These questions were originally created for English 394: The Victorian Novel from Dickens to Hardy, at the University of British Columbia, Summer Session Two, 1989. They have been augmented with pertinent excerpts from Tillotson's seminal criticism of the early Victorian novel for English 3412 (Victorian Fiction), Lakehead University, January through May 2004. For additional questions click on the "Contexts" icon at the foot of the screen.

Question 10. Part One: Introductory

I shall begin by briefly indicating some of the available material, proceeding from the more to the less known; to say "novels of the eighteen-forties" is not automatically to call up the names of the works even of major novelists, or their place in those novelists' careers; and still less the threads that unite them, threads often running through long-forgotten novels but contributing to the whole design. But I am, of course, reminding rather than informing; for this is a decade in which the reader of Victorian novels can easily be made to feel at home.

The novelists whose complete work chances to fall within the pale of this single decade are few; but the work of the Brontes very nearly does so, with The Professor (written by 1846), Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and Jane Eyre (1847), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), and Shirley (1849).

Dickens, writing from 1833 to 1870, is represented by five novels: The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1), Barnaby Rudge (1841), Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4), Dombey and Son (1846-8), and David Copperfield (1849-50); besides two travel-books and five Christmas stories [i. e., the five novellas called The Christmas Books, 1843-8]. Thackeray is seen nearer the beginning of his shorter career, with The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), Vanity Fair (1847-8), and Pendennis (1849-50), besides many sketches and stories. Of other considerable and still-famous novels the forties give us Mrs. Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton (1848); Kingsley's first novel, Yeast (1848); Disraeli's three middle and most famous novels — Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845), and Tancred (1847). These remind us that the roman a these is already establishing itself; and to them may be added two out of many novels on the religious problems of the day: Froude's Nemesis of Faith (1849) and Newman's Loss and Gain (1848). Other now-famous names are absent, or appear faintly: only the first two and least characteristic of Trollope's fifty or so novels belong to the forties: The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) and The Kellys and the 0'Kelly (1848). . . . Wilkie Collins did not begin to publish until 1850: Charles Reade and George Meredith a few years later. And as yet Mary Ann Evans was just beginning to hope for a literary career. . . . [Tillotson 2-3]

Question Ten: Just a Few Novelists of the 1840s

Although Tillotson mentions a good many novelists, she chooses to focus on just a handful. Which novelists does she repeatedly mention, and why do you think she has chosen to make these writers her focus?


Tillotson, Kathleen. Novels of the Eighteen-Forties. Oxford: Clarendon, 1955, rpt. 1983.

Created 25 December 2004

Last modified 20 January 2024