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Thread: Excerpts from Victorian Fiction

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    Excerpts from Victorian Fiction

    Morning all,

    English teachers in post-Gove UK are expected to place a greater weight on Victorian texts when designing curricula. Victorian literature isn't my forte, so I'm curious as to whether a greater mind could point me in the direction of an extract (roughly 700-1000 words) from a Victorian novel that is heavy on description of a setting/character and structurally-interesting.

    So far, I have settled upon the scene when Oliver Twist enters London...

    ...any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    Anne Perry wrote a whole series of books on Victorian England. See http://www.anneperry.co.uk

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    Anne Perry wrote a series of books on Victorian England. See http://www.anneperry.co.uk
    Last edited by Dreamwoven; 02-13-2017 at 06:31 AM. Reason: double post

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    Quote Originally Posted by adross View Post
    Morning all,

    English teachers in post-Gove UK are expected to place a greater weight on Victorian texts when designing curricula. Victorian literature isn't my forte, so I'm curious as to whether a greater mind could point me in the direction of an extract (roughly 700-1000 words) from a Victorian novel that is heavy on description of a setting/character and structurally-interesting.

    So far, I have settled upon the scene when Oliver Twist enters London...

    ...any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Talking about entering London, I thought the first chapter of The Woman in White, where Mr Hartright meets Anne Catherick while walking into London was quite interesting. London has changed quite a bit since then.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The first chapter of Dickens' Bleak House is a good example, you could probably find a suitable extract there.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I hate her, but Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton has some vivid representations of working-class Manchester life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrysophrase View Post
    I hate her, but Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton has some vivid representations of working-class Manchester life.
    I assume it is Elizabeth Gaskell you don't like. Why's that?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Well, maybe 'hate' isn't what I mean... I respect the book as a well-written and important classic (etc etc), but it just isn't for me. I find Gaskell's style unwieldy and annoying and all her books tends to be terribly moralistic. They all seem to be written according to a formula, you can predict everything that's going to happen a quarter of the way through the book because the characters and situations are all so predictable. Cranford is a bit nicer since it doesn't have a real plot. But she is a very good writer, just not my thing.

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    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    I would say (I am biased) that the first chapter of `The Return of the Native` by Thomas Hardy is one of the finest pieces of descriptive writing ever...

    In fact, trawl through any of his novels and you will probably find what you are looking for.

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    Damn. I just copied a couple of passages from Charlotte Brontė and Joseph Conrad, but I must have hit cancel instead of submit.

    Edit:

    Thanks to the back button, I was able to recover what I transcribed:

    From Jane Eyre, Volume 3, Chapter 28:

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlotte Brontė
    I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer-day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. Tonight, at least, I would be her guest -- as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price. I had one morsel of bread yet: the remnant of a roll I had bought in a town we passed through at noon with a stray penny -- my last coin. I saw ripe bilberries gleaming here and there, like jet beads in the heath: I gathered a handful and ate them with the bread. My hunger, sharp before, was, if not satisfied, appeased by this hermit's meal. I said my evening prayers at its conclusion, and then chose my couch.
    From Heart of Darkness:

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Conrad
    Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long eight-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the eight-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere.
    I particularly love the absurdity of that second passage.
    Last edited by A Loser; 02-22-2017 at 01:29 AM.

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seumas99 View Post
    The first chapter of Dickens' Bleak House is a good example, you could probably find a suitable extract there.
    I'd second that. The opening of The Return of the Native is wonderfully atmospheric but it is rural and could refer to a wider period than the Victorian age.

    The opening of Bleak House could only be Victorian - it is set before the opening of the Law Courts in the Strand but after the time of the Prince Regent. Strictly speaking it is just pre-Victorian as the railways are still in the future, but it is post Georgian. (What do you call the reign of William IV?)
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 02-22-2017 at 01:35 PM.
    Previously JonathanB

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    Quote Originally Posted by adross View Post
    Morning all,

    English teachers in post-Gove UK are expected to place a greater weight on Victorian texts when designing curricula. Victorian literature isn't my forte, so I'm curious as to whether a greater mind could point me in the direction of an extract (roughly 700-1000 words) from a Victorian novel that is heavy on description of a setting/character and structurally-interesting.

    So far, I have settled upon the scene when Oliver Twist enters London...

    ...any help would be greatly appreciated!
    I can't think of specific passages, but it might be worth stressing the difference between London and rest of Victorian Britain. London was a dark, monstrous place by the middle of the 19th century – the largest city the world had ever seen. And most Victorian literature has London hovering somewhere in the background – as a place people ran away to, either to make their fortune or to be swallowed up and destroyed. Even today you still get this sense of immense scale and of London being a world of its own.

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