Stanford Companion to Victorian Literature (1989) is an
enyclopedia of literature by John
Sutherland, It has entries for 554 novels from the Victorian period
1837-1901. They are arguably the best or most important of the roughly
60,000 Victorian novels published during those 64 years. Yet most
readers have probably never heard of most of them beyond the classics
like Dickens, Harding, Bronte. The Companion also has entries for
878 of the most important or best authors, most of them also now
obscure, even though they are just the tip of over 7,000 authors working
during this period who could be called novelists. All told, these 878
authors produced about 15,500 novels. Clearly, there is a vast territory
of Victorian fiction waiting to be discovered. This does not mean there
are hidden masterpieces, the really good stuff from the 19th C is well
known to professionals, but rather the so-called "classics" have been
narrowly defined into a small number of high-profile titles that are
repeated over and over, while a large number of very good books are
almost completely forgotten by the reading public, and schools. Luckily
with book scanning projects like Internet Archive and Google Books most
of them are now freely and easily available online.
As I've been reading through Sutherland's wonderful encyclopedia page by
page (it's that kind of encyclopedia), I've marked works and authors
that are new to me and that seem interesting enough to follow up on. The
list follows. It is highly selective based on my own tastes - and
Sutherlands pithy descriptions which caught my dandy (excerpted here in part).
It is only a small selection of the 554 novels and 878 authors profiled
in the book , but they seemed worthwhile highliting. This page is a work
in progress, completed in stages, a letter at a time. Links are to
Wikipedia or Internet Archive or Google Books. The Companion to
Victorian Literature can be browsed freely online here
for further inspiration. All quotes below by Sutherland. This page by Stephen
"..was all his life a traveler.. his (mainly
short stories) anticipates that of Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham.
and White (1895) is a collection of stories and sketches notable
for its frank treatment of interracial sex. [As is] Kakemonos
Mandarin (1899) is a travel book disguised as fiction. The
Emu's Head (1893) is a violent story of the Australian
goldfields. [He] wrote many more novels in the 20th
Dawson dropped out of grammar school,
joined the merchant marines for a free ticket to exotic locales, went
AWOL in Australia and bumbed around having adventures there and in North
Africa. He eventually settled into a job as journalist and started
writing about his adventures in a number of autobiographical novels
including Daniel Whyte (1899) and The Story of Ronald
Kestrel (1900), these being his best according to Sutherland. His
African Nights' Entertainments is supposed to resemble Kipling.
He wrote over 21 books in his life, see some early works
at Internet Archive.
"With Thackery, the most
accomplished artist-novelist of the century. [His] best known novel is
(1894).. popular to the point of mania.. it created the
stereotype of bohemian artistic life which persists today.. it inspired
the plot to Phanton of the Opera and many other works.
"General title for [a series of]
detective stories. The most successful rival to Conan Doyle's Sherlock
Holmes." See also A
Child of the Jago (1896) the novel for which Morrison is most
famous, which described in graphic detail living conditions in the East
End including the permeation of violence into everyday life. Other "fine
novels" on this topic include Tales
of Mean Streets and The
Hole in the Wall.
strung, but sharply observed study of egoism and social uselessness.
Although largely disregarded and slight, this work is better than most
of what either Ainsworth or [co-author] C. G. F. Gore published as their
"The leading Naturalist novelist (cf.
Emile Zola) of the late Victorian period. His first novel A
Modern Lover (1883) was a frank homage to 'Zola and his odious
school', as the Spectator put it. A
Mummer's Wife (1885) entered new areas of sexual frankness for
the Victorian novel. [Wikipedia says it "is widely recognised as the
first major English language novel in the realist style"]. A vivid
recollection of his early life is given in Confessions
Of A Young Man (1888)."
"The most extraordinary collaboration
between author and illustrator during the Victorian period. [The
illustrations provide] an exhaustive guided tour of a castle. The main
story line is little more than a pretext for the artists