it begins

Okay, so, researching the Victorian book. I’ve decided my first priority is to come up with something to call it other than “the Victorian book.”

The simultaneous convenience and inconvenience of the Onyx Court books is that I know where to go looking for a title (period literature), but I have to go look. I can’t just make one up. We therefore come to the first Request for Help of this round: what mid-Victorian literature should I read in search of a title?

My preference is for poetry over prose, because it’s more likely to have a short, evocative phrase that I can spin out; fiction (especially in the Victorian era) is rather too fond of going on at length. The book will probably start circa 1870, so I’d like material no later than that. No specific limit on how early it could be, but I’m trying to avoid going as early as the Romantics. So who was writing good (and preferably non-pastoral) poetry around 1840-1870?

0 Responses to “it begins”

  1. tchernabyelo

    The immediate name that springs to mind, and sould be full of possible allusionary titles, is Tennyson.

  2. pameladean

    Robert Browning. Some of his stuff is pastoral, but the dramatic monologues are something else again, and packed with wonderful phrasing.

    He lived till 1889, but the majority of the monologues were written before that. “Caliban upon Setebos”! And, of course, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is from 1855.

    P.

    • pameladean

      And Christina Rossetti is in your time frame as well; definitely worth taking a look. Her body of work is fairly small, but it’s bulging with fantastical potential.

      P.

      • tchernabyelo

        Yep, Browning and Rossetti offer much, too.

        I’m tempted to suggest William Ashbless, but he’s a bit on the early side. I’m sure you can work him in to the story, though ๐Ÿ™‚

        • pameladean

          I would certainly have suggested Tennyson if you hadn’t got there first.

          But if Ashbless is in the running, then I must suggest Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

          P.

    • akashiver

      Both of the Brownings. Elizabeth Barrett was the most famous of the two during her lifetime, anyway, and AL is a good read.

  3. raisinfish

    I second Tennyson (especially In Memoriam) and Rossetti (especially Goblin Market).

  4. eiriene

    I second the idea of looking into the Pre-Raphaelite poets. Also, a bit later than what you’re looking for A SHROPSHIRE LAD by A. E. Housman might be worth looking at.

  5. wadam

    I’d second both Tennyson and Rossetti. Both are overused, but in Tennyson’s case, at least, there is a wealth of very good poetry that seldom gets taught in, say, college survey courses. Check out “Crossing the Bar” for starters.

    I would also suggest Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was an English Jesuit priest who, as I understand it, gave up poetry when he entered the order, then picked it up again later in life as part of an attempt to deal with the sinking of the Deutchland — a ship carrying nuns. Religious poetry isn’t really my thing. But his poetry is quite good, and possibly quotable.

    update: I would also have suggested Sir Richard Burton’s translations of the Arabian Nights, etc. But I think they might be too late for your purposes. I haven’t read any of his earlier books, but there may yet be something worthwhile there.

  6. wshaffer

    In addition to the stuff others have mentioned, Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published in the 1860s.

    Not poetry, and probably not evocative of the mood you’re looking for, but Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland fits your timeframe.

  7. lady_puck9999

    I know you said you’re trying to avoid the Romantics… But I do have such a soft spot for Lord Byron.

    • d_aulnoy

      Me as well … the one that popped into my head was, “If I should meet thee/After long years, how should I greet thee?/ With silence, and tears.” I may be attributing improbable storylines to the tale, but it seems like it might work for a long-lived people ….

      Alternately, as everyone has said, Rossetti is a wonderful choice.

    • Marie Brennan

      A Byron quote was my working title for the pitch to Tor, but sadly, it just doesn’t fit, in too many ways.

      But see below, my response to — there will be a Keats-titled story.

  8. desperance

    Gerard Manley– oh, wait. Damn. Beaten to him…

    And the Rubaiyat, of course.

  9. yuuo

    I’ll confess to my ignorance and say I’m not 100% sure if she’s from the right era, but I ♥ Emily Dickenson.

    (I’m sure I’m even spelling her name wrong, at least, according to Firefox’s spellcheck. Failboat.)

  10. akirlu

    Just to be different: Oscar Wilde and Lewis Caroll. Alas Gilbert & Sullivan are later than you want, and so is A.E. Housman.

  11. kleenestar

    Gerard. Manley. Hopkins. But I don’t know how coherent his phrases are out of context. I’ll also second Rossetti, and suggest Elizabeth Barett Browning as well as Robert.

    Is Keats too obvious a choice?

    Matthew Arnold is during your period (Dover Beach being the famous poem – it still sends shivers up my spine).

    You could take a look at Swinburne, too.

    George Macdonald wrote one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, The Light Princess. He was also producing poetry during your period.

    If you want to go in a very different direction, you could always check out Edward Lear.

    • Marie Brennan

      Keats is too early, but don’t worry — he’s going to get an Onyx Court short story, “This Living Hand,” that will take place between Star and whatever I end up calling this book.

  12. sacredchao23

    You’ve already got a lot of the majors covered in the selection, but for something a little off the beaten path I’d point to Augusta Webster. My favorite poem “Circe” was published in her collection Portraits right on the nose in 1870. It makes a really perfect counterpoint for Tennyson’s “Ulysses.”

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