How closely was the social reality of Victorian England reflected in the vivid picture evoked by its literature? In this survey of the Victorian era the relation between literature and society is explained by means of three distinct sections. The first delineates the literary history in two chapters on the Victorian novel and Victorian poetry respectively. In the second and largest section a series of essays discuss various fundamental aspects of Victorian society: the economic and social framework, government and institutions, the sense of the past, painting and illustration, religion and the role of women. The third section offers two essays which explicitly relate a particular work to the society: one on Dickens' Dombey and Son, and the other on Tennyson's 'The Princess'. By turning to each essay after the rounded picture of Victorian society given in the previous sections, the reader will not only find his appreciation enhanced, but will also be enabled to argue back on equal terms in a way that is never possible with a survey of literature alone.
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