Children's Literature in the Victorian Era (with footnotes, citations, and images)

Essay by killjoyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, February 2004

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The time when Queen Victoria I was in rule, known as the Victorian Era, played host to an abundance of children's literature, appearing in such forms as the fairy tale, nonsense stories, and tales of adventure. This influx of writing aimed toward the younger class was brought on by several different factors.

In 1832, King William IV died, leaving the English throne to his niece Victoria, who was only eighteen years old. A moral woman, she was unhappy with the corrupt conduct of the Royal Family, as well as the nation, and, unlike her predecessors, she accepted the idea of constitutional monarchy1. With these bold and unparalleled moves, she started an age of reform in England, one that put a great emphasis on family life.

With these reforms came a departure from the old kinds of children's literature; instead of being aimed at teaching children morals and religion, they were aimed at simply entertaining them2.

Before the Victorian Era, there were basically two types of children's books: pious books preaching hellfire and infant damnation, and cheap, low-quality chapbooks3. The 19th century, however, was focused much on family life, not religious piety, thus introducing many different types of juvenile literature.

One form of literature that became gained popularity in the Victorian Age was the fairy tale. Although it had been around for centuries, this type of writing was shunned during the 18th century because it was believed heretical by the Puritan beliefs that were so common during this period. In other parts of the world, though, fairy tales were gaining esteem. German brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm and Dane Hans Christian Andersen had great success with their stories of fantasy, and accordingly, England caught on4. Sir Henry Cole, under the nom de plume Felix Summerly, published many traditional fairy tales in...