The year 1877 was during the Late Period of the Victorian Age from 1870 -1901. There was the decay of Victorian values during this period. The literature during this period had a generals change in attitude, some of the authors during this period openly attacked each other, for example, Samuel Butler was adamant in attacking some of the mid-Victorian authors such as Darwin and Tennyson. He also attacked Prime Minister Gladstone. The reason behind his attacks was purely based on the fact that their authority reminded him of his father. It was this particular period that Butler became famous with his Novel, The Way of All Flesh (1903), despite the book being published in 1903, it was written during the 1870s. Butler used satire on family life while particularly focusing on his father who was a tyrant and self-righteous man, a typical Victorian father (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
In the nineties the same attitude that was coming up during the 1870s was prominent. The stories told by Joseph Conrad and Kipling of the people in African and India struggling were all over, and the empire was striving to sustain itself with different forms of development. During this period the artists demonstrated a particular edge towards ending the century in style (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of the great authors during the Victorian period, although his works were not published until after the end of the Victorian period. His works had a great effect on the modernist poets and critics of the Victorian period. Hopkins is an example of writers who are known as the “Late Victorian.” They are writers who made their contribution to literature during the period before 1900.
Hopkins career was not quite as bright as first until 29 years after his death in 1918 when his publications of his poems were presented to the world. His poems were mainly celebrating God’s creation. His works were labelled as the pioneers of “modern” literature mostly because they were released in the 20th century and were deeply rooted in the use of meter and diction. This particular direction that Hopkins used made him stand out among the Victorian writers whose works at this time were deemed as out of fashion (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). Hopkins used a different kind of rhythm that he felt came naturally in speech and written prose. One of the poems that Hopkins illuminated the presence of God was in “God’s Grandeur” where he explores the relationship that God has with nature. Another of Hopkins works was “Pied Beauty” which he wrote in the same year, 1877. In this poem he was focused on the beauty that God has created, he is mostly praising God and ends the poem with the words “Praise him.” On the other hand, “Spring and Fall” (1880) are more about despair which was also characteristic of Hopkins (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
Hopkins was an inspiration to writers such as Ivor Gurney due to his sonnets which were deemed as terrible and full of despair and Edward Thomas who wrote with a particular directness same as Gurney. Gurney was a poet between the periods of 1890-1937 which was partly Victorian and modern. Gurney’s poems captured the scenes that he went through during his time in service in the trenches, he wrote on subjects such as nature, landscape, and morality (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). He used various styles of the modern techniques in his poems including colloquial diction and shifting rhythms in his poem “To His Love.”
The Late Victorian also included writers such as Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, William Butler Yeats and Alfred Edward Housman. However, there are writers who had a similar case as Hopkins in terms of timeline placement. For example, despite Tom Hardy writing his works during the Victorian period, they are usually included in the twentieth century because it is only after the beginning of the century that Hardy made his name as a poet (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). He marked the end of the Victorian period with his poem, “The Darkling Thrush.” It showed the beginning of a new era of skepticism away from the conviction and optimism of old days.
After the Victorian age came the twentieth century, the period of the World War I, works during this period were full of pessimism. It was during this time that the weakness in traditional stabilities of society, religion and culture began (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). At this time modernity was disrupting the old order and bringing in rapid changes. The ideas that Hardy presented in his work were almost similar to those of Housman where he felt frustration and the use of irony when faced with metaphysical questions. The works also had a lot of sadness. All these characteristics in Hard and Housman were characteristics of the late Victorian mood.
Housman’s themes included but not limited to Love and friendship not lasting and ending in betrayal or death, a doomed youth acting out of tragedy and agriculture. He did not use the first person so as to avoid self-pity but used an ironic tone in his poems. Examples of his work include, “Loveliest of Trees” (1896), where he touches on nature and “To an Athlete Dying Young” (1896). “To an Athlete Dying Young” was a typical Housman poem as it focused on the youth and the despair that comes with losing the young and the void left. It is full of despair and narration is done by a friend of the athlete that had died. The despair is typical of the late Victorian period (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
In the twentieth century, a lot was going on, with the development of new technologies and the emancipation of women. There was a growing revolution in poetry in the years to World War I. The imagist movement began to insist on the use of clear and precise images to counter what was seen as a tendency towards emotionalism and romantic visualization in poetry (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). The imagist wrote short, sharply etched lyrics that were very descriptive, however, lacked the technique to produce longer and complex poems. Metaphysical poetry was also introduced here which made the poems more intellectual than those in the Victorian and Georgian period. The publication of Hopkins poetry also encouraged the experimentation in language and rhythms called the sprung rhythm (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
D.H Lawrence was one of the writers during this period, in 1912, he began writing poems that were freer in both emotion and form. It was during this time between 1911 and 1922 that a revolution occurred in English and changed the way many poets think and practice their art. This was the modernist revolution, and writers were influenced by the French impressionist and post-impressionist. In terms of novels, they could be divided into three periods: high modernism, which involved the celebration of personal and textual inwardness; the reaction against modernism, which involved the social realism and moralism; the period after the British empire collapsed (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). The inventors of the modernist English novel included James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. D.H. Lawrence, “Odour of Chrysanthemums” (1914) is a novel which shows the modernism in the writer and brings out the life of the modern human and industrialization. A characteristic of this novel and period is that there was no despair but tragedy due to the development that has taken place. The writers in the twentieth century who were modernists were mainly experimental which can also be seen with the stories by James Joys an example being “Araby” they embody the loss of Victorian values that placed religion and government first with the stories showing a sense of exploration and realism (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
In 1918, Wilfred Owen, a soldier wrote the poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est,” which was typical of the period as it touched on the war and how it felt like being in the trenches. It brought some sense of realism. He wrote with pity and irony.
In 1920, after the war, there were many poems and literary works that came about and most majored on the war and the aftermath. The modernist writers wrote of how the war affected them and changed society and the environment. Some were also thoughts of those who had participated in the war, for example, William Butler Yeats, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” The narrator is an airman who was killed in the battle and was questioning the reason for fighting. It showed the development of poetry during this age and was also significant to the period as it had the characteristics of a typical poem in the period, short, precise and with tight rhymes (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). With modernity also came the method of storytelling with a change in the conventional into a new style that was presented by James Joyce in Ulysses, (1922). He varies in form and uses a different kind of style that was not as direct as a Victorian reader would expect, hence showed the advancement into the modernism.
Wystan Hugh Auden, during the 1920 and 1930s was a prominent poet as he brought about new techniques and attitudes in his writing, he had learned the metrical and verbal techniques from Hopkins and Wilfred Owens and added to the knowledge gained from Thomas Stearns Eliot of the conversational and ironic tone. He also used Thomas Hardy’s metrical variety, intimate perspective, and formal irregularity.
At the time when Auden was writing some of his work there had been the great depression that hit most parts of the world and saw the spread of poverty and unemployment and effect on his country. He was a big follower of Yeats and dedicated most of his work to him. There was other literature centered around women gaining voting rights.
World War II proved a series of less realist fiction and also some young novelists were obsessed with writing about Germany. Post-holocaust was also a period in which writers were trying to fit the moral basis through which the acts could be criticized with many Christian and religiously inspired works of literature (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012).
In the postmodernism other contemporary issues came about, literature became more open with aspects of modernity being explored, erotic literature was also being used by different writers to express passion in their works for example D. H. Lawrence in, Lady Chatterley’s Lover which was banned was finally allowed to the public. Writers were more open to different ideas and spoke of the contemporary issues such as homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. There were many fictional writers with other coming out as feminists. Literature was now opening in Asia and Africa after the colonialism with different writers coming up from the regions (Greenblatt and Abrams, 2012). Magical realism was also a thing during this period with new ideas coming from the previously colonized regions.
Over the years the British drama got a set of new vocabularies, new techniques and even revitalized visions of identity with the penetration into different parts of the world which allowed for diversity and development of new styles. These particular factors have made literature more diverse and all-inclusive than ever before.