Tennyson as a Victorian

Tennyson as a Victorian

The Victorian age was an age where many changes occurred
socially, economically, and industrially. People began to explore
into areas such as the earth, the human body, and how to benefit
the daily lives of individuals. English literature was also
something that was beginning to be developed.

Historically, it began when Queen Victoria was anointed to the
thrown in 1837 and brought a new prosperity to England. She held
the throne for 63 years which is the longest monarch to hold the
thrown ever in English history. To many people, she was a symbol
of stability and prosperity as evidenced by the following feeling
from her people. The Victorian age has been said to be a very
diverse time. Historian T.B. Macaulay in 1838 said that the
English had become "the greatest and most highly civilized people
that ever the world saw." Yet, another man by the name of Benjamin
Disraeli, who was a writer and a politician, disagreed with this
statement and pointed out that the existence of an England of "two
nations who are as ignorant of each other\'s habits, thoughts, and
feelings, as if they were ... of different planets; who are
formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are
ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same
laws." He further says that "these two nations were the richest
and poorest." It was a time when the rich were rich, and the poor
people were poor. The poor or lower class of people went hungry
and half naked throughout most of their lives. Life and death went
hand in hand; wealth and poverty stood side by side; repletion and
starvation laid them down together.

Such rapid change in industry destroyed jobs as it provided
new ones. The population shifted and left thousands housed in
urban slums with bad water, no sanitation, and little food. The
depression left whole factories unemployed, and with no means of
producing goods. Yet, some people believed that the only way to
control population growth was through starvation or self-control.
Men, women, and children accustomed to the community life of rural
towns and farms to the varied and independent work habits of the
farm, and the small shop, found themselves laboring up to sixteen
hours a day, six days a week, in factories without any government
safety regulations, and with very low pay. People were not known
as individuals only as "hands" with no control over their lives,
hired, and fired at the whim of the owner or the fluctuation of the
market. There was no way to make a better life for oneself because
you were born into a certain social status, or you lived a life of
poverty for the rest of your life or you were one of the privileged
classes and were guaranteed the status of the royalty.

The Victorian years also brought with them the increasing
efforts to achieve political, social, and economic reforms that
would change the structure of the country to meet the changes
created by industry. The Reform Bill was passed in 1832 which
increased the electorate by fifty percent. The bill made it
impossible for workers and women to vote, therefore, only one in
five Englishmen could vote. These men were generally from the
upper class and they controlled everything. To many people, this
was a light of hope that England would improve, but during the
1840\'s England saw the worst years of the century for unemployment,
hunger, and disease. It brought radical working class agitation
for the People\'s Chapter, which demanded universal male suffrage
and a Parliament in which any man could serve. The effects of
these problems prompted a series of bills to be passed. Parliament
repealed some of the more unjust laws, and began to legislate
shorter working hours, industrial safety, and urban sanitary
reform. Due to the economic prosperity, it reduced radical
agitation and in 1867 a second Reform Bill, which meant that most
working men were allowed to vote. It brought a more liberal view
of what was needed in life.

People\'s thoughts and ideas also changed with the development
of the country. The peoples\' ideas became more free and they
accepted change more easily, yet not everybody wanted to admit to
change. People began to ask more questions about life, which
prompted the development of science and many people began to
question the bible. Lyell\'s Principles of Geology and Chamber\'s
Vestiges of creation brought out the view publically that the earth
was older than the bible said it to be. People\'s beliefs were
suddenly being shattered and the quest for answers was in need.