The dates speak for themselves: between 1820 and 1830 it all seemed over, even for those who had survived. A phase of ebbing took place which took the name of “Victorian compromise”. The long period of stability, economic prosperity, commercial and colonial expansion that coincided with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) determined the phenomenon of a self-satisfied and self-satisfied society that seemed to close its eyes to the evidence of the social, philosophical and psychological lacerations that underlie it. The result was an era of strenuous compromises and precarious balances between the prevailing hypocrisy and the reality of exploitation, between bourgeois moralism and vital tensions, between faith and science (in particular evolutionist theories), exasperated mercantilism and the rise of the proletariat, triumphant industrialism and the renewed call of nature. The compromise did not give tragic or dramatic results, but as a coloring of disquiet and elegiac evasion to the central works of the period. In fiction, Ch. Dickens (1812-70), in which there is also a denunciation of social ills, the satirical, disenchanted, vaguely eighteenth-century one by WM Thackeray (1811-63) and the purely illustrative one by A. Trollope (1815-82), which was joined by the strenuous moral and intellectual tension of G. Eliot (1819-80), and to which the symbolic and emotional force that animates the works of the Brontë sisters was opposed to a certain extent. The Victorian vision was reflected, moreover, or found theoretical formulation, in the essays of Th. B. Macaulay (1800-59), JH Newman (1801-90), Th. Carlyle (1795-1881) and M. Arnold (1822-88) and in the same ardent preaching of the ethical value of beauty by J. Ruskin (1819-1900).
In fact, it found its most sincere expression in prose, informing even the minor and popular fiction of itself. In poetry the “Victorian compromise” animated, conditioned and to a certain extent compromised the work of Arnold and above all of A. Tennyson (1809-92), “graduate poet” and representative interpreter of the sensitivity and conscience of the time for his elegiac taste as for his tendencies to philosophical-religious meditation (In Memoriam, 1833-50), for the bourgeois caution and for the domestic moralism of which he was able to cloak even the characters of the Arthurian saga that he revived in Idylls of the King (1850-85; Idylls of the King). CKD Patmore (1823-96) dedicated his muse to the celebration of conjugal love; given these premises, it is not surprising the violence of the anti-Victorian reaction which was manifested for example in AC Swinburne (1837-1909) and in the Pre-Raphaelite poets. The first conducted his own opposition in the name of intense eroticism, of a “disorder” of the senses that Victorian orthodoxy forcibly silenced; the latter, in their reference to the chivalrous Middle Ages and the dolce stil novo, opened the way to a sensitivity that was already between the sensual and the decadent. According to A2zgov, the return to the Middle Ages, present in W. Morris (1834-96, which in other respects prelude to utopian socialism), was one of the characteristics of the end of the century, in which decadence and aestheticism coexisted side by side with naturalism and positivism. A poet like R. Browning (1812-89) represented the direct overcoming of Victorianism to the extent that in his modern and indented poetry he denounced its limits and crisis; with WH Pater (1839-94) aestheticism became explicit and programmatic, and the line of development that led from him to the Yellow Book, to A. Beardsley (1872-98) and to O. Wilde was uninterrupted (1854-1900). Simultaneously with the battle for Wagner, the battle for Ibsen’s “committed” theater was being fought, from which GB Shaw (1856-1950) took off. Novelists such as RL Stevenson (1850-1894) rediscovered the fascination of “romance” at the same time as writers such as H. James (1843-1916), J. Conrad (1857-1924) and to a lesser extent G. Meredith (1828) -1909) laid the foundations of the modern novel. A great lyric poet, in his novels Th. Hardy (1840-1928) shaken to its foundations the Victorian complacency that practitioners of the naturalistic novel, from Ch. Reade (1814-84) to G. Gissing (1857-1903), had barely scratched.