What We Owe the Victorians

It’s odd for us to consider now, but until the 19th century the novel was considered by most to be a creation which was, at the very least, a waste of one’s time, and by many, an evil invention. The reasoning behind this aversion to fiction was that because the stories did not really occur, they were a form of “lying.” It is likely that this mindset arose from the attitudes of our more extreme Puritan forefathers; this view was most likely further confirmed by some of the rather scandalous early novels published pre-19th century.

Victorian browsing (video courtesy sandmanbooks.com)


Whatever the reason or reasons, it took the genius of the Victorian novelists to give the world the epiphany that a well crafted novel is truth with a capital “T.” Like the rich metaphorical literature of The Old Testament, the parables of Jesus, allegories such as Pilgrim’s Progress, and the symbolic nature of poetry, novels reveal truths to us about the world, human nature, and ultimately, ourselves, in fresh new ways which connect with the soul and spirit through “real” story. So thank you Charles Dickens, The Brontës, George Eliot, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Joseph Conrad, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and the many, many others who broke through the veil and brought us the gift of the novel.