Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians

Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians (British Library)

From “About this project:”

Exploring the Romantic and Victorian periods, Discovering Literature brings together, for the first time, a wealth of the British Library’s greatest literary treasures, including numerous original manuscripts, first editions and rare illustrations.

A rich variety of contextual material – newspapers, photographs, advertisements and maps – is presented alongside personal letters and diaries from iconic authors. Together they bring to life the historical, political and cultural contexts in which major works were written: works that have shaped our literary heritage.

William Blake’s notebook, childhood writings of the Brontë sisters, the manuscript of the Preface to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and an early draft of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest are just some of the unique collections available on the site.

Discovering Literature features over 8000 pages of collection items and explores more than 20 authors through 165 newly-commissioned articles, 25 short documentary films, and 30 lesson plans. More than 60 experts have contributed interpretation, enriching the website with contemporary research. Designed to enhance the study and enjoyment of English literature, the site contains a dedicated Teachers’ Area supporting the curriculum for GCSE and A Level students.

These great works from the Romantic and Victorian periods form the first phase of a wider project to digitise other literary eras, including the 20th century.

On a whim I searched for Bleak House only to find: Bleak House first edition with illustrations, which includes images of the illustrations and the text. Moreover, it has related links, one of which is a review of Jude the Obscure that appeared in the Morning Post.

From the review:

To write a story of over five hundred pages, and longer by far than the majority of three-volume novels, without allowing one single ray of humour, or even cheerfulness, to dispel for a moment the gloomy atmosphere of hopeless pessimism was no ordinary task, and might have taxed the powers of the most relentless observers of life. Even Euripides, had he been given to the writing of novels, might well have faltered before such a tremendous undertaking.

Can you imagine finding such a review on

Mapping Bleak House into then current legal practice or Jude the Obscure into social customs and records of the time would be fascinating summer projects.

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