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19th Century Literature

What happened in the West during the 19th century was pretty much what you'd expect from a society whose religious and philosophical foundations had been shaken to the root after centuries of overt Christian influence. There were basically three possible responses: to reject Christianity and accept the new humanism wholesale; to try to maintain a balance between the two; or, to maintain complete allegiance to the Christian faith and defend it against the growing number of anti-Christian ideas.

Unfortunately, those in the latter group often reverted to a simple anti-intellectualism that, far from upholding a solid Christian worldview, undermined the faith to which they so desperately clung. Those who didn't go to that extreme often went to another—in their attempt to remain intellectually relevant, many Christian writers and thinkers began to embrace the increasingly unchristian ideas surfacing, and try to collate them with orthodox doctrine. It was a confusing time, and the lines of Christian culture and secular culture began to blur in increasingly bizarre ways.

For one thing, theologians began to adopt the view that science and faith were separate realms, and that each had its own realm of authority on which the other could not infringe. Charles Darwin's theory of general evolution was obviously instrumental in fostering this idea, but other forward strides in practical science like the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution, improvements in medical knowledge, and a growing sense that only what could be observed was "real" were just as influential.

It all went back to Progress, really. The Enlightenment ideal of man's interminable forward movement through the centuries meant that things were getting better, and with things demonstrably getting better it was hard for many to argue. Because many of the philosophical ideas that accompanied scientific progress were rooted in humanism rather than Christianity, people assumed the two were incompatible to some degree, and to be reconciled they had to be separated.

Not everyone was happily devoted to Progress, however. One of the 19th century's dominant literary movements was devoted to the opposite. Romanticism was as much a child of the Enlightenment as scientism, but instead of going forward they grasped Rousseau's idea that man is at his best when at his most natural, and went backward. Or tried—praising nature, deriding civilization and technology, and pursuing free love is easier evoked in poetry than practiced in real life, as its leaders soon discovered. Still, men like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge left behind some of the greatest verse ever written.

The Victorians were certainly influenced by Romanticism and the Enlightenment, but they were a little more balanced. Writers like Charles Dickens (possibly the greatest novelist of all time) and William Makepeace Thackeray combined Christian themes, satire, social activism and a heightened aesthetic sense to simultaneously comment on and delight the culture at large. In many ways the novel came into its own during this period, though some of its best practitioners were still 50-100 years in the future.

In the New World a particularly American version of Romanticism took hold. Transcendentalism as espoused by Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau wasless organized than its Continental counterpart. It was also less rooted in Western tradition, at least, in the Classical Western tradition; the Transcendentalists preferred biblical symbolism, particularly the Old Testament with its often unsettling and apocalyptic imagery.

No era can claim a single literary or intellectual trajectory, but each phase in human history has its own zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. For the 19th century it was the final shift of authority away from any Divine source and onto the shoulders of man. There were great Christian writers who tried to stem the tide (Robert Browning, R. L. Dabney, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and Charles Ryrie come readily to mind), but secular man was having his heyday and mostly prevailed in the public sphere.

Without the 19th century we wouldn't have most of the fiction genres we enjoy now. Mystery and detective fiction, science fiction, fantasy, escapist adventure novels, realistic historical fiction, etc., all came into being between the beginning of the French Republic and the founding of Major League Baseball. Whatever your opinion of the ideas rampant in these works, these are some of the best philosophical treatises, novels, poems, short stories, and essays history has to offer.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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585 Items found Print
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Sterling Classics
by Jules Verne
from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 5th-10th grade
in Sterling Classics (Location: A04-04A)
$14.95
Abraham Lincoln: Great Speeches
Dover Thrift Editions
by Abraham Lincoln & John Grafton, editor
from Dover Publications
Political Philosophy for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$2.00 $1.20 (1 in stock)
Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches and Writings
by Abraham Lincoln
from Library of America
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$16.95
Adam Bede
Signet Classics
by George Eliot
from Signet Classics
Realistic Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$6.95
Adam Bede
Everyman's Library
by George Eliot
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Realistic Fiction for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$19.20
Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Conan Doyle
from Penguin Classics
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$14.00 $9.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Dover Publications
Realistic Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$4.50 $2.00 (2 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Easton Press
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$19.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$8.00
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
New Ed from University of California Press
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$15.95
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
Centennial facsim. ed. with a new introd. and bibl from Harper & Row
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
3rd edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
from Bantam Books
Realistic Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$5.95
Adventures of Pinocchio
by Carlo Collodi
1st edition from Steerforth Press
for 9th-Adult
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Dover Thrift Editions
by Mark Twain
from Dover Publications
for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$5.00
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
from Reader's Digest
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$6.50 (1 in stock)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Puffin Classics
by Mark Twain
from Penguin Classics
Realistic Fiction for 6th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$9.00
Agnes Grey
Penguin Classics
by Anne Bronte
from Penguin Classics
Realistic Romantic Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$12.00
Alexandre Dumas Three Musketeers Collection
Oxford World's Classics
by Alexandre Dumas
from Oxford University
Historical Fiction/Adventure for 9th-12th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$63.55
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Penguin Classics
by Lewis Carroll
from Penguin Classics
Fantasy for 5th-8th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$11.00
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
from Dover Publications
Fantasy for 5th-8th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$3.00
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$11.00 $6.00 (1 in stock)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll
from Signet Classics
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
from Barnes & Noble
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$4.50 (1 in stock)
Ambassadors
by Henry James
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Anna and the King of Siam
by Margaret Landon
from HarperCollins
Historical fiction for 9th-12th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$14.95
Anna Karenina
Signet Classics
by Leo Tolstoy
from Signet Classics
Realistic Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$7.95 $4.50 (1 in stock)
Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy
from Penguin Putnam
Realistic Fiction for 11th-Adult
Annotated Alice
by Lewis Carroll
Definitive Edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$35.00
Annotated Mother Goose
by William S. Baring-Gould & Ceil Baring-Gould
from Bramhall House
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$9.00 (1 in stock)
Annotated Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Revised & Expanded from Anchor Books
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$17.95
Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
from Paul S. Eriksson, INC.
Realistic Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Anton Chekov: Plays
by Anton Chekhov
from Franklin Library
for 10th-Adult
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Dover Giant Thrift Editions
by John Henry Newman
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$5.00
Around the World in 80 Days
by Jules Verne
Reprint from Oxford University
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$9.95
Around the World in Eighty Days
by Jules Verne, George M. Towle (Translator)
from Bantam Books
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$4.99
Around the World in Eighty Days
Sterling Classics
by Jules Verne & Scott McKowen
Unabridged from Sterling Publishing Co.
Adventure for 6th-10th grade
in Sterling Classics (Location: A04-04A)
$9.95
Audubon's Western Journal 1849-1850
by John Woodhouse Audubon
from Rio Grande Press
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Autobiography of Charles G. Finney
by Charles G. Finney
from Bethany House
Autobiography for 9th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
$16.99 $7.00 (7 in stock)
Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope
from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope
from The Folio Society
for 10th-Adult
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Barnaby Rudge
Everyman's Library
by Charles Dickens
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$25.00
Barnaby Rudge
by Charles Dickens
from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Baronet's Song
by George MacDonald
1st THUS from Bethany House
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Basket of Fragments
by R. M. McCheyne
from Christian Heritage
for Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Ben-Hur
by Lew Wallace
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$7.00
Ben-Hur
Signet Classics
by Lew Wallace
from Signet Classics
Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$8.95
Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi
by Alessandro Manzoni
REPRINT Edition from Penguin Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$18.00
Beyond Good & Evil
by Friedrich Nietzsche
from Vintage Classics
for 11th-Adult
in Philosophy (Location: C08-01B)
$14.95
Billy Budd
Signet Classics
by Herman Melville
from Signet Classics
Realistic Nautical Fiction for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$4.95
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