying ten pounds rent per year for unfurnished accommodations attained the right to vote.
  • It nearly doubled the electorate, to almost 2,000,000 in England and Wales.
elementary education act 1870
Elementary Education Act 1870
  • First piece of legislation to directly deal with the issue of education in Britain.
  • Created school boards to handle building and maintaining schools wherever needed in Britain.
  • Divided Britain into 2,500 school districts.
  • Gave power to the School Boards to charge or let in students for free.
married women s property act 1870
Married Women's Property Act 1870
  • Before this act, all women’s property belonged to her husband, even her earnings and inheritance.
    • This meant divorces would pretty much leave a woman with nothing.
  • After this law was passed, women were allowed to keep such things to herself.
    • This symbolizes an extreme improvement with society towards females.
factory act 1874
Factory Act 1874
  • Raised the minimum age of child employment to ten.
  • Set the maximum hours a child could work at ten.
  • A person under the age of fourteen could not work in textile mills.
reform act of 1884
Reform Act of 1884
  • This third and final reform act opened up voting opportunities for rural areas, where the last two acts had skimmed over.
  • Electorate stood at 5,500,000 after the act was passed
  • Even after all of these openings, however, an estimated forty percent of men were still neglected; all women were neglected completely.

Reform Act of 1884

death of queen victoria 1901
Death of Queen Victoria 1901
  • This brought the official end to the Victorian Era.
  • She died on January 22nd, 1901, at the age of 81.
    • She holds the longest reign in British History
    • She had a total of thirty-seven great-grandchildren by the time of her death.
  • As she was very popular, she was properly mourned for; black was worn, dark colored banners hung over shops, and even iron fences were painted black.
    • Her son, King Edward VII, trying not to drag things on, limited the mourning to three months, after which a new era would begin.
literature of the era
Literature of the Era
  • People wrote novels and poetry.
  • People wrote about realistic topics, a big change from the Romantic era, which immediately preceded the Victorian period.
  • Many stories and poems took place in nature.
  • People were also beginning to question society and it showed in the literature.
  • Change in society was beginning to take place and that had a effect on the literature.


  • Charles Dickens
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • Robert Browning
  • A.E. Housman
  • Gerald Manley Hopkins
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Matthew Arnold
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Tomas Hardy
  • Charles Darwin
  • Brontë sisters
  • George Elliot
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Charles Dickens

As a young boy Dickens’ father, John, was employed as a navy clerk. Charles was five at this age and in school. His family was at first a family with great fortune, until John lost his job and they went into deep debt. They had to keep moving from place to place to hide from the creditors. John was eventually caught and sent to jail.

To support their family Charles’ mother, Elizabeth, started a small school in their basement. This was not making enough money, so Charles was sent to go work in a factory. At fifteen, he started working at a layers office and later became a journalist. Charles later learned that he loved to write and found his vocation.



A CHILD'S HYMNCharles DickensHear my prayer, O heavenly Father,Ere I lay me down to sleep;Bid Thy angels, pure and holy,Round my bed their vigil keep.My sins are heavy, but Thy mercyFar outweighs them, every one;Down before Thy cross I cast them,Trusting in Thy help alone.Keep me through this night of perilUnderneath its boundless shade;Take me to Thy rest, I pray Thee,When my pilgrimage is made.None shall measure out Thy patienceBy the span of human thought;None shall bound the tender merciesWhich Thy Holy Son has bought.Pardon all my past transgressions,Give me strength for days to come;Guide and guard me with Thy blessingTill Thy angels bid me home.


Literary Analysis

Charles Dickens was one of the most popular writers of his day. His unique sense of humor and humanitarianism repeats throughout all his works. This made him fiercely popular in his time. Over the years he has had his fair share of

praise, and today, he is most

commonly looked at as a serious

literary artist as well as a social

analyst. His image of the Victorian

society as being industrialized and

greedy has earned him a seat among

the great writers of history.


Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • (1809–92). In the last half of the nineteenth century, Alfred Tennyson was considered England's greatest poet. People from every walk of life understood and loved his work.
  • Alfred Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, on August 6, 1809, the fourth of twelve children. His grandfather was a member of Parliament. His father, the Reverend George Clayton Tennyson, was the rector of a Somersby parish. At the age of twelve, young Tennyson wrote a 6,000-line epic.

"Tennyson, Alfred, Lord." Britannica Student Library. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.


The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • Examples include “The Lady Shallot”, “The Palace of Art”, and “Poems, Chiefly Lyrical
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a series of poems called “The Poems by Two Brothers” and “Two Voices”

Extraction of: The Lady of Shallot

  • On either side the river lie Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the world and meet the sky; And thro' the field the road runs by To many-tower'd Camelot; And up and down the people go, Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below, The island of Shalott.
  • Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Through the wave that runs for ever By the island in the river Flowing down to Camelot. Four grey walls, and four grey towers, Overlook a space of flowers, And the silent isle imbowersThe Lady of Shalott.

thomas hardy 1840 1928
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

On June 2, 1840, Hardy was born in a small village in Dorsetshire, England.

He and his parents lived on the Dorset countryside near Cheddington.

At the age of sixteen, Thomas Hardy became an architect's apprentice.

Later, He moved to London to work independently as an architect.

In 1870, Hardy traveled to St. Juliot in Cornwall to plan a church. There he met Emma Gifford. They fell in love, and were soon married in 1874.

Hardy began writing books, and published his first novel, Desperate Remedies in 1871.

 He wrote for twenty-five years after the publishing of Desperate Remedies, and in 1896, Hardy premiered Jude, the Obscure.

Unfortunately for Hardy, the book received numerous negative reviews. Therefore, he discontinued writing novels and resorted to poetry.


I Said to Love By: Thomas Hardy

 I said to Love, "Thou art not young, thou art not fair, No faery darts, no cherub air,    Nor swan, nor dove Are thine; but features pitiless, And iron daggers of distress,"    I said to Love.    "Depart then, Love! . . . - Man's race shall end, dost threaten thou? The age to come the man of now    Know nothing of? - We fear not such a threat from thee; We are too old in apathy! Mankind shall cease.--So let it be,"    I said to Love.

I said to Love, "It is not now as in old days When men adored thee and thy ways    All else above; Named thee the Boy, the Bright, the One Who spread a heaven beneath the sun,"    I said to Love.    I said to him, "We now know more of thee than then; We were but weak in judgment when,    With hearts abrim, We clamoured thee that thou would'st please Inflict on us thine agonies,"    I said to him.


I Said to Love By: Thomas Hardy

(Its relation to society in the Victorian Age)

Love and marriage were highly valued during the Victorian Era. This poem is reflecting that idea.


Jude, the Obscure (paragraph #1 of Ch. # 1)

The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry. The miller at Cresscombe lent him the small white tilted cart and horse to carry his goods to the city of his destination, about twenty miles off, such a vehicle proving of quite sufficient size for the departing teacher's effects. For the schoolhouse had been partly furnished by the managers, and the only cumbersome article possessed by the master, in addition to the packing-case of books, was a cottage piano that he had bought at an auction during the year in which he thought of learning instrumental music. But the enthusiasm having waned he had never acquired any skill in playing, and the purchased article had been a perpetual trouble to him ever since in moving house.

Jude, the Obscure

hardy s last novel
Hardy’s Last Novel:

Published: 1896

In Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy presents the characters Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead, who violate the conventions of the repressive Victorian society while attempting to follow their natural instincts.

Jude, the Obscure

jude the obscure
Jude, the Obscure

Jude is an eleven year old orphan that dreams of studying at Christminister’s university. However, Jude is deterred from his dream when he is tricked into marrying a beautiful girl, Arabella. Eventually, their marriage grew bad, and Jude moved to Australia. There he met his cousin Sue. Unfortunately for Jude, he was in love with Sue the same time that she was engaged to Philloston. Later on, after she and Philloston marry, their marriage takes a turn for the worse. Therefore, she leaves him. Jude soon ends up marrying his cousin, Sue. Just like Sue’s previous relationship, she and Jude divorce. Then Jude learns he and Arabella have a child living in Australia.

jude the obscure cont
Jude, the Obscure (Cont.)

Sue and Jude both serve as parents to the little boy. Then Jude falls ill, and soon after his recovery, he decides to go back to Christminister’s to live with his family. The family had difficulty finding a place to live. So the children and the parents had to stay in a separate inn. In the morning, one of the children hangs his siblings and himself. Sue then feels guilty and that this was a result of the relationships with Jude. So she goes back to live with Philloston, and Jude remarries Arabella then dies.


Jude, the Obscure’s Relation to the Society in the Victorian Era

The events in this novel were contrary to what obtained in society in the Victorian era. For instance, families and marriages were very stable. In contrast, in this book, the main character, Jude, and his cousin, Sue, had previous marriages that failed. Following that, they got married only to divorce soon afterwards. Later on, Jude found out he had a child with Arabella, his previous wife. His years of ignorance of this occurrence underscored Jude’s nonchalance towards his children. His inconsistency in his marriages as well as breaks in communication with his child were uncharacteristic of men during the Victorian era.


Other Novels by Thomas Hardy

Mayor of Casterbridge

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Desperate Remedies

The Return of the Native

hardy s impact on society
Hardy’s Impact on Society

Hardy impacted society with his writing. His novels and poems provided entertainment for the people in the Victorian Era. They also explained and demonstrated the progress of the time.


Robert Browning (1812-1889)

  • Robert Browning had access to a more-than-average amount of information during his growth. His father owned an ENORMOUS library (supposedly around 6,000 books!)
      • He studied music, art, history of medicine, drama, literature, entomology, and various other topics.
  • His idol poet was Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Fell in love with Elizabeth Barrett's poetry, and then the author herself.
    • Barrett’s father was amazingly controlling and would not let her leave his household
      • In the end, Elizabeth elopes with Browning to Italy
  • His first immediate success came with the poem “The Ring and the Book” (1868-1869)

Robert Browning: His Work

Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (1819-76)

One of his more famous poems “My Last Duchess”, was based on an actual event involving a duke of the 16th century. In the poem, he passes by a painting of the duchess, a fair lady, who he was now widowed toward. In his thoughts, he rambles on about her predicaments-“Twas not her husband’s presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess’ cheek”,-how she never appreciated his “gift of a nine-hundred-year-old name”and later in the poem even reveals his vengeful crime over her.

Browning took a historical event and morphed it into an interesting (and a bit dark) tale involving a beautiful woman and her temptations along with her husband’s cold response.


Robert Browning: His Work (cont.)

FEAR death? -- to feel the fog in my throat,

The mist in my face,

When the snows begin, and the blasts denote

I am nearing the place,

The power of the night, the press of the storm,

The post of the foe;

Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,

Yet the strong man must go:

For the journey is done and the summit attained,

And the barriers fall.

Tho' a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,

The reward of it all.

I was ever a fighter, so -- one fight more,

The best and the last!

I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forebore,

And bade me creep past.

No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers

The heroes of old,

Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears

Of pain, darkness and cold.

For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,

The black minute's at end,

And the elements' rage, the friend-voices that rave,

Shall dwindle, shall blend,

Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,

Then a light, then thy breast,

O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,

And with God be the rest.


Written shortly after the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Robert Browning: His Impact

  • Browning challenged his readers to discover what is virtuous and healthy, when love nourishes, and when and why it kills.
    • He believed that humans MUST act through personal, moral standards, just as he believed that ones who love and act bravely constantly will be rewarded.
    • “This world’s no blot for us, Nor blank; it means intensely, and it means good.”
  • Admirers around the US and England formed “Browning Societies” in order to interpret and share his poetry.
female authors

Female Authors

During this period, female authors were not respected and were often criticized for their writing. At that time they still had no rights.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

  • Her family was considerably wealthy during her childhood and, although they did have to move various times at one point for financial reasons, they were never poor.
  • When she became famed, Robert Browning, an adoring fan of both her poems and essentially her, came to visit her with the help of John Kenyon.
    • Barrett doubted his love (and she expresses in detail what the situation was like in Sonnets from the Portuguese), but was in the end caught in it and left to Italy with Robert a week after their marriage.
      • Barrett’s father disinherited her for this reason. He approved of no marriage with his children.
  • She died in Robert Browning’s arms on June 29, 1861.
    • Her illness to this day is commonly speculated.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Her Work

Sonnet 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightMy soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of Being and ideal Grace.I love thee to the level of everyday’sMost quiet need, by sun and candle-light.I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.I love thee with the passion put to useIn my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.I love thee with a love I seemed to loseWith my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death.

  • Sonnets from the Portuguese, her most popular work, tells the tale of a love story between her and Robert Browning. Forty-four love sonnets are comprised into it.
    • The famous line “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” is derived from sonnet 43, one of the most well-known pieces of writing in the entire Victorian period.
  • It was titled the way it is to give the couple privacy under the impression that they were merely love sonnets translated from Portuguese into English.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Her Impact

  • Barrett Browning’s poetic talents were not unseen by others with similar abilities; Edgar Allan Poe borrowed the meter and rhyme scheme from “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” and used it in his very well-known poem “The Raven”
  • Elizabeth wrote passionately into her poems of the social injustices of child labor, restricted women rights, the slave trade in America, and many other similar topics.
  • She was the of the most esteemed female writers in the US and Britain
    • Barrett Browning was the motivation of Emily Dickinson, an American poet of a similar time period and struggles with her gender.
george eliot 1819 1880
George Eliot(1819-1880)
  • Mill on the Floss- (1860)
  • Silas Marner- (1861)
  • Actual name: Mary Anne Evans
  • Adopted the name to protect her

identity and avoid scrutiny for her sex

  • Her novels were about heroines in rural life, with the limitations of social propriety.
  • Unlike other women, she accepted the fact that clever women who showed their cleverness had no place in society and did not always end happily.

The Writing of George Eliot

This sample of writing shows how Eliot wrote about heroines in rural settings. In this scene Maggie, the main character, is outside near the river and her parents are watching her and talking about how she is always there and so distracted. She is distracted because she is always thinking. Her parents are criticizing her about this because it is out of place and she is always forgetting things. This is how Eliot depicts the station of women in society and the need for change in that area, as many authors did in the time.

“Afore two hours together passes my cunning. An' now you put me i' mind," continued Mrs. Tulliver, rising and going to the window, "I don't know where she is now, an' it's pretty nigh tea-time. Ah, I thought so,--wanderin' up an' down by the water, like a wild thing: She'll tumble in some day."

Mrs. Tulliver rapped the window sharply, beckoned, and shook her head,--a process which she repeated more than once before she returned to her chair.

"You talk o' 'cuteness, Mr. Tulliver," she observed as she sat down, "but I'm sure the child's half an idiot i' some things; for if I send her upstairs to fetch anything, she forgets what she's gone for, an' perhaps 'ull sit down on the floor i' the sunshine an' plait her hair an' sing to herself like a Bedlam creatur', all the while I'm waiting for her downstairs. That niver run i' my family, thank God! no more nor a brown skin as makes her look like a mulatter. I don't like to fly i' the face o' Providence, but it seems hard as I should have but one gell, an' hers”

- Mill on the Floss, George Eliot


Works by George Eliot

Mill on the Floss (1860)

Silas Marner (1861)

the bront sisters
The Brontë Sisters

(The picture to the left was drawn by Branwell and called The Bronte Sisters.)

There were originally five Brontë sisters, however Maria and Elizabeth (the oldest) died, but were not writers. The three that survived were Charlotte, Emily and Anne. They also had a brother named Patrick Branwell.

They were the daughters of a clergyman.

The writing of Charlotte and Emily were rather dark, but Anne’s was a little lighter and was more like Jane Austen’s.

They all adopted pen names to avoid criticism because of their gender. They were bashed anyway because of the themes of their writing.

Anne and Branwell like to draw and all of the sisters wrote poetry as well as the novels that they are famous for. Charlotte attempted to publish a book of their work.

the bront sisters cont
The Brontë Sisters cont.
  • Anne:
  • Lived 1820-1849
  • Published under the name of Acton Bell
  • Agnes Grey (1847)
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
  • Emily:
  • Lived 1818-1848
  • Published under the name of Ellis Bell
  • Wuthering Heights (1847)

Charlotte :

  • Lived 1816-1864
  • Published under the name of Currer Bell
  • Jane Eyre (1847)
  • The Professor (not published)
wuthering heights
Wuthering Heights

To the left is a quote that shows the romantic themes of Brontë’s writing. To the right shows the scary and dark aspects of her novel. It was very different from a lot of writing at the time and took a lot if criticism for this.

"The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, 'Let me in - let me in!' 'Who are you?' I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. 'Catherine Linton,' it replied, shiveringly - 'I'm come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!' As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window."- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 3

"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.“

- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 9

works cited
Works Cited

Alton, Anne. Overview of significant historic events. August 2010 < >.

Armitage, Michael. Anne Bronte. 1999. 25 August 2010 <>.

Bloy, Marjie. Victorian Web. 20 december 2006. August 2010 <>.

Bragg, Melvyn. BBC In Our Time. 27 November 2008. August 2010 <>.

Britain Express. August 2010 <>.

British Library-Talking Liberties. August 2010 <>.

Cody, David. Victorian Web. 1987. August 2010 <>.

Combs, Mary Beth. Ingenta Connect. April 2006. August 2010 <>.

Hardy, Thomas. Poems by Thomas Hardy. 31 august 2010. august 2010 <>.

History Channel. History Channel: This day in Histor. 2010. August 2010 <>.

works cited1
Works Cited

History leaning site. 2010. August 2010 <>.

Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Elements of Literature, Sixth Course, Literature of Britain. Austin: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.

Lancashire, Ian . Robert Browning (1812-1889) Prospice. 2009. 1 September 2010. <>.

Lombardi, Esther. About Wuthering Heights. 2010. 26 August 2010 < wutheringquo.htm>.

Mintz, S. Digital History: Irish Potatoe famine. 1 September 2010. August 2010 <>.

Snodgrass, Chris. Chronicle of Historic events. 2003. August 2010 <>.

society, Anit-slavery. Fighting Slavery Today. 2003. August 2010 <>.

The Queen is Dead. August 2010 <>.

Thomas Hardy Website. August 2010 <>. July 2009. August 2010 <>.