Satire in the Victorian Novel

Satire in the Victorian Novel

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Satire in the Victorian Novel

Satire in the Victorian Novel

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Excerpt

If the following monograph were to be presented from the point of view of a proponent, the author would be put triply on the defensive in relation to the theme. For, from one cause or another, the trio of terms in the title lies under a certain blight of critical opinion.

Satire, being a thistle "pricked from the thorny branches of reproof," cannot expect to be cherished in the sensitive human bosom with the welcome accorded to the fair daffodil or the sweet violet. It must be content to be admired, if at all, from a safe distance, with the cold eye of intellectual appraisal.

Victorianism has the distinction of being the only period in literature whose very name savors of the byword and the reproach. To be an Elizabethan is to be envied for the gift of youthful exuberance and an exquisite joy in life. To be a Queen Annian (if the phrase may be adapted) is to be respected for the accomplishments of mature manhood, -- a dignified mein, ripened judgment, and polished wit. To be a Victorian -- that indeed provokes the question whether 'twere better to be or not to be. The chronological analogy cannot, however, be carried out, for the Victorian, whatever the cause of his unfortunate reputation, can hardly be accused of senility. On the contrary, the impression prevails that the startled ingenuousness, for instance, with which he opened his eyes at Darwin, Ibsen, and the iconoclasts in Higher Criticism; the vehemence with which he opposed and refuted and fulminated against everything hitherto undreampt . . .

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