The Victorian age ended in the eighties of the 19th century. The literature produced from about 1880 to 1914 is characterised either by attempt* to find substitutes for a religion which seems dead, or by a kind of spiritual emptiness – a sense of hopelessness of trying to believe in anything. There were many possible substitutes for religion. One was art. Art for art’s sake* was the theme of the books of some writers. They felt it was their duty to cultivate pleasure, to drink deep from the fountains of natural and created beauty. In other words, they advocated* hedonism* as a way of life.
Hedonism was the thesis of some of Oscar Wild’s witty* essays, and also of his novel The picture of Dorian Gray. Wild /1856-1900/ seems, in the later book, however, to be concerned* with showing the dangers of asking for too much from life.
The beautiful Dorian Gray – Faustus-like – wishes that he should remain eternally* young and handsome, while his picture, painted in the finest flush* of his beauty, should grow old in his stead /=instead of him/. The wish is granted*: Dorian remains ever-young, but his portrait shows signs of ever increasing age and moreover*, the scars of the crimes attendant* on asking too much /a murder, the ruining of many women, unnameable* debauchery*/. Dorian, repentant, tries to destroy his portrait, symbolically quelling his sins*, but - magically – it is he himself who dies, monstrous with age and ugliness, and his portrait that reverts* to it’s former perfection of youthful beauty. /debauchery = immoral behaviour involving drugs, alcohol, sex.../ The sense of guilt intrudes into Wild’s bright godless world of his written under the shadow and shame of his prison-sentence - which lack the old wit and contain a sombre* seriousness – The Ballad of Reading Goal and De Profundis*.
Another substitute for religion was Imperialismus* and Rudyard Kipling was the great singer of Empire. Born in India, he knew the British Empire from inside. In his works /poetry and prose/ he, therefore, expressed the sympathy with these soldiers who fought the frontier wars* and kept peace in the Empire. He stressed the white man’s responsibility to his brothers, who, despite difference of creed*, acknowledged the same queen /Victoria/. His short stories became a schoolboy’s classic.
The other side of this coin is pessimism. It reigned* the novels of Thomas Hardy.
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The Coming of The Modern Age
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