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History of English Literature is a comprehensive, eight-volume survey of English literature from the Middle Ages to the early twenty-first century. This reference work provides insightful and often revisionary readings of core texts in the English literary canon. Richly informative analyses are framed by the biographical, historical and intellectual context for each author.
Volume 5 focuses on the fiction of the early and mid-Victorian period. After acknowledging the pioneering work of Disraeli, Bulwer Lytton and Ainsworth, the author turns to the masterworks of Dickens, Thackeray and Trollope. Significant attention is also dedicated to the work of the Brontë sisters and of Elizabeth Gaskell. Along with these major figures, novelists soon forgotten in their time and only now rediscovered – such as Yonge, Oliphant, Mulock Craik, Wood, Borrow, Blackmore, the ‘muscular’ Kingsley and his followers, and the sensationalists Wilkie Collins, Reade and Le Fanu – are discussed extensively. The final sections evaluate George Eliot’s and Meredith’s formidable oeuvres.