The 2nd half of the 19th century-the beginning of the 20th cent.

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The 2nd half of the 19th century-the beginning of the 20th cent.

Historical outline

The second half of the 19th century witnessed a rapid growth of social contradictions which was caused economic crisis hitting England at the moment. The spirit was also characterized by a crisis in bourgeoisie culture too, artists, poets, musicians and all intellectuals unanimously hated this heartless world which disturbed and persevered the development of the human personality. The crisis of bourgeoisie culture influenced the appearing of 2 trends: progressive and regressive.


The representatives of the progressive trend continued the traditions of such writers as Dickens, the Brontes and others. These novelists (Thomas Hardy) showed in their books a realistic picture of the contemporary society. Their greatest merit was a deep psychological analysis and a keen observation of their inner world.


The writers of the regressive trend by way of protest against severe reality tended to lead the reader away from life into the worlds of dream, beauty and perfection. At the end of the century this reactionary movement found its expression in so called decadence from the word to decline. The decadent writers rejected realism in art and created their own cult of beauty. These writers proclaimed the theory of pure art.

Later on one of the representatives created a new version of this movement under the name aestheticism. The major representative, ideologue and a person who created it was Oscar Wilde. His conclusion was that art should not reflect reality but only give pleasure. He considered, along with other representatives, the beautiful form to be more important than the contents. He also denied the educational value of art and literature as well as moral and social functions of it. Art for them was an isolated form of life.


Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in Dorsetshire in the family of an architect. He attended grammar school and studied architecture. He moved to London for some time but disliked the city and abandoned it for the rest of his life to devote himself to prose fiction. In 1871 he published his 1st novel “Desperate Remedies” which was followed by a series of books classified by the author as novels of character and environment. They are: “Under the Greenwood Tree” (1872), the novel traces the spiritual and physical deterioration (распад, разложение) of a respectable man, “The Major Of Casterbridge” (1886), “Tess of D’Urbervilles” (1891), “Jude the Obscure” (1896), the later work treated the theme of sexual attraction with such frankness that the public was shocked for a considerable period of time.

In his works Hardy portraits all the evils of his contemporary society- poverty, injustice, misery. Man is represented as a victim of blind faith and mysterious powerful fate and so men’s longing for happiness is doomed to disappointment.

Hardy wrote poetry as well as prosaic works. There are poems on Napoleonic wars, merry and tragic ballads, sad, love lyrics. He also wrote some philosophical poems in which he speaks about the destiny of man and his death. Hardys largest poetic work is “The Dynasts”. It is a dramatic epic in dialogue about the Napoleonic period in history.

“Tess of D’Urbervilles”. This novel deals with the story of a tragic fate of a poor girl. She is the daughter of poor parents though she is a descendant of an ancient family. She is seduced by young man. A child is born after the seduction. But he dies in infancy. Some years later Tess falls in love with a clergyman’s son. On her wedding night she tells her fiance about her past. And her husband leaves her. After a brave fight against poverty and other evils she is taken under protection of D’Urbervilles. He husband comes back and finds Tess with a man who seduced her. Tess kills this man because she understood that she loved her husband more than anybody else on Earth. In some time she was arrested and hanged.

Hardy shows that he is completely against the judgement of the society which proclaims such women as Tess fallen.




Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was born in Dublin in a prominent Irish family. His father was a famous Irish sergeant and his mother was a poetess. He received one of the mist brilliant educations at Trinity college (Dublin). He continued his education in oxford university where under the influence of his teacher John Ruskin Wilde joined the yet young aesthetic movement. This movement came into being as a way of protest against Bourgous hypocrisy and Wilde became the most sincere supporter of this movement. After his graduation from the university Wildeturned to writing lecturing and traveling. In 1881 he visited the united states to lecture o n the aesthetic movement and this year also saw the first publication of Wilde's early poems. The beautiful fairy tales of his "The happy prince" and others appeared in 1888. The only novel written by the author "The picture of Dorian Gray" (1891) one a universal acclaim around the world.the most significant of his comedy plays are "Lady Windermere's fan", "the importance of being Earnest", "a woman of no importance". His plays in spite of being light hearted and entertaining reveal the themes of selfishness, vanity and corruption of english higher society in a very playful

manner. The plays are also prominent for their brilliant dialogues, witty paradoxes and entertaining plots. Along with being dramatist amd a play write Wilde also published several essays, reviews, political tracts, and letters on various subjects. At the height of his career a tragedy struck. He was accused of immorality and sentenced of two years of prison. In prison he wrote his powerful poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (1898). The here of a poem is a young man who has killed his unfaithful sweetheart. The ballad tells of cruelty of people injustice of social system and general corruption of the world.


The Picture of Dorian Gray

the novel presents the peak of Wilde's theory in which he glorifies beauty in perfection. The author also conveys the idea that it's not at all necessary tone realistic and teach morality. But the critics say that Wilde is not always consistent in this attempt. the end of the book is a contradiction of a decadent theory. The fact that the portray acquired its former beauty and the character and his natural ugliness shows the triumph of real beauty, which is a piece of art created by an artist, which is a unity of beauty form

which is a unity of beauty form and content. Besides that the book conveys the idea that real beauty cannot be a part of an immoral human being and life.


In the early 20 cent. the traditions of critical realists of the 19th cent were continued and developed further. Three names are prominent among the writers who continued its traditions. They are: George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy and Herbert George Wells. All these possesed remarkable individual talent and developed the trend of critical realism along their own individual paths. They sought for new ways and means of revealing the truth. In their works the critisism of borgous world reaches considerable depth. The narrow mindedness, hypocrisy and stupidity are mercilessly criticized in the works of Bernard Shaw. Galsworthy chooses his phsychological point of view in revealing the characters of his novels. The works of Herbert Wells are of great interest, because he recreated the new type of novel "looking into the future".


Bernard Shaw (1856- 1950) was born in Dublin in a middle class family. He traveled from one school to another because studying was dull for him. He educated himself by reading and learning foreign languages. At 15 he went to work as clerk. He moved to London in 1876 and became a successful music critic there. In 1884 he helped to found the so-called Fabian society which was an organization. of socialists who believed that political and economic change could be gained through reform only. Shaw's early plays did not become popular immediately because they had a very radical subject matter for that time. His first play "Widower's houses" (1892) attacked slum landlords. The next one "Mrs. Warren's profession" (1893) dealt with the causes of prostitution. The third one "Arms and the man" (1894) was an entertaining anti war comedy. The author called the addition of his plays "Plays Unpleasant". The next group of plays was published under general title of "Plays Pleasant". They are: "The man of destiny" and "Candida". The title of the second edition is really ironical because through the amusing situations and witty scenes Shaw continued to criticize borgous morals and ideas. The third volume was called "Three plays for puritans", they are "Ceasar and Cleopatra" (1891), "The devil's disciple" (1897) and "Captain Brassbound's conversion" (1899). The title has a double meaning on the one hand the plays turn against English Puritanism, on the other hand, the are also directed against decadent drama.

In 1912 Shaw wrote his "Pygmalion" which scandalized the respectable public by using lots of dialect and slang words which English considered vulgar and insulting. During Ww1 Shaw wrote long dairying articles protesting against the imperialist governments and their war policy. After the war in 1925 Shaw received the international Noble prize for literature. Shawn's plays of the post war period became still even more complex. The most powerful of them are "The Apple Cart" (1929), "Too True To Be Good" (1931). The first one is devoted to the theme of the USA and England rivalry in the political arena and the second dwells on decay of the Bourgous system. Besides Shaw's works depict the birth and growth of new progressive forces the world (socialist society). In generalShaw mocks at general charity. Satirizes businessmen and aristocrats. His way of writing is peculiar and grotesque. He says true things in such a way that at first one is not sure whether to laugh or to be upset. The author chooses satire as a weapon to fight for his ideals and thus he carried on the best traditions of critical realism in English literature.



John Galsworthy (1867-1933) was born in Kingston Hill Surey into an upper class wealthy family. His father was a prominent lawyer and a director of several companies. Initially Galsworthy studied law in Harrow College. During this period he gained his fame as a cricket and football player but to as a writer. In 1890 he was called to the bar (to take an examin jurisdiction). However he never settled into practice but chose to travel after an unlucky love affair. Galsworthy's first four books were published at his own expense. Under pseudonym John Sinjohn. The first book "From the four winds" (1897) was a collection of short stories after reading Turgenev Galsworthy felt the necessity to find his own voice in literature and the following book "Villa Rubein" was complete.y focused on the these attempts. Traditionally these early efforts written under the influence of Russian novelists are called by the critics "heavy and .."

the following book "the island Pharisees" (1904) was the first book published under Galsworthy's name. Originally he wrote it in the 1st person sg, then in a third. Then revised it again. The final version was not finished until 1908. with the death of Galsworthy's father in 1904 he became financially independent and could freely devote himself to some period of entertainments and idleness. In 1905 he married the only woman he was connected with for the rest of his life. He had lived with this woman in secret for ten years because his father was against Galsworthy's connection with a devorcee. The most interesting thing about Ada Person was that she inspired most of Galworthy's female characters. Moreover her previous unhappy marriage with Galsworthy's cousin formed the basis of the first famous novel "The Man of Property" (1906). This novel being quite sufficient in literary terms on its own began the novel sequence known as "Forsyte saga". This sequence established Galsworthy's reputation as a major British writer. The first appearance of the Forsyte family was in one of stories in "Man of Devon" (1901). The Saga follows the lives of three generations of the British middle class before the first WW. Soames Forsyte was modelled after Galsworthy's cousin who was wife former husband. Soames is married to beautiful and rebellious Irene. The incident when Soames rapes his wife was supposedly based on Ada Person's experience with her former husband. The second volume "In chancery" (1920) is based on the story of Irene and Soames devorce after which Irene marries Soames cousin Jolyon and bears a son Jon. At the same time Soames marries for the second time and they have a daughter Fleur. In the third volume which is called "To let" (1921) Fleur and Jon fall in love but Jon refuses to marry her. The second part of Forsyte's chronicles contains "the white monkey" (1924) "the silver spoon" (1926) and "swan song" (1928). Galsworthy returned again to the world of Forsyte witha further collection of stories on "Forsyte change". This author is also gained recognition as a dramatist with his plays which dealt directly witha unequal division of wealth and the unfair treatment of the poor.

The first play "the silver box" stated that there is one law for the rich and another one for the poor. The second one is "Stife" depicted a mining strike and the results which poor people achieved in this fight. The results were mostly dissatisfactory for them. The thirs was justice (1910). The story was so striking that it encouraged Winston Churchill (home secretary) to change the situation with the prisons by producing a new prison reform. Later plays include "the skin game" (1920) and "loyalties" (1922). The later one dealt with the theme of anti-semitism. The last one was "escape" which was a story of a law abiding (законопослушный) who met a prostitute and accidentally killed a policeman in defending her. He escaped from prison and met a lot of different before giving himself up. During the 1WW Galsworthy tried to enlist but he was rejected due to some health problems so he started working for the Red Cross in France and Belgium. Galsworthy refused knighthood in 1917 because he believed that writers were not to accept titles but he received the Noble prize for literature in 1932 and he also gave away at least half of his income to humanitarian causes.

Galsworthy is known among the writers for his true portrayal of the British upper class and for his social satire. He was a representative of the literary tradition which regarded the novel as an instrument of social debate. It means that his duty as a writer was to examine a problem but not to provide solutions.


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