The Victorian Age was a long and complex period.It was a time of great energy which had enthusiastic supporters, like Thomas Babington Macauley and Rudyard Kipling, “the voice of Imperialism”. But it was also a time of rising unrest, which inspired several forms of reaction deriving from impatience with conventions and with the superficial moralism and optimism of the day. Thomas Carlyle attacked materialism and the utilitarian spirit of his contemporaries, who lacked high moral standards.
John Ruskin and William Morris deplored the ugliness of industrial civilisation; the Pre-Raphaelites rejected the superficial conventions of academic art, and finally the Aesthetes openly challenged middle class moralism.
This period saw an intense literary activity. The novel was the great favourite, but poetry also saw the emergence of famous poet like Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning, plus a group of rebels, the Pre-Raphaelites. Toward the end of the century gave way to the short story, which was gaining status an popularity. No important innovation was seen in drama.
The reasons for the success of the novel are various: it was accessible and entertaining, and particularly appealed to the middle class, whose standards and mentality it largely reflected; moreover, the number of the readers with enough education to appreciate literary entertainment became larger and larger; finally, improvements in printing as well as the continuing success of circulating libraries made books more accessible.