Miscellaneous prose writer of the Victorian era

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      The Victorian novel has been more successful than its poetry, in reflecting the intellectual and practical interests toward Victorian prose of the times. An impression of the vitality of those interests is given by the large amount of prose other than fiction that the age had produced. The Victorian moralists and critics still continue to win respects their breath of interests, their exemplary industry and literary qualities. Carlyle, Ruskin, Newman, Arnold, Macaulay, to name only a few out of the vast crowd or prose masters deserve special mention.

An impression of the vitality of those interests is given by the large amount of prose other than fiction that Victorian age had produced.
Victorian Ambience


      It is not fashionable to speak of Carlyle as a literary critic. Literature to him, as to Arnold is a criticism or interpretation of life. It is the medium of direct expression of moral truths. Hence his literary criticisms are more than literary estimates, they are spiritual estimates. To him the personality of the writer counts for more than his artistic qualities. "He valued the teacher in Goethe more than the artist; the genial man in Scott rather than the story-teller. To him Dante is the melodious priest of Middle Age Catholicism, and Shakespeare the still more melodious priest of a true Catholicism, the universal church of the Future and of all times." But he was not blind to the artistic gifts of these writers and discussed them with insight and right judgement.

      Ruskin's art criticisms are still classics. His idea of the relation of life and art may be challenged but it is basically sound. His prose style is ornate, over-elaborate and melodious, reminding us of Milton. But sometimes he leaves aside the grandiose manners and writes in a style that has the simplicity, grace and rhythm of the Biblical style.

      Arnold's literary criticism is singular alike in its merits and defects. Where his sympathy or bias is concerned he writes with enthusiasm of appreciation or depreciation. He extolled the Romanticism in spite of his classical trend; but he dismissed Shelley as "a beautiful angel in the void his luminous wings in vain" He is the master of comparative criticism. His wide scholarship and delicate taste make his remarks on foreign literature in relation to English, truly valuable.

      Cardinal Newman is better known today for the qualities of the prose in which his numerous lectures, debates, tracts are couched. His Idea of a University, Definition of a Gentleman, Knowledge - its true End show a perfect balance of thought and style Newman writes on his subjects with reason, force and a wealth of learning; the logical thinker as well as the man of feeling and imagination is in evidence in his brilliant prose writings. His style is generally clear, limpid and smooth; at times it reaches heights of eloquence and becomes overwrought.

      Macaulay, the historian, biographer, scholar and the prodigy of memory wrote a large volume of prose, which is of little interest today. His opinions are often onesided (he called Boswell 'a fool of genius) and prejudiced but they are expressed with a gusto. His love of the parade of learning makes his essay sometimes cumbrous and overburdened. One is apt to lose himself in the woods. His The History of England is more a work of literature than of history. His literary style is hard and metallic, lacking in the softer qualities of melody and sweetness. His vocabulary is vast and Latinised. On the whole it is an individualistic style - a thing peculiar to himself.

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