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Inaugurating a major new series, successor to the Oxford History of English Literature but excitingly new in its emphasis on 'literary history', this volume covers the flowering of Victorian literature, from the decade when Tennyson started writing In Memoriam and Darwin embarked on the Beagle to the publication of Hardy's first great novels and the death of George Eliot. The Victorian era produced a literature of diversity and experimentation, engaged with powerful controversies and heartfelt arguments that lie at the centre of the formation of the modern world. It has often been misrepresented, either as an age of dull and rigid certainty or one of anxious and depressive morbidity, but what distinguishes the writing of the period - from its origins in the 1830s to its crisis point around 1880 - is its power of serious inquiry. It poses questions about the relation between society and the individual, the rival claims of market and morality, the form and function of democracy, and, above all, the existence or non-existence of God and the purposes of human life. Such concerns make this a time in which literature has a new urgency and vitality, and lies close to the heart of a culminating crisis of the Western conscience. The series will enlighten and inspire not only everyone studying, teaching, and researching in English Literature, but all keen readers of English fiction.