What would Jane Austen think if she knew that, almost two centuries after her death, she is one of the most popular authors around? There are thousands of Web sites dedicated to her, a bunch of groupies known as "Jane-ites." Five of her novels were made into movies - a record any Hollywood writer would envy. Ironically, although she is the first writer most people think of when they hear the term "Victorian Literature," the fact that she lived from 1775 to 1817 means that she is technically not a Victorian writer.
The Victorian Era got its name from Britain's Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1837 until her death in 1901. Though the name immediately conjures images of repressed women in high-waisted gowns sitting in lavishly decorated parlors, it was actually an era rich in social, political and artistic innovation. Feminism, socialism, Freudianism and Darwinism all took form during the Victorian Era.
The most extensive place to look when delving into this complex and rich period is The Victorian Web. Here you'll find links to thousands of scholarly articles on the social, political and economic atmosphere that inspired the literature of the day. Within the site, visit Authors section for a list of writers, critiques of their works and explanations on how they fit into the era. (Austen can be found under "Some Pre-Victorians.)
Literature of the Victorian Period has an extensive list of authors and is a great way to locate literature online. Victoria Research Web is very scholarly, but features an invaluable section for anyone who is planning a trip to Britain and would like to make the study of Victorian literature a focus.
If you're looking deeper than Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and some of the other women immediately come to mind. Victorian Women Writers' Project is the place to find online transcripts of the more obscure works of the period. Mathilde Blind and Dollie Radford, anyone?
The scholars may sneer, but as anyone who swooned over any of the recent films knows, part of the fun of Victorian literature is the romance - imagining yourself in one of those high-waisted dresses, sipping tea in that overly decorated parlor. Be sure to visit Victoriana.com and Victorian Station for their luscious descriptions of Victorian fashions, music, architecture, etc.
The Republic of Pemberley
For Jane-ites, this site is "Your haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen."
The Bronte Sisters Web
Find links to scholarly articles, e-texts and other sites about the works of Charlotte, Anne and Emily.