The Victorian era of British history, spanning over wide parts of the 19th century, is an exquisite epoch for literature. Outstanding writers were at the height of their creativity and many classics, which are now read all over the world date back to that period. I’d like to sketch out three of them to give you an impression and incite you to pick up at least one of them.
Thomas Hardy – The Woodlanders
This intriguing novel by Thomas Hardy, released in 1886, is set in a tiny woodland village called Little Hintock. It centers around Grace Melbury, the daughter of one of the local woodworkers. Giles Winterborne, her childhood sweetheart, is waiting to marry her and there has already been an unofficial agreement on marriage in the past. However, her ambitious father sends her away to improve her education. Upon her return, he begins to doubt the suitability of the intended marriage and to nurture hopes of heaving her up into more distinguished circles. It transpires that with Edgar Fitzpiers, en erudite doctor who has just moved to Little Hintock to take up business, there is already a candidate waiting. What follows are moral entanglements, adultery and class conflicts. The psychological depth in this book walks hand in hand with Hardy’s elaborate and beautiful descriptions of the lovely woodland scenery. Read it!
Henry James – Washington Square
This novel came out in 1881 and tells the story of how a wealthy old widower, Dr. Austin Sloper, is trying to prevent her daughter Catherine from falling into the hands of a fortune hunter, Morris Townsend. Catherine, kind-hearted but also simple, inane and quite unadorned with the ability to unmask the dishonest intentions of her suitor, falls for him. Her sharp-witted father interdicts the marriage and declares that she will not inherit money in case the marriage takes place. Hoping to divert her mind from any thoughts concerning the marriage, he takes her on a year-round trip to Europe and tries to avoid the subject during the journey. Will she relinquish her plans and reconcile herself with her father or will she remain steadfast and marry Mr. Townsend?
Bram Stoker – Dracula
First let me state that personally, I am not a big fan of horror or ghost stories but this one definitely sent a shiver down my spine and made me shudder. A lawyer from London travels to Romania, more precisely to Transylvania on a business trip dealing with Count Dracula’s imminent relocation to London. Being detained there for a few days due to certain circumstances, he notices peculiar things about the Count who has no mirror image but then, very white, sharp and jagged teeth…
I guess I don’t have to dive too deep into the matter as you all know the most famous of vampires. Despite of this, I strongly recommend reading the original Dracula story since in my eyes, it is far above all movie adaptations and other literary works dealing with the matter. Specially the first half of the story where the Count’s identity is still hazy, is among the most gripping pieces of literature I have ever come across.