The Victorian era intensely influenced the Edwardian period of literature. The former was a period of new ideas and a new beginning. Edwardian novels followed this trend but were far more social and political. They inspired a new trend of intense, cultural writing that lasted for decades. During this period, writers explored class differences, such as in E.M Forester’s work, experimented with old styles of satire, narrative poetry, and ballads, as well as enjoying the possibilities of realism.
Explore Edwardian Period
Definition of the Edwardian Period
With the death of Queen Victoria, a new period of literary accomplishment began. The period is marked by a celebration of British nationalism and imperialism and a condemnation of it. Authors like P.G. Wodehouse and Joseph Conrad explored realism while others like Thomas Hardy engaged with older literary forms, writing incredibly moving poetry.
Important Writers from the Edwardian Period
- E.M. Forester: an author and essayist who used much of his work to examine class differences.
- Beatrix Potter: a well-loved author, illustrator, and natural scientist. Her best-known books are the Tales of Peter Rabbit.
- Joseph Conrad: considered to be one of the greatest English-language novelists of all time. He wrote short stories and novels throughout his life after becoming fluent in the language in his twenties.
- Rudyard Kipling: one of the best-known authors of this period. He’s remembered for his celebration of British colonialism through his poetry and short stories.
- G.K. Chesterton: was an art critic, author, and philosopher. He’s known for works like The Everlasting Man and Orthodoxy. He was well-regarded by authors like T.S. Eliot.
- A.A. Milne: a well-loved children’s writer who is best remembered for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories that feature his son, Christopher Robin.
- H.G. Wells: a famed science fiction writer who wrote dozens of novels throughout his life. He’s often regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction.
Examples of Edwardian Period Poetry
The Last Hero by G.K. Chesterton
‘The Last Hero’ is one of Chesterton’s better-known poems. It is lyrical in nature and tells a narrative story of a fighter who is on the verge of death. The poem has a musical quality, created through the poet’s use of rhyme. The hero is preparing for his death at the hands of fifty soldiers, and the bulk of the poem expresses his love for a woman who has always hated him and his thoughts about the battle ahead. Here are the first eight lines:
The wind blew out from Bergen from the dawning to the day,
There was a wreck of trees and fall of towers a score of miles away,
And drifted like a livid leaf I go before its tide,
Spewed out of house and stable, beggared of flag and bride.
The heavens are bowed about my head, shouting like seraph wars,
With rains that might put out the sun and clean the sky of stars,
Rains like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above,
The roaring of the rains of God none but the lonely love.
The hero is angry, and he’s ready to aim that anger at something. This emotion is featured in among the beautiful and lyrical lines of the poem. This includes the “roaring of the rains of God.”
Read more of G.K. Chesterton’s poetry.
‘If I Were King’ by A.A. Milne is one of the author’s best-known poems. It is a highly entertaining piece containing the fantastical thoughts of a young boy who wants to be king. The young speaker tells the reader that he would do a lot if he were king. He’d keep wild animals, not brush his hair, wear a hat, or let anyone else control him. Here are a few lines:
I often wish I were a King,
And then I could do anything.
If only I were King of Spain,
I’d take my hat off in the rain.
If only I were King of France,
I wouldn’t brush my hair for aunts.
The speaker goes on, suggesting that he’d think of only “lovely things to do” while ruling over the people and soldiers. This piece exhibits the light-hearted quality of much of Milne’s writing.
Read more A.A. Milne poems.
This is undoubtedly Kipling’s best-known and most commonly quoted poem. It’s also regarded as an incredibly inspirational poem. It provides advice on how one should live one’s life. Furthermore, it is told from a father’s perspective as he addresses his son. The poem takes the reader through various ways in which the reader can rise above adversity that will almost certainly be thrown one’s way at some point.
Here is the first stanza:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
It’s not until the end of the poem that it’s revealed that all of this is addressed to the speaker’s son. It’s believed that Kipling wrote this poem after being inspired by Leander Starr Jameson’s actions, leader of the Jameson Raid, to overthrow the Boer Government of Paul Kruger.
Read more Rudyard Kipling poems.
The Edwardian period was important because it was a time of great social change. Authors like Kipling, Forester, and Conrad captured this change in their poetry, prose, and essays. It is also the last period in British history to be named after a monarch.
It is known for stark class differences and the beginning of the First World War. There were segments of the population that were incredibly rich and those who were struggling with unimaginable poverty.
Some of the most important writers from this period are Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, G.K. Chesterton, and E.M. Forester. These authors wrote everything from poems to plays and prose.
The Victorian area refers to the period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1837 to 1901, and the Edwardian refers to the following years, 1901-1910, during which her son, King Edward VII, reigned.
Related Literary Terms
- Augustan Age: a period during the first half of the 18th century in England. Poets during this period created verses inspired by authors like Virgil and Ovid.
- Cavalier Poets: a group of writers from the 17th century in England.
- Georgian Poetry: a poetic movement in England that lasted from 1910 to 1936 during the reign of George V.
- Aestheticism: a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that focused on the importance of beauty.
- Graveyard Poets: also known as the Churchyard Poets, were a group of writers in England during the 18th century.
- Lake Poets: a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century.
- Metaphysical Poetry: marked by the use of elaborate figurative languages, original conceits, paradoxes, and philosophical topics.