I am not finished with Milton, despite the fact that May is over. I will have another Paradise Lost post (probably tomorrow) and probably two to four more posts in the two weeks – posts on the biography I finished, the C.S. Lewis commentary I’m reading, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, and possibly some other Milton poetry. I’ll combine posts as I find convenient, but I am still reading about Restoration England for two more weeks at least.
Nonetheless, I have been planning my summer reading, and I’m so excited I’ve already begun my reading for my project. This summer will be My Victorian Summer.
Between now and the end of August, I plan on immersing myself in as much Victorian fiction (and nonfiction about the era) as possible. I decided to do this because I’ve been slacking on my Our Mutual Read books and I really have been craving Victorian literature lately.
The idea is to enjoy Victorian literature, so I’m focusing on what is most loudly calling my name, which is early and middle Victorian novels. I’ll leave poetry for another time and I’m avoiding the later fiction, which just seems different in my mind. (I admit, I’m afraid of Hardy.)
That said, here are some things I want to read in the next three months.
We Two: Victoria and Albert, Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill. I recently watched The Young Victoria and I am now fascinated by the Queen. I most want to see how her life and influence may have created the opportunity for the social change and flowering of literature that was the Victorian era. This book seems somewhat succinct and still long enough to cover a lot of ground as I look at the royalty. If you’ve read a better book that might do that, please suggest it!
Victorian London by Liza Picard. Nymeth recently reviewed this book, and out of all the nonfiction about Victorian England that I found in the library, I think it seems the most attractive. Picard also focuses on early and middle London (until 1870), and that’s the same era that I’m most interested in. I think it sounds perfect.
The Victorian Art of Fiction: Nineteenth-Century Essays on the Novel edited by Rohan Maitzen. Amateur Reader has been writing about these essays and I love hearing the contemporary comments on the Victorian novels. I hope these essays put things in context, but since I haven’t read most of the classic Victorian novels, I hope it’s not “above” me. I had to ILL request it, and I still don’t know if I can actually get it. I’m debating splurging on actually purchasing it (*gasp*).
This is what I am most excited about this summer: great classic novels.
Armadale by Wilkie Collins (written 1866). I have already begun (about 60 pages in) and I’m so excited to love this as I loved The Woman in White. I hope (and suspect) I will not be disappointed.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (written 1865). I have already begun (about 30 pages in). I am not sure what to think so far. For me, Gaskell has been both wonderful (North and South) and mediocre (Mary Barton).
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (written 1860-61). I’ve enjoyed all the Dickens’ novels I’ve read so far, so I’m ready to read this one. It seems many people read this when they were in high school. I feel I’ve been missing out.
Middlemarch by George Eliot (1869). I’ve owned this one for years and when Nymeth mentioned a summer readalong, I decided it was a perfect time to add this in too.
These four books are the definite reads for the summer (I hope). Somehow, they all ended up being 1860s novels. I’d like to add some earlier Victorian novels too, but I’m not sure which ones. These are also rather long, so I’m hoping for some shorter ones as well. Here are others on my “maybe” list for the summer.
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1847-48). I admit, this doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. Maybe because it is very, very long. However, it’s an early Victorian novel and it seems to be one of the “important” books.
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848). I could save this for the RIP challenge in October. It sounds “spooky.”
- Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope (1864). The first of the Palliser novels, which I won on Twitter from Oxford World Classics. Just owning a pretty book is encouragement to read it.
Who am I missing? Nominate your favorite early/middle Victorian author and/or novel and I may get to it instead/as well.
One note: I do have some non-Victorian “must reads” this summer for my classics reading group (Balzac, Camus, and Mark Twain), the Classics Circuit (nineteenth-century Russian and another that it still to be announced), the blogosphere readalong of Dante (one book a month, starting now), and Orbis Terrarum (my holds came in for a book from Africa/Sudan and a book for Asia/China).
That comes to a lot of reading, so I don’t know which books will get read. Nevertheless, my entire summer bodes to be a wonderful one. I may not be travelling anywhere, but I sure will be reading well. I’m immensely excited for My Victorian Summer.
Do you want to join me? Whether or not you do, make sure you tell me your favorite Victorian books!