In the middle of 1840s Dickens began to hanker after more direct literary expression of what weighed upon his heart. He was, he said, “famous and careless and happy”. The darling of the public, with ”a dear wife and children”, a splendid house, and troops of devoted and admiring friends, yet he often found himself “wandering desolately back to that time of my life”. He felt more and more need to tell his readers about his childhood suffering and to come to terms with his painful private memories by doing so. He began working on David Copperfield.

At the same time David Copperfield was for Dickens a “ holiday ” from larger social concerns and is most notable for its childhood chapters, “ an enchanting vein which he had never found before and which he was never to find again ”, as a critic said. For this reason and for its autobiographical interest, it has always been among his most popular novels and Dickens himself called it his “favourite child”. Leo Tolstoy said that if you sift the world prose there will remain Dickens, and if you sift Dickens there will remain DavidCopperfield .The novel is written in the first person, a new technique for Dickens. When it was first published, the public believed it to be completely autobiographical. David, however, differs from his creator in many ways, though Dickens used many of his early experience – his period of work at the factory, while his father was jailed, his schooling and reading, his emergence from parliamentary reporting into successful novel writing. The Micawbers are much like Dickens’s own parents: John Dickens like Mr. Micawber had to move from place to place accompanied by failures and poverty, but he never was exasperated. Dora’s prototype was Maria Beadnell with whom Dickens had been desperately in love. Mr.Crickle was prompted by the headmaster of the school where Dickens studied after his father left the jail. In spite of all the hardships, David Copperfield does not lose faith in people. His instructor in life is the clever Betsy Trotwood who governs his actions and at the same time gives him the possibility to choose his own road. His true friends are common people – his nurse Peggoty and Mr. Peggoty, Emily and Ham.

DavidCopperfield is a novel about formation of a personality, written in the genre of Bildungsroman, a novel of reminiscence. It is an “educational” novel portraying the hero’s emotional, moral and spiritual development from the imprudence, romanticism and undisciplined passion of youth to the supposed emotional stability and wisdom of maturity – an artistic ordering of life which had obvious appeal to the Victorians with their cult of earnestness and self-improvement. . The theme of upbringing in the novel is connected not only with the life story of David, but is also developed in Steerford and Uriah Heap, Emily and Ham. Their fates are different but they are all victims of the existing educational systems and legalized social injustice.

The novel is built on complex patterns of paralleling, doubling and contrasting of characters and roles. Uriah Heep, like David, is fatherless and doted on by his mother, both rise in the world by industry and diligence. Among other contrasting or doubling figures are the two the two women called Clara (his real mother and his nurse, Peggoty); Dora and Agnes; Agnes and Steerford; Steerford and Traddles; Steerford and David; Betsy Trotwood and Miss Murdstone, Emily and Martha Endell, Clara Copperfield and Dora Spenlow,

David Copperfield is the most poetic of all Dickens’ novels. Written in the present tense and relating of the events long since past and of many who are dead but still present to the narrator, the novel is a great celebration of the permanence of the past in the present

.During the second period of Dicken’s work he was actively involved in public work. He was reckoned to be the best afterdinner speaker of the age and the best amateur actor. In R. H. Horne’s NewSpiritofAge (1844) Dickens occupies the first and longest chapter: “His influence upon his age is extensive – pleasurable, instructive, healthy, reformatory …”. Dickens also loved family life. He had married in 1836 Cathrine Hogarth. To his nine children he was a delightful father, at least when they were young; relations with them proved less happy during their adolescence.

The 1850s – 1860s form the third period of Dickens’s creative activity. The novels of this time were much “darker “than their predecessors. The satire is harsher, the humour less genial and abundant, the happy endings more subdued than in the early fiction. Technically the later novels are more coherent, themes are often expressed through imagery or symbols, such as the fog in Bleak House (1853), or the prison in Little Dorrit (1857). Characterization is more subordinate to the general purpose and design and is more complex. Dickens uses fiction as a vehicle for more concentrated sociological argument. The plot enabled him to represent in the mirror of his own world a fuller picture of the society of his day than any English novelist had achieved before or has achieved since.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859), like Barnaby Rudge of the first period, is devoted to the French Revolution and presents with vigour and ambivalence of attitude the spectacle of large–scale mob violence. It has less characterization, dialogue and humour than other novels by Dickens.

Great Expectations (1861) is Dickens’ second semi-autobiographical novel (though written in a much more melancholy mood than David Copperfield) and another variant on the theme of money as the agent of isolation. The main hero, Pip, is cut off from those nearest and most loyal to him, by the expectation of money. It’s the final irony of his fate that the money to which he owns everything is ill-gotten. Pip`s mind is explored with great subtlety. His development through a childhood and youth beset with hard tests of character is traced critically but sympathetically. Various “great expectations” in the book prove to have been ill-founded – both personal and social.

Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) continues the critique of monetary and class values. London is presented grimmer than ever before; the corruption and complacency of “respectable” society are furiously attacked.

From 1861 till 1870 Dickens regularly undertook public readings. Dickens’s last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was left unfinished. He suffered a stroke after a full day’s work on the novel and died the next day. Dickens was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Dickens continues to be viewed as one of the major English writers. What is the secret of his success? His work is inconsistent: passages of great mastery, supreme originality ad comic genius can be found alongside some of the cheapest and tedious sentimentality. Certainly, the demands of writing a novel in instalments put on him irresistible pressure Besides there was his social commitment: his vision of the workhouse in Oliver Twist or the educational system and the industrial town in Hard Times were instrumental in creating public pressure for reform. The originality of his novels cannot be denied. True to his general character of independence he owes hardly anything to any predecessor with the possible exception of Smollett. He had no regular education and never became a man of wide learning but he carried the feeling of independence into art and politics. Some critics remark that Dickens’s knowledge was limited, his logical faculties not very strong; while attempting to satirize the upper classes, he never drew a single aristocrat, high government official or “big-wig” generally, who presents the remotest resemblance to a living being. But he knew the lower and lower middle classes of his day with wonderful accuracy and moreover he possessed an imagination, now humorous, now terrible, now simply grotesque, of a range and volume rarely equalled, and of a quality which stands entirely by itself. His characters are not quite real in the sense that we never meet anybody like them in the actual world. But they behave according to their own laws, they are consistent with their own surrounding. And in this way they acquire reality in the world that Dickens created.

CHARLOTTE BRONTË (1816-1855) and EMILY BRONTË (1818-1848)

With the exception of Dickens, the Brontës have proved the most popular of English novelists. One reason for this is the story of their lives with its circumstances of loneliness and tragedy. A novel of their life would appear too romantic to be convincing: four geniuses and four tragic deaths are too many for one novel. The three Brontë sisters and their brother Branwell were artistic and died young. They grew up in isolation of the rectory at Haworth in the private world of daydreams.

Despite the isolation the Brontë family shared a rich literary life. Mr. Brontë discussed poetry, history, and politics with his children, and the children themselves created an extraordinary fantasy world together. When Mr. Brontë gave his son a box of wooden soldiers, each child seized one and named it. The soldiers became for them the centres of an elaborate set of stories that they first acted out in plays and later recorded in a series of book-length manuscripts, composed for the most part by Charlotte and her brother, Branwell, and devoted to a fictional world they named Angria. The two younger children, Emily and Anne, later started a separate series, a chronicle about an imaginary island called Gondal. The Brontës have become the object of cult.

Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Brontë were born in Yorkshire to Maria Branwell and Patrick Bronte, a clergyman. After their mother’s death her sister, a devout Methodist, helped her brother-in-law raise his children. In 1824 Charlotte and three of her sisters, Maria, Elizabeth, and Emily, were sent to Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymen’s daughters. When an outbreak of tuberculosis killed Maria and Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily were brought home. Several years later, Charlotte returned to school, this time in Roe Head. She became a teacher at the school in 1835 but decided after several years to become a private governess instead. The job was a misery to her and she soon left it. Finding herself equally disappointed with governess work Charlotte recruited her sisters to join her in preparation for the establishment of a school. Although the Brontës’ school was unsuccessful, their literary projects flourished. Charlotte suggested that she, Anne, and Emily collaborate on a book of poems. The three sisters published under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, respectively. When the poetry volume received little public notice, the sisters decided to work on separate novels but retained the same pseudonyms. Anne and Emily produced their masterpieces in 1847: The Professor by Charlotte, Wuthering Heights by Emily and Agnes Grey by Anne. The Professor never found a willing publisher during Charlotte Bronte’s lifetime. She wrote Jane Eyrelater that year. The book, a critique of Victorian assumptions about gender and social class, became one of the most successful novels of its era, both critically and commercially.

Autobiographical elements are recognizable throughout Jane Eyre. Jane’s experience at Lowood School, where her dearest friend dies of tuberculosis, recalls the death of Charlotte’s sisters at Cowan Bridge. The hypocritical religious fervour of the headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, is based in part on that of the Reverend Carus Wilson who ran Cowan Bridge. John Reed’s decline into alcoholism and dissolution is most likely modelled upon the life of Charlotte Bronte’s brother Branwell, who slid into opium and alcohol addictions in the years preceding his death. Finally, like Charlotte, Jane becomes a governess.

The plot of Jane Eyre follows the form of a Bildungsroman, which is a novel that tells the story of a child’s maturation and focuses on the emotions and experiences that accompany and incite his or her growth to adulthood. In Jane Eyre, there are five distinct stages of development, each linked to a particular place: Jane’s childhood at Gateshead, her education at the Lowood School, her time as Adele’s governess at Thornfield, her time with the Rivers family at Morton and at Marsh End (also called Moor House), and her reunion with and marriage to Rochester at Ferndean. From these various experiences, Jane becomes the mature and steady-headed woman who narrates the novel retrospectively.

Besides Jane Eyre is filtered through a third literary tradition - that of the Gothic horror story that became popular in England in the late eighteenth century. It generally describes supernatural experiences, remote landscapes, and mysterious occurrences, all of which are intended to create an atmosphere of suspense and fear. Jane’s encounters with ghosts, dark secrets, and sinister plots add a sense of fantasy and mystery to the novel.

Jane Eyre is often considered the first Romantic novel in English literature. It is as subjective as Byron’s Childe Harold and Jane as much a projection of her author as Harold is of his. Everything in the novel is staked on the validity of its author’s feelings. With Charlotte Bronte passion entered the English novel: passion as the romantic poets have expressed it, a blending of the spiritual with the physical.

After the success of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte revealed her identity to her publisher and went on to write several other novels, most notably Shirley in 1849 and Violette in 1952. In the years that followed, she became a respected member of London’s literary set. But the deaths of Emily and Branwell in 1848, and of Anne in 1849, left her emotionally isolated. In 1854, she wed the Reverend Arthur Nicholls, despite the fact that she did not love him. She died of pneumonia, while pregnant, the following year.

Jane Eyre: story overview: Young Jane Eyre was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, who dies shortly after her arrival. Her step-aunt despises her and sends her to Lowood School so that she can become a governess. She wins the friendship of everyone there, but her life is difficult because of the poor conditions at the school. Not until typhus kills many of the students do conditions improve. Jane completes her education there and obtains a position as governess at a house called Thornfield. Jane’s student is Adele Varens, a petulant but loving illegitimate child of the master of the house, Edward Rochester. Rochester is rarely at home and Jane spends most of her time with Adele and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. When Rochester does come home, he is often moody and imposing. One night, Jane wakes to strange noises and the smell of smoke. She finds Rochester unconscious in his bed, which is on fire. Other odd things happen in the house: Jane often hears strange laughter and thuds. Jane has meanwhile realized that she loves Rochester but in her pride refuses to confess it.

When Rochester invites a group of friends to the house, including Blanche Ingram whom he is expected to marry, Jane is treated like a servant by the guests. One of the guests, Mr. Macon, is mysteriously injured. Jane is also troubled when her former guardian, Mrs. Reed, calls her to her deathbed and admits that several years earlier she had received a letter from one of Jane’s distant relatives, John Eyre, a wealthy man who lives in Jamaica. Mr. Eyre had offered to adopt Jane, but Mrs. Reed maliciously told him that Jane had died in the typhus epidemic.

When Jane returns from this visit, Rochester asks her to marry him and Jane joyfully assents. The night before their wedding, she wakes to find someone in her room, wearing her wedding veil. She screams and runs, but Rochester convinces her it is her imagination. At the wedding, a man interrupts the service, saying Rochester is already married. Rochester admits it and takes the wedding party to the attic. His wife is a Creole, Bertha Macon, who went mad immediately after their wedding fifteen years before. Now she is imprisoned in the attic.

Jane decides she must run away. Penniless, she becomes a beggar until Reverend St. John Rivers and his two sisters generously take her in. She lives with them under an assumed name, and it is only by accident that she learns that John Eyre has died and left her his fortune and that the Rivers are her cousins. They share the fortune. St.John Rivers presses her to marry him and join him as a missionary. He admits that he does not love her, but he thinks Jane smart and useful. Jane feels she must do her duty, but she does not want to marry Rivers.

One night, Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling her. She returns to Thornfield and finds the house burned to the ground. Bertha had set fire to it and Rochester became blinded in his unsuccessful attempt to save her life. Jane and Rochester marry. Rivers dies gloriously for his cause.

The development of Jane Eyre’s character is central to the novel. From the beginning, Jane possesses a sense of her self-worth and dignity, a commitment to justice and principle, a trust in God, and a passionate disposition. Her integrity is continually tested over the course of the novel, and Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of her self so as to find contentment.

An orphan since early childhood, Jane feels exiled and ostracized at the beginning of the novel, and the cruel treatment she receives from her Aunt Reed and her cousins only exacerbates her feeling of alienation. Afraid that she will never find a true sense of home or community, Jane feels the need to belong somewhere, to find “kin”, or at least “kindred spirits”. This desire tempers her equally intense need for autonomy and freedom.

In her search for freedom, Jane struggles with the question of what type of freedom she wants. While Rochester initially offers Jane a chance to liberate her passions, Jane comes to realize that such freedom could also mean enslavement; by living as Rochester’s mistress, she would be sacrificing her dignity and integrity for the sake of her feelings. St. John Rivers offers Jane the freedom to act on her principles. He opens to Jane the possibility of exercising her talents fully by working and living with him in India. Jane eventually realizes, though, that this freedom would also constitute a form of imprisonment, because she would be forced to keep her true feelings and her true passions always in check.

Whereas Rochester is passionate, St. John is austere and ambitious. Jane often describes Rochester’s eyes as flashing and flaming, whereas she constantly associates St. John with rock, ice, and snow. Marriage with Rochester represents the abandonment of principle for passion, but marriage to St. John would mean sacrificing passion for principle.

Edward Rochester wins Jane’s heart, because she feels they are kindred spirits, and because he is the first person in the novel to offer Jane lasting love and a real home. Although Rochester is Jane’s social and economic superior, and although men were widely considered to be naturally superior to women in the Victorian period, Jane is Rochester’s intellectual equal. Moreover, after their marriage is interrupted by the disclosure that Rochester is already married Jane is proven to be Rochester’s moral superior.

The themes explored in the novel:

Love versus Autonomy – Jane Eyre is very much the story of a quest to be loved. Jane searches, not just for romantic love, but also for a sense of being valued. Jane says to Helen Burns: “to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest”. Yet, over the course of the book, Jane must learn how to gain love without sacrificing and harming herself in the process. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be dependent upon him as her “master”. The marriage should be between equals. As Jane says: “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine… To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company”.

Religion – Throughout the novel, Jane struggles to find the right balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, between obligation to her spirit and attention to her body. She encounters three main religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers. Each represents a model of religion that Jane ultimately rejects as she forms her own ideas about faith and their practical consequences. Mr. Brocklehurst illustrates the dangers and hypocrisies that Charlotte Bronte perceived in the nineteenth-century Evangelical movement. He adopts the rhetoric of Evangelicalism when he claims to be purging his students of pride, but his method of subjecting them to various privations and humiliations is entirely un-Christian. His hypocritical support of his own luxuriously wealthy family at the expense of the Lowood students shows Bronte’s wariness of the Evangelical movement. Helen Burns’s meek and forbearing mode of Christianity, on the other hand, is too passive for Jane to adopt as her own, although she loves and admires Helen for it. St. John Rivers provides another model of Christian behaviour. His is a Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self-importance. St. John urges Jane to sacrifice her emotional deeds for the fulfilment of her moral duty. Although Jane ends up rejecting all three models of religion, she does not abandon morality, spiritualism, or a belief in a Christian God. For Jane, religion helps curb immoderate passions, and it spurs one on to worldly efforts and achievements. These achievements include full self-knowledge and complete faith in God.

Social Class – Jane Eyre is critical of Victorian England’s strict social hierarchy. Bronte’s exploration of the complicated social position of a governess is perhaps the novel’s most important treatment of this theme. Jane is a figure of ambiguous class standing and, consequently, a source of extreme tension for the characters around her. Jane’s manners, sophistication, and education are those of an aristocrat, because Victorian governesses, who tutored children in etiquette as well as academics, were expected to possess the “culture” of the aristocracy. Yet, as paid employees, they were more or less treated as servants. Jane’s understanding of the double standard crystallizes when she becomes aware of her feelings for Rochester; she is his intellectual, but not his social, equal. Even before the crisis surrounding Bertha Mason, Jane is hesitant to marry Rochester because she senses that she would feel indebted to him for “condescending” to marry her. Jane’s distress is Bronte’s critique of Victorian class attitudes.

Jane herself speaks out against class prejudice. For example, she chastises Rochester: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you and as much heart! And if God had given me some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you”. However nowhere in Jane Eyre are society’s boundaries bent. Ultimately, Jane is able to marry Rochester as his equal because she has almost magically come into her own inheritance from her uncle.

Gender Relations – Jane struggles continually to achieve equality and to overcome oppression. In addition to class hierarchy, she must fight against patriarchal domination, against those who believe women to be inferior to men and try to treat them as such. Three central male figures threaten her desire for equality and dignity: Mr. Brocklehurst, Edward Rochester, and St. John Rivers. All three are misogynistic on some level. Each tries to keep Jane in a submissive position, where she is unable to express her own thoughts and feelings. In her quest for independence and self-knowledge, Jane must escape Brocklehurst, reject St. John, and come to Rochester only after ensuring that they may marry as equals. In Chapter 12, Jane articulates what was for her time a radically feminist philosophy: “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”.

Emily Brontëwas the most reclusive and private of the Brontë children. She shunned the company of those outside her family and suffered acutely from homesickness in her few short stays away from the parsonage.

In Charlotte Brontë’s preface to the second edition of Wuthering Heights, she tells the story of how she and her sister came to write for publication. One day when she accidentally came upon a manuscript volume of verse in Emily's handwriting, she was struck by the conviction “that these were nor at all like the poetry women generally write.” With some difficulty, Charlotte persuaded her sister to publish some of her poems in a selection of poetry by all three Brontë sisters. Although the book sold only two copies, its publication inspired each of the Bronte sisters to begin work on a novel; Emily’s was Wuthering Heights. She began work on a second novel, but a year after the publication of Wuthering Heights, she died of consumption.

Many of Emily Brontë's poems – Remembrance and The Prisoner, for example – were written for the Gondal saga and express its preoccupation with political intrigue, passionate love, rebellion, war, imprisonment, and exile. Emily Brontë also wrote personal lyrics unconnected with the Gondal stories, but both groups of poems share a drive to break through the constrictions of ordinary life, whether by the transfigurative power of the imagination, by union with another, or by death itself. Like Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, the speakers of Emily Brontë’s poems yearn for a fuller, freer world of spirit, transcending the forms and limits of mortal life. Her concern with a visionary world links her to the Romantic poets, particularly to Byron and Shelley, but her hymnlike stanzas have a haunting quality that distinguishes her individual voice, as in the poem I'm Happiest When Most Away

I'm happiest when most away

I can bear my soul from its home of clay

On a windy night when the moon is bright

And the eye can wander through worlds of light –

When I am not and none beside –

Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky –

But only spirit wandering wide

Through infinite immensity.


Thackeray is often compared with Dickens. They were different in temperament: Dickens was excitable and energetic, while Thackeray was lethargic and had to drive himself to composition. Dickens is magnificently successful in depicting common people, while Thackeray is a penetrating analyst of both middle class and aristocratic society. Thackeray’s realism is less combined with fantasy and lyricism; it is more exact and objective. While Dickens idealizes his positive characters, Thackeray portrays his characters more realistically. They are described as natural results of their environment and the society which bred them. Thackeray seems to view his characters from afar. This was a new feature in literature which was assimilated by many other writers, and was later called objective realism. Thackeray’s characterization and all his effects are more subtle than in Dickens. He is less troubled by presenting a moral solution than by evoking an image of life as he has seen it. Dickens was more optimistic than Thackeray. He believed that people could be reformed. Thackeray’s pessimism marks the beginning of the crisis of bourgeois humanism which found its full expressions in the literature of the second half of the age.

Thackeray was born in a prosperous middle-class family. His father was an East India Company official in Calcutta, India. At the age of six he was taken to England to be educated. First he studied at Charterhouse School, then at Cambridge. He left Cambridge without graduation as his ambition was art, which he studied in Germany, Italy, and France. He returned to England in 1833 to complete his education. Meanwhile, the Indian bank in which his father had invested money for him went bankrupt and Thackeray was left penniless. After hesitating whether to take up art or literature he finally chose journalism.